Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cookbook Thursday: Cookbooks for gift giving

             During this most wonderful time of the year, honor the foodies in your life with a new cookbook or two. The market is full of beautiful books and here are a few to choose from.
            Tom Bailey, editor for Seacoast Publishing, celebrates the Gulf South, from Tampa Bay to Mexico and all points in between in “The Complete Guide to Northern Gulf Seafood” from Pelican Publishing of New Orleans, an ideal gift for the fisherman in the family. In addition to the numerous recipes complemented by the lovely photography of Celeste Ward, the book explains what types of fish frequent the Gulf of Mexico and how to select, prepare, serve and store the best fish.
            Linda Hundt’s “Sweetie-licious Pies: Eat Pie, Love Life” cookbook is a sugary sweet experience, a book that offers delectable recipes and fun photography by Clarissa Westmeyer to coincide with its happy title. Chapters include “Kindness,” “Love” and “Faith,” for instance, and anecdotes tell of the author’s home in DeWitt, Michigan, along with stories and photos of her family. It’s appropo that a pie book would be this warm and fuzzy, and how can you not be happy when indulging in “Aunt Ruby’s Beautiful Butterscotch Praline Pie”?
            Cookbook and food offerings are rather slim for the vegan, especially if you live in Acadiana. Julie Hasson, who’s also authored a pie cookbook, features 50 recipes for dairy-free, meat-free, thin crust artisan pizzas in “Vegan Pizza.” If you think giving up meat means losing taste, think again. There’s Thai peanut, pineapple and jalapeno and cowboy pizza with barbecue sauce, vegan cheese and other goodies.
            This past summer I got to sample the culinary excellence of Chef John Currence at City Grocery in Oxford, Miss. Currence opened the restaurant in 1992 and now owns four restaurants in town, plus an exquisite new cookbook, “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some.” The book looks at three typical Southern foodways with his modern take on their creations, embellished, of course, with recipes and photos.
            If you’re looking to create fun things for holiday gifts, Storey Publishing has a wonderful new book just in time for Christmas, “Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits” by Andrew Schloss. Don’t serve ordinary cocktails, spruce them up with infused flavors such as pumpkin spice, blue lavender and brown sugar pecan. The book is chock full of wonderful recipes — 159 flavors, 80 cocktails and several simple syrups — with easy instruction on how to create and present them.
            To give you an idea of the process, the apple spice hooch recipe calls for mixing bourbon, apples, maple syrup and spices together to sit for a week in a cool, dark place. Once strained, the liqueur is ready to be enjoyed, tasting like an apple pie.
            One of the recommendations by the publisher is to give a bottle of infused liqueurs with a copy of “Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits” as a gift. Sounds good to me.
            Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl once called Portland, Ore., “the crucible of New American cooking.” I keep thinking of that “Portlandia” episode where the dining couple continually demands to know where the chicken originated (“Is the Chicken Local?”). You can get a taste of the Portland food scene — from small batch coffee roasters to gourmet food trucks — without leaving your table with Karen Brooks’ “The Mighty Gastropolis Portland: A Journey Through the Center of America’s New Food Revolution,” written with Gideon Bosker and Teri Gelber.
            I’ve mentioned this book before but I will again, because it’s such a great gift for the person experiencing breast cancer treatment. “The Back in the Swing Cookbook” by Barbara Unell and Judith Fertig contains more than 100 healthy recipes in addition to helpful and inspiring information on bouncing back from cancer. Here’s a one-dish recipe from the book for Tuscan Ribollita that uses whole ingredients such as olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, butternut squash, kale and cannellini beans.

Tuscan Ribollita
From “The Back in the Swing Cookbook” by Barbara Unell and Judith Fertig8 small slices Whole Wheat and Flaxseed Boule or store-bought Italian bread
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cubed butternut squash
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
5 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 cups chopped kale leaves, stems cut out
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
            Directions: For the toasted bread, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of each slice with 1 tablespoon of the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges of the bread have browned and the cheese is browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool.
            Meanwhile, for the soup, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened. Stir in the rosemary, squash, tomatoes, broth and kale and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. Add the beans and simmer for 10 minutes, until the flavors have blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
            To serve, place 1 toast in the bottom of each bowl and ladle with hot soup. Serve hot.

 Cheré Coen is a Lafayette freelance travel and food writer. She is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Tour of Historic Acadiana,” both from The History Press.