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This has been a phenomenal year for cookbooks — books that inspired us to get into the kitchen. For baking cakes, making cocktails, eating more vegetables, planning parties, exploring the world. We dove into Japanese and Vietnamese vegetarian recipes, Nigerian home cooking, Iranian yogurt making, Mexican grilling, Roman Jewish frying and more.
If you are looking for a holiday gift, there's a book here for every kind of cook, whether a pastry lover, pasta maker, bread baker or someone who's just facing the perpetual question: What to do with leftovers?
Here are the standout books that made their way onto our shelves.
Capturing the Flavor of Los Angeles
Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling by Bricia Lopez with Javier Cabral (Abrams)
Bricia Lopez, known to many Angelenos for her central role at her family's Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza, is becoming one of California's vital cookbook voices. Teamed with writing partner Javier Cabral, the editor of L.A. Taco, she made an impressive debut in 2019 with "Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico." This year, Lopez and Cabral capture the flavors of one of California's great outdoor rituals in "Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling." With confidence and a willingness to give the reader a glimpse into the controlled chaos that can come with an asada day (unexpected guests almost always turn up), Lopez gives novice cooks and experienced grillers clear advice on timing the meal, the best meats, even "a foolproof tortilla-to-person ratio." Recipes go beyond the grill — botanas (starters), salsas and mariscos are especially strong. And there are all kinds of stews (smoked lamb barbacoa) that would make great centerpiece entrees outside of the structure of an asada. — Laurie Ochoa
Dive Into Sichuan Flavors
The Book of Sichuan Chili Crisp: Spicy Recipes and Stories From Fly by Jing's Kitchen by Jing Gao (Ten Speed Press)
“Flavor trumps everything around here,” writes Fly by Jing founder Jing Gao about her Chinese hometown, Chengdu, “and appreciating good food is a part of mastering the art of living.” This book is about more than chili crisp, her signature condiment; it’s a celebration of the entire canon of Sichuan flavor profiles. Recipes are both high-impact and easy to follow. Start with Gao's zhong sauce, a molasses-y, salty, savory, spicy, chile-tinged sauce to add xian (or umami) to whatever you're cooking or eating. Or make bowls of piping hot suanlafen, the hot and sour sweet potato noodles traditionally served with beef guokui at street stalls in Chengdu. Or mixed nuts spiced with “strange flavor,” the Sichuan balance of sweet, spicy, savory, tingly and nutty. It's all mouthwateringly delicious. — Betty Hallock
Bake With Global Grains
Bread and Roses: 100+ Grain-Forward Recipes Featuring Global Ingredients and Botanicals by Rose Wilde (Countryman Press)
Rose Wilde is behind some of the most impressive pastry and bread programs in the city, including those at Mother Wolf and Rossoblu. With her new book, she’s created the only baking resource you might ever need, walking you through the fundamentals, including tools, terms and ingredients for a world of baking. It’s like having her in the kitchen with you, her notes guiding the way for sourcing, swaps to make if you have dietary restrictions, the shelf life of your bakes and even how to adjust a recipe for time constraints. Stacey Michelson’s dynamic illustrations make the various infographs and explainers even more user-friendly. The book is organized by region and the whole grains found there. In “Asia,” you’ll find recipes for buckwheat soba and brown rice scallion pancakes. In “Africa,” teff anise custard cake. And if you just want a really good chocolate chip cookie, you’ll find that too. It's a real celebration of the transformative power of whole grains found around the world. — Jenn Harris
Achieve Cookie Perfection
The Cookie That Changed My Life and 100 Other Classic Cakes, Cookies, Muffins and Pies That Will Change Yours by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño (Knopf)
Nancy Silverton is a force of nature, bringing maximum imagination and exacting technique to anything she cooks or bakes. A simple peanut butter cookie becomes not only the supreme example of a peanut butter cookie (moist, chewy, crackled on top and perfectly rounded at the edges) but something that tastes more of itself — hers has a spoonful of peanut butter in the center, into which she nestles a pile of roasted and salted Spanish peanuts. It's the life-changing cookie that sparked the idea for her latest cookbook. With “The Cookie That Changed My Life,” Silverton takes classic American baked goods — banana bread, scones, twice-baked croissants, granola, cinnamon rolls — and makes the best possible version in the universe. — B.H.
