Holiday celebrations and traditions are often defined by gifts and food. So how can you go wrong by combining the two? Kojo chats with guests who are immersed in the culinary world year round about the best cookbooks and kitchen gadgets to give and receive.

Guests

  • Bonnie Benwick interim editor, Washington Post Food Section
  • Sally Swift managing producer, The Splendid Table

Best Kitchen Gifts And Gadgets For Chefs and Foodies

Sally Swift’s Picks:

  1. Bay Laurel tree. There’s nothing like fresh bay leaves. They are beautiful plants and you can grow them outdoors here for most of the year. Bring the pot inside in December and January, and out they go again. Price: $21.99

  2. Corn Zipper by Oxo. So much fun, we argue about who is going to be allowed to “zip” the corn. Price: $13.99

  3. Oxo Box Grater. No messing around with this one — it’s not the box grater you used in your mum’s house. This one is sharp! Price: $17.99

  4. Sharp-n-Easy Knife Sharpener. Note, it does not sharpen Japanese knives. Price: $13

  5. Microplane grater. If you don’t have one, it will change your life. Price: $14

  6. Cheese Paper. If you know someone who really loves cheese, this is a great gift for them. Cheese paper keeps the air out without suffocating it like plastic wrap does. Price: $11

Bonnie Benwick’s Picks:

  1. Citrus mister. This kitchen tool is fun, makes as much or as little juice as you need and prolongs the shelf life of fruit. Price: About $15

  2. Herb-cutting scissors. These are good for multitaskers: they’re good for making phyllo as well as shredding cheese. Price: $11.95

  3. Magimix see-through toaster. Now there’s a concept! Price: Williams-Sonoma carries it for about $200

  4. Cristel brushed stainless-steel cookware. Removable handles, heavy-bottomed. Price: Varies by set

  5. Tea Forte Cafe cup and tea tray. This thoughtful gift keeps water hot and allows for elegant tea bag resting spot. Price: $26

  6. Classic vegetable peeler, 1947 style. Also a multitasker tool. These are inexpensive and available at outdoor farmer’s markets like Eastern Market in D.C. Price: About $5

Essential Bar Equipment For Making A Dry Martini

Derek Brown, co-owner of The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C., breaks out the essential tools for mixing a martini cocktail. From a Japanese ice pick to a julep strainer to a chainsaw, you’ll never make a martini the same way again.

How To Mix A Classic Gin Martini

Kojo gets a lesson in how to make a classic gin martini from acclaimed local bartender Derek Brown.

Transcript

  • 13:23:57

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHowever you celebrate the holiday season the festivities are likely to bring two certainties, gifts and food. So combining the two seems like a no brainer. Whether you're shopping for novice cooks or seasoned pros, we've got suggestions for gadgets and cookbooks sure to please chefs of all stripes.

  • 13:24:18

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHere to help us to identify the standouts of the year is Sally Swift, managing producer of The Splendid Table. That's a weekly radio show about all things food from American Public Media. She's also co-author of two cookbooks, "How to Eat Supper" and "How to Eat Weekends with Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Sally Swift, good to see you again.

  • 13:24:37

    MS. SALLY SWIFTThank you for having me.

  • 13:24:38

    NNAMDIAlso with us in studio is Bonnie Benwick, interim food editor for the Washington Post. Her duties there include supervising all recipes, editing features, reviewing cooks, managing photo shoots and contributing to the section's All We Can Eat blog. That in addition to bringing cake for radio talk show hosts. Bonnie Benwick, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:25:00

    MS. BONNIE BENWICKGreat to be back.

  • 13:25:01

    NNAMDIYou too can join us at 800-433-8850. Let's start with some gadgets before we hit the books, Sally. Anyone who has shredded potatoes for latkes or a block of cheese for a holiday party dip on an old dull box grater knows these tasks can be a hazard to one's, well, knuckles. What have you discovered that can quite literally save our skin?

  • 13:25:25

    SWIFTIt is a dangerous implement, there's no doubt about it. There is -- you know it's one of -- box graters are one of those things that seldom do we splurge on, so they make wonderful gifts. OXO makes a box grater that is wonderful. It is incredibly sharp. It is in fact so sharp that some people sell a glove to go along with it, I will tell you. But boy, will it change your life. You can grate anything on it from ginger to slice up frozen bacon if you're going to be making -- slice up bread.

  • 13:25:57

    SWIFTBonnie, have you tried this OXO grater?

  • 13:25:59

    BENWICKYeah, is that the kind that has the sort of container too?

  • 13:26:02

    SWIFTIt's the big box. It's really quite worth it. And it is a splurge. It's not something you would normally buy yourself. So I think that's pretty high on my list in my kitchen.

  • 13:26:08

    NNAMDIYou also recommend a Microplane grater?

