Five of the best recipes from 2021 cookbooks

As a cookbook reviewer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Susan Puckett was won over by recipes from these five cookbooks in 2021.

Credit: Handout

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As a cookbook reviewer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Susan Puckett was won over by recipes from these five cookbooks in 2021.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

A cookbook reviewer’s favorite discoveries from 52 weeks of reading, kitchen-testing

A post-holiday ritual I’ve adopted since I started writing about cookbooks for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution three years ago is to whittle down the mountain of review copies I’ve accumulated to make room for new releases. Many books will get donated. Others will be wedged in out-of-the-way bookcases for reference. A small handful will remain indefinitely within easy reach, a few steps from the stove.

These are the books that have won me over with recipes I’ve made, loved, and would happily serve again. I’ve singled out five of my favorites — each distinctive in its own way, and simply too good not to share.

Explore18 new cookbooks for the baking season
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Rainbow Chard and Kabocha Pumpkin Bean Soup is so filling, flavorful, and full of nutritional goodness that even a carnivore won’t miss the meat. From “I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors From My Kitchen and Around the World” by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose (Running Press, $32.50). (Courtesy of Evan Sung)

Credit: Evan Sung

Rainbow Chard and Kabocha Pumpkin Bean Soup is so filling, flavorful, and full of nutritional goodness that even a carnivore won’t miss the meat.  From “I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors From My Kitchen and Around the World” by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose (Running Press, $32.50). (Courtesy of Evan Sung)

Credit: Evan Sung

caption arrowCaption
Rainbow Chard and Kabocha Pumpkin Bean Soup is so filling, flavorful, and full of nutritional goodness that even a carnivore won’t miss the meat. From “I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors From My Kitchen and Around the World” by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose (Running Press, $32.50). (Courtesy of Evan Sung)

Credit: Evan Sung

Credit: Evan Sung

Rainbow Chard and Kabocha Pumpkin Bean Soup

Infused with cardamom, thyme and everyday aromatics, this nourishing plant-based soup from Atlanta chef and Kerala, India, native Asha Gomez and published in her “I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors From My Kitchen and Around the World” (Running Press, $32.50) dazzles all the senses. If you can’t find kabocha pumpkin, butternut squash makes a great substitute.

Rainbow Chard and Kabocha Pumpkin Bean Soup
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 6 whole green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 cup kabocha pumpkin, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chopped rainbow Swiss chard
  • Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the celery and garlic and stir for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the thyme, cardamom, white pepper and salt, and mix well. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes until the tomatoes break down; add the broth and bring it to a boil.
  • Lower the heat, add the beans and pumpkin, mix well, and cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat. Add the rainbow chard and mix well, allowing the residual heat to wilt the greens. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 6: 260 calories (percent of calories from fat, 34), 10 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 10 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 1,613 milligrams sodium.
ExploreCookbook gifts for uncertain times
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Jesse Szewczyk shows how to dress up a basic butter cookie for a night on the town with just a few well-chosen ingredients in Campari Shortbread Cookies with Crunchy Orange Sugar. From “Cookies: The New Classics” by Jesse Szewczyk (Potter, $27.50). (Courtesy of Chelsea Kyle)

Credit: Chelsea Kyle

Jesse Szewczyk shows how to dress up a basic butter cookie for a night on the town with just a few well-chosen ingredients in Campari Shortbread Cookies with Crunchy Orange Sugar.  From “Cookies: The New Classics” by Jesse Szewczyk (Potter, $27.50). (Courtesy of Chelsea Kyle)

Credit: Chelsea Kyle

caption arrowCaption
Jesse Szewczyk shows how to dress up a basic butter cookie for a night on the town with just a few well-chosen ingredients in Campari Shortbread Cookies with Crunchy Orange Sugar. From “Cookies: The New Classics” by Jesse Szewczyk (Potter, $27.50). (Courtesy of Chelsea Kyle)

Credit: Chelsea Kyle

Credit: Chelsea Kyle

Campari Shortbread Cookies with Crunchy Orange Sugar

A splash of Campari and a sprinkle of coarse, citrus-scented sugar turn a classic butter cookie into a sophisticated, adult-only treat in this recipe from “Cookies: The New Classics” by Jesse Szewczyk (Potter, $27.50).