How to Throw a Soirée
The Dinner Party: A Chef’s Guide to Home Entertaining by Martin Benn and Vicki Wild (Hardie Grant)
What’s it like to attend a dinner party thrown by one of Australia’s most notable chefs? If Martin Benn’s new cookbook is any indication, it’s stylish beyond belief. Benn and his partner, Vicki Wild, share menus, themes and tips based on dinners they’ve hosted in their home, with playlist suggestions that correspond to each of nine menus. Designed to wow guests without sacrificing too much party time spent in the kitchen, each recipe feeds six people — the couple's ideal number of guests — and starts one to two days in advance, with clear instruction for prep on each day. There’s an approachable, please-all menu for when you’re having the neighbors, an array of all-red dishes for a striking and monochromatic aesthetic, a Champagne-splashed “sunset soirée” of lighter fare like oysters, dips and barbecued seafood, and more. In a chapter called “The Basics,” the pair break down the sauces, infused oils, mustards and other condiments that spruce up weekday meals just as much as the dinner-party showstoppers. Of course, if you’re going to make a batch of hot miso mustard or shellfish oil, you might as well show off for friends. —Stephanie Breijo
Cook for Good Times
The Dinner Party Project: A No-Stress Guide to Food With Friends by Natasha Feldman (HarperCollins)
It's intimidating enough to cook for oneself or a family, nevermind figuring out how to plan and host a memorable dinner party. But Natasha Feldman makes the idea sound enticing in "The Dinner Party Project," arming readers with recipes that span cocktails, appetizers, mains, crowd favorites like pizza and tacos and, of course, dessert. Suddenly, tacking a theme onto your dinner party feels easy, and Feldman's breezy instructions will make you look forward to once-intimidating tasks like making pizza dough. The photos of completed dishes alongside Feldman laughing with friends will remind you that cooking is inherently messy and imperfect, and that's what makes it so fun. — Danielle Dorsey
Don't Stress, Make Pasta Fazool
Who among us wasn’t buoyed by the mid-pandemic “Don’t Panic Pantry” livestream show from chef-comedian couple Noah Galuten and iliza Shlesinger? Thanks to both for bringing levity and drunken pantry pasta and Chengdu chai and grandma pizza and Caesar-ish salad into our lives. Galuten, who also co-authored “On Vegetables” with Jeremy Fox and “Bludso’s BBQ” with Kevin Bludso, writes accessible recipes for many scenarios. “I want you to know how to make a vegetable rice bowl and an aggressively healthful smoothie — but to also be able to make pasta and tomato sauce at the last minute for six people who you did not realize were suddenly staying for dinner,” he writes. He also walks through how to set up your pantry and fridge so that you actually are able to do so. “Read the recipe. Buy the ingredients. Stock your pantry. Don’t panic.” Words to live by. — B.H.
Make Viet-Fresh Vegetables
Ever-Green Vietnamese: Super-Fresh Recipes, Starring Plants From Land and Sea by Andrea Nguyen (Ten Speed Press)
Andrea Nguyen’s desire to eat more meals that star plants, in a flexible, flavor-charged way, resonates loudly. Through the lens of Vietnamese food and flavors, it's especially compelling. All of my recent homemade dinners have improved tenfold from a single section in the book on pantry secrets. With these various sauces, pickles and crumbles, she builds flavor and texture, adds brightness and establishes the foundation for what she calls “Viet-ish notes." Her chile-garlic sauce, which matures for a week or so, has an intricate, bright chile flavor and a sweet heat that’s good on breakfast burritos, eggs, spring rolls and just about anything. There’s a jar of her pickled mustard greens in my fridge as I type this. It’s an excellent, useful book that serves as inspiration for cooking beyond what you’ll find on the pages. — J.H.
