This has been a strong year for cookbooks with clear voices and unique personalities, emphasizing themes of diaspora, diversity, and regionality. They are deeply welcome. We have spent so much time hunkered down in our own kitchens, sometimes cozy and content, sometimes sad or scared, our loved ones hard to reach. It is a time to cook from books that celebrate the lovely vastness of the world, and people’s lovely, vast experiences in it.
And there is so much deliciousness afoot: New offerings from perennial favorites, like “Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love: Recipes to Unlock the Secrets of Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer” and Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking With Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple.” A focus on baked goods from all over the world, with the likes of Kristina Cho’s “Mooncakes and Milk Bread: Sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries” and Salma Hage’s “Middle Eastern Sweets: Desserts, Pastries, Creams & Treats.” Those eating a plant-based diet will delight in “The Korean Vegan Cookbook,” by Joanne Lee Molinaro, and “Provecho: 100 Vegan Mexican Recipes to Celebrate Culture and Community,” by Edgar Castrejón; the gluten-free will glory in Aran Goyoaga’s “Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple: A New Way to Bake Gluten-Free.” For readers who love food but not so much cooking, there are volumes such as Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart: A Memoir,” Corey Mintz’s “The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes After,” and Mayukh Sen’s “Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America.”
I do go on. I could go on! (Buy Melissa Weller’s “A Good Bake,” which I failed to suggest last year and then couldn’t stop baking from!) But here are 10 recent cookbooks that anyone would be thrilled to have in their collection:
“Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora,” edited and curated by Bryant Terry
Chef, educator, and award-winning cookbook author Bryant Terry’s “Black Food” hits on all notes. Exploring the range of Black experience, it is filled with original voices and recipes that clamor to be cooked, from vegan sweet potato coconut biscuits to jerk chicken ramen to jollof rice with beans to peach cobbler. Each has its own story. Those biscuits, for instance, come to us from Southern Soufflé food blogger Erika Council, who shares the recipe from Mama Dip’s Restaurant, founded by her grandmother Mildred Edna Cotton Council; the cobbler, the closing recipe in the book, is from Edna Lewis’s classic “The Taste of Country Cooking.” In tandem with recipes, the pages are filled with inspiring, informative essays and poetry from diverse Black writers around the world. “The many mansions of Black food have always had — and will always have — room for everyone,” writes Terry. “Like Black people, this book contains multitudes.” It is a volume of healing and celebration.
“Flavors of the Sun: The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding, Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients,” by Christine Sahadi Whelan
Beloved Brooklyn store Sahadi’s has been brightening the dishes of New York with Aleppo pepper, pomegranate molasses, sumac, and za’atar since 1948. Christine Sahadi Whelan, the founder’s granddaughter, grew up there, filling containers of tahini for pocket money. Her book is first a primer on the ingredients Sahadi’s specializes in, explaining what they are and offering a myriad of ways to use them. And then it’s a cookbook, filled with recipes for bulgur, feta, and mint salad with pine nuts, harissa mac and cheese, chicken kebabs with toum, kibbeh pan pie, tahini swirl brownies, and so much more. It’s not quite the same as an in-person visit, but “Flavors of the Sun” takes you to Sahadi’s in spirit.
“Filipinx: Heritage Recipes From the Diaspora,” by Angela Dimayuga and Ligaya Mishan
From chef Angela Dimayuga and lyrical New York Times writer Ligaya Mishan comes this cookbook slash life-story-in-food. “This is a personal cookbook,” writes Dimayuga, who grew up eating sinigang, PB&J, and Taco Bell in San Jose, Calif. “I don’t claim to speak for Filipinos or Filipino Americans; I can only offer my story.” These are dishes learned from her mother, her aunts, her lola Josefina, as she watched Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on TV: lumpia and empanadas; multiple takes on adobo (“the Filipino dish best known and least understood by Westerners”); pancit, the requisite party dish, noodles tossed with pork belly, as well as Filipino spaghetti Bolognese with hot dog coins; mango-turmeric chiffon cake and variations on shaved ice. Make them as they are, and then you can make them your own. The story of Filipinx food in diaspora continues.
“Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes,” by Abra Berens
For the bean curious and freekeh freaks among us, which includes me and maybe you. It’s not as much of a niche audience as it might sound; many cooks are at least this-particular-niche-adjacent. How could it be otherwise, when “Grist” presents “a week’s worth of [lentils, barley, black beans] without any boredom”? Every ingredient explored is a seed, Berens points out, after dedicating the book to “everyone who turns the soil to put food in our mouths.” From that fact grow dishes such as anchovy-garlic marinated corona beans with arugula and beets, tomato and parsnip chickpea stew with roasted kale, barley risotto, wild rice with salmon and fennel-salted plum salad, and corn pudding with pork chops and cabbage salad. For a perfect bundled gift, you might also invest in “Grains for Every Season: Rethinking Our Way with Grains,” by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg, and “Mother Grains: Recipes for the Grain Revolution,” Roxana Jullapat’s compelling book for bakers.
