Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Spring is (almost) here, and the end of the pandemic is nigh!
Yes, we know the lyrics to this song, and the cautious hope that accompanies them. But even if hope proves to be illusory, spring is coming, bringing with it a roster of cookbooks that make the world feel bigger, brighter, and vastly more interesting, no matter what the pandemic has in store.
The season’s new crop of titles vibrates with possibility, to say nothing of the sense of rebirth and renewal typically associated with spring. Below, you’ll find 18 of them, winnowed from a very substantial roster. While their subjects vary widely, each offers a thoughtful way to tell the story of what cooking means at a time when the question of “what to cook tonight” has assumed almost existential proportions.
That story, according to the books on this list, is one of new horizons. Caribbean-inspired cooking goes vegan; the hand-wringing weeknight dinner genre gets a shot to the arm; cocktails take their cues from the Zodiac; the complexities of Korean American identity find nuanced expression on the plate; flour gets a welcome reappraisal; an 87-year-old Gullah matriarch makes her debut. There are noodles and curries and matcha and lemon posset tarts; there is barbecue, and there is lox. And there is travel: from the Himalayas to Portugal, from Mexico to South Carolina’s Edisto Island, from California to Jaipur.
Above all, these books are a reminder that the story of cooking will continue to be told in invigorating ways, no matter what the world may be up to. Spring, after all, is coming. — Rebecca Flint Marx
Quadrille Publishing, out now
Benjamina Ebuehi was a clear standout of Season 7 of the Great British Baking Show. While she didn’t win the title, her instantly likable personality made it hard not to root for her, and, if the judges’ reactions were any measure, she seemed like a solid baker too. Now, Ebuehi’s first cookbook, A Good Day to Bake, is here to confirm it.
To borrow a bit from the GBBO judging criteria, Ebuehi is good with flavors. Her recipes are organized to emphasize this aspect of baking: There’s an herbs and tea chapter, one devoted to chocolate, and one simply called “spice cupboard.” The sweet and savory recipes therein are appealingly British, such as matcha and lemon posset tarts, a blackberry and sage pudding, and spring onion and Comté buns. But while they boast the kind of flavor combinations that might draw crowds at a neighborhood bakery, they’re not at all difficult. On a recent weeknight, I made Ebuehi’s malted brown butter pound cake (from a chapter titled “best of beige”) just because I had all of the ingredients on hand. It came together easily, and for requiring so little effort, the payoff was big. I had underbaked it slightly, but the flavor was undeniable; I could imagine Paul Hollywood declaring as much.
Along with being a beloved Bake-Off contestant, Ebuehi is a food stylist, and her styling talents are on display A Good Day to Bake. Tho photos of her food — of bakes simply and naturalistically arranged, perhaps with a stray crumb or dribble of sauce spilling onto the countertop — drive home the thesis of the book, one that she lays out in its first pages: These are recipes for the everyday, when a craving strikes and an ordinary evening calls for a tart, some shortbread, or a pound cake that tastes way better than any non-occasion deserves. — Monica Burton
Craig and Shaun McAnuff
Bloomsbury, out now
Ital is vital. You’ll often hear this from Rastafarian proponents of the primarily vegan Ital diet. Taken one way, it’s an argument that eating unprocessed ingredients from the earth will give diners vitality. Taken another, the phrase could mean that Ital as a cuisine is also alive, evolving alongside other Jamaican foods, especially in the diaspora. To brothers Craig and Shaun McAnuff, it might mean both.
Natural Flava, a book of “Caribbean-inspired plant-based recipes that are full of FLAVA,” is the second cookbook from the McAnuffs, who are of Jamaican descent and live in London. Although they didn’t grow up eating many vegetables, they write, they began to move towards plant-based eating a few years ago for health reasons. While their first book, Original Flava, included plenty of oxtail and saltfish, Natural Flava borrows from Ital and other global cuisines to create imaginative vegan dishes featuring lots of ackee, plantains, coconut milk, and callaloo.
