Cover to cover: Best in 2012 cookbooks
Favorite cookbooks of 2012 take us down culinary roads less traveled
Culinary journey: Whether destined for loved ones or your own bookshelf, what lies between these covers will make cooking about the journey as much as the destination. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
From a celebration of root vegetables to an encyclopedic tour of Latin America. Even a dip into the seemingly familiar Southern kitchen surprises with its masterful depth. Whether destined for loved ones or your own bookshelf, what lies between these covers will make cooking about the journey as much as the destination.
— Bill Daley, Judy Hevrdejs and Joe Gray, Tribune Newspapers
For a pictorial recap, please view our photo gallery.
'Cook's Illustrated: The Science of Good Cooking'
You follow recipes to the letter, have "Joy of Cooking," but are stumped by the occasional culinary failure. Consider this book. In addition to 400 recipes "engineered for perfection," its focus is on culinary "whys." Instead of appetizer-to-dessert chapters, you have "Concepts," as in "Slow Heating Makes Meat Tender." Sidebars ("Practical Science: Chicken Safety," "Why This Recipe Works") plus explanatory visuals pepper the volume, making it more accessible than some other science-focused books.
America's Test Kitchen, $40
'Vietnamese Home Cooking' Charles Phan
Chef-owner of San Francisco's famed The Slanted Door, Phan is an amiable guide to Vietnam's culinary treasures. His approach: Learn techniques (chapters include steaming, braising, etc.), understand ingredients and tools (images, especially the glossary, buttress info), then appreciate the country's eating style. Street food and soups get special attention. Photos of Vietnam, dishes and how-to photos (dumpling folding, etc.) are a bonus.
'From a Polish Country House Kitchen' Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden
Erase visions of stodgy pierogi from your culinary database. The globe-trotting authors' approach to Polish cooking ("the ultimate comfort food") respects its legacy, while embracing refreshed versions. Among the 90 recipes are classics (caviar with blini, pierogi, beet soups), plus variations (cabbage rolls stuffed with wild mushrooms) and sauteed duck breast with pears. Nice touches: A "larder" chapter (pickles, flavored vodka, etc.) plus technique and finished dish photos.
'Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America' Maricel E. Presilla
To capture the culinary gems in countries from Mexico to Argentina, you'd need an encyclopedia. And Presilla delivers in this almost 1,000-page book. The New Jersey restaurateur with a background in medieval history cooked and researched her way across Latin America. The result: A book that's as much a conversation about cooking (tools, customs, lore) as it is recipes — simple (Ecuadorian aji) to involved (a tamale such as the Venezuelan Christmas hallacas Caracas style). Reading (for armchair culinarians) can be as much an adventure as cooking.
W.W. Norton, $45
'Jerusalem: A Cookbook' Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
One is an Israeli, the other a Palestinian; both consider Jerusalem home. This handsome cookbook is an affectionate but realistic tribute to their shared city. The London-based restaurateurs and authors celebrate Jerusalem's diversity, acknowledge its deep divisions and proudly present the city's shared culinary bounty. "It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it ... to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will,'' they write.
Ten Speed, $35