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TSC top 10 + shortlist

It’s official!  I’m releasing my top 10 cookbook picks of 2013 – plus the shortlist – to all and sundry!  Spread the word!  Share the joy! Give the gifts!

In case you’re new to my site, the “shortlist” is basically an honorable mentions list – cookbooks which I may not have tested extensively, as I do the top 10, but which I feel are really notable in one way or another.  And which I feel would make handsome, memorable gifts for your food-loving friends.

My 2013 top 10 (in no particular order):

  1. Keepers, by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion
  2. Indian Cooking Unfolded, by Raghavan Iyer
  3. The New Persian Kitchen, by Louisa Shafia
  4. The New Midwestern Table, by Amy Rose Thielen
  5. One Good Dish, by David Tanis
  6. Japanese Soul Cooking, by Tadashi Ono & Harris Salat
  7. Art of Simple Food II, by Alice Waters
  8. Notes from the Larder, by Nigel Slater
  9. Sauces & Shapes, by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant
  10. Wintersweet, by Tammy Donroe Inman

You can read more about the top 10, including my reasons for choosing them, on CookShelf, my cookbook-rating app (available for both  iPhone/iPad and Android) – last day of the 99¢ sale!

And now [drumroll please]… THE SHORTLIST!

Most Comprehensive Contribution to Ethnic Cookery
The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook: 300 Classic Recipes from the Great Regions of India, by Mridula Baljekar

Most Defiantly Nostalgic
The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, by Michael Ruhlman

Most Hard-Core Chocolate Book
Seriously BitterSweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate, by Alice Medrich

Most Fascinating Food History Book in Recent Memory
Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century, by Michael Lesy & Lisa Stoffer

Best Use of Winter’s 8 Hours of Daylight
Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More, by Andrew Schloss

Most artful use of soaked cashews & other vegan tricks:
Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Most Artsy / “Mindful”  (aka Most Brooklynish) 
The Kinfolk Table

Keepsake or Baking Book? You Decide
The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden, by Brent Ridge, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, and Sandy Gluck

Baking Book Most Full of Attitude
Robicelli’s: A Love Story, with Cupcakes, by Allison & Matt Robicelli

Most Useful Book the Day After a Holiday Meal
Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings: 60 Sensational Recipes to Liven Up Greens, Grains, Slaws, and Every Other Kind of Salad, by Michele Anna Jordan

Prettiest Run at Easy Italian
Canal House Cooking Vol. 8: Pronto!, by Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hirsheimer

Best Guide to Trading Up From the 6-Pack and Cheese Dip in Your Refrigerator
Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook, by Joe Yonan

Stylish Weeknight Cookbook for Fans of ‘Real Simple’
How to Feed a Family: Eat Healthy, Live Happy, Stay Sane, by Laura Keogh & Ceri Marsh

Most Worth-It Chef’s Memoir with Recipes
Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer, by Sanford D’Amato

Intriguing Cook-umentary with Hard-to-Find Ingredients
My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook, by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz

Biggest Eat-Your-Heart-Out-‘Cause-You-Don’t Live-Here Cookbook
The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, by Matt Lee & Ted Lee

Most Simultaneously Right-Minded and Sinful
Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, by Fran Costigan

Loveliest Still Lifes in a Restaurant Cookbook
The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, by Michael Anthony

Tantalizing, Don’t-Try-This-At-Home Glimpses into 4000 Years of Eating
A History of Food in 100 Recipes, by William Sitwell


This year’s Best Books feature on NPR is a bit different.  It’s not subject-sorted lists anymore, but an interactive “concierge” which pools together the choices of many different experts and tags them so that you can filter across all the subjects.

My choices are in the “Cookbooks and Food” section – I’ve chosen just 5.  [The choice of Ottolenghi is not mine, by the way.  I felt the book, sadly, wasn’t tested up to the standard of Plenty and Jerusalem.

Click here to visit “Cookbooks and Food” on NPR’s Best Books of 2013 feature.

You can find out more about all the cookbooks featured on the NPR special on my app, CookShelf, with write-ups of 250+  of the latest cookbooks and regular cookbook news.  CookShelf is your guide to the best cookbooks to give and to get –  just 99¢ this week only!

Know someone who loves cookbooks?  CookShelf makes the perfect virtual stocking stuffer! Just gift it to your favorite cook from your  iPhone/iPad or Android device and start inviting yourself over for supper.

npr best cookbooks 2012, susan changHold on to your hats!  The NPR holiday cookbook roundup, my go-to guide for the overlooked gems, rightfully-hyped showstoppers, and perfect steals of the cookbook world is now out!

In addition to the top 10 I chose for NPR, you’ll find here all the ones that I loved for one reason or another but couldn’t fit in the top ten.  It’s a glorious jumble, and there’s something for every cook on your list. (If you want to learn more about how these books are chosen, you can check out the  7-point rating system.)

