Hopefully, these recipes and table-setting tips will inspire your own Parisian dinner parties and give you the push you need to get through the worst of winter. But — if that’s not enough — we’re also giving away two copies of The Little Paris Kitchen to two lucky readers! To enter to win one of these fabulous cookbooks, simply leave a comment on this post telling us your ideal dinner party for a cold winter day. We’ll choose our favorites!
Spending my time with someone who works in cookbook writing and testing has made me look at books in a whole new way. My own experience with books made me appreciate the hard work that goes into the organization, but to see first-hand how much testing and skill goes into each recipe makes me have a whole new level of respect for cookbook authors. We’ve been so fortunate to see some gorgeous books come across our desk at work lately, so I thought I’d share some of my personal favorites that I plan to be cooking from over the holiday break. I tend to lean heavily on sweets, so many of these are dessert books (not sure if I should apologize or celebrate that fact) which I hope will still work for everyone. If not, we’ve got an in-depth post coming up tomorrow about a great new recipe book that celebrates the savory as much as the sweet. Happy cooking!
I decided that I wanted to go to “a city” when I received my degree in graphic design at a university in West Virginia. My senior year, I went to Chicago for a wedding, fell in love with it, and when I returned to school, got to work contacting the most respected design firms in Chicago. Eventually, I landed a 3-day-a-week contract gig for 3 months at a small boutique firm. I sold my truck, packed up my kitties, and used 80% of what was in my bank account to rent a small apartment in Chicago. From that point forward, momentum snowballed and over the course of 16 years, I was able to work for many of the firms I’d long admired.
The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox (Clarkson Potter). [TOP IMAGE ABOVE] I was so looking forward to this book, a collection of recipes which are a bit less common than you’d normally find in American baking books– recipes like like Lamington cupcakes, pine nut tart with rosemary cream, nut and cherry nougat. As a whole, the collection of recipes is elegant- definitely a notch above average. You’d make a great statement if you served one of these recipes to your friends. And although I had a bit of difficulty with the Ultimate Chocolate Brownies (The cooking time didn’t work out for me?), my shortcoming has been like a challenge to me, which has made me want to come back and try more recipes in the book, maybe toward Christmas when I usually try to bake up five to ten different baked goods and give little boxes of mixed goodies to friends as gifts (You always want unique things people haven’t tried before in those gift boxes). For people who like to experiment with different flavors and adapt recipes for different types of desserts, you’ll appreciate the notes after each recipe which offer tips on how to do just that! In sharp contrast with Baking Unplugged, there are plenty of pictures in this book of the final recipes up close, so you can compare and see how your efforts measure up! While the recipes are generally quite easy to execute, this is definitely the type of book for the person who believes that a tiny bit more effort can produce great desserts.
It manifested into a diagnosis of “IBS,” then “Interstitial Cystitis.” Over the years I had countless testing performed and always left with no answers. No one could tell me why this was happening, and when I was told by the last doc, “you’ll have to be on meds for the rest of your life,” I found that unacceptable and decided to solve this problem myself. I walked right out of the office leaving his prescription on the table.
Shibori-Style Tablecloth DIY: We crafted this beautiful dyed tablecloth in the Shibori style using a canvas dropcloth and standard black Rit Dye. First, we folded the tablecloth zig-zag style lengthwise and then again, widthwise, bunching the whole thing together with several rubber bands. Following the directions with the dye packet, we then dyed the entire cloth. The process is quite simple, but the results are beautiful!
The Hungry Girls’ Cookbooks are more like art-based magazines than straightforward cookbooks, and they are handmade, designed and written by three friends, Rachel Pitts (recipes), Katherine Bird (design and illustrations) and Leah Holscher (photography). It’s awesome when friends come together to produce something creative, and these girls have really done it well. Each copy is hand-bound with cloth and made on 100% recycled paper in Australia. Volume 3 just launched last week, and I think they’d make a spectacular gift for the foodie in your life. They celebrate fresh, local food while looking as beautiful as the food is tempting to eat. Click here to check out more online.
Using a few simple (but insanely delicious) comfort food recipes from Annette Joseph’s new book, Picture Perfect Parties, we assembled a pretty darn impressive last-minute Halloween party with just a few household supplies. With “no-carve” pumpkins decorated with black Sharpie markers and spider-web “doilies” made from cut bits of newspaper, these are decorations and treats that can be whipped up in a day—great for a quick, festive dinner party while greeting those trick-or-treaters. Continue after the jump for all of the recipes and our quick-n-easy decoration ideas! Happy Halloween!
All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray (Chronicle Books). For one year, the author (a producer at National Public Radio’s program All Things Considered) brought in a cake to work every Monday, and this book is the result. It is a fantastically entertaining book. The recipes are a mix between previously published recipes, and the author’s own (bequeathed by friends and family, or tweaked and ‘co-opted’ for personal use from other sources), so of course they have been tested and retested. What I love about the book is the author’s voice, the way the instructions are written, the stories, all of the written text. What I do not like about the book– you need a 10″ tube pan to make the majority of the recipes, or you need shortening. If you live in a place where it’s difficult to find either (especially the latter), you’re out of luck. Comb the internet to find a shortening alternative. If you can get over those two things (I’m still smarting), then this book is a winner. There’s even a chapter on non-cakes (cookies etc)!
L.A.’s Original Farmer’s Market Cookbook by JoAnn Cianciulli (Chronicle Books) is a great little walk through an American Farmer’s Market. In other words, the best of all worlds. I like this book because I like cookbooks which also tell a story and put the food into the context of where it is made or of who makes it. This book not only tells the history of the market, it tells the history of the stalls whose recipes are featured. The history of the market is presented with historical photographs in the introduction to the book, before getting to the food. It is divided into four sections: Breakfast, Sandwiches and Light Bites, Main Meals, and Sweet Things. The book starts out with a doughnut recipe and ends with…recipes for dog biscuits!! I tested the book in the middle– with crepes from the French Crepe Company, and they were wonderful. But if you want something less ‘predictable’ there is Korean, Mexican, Portuguese, Japanese, Italian (American), and American. The photography is not sophisticated, however, it is enough to induce hunger and make you wish you could take a walk at the market. For me, preparing it at home is the next best option, and I look forward to trying more recipes in the book.