By J.M. HIRSCH
AP Food Editor
Most of these tomes (all 20 pounds of them) are too big to be stuffed in any stockings, but if you're still searching for holiday gifts for your favorite foodie, here are some of this year's most interesting offerings.
— "Alinea" by Grant Achatz (Ten Speed Press, 2008)
This is coffee table art for the cook who enjoys a serious dose of science with dinner.
Achatz is a leader in the so-called molecular gastronomy movement, which uses funky tools such as "antigriddles" (they freeze) and ingredients like Ultra-Tex 3 (a tapioca starch) to prepare foods in unusual ways (such as vapors and papers).
Though jammed with recipes from Achatz' restaurant of the same name, this is a cookbook few will cook from. But it is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a man who clearly enjoys playing with his food.
— "A16 Food + Wine" by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren
For a more rustic take on cooking, Appleman and Lindgren offer up recipes from their San Francisco restaurant (A16, named for highway in Italy) known for its earthy Italian fare.
The recipes are deliciously illustrated and while some are involved, many are classic, simple dishes easily made at home (such as Bucatini with Oven-dried Tomatoes, Garlic, Chilies and Bottarga).
— "BakeWise" by Shirley O. Corriher (Scribner, 2008)
Baking is a science, and if you don't understand the principles at play in a recipe, it's easy for everything to go wrong.
Which is why Corriher's book is nothing short of brilliant. While many baking cookbooks that attempt to explain the science behind the recipes veer uncomfortably into textbook mode, Corriher keeps it chatty and informal.
Each recipe includes a short section called "What This Recipe Shows," in which Corriher briefly explains what is happening. Her Southern Biscuits recipe, for example, explains that low-protein flour produces tender, moist biscuits.
The result is that simply by following a recipe a home cook can learn volumes about baking and why it works the way it does. And what a delicious way to learn.
— "Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book" by Rachael Ray (Clarkson Potter, 2008)
If your loved one could give a hoot about the science and just wants to know how to get a great dinner on the table, check out Ray's latest offering, a nice — and nicely illustrated — assemblage of real food for real people.
This one has something for everyone — 30-minute meals, vegetarian, kosher, meals for one and a whole chapter on awesome burgers, including Turkey Bacon Double Cheese burgers with Fire-roasted Tomato Sauce and Citrus Slaw.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.