Cooking the books: There is a Brooklyn cookbook for every taste

Cooking the books: There is a Brooklyn cookbook for every taste
Brooklyn for breakfast: A Brooklyn-penned cookbook is an ideal holiday gift for the family foodie.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Let it be said that 2013 was the year of the cookbook. And not just any cookbook — the Brooklyn cookbook.

Sure, recipe compilations from the borough’s restaurant scene have been popping up over the past few years. But this year, the publishing category has reached a fever pitch.

Just in time for the holidays, we bring you a definitive guide to this year’s best Brooklyn-born cookbooks, arranged thoughtfully, and a little cheekily, so you can decide which is best for you and yours.

Best food porn

“Franny’s: Simple, Seasonal, Italian”

Let’s face it, sometimes people buy cookbooks just for their coffee table. If that is your M.O., “Franny’s” fits the bill. The 135 color photographs by John von Pamer look good enough to eat — you can practically see the oil sizzling on top of the zucchini, buffalo mozzarella, and basil pizza. And, because the Prospect Heights hot-spot is a pizzeria, there are plenty more pie pictures and recipes to salivate over. Just don’t get any on the book.

Most illegal recipe

“Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey”

In its chapter on how to make whiskey, the Kings County Distillery’s “Guide to Urban Moonshining” cuts to the chase: “So, you want to break the law, or you would be skipping this chapter.” Indeed, making spirituous alcohol at home is a crime, even if it is just for personal consumption. Still, for the curious out there, authors Colin Spoelman and David Haskell spill the beans on how to create the brown stuff. The founders of the Brooklyn Navy Yard distillery also provide a note on safety, too, because in addition to being illegal, moonshining is also pretty dangerous.

Cleverest recipe

“Robicelli’s; A Love Story, With Cupcakes”

Bay Ridge’s Robicelli’s Bakery creates inspired cupcakes. The 50 featured in Allison and Matt Robicelli’s new cookbook include recipes inspired by the four Golden Girls and an intriguing chicken and waffles combo. But in a cookbook chock-full of crafty recipes, the cleverest may be the “car bomb” — comprised of chocolate Guinness stout cake, Jameson whiskey ganache, and Baileys buttercream. Best of all? It won’t give you a nasty hangover.

Best design

“Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook”

The Mast brothers make chocolate that is as distinctive as it is delicious, thanks to their trademark trendy blue-and-white wrappers. Fans will get a knowing kick out of the Williamsburg chocolate makers’ cookbook, which sports a jacket that looks like one of their chocolate bars. It is a beautifully constructed book overall, with signature custom paper designs showing up throughout and gorgeous photographs, which tell the story of Rick and Michael Mast’s bean-to-bar craft chocolate, alongside recipes for classic American desserts.

Most locally-sourced

“The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book”

To make one of the more than 60 original pies in this cookbook from the popular Gowanus pie shop — such as green chili chocolate and the ever-popular salted caramel apple — sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen recommend going local. That means cream from the nearest creamery, farm-fresh eggs, fresh butter, and local fruits. Canned fruit does not count, they say — “unless you canned it yourself.”

Most obscure ingredients

“Pok Pok”

Expect to become very familiar with New York’s Asian markets if you want to recreate the northern Thai specialties in Andy Ricker’s cookbook, taken from the kitchens of his Pok Pok restaurants, including the Cobble Hill outpost. You will need Pandan leaves, yellow turmeric root, fresh Thai chiles, dried Indonesian long pepper, galangal, and bottled products such as plaa raa fermented fish sauce to make Ricker’s recipes — not to mention a carbon steel wok, sticky rice steamer, clay pot, and a noodle basket.

Best “about us”


How did a pizza shop in the middle of Bushwick become one of the hottest restaurants in the city? Roberta’s traces those roots throughout its colorful cookbook, while providing recipes for its innovative pizzas. Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker gives these guys a run for their money when it comes to compelling story-telling, but Roberta’s is a hometown success story, which makes it all the more sweet.

Most seasonal

“66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life”

This cookbook wasn’t born out of a restaurant, but someone’s backyard. The 66 square feet in question refers to food blogger Marie Viljoen’s Cobble Hill terrace, where she grows whatever happens to be in season. What she does not harvest from her garden, Viljoen finds alongside the Hudson and East rivers, in Prospect Park’s meadow, the greens of Green-Wood Cemetery, and at farmers markets. In “66 Square Feet,” there are 12 seasons a year, not four.

Most Brooklyn

“Brooklyn Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from Coney Island to Brooklyn Heights”

For a cookbook featuring a smorgasbord of the borough’s best dishes, look no further than “Brooklyn Chef’s Table.” Food writer Sarah Zorn (formerly The Brooklyn Paper’s very own “Foodie-in-Chief”) provides a sample-platter of Brooklyn’s diverse restaurant scene with more than 70 recipes, including Shelsky’s smoked whitefish chowder, Brooklyn Farmacy’s butter beer egg cream, and L&B Spumoni Gardens’ Sardinian-style shrimp. It is Brooklyn told through food.

All cookbooks are available at Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246–0200, www.greenlightbookstore.com].

Cooking up Christmas: Annie Trizna, offsite sales coordinator at Fort Greene’s Greenlight Bookstore, holds some of our favorite Brookyn-penned cookbooks from the past year.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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