How to Waste Less
The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A to Z by Tamar Adler (Simon & Schuster)
With "The Everlasting Meal," cookbook author Tamar Adler solves the existential question of what to do with leftovers. Centered on sustainability — both financial and environmental — her cookbook provides recipes suitable for families as well as singles while encouraging readers to be more mindful of and reduce personal food waste. Alongside gorgeous illustrations by Caitlin Winner, the book features more than 1,500 recipes to assist readers in recycling excess vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy products before they go bad, spanning casual to fancy and representing all levels of expertise. Adler also helps repurpose takeout, such as one recipe that turns the dregs of a burrito into fried rice. — D.D.
Black Women in Food
For the Culture: Phenomenal Black Women and Femmes in Food by Klancy Miller (HarperCollins)
With vibrant portraits and profiles, Klancy Miller celebrates the legacy of Black women in food, including chefs, activists, documentarians, restaurateurs, writers and more. Miller even uplifts the memories of culinary titans like Lena Chase and Barbara Elaine Smith (B. Smith) with loving tributes that affirm their impact on how we eat food today. The recipes are just as heartfelt, like farmer Leah Penniman's soup Joumou, which is traditionally eaten every New Year on Haitian Independence Day, and a summer cocktail from the owners of Crown Heights bar Ode to Babel, Marva and Myriam Babel. — D.D.
For Flavor-Bomb Results
The Global Pantry: Transform Your Everyday Cooking With Tahini, Gochujang, Miso and Other Irresistible Ingredients by Ann Taylor Pittman and Scott Mowbray (Workman)
“To cook from the global pantry is to taste the umami of human history,” write former Cooking Light editors Ann Taylor Pittman and Scott Mowbray. Their cookbook features some 65 pantry items — herbs, spice mixes and condiments from cuisines around the globe — that have been developed and used over centuries to boost flavors, add depth, heat, fragrance or zing, improve texture or finish dishes on a delicious note. The recipes are mashups that incorporate some of the world’s best culinary shortcuts to create flavor-bomb results. Scampi is infused with miso; beef dip sandwiches with chipotles in adobo; stuffed cabbage with chili crisp, fish sauce, Korean toasted sesame oil and oyster sauce. — Julie Giuffrida
What to Do with Leftovers
Here We Go Again: Recipes and Inspiration to Level Up Your Leftovers by Tiffani Thiessen with Rachel Holtzman (Worthy Books)
Actress Tiffani Thiessen is the queen of leftovers in her new book, which offers recipes for repurposing leftover protein, grains, dairy, pantry items and everything in between. And each one is presented with a playful 70s retro aesthetic. Stale bagels taking up room in your freezer? Thiessen has a recipe for Bagel French onion soup that swaps the hallmark crouton in the bowl for a bagel. There’s a patty melt made with beet patties that I’ll be whipping up all winter. But my favorite, and arguably the most useful section of the book, is called Bottom of the Bag, Box & Bottle, devoted to crumbs, grounds, and other last drops of items in your pantry. I made Thiessen’s cheese cracker-fried chicken sandwich out of the remnants of four bags of chips and it was glorious. — J.H.
More Spice in Your Life
The Indonesian Table by Petty Pandean-Elliott (Phaidon)
Chef Petty Pandean-Elliott’s culinary journey began on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, surrounded by mountains, coconut plantations and, of course, the ocean. Drawing on this background, she brings us her gorgeous book of 150 Indonesian recipes that take us through soups, sambals, satay and rice dishes, with many stops in between. Sambals are at the heart of Indonesian cuisine, and you can’t make sambals without plenty of chiles, so expect plenty of spice. Published by Phaidon, the book has gorgeous photos, naturally (taken by Yuki Sugiura). — Lucas Kwan Peterson
Japan: The Vegetarian Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Phaidon)
Japan has a long tradition of vegetarian cooking. But you don’t have to be a Zen Buddhist or even a vegetarian to appreciate these recipes, author Nancy Singleton Hachisu points out. In tune with nature and the seasons, many of the dishes are simple and elegant. A tangle of young burdock and asparagus kakiage (fritter) comes across as especially fresh with height-of-spring ingredients. For some reason, the chapter of simmered dishes is especially appealing, and I’m starting to think that simmering and steaming are underrated techniques. A simple peak-summer dashi-simmered tomato with a sprig of sansho leaf for garnish is stark and beautiful. Sliced sweet potato rounds are gently cooked in a broth punctuated with lemon and gardenia fruit pod. When simmering dashi transforms winter turnips so that they're translucent and juicy (and then they're garnished with scallions and yuzu), I'm all in. — B.H.
