From the novices to the experts, we’ve got the perfect cookbook selection for the culinary-minded in your life.
All year long, Seattle Times food writers sort through new cookbooks and recommend the standouts. Some particularly call out to be considered as gifts, whether for their gorgeous appearance, ambition, breadth, usefulness or sheer charm. We bet there’s a 2015 cookbook for every food lover on your holiday gift list. Checking your list twice? We’ve suggested an accessory to accompany each title. Below are our recommendations, in no particular order, but favoring new releases.
1. “Mastering Sauces” by Susan Volland (W.W. Norton & Co., $39.95)
Mastering is right. An engaging Bible of sauce-making from a Seattle native who is guided by both the old and the new — a formal culinary degree and years of work with Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine projects. Volland explains not just how to make various sauces, but why — and what to do if things go wrong.
Pair with: A whisk (Volland recommends the 8-inch and 12-inch models made by Portland-based Best Manufacturers.) If the recipient already has enough whisks, consider a kitchen scale.
2. “Nopi” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully (Ten Speed Press, $40)
More from the Jerusalem-born, London-based chef who put dynamic global flavors and extra vegetables at the center of our plates. This gilt-edged volume draws on Ottolenghi’s Asian-influenced fine-dining restaurant, Nopi, where Scully heads the kitchen. Recipes are generally more luxurious, time-consuming and carnivorous than past Ottolenghi standards, but equally alluring.
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Pair with: A mandoline and/or a spice grinder.
3. “The Food Lab” by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (W.W. Norton, $49.95)
In our Seattle Times review, we called this hefty tome an instant-classic reference book for beginners as well as experts. We love how Lopez-Alt, equal parts cook and scientist, is dedicated to discovery over dogma. Whether boiling eggs, chopping onions or searing steaks, he can teach us all something new.
Pair with: A good instant-read thermometer (Lopez-Alt recommends the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen for bigger spenders (“head and shoulders above the competition,”) or the more budget-friendly CDN Pro Accurate Quick-Read Thermometer.)
4. “Good and Cheap” by Leanne Brown (Workman Publishing, $16.95)
Brown wrote her book with people on food stamps in mind, but it’s a fine primer for anyone looking to eat good, basic home cooking on a budget. College freshmen or others newly living on their own might find it an especially welcome gift. Bonus: A free download of the first edition is available on Brown’s website, leannebrown.com.
Pair with: A selection of spices or other kitchen staples.
5. “Sea and Smoke: Flavors from the Untamed Pacific Northwest” by Blaine Wetzel and Joe Ray (Running Press, $40)
Vivid storytelling, photographs and recipes from a year at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island, arguably the state’s most celebrated restaurant. Readers won’t be able to reproduce every recipe at home (especially not ones that specify which farmer should provide the eggs), but they’ll still dive deep into the beauty and edible treasures of our region.
Pair with: For highfliers, note that the Willows Inn offers dinner gift certificates, starting at $206.50.
6. “Nerdy Nummies” by Rosanna Pansino (Atria Books, $29.99)
Aspiring and artistic bakers will appreciate the ridiculously adorable, science-themed sweets from a Seattle native with a hit YouTube cooking show. Geode cupcakes using rock candy are particularly inspired, as is a playable “Chocolate Chess Cake.”
Pair with: A cake decorating set with bags and different sized tips.
7. “Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking” by Darra Goldstein (Ten Speed Press, $40)
Lefse bread, gravlax, chanterelle soup — it’s all here in a cool, elegant hardcover that focuses on traditional Nordic dishes but is familiar with modern innovations. Goldstein’s affection for the region will particularly resonate with Seattle residents in touch with our area’s Nordic heritage.
Pair with: A trip or even a membership to Ballard’s Nordic Heritage Museum, nordicmuseum.org.
8. “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees” by Kian Lam Kho (Clarkson Potter, $35)
An attractive, knowledgeable yet accessible guide to cooking Chinese food, focusing on techniques from stir-frying to smoking. Kho clearly explains the differences in regional cuisines, reviews crucial cooking tools and skillfully guides Western readers through essential ingredients and dishes.
Pair with: A carbon-steel wok and/or a bamboo steamer.
9. “Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes” by Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach (Clarkson Potter, $35.)
It advertises itself as “100 percent inauthentic” and brags “actually easy.” Some will enjoy the hip attitude more than others, but a wide audience will appreciate recipes for favorites from Korean jap chae to Japanese okonomiyaki to Cantonese char siu pork. Some are naturally simple, some the authors “stripped down” into reasonable facsimiles of the originals, all are aimed at “a real-life schedule and budget.”
Pair with: A rice cooker.
10. “Theo Chocolate” by Debra Music and Joe Whinney (Sasquatch Books, $24.95)
The inspiring story of Seattle’s fair-trade chocolate company, accompanied by sweet recipes as well as a broad selection of savory ones.
Pair with: A box of cacao nibs.