By Elisa Bosley
With the pendulum swinging back (slowly) toward wholesome real food, home cooking is back. Chosen from dozens of healthy cookbooks I received this year, here are my 12 top picks. Each meets my criteria for a great cookbook gift: a voice that celebrates healthy, delicious foods; beautiful photography and/or design; and a plethora of useful, creative, good-for-you recipes.
By Ani Phyo (Da Capo Lifelong, 2011)
Ever luminous raw-food chef Ani Phyo taps her Asian heritage with this recipe collection featuring tastes from Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and Hawaii. She also includes full raw menus for brunch, dinner parties, even weddings, as well as beautiful photos of food, places, and people. Sample recipes: Corn Fritters with Hot and Sour Cucumber Dipping Sauce; Coconut Balls in Sweet Rose Kream; Moo Shoo Vegetables with Hoisin Sauce.
By Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough (Ten Speed, 2011)
This beautiful book is a shopping guide, cookbook, and community-building tool rolled into one. It's a labor of love from Bi-Rite Market, a neighborhood grocery in San Francisco’s Mission District that’s been operating since 1940 and is now in the hands of second-gen son (and former chef) Sam Mogannam. With gorgeous, homey photos and practical information, the book not only provides yummy recipes but goes behind the scenes to explain how to identify the best ingredients, how to decipher labels, and how to reconnect with the people who produce your food. Sample recipes: Sauteed Fig with Proscuitto and Parmigiano; Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Ginger Crumb Topping; Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin with Fresh Sage.
By Dynise Balcavage (Lyons, 2011)
Wondering what to serve your omnivore relatives on Rosh Hashanah, Cinco de Mayo, Eid Al-Fitr, or Barbados Independence Day? This fun, practical book offers a mouthwatering collection of animal-product-free festive foods for every occasion, including suggestions for a slumber party and Girls’ Night In. I do wish the book included photos, but I’m glad that each recipe includes icons noting fast, frugal, kid-friendly, make ahead, and omnivore-friendly dishes. Sample recipes: Polenta-Kale Cutlets with Basil Aioli (Christmas Eve), Indian Shepherd’s Pie (Guy Fawkes Day), and Brownie-Gianduja Cake with Chocolate-Gravitas Frosting (Grown-Ups Birthday).
By Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato (Running Press, 2011)
All together now: Eat your vegetables! This book is the perfect, easy resource to make that goal a reality. It features nice, bright photos, easy-to-read recipes, and an alphabetical arrangement from Artichokes and Asparagus through Escarole and Watercress to Zucchini, plus a nutritional breakdown for each food. Sample recipes: Slow-Roasted Fennel with Feta, Swiss Chard and Gruyere Gratin, and Okra Fritters.
By Barton Seaver (Sterling Epicure, 2001)
A high-production but surprisingly practical book from chef Barton Seaver, a champion of sustainable fish consumption. “The compelling narrative of conservation,” Seaver says, “is a story of responsible consumption. The answer is to support the best fisheries we have access to and to provide incentives to those lagging behind to get better. The answer is to eat smaller portions of seafood—and many more vegetables.” The book unravels seafood’s complicated issues without being preachy, suggests substitutions for overfished species, and provides lots of easy recipes arranged by season, both for seafood and for vegetable accompaniments. Sample recipes: Oyster Risotto with Butternut Squash, Crème Fraiche, and Fresh Herbs; Eggplant Stuffed with Smoky Tomato-Anchovy Ratatouille; Mackerel with Almond-Ginger-Mustard Butter.
By Anni Daulter (Sellers, 2011)
Daulter, author of the supercreative Ice Pop Joy, walks the talk about raising kids with wholesome, delicious, high-energy foods. I love the colorful photos of her family and her unfussy but luscious-looking recipes. Daulter also includes whimsical, doable tips for raising “green” kids, such as planting and growing a school garden, making non-paper Valentines, and setting up a lemonade-alternative herbal tea stand. Sample recipes: Pumpkin Pancakes with Honey Butter, Pistachios, and Fig Jam; Veggie Parmesan Popcorn; Mini Chicken Satay Bites with Spicy Peanut Dressing; and Veggie Sliders with Blue Corn Chips.
