After a year of testing and tasting, F&W’s editors reveal their favorite cookbooks, recipes and cooking techniques of 2011.
F&W’s Editors Picks
Grace Parisi’s 5 Favorite F&W Recipes of the Year
Shiitake and Swiss Chard Soup with Hand-Cut Noodles
What I love about this soup from David Chang is how staggeringly fast and easy it is to make the noodles, and how incredibly chewy and delicious they are. Dried noodles just won’t cut it. Plus, I had a great time working on this recipe in the kitchen with him.
Chocolate Wafers with Ginger, Fennel and Sea Salt
Dark chocolate can be super-good-for-you in moderation, but it’s the modest amounts part that gives us trouble. I created this clever chocolate bark using healthy Finn crisps, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate and candied fennel seeds to satisfy my chocolate cravings.
Thai Chicken and Watermelon Salad
Thai flavors are ubiquitous these days, but I never get tired of them. When the weather is hot, this salad of watermelon, grilled lemongrass chicken and Thai dressing is a refreshing yet substantial meal.
Dry-Aged Duck Breasts with Golden Beet Panzanella
I never knew duck breasts could taste so amazing until we tested this aged-duck-breast dish from Chicago’s Paul Kahan. He lets the breast sit uncovered in the fridge for up to a week. This intensifies the flavor, making the duck taste even more beefy than it already does.
Working on this Halloween story was just so much fun. These funny little chocolate mice are icky-cute and super-chocolaty. I vary the shapes for different occasions.
Kate Heddings’s 5 Favorite Cookbooks
Tender, by Niger Slater
If I had to pick one book to consult for cooking vegetables (the "it" food of the year), it would be Nigel Slater’s Tender. Slater’s personal diary of cultivating and cooking from the garden makes me wish I had a backyard. It’s full of gorgeous pictures and tons of excellent, doable recipes.
My Vietnam, by Luke Nguyen
I’ve never been to Vietnam, but Luke Nguyen’s book (equal parts travel and food) is completely transporting. And it’s so beautiful. This is one book that I would have a hard time deciding between keeping on the coffee table or the kitchen counter.
The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, by Frédéric Morin, David McMillan and Meredith Erickson
The owners of the Montreal restaurant Joe Beef are completely obsessed with Canadian food and French wine, and they are masters of unconventional French food. I love the way they think and cook, even if it’s over-the-top at times. Their pork schnitzel recipe is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.
Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food, by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough
When I shop, my head spins with choices: hormone-free, antibiotic-free, steroid-free, heritage breed, non-GMO, etc. So I love a book that teaches you how to shop smart. What’s best: Bi-Rite’s owner, Sam Mogannam (and his team) know how to make some truly great prepared foods, and their recipes are foolproof.
The Meatball Shop Cookbook, by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow with Lauren Deen
Single-subject books make me happy, especially when the subject is one I adore, like meatballs. If you buy this book for just one reason, it should be the recipe for chicken meatballs, but there are plenty of other reasons, including more than 20 additional stellar meatball recipes, the 10 Commandments of a Great Sandwich and some seriously good salad recipes.
Daniel Gritzer’s 5 Favorite Gastronaut Techniques
Smoking salmon on the stove
I always thought I’d need elaborate equipment to make lox at home, but chef Jason Alley of Comfort restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, set me straight with his awesome stovetop method. He hits a fillet of salmon with an intense blast of smoke just long enough to flavor it—but not long enough to cook it—and then cures it with salt and other aromatics, just like gravlax. It’s an amazing shortcut. Now I just need someone to show me how to make New York–caliber bagels on the fly. Try: Smoked and Cured Salmon with Orange Zest
Operating a pressure cooker
When I had the chance to pick Nathan Myhrvold’s brain earlier this year, I could have asked him anything. After all, he’s a former Microsoft CTO, a trained chef, an inventor, a cosmologist, a paleontologist, a patent guru and an overall mad genius. I had him explain the science of pressure cookers and the best way to use them. One useful tip: Regulate the heat to prevent steam from blasting out of the cooker’s vent. According to Myhrvold, vigorous steam is a sign of too much pressure, and the consequences include an unwanted drop in cooking temperature and possible damage to the device. It’s good to know, but in retrospect, maybe I should have asked him for his secrets to becoming a billionaire.