Honor Black Drinking Culture
Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs & Juice: Cocktails From Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks by Toni Tipton-Martin (Clarkson Potter)
African American contributions to mixology are too often overlooked, says Toni Tipton-Martin, and her book "Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs & Juice" operates as a way to remedy that. Tipton-Martin focuses on Black traditions in imbibing going back centuries, to African fermentation practices. You’ll find versions of recognizable favorites like Manhattans, Sidecars and mint juleps as well as drinks you might be unfamiliar with, like something called a Beet-A-Rita, from chef Hoover Alexander's restaurant Hoover’s Cooking in Austin. The bibliography at the end of the book, assembling all of the publications Tipton-Martin used as resources, is a collection of fantastic references. — L.K.P.
Ladurée: Sucré, the Recipes by Philippe Andrieu (ACC Art Books)
World-famous Ladurée is best known for its macarons, but the patisserie's prowess extends far beyond the colorful French cookies. Every gold-edged page of “Sucré,” the rerelease of Ladurée's out-of-print 2011 cookbook from pastry chef Philippe Andrieu, reveals some of the most iconic recipes from the Parisian bakery founded in 1862. Certainly there are macarons in flavors such as citrus, chocolate, raspberry and almond — with crucial tips to help perfect the notoriously tricky cookies — but there are also canelés, éclairs, orange-and-almond scented bostock, mascarpone tarts, classic crêpes and strawberry marshmallows, plus drinks such as Viennese coffee. A section on basics lays out recipes for the fundamentals of French pastry, including pâte brisée, pâte à choux and crème Anglaise, and much like the pastry shop’s delicately packaged cookies, cakes and confections, “Sucré,” too, comes wrapped in pastel paper and encased in its own pale green, decorated box. — S.B.
Send Chinatown Love
Made Here: Recipes & Reflections from New York City's Asian Communities by Send Chinatown Love
When the pandemic immediately threatened the livelihood of Asian businesses in New York City, volunteer-run organization Send Chinatown Love sprouted and helped raise funds and awareness. This fall the group self-published its first cookbook, celebrating one of the world’s most beloved Chinatowns as well as Little Indonesia, the melting pot of Flushing and more than 20 other neighborhoods. It’s a vibrant collection that includes Thai Diner’s tangy som tum, FuZhou Noodle Inc.’s fresh wonton noodles with peanut sauce, Spice Symphony’s Chinese bhel, Golden Diner’s sesame scallion breakfast sandwiches, Yo+Shoku’s borscht curry udon, Pecking House’s dirty fried rice, and the list goes on and on. Unsurprisingly the fundraising “Made Here” is especially useful for New Yorkers — who can more easily patronize the restaurants, neighborhood grocers, specialty shops and enclaves spotlighted throughout — but it’s a call for all to not only embrace your nearest Asian community but all small businesses, and to get out and regularly explore them. — S.B.
