I am compiling a list of the best Southwest cookbooks to give as gifts (for denvergreenchili.com), so I thought I had better come up with the criteria for evaluating a cookbook. I came up with this list, but I find I’m not always sticking with it. Please give your input!
Here are the characteristics I look for:
1. A theme: recipes from a particular restaurant, culture, or locale. Lowfat or high-fiber. 30-minute meals or cooking for two. Possible themes are endless.
2. Good basic recipes. I expect a Southwestern cookbook to have chili verde, salsas, guacamole, enchiladas, tortilla soup, etc.
3. Interesting, imaginative and unusual recipes.
4. Easy-to-prepare recipes. When a recipe can be made in 30 minutes and uses easy-to-find ingredients, I’m inclined to try it right away.
5. Colorful pictures. Seeing gets the taste buds interested.
6. Recipe descriptions. Commentary on how popular the dish is, what it goes with, how good it is as a leftover, etc. brings the recipe to life before you even try it.
7. Basic how-to information. What the less common ingredients are and where to buy them, how to use the tools needed, etc.
8. Entertaining, informative commentary. The author’s philosophy or story, history of a dish or cuisine, and anecdotes or legends about a dish all add color and make for great reading. When you can sit down and read a cookbook for fun, you have something memorable.
What do you look for? Did I miss something?
Since I started the “Denver Green Chili Recipe of the Week” in September, 2007, my priorities have shifted. I no longer scout wide varieties of cookbooks for interesting recipes. I now stick to the wonderful cookbooks that offer solid basics along with interesting recipes well-presented. The great cookbooks hit home run after home run and are entertaining reading to boot. My list of the best Southwest cookbooks keeps growing, but you can view the current list and reviews at denvergreenchili.com/books.aspx
Do you have any special books I should add?