By Beth A. Barnett (Sasquatch, 2011)
An irresistibly adorable book that’s a cross between a recipe journal and a philosophy musing. Early in the book, Barnett provides perhaps the most clear and accessible timeline history of the industrialization of American Food I’ve ever read. I also love the book’s homespun quality, with Barnett’s hand-lettered recipes and sweet line illustrations (she also runs a micropress, Beth Bee Books). And special kudos for the sturdy spiral binding that lets the book lay flat while you cook. Sample recipes: Fruity Raisin Bran Muffins, Hearty Black-Eyed Pea Good Luck Soup; Fresh Falafal.
By Amy Green (Ulysses, 2011)
Blogger Amy Green not only eschews white sugar and gluten, but she does it with everyday, family-friendly, and quick recipes. Though it lacks pictures, this easy-to-use book is great for parents eager to feed their kids healthy, allergen-free, and refined-sugar-free meals, snacks, and desserts. Many of the recipes are also dairy- and egg-free, as well as vegan and vegetarian. Sample recipes: Seven Layer Avocado Dip; Tomato, Pesto, and Fresh Mozzarella Socca Pizza (socca is a chickpea flatbread); Easy Chicken Cacciatore; Light and Moist Cornbread; Carrot Cupcakes.
By Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed, 2011)
This attractive book is blogger and author Heidi Swanson’s second love letter to whole, natural foods. “I left out recipes requiring all day Saturday and on into Sunday to prepare … instead I kept a simple notebook over the past couple years of my favorite everyday preparations—ones I revisit often,” she writes. Plus you gotta love a girl who includes a drinks chapter, as well as lots of gentle and impressive photography. Sample recipes: Millet Muffins with Roasted Strawberries; Miso-Curry Delicata Squash; Roasted Chickpeas and Stuffed Medjool Dates; Rose Geranium Prosecco.
By Emily Mainquist (Kyle, 2011)
With stunning photos, this book’s pages look good enough to eat. Emily Mainquist, of Emily’s Desserts (sold in Whole Foods and Wegmans stores), generously shares the secrets of her sweet success, including her gluten-free flour mix. Bonus: A portion of the book’s proceeds benefits Farm Sanctuary, dedicated to exposing and stopping cruel and inhumane practices in the “food animal” industry. Sample recipes: Gluten-Free Chocolate-Chip Zucchini Bread Squares; Triple Chocolate Cheesecake; German Chocolate Cake; Raw Cashew Carob Bars.
By Julie Hasson (Running Press, 2011)
If you know someone who has considered going vegan but can’t bear giving up creamy, gravy-laden favorites, hand them this fun-loving book. Hasson’s mission was to “develop diner-style recipes and comfort food favorites that have all of the wonderful flavors and creamy textures that we all love, with a vegan twist.” Plus I love the easy-to-read, retro-color fonts and forget-the-diet photos. (Oh, those All-American Beer-Battered Onion Rings!) Sample recipes: Cherry-Almond-Poppyseed Muffins; Orange Cornbread Waffles; Biscuits and Creamy Sage Gravy; Grilled Cheezy Sandwiches; Banana Pudding Pie.
By Sarah B. Hood (Arsenal Pulp, 2011)
This book captures the DIY zeitgeist by drawing on the vast community of food canning and preserving bloggers for an anthology of recipes and stories. I love that the book’s inside flap offers a “Bare-Bones Cheat Sheet” for sterilizing and processing the jars—the two steps that intimidate most would-be canners—and I appreciate Hood’s green frugality in encouraging reusing jars. Sample recipes (including blue-ribbon winners): Strawberry Jam with Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar; Easy Victorian-Style Raspberry Jam; Cinnamon Plum Preserves; Thai-inspired Spicy Pickled Veggies; and Pickled Beets with Fennel.
12 Healthy Cookbooks from 2011