Cooking in the Moment
This year has brought no shortage of seasonal cookbooks. Their chapters are dubbed "fall" and "summer" instead of "soups" and "desserts." But it was Andrea Reusing's Cooking in the Moment that truly captured the elegance of seasonal cooking. Marrying in-season produce with both Southern and Asian influences, Reusing creates lovely dishes like Garlic and Black Pepper Soft Shell Crabs and egg topped Asparagus with Butter and Soy for her truly lovely cookbook.
The Japanese Grill
The majority of grilling books have a distinctly American lean, heavy on the good ol' rubs and smoky barbecue. But this one really stood out this summer. The Japanese Grill from Harris Salat and Tadashi Ono brings the Japanese tradition of grilling into the Western backyard by way of pantry items such as miso, karashi mustard, and shichimi tōgarashi, making simple grillables that are thrilling and insanely delicious. Their Crispy Chicken Wings with Seven Spice Powder Marinade and Bonito Flakes-Black Sesame Yaki Onigiri were some favorites.
Most of us are content with a great meal but a select few have that special inquisitive nature that drives them to seek out the hows and whys of kitchen magic. For those types, Michael Ruhlman is a kindred spirit. His newest cookbook, Ruhlman's Twenty is a compilation of essential techniques that all cooks should not only know but really understand from a point of view that's both culinary and scientific, leaving the reader with a practical knowledge sure to transform into not only a better but smarter cook with the confidence to Roast a Perfect Chicken and insight that'll have you adding a little fish sauce to your next batch of Mac and Cheese.
Cooking for a crowd doesn't come naturally for all of us. In fact, the prospect of feeding more than four has been known to strike fear into the hearts of many a cook. Mario Batali's latest, Molto Batali is made for those with dreams of effortlessly pulling off a show-stopping dinner for a crowd. Divided into mix-and-match seasonal menus, Molto Batali allows you to choose your own dinner party adventure, putting together simple pastas, mains, vegetables, and desserts as you see fit. But the real kicker here is that all the recipes have been tested to death, ensuring that even the most amateur hosts can land a praiseworthy dinner on the table, especially if the menu includes Batali's Farfalle Abruzzese With Veal, Porcini, And Spinach or Leg of Lamb in a Clementine Crust.
When you're the only mouth to feed, motivation to spend serious time in the kitchen is generally pretty low. This year Joe Yonan, food editor of the Washington Post, penned Serve Yourself, a truly thoughtful, useful, and incredible delicious book tailored for the solo cook. With ingenious game plans and tips, Serve Yourself will ensure that single eaters do not fall into the evil clutches of frozen dinners and Hot Pockets, after all why would you when you can have Catfish Tacos with Chipotle Slaw or Fig, Taleggio, and Radicchio Pizza?
Not all chef-authored cookbooks are written with the every-cook in mind. Things tend to get complicated with intricate techniques and time-consuming sub recipes that have a tendency to make these volumes more at home on the coffee table rather than in the kitchen. Happily this is not at all the case with Andrew Carmellini's American Flavor. Sure, some of the recipes have been adapted from Carmellini's New York restaurant, The Dutch, but this is not only food that you want to eat but food you can really make, and make very well. It's a glorious patchwork of Carmellini's vision of American food, from genius Biscuits to an Indian-inspired Lamb Chili with Chickpeas and Raita.
Canal House Cooking
When it comes to gift giving, subscriptions truly are the gift that keeps on giving. Gifting a talented cook with a year's worth of Canal House (that's three volumes a year) is likely to afford you more than a few invitations over to taste the recipes that Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton have put together. Each volume is just beautiful, filled with photographs, illustrations, and of course, recipes that bring you into the kitchen-atelier that Hirsheimer and Hamilton have created, a lovely place where Chicken Cordon Bleu is served with ripe Tomatoes All Dressed Up for Summer.
Cook This Now
There are a lucky few who have the luxury to spend leisurely afternoon hours in the kitchen crafting the perfect dinner. For the rest of us, time is precious and dinner is urgent to say the least. Melissa Clark's Cook This Now caters to the rest of us. She shares recipes that feed her family in her uniquely warm and approachable manner. She describes her simple, seemingly effortless menus with the ideal balance of irresistible and healthy—just look at this Farro Pasta with Spicy Salami Tomato Sauce with Mint and Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Salted Yogurt, Mint, and Pomegranate Seeds.
The Food52 Cookbook
All of the recipes in The Food52 Cookbook were first sourced from home cooks and judiciously tested by Amanda Hesser and Merril Stubbs have assembled a book of bests, a fail-safe compilation of recipes for home cooks by home cooks. And the recipes are inspired, accessible, and really wonderful. In the under weeknight meals category, you can't really go wrong with a dinner of Moroccan Merguez Ragout With Poached Eggs served along side a pile of tart Pink Greens.
The whole point of this gift guide was not to pick favorites, but if there's one cookbook that I'd like to give to everyone on my list this year, it has to be Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. It's a game-changing vegetarian cookbook, a drop dead gorgeous volume from an Israeli born London chef who will have you rethinking all previous vegetable-eating notions. It's a bold statement but sampling Ottolenghi's Chickpea Sauté With Greek Yogurt, Lemon and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Pink Peppercorns, and Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango could very well banish your pork belly cravings.