I get hundreds of cookbooks each year, and most contain something wonderful … great photos, delectable-sounding recipes, smart ideas for diets, and much more. But a few tend to stand out. Here, in no particular order, are the top 10 titles from 2008 that really caught my eye, and why.
1. The Healthiest Meals on Earth by Jonny Bowden. A follow up to his earlier book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Bowden's conversational style and creative but accessible recipes demystify healthy ingredients and make them easy to use. I like the sound of Slow Cooker Chicken Curry and Quinoa Risotto with White Beans, Arugula, and Parmesan.
3. Great Chefs Cook Vegan by Linda Long. Vegan is hot! And in this beautiful book, renowned chefs such as Thomas Keller, Cat Cora, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter, and Suzanne Goin each provide a three- or four-course vegan meal that would please absolutely any palate. My mouth is watering just looking at the gorgeous photos, including Warm Venezuelan Chocolate Cake with Merlot-Infused Cherries, Lemon Bergamot, and Chocolate Gelato -- wowza.
4. Essential Eating Sprouted Baking by Janie Quinn. The beautiful cover and lovely inside shots grabbed me first, but after reading a bit about the health benefits of sprouted whole-grain flours, I'm intrigued to try it. The text says that Essential Eating's organic sprouted flours can be substituted one-for-one with regular flour and that sprouted flour "digests as a vegetable" by retaining the whole seeds' nutrients. Health benefits aside, the recipes for Herbed Crust Pizza and Peach Cranberry Cobbler look fantastic.
5. Deep Dark Chocolate: Decadent Recipes for the Serious Chocolate Lover by Sara Perry with Jane Zwinger. Vin Santo and Brioche Chocolate Bread Pudding ... "It's My Party" Birthday Cake ... Scharffen Berger Brownies with Red Wine Raisins and Toasted Walnuts. Need I say more?
6. Goat Cheese by Maggie Foard. For people with lactose intolerance, delicious, creamy, calcium-rich goat cheese and milk can be a godsend. This cookbook is beautiful, creative, and accessible, with goat-cheese recipes such as Artichoke and Chicken Cannelloni; Cornmeal Pizza with Chevre, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Basil; and Cherry Almond Tart.
7. 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster, PhD. Quickly becoming my go-to favorite when my gluten-sensitive son is home from college. Carol Fenster is a well-known gluten expert and a fabulous recipe developer, and this huge volume covers pretty much everything you'd want to know about (or cook) gluten-free, from breakfast waffles and snacks to pasta dishes, family entrees, and cookies. Vegan and quick recipes are marked with special icons.
8. Everyday Raw by Matthew Kenney. These recipes look flavor packed and fun, demystifying the benefits of raw food eating at the hands of Matthew Kenney (who was a Food and Wine Best New Chef in 1994). I want to try the Mocha Pudding (made with coconut meat) and the Mango Wraps.
9. The Hot Latin Diet: The Fast-Track Plan to a Bombshell Body, by Dr. Manny Alvarez. What can I say: the title made me laugh out loud! But being half Latina myself, I also really liked the emphasis on traditional Latino "power foods": tomatillos, garbanzo beans, avocado, garlic, cinnamon, chiles, and cilantro. Alvarez called on several hot Latina chefs for the recipes, and I definitely plan to try them. I've got my eye on Huevos Campesinos (Farmer-Style Eggs) with Red Bell Pepper Sauce, as well as roasted Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds).
10. Totally Vegetarian by Toni Fiore. Toni Fiore, a popular cooking-show hostess, really knows her stuff, and I like her bent towards Mediterranean ingredients and techniques. The book includes a helpful list of essential vegetarian pantry items, plus nearly 200 recipes. I plan to try her takes on Vegetable Lasagna; Penne with Roasted Eggplant Sauce; and Orzo, Basil, and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad.