There is something almost cabbalistic about a cookbook. Between the covers, the pages bewitch with images and recipes, presented like spells. They work to transport you to the world of the author; whether it’s the buzzing kitchen of a metropolitan restaurant or a farmhouse in the French countryside, you truly feel you are there.
October is National Cookbook Month, a designated celebration of the books that house clever and curious recipes. Most kitchen libraries hold tattered and stained copies of the classic go-to manuals for home cooking: Irma S. Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything immediately spring to mind. However, anyone who has perused the cooking section of their local bookstore is well aware of the deluge of options, from the latest offerings of celebrity chefs to new niche cooking.
Here we highlight four cookbooks that will add new tools, techniques, and recipes with which to impress your friends and family. They will enhance your culinary repertoire and add value to your life and your kitchen.
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
When flipping through this sumptuous cookbook, one can almost forget that all of these recipes are vegetarian. Written by British chef and restaurant owner, Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty celebrates the vibrancy of vegetables and their range. It’s worth noting that Ottolenghi himself is not a vegetarian, which lends an interesting perspective to his recipes. These are not intended strictly for vegetarians (or vegans, as many include dairy and eggs), but rather show how vital vegetables are to our plates and how to creatively incorporate them without missing meat.
Must try recipes:
Baked Eggs with Yogurt and Chili
Cucumber Salad with Smashed Garlic and Ginger
The Kinfolk Table by Nathan Williams
Born from the editors and publishers at Kinfolk Magazine, this book espouses the values of slow living: simplicity of life, cultivation of relationships, and the importance of community. Featuring eighty-five recipes from worldwide contributors, this is not just a book of cooking, but also a collection of tales and inspiration for simple, comfortable entertaining. Most of the contributors are not professional chefs, but vary from florists to food writers to business people who all share a love of good food and quality connections. This gamut of global contributors offers something for everyone and every dinner party: from pimento cheese spread that would be perfect for a night in to tea-poached salmon that will impress your guests with at a holiday gathering.
Must try recipes:
Sea Legs Cocktail
Vanilla, Lavender, and Earl Grey Chocolate Pudding with Sea Salt
A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in my Farmhouse by Mimi Thorisson
Playing off of the classics of French cooking, blogger, TV personality and home-cook Mimi Thorisson brings you into her kitchen and into her life – which includes seven children and fourteen dogs. Beautiful photographs of food, family, and the French countryside (all taken by Thorisson’s photographer husband), accompany each recipe. Flowing seasonally, these recipes highlight the available abundance of the corresponding time of year. Although ostensibly French, Thorisson pulls from her Chinese and Icelandic families to create meals with global appeal. The flavors in these dishes are rich and complex, but their execution is simple enough to carry out with a glass of French red wine in hand.
Must try recipes:
Duck Confit Parmentier
The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit
Less a cookbook and more a cooking resource, this is a must-have for any home cook. Here, Niki Segnit separates food flavors into 16 categories (i.e. earthy, marine, sulfurous) and highlights complementary pairings you may not have thought of. This book is the perfect resource to consult when looking to balance out a dish or meal without sticking to a recipe. While many entries feature anecdotes or interesting food facts, some also feature easy recipe ideas in one or two sentences. In this book flavors are like colors in a paint box, to be mixed and matched creatively to produce surprising and inspired dishes.
Must try recipes (or pairings):
olive and anise (in a martini),
cilantro and peanut (in an Asian-influenced pesto)