Cookbooks are usually pretty safe presents if you know your home cook.
While selecting that cookbook, think of what your home cook or friends might like to cook, and not just what you would like that person to cook for you. Hopefully those match.
Television chefs sell the most books. Hence their cookbooks are the easiest to find in a bookstore or online. But it is becoming harder and harder to get a cookbook published when publishers are spending gazillions on the books of former presidents and the most famous chefs. So many chefs and food writers are self-publishing or paying others to publish for them.
Two of our favorites are just exactly that. Since they cost so much to publish this way, both entities are selling them only through their own websites or restaurants and stores. There is a cookbook for everyone.
'Mary's Italian Family Cookbook'
Mary's Pizza Shack founder Mary Fazio started making pizza and meatballs in a shack in Boyes Hot Springs that eventually got so popular she had to build the current Mary's down Highway 12. Now Mary's children, Toto and Peggy Albano and Anna Albano-Byerly have written a book that includes all of Mary's secrets -- recipes such as those blue cheese and Italian salad dressings, and her meatballs and lasagna.
Nothing held back. It's all there. Mary's fans need this one. We got one for each of our kids who practically grew up in Mary's, as did many Sonoma children. $35 at Mary's restaurants and at maryspizzashack.com. Must order by Dec. 19 for holiday delivery.
Georgeanne Brennan and Steve Sando, who have both been to Sonoma many times with their previous cookbooks, have teamed up to produce a book on using Sando's Rancho Gordo beans with Brennan's long expertise in French and Provençal living and cooking.
In 'French Beans: Exploring the Bean Cuisine of France,' Brennan includes a full range of fairly easy recipes, many with only a few ingredients to make yummies such as green lentil and goat cheese spread, black bean hummus, a range of salads including salade niçoise; cassoulet, gratins, roasts and even braised chicken thighs with cranberry beans, soups and stews. Rancho Gordo beans are available in all Sonoma grocery stores. Sando lives high atop the Mayacamas Mountains. $22.99. Purchase at Rancho Gordo store, 1924 Yajome St., Napa or at ranchogordo.com.
'Salt Fat Acid Heat'
Berkeley resident Samin Nosrat's book 'Salt Fat Acid Heat' may be the hit of the cookbook season, as is her Netflix cooking show series. We know an 11-year-old boy and an 80-year-old cookbook author who are hooked on her shows. That's the range her book attracts. Nosrat's book won every 2018 cookbook award around from James Beard to Fortnum & Mason, IACP Cookbook of the Year and First Book awards, and the 2017 Sunday Times Food Book of the Year award. Foodie gossip suggests she might succeed Anthony Bourdain as world traveler chef star.
'Almonds, Anchovies & Pancetta'
Cal Peternell's new book, 'Almonds, Anchovies & Pancetta – A Vegetarian Book Kind Of,' takes you into his vast background of 22 years as chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It includes lots of morning-after-recovery breakfast items, like 'Caesar-like gougères.' Those anchovies restore salt to the tummy extracted by alcohol the night before. $25.99.
'Cooking Like a Pro'
With millions of fans, Ina Garten seems to come out with a new cookbook just in time for holiday giving, every year. This time it's the Barefoot Contessa's 'Cook Like a Pro – Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks.' Garten's recipes are always approachable and easy with few ingredients. She makes it so simple. $35.
'Every Day Dorie'
Multiple James Beard Award winner who is lucky enough to live in both New York and Paris, Dorie Greenspan offers 'The Way I Cook.' Her books about cookies and cooking in Paris have charmed thousands. Part of a circle that feeds each other, she enjoys book notes by Yotam Ottololenghi, Samin Nosrat, David Lebovits and Christopher Kimball. $35.
'Milk Street Tuesday Nights'
Christopher Kimball named his cookbook after his Boston restaurant, Milk Street, which is also the headquarters for his cooking school, magazine and podcast. In this book he gives recipes for everything from salt and pepper shrimp to Tuscan soup and beef Suiza. Kimball's theme is that Tuesday is the new Saturday for dining out (or in) as it has been in Paris for many decades. $25.
Yotam Ottolenghi is a British-Israeli chef who owns five delis and restaurants in London and is the newish darling of the well-equipped kitchen crowd. Not sure his Mediterranean cooking ever gets simple, but it's always interesting and good. 130 recipes. $35.
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