The best cookbooks of 2022 are a cozy lot, sharing personal stories, bringing us into the authors’ lives, emphasizing our commonalities, exploring immigrant experiences, and affirming that it’s OK to be busy, harried, imperfect — yourself. Coincidence? I think not. After another day’s duties as a member of a sometimes fractious, divided society, little soothes more than a nice meal. When it comes to gift-giving, sharing a cookbook that guides the recipient toward just that is a very nice way to go. Here are the year’s best cookbooks for giving, to your loved ones or yourself.
Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking to Nourish Your Soul, by Asma Khan (Interlink Books)
Asma Khan is chef of London restaurant Darjeeling Express, but this book doesn’t feature restaurant food. It is a collection of recipes from Khan’s childhood in India, her early days in England, and onward, written to honor her Ammu (mother). “Food can take you back to moments that you thought time had erased,” as she writes. It is filled with family photos and stories, rich memories shared in rich language. Even better, it is filled with clear instructions for creating Bengali, Afghan, Mughlai, and other dishes. There are a few more time-consuming weekend and celebration recipes, like hara korma, a long-simmered dish of lamb shanks in yogurt and herb gravy, or Ammu’s own chicken biryani. But many of these dishes can be pulled together quickly, for weeknight suppers of mini lamb koftas with mint-yogurt dip, bhuna khichuri (Bengali roasted moong dal and rice), and keema mattar (ground beef with peas).
Also try: “Rambutan: Recipes From Sri Lanka,” a gorgeous tour of fruit curries, Muslim street food, and coconut-laced big flavors from a small island, by Cynthia Shanmugalingam.
Budmo! Recipes From a Ukrainian Kitchen, by Anna Voloshyna (Rizzoli)
“Budmo” means “let us be” — the Ukrainian equivalent of “cheers.” It’s a good title for a cookbook that serves as a timely toast to the food of Ukraine, chef and blogger Anna Voloshyna’s homeland. (She now lives in San Francisco.) Readers will learn about regional dishes and history, but Voloshyna’s memories of growing up in the small southern town of Snihurivka are what really bring the book to life. That and recipes for Georgian beet and walnut spread, chicken soup with buckwheat dumplings (golushky), Crimean beef stew with chickpeas, dumplings filled with sweet cherries (varenyky), and many-layered honey cake. Follow it up with a shot of spicy khrenovukha, horseradish-infused vodka, and a tablewide cry of “budmo!”
Also try: “Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture From My Kitchen in Mexico,” a journey through regions and dishes, with family and history as contextual backdrop, by Rick Martinez. Very zesty on all levels.
Cook As You Are: Recipes for Real Life, Hungry Cooks, and Messy Kitchens, by Ruby Tandoh (Knopf)
Ruby Tandoh first came to public attention competing on “The Great British Bake Off” nearly a decade ago. In the years since, she’s made her mark as a food writer with an embracing, inclusive point of view. “Our ways of cooking are as diverse as we are, reflecting every conceivable taste, talent, culture, body, ability (or disability), kitchen, mindset and skill set. I think that’s something to be grateful for,” she writes in the introduction to “Cook As You Are.” With recipes for pearl couscous, anchovies, tomatoes, and olives; roast chicken thighs with spiced cauliflower, cranberries, and herbs; cheesy kimchi cornbread muffins; jollof rice; and 10-minute lemon and thyme pudding cake, she suggests adjustments and alternatives so you can cook with the ingredients, time, and body that you have. “Cook As You Are” includes illustrations rather than photos, so you don’t measure your dish against one created by a professional stylist. If it looks and tastes good to you, it’s good.
Also try: “One: Pot, Pan, Planet: A Greener Way to Cook for You and Your Family,” by Anna Jones, whose as-always-excellent vegetarian recipes here ensure we take care of our planet along with ourselves.
Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook, by Illyanna Maisonet (Ten Speed Press)
Never mind that subtitle. This isn’t really a Puerto Rican cookbook, writes Illyanna Maisonet: “This book is for the Diasporicans — the 5.5 million people living Stateside who continue to cook the food of our homeland.” I love “Diasporican” for its honest, irreverent tone and refusal to romanticize food the way so many cookbooks do. It tells stories of colonialism, survival-mode cooking built around imported food, and melded Taino, Spanish, and African cultures. And it offers recipes for the tuber-loving stew sancocho, picadillo, and pernil, alongside a Puerto Rican take on Laotian laab, cauliflower “rice” with gandules (pigeon peas), and something Maisonet calls “Puerto Rican meat logs.” “I can’t remember how or when I came up with these little meat rockets,” she writes. “To me, it’s just another Diasporican recipe.”
Also try: “Arabiyya: Recipes From the Life of an Arab in Diaspora,” by California-based, Massachusetts-raised chef Reem Assil.
First Generation: Recipes From My Taiwanese-American Home, by Frankie Gaw (Ten Speed Press)
Frankie Gaw’s cookbook is an extended reflection on what it means to dwell in the in-between — culturally American but not white, too American to feel entirely comfortable identifying as Taiwanese. The food very perfectly exists at his own personal nexus, where lifelong allegiance to his grandmother’s steamed pork bao meets undying love for Olive Garden and McDonald’s. Recipes for lap cheong corn dogs, Cincinnati chili with flour noodles, lion’s head Big Macs, and oolong milk tea Rice Krispie treats make this Taiwanese-American identity edible, but cooks will also come away from “First Generation” with serious dumpling and hand-pulled noodle skills.
Also try: “Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home,” filled with wonderfully cookable, well-tested recipes by New York Times writer Eric Kim.
Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes From the Matriarch of Edisto Island, by Emily Meggett (Abrams)
This cookbook is a document of Gullah Geechee culinary culture — descended from enslaved Africans brought to the stretch of coast between the Carolinas and Florida to work on plantations — written by one of its foremost practitioners. Meggett, 89, grew up on Edisto Island in South Carolina cooking regional dishes without recipes; everything was passed down by word of mouth. With “Gullah Geechee Home Cooking,” dishes including stuffed shad with parsley rice and roe, shrimp and grits with gravy, baked cheese grits, and chicken perloo are captured and preserved. The cookbook is an essential, and delicious, piece of American cultural history.
Also try: “Honey Cake & Latkes: Recipes From the Old World by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivors,” a collection that preserves the memories and stories of survivors alongside their recipes. All proceeds go to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation.
I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To): Low-Effort, High-Reward Recipes, by Ali Slagle (Clarkson Potter)
That New York Times recipe you see and immediately want to make, because it sounds as doable as it is delicious? It was probably written by contributor Ali Slagle. “I Dream of Dinner” is one of those cookbooks that will actually get a lot of use, rather than being an aspirational dust-magnet. Its recipient will call you, mouth full, to say “I just made [French onion white bean bake/ one-pot puttanesca/ farro and lentils with coriander/ creamy tomato soup (no cream)/ sesame chicken meatballs/ skirt steak with corn and feta/ any of the other recipes in this bountiful book] and it is so good!”
Also try: “Snacks for Dinner: Small Bites, Full Plates, Can’t Lose,” by Lukas Volger, whose recipes are always joyful and craveable.
What’s for Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People, by Claire Saffitz (Clarkson Potter)
Dessert person Claire Saffitz’s fans are legion, and it’s easy to see why when you get your paws on this collection. No-bake strawberry ricotta cheesecake, creamy rice pudding with candied kumquats, molten chocolate olive oil cakes, and salty cashew blondies are among the scores of irresistible sweets included in its pages. As in her previous volume, “Dessert Person,” she includes a “recipe matrix” helpfully charting each recipe according to difficulty and total time.
Also try: “Delectable: Sweet & Savory Baking,” by Claudia Fleming, a follow-up to “The Last Course,” one of the best and most inspiring dessert cookbooks of all time. (You should probably get that one too.)