People who take their dinner hosting seriously might be aware of tools such as some restaurant online ordering software to have on stand-by, in case things don’t quite go according to plan in the kitchen. Either way, your guests might want in on some of your secrets for whipping the food you do.
For dinner guests that have not picked up a knife for years and might need some gentle guidance or a nudge, I suggest something in the first category. When you get to your book store, look first for cookbooks of light fare and desserts, as well as the occasional handful of elaborate dishes. Here are five of my favourites that would be great gifts for friends who know their way around the kitchen but haven’t tried much beyond boxed wine.
The Egg and I (Gibbs Smith, $49)
My wife and I used to own an egg ranch. After seven years, a local poultry farmer who was having financial troubles needed a buyer, so we took over. In a previous column, I described our previous owner’s preparation of the perfect scrambled eggs, and this book is filled with recipes for eggs, plus those made from a plethora of sources, like devilled eggs or cheesecake.
A More Perfect Union (University of North Carolina Press, $34)
Written by cookbook author Deb Perelman, this cookbook is filled with many recipes made with items most people have in their pantry, like poppy-seed dressing, yogurt, and pickles. While the recipes may sound simple, Perelman insists on careful preparation, and I suspect this book is the antidote to those rushed, uninspired meals where you have a massive buffet, but no guests. Perelman’s flair and knowledge comes through and makes your whole meal shine.
Larousse Gastronomique (Rizzoli New York, $85)
Rising star chef Daniel Boulud published this book about classic French recipes. Instead of describing ingredients as “to taste,” Boulud instructs his readers to read what it says in the recipe and to also note in the margins how much of the ingredients you used. This book is not for cooks who really know their way around the kitchen but want to spend a little time reading recipes and taking notes about when to stir and how much of something to add to what. The portion size was also off, but this is a tiny book, and could easily be corrected in a later printing.
The Seattle Vegetarian (Ten Speed Press, $17.99)
This is the first vegetarian cookbook I’ve ever owned, and I’m really excited about it. The idea is to cut out as many animal products as possible while still consuming a wide range of produce, grains, and proteins. The recipes are low in meat and star a range of ingredients, including whole grains and beans, just to name a few. The book is filled with clever ideas, like fermented soybeans in a frittata or shiitake mushrooms in a soup. I’ll let you know how the recipes work out, but if you are vegan or vegetarian, I recommend this book, as it is clearly a work of love.
The Noma Guide to Fermentation (Ten Speed Press, $49.99)
Most of the stories you hear about Danish chef René Redzepi are about his two highly praised restaurants, Noma and Tårnby Kro in Copenhagen. And Noma has certainly built a culinary empire of its own. But at a recent trip to Denmark, I had the chance to tour the Noma farm to table brewery, and I was blown away by the efforts of this team.