Just when it seems like there couldn’t possibly be room for another cookbook on our shelves, a flood of irresistible new tomes lands in bookstores. This fall, local chefs and food writers are at the top of our holiday wish lists with delicious coffee-table inspirations, master classes on bread, pizza and pasta making, spicy ethnic cooking and thought-provoking literature that we’ll be cuddled up with all winter. So clear out some space in your culinary library and get ready to get cooking.
“Della Fattoria Bread: 63 Foolproof Recipes for Yeasted, Enriched & Naturally Leavened Breads” by Kathleen Weber ($29.95, Artisan): Bread-baking isn’t for the faint of heart, despite being one of the simplest foods we eat. Water, flour, yeast and time are about all that’s required of the baker, but it can take a lifetime to perfect the perfect loaf. Petaluman Kathleen Weber of the legendary Della Fattoria bakery and cafe has the art of wood-fired breads down to a science, with many top chefs throughout the Bay Area (including Thomas Keller) clamoring for her rustic Pugliese Boule and sweet baguettes, while locals snap up her homey Pullman loaves by the armful. Her cookbook includes “foolproof” recipes for 63 types of bread — from dinner rolls and sticky buns to naturally leavened rustic loaves, crackers, flatbreads and the dressy Pain d’Epi loaf (a loaf that looks like a stalk of wheat). Interspersed are spreads and accompaniments (olive tapenade, panzanella salad) and slice-of-life stories about Weber’s life and love of Sonoma County. Don’t miss the story about their visit from Martha Stewart, who helicoptered into their farm.
“Inside the Test Kitchen, 120 New Recipes Perfected” by Tyler Florence ($35, Clarkson Potter): At a recent event, Marin’s Tyler Florence pulled an advance copy of his new cookbook, a faux journal (think Moleskine) filled with recipes that seemed too simple to need, well, a recipe. But that was just the point. Crowd-sourced from his Twitter followers (#tftestkitchen) and tested by friends and family in his Mill Valley test kitchen, it’s a compendium of perfected classics like meatloaf and grilled cheese (they “stretch-tested” cheeses); they gave an update to spaghetti and meatballs, tarted up tired old pork chops and created what’s destined to be the definitive cornbread recipe using corn meal fried in bacon fat. (We didn’t say these were healthy recipes.) It’s a tasty romp through Tyler’s frenetically creative world, complete with handwritten margin notes and plenty of pictures to make sure you’re on the right track.
“New Napa Cuisine” by Christopher Kostow ($50, Ten Speed Press): Three-Michelin-starred chefs don’t write cookbooks. They create aspirational works of food art that double-dog dare you to even attempt cooking them — that is, if you could actually find acorn flour, trimoline (a sugar syrup requiring a Ph.D. to prepare) and mallow leaves at your local supermarket. Kostow, who has been called “one of the greatest chefs of our generation” by his three-starred peers, is executive chef at St. Helena’s Meadowood Resort, earned his elite status before the age of 40 and is heir-apparent to fellow Napa chef, Thomas Keller. With 100 recipes (frog ravioli, grappa marshmallow, cockscomb spelt porridge), stories of Kostow’s charmed life and his favorite local purveyors, just paging through this epic coffee-table book, filled with moody tableaux of local preserves, foraged vegetables and wild game, is reward enough. Leave the recipes to the professionals.