Either you are a spring person or you are a fall person. I’m a fall person. I suspect many bookish folks are. Fall evokes memories of going back to school — when there was the excitement, almost at a celebratory level, of seeing old friends and experiencing the thrill of new textbooks to read! Oh sure, perhaps this thrill only lasted a day or two, but the fun of haunting the library for new finds lasted all year.
Even if it's been years since you stepped into a classroom, there are many recently released cookbooks that will help you continue your culinary education: How to Bake Everything
(chemistry), Ten Restaurants That Changed America
(history), and EveryDayCook
(Alton Brown!).There is also a strong social studies aspect to the new releases this time around. America, with its historical melting-pot mélange of immigrants, has a welcome wealth of ethnic foods and cookbooks. Among the new releases are a double-header of Persian eats in the form of two new Iranian cookbooks: Taste of Persia
and The Saffron Tales
. Other places represented this time around: China, India, Spain, and the Middle East.
EveryDayCook: This Time, It's Personal
by Alton Brown
Alton Brown, when not teaching us food science on Good Eats
or hosting Iron Chef America
, can be found in his own kitchen cooking his own food from the recipes that he likes to eat. And thus this cookbook was born. As a man who has spent his life eating for a living, he has collected and developed some choice recipes which he is willing to share with us. Some recipes that caught my eye: Green Grape Cobbler (because all fruits are good when cobblered), “Enchilasagna” or “Lasagnalada” (because kitchen ethnic mash-ups are often delicious), and Lacquered Bacon (because bacon AND sugar).
Heads up: You’ll need a kitchen scale. And maybe a whipped cream siphon, and maybe a cast-iron skillet, and maybe a grill, and maybe a pressure cooker, because Mr. Brown must have a pretty sweet kitchen with all the gadgets, and he uses them. (Word to the wise: I’m seeing more and more cookbooks that require the use of kitchen scales and it will not be long before a scale will be as common as measuring cups. Timely hint: perhaps ask Santa for a scale this year.)
Alton Brown's EveryDayCook
is what the well-versed home cook and/or science nerd will want in their kitchen, because Alton Brown just can’t help but give a little science with his meals.
Big Food Big Love: Down-Home Southern Cooking Full of Heart From Seattle’s Wandering Goose
by Heather L. Earnhardt
In Big Food Big Love
, author/chef Heather Earnhardt brings us Southern cooking by way of Seattle’s Wandering Goose restaurant. These are not shrinking-violet recipes; these are big, bold flavors to fill your soul as well as your belly. I don’t think there is a single recipe in here that I would not eat. Pimento “Not Your Mama’s” Mac & Cheese comes with the mentioned pimento and also with a bit of heat. The Broiled Garden Tomatoes include spiced pralines and burrata. (What, cooked burrata? It never occurred to me to broil, or in any way heat up, the delightfully creamy burrata, and I am now enchanted with this idea.) And the Smoked Chocolate Chip Cookies have chocolate, bacon, and potato chips, all in one cookie!
I made the Sausage Spice Mix and then used it in the Country Breakfast Sausage. The sausage patties were so bursting with flavor that we chowed down immediately and I forgot to take a photo. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all.
This is an awesome cookbook with easy-to-understand recipes told in a friendly, informative way. Big Food Big Love
is a contender for my top five cookbooks of 2016.
Anybody who enjoys cooking Southern food will want to have this cookbook.
China: The Cookbook
by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan
What a beauty! Phaidon is known for cultivating gorgeous cookbooks that contain a comprehensive listing of recipes, and China: The Cookbook
is a brilliant example. Its 720 pages are notable not only because of the sheer amount of recipes they contain but also because they make a nice thick book for the presentation of their gilt edges. Gilt edges! This is definitely a book to leave on your coffee table, or to shelve gilt-edge-out on your kitchen shelves. (Also, there are two ribbon bookmarks. Nice.) China: the Cookbook
follows the numerous foodways of China, known as the Eight Great Cuisines. The first 41 pages covers the history, techniques, and tools. Then starts the heady ride of all those recipes. Oh, and the photography! Not every dish gets a photo, but the photos that are there are stunning.
If you have the desire to cook Chinese, you can do no better than with China: The Cookbook
. It’s a showstopper.
Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food
by Ali Bouzari
There are no recipes here. There is nothing but science — awesome, nerdy food science. Author Ali Bouzari is like the cool high school teacher who can make the most boring lessons fascinating. He explains the chemistry and science of how cooking works — the water, sugars, carbs, lipids, proteins, minerals, gases, and heat that make up the basics of cooking. Ingredient
is deeply illustrated with awesome photos and even better artwork (really amazing). In the words of J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt
: “It’s a reference guide disguised as a comic book that is engaging to read and eminently useful. You can’t turn more than two pages without discovering something new or being reminded of a concept that is the key to solving a kitchen problem you’ve been having.”
will make you smarter, and after reading it, you’ll cook smarter. And that makes everything taste better.
How to Bake Everything: Simple Recipes for the Best Baking
by Mark Bittman
Oh Mark Bittman. Someday I will have a shelf of cookbooks completely devoted to you, because you are just that good.
Every single title in Bittman's How to [insert cooking term here] Everything
series has been a winner. There are always explanatory drawings and tons of written guidelines. I’m very impassioned about my need for recipe photos, but I never miss the presence of photos in a Bittman cookbook, as the recipes are so well represented.
Mark Bittman! The bottom line is the trustworthy Mark Bittman, who dangnabit will teach us how to be better cooks.
My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India Into a Southern Kitchen
by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose
One of the best parts of traveling is learning new cuisines, then bringing these new flavors home to make in our own kitchens. In My Two Souths
, we have the American South meeting up with Southern India. As a relative newcomer to Georgia, Gomez set out to learn and understand the Southern foodways, and she shares the background of both of her Souths in the recipes. My New Year’s meal is already planned: I’m switching out my usual Hopping John recipe with author/chef Asha Gomez’s Curry Leaf and Bacon Hopping John. With the serrano chilies, she puts in the amount of heat that I like in this traditional Southern dish.
If you are a fan of both Indian food and American Southern food — as I am — you will find this a most winning combination.
The Saffron Tales: Recipes From the Persian Kitchen
by Yasmin Khan
Author Yasmin Khan traveled Iran to find down-home Iranian food in the kitchens of ordinary folk like you and me. (I‘m kind of supposing a lot about your ordinariness, sorry. You may be quite extraordinary!) Each chapter is introduced with a travelogue about the country and its people and food. I love to be jarred out of my preconceptions, which the recipe of Date and Cinnamon Omelette provides. This recipe was taught to Khan from a “lovable grandmother from Tabriz.” What a wonderful source to learn new recipes from. The soup chapter is a special standout, with recipes such as the creamy Hot Yogurt and Chickpea Soup; the sweet, sour and earthy Pomegranate Soup; and the festive Pistachio Soup.
With Khan’s regional food stories, this has the feel of armchair travel — only it takes place in your kitchen (stove-top travel?). Or as Yotam Ottolenghi
puts it, “Yasmin’s recipes are a mouthwatering showcase of a beautiful country.”
Small Victories: Recipes, Advice, and Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs
by Julia Turshen
Review by Rhianna:
The organizing principle of Julia Turshen’s excellent solo cookbook debut, Small Victories
, are the simple kitchen tricks — or “victories” — shared in each recipe, which allow even a novice cook to bake perfect sweet rolls, roll homemade pasta, or turn a plate of plain broiled chicken into something buttery and nuanced. I’ve made her Roasted Salmon With Maple and Soy, Feel-Better-Soon Cookies (better known in our house as the “Take a Nap and You Can Have a Cookie" Cookies), and simplified lasagna (use crème fraîche and skip the béchamel) with excellent results.
Insider Tip #1:
Turshen doesn’t mention this, but chill your cookie dough for at least 15 minutes and up to a couple of days before baking. This will help the cookies retain their structure and allows the sugars to develop a more complex flavor. I was in a hurry to produce post-nap cookies and only chilled half the dough — you can tell in the picture that the un-chilled batch spread out quite a bit.
Insider Tip #2:
A lot of Turshen’s recipes call for crème fraîche, which is an expensive specialty product at most stores. Make it yourself! Just combine 2 cups heavy cream with 2 tablespoons buttermilk or yogurt in a jar, give it a vigorous stir, and store on the countertop covered with a cheesecloth and rubber band for 24-36 hours, until thickened and tangy.
