The Bookworm

Great food writing and cookbooks they'll use for years.

I've never been to Zahav, the Philadelphia restaurant where Michael Solomonov serves his Israeli cuisine, but its namesake book has nevertheless changed the way I cook. His recipe for tahini sauce, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon, is alone worth the price of admission. I've loved the Yemenite beef soup (and the accompanying hot sauce), his wide focus on vegetarian-friendly dishes, and a host of homemade condiments that will elevate almost any meal, even if you don't follow full recipes from the book.

We don't know if there's a book about cooking that we've thought about more than this one by Tamar Adler, a former Chez Panisse cook who was once an editor at Harper's Magazine. It's about cooking simply, and enjoying the simple meals that naturally follow from thinking about your ingredients in cycles. We forget, sometimes, that the leftover stems from blanched broccoli are wonderful cooked with olive oil and piled on toast; that their cooking liquid could be the base of a soup; that the stems of greens like Swiss chard and kale make a lovely pesto. She reminds us that stale bread can make something delicious and that yesterday's bean broth could be the start of a pasta dish today. This book sends the valuable message that dinner doesn't always need to be a big deal.

Warning: Reading this book might lead to the purchase of some very expensive plane tickets. The Roads & Kingdoms crew will get you hungry for a journey to Japan, for onigiri basted with chicken fat, juicy one-bite gyoza, milky-white tonkotsu ramen broth, and briny sea urchin. Is Japan the best place on earth to eat? This book will convince you that it is.

This isn't just a chili cookbook. Robb Walsh digs deep into the beloved dish's ancestry, tracing threads through Mexico City, San Antonio, and Santa Fe—as you might expect—but also Hungary, Greece, and the Canary Islands (off the coast of North Africa). Walsh is one of food writing's best storytellers, so the book is satisfying even if you never whip out your Dutch oven and get cooking. You should, though: The fascinating tale is best enjoyed with a big bowl of chile con carne. (Walsh's recipe from El Real in Houston is killer.)

This cookbook has been my guide to learning how to use my donabe cooker, and thus far it hasn't let me down. It offers a wide range of recipes to help give you an idea of just how many one-pot dishes can be made using a donabe, plus background on the history and variety of donabe cookers.

A good cookbook stand makes cooking at home much more pleasant. And this collapsible beechwood stand from West Elm has its own built-in conversion chart to boot.

Dave Arnold (you might know of his bar, Booker and Dax in NYC) won't just accept the common assumptions about cocktail technique—his mission in this excellent book is to dig into the science of how the very best drinks are made. This is a must-read for inquisitive types who like to host cocktail hour at home.

Having The Cocktail Chronicles at your side is like having a friend who always knows a good drink recipe for whatever you've got on hand. It doesn't talk your ear off or suggest something with a dozen ingredients. Instead, it shares classics, recent spins on classics, and drinks you've never heard of but can easily mix up and enjoy, and the introductions are never preachy or boring. This book will appeal to full-on cocktail fanatics and newbies alike; there's something delicious on every page.

Ruhlman and Polcyn do a great job of demystifying one of the more abstruse cooking arts, and, while charcuterie may seem daunting, it can be gratifyingly easy. Start simple, with the pancetta, confit, rillettes, and duck prosciutto, and you'll find yourself with a mold-inoculated curing chamber in no time.

No pasta machine? No problem. This book is devoted to the art of handcrafted Italian dumplings, from yeasty, spindle-shaped cecamariti to classic gnocchi to golden-brown parallelograms of deep-fried crescentine. If the adage "practice makes perfect" fills you with excitement rather than dread, this is the kind of book that will make you utterly determined to prevail.

If her first two books are any indication, Nancy Singleton Hachisu is poised to become the Julia Child of traditional Japanese home cooking. In this, her second book, she tackles the deeply fascinating—and even more delicious—world of Japanese preserving. From easy pickles made by packing foods in miso (kabocha squash! eggs! apple pears!) to homemade miso, salt-rubbed vegetables, and air-dried fish, this should be the next frontier in all your home preservation undertakings. I'm getting excited just thinking about it.

