Recently I was scanning these volumes and realized that many of the books that came out this year have a really thoughtful aspect to them. Whether it be gentle suggestions for eating less meat like Pam Anderson's Cook without a Book, or an exciting but not didactic single-subject cookbook like Molly Stevens's All About Roasting, or Anne Zimmerman's moving account of M.F.K. Fisher's life in An Extravagant Hunger, I am struck by and humbled to see that it is this approach to that drew me to this career in the first place. These are the writers and cooks who inspire me.
I can't put this book down. It's like a personal scrapbook of dishes that British chef Allegra McEvedy has encountered during her life of travel. Curiously, each chapter also features a knife she found in that country. Okay, this detail is a tad strange, but for someone like me with a knife fetish, I admit I read each of the knife features with fascination and envy. (With photos by Andrew Montgomery)
• Bought, Borrowed and Stolen (Amazon, $18.24)
We recently featured the Ham Bone, Greens and Bean Soup from Melissa Clark's latest book, Cook This Now. This recipe is one example of dozens of recipes in this volume that are comforting, approachable enough to make on a Monday night in your sweats and yet unique and eye-opening enough to make for guests in your fancy pants. What I love about Melissa's recipes is they each come with an extended headnote; deeply personal and often entertaining stories of how the dish came to be. (With photos by Andrew Scrivani)
• Cook This Now (Amazon, $18.42)
Molly Stevens is a trusted source for cooking meat. Her last book, All About Braising, is my go-to for big winter meal ideas. This latest 200-recipe volume will make you feel like your best friend came over to explain every possible aspect of roasting and left your kitchen smelling great, your belly full, and the sense that you can do anything in the kitchen. (With photos by Quentin Bacon.)
• All About Roasting (Amazon, $23.10)
I consider M.F.K. Fisher among a small handful of food writers who really set the tone for thoughtful food writing in the 21st century. Anne Zimmerman's book is the kind of curl-up-by-the-fireside-with-a-cup-of-tea biography Fisher deserves.
• An Extravagant Hunger (Amazon, $17.10)
Like Molly Stevens, Paula Wolfert is one of my single-subject go-to food authorities. Wolfert finally published a thick juicy book about the country she knows so well. Wolfert has been visiting and living in Morocco for over fifty years. I can think of no better guide to take me into the deep, fragrant corners of Morocco's kitchens and to help me bring that feeling to my own home. (With photos by Quentin Bacon.)
• The Food of Morocco (Amazon, $26.82)
The fact that Kathy Gunst is able to write a cookbook for all seasons in Maine is a testament to both her talent as a literary writer and also her knowledge of food and cooking. (I can barely function when it comes to writing about a seasonal dish in, say, February.) Eight hours north of the epicenter of my own winter doldrums, Kathy is able to sex-up the root vegetable with the added benefit of having as her subject a place where shellfish thrive.
• Notes from a Maine Kitchen (Amazon, $18.45)
Tomatoland is a must-read if you care about your own health and the health of your planet. Estabrook, as usual, knocks it out of the park with his exposé of the $10 billion fresh-tomato industry. It'll scare the bejesus out of you just enough to change the way you think about your produce, but not so much that you don't finish reading the book. That's successful investigative journalism, my style.
• Tomatoland (Amazon, $10.40)
No guilt here in Pam Anderon's latest cookbook; she writes about the possibility and the excitement of winnowing down meat from your diet. With all the evidence that eating less meat benefits not only our health but the overall wellness of the earth, it is encouraging to see a book like this come from a real culinary master who practices what she preaches. Anderson committed to eat no meat at least two days a week, and to only buy meat products from trusted sustainable sources. This book works for newbies and hard-core vegetarians alike, full-timers and vegetarian tourists. (Photography by Quentin Bacon)
Related: My Favorite Baking Books of 2010
(Images: Courtesy of publishers)