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Books for Cooks

In the Bay Area, epicenter of foodiness, cookbooks are just part of the bounty of riches



November marks the beginning of cooking season. Family will visit. Holidays will be celebrated. Many, many calories will be consumed. Luckily, ‘tis the season for great cookbooks too, and the Bay Area produces more than its share of good ones. Here’s a selection from famous chefs, local food writers and hot restaurants. Bon appétit.

Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide
by Thomas Keller ( $75, Artisan)
Sous vide has been called a “foolproof technique.” In the new cookbook by French Laundry chef Thomas Keller, he explains why the process, which involves cooking at precise temperatures below simmering, produces tenderness and flavor that other techniques cannot compete with. This is cooking at the highest level — here’s your chance to imagine yourself in front of the stove at French Laundry or Per Se in New York. If the actual kitchen work seems beyond you, fear not. With photographs by Deborah Jones, who also did the French Laundry Cookbook, it’s coffee-table-worthy as well.
 
Artisanal Cocktails
by Scott Beattie ($25, Ten Speed Press)
Why make a boring old gin and tonic when you can whip up a Hot Indian Date or a Grapes of Roth? Inspired by the stunning array of local produce, herbs, fruits and flowers, Beattie, the bar manager at Cyrus in Healdsburg, has created a cocktail book worthy of a chef. Like any good cook, Beattie is all about the core ingredients—top-shelf spirits, fresh-squeezed juices and just-picked herbs. You just might be able to skip dinner altogether.

Brittles, Barks and Bonbons
by Charity Ferreira ($17, Chronicle Books)
Picture your living room. Now picture a little side table in that room. On that side table is the dainty cut-glass bowl you inherited from your grandmother. And in that bowl is a selection of delectable fancy candies you made yourself, things like vanilla sea-salt caramels and chai-spiced truffles and buttery almond toffee. See? You are starting to understand the appeal of this lovely little book.

Fresh from the Farmers’ Market
by Janet Fletcher ($20, Chronicle Books)
If there was ever a place where a good farmers’ market cookbook would come in handy, it is here in the Bay Area, where we get an array of amazing fresh produce all year round. Janet Fletcher guides readers through the market and then creates whole meals—appetizer to dessert—from whatever is in season. Especially handy are the tips on storing produce: did you know carrots last longer if you cut off their greens before refrigerating?

Field Guide to Cookies
by Anita Chu ($16, Chronicle Books)
What puts the snap in ginger snaps? Why oh why are they called snickerdoodles? And how do you make the perfect pinwheel or the foolproof friand? This handy pocket reference answers these and many other burning cookie questions. It includes more than 100 recipes (some for exotic cookies from around the world), helpful baking notes, beautiful photos and tons of cookie trivia (impress your friends!).

A Platter of Figs
by David Tanis ($35, Artisan Books)
Forget back to the land. Davis Tanis wants to get us back in the kitchen. For six months a year Tanis is the head chef at Chez Panisse. For the other six months he lives in Paris, where he hosts intimate dinner parties for friends and a few paying guests, preparing food with nothing more than an old stove, limited counter space, and a handful of decidedly unfancy pots and pans. This is cooking at its most elemental and its most enjoyable. It’s not about showing off with complicated techniques or obscure ingredients. It’s about gathering around the table with good friends for fine conversation and simple, delicious food. Think warm asparagus vinaigrette, carrot and coriander salad, chicken tagine with pumpkin and chickpeas, and other seasonal, market-driven meals.

Local Type

“Have You Seen . . . ?”: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films By David Thompson ($40, Knopf) The new book and companion volume to Thompson’s groundbreaking 1975 Biographical Dictionary of Film is like a master class in movies. Written with passion, humor and insight, it aims to answer the age-old question: “What should I watch?”

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip . . . with Recipes! By Guy Fiery ($20, William Morrow) A new book from Food Network star and guy’s-guy/Sonoma County chef Guy Fieri, owner of Johnny Garlic’s and Tex Wasabi’s (yes, that’s a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Sushi BBQ” restaurant).

The Sin Eaters by Andrew Beahrs ($25, Toby Press) This companion novel to Berkeley author Andrew Beahrs’ novel Strange Saint is a dark and absorbing road story set in Jacobean England.

One Bite at a Time by Rebecca Katz ($22, Celestial Arts) The updated second edition contains nourishing recipes for cancer survivors and their friends.

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