  • 13:26:11

    SWIFTYeah, Microplane which comes from the woodworking world. Many years ago, about 20 years ago I think they started launching them. And it's an old, old product and they sell all kinds of varieties. They do a citrus grater. They do various sizes but just getting your hands on one of those will just really change your life in the kitchen.

  • 13:26:28

    NNAMDIHow about if I'm looking to sharpen knives? Do...

  • 13:26:30

    SWIFTWell, interestingly we have found this -- Lynne and I have -- did a bunch of knife sharpening tests and there is a little gadget called the Sharp n Easy. And it is this little plastic thing. It costs about five bucks. Doesn't work so well -- I'm not sure I would do a Japanese edge knife on it but it works great for any other knife. And, you know, the problem with knives is that we buy ourselves these nice knives and then we're afraid to sharpen them. So why bother? This is a really great step. It's hard to wreck it. You can't push hard enough to actually wreck your knife.

  • 13:27:02

    NNAMDIBonnie, you have found a few off-label uses for some herb scissors, one of which is shredding cheese?

  • 13:27:08

    BENWICKYeah, and I brought these scissors so you could try them, Kojo. They're sort of -- you know, it's that technology from Gillette razors, you know, where they have like five blades.

  • 13:27:16

    NNAMDIYeah.

  • 13:27:17

    BENWICKSo give them a try. I think if you -- as long as you have the herbs that are dry -- because I've tried this. And when the herbs are wet they sort of stick in all the little different blades. But...

  • 13:27:29

    NNAMDII'm trying the herb cutting scissors and...

  • 13:27:31

    BENWICKIt looks pretty professional. Pretty professional, don't you think?

  • 13:27:33

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 13:27:34

    BENWICKYes, and they're...

  • 13:27:34

    NNAMDIIt works like a charm and I haven't even cut my finger yet.

  • 13:27:37

    BENWICKAnd just having some sharp scissors in the kitchen is like a thrill for me because everybody borrows them for everything else when I put a nice pair of kitchen scissors in there.

  • 13:27:44

    NNAMDIThis is so cool.

  • 13:27:46

    BENWICKI know.

  • 13:27:46

    NNAMDISally, for anyone who thinks bay leaves only come dry and crumbly in jars, you suggest not a gadget but, well, a plant.

  • 13:27:57

    SWIFTA plant. I think this is a great culinary gift for people is a bay tree. Here in Washington you can keep them in a pot outside for most of the year. You need to bring them in, you know, when it gets a little cold, along about -- I'm from Minnesota so I rarely think that this is cold here. But, you know...

  • 13:28:14

    NNAMDIA little cold for you is 15 below, yeah.

  • 13:28:15

    SWIFT...I did bring mine in this month. They are incredibly sturdy. There are two kinds of bay trees and you have to be sure you get the right one. You want -- the nobilis is the variety you want which is -- there are two kinds. One's called California bay, which is the one to avoid with just the long silver leaves. You want the ones with the fatter leaves, the ones that all the Olympic athletes wore around their heads.

  • 13:28:37

    SWIFTFresh bay is unlike anything else. It is so far from a dried leaf and it's just -- it will change...

  • 13:28:46

    NNAMDIA bay laurel tree.

  • 13:28:47

    SWIFTBay laurel tree, it's a great gift.

  • 13:28:48

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you have a kitchen gadget you can't get through dinner prep without? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. What's the best kitchen gift you have ever received? You can also send email to kojo@wamu.org. Bonnie, when it comes to taking advantage of fresh ingredients you recommend a citrus mister as well. You just pop into a orange...

  • 13:29:15

    BENWICKThis is my favorite new toy and...

  • 13:29:16

    NNAMDIAh, it's right in front of me.

  • 13:29:17

    BENWICKIt is. I want you to give it a try. It's actually -- I mean, Sally and I were talking about it. It's something that you might -- that your mom, you know, stuck in the lemon to sort of juice it. But this one has a little spray thing. Here you go. Could use it for cologne too.

  • 13:29:31

    SWIFTSee, he did it. That's right.

  • 13:29:33

    BENWICKIt creates a mist and you stick it right in the top of the fruit. You cut off a little bit of the top so you can insert it but they make a larger one for lemon and a smaller one for lime. It's -- It think it's at SurLaTable. It's about 15 bucks and really it's a great little toy, stocking stuffer, kitchen thing. But, like I said, I just think it's -- it would actually for me, once I cut into a lemon it's -- you know, the clock is ticking no matter what I -- how I try to wrap it up in the refrigerator. But this kept it fresh for a long time. So you just use a little bit at a time.

  • 13:30:04

    NNAMDIThat scuffling sound you hear at the end of the broadcast will be bonnie and me wrestling so she can't take these things out of the studio. I want to keep them all. Sally, and cheese lovers, the ones that really invest in their formage, rejoice, cheese paper.