The options include vegan takes on classic Caribbean dishes — pumpkin rasta pasta, jackfruit rundown, tofu-based escovitch fish — as well as experimental dishes like stew pea tacos, plantain hummus, and jerk-spiced squash Wellington. The recipes are easy to follow, with a handy glossary for anyone unfamiliar with Caribbean terminology, and many dishes rely on canned ingredients. The brothers insist the book is not just for vegans, and less observant readers can generally ignore substitutions like plant-based condensed milk and vegan mayo.
The cauliflower burger makes an excellent introduction to the book. Cauliflower steaks are dipped in coconut milk laced with all-purpose seasoning, then dredged in a mix of flour, curry powder, and spices. Dredge twice before frying, as the McAnuffs smartly advise, and you’re rewarded with an extra layer of crackly crust. Topped with slaw tinged with mango chutney, and mayo swirled with hot sauce and fresh parsley, the finished product perks up a dreary evening without weighing you down. Tucked into a brioche bun, Ital is indeed vital. — Nick Mancall-Bitel
Chronicle Books, March 15
Cathy Barrow’s quest began, as so many do, with the craving for a good bagel. It’s understandable: As she writes in her cookbook’s introduction, a love of bagels is baked (sorry) into her DNA. When Barrow was growing up in Toledo, Ohio, her mother’s longing for a freshly baked bagel was such that Barrow’s maternal grandmother would bring along a hatbox full of them on her visits from Brookline. As an adult, Barrow, “a determined DIY-er,” found her own solution: Through much trial and error, and a crucial assist from high-gluten flour, she learned how to bake her own.
Her 16 bagel (and bagel-adjacent) recipes, half of which she categorizes as “Bagels My Grandmother Wouldn’t Recognize,” form the foundation of this, Barrow’s fourth cookbook. They are buttressed by many eminently useful tips and generous guidance: This is a book with a two-page section dedicated to the (very important) matter of getting the seeds to stick. One of Barrow’s great strengths is her understanding of the spatial limitations of most home kitchens — the reason her bagel recipes yield only six is because that number can proof comfortably on a quarter-sheet pan, which won’t take up as much room in the refrigerator.
As the cookbook’s title implies, the bagels are accompanied by recipes for various schmears, salads, pickled/fermented foods, cured and smoked fish, and bagel sandwiches. All are foods that fall under the heading of appetizing, a still widely misunderstood term that encompasses an entire genre of Jewish food, most of which are indeed incredibly appetizing. Case in point is Barrow’s recipe for beet-cured gravlax. It’s both stunning and easy; even if (like me) you’ve never made gravlax before, this recipe takes the mystery out of its 48-hour preparation. Cured under a blanket of shredded beets, chopped dill and mint, a shower of salt and sugar, and a touch of vodka, it is, as advertised, a very nice piece of fish. — RFM
Abrams, March 22
Erin Gleeson is very, very good at making California look like a place you’d want to pack up and move to immediately: Her first cookbook, The Forest Feast, was a gorgeous paean to the idyllic cabin where she and her family live in Northern California, embellished by her own photography and watercolor illustrations. For her fifth book, Gleeson has expanded her scope to include the rest of the state. Part travelogue, part cookbook, The Forest Feast Road Trip follows Gleeson and her family as they travel 2,500 miles from San Diego to Yosemite to Humboldt county, and various (mostly coastal) points in between. “This is not a guidebook,” she writes, “but rather a cookbook that’s an homage to California and to being on the road.”
As with Gleeson’s first book, the recipes here are vegetarian, and lean heavily in the Moosewood Cookbook direction. There are walnut enchiladas, a brown rice-chickpea-hummus bowls, and a stir-fry that calls for many peppers and Bragg’s liquid aminos. It’s unabashedly simple food: the lemon-Parmesan smashed potatoes are pretty much as advertised, with chopped fresh rosemary to make things interesting, while the recipe for Old Bay Brussels is literally just sprouts roasted with a healthy shake of Old Bay. Both recipes were enjoyable if not earth-shaking; more than anything, they telegraphed the kind of cozy vibrancy endemic to the rest of the book.
