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Spring used to be a quiet time for new cookbooks, but this season’s slew of titles suggests that’s no longer the case. There are classic grilling books for the warm weather that’s coming, and plenty of options to help you brush up on your baking and preserving skills. Overall, we’re happiest that so many of these new cookbooks have sustainability in mind. All manner of beans, greens, and seafood will be on our plates this spring.
Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin
In the bayou, it’s pretty easy to see climate change in action: just stay awhile and watch. The wispy coastline of Louisiana is fading into the sea, and with it, the little fishing and shrimping towns once dotted along it. Mosquito Supper Club, a Cajun cookbook by South Louisiana native Melissa Martin (she also runs a restaurant by the same name in New Orleans) is here to try to prevent the region’s Cajun cooking from slowly disappearing too.
Martin’s as much of a teacher as she is a cook; there’s barely a recipe in here that doesn’t have an extra paragraph of information on ingredient sourcing, prepping, and serving. The book starts with shrimp—after all, shrimp has long been the trade along the bayou, “the watery main street” of this bit of Louisiana. Find recipes like crispy little fried Shrimp Boulettes and simply dressed Boiled Shrimp. There’s Shrimp Jambalaya tossed with a handful of cut herbs and Original Louisiana Hot Sauce. In fact, you’re 62 pages in before you get past shrimp—but that’s very much a good thing here.
A section on crab comes with nearly as ardent a love letter and plenty of solid tips for forming patties and stuffing shells. The book continues through oysters and crawfish, before dedicating a whole chapter to gumbo and moving on to fish. While there are plenty of vegetables, beans, and a meat and rice chapter here, the seafood—briny, peppery, and mostly meant to be cracked and eaten with your hands at the table—is what you really should not miss.
La Buvette by Camille Fourmont and Kate Leahy
La Buvette, a teeny wine cave in Paris’s eleventh arrondissement, attracts a very specific kind of client: Natural wine die-hards, usually young, who don’t mind squishing into a kid-sized stool or leaning against a little sliver of counter all night as long as there are plenty of cheeses and prettily dressed hard boiled eggs as snacks. My colleague Emily and I are both very firmly in that demographic—but that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes question why, in a city with plenty of more delicate dining (and comfortable seating), we both happily trek to La Buvette every time we’re in town. This book reminds us of the reason.
Overall, the book, with its slew of photographs of coolly unbothered Parisians, provides tips for relying more on wine and ingredient sourcing than actual cooking. “My primary motivator for wanting to buy the book,” says Emily, “was to learn how to make the ‘Famous’ White Beans, but an initial flip to that recipe showed me that they are actually just jarred Spanish beans topped with good olive oil and citrus zest.” If ever a cookbook were to steer you toward carefree, confident cooking, this is the one. Stock the wine fridge. Raid the cheese shop. Call up a few friends. And then, as La Buvette’s owner Camille Fourmont says, read on for the “perfect foods to serve when you don’t want to be trapped in the kitchen.”
Maenam by Angus An
Angus An was raised in Taiwan and Canada before embarking on his very classic, Euro-centric food education in New York City, Montreal, and Vancouver. After shuttering his French restaurant, Gastropod, An found his groove again by reopening the space with his wife, Kate Auewattanakorn, as Thai restaurant Maenam. Eleven years later, An is ready to share some of his recipes from Maenam. Yes, this book is full of restaurant food—but that doesn’t mean it's impossible for an ambitious home cook to undertake the recipes. The impressive dishes—like an Uni Sundae that features ice cream swirled with roe and topped with julienned coconut, Dungeness crab, and more roe—are projects, but ones with exquisite results.
My Korea by Hooni Kim
Even if you haven’t heard of Hooni Kim and his Michelin-starred NYC restaurant, Danji, you’ll be rooting for his success just one page into the intro of this book. Kim tells the story of finding himself in medical school, adrift and burned out, his body breaking down. During a one-year sabbatical, he went to culinary school and then interned at Daniel Boulud's Daniel, which eventually led him to leave med school (much to his mother’s horror) to accept a full-time position at that restaurant. Maybe it’s the fact that Kim learned to make Korean food later in life, while making family meals for the staff at Japanese restaurant Masa, that gives him such a gift for teaching clearly. In My Korea, Kim doesn’t pull any punches with flavor in a way that would put off a seasoned cook of Korean cuisine, but he also introduces every ingredient and technique with enough patience and encouragement to entice someone who has never cooked a spicy tofu stew or snacked on kimchi.
