Here’s some news that might shock you: I really like cookbooks. Having them around, leafing through them, getting lost in them, cooking from them, sharing them, even writing them; they’re pretty damn pleasurable IMHO. And they also happen to make really good gifts, mostly because they’re a good (and pretty personal) way to show people that you like them, but also because they’re a sneaky way to ensure that whenever you visit their homes there will probably be something good to eat. (Selfless, I know.)
Kate (part of our team, also my daughter, also a total book fiend) spent the past few months sifting through stacks of cookbooks that have come out recently (and a couple not so recently), and has come up with a shortlist of her favorites. She says, “it’s a wide variety, and you should be able to find something for almost every type of cook,” which I think is true. Just remember, the only way to truly guarantee that the recipient will love the gift is if the recipient is you; if there’s ever a year to buy yourself a present (or eight), it’s this one. You deserve it. Here’s Kate …
The Best Cookbooks For Gifting
When it comes to cookbooks, I never know which kind of person I want to be: The streamlined one, with a few key cookbooks from which I get exactly what I need, or the romantic, with stacks of all different sorts of cookbooks scattered around sort of everywhere. (Can you tell? I am the latter, but strive to be the former.)
The reason I have so many, though, is because good ones keep coming out: I looked through a lot of them over the last few months, and I’m never not amazed by what talented cooks can think up. Here are some of my favorites; it’s a wide variety, and you should be able to find something for almost every type of cook.
There’s been a lot of buzz around Meera Sodha’s East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing, and rightfully so. “This is food I’ve created in my kitchen based on a very personal journey and an adventure,” Sodha writes in the introduction. “And this is how I like to cook for my family and friends, and for myself. It is the food I’ve come to love — and I hope you love it too.” Let me tell you: I do. I made the Honey, Soy, and Ginger Braised Tofu (above) and will absolutely be making it again. I’m also excited to cook the Peanut Butter and Broccolini Pad Thai, Chickpea Flour Fries with Chile Sauce, and Onigiri Stuffed with Walnut Miso (which looks way less complicated than I would have imagined!).
Yossy Arefi’s Snacking Cakes: Simple Treats for Anytime Cravings is a delightful, pretty book that packs a real punch. I made the Powdered Donut Cake (pictured above) for Thanksgiving, and let me tell you, it’s as good as it sounds — no frying involved. All the recipes in this book are one bowl and no fuss, which is exactly what I want right now. Some others to try: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake, Whole-Grain Strawberry Cake, and Grapefruit White Chocolate Cake.
Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews (Evan Bloom and Rachel Levin) is kind of like the cookbook version of “Wet Hot American Summer.” It’s nostalgia at its best, and an awesome compendium of Jewish recipes, with classics and modernized takes on classics, a mix that will please people of every generation.
The book is separated into stages of life (young adulting, all grown up, etc.) along with categories like “Visiting the Grandparents in the Sunshine States,” “Dinner with the Goyim In-Laws,” and “Are You Pregnant Yet?”, each with a witty, at times touching essay on the subject at hand (“So, You Didn’t Marry a Jew”). Recipes to try: Manny’s Morning After Matzoquiles, Strawberry Challah “Shortcake,” and, of course, Wise Sons’ Brisket.
Do you follow Zoe Adjonyoh on Instagram? You should. She’s joyful and passionate, and her food looks so good. Her book, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen: Traditional Ghanian Recipes Remixed for the Modern Kitchen, is I suppose the next best thing to actually getting to hang out and cook with her — playlists and stories from Adjonyoh’s food journey through Ghana included.
I’ve wanted to try cooking with red palm oil since I read Yewande Komolafe’s excellent piece about it; Adjonyoh’s book gives me apt opportunities to do so. I’m going to try her Red Red Stew (pictured above and “so called, I’m told, because it’s coloured red twice — once from the red of the palm oil and a second time from the tomatoes”), but I’m also looking forward to the Scotch Bonnet Coleslaw and Plantain Salad — plus many others.
Loring Place in NYC is one of my favorite restaurants, and I can’t wait until I can go again on a regular basis. Chef Dan Kluger’s love of vegetables is contagious; he can take any variety and turn it into something totally unexpected and wonderful. Kluger’s book, Chasing Flavor: Techniques and Recipes to Cook Fearlessly, shows the rest of us how to do that.
Grilled Broccoli with Orange Aioli and Pistachio Vinaigrette is a mainstay on his menu, and is something that I’d make at home (and now can, and will); there’s an enticing recipe for Chicken Salad with Roasted Baby Vegetables and Sweet and Spicy Vinaigrette that seems perfect for leftover roast chicken; and, most meaningful to me, Kluger’s Bacon, Date, and Radicchio Pizza, which is one of my favorite things to eat, is now a published recipe for everyone to make and enjoy.
Fruit Cake: Recipes for the Curious Baker, by Jason Schreiber, is so much fun. A celebrated food stylist, Schreiber would take leftover fruit home from photoshoots and experiment with how best to do it justice. “I’m here to offer modern recipes planted firmly in the idea that nature’s wares can be the star of every cake,” Schreiber writes in the introduction. “And I’m willing to use up every goddamn thing in my refrigerator to prove it.”
To be sure, Schreiber’s got a lot of showstoppers in the book, but there are simpler recipes, too — something for every mood. Coconut Apricot Macaroon Cake or Banana Tiramisu, anyone?
Some Recipes From MY Cookbooks
Talk To Me, Goose!
Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.