A List Of Resident Chef Kathy Gunst's Favorite Cookbooks From 2016

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Four of our resident chef Kathy Gunst's favorite cookbooks of 2016 (top to bottom): “Taste of Persia," by Naomi Duguid, "Golden," by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, "Dorie's Cookies," by Dorie Greenspan and "All Under Heaven," by Carolyn Phillips. (Kathy Gunst for Here & Now)
Four of our resident chef Kathy Gunst's favorite cookbooks of 2016 (top to bottom): “Taste of Persia," by Naomi Duguid, "Golden," by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, "Dorie's Cookies," by Dorie Greenspan and "All Under Heaven," by Carolyn Phillips. (Kathy Gunst for Here & Now)

You can find recipes from four of Kathy's favorite cookbooks of 2016 here.

There are so many good new cookbooks this year. All the biggies have new books: Ina, Mario, Bourdain. So how do I focus on only three or four new books?

I decided 2017 was the year to look for some really new flavors in my kitchen. I don’t really need another new recipe for pasta or roast chicken or all the other dishes I tend to rely on all year long. A new year equals new flavors.

Kathy's Favorite Cookbooks Of 2016

"Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan," by Naomi Duguid

Looking for new flavors? New inspiration? This gorgeous book explores parts of the world we only seem to hear about in the news. But reading through these pages we discover a rich culture, wonderful people and amazing looking food.

As Duguid writes: "Common elements in the cuisines of Persia and her neighbors … include richly flavored bean dishes, flatbreads of many kinds, generous use of herbs and greens, plenty of cheese and yogurt, walnuts … inventive soups and stews, savory dishes flavored with pomegranate and/or other fruits and rice as a beloved staple. Common to all the people of the region is a culture of hospitality, of sharing food and drink with both friends and strangers, with generosity."

I tried the spinach borani, a Persian dish combining rich whole fat yogurt and spinach (or beets or any vegetable) topped with fried onions and toasted walnuts and a gorgeous saffron water (you simply soak a touch of saffron in warm water), and fell in love with the dish. The saffron water was a revelation — it adds color and a rich, musky flavor to many foods.

The soup chapter (herbed yogurt soup, dried apricot soup with wheat berries, Tabriz meatball soup) presented flavors and combinations I had never heard of. A chapter on rice presents Persian rice in many variations (flavored with yogurt, egg, butter and saffron water), not to mention breads, sweet and savory pastries and more. The writing is lush and makes you feel like you’re traveling through the region with Duguid; the photography makes you hungry to get into the kitchen and introduce some Persian flavors into your repertoire.

"All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China," by Carolyn Phillips

After living in Taiwan for eight years, and then traveling through all the regions of China, Carolyn Phillips put together this comprehensive, 513-page book. If you, or anyone on your list, love Chinese food, this is your book.

"Of course, 'All Under Heaven' is by no means encyclopedia," writes Phillips. "As far as China’s foods are concerned, what lies between these covers is little more than the tip of the iceberg. Rather, this book is meant to be a subjective compilation of my personal favorites from each part of the country."

That being said, you’ll discover dishes you’ve heard of and most likely tasted: three cup chicken, stir fry rice noodles and beef, sesame noodles and butter tea, to name a few. But then you’ll discover little known regional dishes like northwestern roasted fish, Tibetan meatballs in a yogurt sauce, Sichuan-style pickles, Hainan chicken and rice and many more. The charming illustrations were drawn by Phillips and even though there’s not a photograph in sight, her writing and very clearly written recipes will make you want to cook your way through China, and this book.

"Golden: Sweet & Savory Baked Delights from the Oven of London’s Honey & Co.," by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer

This is a thoroughly appealing collection of recipes focused on Middle Eastern flavors. I was tempted by nearly everything. Chapters are divided into sections based on time of day: "Dead of night: Store cupboard," "First light: Sweet and savory breakfasts," "Mid-morning," "High noon: Lunch," "Before sunset: Tea time" and "After dark: Traditional desserts."

I baked the spiced carrot and walnut cake, and it was fragrant and moist — a delicious tea cake. I am charmed by some of the recipe language. In the carrot cake the final instruction is, “The end result should be lovely and springy to the touch.” Normally that kind of flowery, vague language might bother me, but it was perfectly descriptive and the cake came out just right.

I can’t wait to try the pear, ginger and olive oil cake, salty-sweet orange and tahini pretzels, blood orange and pistachio cakes and pistachio and rose petal halvah!

"Dorie’s Cookies," by Dorie Greenspan

How does a huge volume of cookie recipes work into my theme of new flavors? Well, you obviously haven't looked through Dorie Greenspan’s new cookie bible. The book is filled with the exotic and the familiar, but even the most basic is somehow new. Take, for instance, "My Newest Chocolate Chip Cookies." How do you reinvent the country’s favorite cookie? Well, in this case, it has to do with spices. Specifically, the addition of cilantro, nutmeg and sea salt. And a combination of whole wheat and white flour. The result? A subtly spiced, crisp, perfectly balanced chocolate-filled cookie. I made a double batch and let’s just say they disappeared way too quickly.

Dorie’s recipe are clear and concise. She takes you through each one whispering little secrets in your ear: Be sure to chill for at least an hour, but four hours is better. Don’t roll it too thin. Use your fingers to mix the orange zest and the sugar until the sugar absorbs all the oil.

And the photography is stunning and simple. Each cookie gets its close up: a simple, clear photo of the cookie against a colorful backdrop — no props, no gimmicks. They zoom in so tight that you can see each cookie’s texture, thickness, icing, etc.

The sweet cookies make up the bulk of the book, but I was really excited by the section of savory cookies. These are cookies you might serve with a cheese platter or a glass of bubbly. I tried the rosemary-parmesan cookies and the fennel-orange shortbread wedges. Talk about new flavors! Any baker or wannabe baker would love to have this thick volume of winning cookie recipes.

Other Favorites

"Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Cafe," by Ana Sortum and Maura Kilpatrick

From the fabulous Boston bakery/restaurant, Sofra, a collection of breakfast, meze, flatbreads, savory pies, cakes and desserts. Try the buttermilk hummus with celery root and pumpkin seeds, or the lamb and grape leaf tarts with orzo and spicy feta, and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

"Preserving Italy: Canning, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions," by Domenica Marchetti

The perfect gift for lovers of Italian food and preserving. Not your typical collection of recipes, but new, wonderful flavors like spiced pickled mushrooms, sweet, sour and spicy pickled melon, tropea onion jam and clear directions for making your own sausage like garlic, cheese and wine sausage.

"Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors," by Diana Henry

The award-winning British food writer Diana Henry has a knack for creating recipes that make you want to drop whatever you are doing and run to the kitchen. This is home cooking elevated with new flavors and textures. Like linguine all’amalfitana (with anchovies, chili flakes and walnuts), cod with a crab and herb crust, pears baked with lemon, bay and marsala and lemon and ricotta cake to name a few.

This segment aired on December 13, 2016.

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Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



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