Napa is becoming almost as famous for its food as its wine, but it has another distinction, too: Probably more cookbook authors per capita than any comparable place in the United States.
A number of our local authors have recently released interesting cookbooks. Here’s a look at some.
"100 Perfect Pairings"
Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love by Jill Silverman Hough
Jill Hough’s “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes To Enjoy With Wines You Love” takes the same contrarian approach as her earlier book, “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love.” She starts with the wine and creates main dishes that will complement it.
It’s the perfect book for the person who only drinks Napa cab, for example.
Featuring recipes for both casual dinners and entertaining, it presents 100 main dish recipes that pair with favorite wines like chardonnay (roast chicken with potatoes) and merlot (mixed mushroom pappardelle), as well as with newer varieties to most American wine drinkers like viognier (lobster tails with vanilla drawn butter) and syrah (ribeye steaks with green olive butter).
It is organized into 12 chapters — six for white wine varietals, six for red — and illustrated with 40 color photos.
The compact Wiley paperback contains 192 pages and costs $16.95 retail. The author’s website is JillHough.com.
"The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower's Guide"
Steve Sando's 50 Favorite Varieties" by Steve Sando
Steve Sando founded Rancho Gordo to save and popularize New World foods that are in danger of extinction as large food producers focus on a few marketable varieties.
Sando’s beans are sought after by famous chefs like Thomas Keller (Vallarta is his favorite), and he’s been profiled in publications such as Bon Appetit, Saveur and The New York Times.
His first book, “Heirloom Beans,” focused on recipes for the beans; this new one describes his passion and outlines a background on beans and their importance to the New World diet.
Beans differ surprisingly in flavor and Sando’s new book, “The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide,” profiles his 50 favorite varieties — from the silky flavor of Good Mother Stallard to the buttery Runner Cannellinis — along with growing tips, flavor notes, stories of their heritage and large color photographs that showcase the unique beauty of each bean.
He also tells how to grow them and cook them, and provides recipes for the beans, including contributions from local chefs and authors.
The 180-page Timber Press paperback is priced at $19.95.
by Cheryl Forberg
Hear “diet food” and your taste buds weep, but not if it’s prepared by Cheryl Forberg, a James Beard Award–winning chef; New York Times bestselling author who’s written more than 20 books; nutritionist for NBC’s “Biggest Loser” TV program; and Napa resident.
Unlike most registered dietitians, Forberg was trained as a chef and worked at Postrio. And unlike most chefs, she is a nutrition expert who has done research in the field.
She feels that one reason Americans keep gaining weight is that our taste buds have become accustomed to the intense (and artificial) flavors of highly processed foods that overwhelm our senses.
“We tend to crave extreme flavors and textures — salty, fried, sweet, creamy — so when we decide to lose weight by substituting grilled chicken for a hamburger, we’re not going to enjoy our food … and we’re unlikely to stick to our weight loss plan,” Forberg said.
Her cure is to create delicious and healthful foods that eliminate the need to mask food with high-calorie extras that can pile on the pounds without providing nutrition.
Her new “Flavor First” is subtitled “Cut Calories and Boost Flavor with 75 Delicious, All-Natural Recipes.” That tells it all. The book teaches the principles behind the dishes and the cornerstones to healthy eating and an appreciation of flavor, while the recipes include appealing color photos and easy-to-follow instructions. They’re also deceptive: She takes steps to reduce calories while maintaining full flavor, and it would be a rare person who would miss the fat.
The 214-page soft-cover Rodale Timber Press book costs $21.99.
Older cookbooks worth checking out
by Michael Chiarello
Some cookbooks are just about recipes. Chef Michael Chiarello’s “Bottega” is far more. With stories and photographs, he brings his family’s story and his southern Italian–inspired food to life.
The “Bottega” cookbook features 100 recipes for southern Italian food adapted to today’s California from Chiarello’s popular restaurant in Yountville.
It’s marketed to the home cook and entertainer who enjoys cooking as well as eating, and some of the recipes are fairly demanding, though many others are more accessible.
As befits a coffee table cookbook of this caliber, “Bottega” contains more than 120 mouth-watering photographs of the food.
In addition to chef Chiarello being from Napa Valley, co-author Claudia Sansone is also a Napan.
The large Chronicle Books cookbook is 224 pages and costs $40.
Rustic Family Cooking from Italy's Undiscovered South by Rosetta Costantino and Janet Fletcher
Napa resident Janet Fletcher is probably best known locally for her cheese column in the San Francisco Chronicle and her books on cheese and food from farmers markets, but she’s written more than 20 cookbooks.