  • 13:30:20

    SWIFTThere's cheese paper out there now. We're really becoming foodies in this country. Yeah, I think that -- I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone. I think wax paper works really well. But there are -- there is cheese paper out there. Not an expensive gift, seven bucks. You know, it's designed to keep the air out without, you know, wrapping up and suffocating like plastic wrap does. And you know for those people who buy -- cheese is expensive. Good cheese is expensive, as it should be. So to take the care to take care of it like you do your wine or anything else, I think it's a nice investment and a great gift. Again, something people don't typically buy themselves.

  • 13:30:55

    NNAMDIThat's Sally Swift. She's managing producer of The Splendid Table which is a weekly radio show about all things food from American Public Media. She's also co-author of two cookbooks, "How to Eat Supper" and "How to Eat Weekends" with Lynne Rossetto Kasper. And Bonnie Benwick also joins us in studio. Bonnie's the interim food editor for the Washington Post. Her duties there include supervising all recipes, editing features, reviewing cookbooks, managing photo shoots and contributing to the sections All We Can Eat blog. You can call us at 800-433-8850.

  • 13:31:27

    NNAMDIBonnie, if you're looking for a bigger ticket gift you've got a toaster on your list that has a rather unusual and perhaps ingenious feature. Why didn't somebody think about this before?

  • 13:31:38

    BENWICKI'm so excited about this and I really hope that my husband's not listening because it's on backorder coming to our house on January 3. It is a see-thru toaster. How awesome is that?

  • 13:31:48

    NNAMDISomething every kid has dreamed of.

  • 13:31:50

    BENWICKHow awesome is that? It can fit -- it looks like it can fit up to four slices. I've had this old -- we have like a Dualit toaster from years and years and years and nobody will fix it. I don't know about you, but you could probably do another show on people trying to find places to get their toasters fixed these days.

  • 13:32:06

    NNAMDIAfter we shock ourselves, but go ahead.

  • 13:32:07

    BENWICKYes, it's become an obsolete thing apparently. You can't take it to a vacuum cleaner place anymore and get it fixed, or I don't know. Anyway so time for a new toaster and we've treated ourselves too. It's see-thru on both sides so you can see exactly the temperature of the toast. It's not a cheap -- not an inexpensive thing but, you know, I went for the -- I even upgraded. I think there's one for like 199 bucks. It's made by Magimix. And there's one that's sort of stainless steel, looks a little more high tech, long lasting. You know, that's another 50 bucks or something. I said, what the heck, he's worth it.

  • 13:32:41

    NNAMDIYou also have -- hopefully he's not listening -- you also have a set of crystal brush stainless steel cookware on your list. Why?

  • 13:32:47

    BENWICKYeah, now this stuff is very high end. I mean, you -- you know, it's the sort of thing you're not going to find in like a Crate and Barrel or something or if you're looking to get registered. But if you want a pot -- a set of pots or even one or two pieces that are going to last a really long time, this stuff is made in France. It's very, very heavy gauge stainless steel. It's good for induction cook tops.

  • 13:33:09

    BENWICKAnd what I like about it is it has these sort of nubs for removable handles. So you can put on a short handle, you can put on a long handle. All the handles are also made of stainless steel. So it's great to take it from the stovetop to the oven. And I just like the flexibility and changeability of them. Sometimes if you're reaching in the oven you'd want the one with the longer handle as opposed to the ones that look more like soup pots. We tested with them quite a bit. We've used them in the photo studio. We've used them cooking in our test kitchen. And I'm very impressed with the quality of the pots. So...

  • 13:33:43

    NNAMDIAnd what's the special appeal for tea lovers of the Tea Forte café cup and tea tray?

  • 13:33:50

    SWIFTWell, that would be me. You know, there's sort of a -- I think it was some "Sex in the City" episode where they said he was leaving teabags everywhere. You don't really know quite where to put the thing if you're having teabags as opposed to loose tea. Tea Forte makes a big wide cup -- you know, they're -- those are the tea -- I call them bags for lack of a better word but it sort of looks like a isosceles triangle that's standing up. It's three dimensional. It's got a little leaf thing on the top.

  • 13:34:16

    SWIFTSo they've made a very wide cup and it's got a ceramic lid with a little hole in it for the -- you know, the special teabag to come out of. So it's keeps the cub nice and warm but you also get this little -- a little tray -- a little square tray to put the teabag on when you're done. So if you get a tea service that has like a pot of hot water, you know, you're not asking somebody for hot water. You've got another reserve already there. It's just...

  • 13:34:42

    BENWICK...very civilized.

  • 13:34:43

    SWIFTIt is a very comfort thing. I'm a tea drinker so I appreciated it and it kept it nice and warm.

  • 13:34:48

    NNAMDIAnd if you have an at-home mixologist on your list you'll want to check out our gifts to you this holiday season. Visit kojoshow.org for a video rundown of all the tools you need and the step-by-step martini-making lesson from the man who makes the best ones in the business. Derek Brown of the Passenger and Columbia Room taught yours truly how to mix the perfect dry martini. And he showed off all the bar equipment and gadgets he used to make one, a list that ranges from a beverage thermometer to a chainsaw. That's right, a chainsaw. Be sure to visit our website for that and many thanks to Derek and his team for their hospitality.