Taste of a Nation
Made in Taiwan: Recipes and Stories From the Island Nation by Clarissa Wei (Simon & Schuster)
Clarissa Wei writes about Taiwanese cuisine from a particularly interesting perspective — as both an Angeleno and a citizen of Taiwan. Her stance as both insider and outsider give agency and voice to the idea that “Taiwanese food isn’t a subset of Chinese food because Taiwan isn’t a part of China,” she writes. “Made in Taiwan” explores the island’s identity movement through recipes from both home cooks and chefs around the country, with a careful approach to preserve the tastes, textures and intent of original dishes — whether scallion pancakes from a former air force soldier stationed on Kinmen at the height of the Chinese Civil War or minced pork belly from a rapper and chef in Tainan. Make beef rolls, turkey rice, cucumber salad, noodle soups flecked with garlic chives and studded with shrimp. Let Wei’s pantry notes and step-by-step's be your guide. The recipes and stories are a tour through the history and culture of Taiwan. — B.H.
Make It Japanese: Simple Recipes for Everyone by Rie McClenny with Sanae Lemoine (Clarkson Potter)
Chef and Youtube star Rie McClenny’s book may be centered around Japanese cuisine, but at its heart reflects a sentiment that speaks to everyone, regardless of where you’re from, or what you’re cooking. “This book is proof that the tastes from home can be yours, no matter where you are,” writes McClenny. I keep returning to the section on how to build a bento or how to craft a Japanese breakfast. And the recipe for steamed cakes that McClenny’s mother made for her as a child is already a favorite, the matcha cake impossibly soft and just a tad sweet. I imagine the name of the book is a play on McClenny’s popular Buzzfeed Tasty series, “Make it Fancy,” where millions of viewers watch her turn Takis, Costco chicken and candy into gourmet meals. This book is just as creative, and possibly even more fun. — J.H.
Halo-Halo Baked Alaska? Yes, Please
Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed by Abi Balingit (Harvest)
Abi Balingit has brought us an energetic, playful cookbook that is all about Filipino American and Filipino-inspired sweets. Balingit, who is based in New York but grew up in California, has ordered the book in a kind of journey that takes us from the Philippines through different locales in Northern California before ending up in Brooklyn, where she currently resides. Personal stories and reflections are woven in and out of recipes for cakes, candies and kakanin (desserts made with rice and coconut milk). You’ll find a halo-halo baked Alaska as well as a meaty melon chicharrón crumble, among other treats. — L.K.P.
Bake Me a Cake
More Than Cake: 100 Baking Recipes Built for Pleasure and Community by Natasha Pickowicz (Artisan)
Pastry chef and activist Natasha Pickowicz turns baking into an opportunity to build community. Each hazelnut linzer cookie, fennel seed squiggle and millet muffin is a means to connect to one another. At the core of her debut cookbook is a chapter of mix-and-match modern layer cakes — the ultimate celebratory pastry project — with a recipe kaleidoscope of soaks, fillings and frostings. Some of the flavors reflect Pickowicz’s Chinese and Californian background: matcha buttercream, black sesame chiffon, yuzu and olive oil curd. All are delicious. Even the components are worth mining on their own. A blueberry and sumac compote, for example, is worthy of gateaux but also excellent on pancakes, and maybe roast duck? Beyond cake, my go-to dessert for company is now rose water and mezcal flan. — B.H.
Nigerian Home Cooking
My Everyday Lagos: Nigerian Cooking at Home and in the Diaspora by Yewande Komolafe (Ten Speed Press)
In her second cookbook, New York Times Cooking columnist Yewande Komolafe's 75 approachable recipes explore the West African cuisines that color Nigeria’s capital city of Lagos. Born in Berlin and raised in Lagos, Komolafe came to America for college, where she built her culinary resume while living as an undocumented immigrant for a decade. “My Everyday Lagos” weaves this history throughout, describing the struggles Komolafe encountered and the experience of returning to Lagos in 2016 after 18 years away from her homeland. Stock up your pantry with Komolafe’s dried spice blends, experiment with street foods like yam fritters or go all out with dishes meant to mark special occasions, like braised bone-in goat leg. — D.D.
