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Best Cookbooks of Spring 2019

Food reporters and editors from The New York Times and Eater pick their favorite new cookbooks of the season.

Compelled to deliver something beyond the pure exposition of recipes, the best cookbooks today educate, inspire, and nourish us in more ways than ever. This season’s new arrivals are sure to be game changers, from Andrea Nguyen’s exploration of Vietnamese cuisine to Yasmin Khan’s illuminating glimpse into Palestinian kitchens. While there are hundreds of new books out there to discover, read on for 10 that are worth a closer look.

Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors (Andrea Nguyen)

“Tangy, sweet, sour, zesty, herbaceous — these are just some of the flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, mingling in salty harmony with an abundance of fish sauce. Thankfully for American home cooks, plenty of ingredients once found only at Asian grocery stores, like fish sauce and oyster sauce, are now more readily available, making cooking Vietnamese cuisine at home easier than ever. In Vietnamese Food Any Day, Andrea Nguyen, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, shares recipes, tips, and tricks from her mom, who adapted her own cooking after immigrating from Vietnam to America.

The recipes embody khéo, a Vietnamese term that Nguyen translates as “smart” and “adroit.” In the spirit of khéo cooking, none of the recipes require complicated or time-consuming processes like deep-frying or pressure cooking, and Nguyen streamlines process without compromising flavors. Her grilled slashed chicken, inspired by a dish Nguyen had on the island of Phú Quốc, leans on chopped garlic, onion, sugar, and fish sauce, and a simple marinade makes the recipe an easy weeknight dinner choice.

With spring produce and herbs now hitting farmers markets, Vietnamese Food Any Day is ideal inspiration for a new season, encouraging home cooks to explore the fragrant, savory, and tangy sides of Vietnamese cuisine in their everyday routines.” — James Park

Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen (Yasmin Khan) 

Zaitoun, which means “olives” in Arabic, contains recipes for familiar dishes like hummus and shakshuka. But in Yasmin Khan’s newest book, the follow-up to her 2013 hit The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen, everything is filtered through the lens of Palestinian experiences, as Khan takes readers on a journey within Palestinian communities in Israel. Khan, who grew up with a Pakistani father and Iranian mother, reflects on her trip as a visitor. In Jerusalem, she shares kefte bil tahini (baked spiced lamb meatballs over potatoes) with Essa Grayeb, a Palestinian nurse, who explains that cuisine might provide “a romantic view of Jerusalem life, but that doesn’t reflect our reality.” Grayeb is among several individuals who express passion for sharing their culture but also frustration with the unsteady political climate and its daily challenges.

The seamless combination of these personal stories with Palestinian recipes — and the joy their creators take in sharing them — makes Zaitoun more than just a dish-filled cookbook. It’s a window into the heart and soul of Palestinian cooking, giving readers a deeper understanding of the culture and its roots.” — JP

Every Day Is Saturday: Recipes and Strategies for Easy Cooking, Every Day of the Week (Sarah Copeland)

“Sarah Copeland knows exactly who her new cookbook, “Every Day Is Saturday” (Chronicle, $29.95), is for. If you graze at Sweetgreen, sip at Stumptown and thrill to ideas like farm shares, alternative milks, and good fats — but haven’t managed to incorporate that way of eating into your home — this book is for you. The title refers to Ms. Copeland’s conviction that the pleasures of weekend cooking are transferable to weekday meals. Maybe, but she does provide tasty, real-world recipes, like one-pot pasta with spring vegetables and instant smoky black beans for taco night. They are informed by her time as food director of Real Simple magazine, as a restaurant chef and as a parent of two young children. (She is also a New York Times contributor.) Without losing track of deliciousness, she cuts the cream in mushroom soup with puréed beans, the white flour in cookies with almond flour, and the butter in banana bread with coconut oil. It’s a worthy primer on modern, healthy family cooking.” —Julia Moskin 

Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family (Priya Krishna)

“The food writer (and New York Times contributor) Priya Krishna wrote “Indian-ish” (Houghton Mifflin, $28) with her mother, Ritu Krishna, an executive at a software company who taught herself how to cook after moving from India to the United States. Ritu developed many of the recipes in this entertaining book, which is filled with Indian-American mashups like roti pizza, saag paneer made with feta, and Indian ribollita. Tomato rice with crispy Cheddar, or “pizza rice” as they call it in the Krishna family, is a pleasantly addictive rice-cheese-tomato casserole that gets a little kick from Indian green chile. Garlic-ginger-cilantro-mint chicken is a riot of flavors and colors, much like the rest of this pop-art-illustrated book. It is a joy to cook from, and just as much fun to read.” — Margaux Laskey 

Tu Casa Mi Casa: Mexican Recipes for the Home Cook (Enrique Olvera with Daniela Soto-Innes, Gonzalo Goût, and Luis Arellano)

“Enrique Olvera’s new cookbook is not dedicated to his celebrated Mexico City restaurant, Pujol; it’s an homage to good Mexican home cooking. In 100 recipes, Olvera presents a collection of dishes that range from the basics (tortillas, salsas) to meals that echo his work at his Mexico City and New York restaurants (carnitas, tongue tacos). But it all feels relatively accessible: Recipes are divided into chapters like “Weekday Meals” and “Food for Sharing,” the latter focusing on family-style dishes like stuffed chiles and barbacoa.

