Got someone on your holiday gift list who wants to make kombucha? Want to see how sexy Chrissy Teigen and John Legend live and cook? Dreaming of eating your way through Thailand, China or the Philippines in the New Year?
Whether you’re shopping for cookbooks to give, or making a list of titles you’d like to receive, we’ve got you covered. Cyber Monday is Nov. 26; let the clicking begin. Or, do it the old-fashioned way, and visit a bookstore.
A few of the best
Whether by dint of his puppy-dog cuteness or remarkable recipe-development skills, Bombay-born San Francisco Chronicle food columnist Nik Sharma is the food world's poster boy du jour. "Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food" (Chronicle Books, $35) is one of the most celebrated cookbooks of the year, a Cinderella tale of a gay brown kid who came to America to study molecular genetics at the University of Cincinnati and found the kind of freedom he never could taste back home. I tested, and loved, his grandmother's sweet potato bebinca, and am drooling over his chile-sumac-pomegranate nuts, turkey leg roast with mixed citrus and juniper, and apple masala chai cake, all so right for the season. … With "The Noma Guide to Fermentation," Rene Redzepi and David Zilber provide a deeply detailed look at the ferments used at Redzepi's world-famous Copenhagen restaurant. We're not talking cheese and beer, but kombuchas, misos, garums, vinegars and so on. It's as simple as sealing white asparagus in water and salt for two weeks to create their so-called "new gherkin." Or, as all-out, lab-coat geeky as building a fermentation chamber. This book is weird, wonderful, and can be unintentionally comical. It also features a collection of delicious-sounding kombucha recipes (lemon verbena, rose, apple, elderflower, coffee, maple, mango). … Back down to earth, consider "Cook's Illustrated Revolutionary Recipes: Groundbreaking Techniques. Compelling Voices. One-of-a-Kind Recipes." (America's Test Kitchen, $45). The compendium celebrates the Boston magazine's 25 years of providing excellent, meticulously tested, fool-proof recipes for home cooks.
The first thing you see when you open Chrissy Teigen's "Cravings: Hungry for More" (Clarkson Potter, $29.99) is a photo of the model and her baby in matching, skin-tight one-piece bathing suits cut from fabric printed with tropical foliage and avocados. Quite a look. But, can Mrs. John Legend cook? From the looks of her Thai mom's crab fried rice to her infamous banana bread (she tweeted that she would trade a pair of her husband's underwear for six brown bananas), it sure seems so. I slept through Teigen's debut cookbook, but this one's got me all hot and bothered. … In the introduction to "Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration" (Harper Wave, $29.99), the exuberant TV star says she found inspiration for her olive oil deviled eggs, sweet potato pudding with clementines, and fried fish with spaghetti by trying to imagine what her ancestors would cook if they were alive today. Since slaves were banned from drinking red soda, her Juneteenth menus are a riot of strawberries, beets, peppers, red onions, watermelon and tomatoes. Rejoice. … Dorie Greenspan is a baking goddess, but with "Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook" (A Rux Martin Book/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35), she gives us pimento cheese, roast chicken, cabbage rolls and — she can't help herself — dessert. Fine by me. Her triple-layer parsnip and cranberry cake with sugared cranberries is Sugarplum Fairy material. … Ina Garten of "Barefoot Contessa" is back with "Cook Like a Pro: Recipes & Tips for Home Cooks" (Clarkson, $35), but that doesn't mean her professional-caliber food is hard to fix. She just wants to make sure the warm lobster rolls, short rib hash and eggs, and rum raisin apple strudel with rum glaze exude polish and panache. … Israeli-born Yotam Ottolenghi is so big that he's a one-name brand. With "Ottolenghi Simple" (Ten Speed, $35), he gets back to basics in 10 ingredients or less. In his world, dinner might be caulifower, pomegranate and pistachio salad; pizza bianco with potato, anchovy and sage; or lamb meatloaf with tahini sauce and tomatoes.
