cookbooksI love the way books linger long in the senses like the taste memories of a great meal. In this day of high-speed information consumption, books are the Slow Food of reading. They can be savored and their craft preserved for generations, yet they are utterly democratic, open to all without extra equipment required, other than perhaps a library card. That’s why they’re my gift of choice this season.

Happily, a number of my friends and mentors wrote books this year that make us think, cook, and see in new ways. Here are my highly personal—but I hope you’ll agree, interesting—recommendations:

  • Seasonal Fruit Desserts: From Orchard, Farm, and Market by Deborah Madison (Broadway Books). From simple, brilliant assemblages to rustic cobblers and gelées (electric tangelo-tangerine!), Deborah continues our seasonal eating education with sweets for the savory cook.

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Alice Medrich

  • Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich (Artisan). Cookies 2.0 with Upgrades: Spicy Carrot Masala Meringues, Peanut Butter Clouds, Ultra-thin Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Genius “Smart Search” appendix groups recipes by interest: wheat-free, dairy-free, 2-point treats, ridiculously easy, etc.
  • Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce (Stewart, Tabori & Chang). A whole new flavor palette to consider when baking & griddling: A baker’s dozen whole grain flours including teff, amaranth, barley, and quinoa, plus a chapter on jams and compotes to adorn cozy yet elegant treats.

Recycling & Redesigning Logos Michael Hodgson

  • Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes by Mark Bitterman (Ten Speed Press).Salt maniac’s passionate ode to and user’s manual for the huge range of salts available. Where, when, and how to season a dish, salt as garnish, flavor nuances, salt-block cooking, history. Surprising bit of info: Mark recommends less salt, not more.
  • EAT: Los Angeles 2011: The Food Lover’s Guide to Los Angeles (Prospect Park Books). If I do say so myself, perfect for L.A. locals and great for food-loving visitors to my home county (yup, the whole enchilada). Cookbook agent and publicist Lisa Ekus who hails from western Mass says: “Short, sweet, and chock full of good food!”

What pages are marked by the mystery shopper?I received an early holiday gift when I spotted this well-used copy of my book being pulled out of a shopper’s bag at the market the day before Thanksgiving. So very glad to know The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook is proving useful (see seasonal entertaining ideas on the right). Thank you!