The 2012 NPR top 10 (in no particular order):
1.  The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte and Hugh Forte
2.  Modern Sauces: More than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day, by Martha Holmberg
3.  The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman
4.  The Science of Good Cooking (Cook’s Illustrated Cookbooks) by The Editors of America’s Test Kitchen
5.  Susan Feniger’s Street Food: Irresistibly Crispy, Creamy, Crunchy, Spicy, Sticky, Sweet Recipes by Susan Feniger, Kajsa Alger and Liz Lachman
6.  Hiroko’s American Kitchen: Cooking with Japanese Flavors by Hiroko Shimbo
7.  Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
8.  Canal House Cooks Every Day by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton
9.  The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle by Tom Douglas and Shelley Lance
10.  Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett

…and now, it’s on to THE SHORTLIST.

Best Cookbook for After the End of Civilization
The America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Do It Yourself Cookbook: Can It, Cure It, Churn It, Brew It by America’s Test Kitchen Editors

Best Travelogue Cookbook
Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid

Best Ambitious Kitchen Primer
Keys to the Kitchen: The Essential Reference for Becoming a More Accomplished, Adventurous Cook by Aida Mollenkamp

Best Gift for Your Most Intrepid Food Friends
Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

Best Cookbook to End Up Using One Recipe Over and Over From
Crêpes: 50 Savory and Sweet Recipes by Martha Holmberg (I’m thinking of the basic crêpes recipe.)

Best Reason to buy a Proportional-Integral-Derivative Controller (or Other Control Loop Feedback Mechanism)
Modernist Cuisine at Home, by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet

Best Round-the-World Sweets Book
Sugar & Spice: Sweets and Treats from Around the World by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra

Best Round-the-World Bread Book
All You Knead is Bread by Jane Mason

Love-Your-Veggies Expansion Kit
Wild About Greens: 125 Delectable Vegan Recipes for Kale, Collards, Arugula, Bok Choy, and Other Leafy Veggies Everyone Loves by Nava Atlas

Carnivore’s Bible
The Great Meat Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Buy and Cook Today’s Meat by Bruce Aidells

Regional Magnum Opus
Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Stevens Graubart

Most Satisfying Way to Blow 400 Calories a Pop
Baked Elements: The Importance of Being Baked in 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Retro Indulgence for the Nostalgic and the Hip
Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon, and Icebox Cakes for Today’s Sweet Tooth by Julie Richardson

Anglophile’s  Delight
The Ploughman’s Lunch and the Miser’s Feast: Authentic Pub Food, Restaurant Fare, and Home Cooking from Small Towns, Big Cities, and Country Villages Across the British Isles by Brian Yarvin

Most Thoughtful Contribution to a Fast-Growing Category
Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays: 60 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats by Jeanne Sauvage

Mighty Reckoning with an Important Overlooked Cuisine
Gran Cocina Latina:  The Food of Latin America, by Maricel E. Presilla

Surprisingly Gifty Single-Subject Paperback
Garlic: The Mighty Bulb by Natasha Edwards

Pleasure-oriented Gluten-Free Book
Small Plates & Sweet Treats: My Family’s Journey to Gluten-Free Cooking, by Aran Goyoaga

Refreshing Discovery in What I Thought Was a Played-Out Category
Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian by Mike Isabella

Pain-Free Introduction to Whole Grains
Grain Mains: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Also, Three Terrific Series Worth Exploring More Deeply.

  • The Food and Cooking Of… series from Anness Publishing. Beautifully photographed, slightly hard-to-find introductions to far-flung cuisines. This year’s The Food and Cooking of Scandinavia is particularly lovely.
  • The New Voices in Food series from Globe Pequot. Understated paperbacks featuring up-and-coming young chefs. You might walk right past them if you weren’t particularly looking for them, but some of the recipes are gems.
  • The Savor the South series from UNC Press. Terrific idea, ingredient-focused, attractively and affordably produced. The first two are Pecans and Buttermilk.

And don’t forget some of the wonderful cookbooks we loved this past summer, especially: Asian Tofu, The Fresh and Green Table, Herbivoracious, The Fresh Egg, and The United States of Pie.

Finally, as always, for cooks who love a good food story, there’s my own A Spoonful of Promises: Recipes & Stories from a Well-Tempered Table.

I know I say it every year, but every year it’s true.  The competition in cookbooks gets fiercer and fiercer, and the books get better and better. So it was with a whopping mix of trepidation, affection, and guilt that I made the NPR holiday cookbook roundup selections this month.  (The Weekend Edition Sunday audio link is here.)   The ones I chose are, without exception, remarkable cookbooks.  But this year I wanted to say a word about the rest of the shortlist, too.

