8 cookbooks from Madison area authors to gift this holiday season

These cookbooks from restaurateurs, bloggers, food writers and other local culinarians feature recipes that feel like odes to Madison’s history, tastes and traditions.
eight Madison cookbooks on shelves

Photo by Chris Hynes

Gift like a local so your recipient can cook like a local. These cookbooks from restaurateurs, bloggers, food writers and other local culinarians feature recipes that feel like odes to Madison’s history, tastes and traditions.

“Ella’s Deli & Ice Cream Parlor ‘Not Your Last Taste’ Recipes & Recollections” by Ken and Judy Balkin
It’s hard saying goodbye to any local business with a long history. Ella’s Deli & Ice Cream Parlor closed three years ago after 42 years, but now former owners Ken and Judy Balkin are ready to revive some memories and reveal some secrets. Filled with classic Ella’s Deli recipes, the 62-page book features old news articles and photographs spanning its time in Madison. Get lost in the pages as you sift through some favorite and familiar recipes, including matzo ball soup, kugel, cheesecake, chocolate cake and pound cake. The Balkins’ book, which is distributed by AlphaGraphics Madison, sold out in two days after the first printing.

“Madison Chefs: Stories of Food, Farms, and People” by Lindsay Christians, photos by Chris Hynes
Anyone in touch with the local food scene will likely recognize the name Lindsay Christians from her Cap Times bylines. But people may not know the food editor and arts reporter is also a “cookbook nerd” who is making her author debut with “Madison Chefs: Stories of Food, Farms, and People.” The book, which profiles nine chefs and includes 28 recipes, provides a behind-the-scenes snapshot of Madison’s modern food scene. “I was really encouraged by not only the passion of everyone in this book, but also their willingness to try things, and I hope that’s something Madison restaurant culture continues to take,” she says.

“Kitchen Chemistry: A Food Science Cookbook” by Andrea Debbink, illustrations by Emily Balsley
Get the kids involved with cooking through this new book produced by Middleton-based American Girl. With food science insights, stories and 30-plus recipes in this cookbook, author Andrea Debbink proves cooking can be fun and educational. Discover how to make “the chewiest chocolate chip cookie” or how to perfect smoothies. All it takes is some curiosity, creativity and chemistry. Kid-friendly tips are sprinkled throughout. As Debbink writes, “The kitchen is a place where art meets science.” Anything is possible if you’re willing to tie your apron strings and experiment in the kitchen.

“The Wisconsin Restaurant Cookbook” presented by Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market
A cookbook is a good gift for any holiday, and it’s a bonus when all the proceeds go to a good cause. In celebration of community, hope and restaurant recovery, OnMilwaukee partnered with Pick ‘n Save, Metro Market and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. to compile more than 40 recipes from Wisconsin chefs. Sales from the cookbook benefit local restaurants. The recipes come from all around Wisconsin, including from a few Madison restaurateurs. Get the recipe for Morris Ramen’s honey bourbon cake, Taigu’s house-made dan dan noodles, the pork lettuce wraps from Heritage Tavern and Mint Mark’s braised pork shoulder with white beans and salsa verde.

“A Healthy Balance: In Life and In the Kitchen” by Shannon Burrs
When Shannon Burrs’ cookbook, “A Healthy Balance: In life and In the Kitchen,” first went to print, an ingredient was missing in her “Skinny Banana Muffin” recipe — ironically in her chapter “Mistakes and Endurance.” It was corrected, but she feels like it was meant to be. Burrs’ cookbook focuses on growth and in her own words, “being mindful with our daily choices while still enjoying the simple pleasures in life.” This book includes inspirational quotes and exclusive recipes, along with favorite posts from her blog, “Faith Food Farm.”

“Manna Café and Bakery Cookbook” by Barb Pratzel
A wave of sadness rolled over the Madison community when Barb and Mike Pratzel announced the closing of Manna Café and Bakery, which had a 15-year run. But a silver lining can be found in the form of Barb Pratzel’s new cookbook-memoir, which features more than 150 recipes satisfying for both beginners and pros. With 35 combined years in the industry, the Pratzels ran the Collins House Bed and Breakfast before starting their beloved neighborhood bakery and cafe, where people lined up to try an oatmeal pancake, sticky bun or pumpkin chocolate chip muffin. In her book, Pratzel keeps the memory of Manna alive through kitchen insights, personal stories and recipes.

“Grounded: Conscious Plant-Based Cuisine” by Lauren Montelbano
Decades of research show how diet affects mental and physical well-being, but personal relationships with food also matter. Former Surya Cafe Head Chef Lauren Montelbano, whose cookbook is full of plant-based and gluten-free recipes, knows this firsthand. Montelbano runs The Vibrant Veg, a plant-based business offering meal planning, catering, nutrition consultations and private cooking classes. Drawn to the creative freedom of cooking, Montelbano aims to help people incorporate nutrient-dense foods into their diets. Her book includes recipes for entrees, desserts, beverages, salads, snacks and dressings. Go fancy and make a vegan fig rosemary balsamic cheesecake, or start easy by roasting Brussels sprouts with shiitake mushroom “bacon” and pecan Parmesan.

“Baking Without” by Heidi Rozeske, photos by Ruthie Hauge
For anyone with a gluten intolerance, biting into a warm baguette feels like an impossible dream. Yet Heidi Rozeske, author of “Baking Without,” engineered a solution. When she looks for inspiration on what to work on next, she asks her gluten-eating friends, “If you had to eliminate gluten from your diet, what would you miss the most?” Then she gets to work. Rozeske’s cookbook includes a variety of recipes that taste as good as they sound, but it also serves as a guide for making sustainable, healthy changes without consuming gluten, dairy, soy, corn, yeast, nightshades, gums, refined sugars and more. “I see the difference the rhythm of healthy food makes for my own family, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share this with others,” she says.

Gaby Vinick is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

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