This may have been the year we returned to restaurants full force, but it was also the year we continued to hone our home-cooking skills developed during the start of the pandemic. And while we may have finally killed our sourdough starter, there were worlds of cooking we explored beyond bread baking. These 13 books guided our journeys this year, including recipes from some of the world’s best kitchens and personal stories about the relationship between food and family. If you haven’t devoured them already, get ready to dig in.
In her debut cookbook, the California-based chef Reem Assil dives deep into a world she knows firsthand: the Arab diaspora. Through both recipes and personal stories, she reflects on her Palestinian and Syrain roots, and shares how Arab communities have long turned to food as a means of celebration even during times of hardship. Along with recipes for classics like California fattoush salad, hummus bil awarma and falafel mahshi, Assil weaves in her activist background, advocating for a more equitable society. It’s the same spirit she’s brought to her restaurants, where the hospitality is on par with the delicious food.
In the spirit of Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Food IQ is meant to make you more comfortable in the kitchen, providing information that’ll make you a more confident and creative home cook. The chef Daniel Holzman and the journalist Matt Rodbard have teamed up to answer 100 frequently asked questions, from the difference between certain types of pans to how to get crispy roast vegetables. It’s a delightful guide to understanding why we do certain things in the kitchen, and how to play with tools or ingredients to get the most out of them. Along with the tips and tricks, the two provide recipes for dishes like whole fish steamed in paper and leeks gribiche. And along the way, they have some famous friends—think Ina Garten and Éric Ripert—help them out. This might just be your next cookbook bible.
Tanya Holland’s California Soul
Tanya Holland’s California Soul is as much a cookbook as it is a historical document, telling the story of a diasporic cuisine created by African American families moving from the South westward to California, as Holland’s own family did. Here, she intersperses her recipes for dishes such as grilled shrimp and corn with avocado white BBQ sauce and rhubarb upside-down cake with historical detours on topics like Juneteenth and famous Black restaurants. Throughout, she also spotlights 15 contemporary Black Californians who have helped define the state’s version of soul food. California Soul is a book to savor—both literally, with its recipes, and figuratively, as you absorb its beautiful and informative prose.
Listen to Your Vegetables
Even the carnivores among us will take to Sarah Grueneberg’s Listen to Your Vegetables, whose guiding mantra is as much a directive as it is a gentle suggestion. At her Chicago restaurant Monteverde, the Top Chef finalist and James Beard Award winner takes cues from what’s at peak freshness, and she wants you to be able to do the same in your own kitchen. Divided up by vegetable or fruit, her book guides you through simple preparations such as grilled artichokes and roasted carrots, as well as more inventive recipes for dishes like vermouth-roasted pear and Taleggio crostini and purple potato-filled tortellini. There are also recipes including meat, poultry and fish—but Listen to Your Vegetables makes vegetarianism pretty appealing too.
Bras: The Tastes of Aubrac
Sébastien Bras may have requested that his Michelin three-star restaurant Le Suquet be delisted from the Michelin Guide a few years back, but that doesn’t mean his food isn’t still Michelin-caliber. And even if you haven’t been able to visit his spot in the Aubrac region of France, this new book gives you an inside look at Le Suquet and the Bras way of cooking. Intimate photographs are accompanied by never-before-published recipes for iconic dishes such as potato waffle filled with beurre-noisette cream and gargouillou of young herbs and vegetables—perhaps not your typical home-cooking fare, but exciting projects for ambitious home chefs. And regardless of whether you try out the dishes yourself, Bras is an incredible look into a restaurant and family that helped elevate produce to an art form.
Gavin Kaysen has created a mini culinary empire in Minneapolis with restaurants like Demi and Spoon and Stable. But with his first cookbook, he’s embracing home cooking, sharing longtime family recipes and dishes he now cooks for his own family. That means you get step-by-step instructions for “Kaysen Family Classics” like Swedish pancakes and pot roast with kale and squash salad, as well as recipes that will elevate your at-home dining experience, such as grilled branzino with brown butter, tomato, olives and bread crumbs. It’s all Midwestern comfort with Kaysen’s updated spin, perfect whether you’re cooking for family or friends who may as well be family.
Masala: Recipes From India, the Land of Spices
For her debut cookbook, Anita Jaisinghani of Houston’s Pondicheri has turned to what she knows best: spices. Indian cuisine is a panoply of beautifully seasoned and flavored food—from breakfast to dessert—and Jaisinghani wants to make you feel comfortable using a whole array of spices. She walks through the history of spices, explaining how to source them and store them, then highlights a number of standby ones, from cumin to cardamom. With more than 100 recipes for classic dishes such as dosas and samosas, as well as for more unique meals such as vindaloo ribs and mushroom masala mac ‘n’ cheese, Masala will have you restocking your spice cabinet in no time.
