Fresh, colorful, inspiring vegetarian cooking carried the day, with not one but two books that offered a vibrant medley of vegetable-focused meals. Both of them also carried a strong sense of place and culture: One that of the fog-shrouded Bay Area, nestled near green fields and fruit orchards; the other, the colorful, polyglot melting pot of modern London. There was an ice cream book from the heart of America's farmland, and a collection of sophisticated yet simple recipes from a Brooklyn kitchen. Read on to see each of these books, and to hear a little of what our readers said about them.
5 Top Cookbook Picks of 2011
These picks were chosen from our readers' comments on the blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook, weighted ever so slightly by our own favorites from the past year.
- Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen, by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press) - Heidi's book was a clear, strong standout from our readers' responses. Reader vtbear says it, "is hands down my favorite cookbook ever." (See our review and a recipe here.)
- Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, by Yotam Ottolenghi (Chronicle Books) - Plenty also received a lot of love from our editorial staff and our readers. Jane of Eat Your Books said that the book "wows me with its inventiveness." (See our review and a recipe here.)
- Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan) - I have a special place in my heart for Jeni, who is right here in my hometown. The readers are less biased but no less enthusiastic; reader kristab says "Jeni's book is just incredible. Best ice cream I ever made." (See our review and a recipe here.)
- Home Made, by Yvette van Boven (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) - This was one book we didn't review this year and I regret that, given how many times I have thumbed through the pages of this gorgeous guide to DIY cooking. Our readers made up for our lack with glowing praise: marisa_dobson says, "Every single thing I've made from it has been delish!"
- Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make, by Melissa Clark (Hyperion) - We are such fans of Melissa here at The Kitchn, and we were happy to see her book receive a lot of glowing praise from the readers as well. She makes recipes we just want to cook, as her title promises, and the readers agreed: "I marked probably about half the recipes as ones that looked good," says vintagejenta. (See our review and a recipe here.)
8 Cookbook Honorable Mentions
Here are eight more cookbooks that received enthusiasm and mentions from our readers.
- Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook's Manifesto, by Michael Ruhlman (Chronicle Books) - Several readers mentioned this strong new book by Michael Ruhlman.
- The Homesick Texan Cookbook, by Lisa Fain (Hyperion) - Lots of shout-outs from the readers on this one.
- Momofuku Milk Bar, by Christina Tosi (Clarkson Potter) - A recent favorite, soaring to popularity on the strength of its offbeat treats and creative thinking. (See our review and a recipe here.)
- Sugar Baby, by Gesine Bullock-Prado (Stewart Tabori & Chang) - A creative and rather funny book, full of gorgeous photos and thorough instruction on working with sugar.
- CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life, by Jessie Oleson (Sasquatch Books) - Whimsy, sweetness and spice characterize Oleson's illustrations and recipes, and all of these things carry through clearly from her blog to her book.
- Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food: A Grocer's Guide to Shopping, Cooking & Creating Community Through Food, by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough (Ten Speed Press) - Reader spatzle says, "I have made ten of the recipes and they're all amazing so far. The extra info is fantastic, too - makes for great reading cozied up in bed." (See our review and a recipe here.)
- Tender, by Nigel Slater (Ten Speed Press) - A gorgeous celebration of vegetables, gardening, and food that just tastes good.
- The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria - This is a final mention from me personally. We haven't reviewed this book yet, but I plan to do so thoroughly in the new year. This was probably my favorite book of 2011 — laid out in an extremely intelligent way, organized to help cooks organize themselves, teaching all the way through via great recipes and clear photos. Look for a longer review soon.
Also, I will take a moment to mention that Sara Kate and I both released books this year: Good Food To Share and Not Your Mother's Casseroles. (It's just the beginning of a rich run of cookbooks from the crew here at The Kitchn; there are several more in the works!)
• All books mentioned can be found on Amazon, in your local independent bookstore, or at your local library. Many are available for e-reader devices as well.
Got another favorite cookbook of 2011 to share? Tell us in a comment below!
(Images: Publishers via Amazon)