Trejo's Tacos by Danny Trejo
Danny Trejo’s first cookbook, which comes out on the heels of his growing Los Angeles taco empire, features recipes that are far from the fare you’d see at a slapdash celeb-branded restaurant. Trejo, who grew up in California to Mexican-American parents, had been acting for years when his interest in ingredient sourcing piqued the curiosity of his then producer, now business partner, Ash Shaw. Seven taco joints and one donut-n-coffee spot later, Trejo has proved his restaurant chops. Any Angelino will tell you the Coca-Cola braised carnitas are mouthwateringly tender, or that the vegan options, like a tangy jackfruit taco piled with avocado crema and pico de gallo, scratch the umami itch.
Trejo’s Tacos the cookbook serves a few different purposes, though. Of course, it teaches you to recreate the taco empire’s recipes (many of which came from Trejo’s mother and grandmother). You can also use it as a travel dining guide to Los Angeles, thanks to the included map. Maybe, though, you’ll just be curious to read the story of a guy who was once incarcerated, has been in over 300 movies, started a restaurant empire, and now gives back to the community through his involvement in NA and his second chances hiring policy.
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New Home Cooking
Meals, Music, and Muses by Alexander Smalls
Get halfway through this book’s introduction and you’ll be wishing you were at Alexander Smalls’ Harlem home, enjoying an evening first around the dining table, and then around the piano. Smalls writes with simultaneous levity and reverence for his community, and with great knowledge about America’s culinary and musical roots. Smalls, an opera singer and owner of Harlem’s jazz bar Minton’s and steakhouse The Cecil, has made it his life’s work to champion the artistic contributions of African Americans.
Here you’ll find “Southern Revival” cooking, as Smalls dubs it. Each chapter, beginning with Hoppin’ John Cakes and ending with Icebox Lemon Pie and Bourbon Chocolate Praline Truffles, is named after a different style of African American music. The third chapter “is all about gospel, gardens and greens,” writes Smalls. “Gospel music is all about finding the good and praising it...these recipes are joyful vegetable-forward dishes that taste good and make you feel good.” And of course he’s right, those Sautéed Green Beans with Toasted Charleston Benne Seeds are worth praising. The recipes here are clearly written and delicious when prepared, sure—but Meals, Music, and Muses is far more than a compilation of recipes. It’s an education for all of us about where American cooking began.
Tasty Pride by Jesse Szewczyk
Associate Editor Joe Sevier says of the concept of Tasty Pride: “Your recipe doesn’t have to be gay to be great, but it helps.” An eclectic group of some of the biggest queer names in the food industry—including Epicurious contributors Rick Martinez, Julia Turshen, Anita Lo, and Rebekah Peppler—all supplied recipes, resulting in a joyfully wide-reaching collection of dishes: There’s Beef Picadillo Tacos next to buttermilk-and-cornmeal-dredged Fried Green Tomatoes. There’s Tandoori Chicken followed by Filipino Lumpia. “The brightly colored pages and recipes like Bill Clark and Libby Willis’s Vietnamese-and-Flamin’-Hot-Cheeto-inspired Sweet and Spicy Party Mix and Ted Allen’s Scallops with Grilled Polenta will make you want to keep the party going, long after Pride Week is over,” says Joe.
Baja California by David Castro Hussong and Jay Porter
If you set out in search of Mexico’s wine country, your journey will take you promptly to the Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe and deposit you down a winding road. Most of the country’s wine has been produced here for decades, ever since Russian oenophile immigrants arrived in the valley in the 1920s, explain David Castro Hussong (chef of Valle de Guadalupe’s Fauna) and Jay Porter in Baja California. All that good wine is paired with local, seasonal specialties like spicy quail, fish tacos, huarache oysters, and creamy, unfiltered honey.
“The structure of the book takes you through the geography of Baja California, from the ranch, through wine country, and to the coast,” says Epi’s resident Mexican wine lover Andrew Spena. “This is cooking that celebrates beautiful ingredients, prepared simply—its elegance is in the ease of its execution,” he says. But one of the best parts of this book is its time sensitivity, Andrew tells me. “It's secretly a weeknight-cooking cookbook. The only real projects in here are making flour tortillas, and ‘Carnitas for 300.’ The former, I'm definitely doing. The latter, I'd be thrilled to be invited to partake in.”