It’s as a hopelessly picturesque ode to the Golden State that the cookbook (which Gleeson photographed) truly shines: The pictures of wineries, beaches, orange groves, and mountains made me want to climb into its pages, as did those of the various rental properties where Gleeson and her family lodged. Taken as a whole, it’s a bit of a Technicolor fever dream. All of which is to say that if you’re looking for a cookbook that expresses California’s astounding culinary and cultural complexity, this isn’t it. But in fairness, it’s not trying to do that. All that it asks, instead, is for you to vicariously partake in this snapshot of the (very) good life; like any good California postcard, it makes you believe that a piece of it can be yours, too. — RFM
Clarkson Potter, March 29
In the introduction to New York Times Cooking columnist Eric Kim’s first cookbook, he asks this question of himself: “Am I Korean or am I American?” Kim’s mother Jean — from whom Kim learned and adapted many recipes for the book, and to whom it is dedicated — is from South Korea, while Kim is from America. Their mutual passion for the many iterations of Korean cookery is what connects them (along with the one-year stint during the pandemic when Kim moved back to Atlanta to live with Jean), and Kim’s book is an exploration of culinary intersections shared between mother and son. The answer Kim discovers, through the cooking of traditional Korean dishes and the spins both he and history have put on them, is that he undoubtedly occupies both identities.
Many home cooks may recognize Kim’s name from his frankly perfect NYT Cooking recipe for Sheet Pan Bibimbap (which thankfully appears in the book) or his Gochugaru Salmon with Crispy Rice (another unbelievable banger). But his cookbook is a place for Kim to really stretch his legs. Its highlight is the recipe for Jean’s kimchi — “the most important recipe in the book,” Kim argues, because it serves as a base for and addition to so many of the book’s other recipes, like the kimchi jjigae and kimchi fried rice. If the recipe’s headnotes reveal anything about the project of Korean American, it’s that Kim is devoted to and frequently in awe of his mother’s cooking, which makes this cookbook not only a wonderful resource for Korean American home cooking but also a touching tribute to what we learn from our parents when we just listen and watch. And sometimes adapt. — Dayna Evans
Harvard Common Press, April 12
The first cookbook from Bay Area pitmaster Matt Horn is steeped in the chef’s family history. The deeply personal book traces Horn’s Southern roots, from his first experiences with smoking meats at his grandmother’s backyard barbecues to running wildly successful barbecue pop-ups. Along the way, Horn developed a style of barbecue that he describes as distinctly “West Coast”: Texas smoking techniques plus traditional Southern flavors, with a big pinch of Cali style.
Equally suited to seasoned home chefs and barbecue beginners, Horn’s book lays out everything anyone might ever need to know about smoking meats, from choosing the right wood to the importance of food safety during longer cooks, along with lots of opinions on how (and when) sauce should be applied. Perhaps most useful of all, there are step-by-step instructions for creating perfectly tender smoked duck, snappy links of boudin sausage, oxtails, and of course, brisket. They’re paired with stunning photography, drool-inducing enough to make you consider taking on the seriously labor-intensive effort of at-home barbecue.
In addition to the meats, Horn BBQ includes recipes for basically everything else you might need to throw a seriously incredible backyard barbecue, from six different types of sauce to pickled okra and pig’s feet to provide an acidic reprieve from all those rich proteins. And Horn’s side dish recipes — including jambalaya, Southern-style fried cabbage, candied yams, and hoe cakes — make the book worth picking up even if you don’t ever plan to smoke a whole hog.