  • 13:35:30

    NNAMDIYou'll also find Bonnie and Sally's complete lists of book and gadget picks for holiday gifting at our website kojoshow.org. Now on to the telephones. Here is Diana in Centerville, Va. Diana, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:35:48

    DIANAOh, thank you, Kojo. I love your show.

  • 13:35:49

    NNAMDIThank you.

  • 13:35:51

    DIANAI'm 60 plus and I used to cook for a living for over 20 years. But I have terrible osteoarthritis, especially in my right hand. So even though I got my thumb joints replaced, my fingers don't go around and I couldn't hold a knife like you're supposed to. And what I have found is ceramic knives. And they're about a third of the weight. I still can't hold them like you're supposed to. I have to put my first finger on top of it but -- and I still slice things like a -- you know, it takes me three times as long. But they're sharp and they're so light, they really work well for our aging population.

  • 13:36:34

    NNAMDIThank you very much for that recommendation.

  • 13:36:36

    SWIFTYeah, they're really good. And they come in sort of fun fashion colors these days and they're made out of plastic. And they also come with guards for the blades themselves, which is nice to put in a drawer. But my mom had osteoarthritis. And she found when she was still cooking sometimes -- have you tried a mezzaluna? Does that work for you?

  • 13:36:54

    BENWICKThat's what I was thinking too.

  • 13:36:55

    DIANAYeah, that does. But the only thing about ceramic knives is you really have to take care of them. You can't drop them, you can't put them in the dishwasher. You just really have to take care of them. Mezzalunas are fine and slicing things are fine, but then when you have to brunoise or something and -- you know, I don't know. I can't stand all that stuff on my counter so I got rid of the food processor.

  • 13:37:18

    BENWICKShe's throwing around brunoise. She's a real cook.

  • 13:37:20

    SWIFTI know. I was just going to say, if you're doing brunoise, you know, God bless you.

  • 13:37:24

    BENWICKYou know, and knives are really -- knives really need to fit your hands. I kind of think there's a male knife and there's a female knife. There's different grips and different sizes that you're comfortable with depending on the size of your hand. And it varies greatly I think.

  • 13:37:37

    NNAMDIDiana, thank you very much for your call.

  • 13:37:39

    DIANAYou're quite welcome, dear.

  • 13:37:40

    NNAMDIJeff in Baltimore, Med. Jeff, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:37:45

    JEFFHi. About a year ago I think I -- or maybe more, I asked The Splendid Table in the 800 number the name and location in Maryland of a breakfast nook or something. It was featured on one of the...

  • 13:38:03

    SWIFTIt must've been a stern segment.

  • 13:38:04

    JEFF...road food people. And I never got a call back from you. I don't know...

  • 13:38:09

    SWIFTI'm sorry. I'm sorry. We try to get back to everyone.

  • 13:38:11

    JEFF...telephoning me back. But the other thing was...

  • 13:38:14

    NNAMDISeizing the opportunity as far as appearance on this broadcast.

  • 13:38:18

    BENWICKSally's hanging her head.

  • 13:38:19

    JEFF...if you can possibly also when you're giving -- introducing the people that you're speaking to, especially if they've written books. Lynne often says -- there's music that leads in and then she snaps out the name and name of the book. And it's kind of like if I walked away from the phone for a moment because I do have other things on Sundays often to do, then I miss it.

  • 13:38:46

    NNAMDIWhat would you like to have her do? Spell the name?

  • 13:38:48

    JEFFI miss it and then I don't hear it repeated. So it's the name of the book and the person's name when she's addressing them. Whenever she's using their first name, if she could add their last name, I would love it.

  • 13:38:59

    SWIFTThank you for that comment. I've got it. Thank you.

  • 13:38:59

    NNAMDIWe'll pass that recommendation on. Thank you very much for your call, Jeff. What's the other gizmo that you were fooling around with there, Bonnie?

  • 13:39:10

    BENWICKI brought you the mister and I brought you the scissors.

  • 13:39:13

    SWIFTThat's it, are you...

  • 13:39:14

    NNAMDIOh, that was the cover for the scissors that you had in your hand.

  • 13:39:15

    BENWICKOh, yeah, yeah, yeah. So there you go.

  • 13:39:18

    NNAMDIIt looked like another implement altogether.

  • 13:39:19

    SWIFTHe was hoping for another gift.

  • 13:39:20

    BENWICKYeah, well, we're going to be fighting about that.

  • 13:39:21

    NNAMDIOkay. In that case, on to books. Speaking of gadgets and appliances, one stall worth you may vow to use more creatively and often is the slow cooker. What resource can you steer us to on that front, Bonnie?

