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Pickles, Paleo, Plants: Hot cookbooks for cold winter nights



Maybe I’m old-fashioned. Maybe, while I will Instagram, tweet and Facebook most of my meals, I don’t want to trust an iPad with decades-old recipes. While folks go out and buy kitchen mounts and disposable iPad chef sleeves for their tablets, I’ll stick with crusty, sticky, page-filled cookbooks. Some things have to remain sacred. Cookbooks continue to be “one of the most reliable sectors of the book market in recent years,” according to the Independent, and the genre continues to thrive. Here’s a smattering of books to check out in the coming weeks.

Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest
By Delena Tull
UT Press | $29.95 | 558 pp

When it comes to native plants in the area, there are just a few ways to be sure you’re not ingesting a poisonous berry. Take Edible and Useful Plants with you on your next ranch visit. The paperback is authored by Delena Tull (Lone Star Field Guide to Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of Texas), and the latest revised edition of Edible delves into plant-based recipes, teas, spices and medicinals. An environmental science educator and naturalist, Tull spends 300 pages on the family varieties of plants, and also includes several pages of color photography that point out toxic greens and edible bits. Part-field guide, part-textbook, this book is meant for hands-on use. Recipe buffs can partake in jelly-making (she points out edible fruits while breaking down the jelly process for each). Look for recipes for pesto, dyes and walnut-tofu “meatballs.” Chapter 3 on teas and spices would be useful for any tea fanactic aching to try new, local flavors. Tull also gives plenty of warnings against excessive use of any plant. Remember, moderation is key.

Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans
By Michelle Tam & Henry Fong
Andrews McMeel | $35 | 288 pp

Most bloggers dream of landing a book deal, don’t let any of them tell you otherwise. As the authors of, Michelle Tam and husband/co-conspirator Henry Fong have been promoting healthy, chemical-free eats on their blog for several years now, so their solid book is no surprise. Saveur magazine named as the Best Special Diets Food Blog in 2012—and for good reason. The recipes pop and are far from “diet.” The book begins with an introduction to Tam’s kitchen, useful tips on how to cook (for the total newbies) and tools you’ll need (for the paleo newbies). She dives into recipes with a crash course on “building blocks” such as dukkah, an Egyptian spice blend, “magic mushroom powder,” clarified butter, slow roasted tomatoes and bell peppers, paleo mayonnaise and best of all, paleo sriracha, which clears out suspicious ingredients such as potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xantham gum. The recipe is reason alone to buy Nom Nom Paleo, but the biggest draw? The 1,000-plus photos of step-by-step instructions for appetizers, salads, soups, chingos of eggs, plants, seafood, poultry, meat and treats (including Mexican chocolate pot de crème and a crimson summer berry soup).

Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups (and Then Some)
By John Currence
Andrews McMeel | $40 | 288 pp

I first learned of John Currence’s book through our Flavor interview with chef Steve McHugh (“The Up-and-Comer,” Nov 6), who was eagerly anticipating the fall release of the tome. The New Orleans-raised Currence, who’s produced Boure, Big Bad Breakfast, Snackbar and City Grocery, oh, and a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef South in 2009, spills the deets on dozens of Southern favorites including drool-worthy pork fat beignets with bourbon caramel. I can see why McHugh was so excited for this book. Currence kicks off with a manifesto on cooking, followed by an introductory chapter on cocktails (gotta love that) and nine more chapters on stocks and soups, pickling and canning, “slathering, squirting and smearing,” curing, frying, sautéing, roasting, brining and smoking, and baking. This IS Currence’s ode to cooking and a must-have for any serious lover of food.

Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans
By Lolis Eric Elie
Chronicle Books | $29.95 | 240 pp

As story editor for the HBO quasi-hit by the same name, Elie’s swan song won’t be the last tiny five-episode season–it’ll be this book. With a foreword by chef/food snob Anthony Bourdain (a consultant and writer for the show), the book helps finish the Treme saga with almost as many stories and anecdotes as there are recipes. A coffee table book to be sure, Treme fills its pages with tales and recipes from the show’s characters, along with dishes via famed chefs (including Eric Ripert, David Chang and John Besh) and New Orleans’ staples such as Kermit Ruffins and Austin Leslie.

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