Although many of us — especially snobby Southerners with strong opinions on smoked meats — don’t think of California as a barbecue destination, Horn BBQ offers definitive proof this assumption is totally misplaced. — Amy McCarthy
Clarkson Potter, April 12
I love it when recipes have a thesis. The thesis of one of my favorite weeknight staples is that shelf-stable gnocchi absolutely bang if you sautee rather than boil them, which means a delicious meal can be on your dinner table in a mere 15 minutes. That recipe was created by Ali Slagle, who is something of a specialist in meeting harried weeknight cooks where they actually are as opposed to where hip cooking magazines and enviably expert creators sometimes presume. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to start cooking from this, Slagle’s debut cookbook, as soon as possible.
I Dream of Dinner is stuffed to the brim with useful, smart weeknight recipes, many of which have that spark of sautee-the-gnocchi genius. I’ve got my eye on an all-corners pasta bake, which promises only crispy topping because a sheet pan, rather than a baking dish, is used to cook the pasta. I’ve also bookmarked a French onion white bean bake (why should I have to make soup to have dark, jammy onions for dinner?) as well as a mixed-grain porridge that Slagle positions as the answer to “nearly empty and never-ending baggies of grains” — a perfect description of an entire shelf of my cupboard.
I was able to test a low-and-slow salmon in chili oil without needing to buy anything but salmon. Finally, a recipe creator who understands what a realistic end-of-week pantry looks like! I also whipped up the one-skillet (toddler-approved) broccoli pasta, and left convinced of Slagle’s template for making all manner of noodle-y dinners in one pan (seriously, you don’t even need a separate stockpot of boiling water to cook the pasta). Finally, a recipe creator who cares about keeping my dishes manageable! Slagle’s writing is as efficient as her recipes. In lieu of headnotes, chapters are subdivided by approach or technique; those sub-section explainers are where Slagle spends the bulk of her written output, mostly to coach her readers to understand how to apply the ideas beyond the recipes written in the book. The recipes themselves are given only a title and a tagline: “Oven Quesadillas: Four quesadillas at once and — perhaps the best part — without flipping” reads like poetry, and is also yet another Slagle recipe that I’ll be bookmarking for the near future. — Hillary Dixler Canavan
Mike and Stephanie Le
Workman, April 12
Scroll through Mike and Stephanie Le’s popular @iamafoodblog Instagram account and chances are you’ll start feeling hungry. Their photos — with lighting that looks like it’s all done in a studio and every ingredient placed just so — zoom in on everything from fat, glistening udon noodles to fiery bowls of mapo tofu. I’ve definitely ended up ordering some takeout or bookmarking a recipe after ogling one of their dishes. But now that the husband-and-wife team have finally published their first cookbook together, I finally have no excuses left not to cook their recipes.
What was one of their most popular hashtags (#thatnoodlelife) has transformed into 75 recipes. The duo managed to translate their friendly and enthusiastic voice into print — “whether you’re having a good day or a bad one,” they write, “noodles are there for you.” Helpful sections on various types of noodles and the pantry ingredients the Les rely on bookend the recipes, which read as breezily as their social media captions. They also don’t discriminate between noodles: a classic cacio e pepe recipe sits alongside recipes for soups like pho and laksa.
A recipe for fried Shanghai noodles with pork belly and kale is titled “Better Than Take Out.” Having made it — a 30-minute process that entailed slicing the pork into matchsticks, tossing egg noodles in a wok, and throwing in the kale at the end — I can attest it was definitely better than most sad takeout I’ve ordered. The only thing missing? I felt the need to snap a photo and post it to my IG account with the right hashtag. — Bao Ong
Ten Speed Press, April 19
In Arabiyya, Reem Assil allows us to witness her evolving relationship to food, family, history, and social justice as an “Arabiyya,” an Arab woman. Her use of the term has a specific purpose: To claim an identity in this country, as she reminds us, can be a form of resistance. Assil, who opened her eponymous Arab bakery in Oakland in 2017 (it now has two locations), uses both anecdotes and ingredient lists to explore her identity, something that began with her family’s roots in Palestine and Syria.
