En español | There's a new crop of cookbooks out just in time for holiday gift-giving. If you need help choosing one for someone on your list (or maybe even for yourself), don't worry — we've done the reading and recipe-testing for you. (Check out the five recipes we include below.)
The following six books are our favorites because they do two things we love: inspire us to cook and ensure that what we're cooking keeps us healthy.
For empty nesters, newlyweds or anyone who needs some dinnertime inspiration: One Pan, Two Plates: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two by Carla Snyder (Chronicle Books, $25)
I had a hard time deciding which of the terrific recipes in this book I wanted to try. And all of the ones I finally did try were winners. Author Carla Snyder's experience as a caterer, cooking school teacher and food writer really shines through. Her recipes are clear, concise, creative — and delicious. Plus, they only use one pan, so cleanup is quick. The recipes serve two, but they easily could be doubled to serve four. The book is conveniently divided into pasta, grains and hot sandwich meals; meat dinners; poultry dinners; and fish dinners. My husband loved the One-Pan Roast Deviled Chicken, a mustardy chicken and vegetable dish.
For the frugal but health-conscious cook: Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable by Tara Duggan (Ten Speed Press, $22)
Leafy carrot tops, chard and kale stems, broccoli stalks — we normally toss these parts of the vegetable, but that's not only a waste of money, it's a waste of perfectly good nutrients. San Francisco writer Tara Duggan, who also has a small vegetable farm, has come up with a wealth of inventive ways to use nearly every part of the vegetable. Those bright green carrot tops, for example, can be a stand-in for parsley in sauces and tabbouleh salad. And the usually discarded chard and kale stems? In Duggan's Garlic-Braised Greens, the tougher stems are softened by sizzling them first with a little red pepper, garlic and olive oil, before adding in the quicker-cooking, tender chopped leaves. As a bonus, the result can be a side dish or tossed with pasta.
For those who love books big and beautiful: Bountiful: Recipes Inspired by Our Garden by Todd Porter and Diane Cu (Stewart Tabori & Chang, $35)
This book is gorgeous, which is not surprising given that Cu is a professional photographer, Porter has worked for many years in restaurants, and together the couple produce a beautiful food and travel blog (whiteonricecouple.com). Their first book is dedicated to their grandmothers, and the recipes reflect an unfussy, backyard garden approach to cooking. A good example is their bacon-studded Hearty Celery Root and Red Lentil Soup, perfect for these chilly winter months.