With The Scarpetta Cookbook, Scott Conant, celebrity chef and creator of Scarpetta, a many-starred New York restaurant with affiliates in four other cities, offers you the chance to recreate 125 of his acclaimed signature recipes. Some are simple, like Warm Olives with Garlic and Herbs; others are truly worth the effort, like Sausage-Stuffed Fried Olives Ascolane. There are dishes with many components that take planning. Go for the whole thing, or just choose the parts you can’t resist. The instructions are designed for home cooks, but not simplified. What you make will reflect Conant’s quest for “sophisticated yet soulful” flavors.

CALIFORNIA CUISINE
Manresa, an elegant restaurant nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and its chef/owner, David Kinch, are California cool and red-hot (dining destination-hot, not jalapeƱo-hot). Kinch’s devotion to perfection and to food that creates a deep sense of place has made him one of the most celebrated chefs in the country and a practitioner par excellence of using world-class local products seasonally. His gorgeously illustrated debut cookbook, Manresa: An Edible Reflection, is as much a “lookbook” as it is a cookbook. It’s a great gift for foodies, wannabes and serious ponderers of “modernista” cuisine. These are not easy, everyday recipes—just consider a Tartine of Unripe Tomato, Nori and Duck Liver, Sesame. So, read, dream and cook what you can.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME
To Kelly Alexander, all hometown food is special, but “Southern hometown food is extraordinary.” With the aid and expertise of Southern Living and their top-notch test kitchens, she’s collected the best hometown recipes from six Southern regions, from the Gulf Coast to the Appalachian Mountains, in Southern Living No Taste Like Home. This is real food from real folks—chefs and celebrities included. Just one bite of Watts Grocery-Style Spoon Bread, Texas-Style Barbecued Beef Brisket, Lowcountry Red Rice, Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Pie or a Crab Cake Hush Puppy is guaranteed to take you home again, wherever you’re from. Along with solid cooking instructions, this book shares lots of local lore and colorful Southern characters.

TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
Sweet treats are welcome anytime, but they’re super-special for holiday parties and presents. So the arrival of Valerie Gordon’s Sweet is sweet, indeed. The 115 recipes, adorned with 120 eat-the-page-luscious photographs, range from sumptuous pedestal cakes, “everyday plate cakes” that are anything but everyday, pies, tarts, cookies and bars to divine chocolates and confections, soft desserts served in bowls, jams, marmalades and breakfast goodies. Silken Winter Luxury Pie or Tiramisu Trifle for Christmas dinner? Champagne Cake for New Year’s Eve? Raspberry Truffles in gaily wrapped gift boxes? A feather-light Carrot Cake for your next birthday party? Sophisticated, grown-up winners, all; you can’t go wrong.

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