Family history has always served as an undercurrent to Assil’s work, nourishing and informing her political consciousness. That’s equally true here: Each recipe is as much a personal essay as the actual essays that punctuate the book’s five sections. Recipe sidebars come with detailed information about the history and use of certain key ingredients and dishes. Such details add nuance and weave threads between parts of a region that mainstream culture and media have encouraged many non-Arabs to view as a monolith.
As for the recipes, I can personally attest to the virtues of khaliat nahal, Yemini honeycomb bread stuffed with cheese, topped with sesame seeds, and doused with syrup. Needless to say, a whole tray of these were gone in less than 24 hours. I also tried a version of a Palestinian maqlouba (or ma’louba, as spelled in the book) made of layers of vegetables and rice. Although I burned the bottom-turned-top layer, the flavors were fantastic.
Maybe because I’m a sucker for etymology, Arabiyya also reminded me that food as well as words (and people, at that), can be deeply interconnected without losing what gives them a particular identity. After doing a little research on my own, I found out, for example, that the root letters of “maqlouba,” which means “upside-down,” also ground “qalb,” the Arabic word for “heart” — the idea being that this is where humans mull or turn over our emotions. Assil beautifully weaves the significance of all of these ideas through her pages. Why not turn things around sometimes, her book seems to ask, shake up your understanding of what Arab food even is? If you dig in with a little more awareness first, you might not be surprised at how much better things taste. — Nadia Q. Ahmad
Vanessa Li and Bowen Goh
Abrams, April 19
At its best, astrology is a starting point to understand yourself, not an answer in itself. The traits associated with each sign aren’t necessarily who you are, but rather a jumping-off point to ask yourself some questions: Do I feel as mysterious as everyone says Scorpios are? What can I do to unleash my Capricorn drive? And, as a Sagittarius, does a cocktail made with hibiscus-infused vodka and tamarind syrup speak to my soul?
Margarita in Retrograde, written by Vanessa Li and Bowen Goh of Brooklyn’s Mood Ring, understands that a simple question like “What’s your sign?” can open up deep connections. In addition to walking readers through the basics of the zodiac, the pair offers a collection of cocktail recipes for each sign — along with playlists, dating predictions, and stories from behind the bar. The cocktails are wild and playful (no demure riffs on the classics here), from a shochu and CBD drop cocktail for chill Tauruses to a mezcal and mango “Dummy Juice” for Geminis who are confident enough to take a light roasting.
Even if you don’t give a crap about the stars, the cocktails vary enough in style and substance that there’s something for drinkers of every skill level to make and enjoy. And regardless of your feelings about astrology, this book makes a convincing argument that there may be no better way to explore the energies of the signs than to drink your way through them. — Jaya Saxena
Phaidon, April 20
At the beginning of Portugal: The Cookbook, London chef Leandro Carreira offers a disclaimer: Contrary to what its title may suggest, his cookbook is not “an exhaustive catalog and does not include every Portuguese recipe.” This is as it should be. Instead of indulging in arrogant impossibility, Carreira gives us a detailed culinary history of a national cuisine simultaneously shrouded by those of its neighbors France, Spain, and Italy, and entirely resistant to any cliches that attempt to insert themselves into those comparisons.
Organized by food types like bread, soup, shellfish, and rice dishes, rather than by region or topology, the book is perhaps a mite less easy to use than it could have been. But Carreira’s buoyant scrupulousness brings in so many iterations of bread, fish soup, grilled meats, and vegetables that it bridges a rare gap: This is a book that is best read with the eye of an obsessive, but also compelling enough to make an obsessive out of anyone.
Accordingly, there are myriad exciting recipes, too many to list: some classic, like the citrusy, marine splendor of amêijoas à bulhão pato; some near extinct, like fatias de tomar, an egg cake whose cooking vessel is made by only one artisan. (The recipe still assumes you have one, partly as a way to document a dying tradition.) There is space to cook the odd dinner, or to become a scholar of a nation’s continually evolving culinary landscape.
