By Bonnie S. Benwick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 30, 2010; 12:22 PM
Hats off to those in the cookbook review business who manage to whittle their annual lists to a precious few.
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.
"Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy," by Alice Medrich (Artisan; $25.95). Smart organization, can't-miss recipes from this master baker.
"Ready for Dessert," by David Lebovitz (Ten Speed Press; $35). You'll want to make everything in this book.
"Sweet Magic," by Michel Richard with Peter Kaminsky (Ecco; $27.50). Charmingly illustrated by the chef himself, with classic and new creations.
"The Perfect Finish," by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark (W.W. Norton; $35). Perfection is achievable with the White House pastry chef's specific directions.Ethnic/regional
"The Turkish Cookbook: Regional Recipes and Stories," by Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman (Interlink; $35). A comprehensive window on Turkey's regional foods.
"Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes From Southern Appalachia," by Joan E. Aller (Andrews McMeel; $27.99). This captures a region with much to offer.
"Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge," by Grace Young (Simon & Schuster; $35). Practical tips and techniques, plus adaptable recipes.
"The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook," by Robb Walsh (Broadway; $18.99). Full of personality and great ideas; a must for carnivores.Everyday
"Daring Pairings," by Evan Goldstein (University of California Press; $34.95). Novel dishes that are matched expertly with wines.
"The Essential Diabetes Cookbook," by Antony Worrall Thompson with Louise Blair (Kyle; $35). Taking its cues from global cuisine, this recipe collection is liberating for those who must monitor what they eat.
"Food Substitutions Bible Second Edition," by David Joachim (Robert Rose; $24.95). The answers to so many questions are found here.
"Heart of the Artichoke ," by David Tanis (Artisan; $35). A reminder that simple and seasonal can be beautiful.
"My Cooking Class: Sauce Basics, " by Keda Black (Firefly; $24.95). Visually appealing and easy to follow step by step; one of a paperback series that includes accessible volumes on pasta, chocolate, steaming, vegetables and Middle Eastern cuisine.
"Radically Simple," by Rozanne Gold (Rodale; $35). Pantry-friendly yet imaginative options for weeknight meals.
"SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue ," by Aviva Goldfarb (St. Martin's Griffin; $17.99). Like an extra pair of hands that helps get dinner on the table; nutritional analysis included.Recipes