Since 1999, the Best American Recipe series has offered top yearly formulas from books, magazines, the Internet, and even product labels. The Best American Recipes 2002-2003, edited by series founder Fran McCullough with Molly Stevens, offers 150 doable recipes that range from starters to desserts and drinks. The selection embraces both the dressy and the down-home, ranging from, say, Porcini Mushroom and Red Onion Tart to Shrimp with Garlic and Toasted Bread Crumbs. Dessert stopovers include Butter Toffee Crunch Shortbread and Valentino's not-to-be missed Chocolate Truffle Cake.
Are these the year's best recipes? It doesn't really matter, as McCullough has cast her net wide and drawn in a diversely appetizing selection. With a section on the year in food (sage, for example, is dubbed the herb cooks wanted "more than a little of lately"); headnotes that put the recipes in context ("New riffs on guacamole seems to spring up every year," say the authors in respect to Guacamole with Lemon and Roasted Corn); and Cook's Notes that make the recipes even more useful ("you can extend the marinating ... it will only add to the flavor," advise the authors of Pork Stew with Leeks, Orange, and Mint), the book is a something-for-everyone addition to a welcome tradition. Readers will also enjoy the foreword from Kitchen Confidential author Anthony Bourdain, which ends with a characteristic injunction to "cook free or die." --Arthur Boehm [via]