From the introduction on, Carreira is clear that this book is reliant on an “information network” of family recipes, historical texts, and contributions from people all over Portugal. So it’s fitting that for a final flourish, he rounds off his journey into tradition and history with a jolt forward in time, inviting chefs from some of the most forward-looking Portuguese kitchens in the world to look to the future with recipes of their own. — James Hansen
Abrams, April 26
The “Home” in the title of Emily Meggett’s convivial debut cookbook refers to South Carolina’s Edisto Island, where the 87-year-old Meggett is widely known and loved as the matriarch of the Gullah community. As much the story of a place and community as it is a compendium of recipes, Meggett’s cookbook is a tapestry of family history and Gullah Geechee cooking, which draws on the West African culture and farming practices retained by enslaved people brought to work the lands of the coastal Southeast. While Meggett has written an important addition to the Gullah Geechee canon, she’s also given us a treasure trove of chatty, straightforward Southern recipes, sorted into sweeping and comprehensive categories like seafood, or “grits, grains, biscuits & breads.” It’s a great place to start for those hesitant to cook seafood, especially shrimp, not to mention any leftover grits they’re not sure what to do with. In fact, Meggett is a champion of tying together leftovers, and some of her methods for repurposing them (fish cakes; a leftover meat casserole) can be widely adapted in the broadest possible sense. Hers is an ethos of using what one has.
I found myself drawn to Meggett’s recipe for chewies, a pecan-laden Gullah traybake that lives up to its name. Chewies are spiritual kin to blondies, so the recipe’s 360 grams of chopped pecans (and its call for self-raising flour) piqued my interest. As a nut-in-brownie skeptic, I wondered how the ratio of pecan to batter could possibly work. Brownies rarely have a rising agent, but here, the baking powder in self-raising flour works with the pecans to make something unctuous and unusual, not fudgy but toothsome. Every recipe I cooked came together like this, reminding me of a culinary truism: Some people simply know what they are doing in the kitchen. This book is an invaluable archive of what one of those people knows. — Rachel P. Kreiter
Clarkson Potter, May 3
Rick Martínez’s vibrant ode to the wonders of Mexican cuisine is a highly personal collection that works on multiple levels. It’s a standard cookbook full of recipes, but it’s also a family history and a meditation on Mexican American identity.
Some readers will be familiar with Martínez from his work as an editor at Bon Appétit, where he appeared in the magazine’s popular test kitchen videos. In 2020, he and a number of his colleagues famously resigned over unfair pay practices. While he recounts this in his book’s introduction, he also confesses that he has wrestled with his own participation “in the game of labeling certain dishes, cuisines, and recipes as ‘authentic.’” He didn’t have a full understanding of Mexico and Mexican culture, he writes, until he embarked on the project of writing this cookbook.
It’s with all of that in mind that Martínez is careful to note that Mi Cocina is not an authoritative collection of the best dishes and techniques of Mexican cuisine. Instead, its 104 recipes represent his favorite dishes from across the country, made with his own adaptations. They are divided into two sections, the first dedicated to Mexican cooking staples (tortillas to salsas) and the second to regional recipes. In one essay, Martinez explains why it was important to him to differentiate and talk about Mexican regions and states, especially as a way to highlight the cuisine’s Indigenous centers and the culinary impacts of both colonialism and immigration. The recipes themselves are clear, with metric measurements for accuracy, plus substitutions for ingredients that aren’t easily located outside of Mexico. The stunning photography by Ren Fuller doesn’t hurt, depicting succulent meats, scenic vistas, and bustling markets and streets.
