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The Top 10 Cookbooks of 2011: Texas Edition

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This is neither a list of the all-time best cookbooks of the year, nor is it a list of the best Texan cookbooks of the year. It's a combination of both. Because odds are that if you're giving a cookbook as a gift this year, it's either going to be to a fellow Texan or because you're a Texan looking to spread the gospel of our own great cooking.

So this list has a little something for everyone on it: Texans, non-Texans and everyone in between (that's you, Oklahoma).

10. Green Beans & Guacamole

Like another book coming up on this list, Green Beans & Guacamole is just as perfect for the coffee table as the kitchen. Beautiful photos from some of the city's best food photographers -- Shannon O'Hara, Debora Smail and Julie Soefer -- are featured alongside recipes from its favorite chefs. Look for Jamie Zelko, Mark Cox, Philippe Schmit, John Sheely, Richard Knight and Soren Pedersen among others. As an added bonus, 100 percent of the proceeds from every cookbook purchased go to benefit The Arc, an organization dedicated to helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

9. Entice With Spice

This Indian cookbook by local author Shubhra Ramineni technically came out late last year, but we're not sticklers around here. The subtitle of her cookbook is "Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People," so it's perfect for your Indian food lover that's always on the go but still wants to learn to create authentic Indian dishes in what little spare time they have.

8. Houston Classic series

Erin Hicks Miller has released a trifecta of classic Houston cookbooks that capture some of the city's most beloved recipes from favorite restaurants past and present. Houston Classic Mexican Recipes, Houston Classic Desserts and Houston Classic Seafood collect all these recipes together in bright, fun packages with full-color photos and fun anecdotes for each one.

7. Plenty

This vegetarian cookbook has been on plenty (pardon the pun) of best cookbook lists this year, and with good reason. Famous Israeli-born London chef and author Yotam Ottolenghi treats vegetables with as much care and curiosity and enthusiasm that it's infectious. Try reading even one chapter -- The Mighty Aubergine, for example -- without wanting to run to the store and get to work in your kitchen immediately after.

6. Lone Star Chefs

Houston's own John DeMers, host of Delicious Mischief and author of more than 30 books, has teamed up with another local hotshot -- photographer Julie Soefer -- to create a coffee table-size cookbook that's both a chronicle of Texas food history and current trends. Intent on dispelling the notion that Texas cuisine is all barbecue and Tex-Mex, DeMers visits with chefs from Fort Worth to Marfa and collects their favorite recipes along the way. Local legends like Robert Del Grande, Monica Pope and Scott Tycer are featured alongside grand Texas chefs like Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles.

5. The Art of Living According to Joe Beef

Here's a cookbook for the gentleman in your life who both subscribes to magazines like Esquire and has a CSA share from his local urban gardening plot. The chefs behind Montreal's popular Joe Beef have created a book as striking, cheeky (witness the book's subtitle: "A Cookbook of Sorts") and eruditely masculine as their food itself, with recipes like Kale for a Hangover or Foie Gras Breakfast Sandwich -- all made from local meats and produce, of course.

4. Ruhlman's Twenty

Packaged together with Ratio -- author and chef Michael Ruhlman's equally indispensible cookbook from last year (also a great iPhone app, if that's more your speed) -- this would make a perfect gift for any no-nonsense, common sense-driven, at-home chef for whom cooking is as much a cerebral pursuit as a creative outlet. (You could throw in some Harold McGee, too, but that's a post for another day.) The photography in Ruhlman's Twenty is stunning, and the step-by-step approach makes it ideal for visual learners without dumbing down any of the vital cooking techniques Ruhlman imparts in his latest book.

3. The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Is there a person in existence who is not charmed by author and food blogger Lisa Fain? As the title of the book implies, this cookbook assembles the recipes that Fain has created and perfected over years of living in New York City while terribly homesick for the Lone Star State's singular foods, from enchiladas to chili. Her legions of blog readers swear by the recipes, which are simple, straightforward and deeply evocative of home -- perfect for any homesick Texan in your own life.

2. Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch

I'll admit to being a sucker for absolutely anything Nigel Slater writes. His autobiography, Toast, was one of only two food bios that's made me outright weep; the man is a gloriously beautiful writer. His latest cookbook takes on the concept of a modern victory garden, one in which Slater grows his own vegetables -- despite not needing to, as he points out -- and kindly, gently re-introduces readers to the simple joys of tending to and cooking your own, homegrown food.

1. Essential Pepin

Speaking of a good cry... Pepin's autobiography, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, would be the other tear-jerker I mentioned above. (Packaging it together with this massive cookbook would make an excellent two-fer gift, I'm just saying.) The Essential Pepin collects more than 700 recipes from Pepin's awe-inspiring 60-year career, functioning almost as a pared-down, clean and simplified counterpart to frequent collaborator Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking tomes.

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