  • 13:39:36

    BENWICKI actually -- Sally and I were just talking about -- I have kind of a girl crush on British cookbooks in particular. "The Slow Cooker book" by Antony Worrall Thompson. He's a longtime chef. He also writes really well and those slow cooker recipes, he was doing things with a slow cooker that you think you wouldn't do. He's making cakes and puddings. He's putting things in there, you know, a little bit of cooking beforehand. It's not all just that sort of dump it all in and let it get moist and sit around for five hours type thing. He actually brought kind of a chef's knowledge and intuition to the appliance which I appreciated. He didn't make it too fussy, but I really like the recipes, so I would recommend that book.

  • 13:40:16

    NNAMDISally, for the meat eater on your list, it sounds like you can't go wrong with "Charred & Scruffed."

  • 13:40:22

    SWIFTOh, I have fallen in love with this book. You know, what is -- is there anything new to say about grilling? I would say no. I am a very jaded person. I see a lot of books every year. A book came in this year called "Charred &Scruffed," by a man named Adam Perry Lang, who actually trained with Daniel Boulud in New York, and it is full of just techniques for grilling that I had never even thought of.

  • 13:40:46

    SWIFTFor instance -- and he has made of up terms, one of them is scruffed, which is what he calls taking a piece -- taking a steak and scoring it all over which essentially gives more area to brown, which is exactly what you love about grilling, right?

  • 13:40:59

    NNAMDIMm-hmm.

  • 13:41:00

    SWIFTSo the book is full of these techniques. The other one, he often cooks directly on the coal. Now, he uses hardwood charcoal which is something, I think, that is very important to use because it's not packed with all the chemicals. But this book is just -- it's a really interesting book, and it reminds you about how primal really cooking over fire is, and his recipes are delicious. I'm a total fan.

  • 13:41:25

    SWIFTAnd he has beautiful recipes on top of it for things like Zinfandel salt, he has all these different salt recipes that he evaporates wine with salts and you wind up -- it's a really great book, and it was really new for me.

  • 13:41:38

    NNAMDIHere is Heather in McLean, Va. Heather, your turn.

  • 13:41:43

    HEATHERYes. I wanted to recommend a gift that I get for my friends who like to cook, and I just bought one at the mall just now for my nanny. It is a potato ricer. It's primarily used...

  • 13:41:53

    BENWICKYeah.

  • 13:41:53

    SWIFTYeah. Great. Two snaps up.

  • 13:41:56

    HEATHER(unintelligible) potatoes. It's one of those things you can totally make the mashed potatoes without it, but you wouldn't splurge on it, but it makes them so much easier and so much better because you don't have to peel, you don't have to cut them up. You just boil them in the water which keeps that earthy dirt flavor that we all love about potatoes, and then you take half of it, put it in this thing, it's like a big garlic press and squish it out, mix in your fats and then your dairy, like your half and half, and it's perfect potatoes every time.

  • 13:42:23

    HEATHERIt's definitely increased the number of times that I make mashed potatoes, and everybody is like what is this, and then they end of saying, I use it all the time.

  • 13:42:31

    SWIFTOnce you tasted rice potatoes it's just a totally different thing.

  • 13:42:34

    BENWICKRight.

  • 13:42:35

    SWIFTI'm not sure we all want more potatoes in our lives, but this is definitely the -- this would be the implement to get them in our lives. It's a great gift.

  • 13:42:43

    BENWICKYeah. I absolutely love them. You just can't make a fluffier mashed potato. You can't make fluffy mashed potatoes without it, and I actually had to do -- try to convince the online talent at the fold at the Washington Post to, you know, he was saying what do you need a ricer for, and I'm trying to explain, and he actually, you know, had to do it on camera, so I'm hoping that I'm spreading the word, but you can pay -- I mean, you can pay $11 for a ricer, or you can pay $40 a ricer.

  • 13:43:08

    SWIFTThat's right.

  • 13:43:10

    BENWICKI mean, they're very accessible and, you know, good for making all kinds of potatoes.

  • 13:43:15

    SWIFTMaking spaetzle.

  • 13:43:16

    BENWICKOh, yeah.

  • 13:43:16

    SWIFTAnd they're great for making spaetzle, you know, those….

  • 13:43:18

    BENWICKAbsolutely.

  • 13:43:19

    SWIFT...noodles, those German noodles that you drop into hot -- it's the perfect -- there are other things to use -- easy to use them for. Yeah.

  • 13:43:25

    BENWICKEasier to clean.

  • 13:43:26

    SWIFTThere you go.

  • 13:43:26

    NNAMDII didn't want to interrupt, but we do have to take a short break.

  • 13:43:28

    BENWICKI'm sorry.