This is a fun book, and Martínez wants his readers to have fun too: You’re encouraged to mix and match recipes, techniques, and ingredients and add your own personal takes to his personal takes. You’ll want to host a huge dinner party with many of these dishes, and to send him an invite, too. — Nadia Chaudhury
Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein
Knopf, May 3
It’s not often that a cookbook begins with a chef acknowledging what he doesn’t know, but that’s how Kwame Onwuachi kicks off My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef. While his upbringing and travels informed the menus at his first two restaurants, it wasn’t until Onwuachi set out to collect family recipes that he realized how much information he was missing. “Just because I had spent my entire life eating my mother’s cooking, or my grandmother’s, didn’t mean I could cook it myself,” he writes. To properly catalog the food that defined his childhood, he cajoled ratios and techniques out of family members and revisited the sites of some of his strongest food memories, from Louisiana and Nigeria to Trinidad and Tobago.
The result is a cookbook that traces Onwuachi’s family history while celebrating the evolution of African culinary traditions. The book builds on itself, starting with versatile pantry items like sauces, spices, and stocks, which are then incorporated into recipes for rice and peas, jerk chicken, and mac and cheese. Each is a chance for Onwuachi to share what he’s learned along the way. Shrimp creole, with its tomato paste, is a way into the differences between Creole and Cajun cuisine. And back-to-back recipes for jollof rice and jambalaya demonstrate how West Africans adapted their one-pot rice dish with proteins available in Louisiana.
Many of the dishes, from collard greens and fried chicken to ackee and saltfish, are a testament to sustenance and survival. For Onwuachi, these highly personal foods are a reminder of the ugly history of slavery, but also a celebration of the ingenuity and tenacity of his ancestors. My America is a cookbook for anyone who, like Onwuachi, knows that there’s always more to learn — about our past, and about ourselves. — Stephanie Wu
Hardie Grant Books, May 3
International travel took a backseat for many of us the past two years, but for anyone with a case of wanderlust, British-Indian chef Romy Gill’s On the Himalayan Trail is a welcome escape. The pages seemingly transport you to a region of India few tourists visit: the crocus fields in Kashmir where farmers pluck crimson saffron, a rocky valley nestled against dreamy azure water, a road jutting from a mountain that looks like a watercolor painting.
Gill’s recipes are just as vivid. Her cookbook is divided into eight sections, kicking off with snacks and starters and ending with a tribute to Ladakh, a mountainous region that’s been fought over between India, Pakistan, and China. So of course there’s a recipe for momos, the most popular style of dumplings in the Himalayan region. Her directions are clear and succinct whether you’re being instructed to fold pleats with your thumb and forefinger or fry a whole trout dusted in turmeric. Many of the recipes — such as alu bukara korma (lamb with dried prunes) and chaman kaliya (paneer in yellow gravy) — were inspired by local chefs, tour guides, and friends of friends that Gill met during her travels.
The recipes and essays in Gill’s book also function as much-needed literature on an oft misunderstood part of the world, to say nothing of a cuisine as complex and wide-ranging as Indian cuisine. Kashmir is not an easy destination to visit, even outside of a pandemic, but for now, tagging along Gill’s journey is the next best thing. — BO
Peter Serpico with Drew Lazor
W.W. Norton & Company, May 10
You could be forgiven for thinking one of two things about Philadelphia chef Peter Serpico’s first cookbook, Learning Korean: 1. It’s an extension of the eponymous Philadelphia restaurant that he closed in 2020 after a celebrated seven-year run. 2. Its recipes are inspired by Serpico’s many years cooking at various outposts of David Chang’s Momofuku empire. While Serpico’s book does bear the influence of his previous work, it is, more than anything, a tribute to Korean home cooking. Inspired by meals he’s eaten in intimate family settings, Serpico here applies his refined restaurant background to home cooking, creating a Korean cookbook meant for the average home cook.
