The Art Of Living According To Joe Beef
Difficulty: It varies, but not bad at all -- comparable to something like The Joy of Cooking.
Best Recipe: The Winter Squash Gnocchi With Meat Sauce (pg 109) is one of several gnocchi dishes in the book that take the fluffy dumplings to places other than potato and ricotta.
Vibe: A strident argument for finding food in nature. Author Hank Shaw provides far fewer recipes than there are in most of the other books on this list; much of Hunt, Gather, Cook is allocated to essays on the technique and philosophy behind the "hunt" and "gather" parts of the title.
Difficulty: The recipes themselves aren't too tough, though we can't necessarily say the same for hunting venison or stripping sassafras bark.
Best Recipe: Shaw's recipe for French Pheasant, Hunter's Style (pg. 280) would undoubtedly be sublime on a Alsatian estate, with fresh-shot pheasant, but the recipe is strong enough that it'll spruce up a bird ordered from D'Artagnan just as well.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The emphasis is on creative flavor combinations, not crazy technique.
Best Recipe: Ottolenghi may be the world's most gifted cook of eggplant -- and no recipe showcases his skill as much as Burnt Eggplant with Tahini (pg. 122), the best babaganoush you'll ever taste.
Vibe: The Food of Spain is a comprehensive guide to a complex, of-the-moment cuisine by legendary cookbook author Claudia Roden. There are also some fascinating, well-told stories about the cultural underpinnings of Spain's diverse cuisine.
Difficulty: Moderate -- it's a big book, so there are bound to be some hard dishes, but for the most part, Roden sticks to rustic, traditional dishes that most people will be able to figure out.
Best Recipe: We appreciate that Roden admits that her recipe for a Medley of Spring Vegetables (pg. 246) is delicious with fresh spring peas and with frozen ones. We also appreciate that it calls for white wine and jamon serrano, two of our favorite things.
Vibe: This is a seven-volume, 2500-page, $450 cookbook. It took years to research and develop. The question isn't, "Is this a good book for a serious food lover to own?" It's, "Can I afford it?" The answer for most, sadly, is no -- which is why it doesn't really make sense to include Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine in our 11 Best Cookbooks of 2011.
Difficulty: Mostly impossible. But that doesn't mean an assiduous reader and cook won't learn countless lessons by reading through it.
Best Recipe: There are over 1000. Do we have to pick?
The Huffington Post Joe Satran First Posted: 12/ 1/11 01:30 PM ET Updated: 12/ 1/11 06:14 PM ET