  • 13:43:29

    NNAMDIWhen we come back, we'll continue this conversation on kitchen gifting, gadgets and cookbooks, which you can join by calling 800-433-8850. How do you decide which cookbooks to make space for in your kitchen? Will one recipe reel you in, or does it have to be brimming with recipes that you'll use? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:45:55

    NNAMDI..."How to Eat Supper," and "How to Eat Weekends," with Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Of course, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Bonnie, for you, this year vegetables took the cake with lots of books putting them in the spotlight. Why do you think they're shining and grabbing people's attention?

  • 13:46:11

    BENWICKThere are just people doing a lot of more meatless cooking, and more inventive cooking, I would say, with vegetables. It's not all about roasting them. It's not even about the same kinds of vegetables. I think one great example for me was "Roots" by Diane Morgan. She's an awesome cookbook author. She's done 17 of them. Her recipes, again...

  • 13:46:31

    SWIFTIt's a beautiful book.

  • 13:46:32

    BENWICKI'm just drawn to, you know, it's root vegetables, and she wasn't even around when they -- they shot it on the east coast and she lives on the west coast. But they did such a beautiful job of presenting these vegetables that come out of the earth that, you know, even some that still had dirt on them that just looked beautiful. The salsify drew me in. She came and cooked with us and made salsify.

  • 13:46:54

    BENWICKBut she really researched the ingredients. She made it the star of so many recipes. She used -- she made sure that she had several recipes in each chapter, you know, that highlighted that vegetable.

  • 13:47:05

    NNAMDISally loved "Roots" too.

  • 13:47:06

    SWIFTI loved "Roots" too, and that book is simply called "Roots," and it's organized into chapters by vegetable. So you look up artichoke, I mean, you look up -- I can't -- salsify, for instance, and you will get the history and culinary uses and horticulture on it. It's a really -- it's a beautiful reference book and beautiful photography.

  • 13:47:27

    BENWICKYeah. And the food is really good.

  • 13:47:30

    NNAMDIAnd if you'd like to hear Diane Morgan talk about "Roots," we had her on the day before Thanksgiving. You can go into our archives and find the broadcast there. Bonnie, a number of cookbooks out this year are the paper and ink manifestation if you will, of the work of bloggers, many of whom have succeeded in creating a real sense of community online. Why are people drawn to them?

  • 13:47:50

    BENWICKBecause they have a great voice, and people can really relate to what they're doing. I mean, the, you know, the obvious, fabulous example to me is "Smitten Kitchen." She had an in review online with the New York Times. She's got nine and 10 million viewers. I mean, publishers are seeking people out like this because they have that built-in audience. But she's very accessible, and she talks about, you know, it's not nitty-gritty, you know, here's what I had for breakfast today, but she felt like cooking this, and this worked and that worked, and she's got so much space. She's not too fussy with things, I think. And again, her recipes are working.

  • 13:48:24

    SWIFTShe's not waif thin. She's not -- there's all kinds of -- I mean, she's a real -- she's a real person.

  • 13:48:28

    BENWICKLooks like a real person, yeah.

  • 13:48:29

    SWIFTIt's interesting the whole blogger phenomenon though on what's happening because, of course, I mean, there are -- I counted, I mean, just off the top of my head, I came up with two, four -- 12 books based on blogs this year, which is interesting and varying degrees of success, I think. And, you know, just like we're all learning about the Internet, you know, things aren't vetted the way that they normally are. And for the publishing industry to finally be stepping in and actually making a bargain with these people, and actually taking them on responsibly and saying, no, this person really has a voice, is a new thing, and it's -- I think it's been really hit and miss. I think that's a really good one.

  • 13:49:05

    BENWICKYeah.

  • 13:49:05

    NNAMDIWell, getting the recipes right through testing is key, but Bonnie, you point out that the writing in intros or anecdotes throughout can be an important part of the appeal as well.

  • 13:49:15

    BENWICKOh, absolutely. I think it's definitely part of the package. You know, you get the voice and you get the authenticity, and you get a relationship, not just about a story about that particularly dish, but really how it relates to other things that you're making, or how it came about it what you can do with it. I mean, I am really drawn to "Herbivoracious" I think, you know, we really went out on a limb and said if there's one book, it's not a big book, it's not a big publishing house, but, you know, Natkin, again, had a following on his blog.

  • 13:49:45

    BENWICKYou know, he had varied careers. I think some people really like what he's doing because he wasn't even a chef to begin with, you know. He started and now he's just gone back to IT web development. So for -- boy, I can't remember the name of the -- it's just escaping me, the modern cuisine guy's that...

  • 13:50:04

    NNAMDIDon't look at me.

  • 13:50:05

    BENWICK...they're offering things online that are free, classes and courses and things. You know, but he's just got -- he's got a really idea of what...

  • 13:50:13

    NNAMDIIs Nathan Myhrvold one of them?

  • 13:50:14

    SWIFTYes.

  • 13:50:15

    BENWICKYeah. But it's...

  • 13:50:15

    SWIFTHe's the -- yeah.

  • 13:50:16

    BENWICKIt is?