The cookbook is divided into seven simple, direct chapters: kimchi; banchan and side dishes; soups and stews; rice and noodles; meat and grilling; and desserts and drinks. The first chapter appropriately covers over a dozen kinds of kimchi, from instant to vegan to apple. The dish of salted, fermented vegetables, Serpico notes, is a common and necessary point of entry to Korean cooking for most home cooks, as it appears on the Korean table at every meal. The sheer variety and adaptability of his kimchi recipes show his range of skills and his willingness to transfer them to a wider, perhaps newbie audience. When you learn that kimchi can be made with so many different ingredients, it’s like receiving a valuable tool to add to your Korean home cooking arsenal: have kimchi, can cook.
As with any cookbook that contains 100-plus recipes, the breadth of options in Learning Korean can occasionally feel overwhelming. Where to start? What requires time and labor and what can be whipped up in a snap? It’s notable, though, that Serpico’s recipes frequently occupy only one page, and main dishes are complemented by ingredients and sides that home cooks can make well in advance. If your goal this year is to learn Korean home cooking, Serpico has come up with a breezy, savvy way to teach you. — DE
Hardie Grant Books, May 17
A little over 10 years ago, Emma Zimmerman was doing a PhD program at McGill University when her father, Jeff, called her from Arizona with a crazy idea: He wanted to revamp and restart the 19th-century Hayden Flour Mills in Tempe. Emma wasn’t that surprised; her father had grown up on a North Dakota farm and watched decades of industrialization bulldoze biodiverse and regional grain economies. So she decided to join him.
The pair spent the next decade restoring the mill and growing ancient, interesting, dormant, and varied grains. They also attempted to find out if the commodification of flour over the past century was responsible for the “boring, flavorless bread we are all so used to,” as Zimmerman writes. The short answer, she concludes, was yes: “It really does matter what grains we grow, how we grow them and how we mill them.” Like the stone-milled flour that Zimmerman and her father now sell locally and nationally, The Miller’s Daughter serves as an attempt to educate consumers about what is lost when flour is commodified. Baking with grain that’s milled and grown locally, as the cookbook amply demonstrates, lends flavors, personality, and panache to baking.
The chapters of Zimmerman’s book are divided by types of flour — there are nine grain varieties and a chapter on chickpeas. Even for the intermediate baker familiar with stone-ground, regionally diverse flours, the book provides a welcome and straightforward guide to flours and their best baking companions. White Sonora wheat is great with pillowy cinnamon rolls; a farro crust complements a fig and ricotta tart; chickpea flour finds a home in chocolate chip cookies. The recipes are innovative enough to inspire, but friendly enough to thwart intimidation. There’s a whole new world in here, in other words — and all you need to enter is a bag of flour. — DE
Hardie Grant Books, May 24
Celebrated London chef John Chantarasak’s debut cookbook is built on both nature and nurture: Chantarasak is half Thai and half British, and has cooked in the kitchens of Bangkok and London. His debut book precedes his debut restaurant, AngloThai, which will refract British ingredients through Thai culinary traditions.
Chantarasak opens the book with a guide to the building blocks of Thai cuisine. Designed for the total novice — at times self-consciously so — it works to the detriment of his otherwise confident explanation of his Anglo-Thai culinary thesis. But this somewhat basic approach also allows the book to function as a primer on those traditions and techniques, independent of the way Chantarasak has molded them through his career, widening the audience beyond existing acolytes.
This means cooks who are new to making Thai food at home can expect a thorough delineation of regional variances in cooking; nifty tips, like tempering lime juice with an orange citrus to more faithfully replicate a makrut lime; and a detailed explanation of the pounding rhythms required to bring a paste together. There are sections on soups, curries, laabs, and the grill. But it’s in recipes like dtom yum goong, a rhubarb and langoustine hot and sour soup; nahm pla waan pla tort, whitebait tossed in a fish sauce caramel; and hoi naang rohm, oysters with a nahm jim made from sea buckthorn, that Chantarasak’s compelling Anglo-Thai conviction rings most clearly, so much so that despite being few in number, these more personal recipes make the book sing. — JH
Andrea D’Aquino is an illustrator and author based in New York City.