One of the best cookbook gateways into Middle Eastern cuisine—an obsessive and personalized exploration of the many cultures and traditions that make up Jerusalem's culinary world. What will you find here? A recipe for the best hummus of your life, for starters; messy-beautiful dips and salads; and the delicately spiced soups, grains, and vegetables Yotam Ottolenghi has become famous for.

In this book, Meathead Goldwyn, the founder of AmazingRibs.com, distills decades of research on the art and science of barbecue and grilling into a single volume that shows not just the best ways to take food to live fire, but why the techniques work. Far more than a recipe book alone (though there are tons of bulletproof recipes), this text will teach your favorite barbecue lover the hard-tested fundamentals of outdoor cooking, giving them the confidence to cook anything, even without a recipe. The myth-busting and equipment tips alone were enough to get me hooked.

My good friend Jordana Rothman cowrote this thoughtful ode to tacos with Chef Alex Stupak, and it's a must-have for anyone ready to take a deep dive into corn, masa, tortillas, and everything—modern and traditional—you can stuff into them.

I've long been a fan of Jessie Kanelos Weiner's vivid and imaginative watercolors—she's done the art for several of our stories. But when Weiner released Edible Paradise: An Adult Coloring Book of Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables, I discovered a new affinity for her work. See, like many children, I grew up with coloring books. But, unlike most adults, I continue to buy them—and fill them—to this day. For that I can thank my mother, a licensed art therapist who has long promoted the pastime as a therapeutic outlet. Far from pushing a think-inside-the-box mentality, coloring provides a healthy space for self-expression and experimentation. And, for those who enjoy it, coloring can leave you with a profound sense of zen-like relaxation and accomplishment. Weiner's fanciful landscapes are organized by season; they're a riot of vegetation, edible plant life, and tantalizing market scenes. They'll encourage you to paint (or pencil) the town red—in any colors you like.

Manhattan chef Jody Williams's Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food is as charming and inviting as the restaurant that inspired it. This is a book to get greasy and damp as you cook through its pages, and it's a nightstand read, dreamy and warm, to flip through as you wind down. Channeling a traditional French bistro, with a bit of Italy and a touch of New York thrown in, the recipes are classics, both inspirational and totally doable. Some are so simple that they hardly count as recipes at all—they're more like suggestions for how to better your day with a plate of food, from breakfast through dessert after a lingering, late-night supper. Perfect for your impossibly, effortlessly stylish friend.

Race relations, religion, the New South versus the Old: These are just a smattering of the heavy issues Rien Fertel writes about through the lens of—well—smoked meat, in this new book. And, while you might be thinking, "Oh, man, another book about barbecue?", this one stands out from the crowd thanks to Fertel's superb writing and storytelling skills. In a book that's part culinary history, part personal narrative, and part tale of an American road trip, Fertel travels throughout the South, documenting the men who have long stood behind the fires practicing the time-consuming pursuit of whole hog barbecue—the ones who have been keeping alive the embers of what once seemed like a dying art, and the ones who are inspiring a new generation of pitmasters today.

Winter is all about slow-cooked braised dishes, and Molly Stevens's text is the bible on the subject. Stevens first devotes dozens of pages to discussing the equipment and technique behind braising in incredible detail. Then she provides unfussy but impressive-sounding recipes to make the most of your newfound braising skills. A little hint: The vegetable recipes are some of the best.

If you know someone who has a taste for a well-made cocktail, but lives far from the heart of the Brooklyn drinking scene, this book is the perfect gift. It features 300 innovative and classic drink recipes from the best bars of the borough; every cocktail we've tried from it so far has been killer. The drinks Carey Jones has selected aren't dumbed down at all, but, for the most part, you're not looking at mile-long ingredient lists, either.

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