In “Sweets,” dessert hall-of-famer Daniela Soto-Innes, the chef-partner at Olvera’s NYC restaurants Cosme and Atla, shines through. Here you’ll find some of her standout recipes: churros, baked banana with crema and cheese, sweet corn tamales, and more. If you’re looking to incorporate traditional and contemporary Mexican flavors into your regular recipe repertoire, this is the cookbook for you.” — Esra Erol

Breakfast: The Cookbook (Emily Elyse Miller)

“It’d be silly to call breakfast a trend, as the concept of a morning meal is hardly an innovation. Yet breakfast does seem to be having a moment, from the rise of all-day cafes to the starring role that smoothie bowls play on social media feeds. Writer and entrepreneur Emily Elyse Miller harnessed that cultural moment when she launched BreakfastClub, which plays host to food tours and stylish pop-up events centered around breakfast food and morning rituals. Her first cookbook, an “exploration of breakfast around the world,” feels equally of-the-moment.

Breakfast: The Cookbook is admirably substantive, diving into the culinary traditions of nearly 80 countries in 380 recipes. The book is organized by broad categories — eggs, pancakes, toasts, sandwiches, soups and stews, etc. — that serve to highlight the culinary overlaps between cultures. Readers can try their fried eggs with awarma, a lamb confit that’s common in Lebanon; fried plantains and refried beans, as one does in El Salvador; or ground cumin and oil-cured black olives per Moroccan tradition. Porridge recipes include masoub, a banana bread pudding found on Saudi Arabian breakfast tables; borbor, a Cambodian rice porridge typically topped with a salted duck egg; cháo gà, a Vietnamese variation of congee made with chicken; and the South Indian go-to rava upma, a spiced semolina and vegetable dish. Interspersed among the recipes are interludes by chefs and cookbook authors that bring personal perspectives to breakfast traditions.

With its simple concept and impressive breadth, Breakfast: The Cookbook offers a satisfyingly feel-good take on the most universal meal, one that will open home cooks’ eyes to food traditions beyond their own while reminding them just how alike we all are.” — Ellie Krupnick

Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables (Abra Berens)

“Things in my kitchen have changed since “Ruffage” (Chronicle, $35) arrived. I have become a poacher of radishes and a shaver of cauliflower. I have even considered cooking sunchokes. I credit Abra Berens, a chef at Granor Farm near the Michigan-Indiana border, who built the book she wished she had when she was running a small farm 10 years ago. This organized, easygoing guide to 29 vegetables offers a few cooking methods for each one, supplemented by several variations. Shaved raw cauliflower becomes the base for a salad with whitefish, lemon and radicchio, or one with dates, chile oil and parsley. Toss roasted cauliflower with yogurt, dried cherries and pecans, or purée it with white wine and onion to make a base for a pork cutlet or salmon with orange zest.”  Kim Severson

Baking at République: Masterful Techniques and Recipes (Margarita Manzke)

“The most magical aspect of dining at République, an all-day essential in LA, is apparent the moment you walk through the door. Bountiful rows of pastries line the 15-foot counter, beginning with cakes and pies and gradually moving into filled doughnuts, piles of croissants and kouign amanns, lemon poppy loaves, muffins, and mushroom brioche tarts, among many, many others. The magic of that counter is what pastry chef and co-owner Margarita Manzke, with Betty Hallock, captures in Baking at République.

Manzke positions the book as a pastry education, with each chapter structured around a “master” recipe (brioche, pâte sucréepâte à choux, etc.) or technique (mixing cake batter, cookie dough, etc). With recipes both sweet and savory, Baking at République covers some of the restaurant’s signature treats, like the s’mores bomboloni, brioche fruit tarts, and berry tres leches.

Of note is what’s not included in the book, including République’s superb baguettes and sourdough, or anything from the restaurant’s brunch and dinner menus — any of which would be enough to fill an entire second volume. For the sake of République superfans, here’s hoping.” — Adam Moussa

Franklin Steak: Dry-Aged. Live-Fired. Pure Beef. (Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay)

“Anybody can make steak. “It is beef plus fire,” according co-authors Aaron Franklin, owner of Austin’s iconic Franklin Barbecue — one of the country’s top barbecue destinations — and Jordan Mackay. Franklin Steak, their follow-up to the meat-smoking manifesto Franklin Barbecue, pushes meat lovers to achieve something greater: sublime steak. The book is a companion on that quest, encouraging home cooks to really think through the meat from its source to the moment it comes off the grill.

The first section of the book is all about knowing thy beef — from the meat industry to the wide and wonderful world of steak cuts, like porterhouse and T-bone. In the second section, you’ll find tips to elevate your steak, dry aging being the big one, as well as a step-by-step guide to building your very own hybrid hibachi, an experimental grill/supercharged steak cooker for the open-fire enthusiast.

Finally, in the third section, you’re ready to fire up your grill. While sides, sauces, and drinks recipes are presented in a traditional format (ingredients, directions, prep time), steak directions come in a choose-your-own-adventure format. As Franklin and Mackay point out, cooking steak depends on the cut and cooking method: hot and fast, reverse sear, or on the coals. Whether you’re a grill master or just want to learn about beef, Franklin Steak dives deep into the art and science of cooking steak, making it a welcome addition to any meat-lover’s collection.” — EE

“Carla Lalli Music, the food director of Bon Appétit magazine, is like everyone’s favorite aunt, the one who shows up and makes surprising things happen. Her superpower is that she believes in you as a cook; her new book, “Where Cooking Begins” (Clarkson Potter, $32.50), is her 250-page argument that you should believe in yourself, too. She helps with the first steps, like stocking a pantry and learning an all-purpose pastry dough. When it’s time for recipes, Aunt Carla might invent something delicious, like tahini butter on sweet potatoes or Parmesan-garlic croutons, or using crushed potato chips as a garnish — or something weird, like stir-fried celery with bacon and peanuts, and a ham sandwich with string beans on it. Either way, you want to be in the kitchen with her.” —JM

By: Nico Picciuto
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