Dinner in French by Melissa Clark
“Melissa Clark’s recipes always feel aspirational, but still somehow very approachable,” our Commerce Editor Emily tells me one Monday, after having had friends over for a completely Dinner in French themed meal the night before. I’d have to agree with Emily: Rarely do you browse a cookbook and feel like somehow you can cook duck-fat roasted potatoes with a briny anchovy salsa verde, plus a baking sheet of thin, oil-and-herb tossed mackerel fillets, and a lemon meringue tart without breaking a sweat. But that’s what Emily did, and one flip through this stunning cookbook (the book’s dishware, garden photos, and elegant plating would be reason enough to read it) and you might be tempted to do the same.
Open Kitchen by Susan Spungen
“Food stylists are often the best cooks—and especially the best recipe writers—because they’re very attentive to detail,” says Digital Director David Tamarkin. “They’re invested in things turning out a certain way, and they tend to have a healthy rigidity about the process.” David found this to be true as he cooked his way through stylist Susan Spungen’s Open Kitchen, a book of elegant, French and Italian-inspired dishes like Meyer Lemon Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables and a gorgeously puffed Baked Ricotta. He really fell in love with a cookie famous since Spungen’s days as the food editor of Martha Stewart Living: a chewy, just-spicy-enough Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk beauty. In the spirit of a Martha Stewart book, most dishes come with tips to help you make them for company, without standing at the stovetop while your guests enjoy the party without you. Spungen, who has thrown many much-talked-about dinner parties, both real and imagined (she supervised all the food in Eat, Pray, Love and Julie & Julia), is ready to prepare even the most timid host for seemingly effortless entertaining.
Tin Can Magic by Jessica Dennison
The pantry staple focus of this book is especially apt in this moment of widespread health panic. Jessica Elliott Dennison has divided the book into chapters by ingredient (‘Green Lentils’, ‘Tomatoes’, Coconut Milk’, etc.), calling on mostly non-perishables in each recipe.
No, this isn’t fully cooking for doomsday times—expect to go to the store to pick up a bulb of fennel to braise for recipes like the Red Wine and Fennel Butter Beans—but fresh ingredients are used sparingly to add brightness and nutritional value to otherwise simple pantry meals. The meals feel quite British overall (Dennison is based in Edinburgh)—even the three daals in the book are fairly mildly spiced. But the beauty of Tin Can Magic is that each recipe is essentially a guideline for using up what you have—a guideline that can be endlessly riffed upon.
Eat Something by Evan Bloom, Rachel Levin, and George McCalman
“If there’s one thing pretty much every Jew can do, it’s eat. And we do. With more fervor and focus than most,” Eat Something begins. This book is about “Jews and food,” not necessarily Jewish food, you see. Each stage of life, from bris to shiva, is accompanied by recipes, sometimes written as though dictated by a Jewish mother, sometimes delineated by tidy line breaks in a more classic cookbook sense. There are family pictures and jokes—plenty of jokes that you are absolutely only allowed to make if you are Jewish, as the three authors are. It’s an insider-y book for someone who’s misplaced their family recipe for latkes, or maybe just someone who wants to laugh at the stories and commiserate with the bar mitzvah outfit choices, bagel in hand.
Tinned Fish Cookbook by Bart Van Olphen
If you’re constantly agonizing over how to eat seafood sustainably, the Tinned Fish Cookbook is here for you. First, you’ll get an introduction to how to choose tins of high quality, sustainable fish. Then, you’ll be led through everything to do with those tins, like recipes for Anchovies with Tomato Confit on Toast and a Mackerel and Mushroom Risotto. It’s niche, yes, but for the ardent sustainable eater or the seafood fanatic trying to rein in the swordfish eating in favor of cheaper, better-for-the-planet fish, this tiny little book is a perfect (and adorable) guide.