Kwame Onwuachi became a culinary sensation after releasing his memoir Notes From a Young Black Chef. In this follow-up, he sticks to the personal writing, but intersperses recipes that tell the story of his life’s journey. With influences from the Bronx, the American South and Nigeria—all places fundamental in developing his character and his palate—the recipes illuminate a broad diasporic tradition that’s woven throughout foods across the world. Stepping into the kitchen to cook Onwuachi’s Nigerian jollof, baby back ribs or red velvet cake would make for a great precursor to dining at his newest restaurant in New York City, which works to showcase some of the same themes from his book.
Noma 2.0 isn’t your average cookbook. In fact, the display copy itself says that it’s not necessarily meant to be cooked from at all. Rather, René Redzepi and his team have put together a tome meant to inspire. The title is a nod to Noma’s relocation to its new digs in 2018, and the book contains a look at 200 dishes that the restaurant has been toying with in its test kitchen since then. The photography is spectacular, and the descriptions are sure to get your wheels turning as to what inventive meals you might dream up in your own kitchen. And of course, for those trying to create Noma 3.0 in their own home, a QR code in the book will direct you to every detailed recipe exactly as it’s made in the Copenhagen restaurant.
Somebody Feed Phil: The Book
In the pantheon of culinary travel shows, Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil is one of the more humorous. The host Phil Rosenthal, best known for creating Everybody Loves Raymond, embodies his gastronome side and travels the world, learning about different cities’ food and culture. Now that show has a companion book, diving even deeper into the world of feeding Phil. The new tome contains behind-the-scene stories from every episode of the show’s first four seasons, making it the perfect read for avid fans of Rosenthal’s adventures. But even better, there’s more than 60 recipes from the acclaimed chefs and local legends Rosenthal has visited. From pad thai in Thailand to Rosenthal’s favorite sandwiches in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, the recipes allow you to make the delectable on-screen dishes at home. It’s a great book for those of us who can’t watch a cooking show without immediately craving the food at hand.
Masa: Techniques, Recipes and Reflections on a Timeless Staple
The Latinx pantry brand Masienda has supplied ingredients to big-name chefs such as Enrique Olvera, Rick Bayless and Claudette Zepeda. Now, the company is coming into your own kitchen. Written by Masienda’s founder, Jorge Gaviria, Masa is a compendium that pulls you into the world of its namesake maize dough, from top to bottom. You’ll learn about masa’s ingredients, its history and the tools you’ll need to make it. The process can be slightly involved (the book compares masa to sourdough, but calls it easier), but it’ll be worth it once you’re making your own tortillas, empanadas and pupusas. Chefs such as Olvera, Bayless and Alice Waters have even contributed more modern recipes, including blue masa sourdough bread and coffee atole, if you’re interested in flexing your newfound skills even further.
Often, soul food and southern cuisine aren’t thought of in the same way as fine dining. The Top Chef finalist Adrienne Cheatham is working to change that, melding her family’s southern roots with her training in restaurants like Le Bernardin. Her latest cookbook, Sunday Best, is the culmination of that project, showcasing recipes that bring the spirit of a Sunday family dinner to everyday meals. Many of the recipes recall family classics, but with tweaks that upgrade them to “Sunday supper” status. A roast chicken gets more flavor from a stout and soy sauce marinade, while grilled skirt steak is accompanied by mustard-green chimichurri. Alongside some of the larger project meals are dishes like tater tot waffles with candied bacon and oven-fried okra chips. Sunday Best will help you bring the weekend vibes every day of the week.
Jody Williams and Rita Sodi’s Via Carota is at this point a New York institution. Everyone from Paul McCartney to the Obamas has dined at the Greenwich Village restaurant, and even after almost a decade, it’s still a tough reservation to nab. Luckily, Williams and Sodi have decided to share some of Via Carota’s magic with us home cooks. Divided into chapters based on the seasons, Via Carota the cookbook walks you through the freshest ingredients and how to use them to emphasize their peak form. In the spring, that might be in the restaurant’s iconic Insalata Verde, while in the fall it might mean making squash risotto with radicchio or hand-rolled spaghetti with duck ragu. Pour yourself a glass of wine or make one of the book’s cocktails and it might almost feel like you’re sitting in the Grove Street space.