One of her newest is a collaboration with Calabria native Rosetta Costantino, southern Italian wine expert Shelley Lindgren and photographer Sara Remington about the food — and Costantino’s memories — of the “toe” of the Italian boot.
Calabria is a beautiful, mountainous region little known or visited, but populated by fishermen and small farmers who have a distinct culinary tradition. It is best known, in fact, for its love of fiery food such as Calabrese sausage red with chilis, often called hot Italian sausage here.
Rosetta Costantino grew up in this rugged landscape. Her father was a shepherd and winemaker and her mother his assistant.
When her family emigrated to California, they created a little Calabria on their property in Oakland, cooking with eggplant, tomatoes and peppers from their garden, fresh ricotta made from scratch and pasta fashioned by hand.
As Calabria is a poor region, Calabrese are master preservers, transforming fresh figs into jam, canning fresh tuna in oil and sun-drying peppers for the winter.
This beautiful new book is more than a cookbook, however. In gorgeous photos and interesting anecdotes, Costantino relates her family’s story and introduces readers to the fiery simplicity of Calabrian food.
As Americans learn more about regional Italian cooking, this first popular cookbook from the region is a great addition to the food enthusiast’s armory.
The 416 page W.W. Norton & Company hardback retails for $35.
"Ad Hoc at Home"
by Thomas Keller
Although better known for his restaurants The French Laundry and Bouchon on a national scene, chef Thomas Keller also offers locals comfort food at Ad Hoc in Yountville.
And while the cookbooks based on the food at the fancier restaurants can be complex and intimidating for all but the most skilled and determined home cook, “Ad Hoc at Home” contains more than 200 family-style recipes that almost anyone can make.
In this book, Keller shows that he’s a master of simpler fare, too. It features the American comfort foods closest to his heart, like flaky biscuits, chicken pot pies, New England clam bakes, potato hash with bacon and melted onions, grilled cheese sandwiches, beef Stroganoff, roasted leg of lamb and cherry pies.
In fun, full-color photographs, the great chef gives step-by-step lessons in kitchen basics such as how to shape a perfect hamburger, truss a chicken and dress a salad.
Best of all, “Ad Hoc at Home” is filled with quick and easy recipes suitable for both novices and experienced cooks.
The 359-page cookbook from Artisan Books retails at $50.
Chile and Cheese Pie
Jill Hough, “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love”
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 small red onion, halved and cut into 1/2-inch slices
Pastry dough for one 11-inch tart or 9-inch deep-dish pie, homemade or store-bought
3 large eggs
1 cup creme fraiche
1/2-cup heavy whipping cream
One 8-ounce package shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese blend
One 7-ounce can whole green chiles, drained and cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
Special equipment: 9-inch deep-dish pie pan (1-1/2 inches deep)
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 13-inch circle. Fit the dough into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Trim the excess to a 1-inch overhang, then fold the overhang under and shape a decorative rim. Using a fork, pierce the bottom of the pastry all over. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the chilled pie shell on a baking sheet and line the shell with foil and pie weights. Bake until the pastry is set and pale gold along the rim, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche, and cream. Stir in the cheese, chiles, and salt. Stir in the bell peppers and onions.
Carefully remove the foil and weights from the shell (leave the oven on). Pour in the egg mixture and bake until the top is golden and the center is set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the pie stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Pair with rosé.
Amber Ginger Ale
Cheryl Forberg, “Flavor First”
Makes 3 cups syrup, or 12 10-ounce drinks.
3 cups water
8 ounces unpeeled fresh ginger, grated in a food processor
1/2-cup agave nectar
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Ginger Syrup (above)
2 quarts chilled sparkling water
To make the syrup: In a 1-1/2-quart saucepan, bring the water and ginger to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve and pour into a 1-quart jar. Stir in the agave nectar, lime juice, and vanilla extract. Let cool. Store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
To make ginger ale: To make a pitcherful, combine the syrup and sparkling water in a 2-1/2 to 3-quart pitcher. Add ice and stir. For a single serving, add 1/4-cup ginger syrup to 8 ounces sparkling water.
Traditional Baked Beans
Steve Sando, “The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide”
1 pound Vermont Cranberry beans, soaked and drained, liquid reserved
1/4 pound high-quality, lean applewood smoked bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup molasses
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a 2-quart bean pot or ceramic casserole, sauté the bacon pieces over medium heat until fat begins to render. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add the onion and sauté until softened but not browned, 6-8 minutes.
Add the brown sugar, mustard, black pepper, and molasses to the onion and bacon mixture and cook until well combined.
Add drained beans and stir until well combined. Add enough of the soaking liquid to cover the beans.
Bake covered in oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Check periodically to make sure that the beans are covered with liquid, adding more as necessary. Do not stir, to avoid breaking the beans apart.