For the Plant-Based Sweet Tooth
A New Way to Bake: Reimagined Recipes for Plant-Based Cakes, Bakes and Desserts by Philip Khoury (Hardie Grant)
There are plenty of cookbooks for plant-based baked goods on the market, but only one comes from the meticulous mind of Philip Khoury. The pastry chef has been quietly revolutionizing the sweets of London’s famed Harrods Food Halls for years, tinkering with classic recipes to turn some of them plant-based. In his first cookbook he’s baking through chocolate tahini cookies, tea cakes, hot cross buns, banoffee pie and “vrioche” (that’s vegan brioche, made here with olive oil and sweet potato), along with recipes that riff on his Lebanese and Australian heritage such as maamoul, lamingtons and Anzac cookies. Each recipe features a QR code that directs to a video demonstrating exactly how to execute it. Before the recipes even begin though, Khoury’s breezing through the “plantry,” or the essentials for a vegan pantry, detailing not only ingredients but how they’re harvested and the kind of flavors and textures they can impart. — S.B.
Join the Pasta Club
Pasta Every Day: Make It, Shape It, Sauce It, Eat It by Meryl Feinstein (Voracious)
Like most of her 200,000-plus Instagram followers, I’d been drooling over Meryl Feinstein’s pasta for years. The Misi and Lilia veteran’s videos and photos posted to her online presence, Pasta Social Club, depict delicate handmade doughs that laminate fresh herbs, pinch daintily along their edges, and ooze bright orange yolks over ricotta when punctured. The chef's extremely approachable first cookbook, “Pasta Every Day,” continues the visually stimulating, step-by-step pasta-making process with photo-heavy breakdowns of how to knead gnocchi, how to hand-form pici, how to use a pasta machine and how to roll strozzapreti, along with comprehensive guides to the basics: flour types, tools, fillings, textures and techniques. Pasta recipes are featured separately from sauces in a bid to get readers to mix and match — after all, that’s Feinstein’s point: Take risks, customize, luxuriate and, above all, have fun. — S.B.
Portico: Cooking and Feasting in Rome's Jewish Kitchen by Leah Koenig (W.W. Norton)
Leah Koenig’s seventh cookbook, "Portico," is her deep dive into the Jewish cuisine of Rome. Beautiful photographs and vignettes of Rome’s Jewish history, culinary personalities and accomplished home cooks are interspersed among recipes that reflect the foodways of Rome’s Jewish community past and present. Classics such as carciofi alla giudia (Jewish-style fried artichokes) and pollo arrosto (roast chicken with rosemary, garlic and potatoes) mingle with adaptations of Roman classics such as carbonara di zucchine (pasta carbonara with zucchini), a vegetarian version of the standard made with cured pork; stracciatella (Roman egg drop soup) that swaps matzo meal for bread crumbs to make it kosher for Passover; and Jewish-style pasta Amatriciana that replaces the guanciale (cured pork cheeks) with cubes of carne secca (beef cured with salt and pepper). Each page reads as deliciously if not more so than the next. — J.G.
Your Kitchen Is Your Own Izakaya
Rintaro by Sylvan Mishima Brackett with Jessica Battilana
The first cookbook from Rintaro is by all means a tome. More than 70 recipes from the San Francisco izakaya are contextualized through memories and thorough explainers from Sylvan Mishima Brackett, the restaurant’s Kyoto-born, California-raised chef (who also happens to be a Chez Panisse alum). This is a dense yet still approachable dive into the world of Japanese cooking, with primers on dashi, breaking down whole fish for sashimi, coaxing maximum flavor from tofu and eggs, steaming the perfect donabe, and hand-forming fresh udon. His how-to on butchering a chicken for yakitori — and diagramming an array of possible skewers — is worth the purchase alone, and I say that as someone who spent months shadowing and spotlighting L.A.’s yakitori scene earlier this year. Think of “Rintaro” as a crash course to turn your home kitchen into a Tokyo izakaya, seen through a Bay Area lens. — S.B.