If you are a true cooking show aficionado, you may already know Vallery Lomas, who quit her job as an attorney after winning “The Great American Baking Show.” When her season was canceled because of #metoo allegations against one of the judges, she tapped into her resilience and wrote this book. “It soon became clear to me that I am the manifestation of my grandmothers’ prayers, and their grandmothers’ prayers, as well as all their biggest, boldest, most daring hopes and dreams,” she writes. “I had taken the lemons I was given and made something better than lemonade — I made lemon curd.” She shares that spirit with fellow bakers through recipes for blackberry oatmeal breakfast cake, olive oil-chocolate chunk cookies, banoffee pie, Granny’s Million Dollar Cake (it has pineapple filling and cream cheese frosting), and plenty of words of encouragement.
“Mumbai Modern: Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by Indian Roots and California Cuisine,” by Amisha Dodhia Gurbani
“Mumbai Modern” reflects the many influences of Bay Area recipe developer, jam maker, food blogger, and computer engineer Amisha Dodhia Gurbani: Mumbai, where she was born and raised; Gujarat, her grandparents’ native state; Uganda, where her mother grew up; California, where she has lived for more than 20 years. The result is a collection of recipes as varied, colorful, and flavorful as her own life. Although New Englanders may not have access to the California produce Gurbani references with such pleasure, we can still rock the likes of pear and chai masala jam and apple, fennel, and cardamom Pop-Tarts. California also inspires huevos rancheros waffles, squash blossom tacos with kachumber salsa, and a towering veggie burger. Then there are Gujarati-style daal with handmade spiced noodles, a Sunday supper tradition for Gurbani’s family; corn on the cob in coconut curry; pudla, chickpea-flour crepes, with carrot-cabbage salad; and much more. End your meal with masala milk popsicles or kumquat black sesame Bundt cake. It’s a beautiful, exuberant book, filled with spices and exclamation points.
“New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian,” by Freddie Bitsoie and James O. Fraioli
“European countries like France and Spain are praised for their food traditions, which are taught in elite culinary schools; Indigenous cuisines, with similarly sourced ingredients and finessed preparations, unfortunately don’t get the same attention. My aim is to change that,” writes Navajo chef and educator Freddie Bitsoie. “New Native Kitchen” advances this mission with recipes from communities across the country, placed in geographic and cultural context: Cheyenne beef and sage soup, made with ingredients from the Great Plains; a cherrystone clam dish from New England’s Wampanoag people; Calabasas squash with tomatoes and queso fresco, named for Calabasas, Calif., originally home to the Chumash. You’ll also find the likes of cedar-planked sockeye salmon, chocolate bison chili, and a cedar berry-rubbed roast chicken from Bitsoie’s grandmother. An invaluable introduction to the Native American pantry — from acorn meal to Zephyr squash — rounds out the volume.
“Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy’s Greatest Food,” by Missy Robbins and Talia Baiocchi
I appreciate the frank honesty of the book’s subtitle. Apologies to pizza, risotto, osso buco, et al. Pasta truly is Italy’s greatest food. Chef Missy Robbins, of Brooklyn Italian restaurant Lilia and Misi, is a master of the form. With clarity and precision, she teaches readers how to make every shape under the sun — the hand-cut, hand-shaped, filled, and extruded. After we perfect pappardelle, pici, pansotti, and more, we can cook her recipes for lobster fra diavolo, trofie with pesto, Abruzzese lasagna, and onward. Contorni are here too, because, you know, vegetables.
“Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets,” by Pati Jinich
Pati Jinich is host of “Pati’s Mexican Table” on PBS, and her recipes are impeccable. This volume is a must-have for anyone who loves Mexican cuisine, ranging across regions and time. There’s sopa de ajo from Chihuahua, chipotle chicken soup from Jinich’s native Mexico City, and sopa de ombligo, pinto bean soup with masa dumplings, from a tiny Sinaloan mountain town called Jinetes de Machado. (“Ombligo” means belly button, and that’s just what these dumplings look like.) There are shrimp tacos gobernador, said to have originated in the 1990s with a politician’s visit to a restaurant in Mazatlán, and chulibul, green beans in corn puree, eaten in Campeche since pre-Hispanic times. There’s vuelve a la vida, the coastal seafood cocktail called “come back to life” for its hangover-curing powers; Oaxacan green mole with pork and mole poblano with chicken; and coyotas, the caramel-filled pastries of Sonora. Rich with anecdotes and information, “Treasures of the Mexican Table” is aptly named, a treasure for the home cook.
“The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes,” by Julia Momosé and Emma Janzen
This book brings me joy. It is a ruminative and educational bar crawl through Japanese cocktail culture from Julia Momosé of Chicago’s lovely Kumiko. She introduces us to the many kinds of Japanese bars, the country’s drinking history, the importance of seasonality, and key tools, ingredients, and methods. And then we drink! In spring that might mean a Cherry Blossom cocktail or ume Old Fashioned, in winter a hojicha coconut daiquiri or hot Campari. The photography is gorgeous.