Because you likely find most of your recipes online, you can be choosy when it comes to your bookshelf. These are the cookbooks with the recipes we’re most excited about; they’re beautiful, accessible, and prove the printed word isn’t dead after all.
The Book: “Manresa, an Edible Reflection”
The Authors: Chef David Kinch, who owns Los Gatos, California restaurant Manresa, with the help of Bon Appétit executive editor Christine Muhlke. Kinch was named Best Chef: Pacific by the James Beard Foundation and Manresa holds two Michelin stars; Muhlke worked on chef Eric Ripert’s “On the Line” and is currently focused on a book for Mexican restaurant Hartwood. A power duo, basically.
The Cuisine: Kinchian. We say this because Kinch’s approach to American cooking is truly unique. Kinch produces all of the vegetables, eggs, and honey he uses at Manresa alongside the farmers at nearby Love Apple Farms; the chef, says Bon Appétit, selects every seed. He doesn’t do this for political reasons, or so that his menu can boast its farm-to-tableness. He does it “so that I can have control over the vegetables used at the restaurant,” he writes. “Thanks to Love Apple Farms, our food tastes like nowhere else in the world.” It’s true, and it’s why Kinch’s dishes are difficult to recreate at home. He is also a particularly creative and experimental chef, which adds to that aspirational feeling of his book.
Why It’s Worthy: So why does a book that’s so difficult to cook from deserve a spot on the shelf? Because even if we can’t execute these recipes (and, oh, we will try), we like reading them. Following Kinch’s brain as it works out Cucumber Confit is like a seminar in modern American cuisine from the guy who created modern American cuisine, who also happens to be a poet. Peppered throughout the book are short essays about the butter Kinch uses, about the Pacific ocean, about his process building a menu—that’s true food nerd bait. And finally, the cover is moody and beautiful and will look good on your coffee table. (A shallow truth.)
Go-To Recipe: While we won’t attempt Kinch’s Strawberry Gazpacho and Fig Leaf Curd, we have made the Savory Granola below. And we continue to make it, not only because it’s next-level granola (easy enough, but sourcing the ingredients and frying the rice makes the product feel rare) and unexpected (granola with kelp powder?), but also because it’s versatile. You can sprinkle this stuff into salads, as pictured below, and use it as a garnish on fish or rice. If you go for it, here’s a bonus tip from Kinch: “The best tool one can buy for a kitchen now is a fifteen-dollar digital scale. A cup of flour weighs differently on a rainy day than a dry day. It’s that simple. Weighing all ingredients (including liquids!) is what’s done in every professional kitchen today. You will have to get used to it, and you will be surprised how easy it actually is.”
Serves 8 to 10
Grapeseed oil, for deep-frying, plus 145 grams (2/3 cup)
230 grams (11/2 cups) wild rice
120 grams (3/4 cup) raw pistachios
120 grams (3/4 cup) raw pine nuts
120 grams (3/4 cup) sunflower seeds
20 grams (2 tablespoons) nigella seeds
20 grams (2 tablespoons) white sesame seeds
3 grams (1 teaspoon) kelp powder
3 grams (1 teaspoon) piment d’Espelette
1 clove garlic, grated with a Microplane grater Grated zest of 1 lemon
80 grams (1/4 cup) glucose syrup, warmed
1. Heat a few inches of grapeseed oil to 375°F (190°C) in a deep saucepan. Line a tray with towels.
2. Fry the raw wild rice until the kernels pop. Drain the puffed rice on the lined tray and allow it to cool. Mix the rice with the nuts, seeds, kelp powder, and piment d’Espelette. Add the garlic and lemon zest and mix to combine thoroughly. Toss in the remaining 145 grams (2/3 cup) grapeseed oil and season to taste with salt.
￼￼￼￼￼￼3. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C) and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
4. Coat the granola mixture evenly with the warm glucose syrup and transfer to the lined sheet pan, spreading the granola into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing the granola and rotating the pan every 10 minutes.
Reprinted with permission from Manresa by David Kinch with Christine Muhlke, © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photography credit: Eric Wolfinger