Rachael Ray and other chefs share cookbook gift ideas

Posted at 3:36 PM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 15:36:24-05

Chef Michael Solomonov’s gorgeous cookbook “Zahav” is taking up too much space on my dining room table, but his family stories, recipes and photography keep me from shelving it. And I want to make his hummus.

Ruth Reichl’s “My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life,” her post-Gourmet memoir tale of recovery, kept me going during recovery from outpatient surgery. I also want to make her shirred eggs with potato puree.

“The Food Lab” from food science expert J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is helping me answer all those food science questions that my child and I ponder as we mix salad dressing, make burgers and cook lots of pasta. (Recipes are included.)

And those are just three of this year’s cookbooks and food memoirs to gift a food lover this holiday season.

“There are so many new cookbooks this year, it’s hard to narrow the list down,” said Amazon senior books editor Seira Wilson, who nonetheless picked her top 10 cookbooks of the year for CNN.

There’s also a new Thug Kitchen (vegan) cookbook; “Paleo Takeout,” the latest Paleo book by Russ Crandall; and YouTube baking star Rosanna Pansino’s take on baked goods in “Nerdy Nummies.” I want her Periodic Table for Cupcakes.

Prefer to stay away from trends? If you want to give a classic cookbook to your loved one this holiday season, you’re in luck. Today’s food stars were inspired by some of the cooking greats, and they’re happy to share the books that made them fall in love with cooking.

Check out their classic recommendations below, and click through the gallery to see Wilson’s 2015 picks.

Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse and author of ‘My Pantry’

Favorite cookbook: “One of my all-time favorites is ‘French Country Cooking’ by Elizabeth David. She had a huge influence on me in so many ways, and I return again and again to her books but especially this one.”

Inspirational cookbook: “Diana Kennedy’s ‘Cuisines of Mexico’ has always inspired me, as it has so many! The tortilla recipe in my new book is inspired by Diana’s. She never really leaves my mind. One of my all-time favorite recipes from that book is Flor de Calabaza Para Quesadillas (pumpkin blossom filling for quesadillas).”

Ruth Reichl, author of ‘My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life’

Favorite cookbook: “French Cooking in Ten Minutes” by Edouard de Pomiane (the English translation, with a forward by Elizabeth David). “This is, in many ways, a perfect book. It’s encouraging. It makes cooking seem simple and natural. But what I like best is that I find it almost impossible to read the book without racing into the kitchen and beginning to cook.”

Inspirational cookbook: “Asian Ingredients” by Bruce Cost. “In the ’80s, when Bruce Cost (of Ginger Ale fame) originally published this book, it inspired me to fill my pantry with what were, at the time, arcane ingredients. Over the years, I’ve cooked so many dishes from this book, but the one that has been a constant staple is Chinese Egg Noodles with Pork and Hot Bean Sauce. I always have the ingredients on hand, you can make it in 10 minutes, and it might be my husband’s favorite dish.”

Rachael Ray, cookbook author, television host and magazine editor

Favorite cookbook: “My favorite cookbooks are those of Marcella Hazan, Jacques Pépin and Julia Child. It’s impossible to pick a favorite recipe from anybody’s book. I don’t play favorites when it comes to food. Marcella taught me that measuring is like putting a bird in a cage. Jacques and Julia taught me to not take food too seriously. The point is to have fun and to share.”

We agree and know that Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” is spectacular. Try her simple tomato sauce. It has just four ingredients: tomatoes, onion, butter and salt. A grand celebration of the friendship between Pepin and Child are the companion books to their PBS series, “Julia and Jacque at Home.”

Michael Solomonov, chef and author of ‘Zahav’

Favorite cookbook: “My favorite cookbook is ‘Taste of Israel’ by Avi Ganor and Ron Maiberg. It really gets Israeli food, the different influences and cooking techniques.”

Inspirational cookbook: ” ‘Mourad: New Moroccan,’ by my friend Mourad Lahlou, is a book that really inspired me. It is a book I turn to time and time again. My favorite recipe is for couscous. I love the time and attention he gives to a simple ingredients!”

Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, ‘Thug Kitchen Party Grub: For Social Motherf*ckers’

Favorite cookbook: “It’s really hard to pick a favorite ever, but we’ll keep it old-school and say the classic ‘Moosewood Cookbook.’ Mollie Katzen has been helping budding vegetarians out for decades and deserves more love.”

Inspirational cookbook: “Recently, we’ve been into the ‘Crossroads’ cookbook. Chef Tal (Ronnen), Chef Scot (Jones) and the rest of the crew there cook more high-end food than we do, so it’s been inspiring as hell to cook their stuff at home and learn some new tricks. Plus their Linguine with Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms in Tomato-Basil Butter Sauce has been haunting our dreams since we first made it.”

Russ Crandall, author of ‘Paleo Takeout’

Favorite cookbook: “For me, a cookbook should be informative, entertaining and faithful to its source material. One of my very favorites is Julie Sahni’s ‘Classic Indian Cooking.’ Its system-based approach to one of the most mystifying (to me) world cuisines covers everything from the basics to advanced steps of Indian culinary arts.”

Inspirational cookbook: ” ‘James Oseland’s ‘Cradle of Flavor,’ which covers home cooking from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, is incredibly inspiring. Written from an outsider’s perspective, James is able to capture authentic Southeast Asian tastes while making recipes that are easy for any home chef to replicate. This book inspired me to take the same approach with ‘Paleo Takeout.’ My favorite recipe is his Beef Rendang (a dry curry from the Minangkabau people of West Indonesia), which just bursts with flavor.”

Dale Talde, chef and author of ‘Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn’

Favorite cookbook: Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s “Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef.” “This book came out while I was cooking for Jean-Georges. Seeing it in print was crazy. These were the same dishes I would make every day in batches of 50, and suddenly it’s batched out for six. It was so cool.”

Inspirational cookbook: “Recently, it’s Jenn Louis’ ‘Pasta By Hand.’ She does kale strozzapreti that looks delicious. It makes me want to make it, which is exactly what a cookbook should do.”

Logan Guleff, age 13, winner of ‘MasterChef Junior’ season 2

Favorite cookbook: It’s no surprise that Logan, whose cooking skills wowed “MasterChef” judge Gordon Ramsay, chose a cookbook by renowned chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, “Nobu: The Cookbook.” Logan has the chops for it.

Inspirational cookbook: “I just love Martha Stewart’s cookie book,” specifically “Martha Stewart’s Cookies: the Very Best Treats to Bake and Share.” Not a bad choice for the holidays, either.