Everybody knows at least one a pretentious foodie who insists on froo-froo ingredients, laborious techniques and over-the-top dishes.
Well, this year theyre out of luck. Because 2011 was a year when cookbooks even those by high-end and celebrity chefs went all homey and nostalgic. Which is good news for those of us who dont want to garnish a Wednesday night dinner with hand harvested truffle-salmon roe foam.
There were meatball books, tomes of rustic dishes and reminiscences on cooking your way back to childhood. The result? There are plenty of choices for those of us who must blend the joy of cooking with the sometimes crushing need to feed.
And that will make gift shopping for the food lovers in your life much easier. Here are our suggestions:
For the hurried and harried
For the busy cook who hates the post-dinner cleanup, EatingWell One-Pot Meals (Countryman Press, 2011) offers more than 100 recipes for healthy, comforting food done in a single vessel. From classics such as skillet-roasted chicken and gravy to inventive dishes such as fennel-spiked barley risotto from the slow cooker and sweet-and-spicy pork in the wok, the book helps families spend more time at the table than at the sink.
In many places around the world, a pressure cooker may be the only pot a family owns. And its not such a bad idea. The Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook (Chronicle Books, 2011) serves up more than 300 ready-in-minutes recipes, from bacon and potato soup to barbecued brisket and veal stew with 40 cloves of garlic. It even makes dessert think chocolate marble cheesecake and tasty bread puddings.
Cook This Now (Hyperion, 2011) by James Beard award-winning food writer Melissa Clark features hearty, easy meals with pairings just unusual enough to keep things interesting. Rosemary-scented white beans meet farro, grilled sausages huddle with celery root and hazelnuts, and in the spring, curry and coconut make their way into tomato soup. More than 120 inventive recipes take you from season to season.
For the groupies
Glitz and glamour come home this year as celebrity chefs take to nesting. In his remarkably easy-to-follow Cooking in Everyday English (Oxmoor House, 2011), Todd English serves up red snapper and melon ceviche, wild mushroom couscous, tequila-braised short ribs, and, yes, chili. An entire chapter on family cooking offers kid-pleasers such as butternut mac-and-cheese and classic pizza.
Crab cakes with gingered grapefruit might not sound much like your home cooking, but this is Tuesday night food for Jean-Georges Vongerichten. In Home Cooking with Jean-Georges (Clarkson Potter, 2011), gorgeous photos illustrate recipes for dishes such as veal scaloppini with broccoli rabe and lavender, and almond caramelized duck breasts with amaretto jus. Maybe not weeknight stuff, but a nice book for leisurely cooking.
And what gift season would be complete without Jamie Oliver? The peripatetic British chefs Meals in Minutes (Hyperion, 2011) offers recipes for 50 full meals designed to take no more than a half-hour. Spinach feta pie with two salads and dessert, mustard chicken with scalloped potatoes, greens and a black forest affogato, and roast beef with baby popovers are all engineered to please busy, hungry families.
For the real chef groupies on your list the ones who dont even care about the recipes theres My Last Supper: The Next Course (Rodale, 2011). In this sequel to the 2007 book, fifty chefs including Joel Robuchon, Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal and David Chang reveal what they would eat for their last meal on Earth. (Spoiler alert: Tom Colicchio wants a clam bake.)
For weekend warriors
Its cold. Its damp. Maybe its even snowing. Sunday Roasts: A Years Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts (Chronicle Books, 2011) conjures images of the perfect winter Sunday, with dishes such as orange-scented pork roast with fennel and potatoes, and lamb shanks with dates and olives. A standing rib roast with porcini mushroom sauce might even impress the in-laws.
The Apple Lovers Cookbook (Norton, 2011) may be the best celebration of falls fruit that weve ever seen. Savory dishes such as pork and apple pie with cheddar sage crust pull together all the flavors of the season, and desserts go from classics like oatmeal-topped apple crisp to spiced apple cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. A primer on 59 varieties of apples and how to use them makes this a must-have for apple lovers.
For armchair travelers
For the carb lover on your list, you cant do better than The Glorious Pasta of Italy (Chronicle, 2011), a comprehensive guide to hearty, handmade spaghetti, ravioli, gnocchi and the richly diverse sauces that go with them. Try the ragu allAbruzzese (a simple meat sauce), and you will never go back to the stuff in the jar.
A New Turn in the South (Clarkson Potter, 2011) presents chef Hugh Achesons inventive take on Southern cuisine. For the cook whos mastered hoppin John and collards, Acheson offers pea, ham hock and mustard green soup with cornbread croutons, butter-braised cabbage with caraway, and short ribs with hominy.
Allegra McEvedys Bought, Borrowed and Stolen (Conran Octopus, 2011) takes cooks on a world tour with recipes such as Portuguese caldo verde, Filipino chili noodles and venison biltong (jerky) from South Africa. Beautiful photos and a scrapbook feel make the book a nice read.
For the kids
OMG Pancakes! (Avery, 2011) pretty much says it all. Little mouths will gobble up green alligators, bees in their hive, puppy dog faces and unicorns, all captured in pancakes and brought to life by the magic of natural food coloring and squeeze bottles. Perfect for snow days and sleepovers.
And if theres no other way to get your kids into the kitchen, SpongeBobs Kitchen Mission Cookbook (Wiley, 2011) offers a primer on vegetable parfaits, healthy egg dishes and whole wheat pizzas.
For the specialists
Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day (St. Martins Press, 2011) will get the baker on your list jumping with glee. Thin crust, thick crust, dipping breads and desserts think good old pizza margherita, Turkish pita boats, and banana cream hand pies all in the time it takes to heat up the oven.