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Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry
In a greens rut? Bryant Terry’s got you. The thirty-plus vegetables in Vegetable Kingdom will certainly urge you to go beyond your weeknight sheet pan of broccoli. In his introduction, the author of 2014’s popular cookbook Afro Vegan describes bringing home fennel and dreaming about making a dish “through the lens of the African Diaspora.” Bryant goes on to describe the results: a pan-seared bulb tossed with a mojo-inspired garlic and herb sauce and plantain chip crumbles. The description alone will make you want to skip to the index and find fennel, but don’t rush it. Ease in. Peruse the soundtrack (yes, it’s as good as the Coltrane-tinged one from Afro Vegan). Whir together the Smashed Peas and Creamy Cauliflower, the brightest version of British peas you’ve tasted. Bite into the satisfyingly rich Cornmeal-Fried Oyster Mushroom Po’Boy. This isn’t the book about sad salad for one; this is about joyful and impossibly flavorful plant-based food worthy of a party.
Start Simple by Lukas Volger
What’s languishing in your fridge right now? A block of tofu, or maybe a carton of eggs? Are you dreading going to the store, but keep passing over that basket of nubby sweet potatoes on your counter because simply roasting them feels practical to the point of extreme monotony? Lukas Volger makes quick work of these pantry staples in Start Simple, a vegetarian cookbook organized by ingredient. “He nailed the structure of the book,” says our Digital Director, David. “The recipes are both smart enough and simple enough to truly be weeknight solutions.” It’s the kind of book that will challenge you just enough to help you out of a cooking rut, without saddling you with too much of a project. Since reading it I’ve become a breakfast person, thanks to Volger’s oatmeal with summer squash, while both David and our social media editor, Andrew, have jazzed up their standard weekend pancakes with a clever maple syrup candying trick from the book.
Cool Beans by Joe Yonan
Beans! They’re everywhere! I would say I’m surprised such a humble little food could trend, but then, I’ve lived through the meteoric rise of quinoa and cauliflower and kale. Though it may seem like we’ve been oversaturated with legume preparations, Joe Yonan manages to push beans in new directions. Chickpeas take on a nutty crunchiness in Chickpea Pralines; firm black lentils add heft and, dare I say, sexiness to an otherwise simple Red Gem Salad. There are crackers, soups, stews, and pastas, with flavors borrowed from Ethiopian, Mexican, Italian, Spanish, and Indian cuisines.
Sometimes you need a book full of new ideas to get excited about an old ingredient. “Just when I thought I thought I’d eaten beans almost every way that existed, I came across Yonan’s recipe for Lupini Bean Ceviche and bean-spiked smoothies,” says Editorial Assistant Tiffany Hopkins. While she makes those, I’ll be baking a Vegan Cardamom and Lime Bundt Cake, which gets its distinctive creaminess from good ol’ canned white beans.
Vegan JapanEasy by Tim Anderson
I opened this book with a heavy dose of skepticism. Does Japanese food need to be described by a London-based, Wisconsin-born white guy? I didn’t get far into the book before I found myself wanting to shut it again. In an introduction which is probably meant to relieve a novice cook of their fears, Anderson finishes with, “Japanese home cooking is usually really quick and easy… it’s so easy a (vegan) monkey could make it.”
But if you can make it past the oversimplification of an incredibly thoughtful centuries-old cuisine, you will find yourself eating well. You won’t be eating traditional Japanese dishes, but you’ll be eating well nonetheless.
The book starts with an introduction to umami, then moves to tips on stocking a pantry and making perfect rice. Next, it guides you through seasoning and sauces, snacks and small dishes, big dishes of the plant-based variety, big dishes of the rice or noodle variety, and then finally, desserts and drinks. Each recipe plays off of the others in that way that makes you feel like mastering two recipes sets you up for success with 12. But with the delicately lit photographs by Nassima Rothacker, you won’t want to stop at two.
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The Outdoor Kitchen by Eric Werner and Nils Bernstein
At Hartwood, an open-air restaurant in the beach town of Tulum, Mexico, every last cooked dish comes off of a wood fire. In the new cookbook, The Outdoor Kitchen, the restaurant’s chef and owner Eric Werner coaxes us away from our Instant Pots, our air fryers, and our sous vide gadgets, and into the back garden. Despite the location of Werner’s restaurant, The Outdoor Kitchen (along with Hartwood) isn’t focused on Mexican food. Instead, it’s American farm-to-table—a version of what Werner cut his teeth on at Peasant and Vinegar Hill in New York City before moving to Mexico—but supercharged with even more produce, plus wood smoke and char.
It’s hard to play favorites in this book, but the grilled vegetable dishes that incorporate nuts for creaminess instead of cheese or oil are some of the most clever and surprising options. (I have my eye on the Wild Mushrooms with Chiles and Chestnuts.) There’s also plenty of beautiful meat and seafood, and a chapter of fire-cooked desserts, like Burnt Strawberry Ice Cream and a cheesecake drizzled with a Concord Grape syrup and bunches of smoky-sweet grilled grapes.