Short, sweet, quirky
Anita Lo's "A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One" (Knopf, $28.95) is a book after this forever-single guy's heart. It gives me joy to think that, from a single chicken, I can make Lo's smothered chicken leg and a biscuit, Thai white curry with chicken, and chicken tagine with couscous, and still have bird to spare. … Former Chez Panisse chef Cal Peternell's "Almonds, Anchovies and Pancetta: A Vegetarian Cookbook, Kind of" (William Morrow, $25.99) focuses on three ingredients, yet they impart so much flavor that they satisfy the soul. So, too, do Peternell's recipe-headers-turned-essays, on topics ranging from his grandmother's loneliness (baked stuffed vegetables with almonds, currants, saffron and bread crumbs) to the time a friend made pork belly for his birthday (bacon-wrapped potato gratin). … As it turns out, that friend was Tamar Adler, whose "Something Old, Something New: Classic Recipes Revisited" (Scribner, $27) makes a case that she's among the most literary of our present-day food writers. At just over 250 pages, it's a small, meandering book, but I have been nibbling at it for months now, savoring her elegant ruminations on oysters, eggs, crepes, steak, and such oddities as Ladies' Cabbage ("as dainty as a moose in pointe shoes") and Four-Day Spinach. Inspired by recipes from another time, she channels a wit to match.
Filipino food has been hailed of late as the next big thing, yet that Pinoy wave has yet to reach Atlanta. While we wait, we can take heart in Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad's "I Am a Filipino … And This Is How We Cook" (Artisan, $35). Growing up in San Diego, Ponseca found that her parents' food was joke material (shame on you, Howard Stern), when all she felt was pride and love. Today, as the owner of New York's Maharlika and Jeepney, she and her chef-partner, Trinidad, have traveled extensively in the Philippines, and this beautifully photographed book documents the recipes they adore, from earthy kare kare (oxtail stew) to ultra vivid halo-halo (shaved-ice sundae). … The West's Thai awakening continues with Austin Bush's "The Food of Northern Thailand" (Clarkson, $40). A blogger and photographer who's lived in Thailand for almost 20 years, Bush compasses north from the court-influenced dishes of Bangkok to the "herbal, bitter, fragrant, and/or meaty flavors" of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and environs. It's a dazzling head rush of a book. … It began with a bowl of soup called Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodles that she read about in a Mandarin textbook. Eleven years later, deep-traveling writer Georgia Freedman and her husband chased her obsession back to Yunnan, moving from New York to the far southwestern Chinese province surrounded by Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Tibet. "Cooking South of the Clouds" (Kyle Books, $34.99) explores a region that stretches from the frigid Himalayas to the balmy subtropics, encompassing meat-filled and vegetable momos (steamed dumplings) from the north, dai pineapple rice from the south, stir-fried ham with green chiles from the east and chrysanthemum greens salad from the west.
And keep in mind
For vegans: I've already rhapsodized about Timothy Pakron's astonishingly beautiful "Mississippi Vegan" (Avery, $35). Other worthwhile reads for vegans include the 600-recipe reference book, "The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook" (Page Street, $30); Jen Hansard's "Simple Green Meals" (Rodale, $24.99); and Robin Asbell's "Plant-Based Meats" (Countryman, $23.95).
For Instant Pot lovers: In "Instantly Southern" (Clarkson, $16.99), the wonderful North Carolina author Sheri Castle shows us how to make chicken and fluffy dumplings (I've made this on the stove top, and it's delicious); bourbon and cola beef short ribs; and Frito pie, among other regional faves. … The always-great Melissa Clark follows up her 75-recipe "Dinner in an Instant" (Clarkson, $22) with her 75-recipe "Comforts in an Instant" (Clarkson, $22). Think: lemon-vanilla rice pudding with whipped cream; spicy curried lamb with yogurt; and classic matzo ball soup. … And, Audrey Johns' "Lose Weight With Your Instant Pot" (William Morrow, $25.99) tells us how to lose weight on the likes of taco mac and cheese, chicken enchilada soup and dark chocolate fudge brownies.
For pie dreamers: I easily could fill this space with gorgeous new dessert cookbooks. But, since it's pie season, I'll stay focused. I'm very smitten with Cathy Barrow's clever book of one-dish creations, "Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies" (Grand Central Life & Style, $28); Brian Noyes' "Red Truck Bakery Cookbook" (Potter, $25), with recipes from his Virginia pie-truck-turned-bakery empire; and Detroit pie savant Lisa Ludwinski's "Sister Pie" (Lorena Jones Books/Ten Speed, $25).
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