  • 13:50:17

    SWIFTYep, it's him.

  • 13:50:18

    BENWICKI want to Chef Strong, but I'm not sure that that's it. I'll find it and I'll feel really bad when I listen to this transcript, but, anyway, he's just -- he was such a good, smart -- he was good and smart about, you know, this is how I went about it. This is what I wanted to make, and people have really responded to that. So I was really, really, really impressed with the cookbook. Somebody who is also taking pictures.

  • 13:50:42

    NNAMDIGo ahead.

  • 13:50:43

    BENWICKYeah. Sorry, yeah.

  • 13:50:44

    NNAMDISally, if the cold weather is getting to you, but there are no plans to travel to -- well, a warmer climate in your immediate future, you have got a title that will provide both a mental and a culinary escape.

  • 13:50:55

    SWIFTYeah. It's called "Street Food," and it's by Susan Feniger who people know from TV, I guess, and also, she does a -- she used to do a show on KCRW in Santa Monica. I'm not sure if she does, but this is a book about street food, but it's as much about traveling and about people as anything else. Everywhere from Vietnam to Sri Lanka to -- give me another city, Madagascar, and beautiful, beautiful recipes that you want to make, and it's perfect for someone like me who tends to go to ethnic markets and go, oh, my God, I have to have that bean paste.

  • 13:51:31

    SWIFTI have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but I then have a refrigerator full of these, you know, half empty bottles and jars of things, and this book really is a -- if you are at all a collector of those items...

  • 13:51:41

    NNAMDIIf, like Sally, you are obsessed with ethnic food markets and bringing home add jars of condiments, then you will love this.

  • 13:51:48

    SWIFTIt's a great book.

  • 13:51:49

    BENWICKYeah.

  • 13:51:50

    NNAMDIBonnie, you've got picks that take us everywhere from Jerusalem to the American south. Tell us a bit about the collections and the flavors and cultures that are presented.

  • 13:51:58

    BENWICKYeah. We sort of tended toward we liked the Middle Eastern things this year, like "Jerusalem," by Ottolenghi. I -- he did a cookbook last year as well. It was really impressive. Talk about another thing that's really sucking us in is that incredible, gorgeous, rich photography. It's not perfect-looking food, but it's food that you want to be eating immediately, that you can almost see jump off the page.

  • 13:52:22

    BENWICKAnd the southern cookbook, I mean, Nathalie Dupree, have you ever -- have you had her on the show, Kojo?

  • 13:52:28

    NNAMDINathalie Dupree? No, we have not.

  • 13:52:30

    BENWICKShe lives in Charleston. She's the doyen of southern cooking. I can't think of anybody who knows more about southern cooking than she. And I know that she's going to be in town for the inauguration, so you might want to get -- I would love to introduce you.

  • 13:52:43

    NNAMDIWe're making a note of it as we speak.

  • 13:52:45

    BENWICKYeah. She worked on this book for really half her life.

  • 13:52:50

    SWIFTIt's a tome.

  • 13:52:51

    BENWICKIt took six-and-a-half-years, "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." She's explaining where, you know, Captain's Chicken came from. She -- one of the -- we've run a couple of recipes from the book, Frozen Fruit Salad, you get to find out who came up with it, and her voice is in there too, which I love. You know, she'll mention it was her second favorite former husband who also liked this dish.

  • 13:53:12

    BENWICKAnd if you know her, you know, it sounds just like her. But, you know, I can't say enough good things about it. It was certainly a labor of love.

  • 13:53:19

    NNAMDIOnto Cathy in Annapolis, Md. Cathy, your turn.

  • 13:53:23

    CATHYWell, good afternoon. I love your show, and I just wanted to suggest quickly the tool that I use very often in my kitchen is actually a database called eatyourbooks.com.

  • 13:53:34

    SWIFTOh, I'm so curious about that.

  • 13:53:35

    BENWICKAwesome. Awesome.

  • 13:53:36

    SWIFTWill you tell us a little bit about that, because I've always wondered how people are doing with that.

  • 13:53:40

    NNAMDIYou just became a panelist on this show, Cathy. Go ahead.

  • 13:53:44

    CATHYWell, I really love it because when I get a new cookbook, I quickly go into the database and I put that onto my library shelf, and then whenever I've got something either in a grocery store, like blood oranges, for example, and I want to think of what I want to cook with it, or what I want to do with it, I can go in and I can load in blood oranges, I can put in salad, I can put in cilantro, and it will tell me which of my cookbooks has a salad that uses that.

  • 13:54:08

    CATHYThen I go to my shelf and I actually -- but, you know, we're not violating copyright, I can go ahead and I can pull that out and I can get new ways of using up leftovers, new ways of combining foods from my own library.

  • 13:54:20

    BENWICKThat's such a great idea.

  • 13:54:20

    SWIFTThat's such a great service, yeah. It's a really great idea.