The New Sabbath Meal
Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals From My Table To Yours by Adeena Sussman (Avery)
Adeena Sussman’s second cookbook, Shabbat, invites us to accompany her in preparing for the Jewish day of rest as she sees it. Inspired by Sabbath meals of her youth and by local chefs and home cooks, the recipes are sumptuous and imaginative. Friday night dinners might include fig and pomegranate brisket or sweet potatoes with miso tahini butter. For Saturday lunch you might be served jachnun or cauliflower hamin with shug-a-churri sauce. Se’uda shlishit (the third meal of the day) might feature a crispy eggplant and goat cheese tart or roasted kohlrabi, cherry tomato and feta salad. And for dessert? Perhaps apricot tahini shortbread bars, pistachio frangipane and blood orange galette or frozen mango and pomegranate pops. — J.G.
A Wolof Word Beyond Joy
Simply West African: Easy, Joyful Recipes for Every Kitchen by Pierre Thiam with Lisa Katayama (Clarkson Potter)
"Simply West African," by chef Pierre Thiam and Lisa Katayama, is a cookbook that radiates teranga, a word in Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal, that has no direct translation to English. It is, Thiam explains, something akin to joy and love, mixed with community. Thiam has written a book that makes West African cooking easy and accessible, with an extensive guide to sauces of the region as well as recipes for dishes like coconut collard greens with butternut squash, herb-roasted halibut chermoula and spatchcocked roasted piri-piri chicken. — L.K.P.
Welcome to the Iranian Table
Sofreh: A Contemporary Approach to Classic Persian Cuisine by Nasim Alikhani and Theresa Gambacorta (Knopf)
Sofreh in Farsi means “spread,” the traditional tablecloth for serving meals. But it means so much more that isn’t as simply translated. To sit at the sofreh is to take part in a ritual with connotations of community, hospitality, respect and manners. For Nasim Alikhani, chef-owner of Sofreh restaurant in Brooklyn, it’s a celebration of her roots in pre-Revolution Isfahan, Iran, and she writes so poignantly about her love of Persian cuisine. The recipes are a reflection of the cooking she grew up with and dishes she learned about traveling back to Iran from New York. They are deep dives into her rich culture. Most importantly, she says, “whenever possible, use these dishes to spark connection and community; for that is at the heart of food for me.” And “if you burn your tahdig on your first go-round, good job!” Trial and error is essential to deepening your understanding of cooking, and of life. — B.H.
This Is Soon-Tofu Magic
Sohn-mat: Recipes and Flavors of Korean Home Cooking by Monica Lee and Tien Nguyen (Hardie Grant)
I still remember the first time I tried Monica Lee’s combination soon tofu at Beverly Soon Tofu, which was open for 34 years before it shuttered during the pandemic. It arrived with its crimson broth sputtering and threatening to spill over a weathered jet black ttukbaegi. The tofu was soft and supple and the broth vibrant and spicy. In her new book, Lee tells the story of how to prepare her signature dish of soon tofu chigae. It’s built in layers, with a homemade broth, seasoned red pepper paste called dadaegi, tofu and a variety of fillings to choose from. Just like at the restaurant, you adjust the heat and fillings to your liking. Using her many thorough tips and the recipe for the combination soon tofu, I was able to recreate the magic of my first visit to her restaurant through the pages of "Sohn-Mat." — J.H.
Chicken, Biscuits and Gochujang
Southern Cooking, Global Flavors by Kenny Gilbert and Nan Cavanaugh (Rizzoli)
In "Southern Cooking, Global Flavors," Kenny Gilbert, a personal chef for Oprah Winfrey, shares Southern recipes from his Midwest and Southern upbringing as well as what he's gleaned from cooking in kitchens around the world. In over 100 recipes, Gilbert builds on Southern staples like fried chicken and biscuits, offering a Korean-inspired version with gochujang and an Italian take that adds garlic, basil and Asiago cheese to the biscuit. Other favorites that get reinterpreted across different cuisines include burgers and fries, oxtail and rice and cakes and pies. — D.D.
