Perhaps, like most of us, you’re struggling to find that perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your sig o. A bouquet of flowers seems too predictable, you did chocolates last year, and he or she already has an Instant Pot. Enter the wide wonderful world of cookbooks, a gift that not only says “I love you—what are we having for dinner tonight?” but also, “I know you.”
Choosing the right cookbook for him or for her means really thinking about what kind of person you’re with and not just picking up a copy of “Joy of Cooking” in a last minute panic buy (though everyone should own that one). Do you have a Netflix binger in your life? Someone who’s always planning that next trip? A design addict who loves looking at pretty pictures of food but not, you know, cooking it so much? Don’t sweat it; if there’s one genre we know, it’s cookbooks. Below, we’ve got you (like you’re not going to share this gift) and your other half covered.
For the Overachiever
Don’t let the title fool you—what Ottolenghi thinks is simple might make a home cook cry in her Iranian herb fritters. As he once wrote, “One person’s idea of cooking simply is the next person’s culinary nightmare.” But this cookbook really does emphasize simpler cooking more so than the rest in Ottolenghi’s arsenal. To help cooks strategize, each dish is coded with different letters that stand for things like “short on time,” “ten ingredients or less,” “make ahead,” and “pantry.” Like Ottolenghi’s previous cookbooks, “Simple” focuses on fresh Middle Eastern flavors with dishes like slow-cooked lamb shoulder with mint and a pappardelle with rose harissa. It’s perfect for that Type A-er in your life (and it’s Chowhound’s February pick for cookbook club).Buy Now
For the Influencer-In-The-Making
The sequel to Teigen’s smash-hit cookbook, “Cravings,” stays true to her uncompromising approach to life and food while also branching out with inventive flavor combos like coconut chicken tenders and (mildly controversial) pad thai carbonara. In between recipes, she demonstrates why she’s a genius brand builder, sharing “relatable” anecdotes that touch on her life with John Legend, photos of her and Luna in matching outfits, and stories behind her favorite childhood dishes, like how her mom came up with instant noodle tom yum. Pair the book with an Instax mini or anything from Teigen’s kitchen line from Target, and you’ll make all of his or her followers swoon with sig o envy.Buy Now
For the Millennial Always Planning That Next International Trip
This is one of the best cookbooks of 2018 according to just about every year-end list. And Ponseca and Trinidad’s recipes are perfect for that certain constant wanderluster who somehow managed to squeeze in Machu Picchu over Labor Day weekend. With standout photography of Filipino markets, a crash-course to the Philippines, and super comprehensive intros to ingredients like burong isda (fermented fish), “I Am a Filipino” gives home cooks a deep dive into Filipino culture and food. Get your sweetheart started by tracking down ingredients like the shrimp paste called bagoong guisado (Kamayan brand), sugarcane vinegar, or other Filipino pantry staples. Now, did someone say, “Manila trip for two”?Buy Now
For the Netflix Binger
If you’re both big into Netflix-and-chill kind of weekends, chances are you’ve seen Samin Nosrat’s wildly popular show based on her cookbook and thought about maybe trying that rather time-intensive bolognese she made in Italy. Much like the show, the cookbook is less about prescriptive recipes and more about teaching home cooks the fundamentals of flavors and texture. As we all know, building a chef-like intuition isn’t easy, but Wendy MacNaughton’s stunning illustrations and charts are perfect for quick referencing. Nosrat also includes some fantastic go-to recipes, including that buttermilk roasted chicken we all went to bed dreaming about after watching that episode. To get your him or her started, also think about buying some really great olive oil or Nosrat’s favorite Maldon salt flakes.Buy Now
For the Art/Design Nerd
More photography and art book than recipe collection, “Salad for President” by Julie Sherman is an extension of the immensely popular blog and Instagram account by the same name, treating, well, salad as still life art and muse for creatives. She tucks in interviews with artists like photographer William Wegman and ceramicist Yui Tsujimura as well as artful chefs including Alice Waters, and photographs their respective favorite salads as well as their artistic spaces. It’s the perfect coffee table cookbook, or inspiration hub, especially if you add a box of Prismacolor colored pencils with it.Buy Now