Fire Smoke Green by Martin Nordon
Flip through the first few pages of this book, and you’ll find standard grilling photos. An open flame, plenty of perfectly charred food, and a bearded guy with a beanie pulled just to the top of his ears sprinkling salt seemingly everywhere. But there’s one standard grill book component that you won’t find here: meat. The author (said bearded guy) is Martin Nordon. His first book, Green Burgers is a tome of big flavored, panko crusted, caramelized onion slathered patties.
In this book, free of the confines of veggie burgers, Nordon’s ability to play with presentation really shines. In his recipe for Charcoal Roasted Leeks, the leek is blackened in a bed of charcoal and then split open and filled with kidney beans that have been softened in an anise-infused broth. It’s as intricate as a Bûche du Noël…but savory. So often, gorgeous recipes that require time and effort are meat based or pastry related. Norton gives us a third way: vegetarian dishes, made mostly with humble ingredients like roots, shoots, and beans, turned into something far more impressive than a hunk of meat.
Flavors of the Southeast Asian Grill by Leela Punyaratabandhu
This is Leela Punyaratabandhu’s third cookbook–and it’s both more specific and wider reaching than her previous works. After focusing on Thai home cooking (she splits her time between Chicago and Bangkok), here Punyaratabandhu hones in on grilling, but dots recipes for Filipino Roasted Pork Belly Rolls and Malaysian-style Grilled Soy Sauce Chicken Wings in between the Thai dishes. This book opened my eyes to the myriad ways to achieve good char, smoky flavor, and a deliciously caramelized finish. One word of caution: while there are some vegetable and egg-based dishes (the custardy Grilled Eggs in Banana Boats, for one) this is definitely not a book for vegetarians.
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Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark
Before you even get to the recipes, you’ll love Laetitia Clark. She does a very simple thing in her introduction that too many chefs who have reached beyond their own cultures forget: She acknowledges that the recipes and traditions she’s about to delve into are not her own. After going through nearly sixty cookbooks this season, I can tell you it's a refreshing rarity.
The book is full of what Clark calls Sardinian ‘home food.’ She pushes you to source the freshest ingredients and treat them simply: Serve them family style with a good hunk of bread and a bottle of wine, and stop fussing. I grew up gorging on Sardinian Foglie di Salvia in Pastella alla Birra, fried sage leaves in beer butter, and all manner of artichokes. Those are here, along with more tightly-held island secrets, like Malloreddus with Mutton Broth and Pecorino, a brothy pasta with tender bites of mutton. It’s not the book for perfectionists (the laissez-faire style of instructions will constantly have you wondering if you should be slicing, cubing, or dicing) but it is the book to usher in a balmy summer of easy, gorgeous cooking, best shared with friends and family.
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Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley
Do you already have the Ottolenghi complete set? Do you love citrus, za’atar, tahini, and sumac? Then, please, pre-order this book. Written by Sami Tamimi (co-author of Jerusalem and executive chef of Ottolenghi restaurants) and Tara Wigley (co-author of Ottolenghi Simple), Falastin is a stroll through Palestinian cooking with a few generous, time-saving tweaks from the co-authors’ own kitchens. That means that the big-effort celebratory dishes are few and far between, and hard-to-find ingredients have been replaced as necessary. The recipes are often still involved, but the flavor payoff of even the most simple dishes is worth it.
Tamimi and Wigley have not shied away from the political weight of writing this book. The authors weave profiles of Palestinians and stories of their towns, their farms, and their walls between recipes. Along with last spring’s Zaitoun or 2017’s The Palestinian Table, Falastin gives you another chance to celebrate this community.
The Irish Cookbook by JP McMahon
When I heard that JP McMahon spent years pouring over archives in the National Library of Ireland, adapting old recipes and conferring with modern day Irish chefs about new ones, I expected to find a thoroughly researched cookbook as a result. Still, I didn’t expect a twenty-three-page index titled ‘Wild Plants, Seaweed and Funghi,’ or recipes for fifteen different loaves of bread (not to mention the nine kinds of scones that follow). Now that I know the difference between a fadge and a farl (spoiler: there is none), I have to say I have a newfound appreciation for a cuisine famously scorned. This isn’t going to be the answer to all your leisurely spring dinner parties, but the history buff, the Irishman, or someone with a particular affinity for seafood should definitely look to The Irish Cookbook.
