The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
, by Deb Perelman. $35; hardcover; 336 pages. Food blogger Deb Perelman isn't a chef, and by her own admittance, she's never worked in a restaurant, but her cookbook, the recipes of which she tested multiple times in her own kitchen, are blissfully accessible to even the most novice home cook, which isn't to say that they're dumbed down -- but they are down to earth, organized and easy to follow (and more important, they work), and she sprinkles each recipe with stories, wit and humor, while simultaneously offering suggestions on ingredient substitutions and tips to keep things simple. The photography is gorgeous, too. In a word: smitten.
Jerusalem: A Cookbook
, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. $35; hardcover; 320 pages. Both authors of this exquisite cookbook were born in Jerusalem -- they now own several restaurants in London -- and their exotic tome, which encompasses a collection of fascinating recipes, is not only a carnivore's bliss, but also a vegetarian's paradise, thanks to a large number of recipes (none of which are ordinary, including the hummus) devoted to fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. The explosive flavor combinations are unbelievably well-balanced, and each recipe is complemented by a short description of the origin of the dish or, in some cases, a personal flashback from Ottolenghi or Tamimi. Some of the ingredients require trips to a local Mid East market, but if you don't want to explore, they offer plenty of workable replacements.