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Favorites in 2010

While my kitchen shelves groan audibly every time they see the familiar Amazon swoosh coming at them, I don’t feel equipped to offer a best cookbooks of the year list.  I couldn’t begin to cover all the great books that made my wish list this year.  Rather than coming up with one more “best of” selection, I decided to write up a quick list of my favorite releases covering Latin American and Spanish cuisine instead.  I thought this would be the only thing they have in common but as jotted them down, a theme emerged – classically trained chefs who are passionate about their region offering traditional recipes with modern innovations – contemporary baroque.  It was a good year.

Dulce: Desserts in the Latin-American Tradition by Joseluis Flores with Laura Zimmerman Maye (Rizzoli, $29.95)
Though some readers felt it was too Mexico-centric, I thought it had some great entries for Cuban, Venezuelan and Peruvian desserts that I can’t wait to try.  Trying to cover all of Latin America, I find myself with competing tres leches recipes, two kinds of horchata, and every kind of flan to sift through.  Divided by a common language, it’s just great that someone made an attempt to get it all down in one place.

My Sweet Mexico: Recipes for Authentic Pastries, Breads, Candies, Beverages, and Frozen Treats by Fany Gerson  (Ten Speed Press, $30.00)
There are so many reasons to love this book but I would have added it to my collection for the chapter on convent sweets alone.  Excavating through countless traditional recipes which can be hard to follow, Gerson crystallizes in a few short notes the history of each recipe or ingredient, translating time as well as technique.  It was dizzying to have so many questions answered at once.  The photographs are also wonderful and full of  hyper real colors I can’t stop flipping through.

Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy by Diana Kennedy (University of Texas Press, $50.00)
Heavy (seriously-like a weapon), heady and beautiful.  I’ve always loved seeing my copies of Kennedy’s classics lined up together – mostly text, no pictures, few sketches, little nonsense.  While her latest collection of recipes is just as interesting and challenging, it’s also full of incredible, over saturated Time-Life style images, many taken by Kennedy during her research.  Opening the cover is a little like going from Kansas to Oz.

The Brazilian Kitchen: 100 Classic and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook By Leticia Moreinos Schwartz (Kyle Books, $24.95)
I’ve already written about her brigadeiros and casquinha de siri but still can’t say (or eat) enough of the Brazilian Kitchen.  Full of clear and precise recipes, it allows you to try something new with every assurance of success.

Seasonal Spanish Food by Jose Pizarro (Kyle Books, $32.95)
I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who can make a feast from a few ingredients randomly gathered at the farmer’s market.  I’m not but fortunately Jose Pizarro is.  It’s the first book I check when I’ve found something new and am not sure where to start, and it got me through summer, fall, and (if the turron mousse recipe works) my New Year’s Eve dinner party as well.

Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food by Colman Andrews (Gotham, $20.00)
Though technically not a cookbook, it lets us inside the creation and elaboration of the legendary restaurant and the man behind it.  With only one short season left, it’s the closest many of us will get to its current incarnation.

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