Beyond the North Wind by Darra Goldstein
Don’t know much about Russian food? A quick browse through food scholar Darra Goldstein’s Beyond the North Wind will change that. Sprouted grains, buckwheat, cabbage rolls, and all manner of fermented and pickled dishes—food that’s particularly trendy in gut health aware 2020—fill the pages. Goldstein, who has been a professor of Russian culture and cuisine for nearly fifty years, writes that she wants to “dispel the false impression that Russian food is heavy and bland, basically borscht and potatoes,” and instead “unearth the most deeply Russian flavors…by riffing on traditional recipes and ingredients to emphasize elemental tastes and make them modern.” What follows does feel deeply modern. In a moment of climate crisis, in which we all are considering our consumption more carefully, looking to a cuisine that has always been bound by inhospitable land for flavorful, nourishing recipes feels particularly relevant.
Rika's Modern Japanese by Rika Yukimasa
I sent our Photographer Joseph De Leo home with Rika’s Modern Japanese one weekend to try out a few dishes. Monday, he told me that he cooked not two or three, but seven dishes in the two and a half days since we had spoken. Each one, he said, was a hit—from the simple and perfectly-seasoned Broccoli with Gomae Dressing to the Pan Roasted Peppers with Seaweed. I wasn’t surprised to hear it. While Rika Yukimasa, the chef and TV personality behind the book, might be lesser known in America (this is her first book to be published stateside), she’s published over fifty cookbooks in Japan, China, and Korea.
Yukimasa is known for her concise instructions covering a wide range of Japanese dishes and techniques. Joey had found that many of the dishes were such a cinch to prepare that he might as well double up on his homework. One note, though: The book is “not without its quirks,” says Joey, citing the mismatched portion sizes in some recipes (the Japanese Fried Chicken, which is supposed to serve four as a main course, calls for just two chicken thighs). Be prepared to size up or down to fit your guest list.
Friuli Food and Wine by Bobby Stuckey, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, and Meredith Erickson
The Friuli region, tucked in the northeast corner of Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea, Austria, and Slovenia, is home to a cuisine that is little discussed, compared to that of, say, Tuscany or Sicily. One quick flip through Friuli had me wondering why. Bobby Stuckey, one of the three authors of Friuli, describes the cuisine as “incredibly straightforward…but with little glimpses of unexpected flavors, like anise, dill, cinnamon, caraway, ginger, and smoky paprika.” Friuli was a stop along spice trading routes for a long time, and the prickly, sweet, and spicy notes can be found in an anise and cinnamon-scented Chicken Marcundela With Cherry Mostarda and Potato Puree, or a poppy seed-dusted Tagliolini Al Portonat. Like all books co-author Meredith Erickson has her hands in (last fall’s Alpine Cooking comes to mind), this one is as much a travel guide as it is a cookbook. Read it with the knowledge that you, too, will be dreaming of long bike rides through the Italian Alps, followed by a cool glass of wine and a plate of Pheasant with Fennel and Apples very soon.
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The New Homemade Kitchen by Joseph Shuldiner, $34 on Amazon
I’ll admit it: I almost breezed past this book. I love a long Sunday spent cooking as much as anyone, but I’m usually looking for ways to make cooking faster, not a book suggesting that I slow down. One page in, though, I changed my tune. Joseph Shuldiner, the late founder of an educational farmers market of sorts that brought together market goers and backyard growers alike to share their knowledge of canning, preserving, gardening, and fermenting, will do that to you. “Making commonly available ingredients yourself allows you to know what goes into them, avoiding laboratory-made preservatives, stabilizers, thickeners, and other unnecessary additives used to extend shelf life or boost profits,” argues Shuldiner. Fair, I thought. But then he went on to say this: “making homemade also empowers you as a human being.”
I got to thinking about that as I worked my way through a few of the book’s pickling formulas with ease. The ability to increase our own self sufficiency by learning how to can and pickle and preserve feels strangely powerful. This won’t be your weeknight dinner book; it won’t be your dinner party book. This will be your stock the pantry book, your meditative Sunday afternoon book, your “I need a break from the news and a project to do with my hands book.” And it’s one worth lingering over.