What the heck is tofu? It’s a question that had plagued me for years. I mean, I knew it was made from soybeans, but how exactly? I finally got an answer from Douglas Keane of Cyrus and Shimo Modern Steak in Healdsburg, California. The thing that amazed me the most is how similar the process is to cheesemaking: Coagulate soy milk, break up the curd, drain the whey and eat. Tofu suddenly seems so much more indulgent.
Finding a tamale shortcut for the lazy Gastronaut
I love masa, the maize dough that’s used to make tamales. But let’s be honest, assembling and steaming tamales in banana-leaf wrappers is a bit of an undertaking. Thanks to New York’s Alex Stupak, chef at Empellon, I now have the lazy man’s solution: the Tamal Pie. It’s basically a giant skillet filled with layers of masa that sandwich a delicious filling. Bake it, slice it and enjoy, hardly any assembly required.
Learning to prepare sushi, from rice to roll, with Morimoto
After learning to make sushi from Masaharu Morimoto, I don’t think I’m capable of singling out the most important technique—they’re all so cool and, frankly, essential if you want to make great sushi at home. From toasting the sheets of nori to fanning the seasoned rice and marinating fish like salmon in vinegar and salt, it’s all just really helpful stuff.
Justin Chapple’s 5 Favorite Cookbook Recipes
Gooey Chocolate Chip Sandwich Bars
From Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook, by Gretchen Holt-Witt
In this recipe, a chocolate chip cookie crust sandwiches a crazy-good fudgy filling. Proceeds from the book support the fight against childhood cancers.
Chicken Skin Tacos
From The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, by Frédéric Morin, David McMillan and Meredith Erickson
These indulgent tacos are filled with impossibly crispy chicken skin and topped with a clever "potato de gallo"—Joe Beef’s riff on fresh Mexican salsa.
From Odd Bits, by Jennifer McLagen
Succulent, beefy and seasoned with just salt and pepper, these are possibly the best burgers ever.
Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Chili with Monterey Jack Cheese
From American Flavor, by Andrew Carmellini
Hearty and healthy, this delicious, quick-to-make chili is loaded with vitamin-packed kale and black-eyed peas. It’s my new go-to dish for New Year’s.
Grilled Okra Skewers with Roasted Jalapeño Dipping Sauce
From Basic to Brilliant Y’all, by Virginia Willis
This super-simple recipe showcases the best characteristics of okra—its fresh taste and crisp texture—without any of the typical gooeyness.
Chelsea Morse’s 5 Homemade Food Obsessions
A good friend recently introduced me to "freezer composting"—collecting onion skins, carrot ends and other trimmings in your freezer, then dropping them off at a neighborhood compost center. Now, before that phase, I’m getting even more mileage from vegetable scraps by using them to make stock. I fill a pot with the scraps, cover them with water, toss in a few bay leaves and simmer for an hour. With a bit of salt and a good strainer, it’s instant vegetable stock. It keeps in the freezer forever and makes homemade soup outrageously flavorful. Recipe to try: Vegetable Stock
When I miss a meal on the go, I sometimes turn to commercially prepared energy bars—but they’re often packed with a scary list of unpronounceable ingredients and chemicals. At home, I mix dried dates, apricots, almonds, unsweetened coconut and tahini in the food processor and roll out super-tasty cookie balls. They make an awesome snack with tons of protein and fiber, and they have enough natural sweetness to satisfy afternoon dessert cravings. Recipe to try: Incan Super Power Bars
My new favorite fall tradition is buying a huge bushel of apples to cook down with my mom, who still uses the same food mill she had when she prepared baby food for me. We keep it simple: just apples, water and a few cinnamon sticks. It freezes well, so we can have fresh applesauce all winter long. Recipe to try: Ivor’s Pink Applesauce
It’s true, sometimes store-bought potato chips really do hit the spot, but I’d take crispy kale chips over deep-fried junk food any day. They’re salty and tangy and satisfyingly crunchy, and you can eat a ton of them without feeling guilty. Recipe to try: Crispy Kale with Lemon-Yogurt Dip
I am notoriously picky about my hummus—the texture, the amount of lemon (it can never be too citrusy), the garlic (roasted versus raw). When I make it myself, I can totally control the flavor, and I add in bright notes with fresh basil or cilantro when my fire-escape herb garden is going crazy in the summer. Using dried chickpeas instead of canned makes it incredibly inexpensive. Recipe to try: Easy Hummus with Tahini