Spring Menus are a Cinch With Fine Cooking Annual Cookbooks

I am a huge fan of Fine Cooking Magazine. There are always exciting items to try and I've centered more than one dinner party around their dishes - to rave reviews, I might add!

So discovering that there are Fine Cooking Annual Cookbooks is like having a personal chef and menu/party planner right in the comfort of your own home!

There are 3 volumes to choose from, which you can purchase individually or as a set. Each volume contains a year of great recipes, tips and techniques. And I think that's what sets these cookbooks, as well as the magazine, apart. They offer up intriguing recipes, while showing you the techniques involved with instructive photos along the way. So it's not as oblique as Gourmet could be and not as textbook-y as America Test Kitchen's mag.

Volume 1 has lovely, fresh recipes that are perfect for spring (vibrant salads, fresh seafood) and some of the best tips. Did you know that for even onion slices, you should use a radial cut? I didn't know what that was either until I saw it (page 50). I will use the tip on page 69 of warming the vinaigrette before drizzling it over my warm salad from now on. And miso keeps for a year if sealed well and refrigerated? If only I'd known! It's these kinds of small tips that actually change the way you cook, the way you eat for the rest of your life. And of course the recipes are fabulous: Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup with Almonds, Creamy Tomato & Fennel Chicken, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey, Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Steak, Argentine-Style Burger, Farmhouse Ragout with Pesto and Mexican-Style Pecan-Chocolate Squares.

In Volume 2 (a signed edition is also available), we go international and learn to make Pork Shiu Mai, Pan-Fried Halloumi with Fennel, Olive and Mint Compote, Fregola with Grill-Marinated Red Peppers & Zucchini, Smoked Paprika & Fennel Seed Roast Turkey with Onion Gravy, Carrots with Curry-Yogurt Sauce and Kahlua Truffle Triangle. I love the tips on how to do a tapas buffet at home, stock your Spanish pantry, preserve lemons, what Treviso is (I didn't know either!), 7 different types of basil and various kinds of steak.

Good luck not drooling over the recipes and photos in Volume 3!  Here are just a few delicacies to whet your appetite: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Apricots, Carrot Salad with Walnut Oil and Honey, Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Bacon & Onions & Peas,Salmon Braised in Pinot Noir, Lime Chicken with Poblano Sour Cream, Rack of Lamb with Ancho-Honey Glaze, Ham Bone Collards and Earl Grey Creme Brulee. And thanks to this volume, I know how to turn a salmon steak into a medallion, make my own gravlax and calibrate my instant-read thermometer.

Mealtime just got a whole lot more exciting.

Stephanie Dickison

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