Holiday book gift guide: Our favourite cookbooks

We've scoured the shelves for our favourite gift-worthy titles, some of them brand new this year, others we depend on time and time again.

As many home cooks will tell you, they can never have too many cookbooks. But with so many new titles published each year, how do you know which book your foodie friend will appreciate the most? We’ve scoured the shelves for our favourite gift-worthy titles, some of them brand new this year, others we depend on time and time again, and a few timeless classics every cook should own.

Our favourite cookbooks published in 2013:

How to Feed a Family by Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh: Full disclosure: Ceri and Laura are good friends of ours here at, and we’ve collaborated with them for a number of years. That said, this is a dynamite book — perfect not just for families but couples and singles too. It’s filled with healthy, approachable, but most importantly delicious recipes. We’ve cooked more than half a dozen dishes out of it already (Ginger pork over pasta, Grilled shrimp salad, Whole grain blueberry muffins) and all have been tasty and satisfying.

Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi: Yotam Ottolenghi first made a splash in 2011 with Plenty, a book that redefined vegetarian cooking. A year later, Jerusalem wowed us with its gorgeous, flavourful cross-cultural fare. Now, we’re fortunate to have a North American release for the 2008 cookbook based on Ottolenghi’s eponymous restaurants in London. Filled with Mediteranean-tinged recipes such as Cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yogurt, and Grilled eggplant and lemon soup.

Balaboosta by Einat Admony: What stood out to us most when we chatted with Einat Admony was her boundless energy and her obvious love for her craft. That translates to this beautiful, sophisticated and funny book with mouthwatering recipes for Chicken with pomegranate and walnuts, Creamy, cheesy potatoes, and Einat’s Homemade Kit-Kat. We admit, that last recipe sold us!

Our top picks for the newbie cook:

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman: Outside of the recipes (which are fabulous), what we love most about Deb Perelman‘s Smitten Kitchen food blog — and the cookbook that followed in 2012 — is the way her voice comes through on the page: warm, self-deprecating, and endlessly encouraging. She makes us believe that we can absolutely prepare Chocolate chip brioche pretzels, Spaghetti squash tacos with queso fresco, and Butternut squash and onion galette, every bit as well as she can. That kind of coaching makes us want to get into the kitchen more often!

Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten: Ina Garten’s recipes aren’t exactly low-cal, but they sure are scrumptious. We love how simple but excellent the recipes are in How Easy Is That? and that could be why it’s the most sauce-spattered and dog-eared of our Ina books. We particularly love her Weeknight Bolognese.

Ruhlman’s Twenty by Michael Ruhlman: Michael Ruhlman has a wealth of knowledge about food and cooking and has published a number of go-to books on everything from making your own charcuterie to the wonders of rendered chicken fat. Twenty outlines 20 essential cooking lessons, from the importance of salt, to techniques such as grilling, poaching and sauteing, with 100 recipes that showcase how his rules impact the final product. One of those books that will make you a better overall cook.

Classic titles every home cook should own:

The Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl: We’re still mourning Gourmet‘s demise, but for the best recipes from the food magazine’s six decades of publication look no further than this yellow-covered tome. More than 1,000 recipes inside for everything from the basics every cook should know, to dinner party-worthy dishes, to feasts for the holidays.

How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman: Whenever we have a cooking question, we turn to Bittman’s book for the answer. The New York Times columnist and cookbook author has put out a number of sizable cooking resources, but this is our favourite all-around title. Bittman has helped us up our culinary game on everything from homemade salad vinaigrettes to roasted vegetables and meats.

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan: If you love to cook Italian food (and who doesn’t?), this title by Marcella Hazan’s is a must. This edition modernizes and combines Hazan’s two previous books: The Classic Italian Cook Book and More Classic Italian Cooking into one indispensable guide.

For the baker:

In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley: This award-winning baker’s compendium is terrific — the recipes are sophisticated and delicious (Think: Guava cheesecake, Deep dish raspberry pie, Really, really fudgy brownies). Best of all, almost half of the book is dedicated to the description of ingredients and what they pair well with. A great guide for those looking to play around with flavours in their baked creations.

Back to Baking by Anna Olson: Anna Olson has long tempted our sweet tooth with her incredible sweets. As much as we loved her first cookbook, Sugar, our new go-to is the collection of recipes in Back to Baking. Her Salted orange toffee slices are a must-bake at holiday time, and her Maple pecan chocolate tarts are like a butter tart to the extreme. The chapters with dairy-free and gluten-free recipes are especially helpful when you’re baking for someone with an intolerance.

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan: We’re big Dorie fans here at — our favourite of her books is this must-have guide for any baker. Filled with beautiful cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, and any other baked good you might want to create, Dorie’s friendly, encouraging prose assures us of baking success.

What cookbook are you hoping to receive this year? Or is there one we missed from our list? Share your picks in the comments below.

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