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Find a good place to hide the leftovers NOW.
The book: Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The World’s Most Delicious Food Made Easy, by David Joachim (Oxmoor House, $29.95 – here’s my complete review)
The recipe: Chocolate baklava
Why I tried it: To be honest, I think it was just because I already had the phyllo in the freezer, as well as a wide selection of nuts. It’s possible I also wanted an excuse to buy some Nutella, which for me falls firmly in the want-to rather than the have-to shopping-list category.
Why I loved it: I like baklava, but I’ve never been an addict. This recipe changed everything. The baklava looked perfectly OK when it went into the oven. But when it came out: Oh. My. God. Those crumbly layers of glistening phyllo. That subtle crunch. The chocolate. The butter!!
I made this recipe twice. The first time, I hid the leftovers so I could have them for “lunch dessert” (which is a very special time of the day for me). I tried to eat each piece only with my incisors, so it would last as long as humanly possible.
The second time, we had company. There were, I think, 10 people. There weren’t any leftovers, but I did manage to sneak 4 “servings” before it was gone.
Estimated preparation time: According to the book, “Hands-On Time: 25 min. Total Time: 1 hr. 21 min.” This is true if you already toasted the nuts and remembered to thaw the phyllo last night.
Another great recipe from this book: Indonesian vegetable salad with peanut sauce (“Shortcut gado-gado”)
Serves 24 (serving size: “1 piece.” HA!)
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup blanched toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
24 (14 x 9–inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat; stir until honey dissolves. Increase heat to medium; cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 230° (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat; keep warm. Discard cinnamon stick.
2. Preheat oven to 350°.
3. Place hazelnut-chocolate spread in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high 30 seconds or until melted. Combine hazelnuts and next 5 ingredients (through salt).
Lightly coat a 13 x 9–inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing ends of sheet to extend over edges of dish; lightly brush with butter. Repeat procedure with 5 phyllo sheets and butter. Drizzle about 1/3 cup melted hazelnut-chocolate spread over phyllo.
Sprinkle evenly with one-third of nut mixture (about 1/2 cup). Repeat procedure twice with phyllo, butter, hazelnut-chocolate spread, and nut mixture. Top last layer of nut mixture with remaining 6 sheets phyllo, each lightly brushed with butter. Press gently into pan.
4. Make 3 lengthwise cuts and 5 crosswise cuts to form 24 portions using a sharp knife. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until phyllo is golden. Remove from oven. Drizzle honey mixture over baklava. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cover; store at room temperature.
From Cooking Light Global Kitchen by David Joachim (Oxmoor House)
Hold 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
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
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.
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 Lamb, by Betty Rosbottom
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
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 Cookbook, by 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.