Turshen includes a list of variations at the end of each recipe, which I love because it means that you can pull virtually any veggie out of the fridge and find a delicious way to prepare it.
Taste and Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking
by Naomi Pomeroy
Portland is justifiably proud of self-taught chef Naomi Pomeroy. Whether in her restaurants (Beast, Clarklewis) or her TV appearances (Top Chef Masters
, Knife Fight
) that helped put Portland on the foodie map, Pomeroy stands for good food plated with ingredients that go well together. In a precise and inspiring fashion, Taste and Technique
not only presents good recipes, but includes a cooking lesson with each recipe for home cooks who want to improve their kitchen knowledge. Reading Taste and Technique
is a little like winning a contest where Pomeroy comes to your kitchen to buff up your mad cooking skills. Pomeroy helps to provide knowledge building blocks so that the home cook can understand how to create a good meal where the sum is larger than its parts.
Insider Tip by Leah C.:
Give yourself plenty of time for these recipes! I would suggest putting elements like dressings and sauces together as far in advance as possible, as ours got better and better as the evening went on and the flavors had a chance to blend. Don't get me wrong, though; the extra time is definitely worth it! Our Heirloom Tomato and Crab Salad was delicious, and the Homemade French Dressing was a revelation. I want to whip up huge vats of it and put it on EVERYTHING.
Bottom Line: Taste and Technique
is a completely impressive cookbook. Every English-reading cook should find it of interest. This is a bold statement, I know, but I stand by it.
MORE NEW COOKBOOKS
Oh no! There are too many new cookbooks to review! But I can at least share a little bit about a few more noteworthy recent releases.
Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan
by Naomi Duguid
Naomi Duguid, author of the popular Hot Sour Salty Sweet
, treats us to a travelogue through the regions of modern Persia. Taste of Persia
is for the cook who wants to make flavorful Persian regional dishes, and who wants to make food that is as authentic as possible. The dust jacket is a beauty, so this is also for the cook who doesn’t mind casually showing off by “accidentally” leaving the book lying around on the coffee table.
Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food From an American Kitchen
by Katie Button
It took just one recipe from this cookbook to sell me on it: Garlic Rice With Tomato Sauce and Fried Egg and Banana. I love when innovation and deliciousness cross paths. Also, the Best Ever Fried Egg recipe is how we should all be frying our eggs.
My Indian Cookbook
by Amandip Uppal
This is a lovely cookbook — the photography and graphics give it an extra charm. With the inclusion of recipes for foods commonly found in Indian restaurants in America, this could be a welcome introduction to Indian cooking, as well as a resource for more experienced cooks to expand their Indian repertoire.
Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes
by Angela Liddon
Angela Liddon took the world by storm with her first book based on her vegan blog (boasting over a million followers!). Many of these recipes are not only vegan but also gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, and grain-free — so there should be plenty of choices for all your family and friends' needs.
Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes From Sofra Bakery and Cafe
by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick
Have you cooked everything in your Ottolenghi cookbooks? Then you need to start cooking from Soframiz
For those times when all the cooking you really want to do is heat up the oven for the take-n-bake pizza you grabbed on the way home. (Oh, I know, you added some cheese, maybe some chopped-up bacon, and certainly extra minced garlic. It’s just in a cook's nature to personalize a meal.) Make yourself comfortable and settle in for a good read about food.
Ten Restaurants That Changed America
by Paul Freedman
Ten Restaurants That Changed America
has been getting a lot of buzz, and deservedly so. Ten Restaurants
presents American social history through the lens of dining out. A little bit of history, a little bit of foody-ism, and a whole lot of color illustration make for a deeply satisfying read through Americana. Author Paul Freedman, a medieval historian, gives us a historical narrative that ranges from the early French styled food, through various ethnic foods, into today’s regionalism, with plenty of stops for fast food. Among the restaurants profiled are: Delmonico’s, Schrafft’s, Howard Johnson’s, Sylvia’s, the recently shuttered Four Seasons, and Chez Panisse. This is a fascinating 527-page look at our national love affair with food trends over the last 200 years.