This has been a very good year for cookbooks. Here are seven mouthwatering choices for the cooks on your gift list. We're sure you'll find something to whet your appetite for holiday cookbook shopping.
"Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza," by Ken Forkish (Ten Speed Press, $35)
Author Ken Forkish gave up a 20-year career in Silicon Valley to become a baker. In 2001, he opened a bakery in Portland followed by a pizza place in 2006. Now Forkish shares his secrets for making crusty loaves of bread and thin crispy pizzas in this 265-page book. Rich with scientific explanations, it will appeal to the cook who takes an engineer's approach in the kitchen. Beyond recipes for loaves of whole wheat and pain de campagne, Forkish offers intriguing techniques for making a pizza in an iron skillet and a bake-and-broil method using a pizza stone.
"Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking," by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (Gibbs Smith, $45)
At more than 700 pages, this may represent Dupree's life's work. The James Beard award-winning author co-wrote the book with Graubart, who began working with her in 1985 on PBS' "New Southern Cooking." The two have produced an exhaustive volume, including photos detailing cooking techniques for the beginner and recipes that will intrigue the experienced cook. The recipes reflect what is now being cooked in Southern homes from Coca-Cola glazed wings to grilled chicken sate, but also includes old favorites, like ambrosia salad and hoppin' John. This book seems destined to become a classic.
"Great Meat Book," by Bruce Aidells with Anne-Marie Ramo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40)
As founder of Aidells Sausage Co., author Aidells is an expert in all things meat. Unlike his "The Complete Meat Cookbook," published 16 years ago, this book tries to help consumers navigate the new world where commodity meat is sold alongside meat billed as "pasture-raised," "grass-fed" or "raised without antibiotics or growth promotants." Aidells' 632-page tome explains often-confusing descriptions on packages of meat and includes recipes for everything from beef and pork to bison and goat. Each recipe is identified with helpful subtitles, such as: "fit for a crowd," "family meal," "in a hurry," "cheap eats," "heirloom pork" and "freezes well."
"Barefoot Contessa Foolproof," by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $35)
For television food fans, Ina — and don't we all feel like we should call her by her first name? — is the last of the real cooks. She doesn't tramp around the world eating bizarre things, she doesn't race around in competitions. She just cooks — and she makes you want to cook. Her recipes are sophisticated enough to feel stylish, but simple enough that anyone can make them. Ina writes cookbooks you find yourself grabbing over and over.
"Fix It & Freeze It, Heat it & Eat It," by Southern Living (Oxmoor House, $19.95)
This cookbook from people who produce Southern Living magazine is for the harried: the workaholic who can't find time to cook, the working parent trying to get dinner on the table quickly, the cook who wants to take better advantage of a freezer. The book offers many strategies for dinner success. There are recipes for main courses whose leftovers can be turned into a different meal. There are make-ahead dishes that simply need to be pulled from the freezer. There are easy recipes to feed a crowd, to feed hungry children and an entire chapter of do-ahead desserts for the hostess who doesn't want to be caught off-guard.
"The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook" by Deb Perelman (Knopf, $35)
Food writing is coming full circle: Bloggers who first disdained the print world are now getting cookbooks published. Good for them. When the cooking blogs first took off, Perelman's Smitten Kitchen quickly became a favorite, for her friendly writing and her obsession with testing recipes until she decided on the very best one. Her cookbook has the same homey, simple recipes and writing as the blog, and photography that has the rich look of old paintings. All in a handy form that you can keep on a bookshelf.
"Japanese Farm Food," by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Andrews McMeel, $35)
At first, the subject seemed a little esoteric. But then we opened the book — and couldn't stop reading. Hachisu is an American married to a farmer in Japan. There is meat in the book, but it's used sparingly. This is a beautifully written book that is part personal story of life in Japan and part guide to Asian ingredients and tools. There are step-by-step photos and recipes that cover things like making your own tofu and endless ways to work with rice. Don't miss the last essay: Hachisu's story of the first hours after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.