As you mull over gift ideas before the mad shopping rush begins, think on this: a cookbook is just the thing for the cook in your life — but not any cookbook.
Listen carefully to your homecook’s interests. Is she or he into a particular country or U.S. region lately? Maybe you’re witnessing the daily stress of placing dinner on the table after working all day. You’ve noticed how devoted your friend, spouse, partner, or family member is to anything that one celebrity chef does on TV, online, or in print. How about that food lover who’s getting healthy, cooking more vegetables, or avoiding gluten? And then there are those random passions that some cookbooks highlight, from a favorite show, ingredient, culinary sub-genre, or artistic pursuit.
These are some of our top picks for presents among the latest 2016 cookbooks.
Country or Regional Cooking
When Ashley Christensen took over a 1946 diner named Poole’s, it was the start of the transformation of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, and her locally-based Southern restaurant empire. Spawning six other restaurants, they all showcase Christensen’s commitment to local ingredients, elevated comfort food, and community. You’ll get recipes like turnip green fritters with whipped tahini and warm broccoli salad with cheddar and bacon vinaigrette, along with her restaurant faves: pimento cheese, macaroni au gratin, and challah bread pudding with whiskey apples and créme fraîche. Christensen and her cookbook redefine what comfort food can be. Buy it here.
Wrap your head around all the varieties of Chinese food in this comprehensive, contemporary portrait of country’s culinary geography and history that has shaped it, with more than 300 recipes. This is the first cookbook in English to examine all 35 cuisines of China. Drawing from ancient culinary texts as well as her own experience, Carolyn Phillips created a spirited, symphonic love letter to China’s flavors and textures — from simple fried green onion noodles to lotus-wrapped spicy rice crumb pork. It’s both a handbook for novices and inspiration for veteran cooks. Buy it here.
Tired of the same old meals in your repertoire? Unless you’re from the diverse cultures of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, or Kurdistan, these recipes will excite you with their newness and fresh flavor combinations. If you are from these Persian places, then you’ll approve too. Color and spark come from ripe red pomegranates, golden saffron threads, and the fresh herbs served at every meal. Grilled kebabs, barbari breads, pilafs, and brightly colored condiments are everyday fare, as well as rich stews and sweets like date-nut halvah and rosewater pudding. Buy it here.
Jump into this book for a culinary journey with Chef Asha Gomez, from her small village in southern India’s Kerala region to her celebrated restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia. Gomez will then drop you off at home with her recipes rooted in her love of Deep-South cooking, as well as the Southern Indian flavors of her childhood home. Although the two Souths are thousands of miles apart, they share similarities in traditions, seasonings, and most importantly, the celebration and comfort of good food. You’ll discover more than 125 recipes, including: black cardamom smothered pork chop; vivid tomato and cheese pie; kerala fried chicken and waffles; and three spice carrot cake. Buy it here.
No one has refuted the validity of this book title or its predecessor, How to Cook Everyting. Out to satisfy every craving, Bittman packs in 2,000 recipes and variations. For instance, a pound cake can incorporate polenta, yogurt, ricotta, citrus, hazelnuts, and ginger. This book can be an indispensable tool for aspiring bakers, with alternative flour guides, essential equipment advice, technique illustrations … more than a dozen pancake pages. Buy it here.
Israeli baking encompasses so many regions, from Morocco and Yemen to Germany and Georgia. Scheft combines the influences of his Scandinavian heritage, his European pastry training, and his Israeli and New York City homes to provide sweet and savory baking recipes that cover European, Israeli, and Middle Eastern favorites. Cheese bourekas, flatbreads, potato and shakshuka focaccia, challahs, cookies, and then … (drumroll) the Legendary Chocolate Babka. Plus there are some salads and hummus recipes too, so you can make it a well-rounded meal. The goodness within Scheft’s Breads Bakery in New York City and Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv can come out of your oven. Buy it here.
