Time is running out to finish your shopping and get the gifts under the tree. If you’re still searching for presents, you’re likely facing one of two challenges: Either your list contains hard-to-buy-for people or you like to procrastinate.

I can relate to both.

While I don’t have much help to offer in the procrastination department (other than the observation that deadlines provide excellent motivation), I do have suggestions for those folks on your list who already have everything. Why not give the gift that keeps giving: A book about food?

Throughout the year, I’ve written about a couple of excellent food books from Mainers, including Lisa Turner’s “Eat Local Cookbook” and Matthew Kenney’s “Everyday Raw Express.” What follows are my picks for the best health food books of 2011 from non-Maine writers:



“Tomatoland,” by Barry Estabrook (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99): This book is guaranteed to fire up anyone concerned about the corporate takeover of food.

Written by a James Beard Award-winning journalist, the book sheds light on the destructive Florida industry, which supplies fresh tomatoes to supermarkets and restaurants from October to June. It discusses why Florida tomatoes are lacking in flavor and seriously lacking in nutrition.

But that’s not the worst of it: Estabrook details the chemical arsenal employed by these industrial farms to get tomatoes to grow in a climate not well-suited to this fruit, and addresses the plight of the workers exposed to those chemicals.



“Super Natural Every Day” by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press, $23): Filled with gorgeous photos and descriptive prose, this cookbook is a celebration of sourcing, cooking and eating whole foods. Swanson is the author of the “101 Cookbooks” blog, and she brings a sense of adventure and wonder to her recipes.

The meat-free dishes she serves up in this cookbook cover all three daily meals, plus snacks, drinks and treats. Also on offer is an in-depth discussion of how to stock a pantry with the least-processed ingredients.

The resulting recipes mix a rustic style with a cosmopolitan sensibility to produce simple yet mouth-watering offerings such as millet muffins, chickpeas and dandelion greens, spinach strata, black pepper tempeh, little quinoa patties, chanterelle tacos and tutti-fruity crumble.



“Candle 79 Cookbook” by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos & Jorge Pineda (Ten Speed Press, $30): In a city filled with vegan restaurants, Candle 79 is a consistent stand-out in New York City’s plant-based dining scene. Now vegans can bring this upscale cuisine into their own kitchens.

The restaurant’s crowd-pleasing recipes on offer in the book include such tempting treats as Jerusalem artichoke soup with crispy sage leaves, stuffed avocado with quinoa pilaf and chipotle-avocado dressing, live lasagna, nori-and sesame-encrusted seitan and butternut squash, mushroom and sage crepes.

“Vegan Holiday Kitchen” by Nava Atlas (Sterling, $24.95): For both hosts and guests, holidays can present a challenge when not everyone follows the same dietary persuasion. This book solves the problem for the vegans in the crowd with plant-based twists on traditional eats for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Easter and Independence Day.

Look for recipes such as smashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, black rice with corn and cranberries, vegan matzo balls, vegan challah, lemony asparagus risotto, citrus-roasted tofu, and grilled pizzas with tapenade and chard.



“Gluten-Free on a Shoestring” by Nicole Hunn (Da Capo Lifelong Books, $19): Eating gluten-free can be a pricey proposition, particularly if you’re buying prepared or packaged foods. Hunn responds with a whole foods approach to gluten-free cooking that utilizes many money-saving tips (buy in bulk, use coupons, cook in advance, etc.).

Most of the recipes are for breads and baked goods, including pizza dough, wonton wrapers, apple-cinnamon toaster pastries, focaccia and sweet potato biscuits. However, the cookbook also includes savory dishes such as lo mein, chicken pot pie, tortilla soup, lentil sloppy Joes and crispy Asian-style tofu.



“75 Remarkable Fruits for Your Garden” by Jack Staub (Gibbs Smith, $19.95): First, a confession: This book wasn’t published in 2011 or even 2010. It came out in 2007. But I didn’t discover it until early this year, and it’s such a treasure, I had to share it.

A hardcover tome with gorgeous illustrations by Ellen Buchert, the book mixes historical anecdotes, nutritional information and cultivation advice to provide captivating portraits of 75 fruit trees, shrubs and vines suitable for the home gardener.

Many of the varieties profiled will be familiar, while others, such as honeyberries, Cornelian cherries, plumcots and huckleberries, will present new and exciting challenges for the avid gardener. It’s just the sort of reading that will warm the heart of a green thumb on a cold winter’s night.


Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila