Still have a few empty slots on your gift (or wish) list? I’ve got three new cookbooks that would all make fine gifts for the home cook.
It didn’t take me long after opening the book to fall in love and want to board the next flight to L.A. It is full of mouth-watering photos of foods that reflect the many cultures that have long made up the Southern California population.
Asian, Middle Eastern, Mexican and solidly “American” fare and many combinations of all fill the pages. For example: forbidden rice with heart of palm, mushroom and jalapeno vinaigrette; a sandwich of buttermilk-baked chicken, Vidalia onion-bacon cabbage, fried green tomato, and cheddar; and Chinese-style braised duck with rainbow chard, pineapples, and cashews with chili-coriander vinaigrette. And then there are the desserts— of which there are many — such as, caramel- butterscotch pudding, lemon drop cupcakes, and passion-fruit Pavlova. And, of course, there’s an entire chapter devoted to lemonades.
There’s a section on basics (salsa, tortillas) to get you started before moving into side dishes, entrees, desserts and beverages. A number of recipes are even vegan or vegetarian. Fideo burritos, vinegar biscuits, mushroom and leek migas, and savory baked pumpkin flautas are just a few of the recipes that jumped out at me as incredibly tempting. And the recipe that caught my eye right away — Navajo fry bread — just moved to the top of my to-do list.
So, who’s got a fryer I can borrow?
The book begins with the basics about working with chocolate and knowing what’s what among all the different types. Then it’s all about making “everyday chocolate,” which includes ganache truffles, which are not a part of my everyday chocolates, but I wouldn’t mind if they were. The special-occasion sections have a number of great ideas for bridal and baby showers, weddings, birthdays and other events. Everything from triple-chocolate biscotti, cakes and macarons to puffs and eclairs. Aside from the obvious dessert options, there are recipes for working chocolate into the main dishes as well (chocolate dipping sauce for fries! chocolate pasta!).
Of course, there are also great recipes for drinking your chocolate (besides just the standard hot cocoa). Hobby bakers can find loads of fun new projects in this book, and experienced bakers can find some inspiration as well.