Alternative oils, sugars, and grains are popping up in even the most mainstream baking these days, and Better Baking takes this concept and bakes with it. Ko uses substitutes like olive oil, maple syrup, and almond flour to create nutritious baked treats. Expect crave-worthy goods like grated zucchini chocolate sheet cake, whole grain apple cider donuts, and a pomegranate syrup baklava. She uses grains such as whole wheat, spelt, rye, buckwheat, graham flour, and almond flour. The book is the result of more than a dozen years of making recipes for food and health magazines and working alongside pastry chefs. Now you too, can bake without white flour and sugar, and bake well. Buy it here.
Sure, Bourdain’s been busy with his food-biz endeavors and CNN series, Parts Unknown, since his first cookbook in 2004. But now he took time to boil down 40-plus years of professional cooking and globe-trotting to a concise list of personal favorites. Now that this former bad-boy of cooking has a little daughter, he’s staying in more often and has translated his worldly exploits into a home-cooking, home-entertaining cookbook. Buy it here.
Culinary guru Dorie Greenspan has authored 12 cookbooks, won four James Beard Awards, and travels between New York and Paris, but she’s never written a cookie cookbook. Slacker. The 300+ recipes she’s picked up along the way are the ones she’s made again and again. They range from pink peppercorn thumbprints and the World Peace Cookie, to lunchbox blueberry buttermilk pie bars, almond crackle cookies with three ingredients, German jam sandwich cookies with walnuts, and snowy topped brownie drops. Yes. Buy it here.
Who’s one of the luckiest men when it comes time for dinner? Ina Garten’s husband, Jeffrey. And his favorite dishes cooked by his celebrated chef wife were made public in a book that everyone can share. It’s filled with everyday “Jeffrey-tested” recipes that trace the couple’s history, like frozen hot chocolate that nods to a college-era date at Serendipity 3. Because grilled lamb chops and apple pie bars just might be the secret to 48 happy years of marriage. (That’s it?! Get cooking, couples.) Buy it here.
They may be the founders of Food52, that online cooking and lifestyle site, but when Hesser and Stubbs each had children, creating their weeknight meals became stressful. This book is the answer. It shows how to meal-plan for the week and repurpose the leftovers for lunch or the next night. Divided by season and by the authors, it’s a beautiful book with food you want to eat. The seasonal plans give you everything you need to set yourself up well for the week, with grocery lists and cooking timelines. They also share clever tips and tricks. Buy it now.
Chefs are turning their attention home, evidenced by this book from James Beard Award-winning and self-made chef Naomi Pomeroy of Portland, who outlines the fundamentals of cooking. Her debut cookbook features nearly 140 lesson-driven recipes designed to improve the home cook’s understanding of professional techniques and flavor combinations in order to produce simple, yet outstanding, meals. The 20-year veteran chef with four restaurants has learned her trade, not in fancy culinary schools, but by reading cookbooks. So you can bet her cookbook is useful too. Buy it here.
Here’s a guide for whipping up nourishing vegetable-centered food that’s realistic on any day of the week. The chapters are broken down by time, with recipes that can be prepared in under 15, 20, 30, and 40 minutes, so no matter how busy you are, you can get dinner on the table. Your dinner could be anything from smoky pepper and white bean quesadillas, butternut squash and sweet leek hash, or chickpea pasta with simple tomato sauce. Buy it here.
Chef Jessica Koslow is called the future of California cooking. Her Sqirl restaurant is responsible for an absurd number of restaurant trends, all health-conscious, tasty, and colorful. You can modify the book’s more than 100 recipes for all kinds of diets: vegan, gluten-free, and carnivore. Buy it here.
Get more than 80 meal recipes that can be cooked in fewer than 30 minutes, plus 60 slow cooker recipes from this book. The focus is on creating nutritious, flavor-packed, figure-friendly meals — complete with a flourless chocolate brownie made in a slow cooker — on the table any night of the week. Favorites in the first (30-minute) category include: zucchini noodles with shrimp and feta, pizza-stuffed chicken roll-ups, and grilled cheese with havarti, Brussels sprouts, and apple. Slow cooker recipes include chicken and dumpling soup, Korean-style beef tacos, spicy harissa lamb ragu, and peach-strawberry crumble. Each recipe includes nutritional information with icons indicating which dishes are vegetarian, gluten-free, and freezer-friendly. Buy it here.