How We Want to Eat
Veg-Table: Recipes, Techniques + Plant Science for Big-Flavored, Vegetable-Focused Meals by Nik Sharma (Chronicle)
Nik Sharma knows exactly how I (and so many others) want to eat — more vegetables and more flavor, please. "Veg-Table" is Sharma’s third cookbook, and he has honed personable recipes with lots of payoff. (Currently, I'm putting his buttermilk caraway dipping sauce on many things.) The test of my favorite cookbooks: Flip them open to any page and the recipe is so enticing I immediately want to start cooking. In "Veg-Table," it's radish salad with black vinegar, roasted fruit with arugula, Brussels sprouts with sticky miso sauce and black rice. Sharma shows us just how exciting vegetables can be, utilizing interesting techniques: collards smeared with spiced yogurt, then rolled and fried, or brassica fritters in the style of okonomiyaki (the Japanese "as you like it" pancake). Sharma delves into plant science, how best to store produce and plenty of cooking tips. I appreciate the step-by-step photos, no matter how many times I've trimmed an artichoke. — B.H.
Pass the Persimmon Hot Sauce
Win Son Presents a Taiwanese American Cookbook by Josh Ku and Trigg Brown with Cathy Erway (Abrams)
Brooklyn restaurant Win Son and its sibling bakery specialize in both Taiwanese American classics and dishes that celebrate the diaspora with a playful bent. Sesame-laced Caesar salad, bacon-egg-and-cheese-stuffed scallion pancakes, and bolo bao fried chicken sandwiches hit the table alongside traditional beef noodles, corn soups and stir-fries. Chef-owners Josh Ku and Trigg Brown, with food writer Cathy Erway, intersperse all of these recipes and more with dialogues and musings on Taiwanese (American) identity, history and favorite dishes for a cookbook that’s just as educational as it is fun. And with persimmons now in season, you’d better believe I’m keeping the garlicky persimmon hot sauce — along with pages of their other condiment recipes — in heavy rotation. — S.B.
Save the World
The World Central Kitchen Cookbook: Feeding Humanity, Feeding Hope by José Andrés with Sam Chapple-Sokol (Clarkson Potter)
When catastrophe strikes, World Central Kitchen is often close behind. With its hundreds of volunteers around the globe, the nonprofit spearheaded by celebrity chef José Andrés pops up to feed those devastated by natural disaster, war or pandemic with gargantuan paella pans, vats of chili, pots of jackfruit stew and hundreds of tacos and ham sandwiches. Fittingly, the relief organization’s first cookbook is filled with just as much heart as it is continent-crossing recipes. Profiles on specific volunteers and moments of community outreach illustrate the importance of nourishment in the wake of crises, while the book’s recipes are provided by and adapted from Andrés and his fleet of Chef Corps and other volunteers for dishes that “nourish both body and soul during difficult times.” There’s curry pasta developed for survivors of the Haiti earthquake, arroz con pollo from a founding member of the Puerto Rico team, Andrés’ snapper suquet served in Mozambique, and lamb massaman curry that fed those fighting and fleeing Australian bushfires. — S.B.
Comfort Me With Yogurt
Yogurt & Whey: Recipes of an Iranian Immigrant Life by Homa Dashtaki (W. W. Norton)
Of course the first recipe in Homa Dashtaki’s book is for yogurt, the life-changing yogurt that she and her father began selling at farmers markets in Southern California (before being forced to move their operations to New York because of regulatory red tape; it is worth seeking out their White Mustache brand sold at Eataly in Los Angeles). But the reader also will come away with an appreciation for yogurt’s precious byproduct: whey. There are ingenious methods for using whey to make sauerkraut and kimchi, creamy cauliflower, borscht, gazpacho, ceviche, brined pork chops. Reason enough to make yogurt. Meanwhile, many heartbeats pulse through the book; these are recipes that speak to Dashtaki's Iranian Zoroastrian tastes and tradition. Serve with yogurt, of course: Whether celebratory or simple, delicious rice dishes and stews — herb-laden ghormeh sabzi, fesenjan (with meatballs), nourishing shooley — are calling. — B.H.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.