The Bookworm

Great food writing and cookbooks she'll love.

Published on what would have been the late British author’s 100th birthday, Elizabeth David’s On Vegetables will teach you how a bag of grocery store onions can be transformed into an unforgettable roasted side dish, and how some fresh shelled peas can yield the most vibrant soup you’ve ever tasted. Filled with recipes that are simple, straightforward, yet often revelatory, this book also features a few of David’s best essays, as well as gorgeous photography.  — Keith

Indian food has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, with hard-to-find ingredients and new techniques. I get it. It's intimidating. But in this book, Serious Eater Denise D'silva Sankhé breaks Indian cooking down into simple techniques that any home cook can master to produce amazingly flavorful dishes with minimal effort. Over the course of more than 100 recipes, Denise introduces us to simple cooking from every region of India, focusing on home-style dishes that move well beyond the world of curries. I'm also super stoked that she's included notes with every recipe on whether it's vegan, vegetarian, and/or allergy-friendly.  — Kenji

I don't know if there's a book about cooking that I'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 one another if you begin to think of 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. I read this book over and over again to help myself remember that dinner doesn't always need to be a big deal.  — Maggie

A New York Times best-seller! The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt is his eponymous Serious Eats column on this very website, blown up to 900+ pages (and 7+ pounds) of concentrated culinary science. Gorgeous color photos, detailed how-tos, and elaborate explainers cover ingredients, technique, gear, and the secrets of the universe underneath it all. May include puns.  — Serious Eats Staff

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 of Mom's home preservation undertakings. I'm getting excited just thinking about it.  — Daniel

Does Mom like her drink fizzy, refreshing, and with a side of history? This good-looking book is the perfect companion to cocktail hour, tracing the story of Italy's apertivo tradition and offering up a collection of tasty recipes, both classic and innovative. The photos (and the drinks) will get your mouth watering. If Mom goes for fun-and-fruity, start with the easy-drinking Aperol Betty, made with a little fresh orange and grapefruit. Does she have a taste for all things bitter and bracing? Get her a bottle of Barolo Chinato, too, and make her the vibrant Appennini Spritz.  — Maggie

Kentucky-based writer Ronni Lundy is an expert on the foods and foodways of the Mountain South. In her latest book, Sorghum’s Savor, she explores the history and folklore, and the many uses, of the region’s staple sweetener. Recipes range from fried chicken to sorbet.  — Keith

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 mother.  — Serious Eats Staff

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 your mom with excitement rather than dread, this is the kind of book that will make her utterly determined to prevail.  — Niki

I've never been to Zahav, the Philadelphia restaurant where Michael Solomov serves his Israeli cuisine, but its namesake book has nevertheless changed the way I cook. If Mom still cooks the occasional meal for you, you might point her toward the hummus tahini, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon that alone is 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.  — Kenji

If you're looking to give your mom the one definitive primer on pasta-making in its myriad forms, this is it: Superlative step-by-step photographs take the guesswork out of potentially intimidating fundamentals like mixing and kneading dough, as well as more intricate tasks, like pleating teardrops of corn- and cheese-stuffed culurgiònes. Better yet, Vetri arms you with the tools and knowledge that allow for controlled, intelligent experimentation and exploration before sending you into the fray.  — Niki