There was a bumper crop of food books in 2012. Here are a few of our favorites, by Brooklyn authors and about New York City, whether you’re looking for recipes, a gift or a great read.
Saltie, Caroline Fidanza with Anna Dunn, Rebecca Collerton and Elizabeth Shoula ($25)
Don’t buy Saltie A Cookbook for the sandwich recipes–they will always taste better when made by the wonderful ladies at Saltie. Buy it for the building blocks of those sandwiches, like their ridiculously good focaccia, Caroline Fidanza’s killer mayo and that herb salad that makes everything taste fresh and bright, no matter how much olive oil there is on top. Saltie will teach you how to properly soft boil an egg, make a quick vinaigrette or whip up a pesto or pistou. In short, it will make you a better cook. And, it includes recipes for the crazily addictive adult chip and chocolate nudge cookies.
Eat the City, Robin Shulman ($26)
This carefully researched, beautifully written history of New York is perfect for anyone who is tired of all that breathless adoration of Brooklyn food and the people who make it. Shulman examines food traditions in the city, and finds their modern-day incarnations in sugar cane growers in the Bronx, winemakers in Manhattan and mad bee keepers all over the city. The story of New Yorkers’ ever present desire to eke a little food–and independence, community feeling and personal heritage–out of our limited space in this city makes for fascinating reading, no matter your stance on artisanal jam and heritage breed pork. (Look for an interview with Shulman on tomorrow’s Friday Features email.)
The Mile End Cookbook, Noah and Rae Bernamoff ($27.50)
Hanukkah may be over, but it’s not too late to get The Mile End Cookbook for Chrismukkah celebrants, deli enthusiasts and anyone who wants to perfect their matzoh balls or ultra-comforting chicken soup recipe. There are also recipes for patient souls who want to give curing and smoking their own brisket a try (or just better understand the process) and an extensive pickling section. Classic recipes like chopped liver (a real go-to) and challah are mixed in with updated fare like spring chicken and pan-roasted trout. The little extras too, like Noah and Rae’s holiday menu ideas and Montreal guide, make this book a must-have.
How to Build a Better Pie, Millicent Souris ($25)
If you feel freaked out by pies and believe luck plays a major role in whether your crust comes out–or you are pie legend and want to master some new recipes–then How to Build a Better Pie should be your new go-to. The book features step-by-step photographs and colorful instruction by a very reassuring, wisecracking Souris, a veteran chef who also teaches the pie-making class at Brooklyn Kitchen. Her methods are so simple they’re almost revolutionary. To cut the fat into the crust, she calls upon not knives or a pastry blender, but your own hands (gently, of course). Once she’s sure you’ve mastered the basics of making and shaping a crust, she moves on to a surprising mix of sweet and savory pies, both popular and obscure. Whether the recipe comes from a fellow friend and baker (like the Maple Walnut Pie by BB’s Annaliese Griffin), or just expresses her love for shellfish (Oyster Pie), the backstory to each one is as informative as it is poetic. There are enough entertaining anecdotes and original recipes to keep you engaged, even if you never end up making Lamb Neck Pie.
The American Way of Eating, Tracie McMillan ($25 hardocover, $16 paperback)
We interviewed Tracie McMillan last spring to talk about The American Way of Eating, which is one of the smartest books about food, poverty and work in American to have come out in the past decade. McMillan spent months working in garlic fields in California, in a WalMart outside of Detroit and in an Applebees kitchen in Brooklyn to figure out what actually goes on with our food, and the people who grow, sell and prepare it, in this country. A must-read for anyone who cares about the food system (or who wants to know the history of grocery stores).
The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee, James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman, Tara Duggan ($24.99)
Brooklynites are increasingly addicted to the Bay Area coffee company’s hyper-strong roasts, now being single-poured (very slowly and verrry carefully) at their Williamsburg storefront, and several other serious coffee shops around the borough. While the cover may imply that Blue Bottle’s new cookbook is all pour-over porn (and there is plenty of that) the book serves as a complete coffee-lover’s bible, offering tips on how to brew the perfect cup, as well as recipes for what to eat with your coffee (the delicious fennel-Parmesan shortbread served at Blue Bottle stores), and what to cook from your coffee–espresso-roasted carrots, anyone?
One Girl Cookies Cookbook, Dawn Casale and David Crofton ($22.50)
If you’re in need of a last-minute gift for a sweet tooth in your life, pair a box of One Girl’s chocolate collection with their new cookbook. The cute Cobble-hill based bakery run by Dawn Casale and David Crofton spun off the book earlier this year. It’s a lengthy tome, with sections on cakes, pies, tarts, cupcakes and whoopee pies, but the draw here is really the cookies, with dozens of recipes for One Girl’s signature variations, from classics like pumpkin chocolate chip to more adventurous fare such as pistachio biscotti with candied orange zest.