The holiday season is tragically short, and it’s a dismal thing, once the season of holiday feasts has passed, to return to our humdrum eating routines. Why not give your friends and family the gift of tasty cookbooks to spice things up, or make it your resolution to do the same? 2012 gave readers a host of gift-perfect food bibles, from a book version of Deb Perelman’s popular food blog “Smitten Kitchen” to new favorites to-be from Ina Garten and other food show favorites, that are sure to fill plates in the new year.
For the aspiring maestro
In her latest book, “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust,” Food Network star Ina Garten speaks to those of us who follow cookbook recipe directions to a T and still end up with blaring smoke alarms and displeased dinner guests. On top of her recipes, Garten adds further tips to fill in the blanks between written instructions and the unpredictable realities of cooking at home. But “Contessa” fans will be happy to hear that the Hamptons-based chef hasn’t skimped on quality: The dishes, from lobster macaroni and cheese to salted caramel brownies, are as elegant as ever.
For the meat-lover
Meat-lovers will be hard-pressed to find a cookbook with more muscle than Michael Symon’s “Carnivore.” A co-host of “The Chew” and a frequent competitor on “Iron Chef,” Symon serves up 120 unabashedly meaty concoctions—from lamb moussaka to bacon-wrapped rabbit legs—with his signature candor and flair.
For the pragmatist
Deb Perelman is not a trained cook, and the kitchen of her bite-sized Manhattan apartment is no Iron Chef stadium, but something about her recipes captivate—Smitten Kitchen is among the most avidly read food blogs on the Web and her eponymous cookbook was among 2012’s smash hits. Maybe it’s her attitude towards cooking—both pragmatic and confident—that inspires: “What I’m wary of is: Excessively fussy foods and/or pretentious ingredients,” she writes on her site. “I think food should be accessible, and [am] certain that you don’t need any of these things to cook fantastically.”
For the cooking show fan
Fans of the hit daytime series “The Chew”—which features cooking and entertaining advice from pros including Mario Batali, Michael Symon and Daphne Oz—now have a book version to turn to. The volume features 100 recipes, with each star weighing in on their particular area of expertise.
For the would-be rancher
Ree Drummond is relatively new to frontier living—she moved to an Oklahoma ranch after marrying her cowboy husband—but for the many fans of her books and viewers of her Food Network show “The Pioneer Woman,” she defines the cuisine of the contemporary American West. In her third book, “Food From My Frontier,” she delivers a whole new herd of Southwestern dishes sure to spice up kitchens everywhere.
For the health nut
The Slow Food movement is not-so-slowly making its mark on American cuisine, and the shelves of whole-food cookbooks are well-stacked. But few health experts are better suited to dispense advice than Dr. Andrew Weil, who has written more than a dozen books about alternative medicine and natural healing. In his latest, “True Food,” he delivers recipes based on a commitment to organic, local and seasonal ingredients while philosophizing on the nutritional and spiritual impetus to cook with consciousness of one’s environment.
For the world traveler
Drawing from Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences, the city of Jerusalem has a cuisine all its own. In this highly personal cookbook, “Jerusalem,” global restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi and contributor Sami Tamimi pay loving tribute to the food of their home city, pairing 120 recipes with vivid photography.
For the gastronomist
Based on the six-volume “Modernist Cuisine” encyclopedia published by The Cooking Lab, this mercifully slimmer guide by former Microsoft executive and devoted foodie Dr. Nathan Mhyrvold, “Modernist Cuisine at Home,” simplifies the cutting-edge techniques of the professional food world for the home cook. That’s not to suggest the dishes are unintimidating: These recipes will have you using injectors, whipping siphons and dehydrators, among other NASA-worthy gadgets. But for the ambitious foodie who cooks to impress, there are few books more instructive and authoritative.
For the Francophile
Thomas Keller is best known for his world-renowned, Michelin-starred restaurants: French Laundry, in California’s Napa Valley, and Per Se, in New York City. Now he’s shining the spotlight on his bakery chain with a photo-rich book of recipes, “Bouchon Bakery.” Blending French and American influences, Keller (with contributor Sebastian Rouxel) offers his take on virtually everything you’d spot in the front window of a Parisian bakery, from baguettes and macarons to tartes aux fruites.