You know how some people are obsessed with stamp collections or fantasy football teams? Well, we're obsessed with cookbooks. Here, in Books We Love, we talk about our favorites.
Today: We love this year's Piglet, and we love former Piglets. Here are some of our favorite books from Piglets past.
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The Piglet is a glorious time of year, devoted to our staff’s not-so-secret vice: cookbooks. Lots of cookbooks come through the Food52 office, but even so, it's hard to let any of them go. This means that our desks are overflowing with books, as are our bookshelves at home.
Fortunately, we have The Piglet to help us decide which ones will have staying power. It is very common to see ex-Piglet contenders and winners lying around, studded with Post-It notes, or dog-eared within a half-inch of their lives.
Here are a few books from Piglets past that we are still learning, reading, and cooking from:
April Bloomfield’s seminal tome on cooking all things meaty was a huge hit with Food52ers and judges alike. Bloomfield is a master of coaxing big flavors out of seemingly innocuous ingredients -- she knows how to make them sing, knows how to tease the best out of them, and is always, always informative. Two years later, we’re still learning from Ms. Bloomfield -- whether it’s a better method for Caesar Salad, English Porridge, or Lamb Meatballs. And we’re waiting impatiently for her next book, which we’re sure will be just as amazing as the first.
When it comes to vegetables, Deborah Madison is the reigning queen. We love how she can explain the connections between vegetables and their families, and how she has fresh, beautiful ideas on how to use them. Part science text, part cookbook, Vegetable Literacy is a delight for the would-be gardener, serious gardener, and cook alike. Recipes run the gamut from starters to desserts, showcasing vegetables’ versatility and usefulness in every cooking method. Read the judgement for yourself, and then head to the shop and grab a copy.
You could say that Yotam Ottolenghi has a cult-like following: He’s been featured more than a few times, and each time he and his partner publish a cookbook, we swoon with delight. These are books we return to again and again, not only for their gorgeous photography and pitch-perfect recipes, but also because they offer a wealth of information about less-common ingredients and fresh ideas for dishes and ingredients that we take for granted.
The authors of Canal House Cooks Every Day wrote a cookbook that would have a trailer with a backdrop of a rolling American countryside, Allison Krauss playing softly in the background, and Lassie running up to a porch. An airy, light-filled kitchen. Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer take us through the seasons one by one, with recipes that are as simple as they are beautiful and as practical as they are winning. It is so rare for their recipes to call for anything other than what’s in season, or, better yet, pantry staples, making their food easy to want and even easier to incorporate into your routine. Their books are beautiful to look at and even better to cook from. Read Nora Ephron's take on it here.
Alternative flours (read: not white or refined) are having their moment of glory, but we think the hype may have started with Kim Boyce and her fabulous cookbook Good to the Grain. Boyce organizes her book by type of flour, teaching us how to get the best results by using whole grains -- without compromising texture or flavor. Her philosophy, that “everything should taste as it is,” is a marvelous lesson for all aspects of cooking -- we shouldn’t be afraid of things that are unbalanced, as long as the flavor of what we’re using is the star of the show. The obvious follow-up to this is Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours, which continues to show how we don’t need to rely on refined flours to have refined baked goods.
More: How did Good to the Grain stack up against Plenty? Read Mario Batali's judgment here.
What have been your favorite Piglet books from years past? Tell us in the comments!
Photos by Food52, David Loftus, Mark Weinberg, Bobbi Lin, The Canal House, Kim Boyce, and Mark Weinberg.
The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!