9 Perfect-for-Giving Cookbooks

Delicious gifts for cooksDelicious gifts for cooks

Though I regularly download recipes from the web, there is something irresistible about opening a cookbook: whether it's a new perspective on a recipe, interesting historical notes, or photos that make me swoon, I love a good cookbook. Most mornings I arrive early at work and make a pot of coffee for my team. While it brews, I take a 5-minute browse through the stack of books that have come in (The Food Department gets at least a dozen each week!), piling them: to look at again, to include in a blog or our Your Good House publication, or to shelve in our library. It's a ritual that grounds my food-filled days. Here are a few of the books that I think any cooks on your list would be thrilled to receive, me included...

For Italophiles from 1 to 92...

To watch her is to love her. Maybe I'm biased, but for my time Lidia's shows are the ones to watch. Her family is reminiscent of mine, her food is delicious, she makes me smile, and the recipes in her books work! Her latest:

1. Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Kopf, $35). As always, Lidia delivers doable and delicious recipes - 150 of them, along with her encouraging common sense advice. If you've watched her shows you'll hear her voice as you read her words. "Don't be afraid to make substituitions...adapt recipes to your own family's taste. Don't be afraid to add or subtract...Never be afraid of trying or doing anything in the kitchen."

We'll always have Paris (and Provence)...

2. The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence by Patricia Wells (William Morrow Cookbooks, $35). You'll either want to get on the next plane or immediately shop for these recipes, probably both. Wells, who has been living and teaching in Paris and Provence for decades, is a chronicler of French food and culture, and the only foreigner (and woman) to serve as restaurant critic for a major French publication. Her recipes reflect classic and modern influences, are simple and straightforward, and perfectly adapted to the American kitchen (and grocery store!).

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3. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed, $35). The close-up photos make me want to dig my fork or fingers right in. The authors, one Jewish, one Muslim, both grew up in Jersualem and share the intense palette of Mediterranean flavors they use at their London restaurants. Their philosophy: "unfussiness and simplicity in food preparation are, for us, the only way to maintain the freshness of a dish." Simple food with big flavors for the culinary traveler.

For the friend you love to share dinners with...

4. Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook by Alex Guarnaschelli (Clarkson Potter, $32.50). Guarnaschelli, a restaurant chef and judge on the Food Nework's Chopped, is a talented storyteller, as well. She weaves I-want-to-make-this-now recipes with advice, and tales from her early years as the daughter of a renown cookbook editor.

Related: More Great Cookbooks for Gifts

For the busy mom who loves to cook...

5. Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion (Rodale, $26.99). The title says it all - these moms share recipes and tips for delicious food that really can be done on weeknights!

For the Pasta Lover...

6. Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant (Norton, $35). A pasta lover's tour of Italy complete with wine suggestions from the recipes' region. The book is replete with mouth-watering sauces simple enough for easy weeknight meals. More time? Try your hand at making gnocchi, tortellini, ravioli, and other regional shapes.

Related: 30 of Our Best Christmas Cookie Recipes

For the Curious Vegetarian...

7. The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation by Mollie Katzen (Houghton Mifflin, $35). Subtitled, Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, Katzen's (author of the original Moosewood Cookbook) fresh take looks globally at simple ways (many of them, Vegan) to cook vegetables and grains. The book is packed with lots of tips, swap-in ideas, and optional enhancements. Lots of can-do weeknight easy recipes. Pretty illustrations and photos, too.

For the Baker (who'll share with you)...

8. Sweet by Valerie Gordon (Artisan, $35). If you live in LA, you may be lucky enough to have tasted sweets from Valerie's Confections. If not, this beautifully photographed book will guide you through making everything from favorite cookie jar cookies to Champagne Cake - simple to sublime.

For the Noel-o-phile...

9. The Good Housekeeping Christmas Cookbook (Hearst Books, $30). Holiday recipes (over 300!) are woven with decorating ideas for trees, tabletops, mantles and more, vintage illustrations, and as always, advice you can trust from the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchens.

-By Susan Westmoreland

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