  • 13:54:23

    BENWICKThe food section a year ago, you know, Joe's telling me we really ought to tap into this, and I think this is the year.

  • 13:54:30

    NNAMDICathy, thank you very much for your call and your recommendation. We move on to Daniel in Round Hill, Va. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:54:40

    DANIELGood afternoon, Kojo.

  • 13:54:41

    NNAMDIGood afternoon.

  • 13:54:42

    DANIELOne of my favorite tools in the kitchen is actually a little tool called an Ulu. It's made by the Alaskan natives and it's a rounded blade that comes with a cutting board that's awn-ed that has a kind of rounded indention in it, and it's perfect for like cutting herbs and garlic and stuff like that.

  • 13:55:02

    BENWICKUm-hum. So it's like a version of a Molcajete or something.

  • 13:55:07

    SWIFTNo. Actually, it's closer to a Mezzaluna. It's a little bit like that, but instead of having just a sort of rocker looking thing, it's sort of like a wedge -- like a pie wedge -- upside down pie wedge of steel with a handle. You know, there are beautiful ones that I've seen with, you know, wooden handles as well as the base that you use to chop on. They're really nice. I've seen them at, you know, the craft show, the Sugar Mountain Craft Show that comes to Montgomery County a couple times a year.

  • 13:55:34

    DANIELYeah. I got one for a gift, and when you first get it, you're like, what are you going to do with this thing, and try to cut fruit or something with it and it's not great for that. But you throw garlic in there, and it chops better than anything you can buy in like a supermarket or store.

  • 13:55:49

    SWIFTIt's pretty too.

  • 13:55:50

    BENWICKSounds great.

  • 13:55:50

    NNAMDIHey Daniel, thank you for your call. Sally, and if one is looking to really dive into the cuisine of a particular place, there's "Gran Cocina Latina." Tell us about that.

  • 13:56:00

    SWIFTWhich, talking about the southern tome, this is the first book. It's called -- It's written by Marisol Presilla who is an academic and a wonderful food writer. It is a tome about -- actually, I think the first book that really documents Latin American food. It is what, Bonnie, 900 pages?

  • 13:56:20

    BENWICKYeah.

  • 13:56:20

    SWIFTIt goes through -- it is a beautiful, beautiful piece of work. She, as well, her personality is all over this book which is a hard thing to do with a book of that length. Her recipes work. It's a beautiful piece of work. She worked years on it. Years and years and years.

  • 13:56:37

    BENWICKYeah. It finally answers questions like what's the difference between, you know, tamales in Salvador, as opposed to tamales...

  • 13:56:43

    SWIFTIn Mexico.

  • 13:56:44

    BENWICKYeah.

  • 13:56:44

    SWIFTExactly.

  • 13:56:45

    NNAMDIWell, a lot of the books on both of your lists zero in on either specific ingredients or techniques. Why do you think we're seeing this focus, and which are you excited about?

  • 13:56:55

    BENWICKWell, that's -- it struck me, you know, with the obvious exception of "Modern Cuisine at Home," and maybe the Bouchon Bakery book, the smaller books were sort of catching my eye this year. Something that's in the $30 range, not too -- it wasn't a big author year in terms of big names like (unintelligible) or Dorie Greenspan. But, you know, it has to do with the sort of cooking that you're really interested in.

  • 13:57:19

    BENWICKSo if you are immersed in that subject, if you're a baker, if, like you said, you want more recipes about vegetables, or if you're into a certain cuisine, then that's certainly the way to go.

  • 13:57:29

    SWIFTAlso the great book for me this year was this book called "The Art of Fermentation," which is again, another tome. That's my -- but written by a man named Sandor Katz, and it is literally a book about fermentation, and it tells you everything from how to cure olives, to making kimchi, to making soy sauce. It is incredibly well organized.

  • 13:57:51

    BENWICKBig year for making kombucha at home.

  • 13:57:52

    SWIFTIt's good -- good year for making kombucha at home, and this book is already so used in my house in six months, that...

  • 13:57:58

    NNAMDIYou can see all of Sally's and Bonnie's recommendations at our website, kojoshow.org, where you can also see the video of Derek Brown teaching me to make the perfect martini. But I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Bonnie Benwick is the interim food editor for the Washington Post. Bonnie, so good to see you again.

  • 13:58:16

    BENWICKYeah.

  • 13:58:16

    NNAMDIThank you for joining us. Sally Swift is the managing producer of "The Splendid Table," and she is also co-author of two cookbooks, "How to Eat Supper," and "How to Eat Weekends," with Lynne Rosetto Kasper. Always a pleasure.

  • 13:58:28

    SWIFTThank you.

  • 13:58:29

    NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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Thursday, Dec 18 2014Whether you like horror stories or cookbooks, poetry or works in translation, we consider a range of titles that will keep you turning pages. And we want to know what's on your reading list, so join the conversation on air or on our website to share the best book you've read this year.