My favorite cookbooks of 2012: the first installment

Lori Midson

It's incredibly difficult to do justice to the thousands of remarkable cookbooks published in 2012, but after spending days -- weeks -- roaming through the recipes and lush food porn of hundreds of them, I've picked out my favorites. These are the cookbooks that stock my selves at home, and the cookbooks that are on my holiday shopping list for my favorite foodniks. My syllabus of top picks represents just about every kind of cook, from the meat junkie to root vegetable fiends. I've split the list into three parts, the second and third of which will run later this week.

The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux, by Paul Virant and Kate Leahy. $29.99; hardcover; 304 pages. Some of the recipes are time-consuming, and the majority aren't written for a novice cook, but if you're one of those ambitious people who's obsessed with the seasonal process of canning, pickling and preserving, then there's no better cookbook on the shelves. The recipes are clearly written, the photography is nothing short of stunning, and there's enough inspiration in here to keep you in the kitchen year-round.

Lori Midson
Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales: Flavors from the griddles, pots, and street-side kitchens of Mexico, by Roberto Santibañez. $19.99; hardcover; 224 pages. The salsa recipes alone are worth the (inexpensive) splurge, but Santibañez, who was born in Mexico City and is now the chef/owner of Fonda restaurant in New York, wonderfully explores the heart and soul of Mexico, delving into street foods -- cactus tacos, hot dog tortas and carnitas -- and dispensing the best recipe for tamales that I've seen in years. The dishes are relatively easy to prepare, with detailed instructions, and the snapshots, which range from tortillerias to chicarron carts, are kaleidoscopic eye candy. There's also a helpful glossary of Mexican food terms.

Lori Midson
SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine, by Shelley Lindgren, Matthew Accarrino and Kate Leahy. $35; hardcover; 304 pages. Author Kate Leahy, Shelley Lindgren, co-owner and wine prowess of San Francisco restaurants A16 and SPQR, and executive chef of SPQR, Matthew Accarrino, have written an elegant, meaningful cookbook that reads, in parts, like an Italian travelogue through the smaller food and wine regions of Northern and Central Italy. The narrative, interspersed with sophisticated, well-written recipes, tips and techniques and lovely photographs, makes you wistful for a plane ticket. The recipes aren't for the faint of heart, and the ingredients might take some time to procure, but if you're a proponent of authentic Italian -- and have the patience to spend a Sunday afternoon cooking -- then it's worth adding to your collection.

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Thousands of remarkable cookbooks?!? Really? Thousands of - not just cookbooks - but remarkable cookbooks? Embarrassing statement. 

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