Campari Shortbread Cookies with Crunchy Orange Sugar
  • For the orange sugar:
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) coarse sugar, such as turbinado or sanding sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • For the shortbread cookies:
  • 3 sticks (24 tablespoons/339 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (100 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups spooned and leveled all-purpose flour (384 grams), plus more for dusting
  • For the Campari glaze:
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Campari
  • 2 1/4 cups (225 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Make the sugar: In a small bowl, combine the coarse sugar and orange zest. Use your fingertips to massage the zest into the sugar until very fragrant. Scatter the sugar in a single layer on a plate and let sit at room temperature, uncovered, to dry while you make the cookies. (For extra-crunchy orange sugar, make it the night before and leave it out, uncovered, at room temperature.)
  • Make the cookies: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off and add the flour. Mix on low speed until a dry dough forms, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour and press together into a ball. Dust the top of the dough with flour, place a second sheet of parchment paper on top, and roll the dough until it’s 1/2-inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut out rounds and place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Press the dough scraps together into a ball and repeat the rolling and cutting process. Freeze the cut cookies for 20 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees and set 2 racks at the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Bake both sheets at the same time, swapping them midway, until the tops of the cookies are light golden brown, 15 to 19 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheets.
  • Make the glaze: In a large bowl, whisk together the Campari, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. (If the glaze is too thick, add more Campari; if too thin, add additional confectioners’ sugar.) Dip the tops of the cookies in the glaze, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Sprinkle the cookies with the orange sprinkles and let set for 1 hour. Store the cookies in an airtight container in a single layer for up to 1 week. (Just make sure the glaze is completely dry first.) Makes 24 cookies.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per cookie: 233 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 2 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 12 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 87 milligrams sodium.
ExploreRecipes: Delicious gifts from the heart (of your kitchen)
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A few clever tricks ensure the juiciest, most flavorful chicken breasts ever in Golden Brown and Delicious Chicken Breasts with Crispy Bread Salad. From “Cook This Book” by Molly Baz (Potter, $32.50). (Courtesy of PEDEN+MUNK)

Credit: PEDEN+MUNK

A few clever tricks ensure the juiciest, most flavorful chicken breasts ever in Golden Brown and Delicious Chicken Breasts with Crispy Bread Salad. From “Cook This Book” by Molly Baz (Potter, $32.50). (Courtesy of PEDEN+MUNK)

Credit: PEDEN+MUNK

caption arrowCaption
A few clever tricks ensure the juiciest, most flavorful chicken breasts ever in Golden Brown and Delicious Chicken Breasts with Crispy Bread Salad. From “Cook This Book” by Molly Baz (Potter, $32.50). (Courtesy of PEDEN+MUNK)

Credit: PEDEN+MUNK

Credit: PEDEN+MUNK

Golden Brown and Delicious Chicken Breasts with Crispy Bread Salad

I rarely get excited about chicken breasts because too often they cook up dry and tasteless. YouTube star Molly Baz helped me overcome this prejudice with a heavy skillet, a basting of garlic butter, and some extra-flavorful salad companions. This recipe is adapted from Baz’s “Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes to Repeat” (Potter, $32.50).

Golden Brown and Delicious Chicken Breasts with Crispy Bread Salad
  • 2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium head radicchio (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 ounces Piave, Parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • 1 cup Castelvetrano olives
  • 1/4 baguette (about 3 ounces)
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • Honey, for drizzling
  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the chicken dry and season it evenly all over with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and lots of black pepper.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Place the chicken breasts skin-side down in the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, undisturbed, until the skin is golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Move the breasts around the pan if the chicken seems to be browning more quickly in some parts than others.
  • Transfer the skillet to the oven (skin-side down). Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 145 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the breast, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, tear the radicchio into large pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese into the radicchio. Smash the olives with the bottom of a mug or glass measuring cup. Discard the pits and add the olives to the salad. Tear the baguette into irregular 1-inch pieces. Set the pieces aside.
  • Smash garlic cloves but don’t peel them. (The skins protect the garlic from burning.)
  • When the chicken is done, transfer the skillet from the oven to the stovetop. Keep the oven on.
  • Flip the chicken breasts skin-side up. Add the butter, garlic and anchovy fillets to the skillet and set over medium heat. Tilt the pan slightly toward you, let the melted butter collect at the side of the pan, and, using a large spoon, continuously baste the chicken breasts with the butter for 2 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest, leaving the anchovy-garlic butter behind.
  • Add the torn bread to the butter and stir the pieces around to coat. Return the skillet to the oven and bake until the croutons are crisp and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the croutons and anchovy-garlic butter to the bowl of salad.
  • Drizzle vinegar and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over the radicchio; toss well. Season with salt and black pepper. Lightly drizzle the salad with honey, tossing once to create pockets of sweetness.
  • Carve the chicken breasts off the bone, slice them crosswise, and serve with the salad. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 808 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), 57 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 55 grams total fat (17 grams saturated), 180 milligrams cholesterol, 834 milligrams sodium.
ExploreA selection of cookbooks perfect for holiday gift-giving
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Make-ahead Deviled Crab Rigatoni gives the company treatment to a homey pasta casserole. From “It's Always Freezer Season” by Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen (Ten Speed Press, $30). (Courtesy of Lauren Vied Allen)

