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December 21, 2007 Edition

Hot Drinks, by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss

This delectable book contains fifty recipes for punches, coffees, teas, cocktails, chocolates, and other delights to warm you up after skiing, caroling, or just hectic days. Try a mug of Mayan Hot Chocolate (with chile and orange), some Spicy Mulled Cider, or the delightful-looking Snow Falling on Pines (Japanese matcha tea topped with whipped cream) for non-alcoholic warm-ups. If you’re in the mood for spirits, whip up an Angel’s Kiss (pina colada flavors with ginger brandy) or a glass of Lamb’s Wool (cinnamon, sherry, and apple), or perhaps a classic like Hot Buttered Rum or Wassail. Be adventurous and try a Tres Leches (with bananas) or stick close to tradition with a Hot Toddy. The excellent index allows you to match your ingredients to recipes.

Sober Celebrations, by Liz Scott

Love to entertain but need to avoid including alcohol? Here’s just the book to make entertaining easy, even for the many special occasions which include alcohol as part of their traditions. None of Scott’s mouth-watering recipes call for alcohol (even the English Trifle), and she offers sidebars with topics such as alcohol-free flavorings in baking and the idea that alcohol “cooks out” of foods. Scott suggests menus, complete with drinks, for celebrations as diverse as Christmas, Hanukkah, baby and wedding showers, graduations, birthdays, St. Patrick’s Day, and more. Any cook would love to have this lavish guide to entertaining on his or her shelf – it’s a bonus that it addresses alcohol-free living.

Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

Like Ratatouille’s star chef, some people just seem to “know” what dishes need. Here’s your chance to get in on the secret, too – this book is full of flavor and food pairings and tips on composing dishes for taste and texture. Read this straight through or use it as a reference to find out what seasonings to match with your fresh carrots or halibut. Discover which 10 ingredients notable chefs such as Rick Bayless and Alice Waters wouldn’t want to be without. Find out which flavors characterize the world’s dishes. While not a cookbook per se, some recipes are included, but mostly this is a kick-start for cooks ready to venture off the recipe cards and into their own creations.

The Texas Cowboy Cookbook, by Robb Walsh

Part cookbook, part Old West documentary, Walsh has lots to say about cowboys and their food from 1540 to the present day. Lots of black-and-white photos, some from movies, others candid shots of cowboys and girls at work and play, fill this with an air of nostalgic energy. The recipes range from chuck-wagon favorites (sourdough everything) to Mexican-influenced beans and venison and black cowboy-influenced barbecues. Some of the recipes call for ingredients not normally found at local stores (mesquite flour, anyone?)– fortunately, there’s a lengthy resource guide in back to get the more esoteric ingredients into your kitchen.

Knife Skills Illustrated, by Peter Herzmann

Hertzmann, who teaches knife skills in his cooking classes, found that his students had many questions left after the class was over. And they weren’t the only ones: when he introduced the topic on his website, he was amazed at the response. This book is a written version of his cooking classes, designed to give home and working chefs basic skills in handling knives safely and efficiently. Divided into three parts for easy reference, part one covers the very basics – knife anatomy, purchasing tips, how to hold and sharpen knives, and information on cutting boards. In part two, you’ll learn right- and left-handed techniques for cutting vegetables and fruits, including the slippery avocado. Part three teaches techniques for cutting up raw poultry, filleting fish, and butterflying meat. There’s also information on carving fowl and slicing steaks and roasts to present them to their best advantage. Clearly worded with easy-to-follow diagrams, this book will be highly useful to cooks of all calibers.

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