The creators of the New York Times bestselling cookbook series Thug Kitchen are back to deliver the sorta gentle, but always hilarious shove you need to take the leap into healthy eating. Thug Kitchen 101 includes more than 100 accessible recipes toward a better diet. This kickass kitchen primer also serves up health benefits and nutrition to remind everyone how eating a plant-based diet can benefit your body and budget. You’re too important to be eating garbage, so this book makes it easy to take care of No. 1: you. Buy it here.
Her first cookbook was a New York Times bestseller, so this one has a good chance of shining brightly as well. The popular vegan blogger returns includes useful information on essential pantry ingredients and tips on making recipes kid-, allergy-, and freezer-friendly. Build a pantry of staples like cashew-based cheese sauce and no-cook caramel sauce, then use them for comforting stovetop mac ‘n’ cheese and a creamy chocolate-peanut butter tart. Buy it here.
Not a show for nerdy cat ladies anymore, this phenomenon lives on with all the food from the seven-season show. Fans will eat up the delicious recipes honoring the chefs who fuel the science-defying metabolisms of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Luke’s diner menu, Sookie’s eclectic inn fare, Emily’s fancy Friday Night Dinners, and town favorites are the key influences behind these tempting dishes. You’ll get 100 recipes, covering all the bases and invoke key episodes and daily scenes in the Gilmores’ lives, such as salmon puffs, pumpkin pancakes, Rocky Road cookies, risotto, and the Birthday Girl Cocktail. Buy it here.
Take your food to the next level with expert spicing. Sercarz founded popular New York spice shop La Boîte in 2006 and is now showing his strength in an A-to-Z guide to the vast world of spices. Learn more about your familiar spices, but also get acquainted with new flavors. For each spice, you’ll get the history and origin, information on where to buy and how to store it, five traditional cuisine pairings, three quick suggestions for use, and a unique spice blend recipe to highlight it in the kitchen. You’ll get 102 never-published-before recipes for spice blends. Buy it here.
For your creative types in and out of the kitchen, consider this unique collection of food-related stories and recipes from 76 artists. You’ll hear how James Franco feels about PB&J, score a black bean recipe from Ruth Reichl, and read a heart-wrenching brief from Joyce Carol Oates on grief and scrambled eggs. Inspired by a book from 1961, this new, vibrantly illustrated version includes stories and recipes from Anthony Doerr, Leanne Shapton, Joyce Carol Oates, John Currin and Rachel Feinstein, Ed Ruscha, Neil Gaiman, Edwidge Danticat, Aimee Bender, Gregory Crewdson, James Franco, Francesca Lia Block, Swoon, Nelson DeMille, Rick Moody and Laurel Nakadate, Nikki Giovanni, T.C. Boyle, Lev Grossman, Roz Chast, Heidi Julavits, Marina Abramović, Curtis Sittenfeld, Julia Alvarez, and many others. Buy it here.
Goalen is at it again. Short Stack has been publishing one-ingredient cook-booklets for a few years, but this combines the best of the those stylish gems plus more. The first large, hardcover cookbook from Short Stack Editions is an artful collection of 150 new and original recipes organized by ingredient from IACP and James Beard Award–winning cookbook authors, chefs, food writers, recipe testers, and editors. Ingredients include: bacon, kale, honey, eggplant, winter squash, and tahini. It’s a great gift for the nostalgic, design-centric home cook looking for recipe inspiration for their weekly farmer’s market haul or CSA farm box. Buy it here.
Regarding Cocktails is the only book from the late Sasha Petraske, the legendary bartender who restored cocktail culture with his speakeasy-style bar Milk & Honey in NYC. Here are 85 cocktail recipes from his repertoire with stories from the bartenders he personally trained. Ingredients, measurements, and preparations are beautifully illustrated so that readers can make professional cocktails at home. Buy it here.