With home cooking on the rise, has there ever been a better time to switch up the energy with a new cookbook?
★ In Bibi’s Kitchen
Perhaps the freshest cookbook of the season is In Bibi’s Kitchen, even though “this is an old-fashioned cookbook that has nothing to do with trends or newness,” as editors Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen write in their introduction. The book features recipes and stories from grandmothers (bibis) from eight African countries, all introduced through Q&A interviews. Each chapter shares basic information about one of the featured countries, all of which touch the Indian Ocean (two are islands), and “offers a range of perspectives that clearly illustrate how food changes when it travels and how it can also help to keep a connection to home.” Don’t feel the least bit wary of recipes featuring hard-to-find ingredients. Almost all the spices called for are readily available in American supermarkets, and many of the condiments included here (like Somali cilantro and green chile pepper sauce) can be used on nearly anything. A beautiful example of how food is culture, history and one of the most powerful forms of connection we have, In Bibi’s Kitchen feels at once deeply famil- iar and powerfully eye-opening.
Tequila & Tacos
Do I love Tequila & Tacos because it’s compact and bold in color, or do I love it because it’s all about tacos? Yes. Katherine Cobbs’ latest in the Spirited Pairings series is an irresistible tour de U.S. taco joints in points north, south, east and west. Each location reveals the recipe for one signature taco and cocktail, from cauliflower tacos with fennel and ramps (Salazar in Los Angeles) to a Monte Cristo taco (Velvet Taco in Atlanta) to a lamb carnitas taco (Quiote in Chicago), and on and on the delicious armchair exploring goes. You might feel a twinge of grief right now, thinking about all these beautiful restaurants and their brilliant creations—but then you get to make the tacos and agave-spirit libations at home, and you’re sure to feel happier after that.
Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple
Even if you’re not a foodie, you’ve probably heard the name Jacques Pépin. The renowned French chef and TV personality has a wonderful smile, and as such, I take great joy in the many photographs of him sprinkled throughout Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple, which has a pleasingly retro feel thanks to its cheerful illustrations, vintage typeface and decidedly unfussy recipes. These really are quick and simple dishes with common ingredients and instructions that rarely extend past a paragraph or two. In fact, “mix all the ingredients together” is a common refrain. There are even lots of shortcuts, such as brown-and- serve French bread (!) or pre-made pizza dough and puff pastry. If a famous French chef tells you to do it, it’s totally OK, right? Packed with more than 200 recipes, this book would make a great resource for busy young people who are just beginning their kitchen adventures.
The Good Book of Southern Baking
Kelly Fields brings 20 years of pastry chef know-how to the pages of The Good Book of Southern Baking. She developed these recipes in restaurants, including her own New Orleans joint Willa Jean, and her thorough overview of baking ingredients—11 pages’ worth!—signals that honed expertise. But it’s her South Carolina upbringing that provides the bedrock for this sumptuous collection of sweet treats. Fields’ baking is deeply rooted in childhood experience, and she invokes her mama regularly in her treatment of classics like banana bread, haystack cookies and warm chocolate pudding. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a traditional Southern dessert not covered here, and you’ll want to devour every single one. (I’m especially drawn to the bourbon-butterscotch pudding, a twist on one of my own mama’s favorites, and Grandma Mac’s apple cake.) This is the perfect gift for the dessert person in your life.
★ The Kosmic Kitchen Cookbook
The Kosmic Kitchen Cookbook cozies up at the three-way intersection of herbalism, ayurveda and seasonality, making it a fascinating, not to mention beautifully designed, guide for thinking about how to support your health holistically. Herbalists and pals Sarah Kate Benjamin and Summer Singletary ground the book in elemental theory, the idea that the five elements—ether, air, water, fire, earth—must be balanced in our bodies. They connect this theory to the four seasons, helping the reader to identify how the elements are at play, inside and out. A section on herbal preps, such as herb-infused ghee, honey and turmeric tahini dressing, begins the culinary exploration, followed by seasonal recipes like lemon balm gazpacho and spiced mulled wine with hawthorn berries. If you’re new to herbalism, it may seem like a lot to take in, but Benjamin and Singletary are wonderful guides, and the book also provides a link to their free online minicourse on the subject.