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Washington Post's top cookbooks of 2010

Food is both art and artful in "Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine."
Food is both art and artful in "Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine." (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

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By Bonnie S. Benwick
Tuesday, November 30, 2010; 12:06 PM

Hats off to those in the cookbook review business who manage to whittle their annual lists to a precious few.

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It's something I fail to do each year. On purpose.

Big, beautiful volumes make nice gifts, but slim collections with charm and a laserlike focus must not be overlooked. Bakers at home need the guidance and inspiration of experts; cooks who have to produce dinner every day deserve access to easy, varied options. What I look for is a book that passes the Post-it note test (more than five recipes flagged), with reliable information and the potential for perennial use.

That is what the following 23 have in common. So here's my lineup of 2010's top cookbooks, in alphabetical order within each category. Read 'em and eat.

Big/giftworthy

"Around My French Table," by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin; $40). The author's voice and impeccable taste transport everyday dishes.

"The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook ," by Rachel Saunders (Andrews McMeel; $35). Empowering, and applicable year-round.

"Encyclopedia of Jewish Food ," by Gil Marks (Wiley; $40). Twelve hundred years of culinary history and 25 years of the author's recipes are packed into this reference guide.

"The Essential New York Times Cookbook ," by Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton; $40). A historic, engaging effort to chronicle 150 years of food in the Times.

"Forgotten Skills of Cooking," by Darina Allen (Kyle; $40). A lovely, definitive DIY manual that demystifies and informs.

"Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine ," by Rene Redzepi (Phaidon; $49.95). Food as art, which can be appreciated even if you don't make a single recipe.

"Plenty," by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley; $29.99) . A fine example of the way the British fooderati elevate uncomplicated cookery.

Baking

"Baked Explorations ," by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; $29.95). A stylish tribute to American desserts from the New Guard.


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