For the Shameless but Loveable Restaurant Snob
As anyone cruising this site probably knows, Noma is the world-renowned restaurant in Copenhagen with two Michelin stars, overseen by chef Rene Redzepi (Zilber heads up the fermentation program). And anyone who loves snagging impossible reservations will proudly add this beautifully photographed read to his or her trophy cookbook collection, even if the title seems a bit…esoteric for home chefs. Not to say fermentation couldn’t turn into a full-blown passion project once your beloved flips through these pages. With little more than salt and a glass jar required, the clean, minimalistic diagrams might just inspire him or her to give lacto-fermented blueberries a go. Also add an auto siphon for easier homebrews or koji, a Japanese starter for miso.Buy Now
For the Aspiring ‘Great British Bake-Off’ Contestant
“Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit” by Lisa Ludwinski, $16.51 on Amazon
Ludwinski’s bakery Sister Pie in West Detroit is the kind of warm, inviting pie shop we should all have in our neighborhoods. (And if you haven’t seen Sister Pie’s #dancebreaks videos, do so right now.) In her first cookbook, Ludwinski delivers the kind of pro advice that’s made for bakers who know what they’re doing and are ready to get real—think recipes like cardamom tahini squash pie, salted maple pie, and a stunning apricot raspberry rose galette sprinkled with edible flowers. This might just be the catalyst that convinces your amateur baker to pack up his or her cubicle and open their own little slice of heaven.Buy Now
For the Layman Food Photographer
You might never guess that Sharma, who took all of the stunning photos in this cookbook himself, was a self-taught photographer. The images are a gorgeous case-study of shadow and light, with the bright, vibrant colors of roasted sweet potatoes, golden beets, and freshly picked mint leaves often set against dark backgrounds. An extension of Sharma’s popular food blog, “Season” is part cookbook, part “story of a gay immigrant, told through food,” as he writes in the intro. The recipes reflect his childhood spent between India and the U.S., resulting in dishes like curry leaf popcorn chicken and a Bombay frittata that’s flavored with garam masala.Buy Now
For the Fed-Up City Dweller
“Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from an Unlikely Life on a Farm” by Molly Yeh, $22.09 on Amazon
Yeh’s photos of snowy wonderlands, her colorful chicken coop, and full-sized kitchen prove that maybe city life is indeed overrated. In between recipes, Yeh recounts how she went from Brooklynite and Juilliard-educated percussionist to North Dakota-local, rural food blogger (and now, Food Network star). Whether your date is hellbent on moving this year or just needs an escape for a moment, Yeh’s friendly voice and adorable baked goods are there for emotional support. Given her diverse path, the dishes that Yeh cooks up are also delightful mishmashes channeling her Chinese and Jewish heritages. The result is addictive, cozy food like Everything Bagel Bourekas and Challah waffles.Buy Now
For the Newly-Minted Instant Pot Fanatic
A food columnist for the New York Times, Clark covers everything from meatloaf to pho, risotto, and tuna confit. Unlike Instant Pot cookbooks that focus solely on recipes, she also includes simple walkthroughs of basic do’s and don’ts, plus the different settings and functions that are available. More than half of these recipes can also be made in less than an hour, and all of them work with pressure cookers and multi-cookers as well as Instant Pots. To really get your point across, bundle the book with a steamer basket or bottle of white wine for an osso buco.Buy Now
For the Person Who Just Got Into Composting
This book covers everything from vegetables to meat, suggesting uses for commonly-discarded parts like bones, fish scales, and vegetable tops. Admittedly, some of the recipes, which include submissions from chefs like Rick Bayless, Maria Hines, and Josh Kulp, can get pretty involved. But each section also has lists of general tips to keep in mind, encouraging cooks to incorporate best practices, not just follow recipes. Pair with reusable Bee’s wrap and a hand blender, and revel in your zero-waste coupling tactics.Buy Now
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Header image courtesy of Bake From Scratch.