Any one of the additional shortlisted books below, which did not make it into this year’s roundup, might have made it into the top 10 a few years ago, and every one of them captured my heart in one way or another.  Many of them were right up there with the finalists in the new rating system.

My hope in including them here is to share the richness and diversity of the cookbook world we live in, to recognize the fantastic contributions of some truly noteworthy authors and cooks, and–of course– to offer you a few more gift ideas.  For more great holiday cookbook ideas, stay tuned for the Boston Globe roundup in a few weeks.

The 2011 NPR top 10:
1.   Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark
2.   The Food of Spain, by Claudia Roden
3.   All About Roasting, by Molly Stevens
4.   Food52 Cookbook,  Amanda Hesser/Merrill Stubbs
5.   What Chefs Feed Their Kids, by Fanae Aaron
6.   The Country Cooking of Italy by Colman Andrews
      Lidia’s Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich
7.   The Food of Morocco, by Paula Wolfert
8.   Ruhlman’s Twenty, by Michael Ruhlman
9.   American Flavor, by Andrew Carmellini
10. The Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book, by Judy Rosenberg

Outstanding Single-Subject Cookbook
Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, by Jennifer McLagan

Outstanding Savor-and-Read Cookbook
The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Weekends: New Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio’s Award-Winning Food Show,
 by Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift

Practical Once-a-Week Cookbook
Sunday Roasts: A Year’s Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts, from Old-Fashioned Pot Roasts to Glorious Turkeys, and Legs of Lambby Betty Rosbottom

Giftworthy-Design Cookbook
One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes, by Tracey Zabar

Ethnic Restaurant Sleeper Hit
Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors,  by Erik Cosselmon and Janet Fletcher with photos by Sara Remington

Best Easy French
The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day, by Wini Moranville 

Hardcore Bread Book
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking
, by the French Culinary Institute

Special-Dieter’s Boon
The Intolerant Gourmet: Glorious Food without Gluten and Lactose, by Barbara Kafka

Innovative Drinks Book
Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz: A Cocktail Lover’s Guide to Mixing Drinks Using New and Classic Liqueurs, by A. J. Rathbun 

Accessible Book from a Modernist Citadel
The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria

Loveliest Ode to a Fruit
The Apple Lover’s Cookbookby Amy Traverso

Everyday Food from a Celebrity Hotshot
Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals from My Home to Yours, by Mario Batali 

Inspiring Trip Down Memory Lane 
Cooking My Way Back Home: Recipes from San Francisco’s Town Hall, Anchor & Hope, and Salt House, by Mitchell Rosenthal 

Irresistible Book for the Crafty Baker
Julia M Usher’s Ultimate Cookies 

Best Chef-at-Home Book
Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes

And no, of course it’s not on the shortlist, but for the very most heartwarming gift you can give readers who love food, don’t forget my own
A Spoonful of Promises: Stories & Recipes from a Well-Tempered Table!
They’ll laugh, they’ll cry, they’ll probably end up hungry…the perfect gift for all the cooks in your family who don’t need another cookbook or kitchen gadget but could definitely use a good story.

I love this time of year, and not just because of the cool air and the glowing woodstove. No, what’s special about early November is that it’s Holiday Roundup season, when I get to pick the top 10 cookbooks of the year for NPR. (I also do the Boston Globe’s roundup, which tends to vary a bit more in number and in theme.)

From the moment I send out the deadline for submissions, the circus begins. Within 24 hours, SWAT teams of FedEx and UPS agents are showing up with boxes which thunk heavily, one by one, onto my doorstep. I grab a box cutter and start opening, piling, and sorting on the kitchen floor. I’m always a little choked up when I see these stacks of riches–the hard work of thousands of cooks, authors, teachers, writers, and editors– piled up in tangible form.

But then the hard work begins: testing. I get books all year, and some have been short-listed from the moment of their first, compelling recipe test. But now is the time for me to pull out all the Post-its (I halve them with a paper cutter to double the yield) and start flagging everything in sight.

Although I know I won’t be able to test every book, or even just the most representative recipe from each, I do my best to try a wide selection. Every night, we eat something completely different. A typical week from last year (I keep a database to keep track of these): calamari pasta; gigot à la Provençal, brisket with ginger, orange, and tomato; chard walnut lasagna; noodle kugel; potato-turnip purée, South Indian vegetable curry. I do a lot more baking, so the dessert cookbooks can get their audition, too.

In fact, November roundup testing is almost exclusively responsible for those 10 winter pounds I have to sweat off in the garden 6 months later. (At the peak of testing, the treadmill is usually covered with cookbooks too!) But I’m not complaining. I know I’m lucky to be a cookbook reviewer, and my family’s lucky I am, too.

Now cooking

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