April's newly released cookbooks represent the cusp of winter/spring by featuring both cozy comfort foods to keep us warm in these still-cool weeks and fresh-from-the-garden veggies ahead of harvest season.
Warming up my kitchen with a French Provincial flair is From Scratch by Laurence Laurendon. This has a winning combination of simple, hardy recipes and a DIY approach. There is a distinct lack of fussiness, even dry-curing your own ham seems doable. Most recipes are represented with storage options, so you'll have some time to get out in the yard, work up an appetite, then get back in your kitchen later to enjoy such delights as mason-jarred ratatouille or (my favorite) yogurt with apricot jam.
Another comfort-food cookbook rocking my kitchen this April: Tina Nordstrom's Scandinavian Cooking. Dare I call this a perfect cookbook? Every recipe has a personal, chatty, helpful introduction, and almost all are accompanied by a beautiful photo illustration. Kitchen tips are scattered throughout. Oddly, not all recipes are Scandinavian. I think of this more as a collection of Nordstrom's favorite recipes, most of them Swedish but with tacos and tempura tossed in as well. Sweden's master chef Nordstrom's simple down-home approach gives northern European cooking a modern twist: risotto with red beets? Yes, please!
You could have blown me over with a feather when I recently discovered brussels sprouts could taste delicious. Kale rarely passed my lips until a year ago, when I fell in love with it. Like many, I'm a late bloomer to the delights of this mustard family superfood. Brassicas by Laura B. Russell has simple sauté and salad recipes for the new fan of this extra-green food, and provides more adventuresome ethnic-style recipes. Beautiful photos backed with extra-helpful cooking explanations make this book a keeper for your kitchen shelf and a lovely book to give as a gift.
Here in Powell's ordering office, we are agog over The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson. One book buyer has been cooking from its vegetarian recipes all week with great success. This is a beautiful cookbook; every page has deeply saturated photos and illustrations of Gleeson's simple yet enticing food. She approaches her recipes with a photographer's eye, making each dish a visual feast. A truly stunning cookbook.
Foodies always have a little room set aside in their hearts for niche cookbooks, and James Beard Award–winner James Peterson gives us an unusual but welcome addition. Done: A Cook's Guide to Knowing When Food Is Perfectly Cooked has almost all pictures and no traditional recipes. What we get is a wealth of Peterson's vast kitchen knowledge: how to cook and, more importantly, when to stop cooking. This book is meant to work with your own recipes as Peterson walks you through every step of the best cooking techniques, from prep to plating.