Still More Cookbooks for You and Other People

all cookbooksCookbooks are back. Well, they never left, but popularity waned. It has been oft cited this year that cookbook sales are up over 20%. As you can see from the catalog of links below, I would agree that cookbooks are a valuable use of your funds and shelf space. I love food blogs as much as the next food blogger for the instant gratification, the ease of sharing recipes, and the variety you can find (all available for free!). But, a cookbook is a person and a moment in time committed to paper. Cookbooks are recipes, techniques, and stories literally bound together for both cohesive narrative and lessons. They are beautiful inspiration. The link to your favorite recipe never breaks, and you can keep the page to a recipe open and save your phone from getting caked with raw egg and flour.

Cookbooks can also make wonderful gifts. I have an extensive collection, but have limited my suggestions here to cookbooks I truly use all the time and have also gifted myself. I still own and love all of the cookbooks I wrote about previously, so be sure to look at past year’s lists as well (they are all linked to at the bottom).

But, maybe you aren’t into buying people things, or you don’t have the cash to do so right now. I’ve also given homemade cookbooks with a collection of my favorite recipes. Use a binder, some spray paint or cool paper (purchasing is not necessary, you could just use a brown paper bag and draw/stamp on it!), and fill it with dividers. Print out your favorite recipes and load them in! You could do a specific theme too, like one year I made my mom one with all soup recipes because she makes lots of soup during the winter for our family.

good and cheapGood and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/day by Leanne Brown. Brown wrote this cookbook as part of her masters in food studies to help people on SNAP cook healthy, flavorful, and interesting meals. She released the cookbook as a free PDF (which you can download through the link above), but if you buy a paper copy her publisher will donate a book to someone in need. The book is available in English and Spanish. These reasons alone would seem like enough to earn a recommendation, but what is most important is the book is full of solid, easy to follow, and delicious recipes. She is truly a master of taking cheap basics and reworking them in many dishes.

This book is best for: people who may not be comfortable in the kitchen yet, people who are not into long ingredient lists or fancy techniques, students, people who like saving money.

Favorite recipes: poutine, peanut chicken with broccoli and coconut rice, coconut and lime brown rice pudding.

IMG_6535Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman. I approached this book cautiously when it came out last year. Could I possibly love and cook from it as much as I had Deb’s first book? It is still early to tell (I’ve had her first book for six years), but I think the answer is yes. Like her first cookbook this one has a wide range of types of recipes with everything from breakfast to salads to vegetarian mains to dessert (it is not an exclusively vegetarian cookbook, but many recipes are). Her recipes are always well written, and are interesting but feel very achievable on a weeknight. While I am not in the business of recommending cookbooks for a single recipe, the street cart chicken and rice alone makes the book worthwhile to me. I’ve written about my love for this recipe before, and for my husband’s birthday this year I quadrupled the recipe for a party and it was a huge hit.

This cookbook is best for: busy people with a wide palate, people who aren’t afraid to try a new ingredient or technique, your best friend, bakers, part or full time vegetarians.

Favorite recipes: street cart chicken and rice, skirt steak salad, spaghetti pangratto with crispy eggs, pizza beans.

homemade kitchenThe Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila. This book is just so lovely. It is Chernila’s second book (I recommended her first, The Homemade Pantry, in my first cookbook post way back in 2014) and the chapters are based around inspirational mantras, like “start where you are,” “eat outside” and “do your best, and then let go.” The recipes range from simple and perfect for a beginner like roast chicken to more complicated projects like making tofu. Many of the recipes have ideas for other variations to adapt to your tastes or the season. Chernila is empowering, reflective, and an excellent teacher.

This cookbook is best for: people who love cooking and talking about why they cook, beginners who need encouragement, parents, people who like to cook for crowds.

Favorite recipes: quick pickled cabbage, chicken pot pie, kimchi breakfast tata, spoon butter.

IMG_6543Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. I got this out of the library last year, and knew immediately it was the perfect book for my mom. The recipes are incredibly varied and vegetable heavy, but each recipe constitutes an entire meal. I bought it for her birthday and she loved cooking from it, and then bought it for me for Christmas last year (how is that for a gift endorsement??).  I’ve been cooking for work more and more, and while I still love planning elaborate meals I’ve found myself with less energy to do that during the week and just needing to figure out something for dinner. This book delivers with straightforward recipes that are never boring. Clark does rely on some more exotic ingredients to get maximum flavor from simple recipes, but just about every one can be found at a well-stocked grocery store.