Credit: Lauren Vied Allen

Make-ahead Deviled Crab Rigatoni gives the company treatment to a homey pasta casserole. From “It's Always Freezer Season” by Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen (Ten Speed Press, $30). (Courtesy of Lauren Vied Allen)

Credit: Lauren Vied Allen

caption arrowCaption
Make-ahead Deviled Crab Rigatoni gives the company treatment to a homey pasta casserole. From “It's Always Freezer Season” by Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen (Ten Speed Press, $30). (Courtesy of Lauren Vied Allen)

Credit: Lauren Vied Allen

Credit: Lauren Vied Allen

Deviled Crab Rigatoni

The splurge on lump crabmeat to make this seriously upgraded riff on tuna noodle casserole is worth every penny. And the freezer-to-oven instructions from authors Ashley Christensen and Kaitlyn Goalen in their “It’s Always Freezer Season: How to Freeze Like a Chef With 100 Make-Ahead Recipes” (Ten Speed Press, $30) work like a charm. If quality crab is out of reach, chopped shrimp can be used instead.

Deviled Crab Rigatoni
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for greasing the dish
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces rigatoni
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 leeks, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweet sherry
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over for shell fragments
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  • Butter an 8-by-11-inch baking dish. Fill a large pot with water and salt it generously (it should taste salty like the ocean). Bring to a boil over high heat, add the rigatoni, and cook 11 1/2 minutes, just shy of al dente. Drain well and let cool slightly.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil and 3 tablespoons butter. When the butter melts, add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic, season with 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the garlic has softened. Add the sherry and reduce, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the cream, eggs, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons black pepper, 2 teaspoons salt, the crabmeat, leeks and rigatoni. Stir to coat and distribute everything evenly. Pour into the prepared dish.
  • To freeze the assembled dish: Wrap the baking dish in 2 layers of plastic wrap, label and date, and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • To bake from frozen: Unwrap the baking dish and cover with foil. Place in a cold oven and set the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 1 hour, then remove the foil. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the surface is browned in spots and the custard is set.
  • To bake from room temperature: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, uncovered, another 10 minutes, until the surface is browned in spots and the custard is set.
  • After removing from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes. Serve onto plates and sprinkle with parsley. Serves 8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 503 calories (percent of calories from fat, 64), 15 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 36 grams total fat (18 grams saturated), 199 milligrams cholesterol, 287 milligrams sodium.
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Don’t let the short ingredient list and lightning-quick prep work deceive you: Sauteed Spinach with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts delivers surprising pops of complex flavor and crunch that make this Technicolor side dish the star of the show. From “Everyone’s Table” by Gregory Gourdet and JJ Goode (Harper Wave, $37.50). (Courtesy of Eva Kosmas Flores)

Credit: Eva Kosmas Flores

Don’t let the short ingredient list and lightning-quick prep work deceive you: Sauteed Spinach with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts delivers surprising pops of complex flavor and crunch that make this Technicolor side dish the star of the show. From “Everyone’s Table” by Gregory Gourdet and JJ Goode (Harper Wave, $37.50). (Courtesy of Eva Kosmas Flores)

Credit: Eva Kosmas Flores

caption arrowCaption
Don’t let the short ingredient list and lightning-quick prep work deceive you: Sauteed Spinach with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts delivers surprising pops of complex flavor and crunch that make this Technicolor side dish the star of the show. From “Everyone’s Table” by Gregory Gourdet and JJ Goode (Harper Wave, $37.50). (Courtesy of Eva Kosmas Flores)

Credit: Eva Kosmas Flores

Credit: Eva Kosmas Flores

Sauteed Spinach with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts

Sometimes the simplest dishes make the biggest impression. This Catalan-inspired dish created by “Top Chef” star Gregory Gourdet and published in his “Everyone’s Table: Global Flavors for Modern Health” (Harper Wave, $37.50) makes a stunning side dish to brighten up any plate.

Sauteed Spinach with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 small dried red chiles, crumbled, or 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2 pounds mature spinach (about 3 bunches), bottoms trimmed
  • Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for a minute or so, then add the oil. When it’s shimmery, add the pine nuts and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is lightly golden and fragrant and the pine nuts are golden, about 2 minutes. Add the chiles and about half the salt; stir well.
  • Add the raisins, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to plump and brighten in color, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to high, wait a minute, then add the spinach and quickly mix and toss so the spinach mingles with the pine nuts and raisins as it wilts.
  • As soon as the spinach has wilted and gone from dull to bright green, stir in the remaining salt, transfer to a large plate, and serve right away. Serves 4 to 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 4: 452 calories (percent of calories from fat, 56), 12 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 31 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 669 milligrams sodium.
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