A friend of mine who loves cooking — she made Thanksgiving dinner this year from start to finish all by herself, all from scratch, all in one day — says she can spend hours reading cookbooks.
With folks like her in mind, we offer a few selections, both locally and nationally published. They range from coffee-table gorgeous to single-mindedly practical. There are collections of local and vegan recipes, those for the most seasoned cooks and one-pot cooking.
Matching the book with the cook requires thought and care, but when done right, the result is a wonderfully personalized gift — and a delicious one.
"The Blue Tomato"
By Alan Wong ($40 hardcover, Watermark Publishing, 270 pages)
This is for people who really read their cookbooks rather than just browse the recipes. Wong’s storytelling carries you from his own philosophies and inspirations to the farms of his island suppliers and to the White House, where he prepared a luau for the president of the United States.
The design is beautiful, the photography luscious — food porn, really.
And you will learn something. Even if you never attempt Wong’s Velvet Chicken Roulade, you can read about its origin in Chinese-style cold ginger chicken, and through exacting, step-by-step photography, you will learn to debone a bird.
To take on the more complex recipes you would need to be a serious cook, but to enjoy the content all you need is a love of food. — Betty Shimabukuro
IF YOU’RE STILL HUNGRY
Here are five more books to consider:
» "Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook," edited by Sheri L. Wetherell, Barnaby Dorfman and Colin M. Saunders ($19.99 softcover, Andrew McMeel Publishing, 204 pages)
"Hawai’i’s Holiday Cookbook"
By Muriel Miura and Betty Shimabukuro ($15.95 softcover wire, Mutual Publishing, 208 pages)
Veteran cookbook writer Miura and Star-Advertiser "By Request" columnist Shimabukuro offer this unique collection of recipes for every holiday, local style.
Take Valentine’s Day. Though there are the expected baked treats, who would have expected Ichigo Mochi (mochi-wrapped strawberries)? In the Fourth of July section, you’ll find Ahi Burgers; on Labor Day, there’s Goi Cuon (Summer Rolls).
The holiday lineup includes lunar New Year, Children’s Day and Kuhio Day and Kamehameha Day. — Joleen Oshiro
"Food Substitutions Bible," Second Edition
By David Joachim ($24.95 softcover, Robert Rose Inc., 695 pages)
This ultimate in practical gifts is guaranteed to become dog-eared in short order. Truly a bible, its 6,500 submissions are organized alphabetically so that "boiling water" precedes "bok choy.
Substitute boiling water? Turns out you can, with beef, chicken or vegetable stock. As for the bok choy listing, you’ll find alternate names ("Chinese white cabbage") and recipe replacements (celery).
Other features include charts for varieties of apples and beans and their uses, and measurement equivalents for pan sizes, canned and packaged food, volume and weight. — J.O.
"30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East"
By Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray ($18.95 paperback, Da Capo Press, 256 pages)
A friend who revamped her mainstream diet to vegan told me she loved the health benefits, but that her time in the kitchen was overtaking her schedule. Vegan cooking, she lamented, is a lot of work.
For folks like her, this book is a welcome rescue. Sectioned into five parts, it covers cuisines of India, Thailand, China and Japan. The final section covers Asian Fusion.
Besides just recipes, handy additions include an overview of essential pantry items for the various cuisines.
This release is a follow-up to 2009’s "The 30-Minute Vegan." Author Reinfeld is the founding chef of Kauai’s famed Blossoming Lotus Restaurant. — J.O.
"The Pot and How to Use It"
By Roger Ebert ($14.99 paperback, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 111 pages)
The witty writing of famed film critic Ebert, much of it taken from his blog, makes this cookbook a fun read.
"The Pot" that Ebert refers to is the rice cooker, and he used his to cook everything from oatmeal to soup to vegetarian dishes, even while on the road. (Ebert stopped eating in 2006 after part of his jaw was removed during cancer surgery.)
Between his free-wheeling "recipes" — many with just approximations of measurements and ingredients — and those provided by his readers, the book illustrates the versatility and potential of the humble rice cooker. — J.O.