It Starts With Fruit by Jordan Champagne
“I love making jams but always keep them in the fridge to use within a week or two. If any book was going to make me face my fears of actually going all the way with canning, it would be this one,” says my colleague Kendra of It Starts with Fruit. “The sheer amount of the information in this book is astounding: Author Jordan Champagne breaks down the seasonality and uses of 28 different kinds of fruit—and provides tips on buying and storing.” While jams and marmalades make up a big portion of the book, don’t flip past the shrubs: These are the key to refreshingly tangy zero-proof drinks come summer.
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Nourish Me Home
For San Francisco natives, the name Cortney Burns will bring to mind Bar Tartine and the experimentational, multi-layered cuisine it championed. But this is a different chapter of Cortney Burns: Burns in the Berkshires, working solo, still somehow just as dedicated to the arduous age-old processes of making every single thing from scratch. “It’s really interesting to now have a document of Cortney’s cooking on the East Coast, as she’s so focused on cooking with local ingredients,” says David. “In this one, you really see how singular she is in her vision. Put very simply, Cortney is truly one of the wildest and most original cooks working on the planet,” he continues. “I’ve never met anyone like her, and I think this book is really true to who she is—she doesn’t hold back.”
There are meat and fish sections, sure, but there’s also a chapter called “Imagination and Alchemy” comprising fifteen pages of tonics derived from ancient herbal medicine practices around the world. Very rarely does a chef with such mainstream acclaim get as unapologetically out there as this–if you’re in the braised short rib camp, the artichoke tincture camp, or somewhere in between, this is not one to miss.
Help Yourself by Lindsay Maitland Hunt
Here’s the thing about ‘health’ food books: They’re more often than not quite dull. Even for those of us with various food restrictions and health concerns, the focus on what’s not there, paired with titles about ‘pure’ ‘clean’ and ‘guilt free’ food is…well, enough of a bummer to make us want to skip them altogether. Lindsay Maitland Hunt’s latest book, Help Yourself, focuses on eating for gut health in a way that is somehow both playful and science-backed, both plentiful and nourishing. The lengthy introduction is a well-researched, cleanly laid out trove of knowledge—but don’t stop there. Crunchy little cauliflower “breadcrumbs” make mushy cauli rice a distant memory, while spicy miso mayo tastes great slathered on steamed broccoli or swooshed into a baked Japanese sweet potato. There are dozens of recipes in here that you can cook for your friends and family without apology or explanation.
Aran by Flora Shedden
Aran, named after an Old Irish word for bread, is a little bakery housed in a two-hundred-year-old building in Dunkeld, Scotland. The town’s population is just a bit over one thousand. Yet, this teeny bakery, run by Flora Shedden, could barely keep their shelves stocked with enough loaves and pastries to make it through the day in their first few years.
Flipping through this gorgeous book, it’s easy to see why. As far away as Aran might be, their baked goods are exactly what we can’t get enough of stateside at the moment. There are loaves of crackly-crusted Tumeric and Shallot Bread, Apple, Bay Leaf, and Bramble Jam, Sourdough Crumpets and a Sausage Roll stuffed with an herb and apple filled mince. On one page you’ll find a pastry that’s well loved and comforting, and then on the next, you’ll find a combination of flavors that is totally new. And for those without a sweet tooth: the various frittatas, quiches, and citrus-spiked salads are perfect for leisurely spring lunches.
Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paulll
Lots of baking books claim to be approachable for beginners—the trouble is that the center sliver of the Venn diagram between newbie-friendly and laminating your own dough and forming your own baguettes is…just a little slice. Natalie Paull of Beatrix Bakes will teach you how to handle a smudgy, too warm dough and what to do with leftover pie crust scraps as you learn how to make an impressive Brown Butter, Roasted Apricot, and Almond Tart, or a rich Chocolate Bavarian Pie.
Every chapter is brimming with baking tips geared toward an intermediate skill level, and each recipe includes suggestions for adaptations. Paull never tries to trick you into a complicated recipe (She admits, for example, that making the crepes for a Lemon Curd Cream Crepe Cake is “exhausting…but the pay-off is huuuuge!”). And she sprinkles less time consuming, but still delicious recipes in with the complex showstoppers. I am far from an expert baker, and I still followed along with salty, crunchy Chocolate Caramel Bars and Banoffee Custard Pie with ease—and was quite smug about the results.
