Every season brings a raft of new cookbooks with recipes more aspirational than attainable. But unsettling times call for more than coffee table decorations. We crave practical guidance along with inviting recipes we can actually execute.
These picks from the latest crop fulfill that criteria, and stand out in other ways sure to make someone on your gift list happy.
For more ideas, check out my weekly cookbook reviews at ajc.com/things-to-do/food-and-recipes.
Basics for beginners
Even the most TikTok-savvy cook can use a comprehensive stalwart in a well-organized, easy-to-flip format on their bookshelf for quick referral. Like its predecessors, the 13th edition of the “Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today” (Harvest, $32.50) fills the bill, with more than 1,300 updated and brand-new recipes covering every taste, kitchen tool and dietary preference. Jam-packed with how-to photos, cooking guides and quick tips for improvising, this hefty tome would be a valuable resource for cooks of all confidence levels.
For kids showing signs of culinary precociousness, “Good Housekeeping 1,2,3 Cook!: My First Cookbook” (Hearst Home, $22) can get them started with tasty lessons for treats and full meals even the grown-ups can have fun helping with.
Crowd-pleasers from savvy bloggers
Internet superstar Deb Perelman earned her credibility by ensuring that the recipes she shared from her tiny New York kitchen were as foolproof as they were appealing. Her third cookbook, “Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files” (Knopf, $35), is full of fresh, low-fuss dishes designed to withstand the test of time, from Blueberry Pancake Cobbler to Oven-Braised Beef with Harissa.
Alpharetta blogger Suzy Karadsheh’s debut cookbook, “The Mediterranean Dish: 120 Bold and Healthy Recipes You’ll Make on Repeat” (Potter, $32.50), features easy to make, family-friendly recipes rooted in her Egyptian upbringing, with creative twists that have won over her suburban neighbors along with some 5 million followers. I made dozens of them while working with her as her collaborator, and every one was a hit, from the Chicken Shawarma Bowls to the Pan-Grilled Zucchini with Dukkah.
Baking help from two legends
New York pastry chef Claudia Fleming’s 2001 book, “The Last Course,” became a cult hit in the food industry that won over home cooks when it was re-released in 2019. “Delectable: Sweet and Savory Baking” (Random House, $40) is a cozy new collection of treats — biscuits, layer cakes, cobblers and everything in between — designed for any skill-set.
Rose Levy Beranbaum, whose 1988 classic, “The Cake Bible,” is still a big seller, has now applied her characteristically precise instructions to sweet treats both homey and sophisticated in “The Cookie Bible” (Harvest, $35).
Three fresh takes on soul food
The American food story couldn’t be told without acknowledging the contributions of enslaved Southern cooks. A growing number of their descendants are adding rich new layers to that history. Jernard Wells, an Atlanta-based chef and host of CLEO TV’s New Soul Kitchen, showcases the modernized comforts he cooks for his family of 11 in “Southern Inspired: More Than 100 Delicious Dishes from My American Table to Yours” (BenBellaBooks, $26.95), featuring dishes such as Oxtails and Bowties and Mother of Love Strawberry Lemon Zest Bundt Cake.
“Tanya Holland’s California Soul: Recipes from a Culinary Journey West” (Ten Speed, $35) traces the acclaimed Oakland restaurateur and podcaster’s origin story through the Great Migration to the Golden State, with recipes such as Homemade Benne Seed Olive Oil Crackers with Black-Eyed Pea Dip and Honey Lavender Chess Pie.
In “Homage: Recipes and Stories from an Amish Soul Food Kitchen” (Chronicle, $35), New York restaurateur and “Top Chef” finalist Chris Scott describes growing up in a tiny Black community in Pennsylvania Dutch country, with innovations like Okra Chow-Chow and Shoofly Pie Ice Cream inspired by two disparate cultures.
International Comfort Foods
Vicky Bennison’s heartwarming YouTube videos of nonnas rolling pasta in home kitchens throughout Italy became a James Beard Award-winning book and now has a sequel. Still heavy on pasta, “Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking” by Vicky Bennison (Hardie Grant, $32.50) also includes pizza, pastries and rice dishes.
In “Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook” (Ten Speed, $32.50), former San Francisco Chronicle food columnist Illyanna Maisonet offers a gritty and colorful perspective of her native cuisine’s traditions, with unpretentious recipes such as Mami’s Chicken Soup with Bisquick Dumplings and Pinchos with Guava BBQ Sauce.
“Budmo! Recipes from a Ukrainian Kitchen” (Rizzoli, $39.95) is San Francisco food blogger and cooking instructor Anna Voloshyna’s love letter to her native Ukraine, with modern interpretations of her Grandma’s roast duck, fried cheese fritters topped with jam and other dishes that capture the exuberant spirit of her homeland as she remembers it best.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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