This cookbook is best for: your mom, people who like flavor-packed ingredients like harissa, anchovies, and vinegar, busy people who like interesting food.

Favorite recipes: olive oil-braised chickpeas, harissa chicken, red curry and coconut tofu.

Are you still not convinced that cookbooks are the right gift for yourself? Or maybe you need to buy a gift for the friend who lives in a shoe box apartment with no room for a cookbook shelf? This year I started subscribing to New York Times Cooking and I will never look back. Sam Sifton has entirely transformed the Cooking section to be an extensive catalog of recipes that is easily searchable and save-able in your “recipe box”. The staff (including the great Melissa Clark and Alison Roman) publish great recipes and long-form pieces regularly. It is $5/month or $40/year.

Past Recommendations:

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More Cookbooks for You and Other People

More Cookbooks for Your and Other People - Vegetal MattersCookbooks are one of my favorite gifts to give and receive. Yes, there is an internet’s worth of recipes at your finger tips. but it will never match the experience of diving into one author’s perspective of a certain cuisine, ingredient, or type of dishes. Sometimes you just want a recommendation from someone you feel like you know and trust. My cookbooks snuggled into a bookcase in my kitchen feel like backup forces of chefs and friends ready to provide inspiration, walk me through a new dish, or reliably guide me through cooking something I love.

All the books below have been in my possession for 6 months or (many) more. I have read them cover to cover and cooked at least 3 recipes from them (but probably more). Last year I wrote about five favorite cookbooks for gifts, all of which are still happily on my bookcase and in the cooking rotation. If this is just not enough books for you, then we should be friends, and you should also check out other cookbooks I’ve mentioned here as well as other books related to food in the Cookbooks and Read categories.

More Cookbooks for Your and Other People - Vegetal MattersEvery Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop. I got this out of the library after reading Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepperand then I got it out of the library again. Then I felt I was being unfair to other library patrons and bought my own copy. It is a beautifully designed book with rice grain art dividing each chapter. The recipes are nothing like the fried chicken in a sweet, goopy sauce you might find at a buffet. I’ve never been to China (please, take me!), but whenever I cook from this book I feel like I’m making dishes that could easily be what Chinese households are making.

More Cookbooks for You and Other People - Vegetal MattersInitially this did require special trips to find more obscure ingredients like light and dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, Chinkiang vinegar, and chili bean paste, but they were relatively easy to find at Asian grocery stores (and would be great to include along with your book gift!). Many of the recipes repeat these ingredients, so once you have the basics there’s no need to go searching for something new with every dish you cook. Dan dan noodles, vegetarian “Gong Bao Chicken,” fish fragrant eggplant, and Sichuanese “send-the-rice-down” chopped celery with ground beef are all in my eternal repertoire now.

More Cookbooks for You and Other People - Vegetal MattersThug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck by the authors of the Thug Kitchen blog The blog and book aim to destroy the notion that vegan food is pretentious, expensive, girly, and doesn’t taste good (and they succeed). The recipes are easy and call for very common ingredients, with the added bonus of being hilarious. BBQ bean burritos with grilled peach salsa, spring veggie bowl with curry lime sauce, tortilla soup, and the baked tofu I’ve made so many times I have the page memorized (77!) have kept me reaching for this book again and again. They released a new cookbook this year, Thug Kitchen Party Grub: For Social Motherf*ckersbut I haven’t had it long enough or cooked from it enough to provide an official endorsement. There is some pretty funny gear in their shop to go along with your book gift.

More Cookbooks for You and Other People - Vegetal MattersOn Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. This book does not have any recipes in it, but should still be on every cookbook shelf. It is essential to understanding why we use what techniques where and how foods behave when subjected to different processes. After reading it this year I wrote about all the greatness to be gleaned. Buy it for your own shelf too, and turn to Harold first every time you wonder why something occurs when cooking.

More Cookbooks for You and Other People - Vegetal MattersJamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life by Jamie Oliver. I already gushed about this book and my favorite recipes when I wrote about zucchini carbonara. I won’t repeat myself, but this book is worthwhile for the cherry tomato and sausage bake alone.