Pair Cookbooks With a Little Something for the Ultimate Holiday Gift

Lauren Joseph
·5 min read

Long before I started writing the seasonal previews of new cookbooks at Epi, I was fixated on getting—and giving—cookbooks as presents. I can't speak for anyone who's gotten a book from me over the years, but when I'm on the receiving end, a cookbook gift always feels extra special. I still have the cookbook from a popular London noodle shop my sister gave to me when I was 12 and the Alice Waters and Tamar Adler books I received in high school. To me, a new cookbook is the ideal present for home cooks—something that keeps you going long after the box of seasonal cocoa is gone, the cookie tin is empty, and the fancy new gadget has lost its luster.

The only thing that makes that gift better in my mind is bundling the book with something specific that relates to its recipes. Sometimes this can be as simple as a hand-carved olive wood spoon for a book filled with dishes—like curries and soups—that tend to linger a long while on the stovetop. Other times it's a hard-to-find ingredient that a cook might skip over out of a sense of economy. Or, now and then, it's a really fantastic version of a pantry staple, like particularly fragrant cumin or the creamiest tahini.

Of course, your all-time favorite cookbooks make great candidates for gifts—but just in case you're looking for something new, below are five stellar new books from 2020, with a few ideas on what to give alongside to round out the gift.

One more added perk? Making a cookbook bundle gives you an excuse to read the book before giving it—a treat for every former kid who tried to read the gift on the way to the party.

Chicano Eats by Esteban Castillo and heirloom masa and beans

This debut cookbook from recipe developer and food blogger Esteban Castillo is full of thoughtfully-written, unfussy dishes that deliver, like spicy sambal shrimp tacos and guava cheesecake bars. In the pantry section, Castillo recommends quality masa from Masienda, or Rancho Gordo for heirloom beans. As a recent Rancho Gordo convert, I couldn't agree more. A bag or two of pintos, flageolets, or Santa Maria pinquitos will come packed with more flavor and texture than your lucky recipient might have known was possible. Castillo will walk them through how best to use them in a recipe for brothy, bacon-studded cowboy beans or a pot of classic, herby stovetop beans.

Chicano Eats: Recipes from My Mexican-American Kitchen

$29.00, Amazon

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Rancho Gordo Pinto Beans, 1 Pound Bag

$6.00, Rancho Gordo

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Chef Grade Blue Masa Flour

$10.00, Masienda

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Handmade Teak Spoons, Set of 3

$35.00, Etsy

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TOC Community Cookbook and a cookbook stand

Pre-pandemic, chef Evan Hanczor hosted a monthly dinner based around a new piece of writing, complete with a new, lit-inspired tasting menu each time. Now, he and the rest of the Tables of Contents team have asked some of those literary talents to create a community cookbook, the proceeds of which will go to New York's food relief group, FIG (or Food Issues Group). The book contains 36 personal recipes from novelists, poets, and essayists, including Alexander Chee, Carmen Maria Machado, and Emma Straub. Wondering what to give alongside this book? Any lover of literature will also appreciate a cookbook stand—or a notebook for jotting down their own community recipes.

Tables of Contents Community Cookbook

$35.00, Tables of Contents

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Yamazaki Home Tosca Cookbook Stand

$18.00, West Elm

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Papier Cook's Notebook

$27.00, Papier

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Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark and, well, bitter honey

Letitia Clark's collection of comforting, casual Sardinian fare calls for very few speciality ingredients—but it's impossible to open the book without wondering about bitter honey, or miele di corbezzolo. The honey, which depends on a low-nectar tree that only flowers for two months of a year, has an initial sweet flavor that turns to a pleasantly earthy bitterness. Clark will teach readers to drizzle it upon toasts smeared with goat cheese or on pecorino-stuffed fried ravioli.

Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark

$40.00, Bookshop

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Luigi Manias Corbezzolo Honey

$32.00, Amazon

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Handmade Ceramic Honey Pot

$46.00, Etsy

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Chaat by Maneet Chauhan and Jody Eddy and spices

Maneet Chauhan and Jody Eddy's book traces a path around India by train, punctuated by the colorful, texture-rich, beautiful little snacks called chaat. Chaat's a national concept, but of course these snacks are wildly varied, given the diversity of the nation's regional cuisines. Still, there are some commonalities in their respective ingredient lists—particularly in the spices. Chaat masala, a tangy, earthy blend used in many recipes, will come in handy. You can make your own, but why not give the book alongside Spicewalla's blend? Does your lucky recipient have more of a sweet tooth?Consider a bottle of aromatic cardamom from Burlap & Barrel. It will quickly be put to use in Gajar ka Halwa, a carrot pudding with saffron and pistachios, and frothy faloodas.

Chaat by Maneet Chauhan

$29.00, Amazon

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Spicewalla Chaat Masala

$9.00, Spicewalla

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Burlap & Barrel Cloud Forest Cardamom

$10.00, Burlap & Barrel

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Eating Out Loud by Eden Grinshpan and tahini and halva

Top Chef Canada host Eden Grinshpan's book would be great for entertaining—but during quarantine, I've found myself turning to it again and again for weeknight dinners. Favorites include a whole-roasted broccoli drizzled with an herbed yogurt, an easy pita recipe, and most importantly, her salted halva chocolate chip cookies. Grinshpan's stated previously that she's a fan of the tahini from sister-run brand Soom, as well as New York-based Seed & Mill—information I took as an excuse to immediately stock up. Many batches of cookies later, I can't recommend the book—with the cookie page bookmarked, and a nice hunk of halva or creamy jar of tahini—enough.

Eating Out Loud: Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day

$30.00, Amazon

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Soom Tahini, Pack of 2

$16.00, Amazon

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Seed + Mill Halva Trio

$45.00, Amazon

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Originally Appeared on Epicurious