Cookies Are Magic by Maida Heatter
Chocolate Is Forever by Maida Heatter
If you grew up in a Maida Heatter Household, you know that her baking books were truly beloved. “My mom’s copy of her Book of Great American Desserts was so well used that it was held together by rubber bands,” Senior Editor Maggie tells me.
Heatter passed away last June at 102 years old, after over thirty years of writing cookbooks. This spring, Cookies Are Magic, which contains nearly a hundred Heatter recipes (including the famous Absolutely-the-Positively-Best Chocolate Chip Cookie) will be released, alongside Chocolate is Forever. Both are fantastic—and make a great set for a novice baker or a seasoned pro—but I would be remiss to not shout out the Palm Beach Brownies with Chocolate Covered Mints in Chocolate is Forever. Heatter, who introduces them by saying they were one of her most popular recipes, calls them the “thickest, gooiest, chewiest, darkest, sweetest, mostest-of-the-most chocolate bars,” and I very much have to agree.
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Drink What You Want by John deBary
He’s entrepreneurial! He’s talented! He’s funny! Dive into the world of John deBary and you’ll want to stay put, cocktail in hand. The New York-based cocktail expert (who honed his skills at PDT and Momofuku) recently launched Proteau, a non-alcoholic botanical drink—but this book isn’t just about the zero-proof sips. Sure, there’s a selection of “interesting and complex” nonalcoholic concoctions, says our editor/drinks columnist, Maggie. But there are also plenty of classic cocktails, expertly adjusted and explained by deBary. “He makes things simple but writes with attitude—everything in this book has a sense of humor,” continues Maggie, who, luckily for our office’s after-five crowd, says she has her eye on some of the more involved drinks, like a Soy Sauce and Black Sugar Old Fashioned.
Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh
“The first edition of this book was extremely influential; it felt like every bartender and drinks writer was poring over it in 2004,” says Maggie of Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. This spring’s re-release has 66 new recipes, but all of the original kookiness. You’ll find a Prohibition-era nonalcoholic drink made up of pineapple juice and whipped cream, and one that uses grape jelly as sweetener. If that doesn’t sound quite up your alley, don’t despair. “It's also a good place to find lesser-known or even unheard-of cocktails you really would want to make,” Maggie tells me.
Drinking French by David Lebovitz
David Lebovitz might be the guy that comes to mind when you need a recipe for something sweet—think an old-fashioned fudge ripple ice cream or a salted butter caramel mousse. But Lebovitz, who has lived mostly in Paris since 2002, has grown curious about French drinks of late. His latest book “captures what makes drinking in France special,” Maggie explains. “I've got my eye on the hot chocolate with salted butter caramel, and I love that he includes a bunch of classic French mixed drinks made with beer,” she continues. “Most important, though, are the apéritif recipes, which show you how to use very tasty French bottlings like Byrrh, Cap Corse, Dubonnet, Suze, and Bonal.” If all those cocktails make you peckish, flip through to the last chapter for every salty French snack you can imagine—from the simple (but still satisfying) warmed olives, to a slightly more involved and decadent Chicken Liver Mousse with Armagnac and Port Jelly, or a plate of puffy Gougères and Cornmeal, Bacon, and Sun-Dried Tomato Madeleines.
How To Drink Wine by Grant Reynolds and Chris Stang
Wine books of years past were often hefty enough to be used as door stops and so dry that you might be tempted to do just that. Luckily we’re moving past that, with books like this playfully illustrated, condensed guide by Grant Reynolds and Chris Stang. The ‘Places to Know’ section gets a cute little map. Grape varieties get trimmed down to a key 29, and each is paired with a handy sidebar with not just tasting notes, but also cheeky predictions regarding your other preferences. I like an easy drinking Beaujolais, which means I’m “into things that are new and different,” and “like to drink things chilled,” the sidebar tells me. Maybe I was just charmed by the illustration of the groovy, beret-clad, baguette-wielding lady next to the blurb, but I think they’ve actually got me pinned. Later in the book, there’s a guide to translating a label—plus notes on wine shopping and wine pairing. It’s a book you can pick up for five minutes and still learn something, or read cover to cover to impress your oenophile friends. Wine is a drink riddled with rules, but this wine book is pretty clear that you should let yourself have some fun with it—and use the book however you damn well please.
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Originally Appeared on Epicurious