If you’re looking for a list of the best cookbooks of 2018, here’s part 1 of some of my favorite cookbooks I’ve received this year.
Every year I think, THIS IS THE YEAR. The year I will NOT get any more cookbooks! And then I get more cookbooks. Because I have a slight obsession with them and even slight hoarder mentality when it comes to them. But I have no real regrets (except the regret that I didn’t buy a larger bookcase). This year was an exceptional year for cookbooks! Here are some of my favorites from 2018 ((and look for my second half of my favorite cookbooks from 2018 next week!).
[disclaimer: All cookbook links below are affiliate links to Amazon]
I’m a huge fan of slab pies, those large sheet pan pies that can serve big groups of people. So I was excited that my friend Cathy Barrow was writing an entire cookbook about them. I was not disappointed! A columnist for the Washington Post, Pie Squared features both savory and sweet pies with a higher crust to filling ratio (slab pies are usually more shallow than their round counterparts. Unexpected savory pies including winners like Turkey Chili Frito Slab Pie with Cornbread Crust, Pan Roasted Mushroom and Kale Slab Pie, and Artichoke Dip Slab Pie (which I’ve sampled at an event, SO. GOOD.) while the sweet pies features treats like Raspberry Rugelach Slab Pie, No Campfire Necessary S’Mores Slab Pie and Grande Mocha Cappuccino Slab Pie. Seriously folks. I want to be Cathy’s neighbor!
True confession, I’ve have a recipe in Feed Your People, the large batch cooking cookbook by Leslie Jonath and 18 reasons but that’s not the only reason I love this book. It’s my go-to cookbook for entertaining a large crowd, with recipes that range from Root Beer Barbecued Spareribs to Big Night Timpano (I made this recently, go check out my IG stories about it, it’s amazing) to Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Waffle. I love how each recipe also shows ingredients for double batches in case you’re feeding an extra large crowd. And I love how each contributor (including such luminaries like Alice Medrich, Deborah Madison, Yotam Ottolenghi, Alice Waters and so many more) talk about how much feeding people is part of their soul and how making food for many is a physical example of how much you love each person eating your food. Even if you never make a recipe from this book (and you should) this is the sort of cookbook that will warm your heart as you read it.
Lately I’ve been looking to eat more satisfying well-rounded meals and Nicki Sizemore’s Build-a-Bowl fits the bill perfectly. Grain bowls are all the rage for a reason. They’re fun to make and easy to eat (I like my variety of foods!). Nicki not only simplifies the process, showing you how to make a variety of grain bases beyond brown rice and quinoa (like farro, sorghum, millet to name a few) but also shows you how to top your bowl for the perfect Instagram shot. Lentils, mushrooms and arugula are pulled together with an egg and a sprinkle of truffle oil while Asian meatballs are served with sesame broccoli and a sweet and spicy glaze. Personally I’m a little obsessed with making her deconstructed Pork Bahn Mi bowls as well as her bibimbap style steak with bok choy, carrots, and kimchi. Don’t worry though, I don’t plan on taking too many photos of my bowls for my feed. I’ll be too busy diving in to bother!
I remember when my friend Linda Miller Nicholson mentioned to me that she was thinking about writing a cookbook and I’m absolutely thrilled to be holding it in my hand when it arrived. Pasta, Pretty Please is exactly the sort of vibrant cookbook that you expect from someone like Linda. Her stunning colored pastas (all naturally dyed from vegetable and plants) took the internet by storm but it’s dynamic personality that you will love. From the basics of how to make colorful pastas (matcha, beet, butterfly pea flower) to gorgeous patterns and shapes, this is a course on how to step up your pasta making game. But the cookbook is not a one-trick pony sort of book, as it has directions and how-to instructions on rolling, stuffing and creating various pasta shapes, as well as a chapter on luscious sauces like Spiced Lamb Yogurt sauce, Apple Bacon sauce, and the Fast Fresh Tomato Sauce with Ricotta Salata to serve the pastas with. I have a pasta machine buried in the back of my pantry and I can’t wait to dig it out and start cranking away (<– pun intended there).
Beautifully designed and photographed, Wine Food by Dana Frank and Andrea Slonecker is exactly what it sounds like, a cookbook focusing on wine and food pairings. But beyond that, it’s the perfect cookbook for those who love wine but don’t quite know where to start in terms of creating food to match. A crash course in wine, including buying, storing and tasting wine, as well as sophisticated (but not difficult to make) recipes that work for both weeknight meals as well as brunches and dinner parties. Think Sparkling Rosé paired with Falafel Waffles for a memorable brunch or Pomegranate Roasted Carrots with lentils, Labneh and Carrot-Top Zhoug paired with a Southern Rhône Red. Each recipe not only pairs with a particular wine but there are recommended wine producers as well, so you aren’t completely lost at the wine store.
More and more I’m trying to find cookbooks that have me making food and not calling for carryout. We’re all busy and after a day at work (or for me, a day baking away because that’s what I often do for work) we rarely want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen (or for me, more time in the kitchen). So Ashley Rodriguez’ book Let’s Stay In is as inviting as the book title. Filled with recipes that are not only doable but WEEKNIGHT doable, this is a cookbook that I will live with. From recipes like Lemony Carbonara with Peas, Steak Tacos with Radish and Pickled Onions, and Spring Pea Falafel with Harissa Yogurt, these recipes sing with freshness.
I rarely bake bread, mostly because I live two blocks away from a bakery that people travel from across the city (and from out of town) to go to. But Heritage Baking by Ellen King might get me back into the kitchen to start kneading and baking. I love the idea of baking with heritage and ancient grain flours and this book is a great starter (<– see what I did there?) for all those who are looking to bake bread with flours other than all-purpose. From creating your own starter to the various steps (autolyse, folding, shaping, resting) this book functions not only as a repository for great recipes but also for reference. I’m eyeing the cranberry walnut bread right now for the holidays, but the seeded whole wheat is the sort of everyday bread that AJ and I just adore with a thick smear of butter and jam.
A few years ago I felt like there was a serious hole in the culinary world with a lack of Korean cookbooks. But since then, there’s been an explosion and I say the more the merrier! I’m particularly excited about Korean BBQ by Bill Kim and Chandra Ram which deviates from the “typical” Korean BBQ recipes for bulgogi and galbi but instead introduces Korean and Asian-inspired grilling recipes. Recipes like Tandori Soy-Cumin Lamb, Korean Beef Satay and Ko-Rican Pork Chops all sounds amazing. But the recipe I can’t wait to try out is his Seoulthern Pimento Cheese which has a healthy dose of Nuoc Cham Sauce, the Vietnamese sauce that basically makes everything better.
As much as I love cocktail, I don’t have room in my tiny apartment for a million bottles of random spirits. So can certainly appreciate Maggie Hoffman’s cookbook The One Bottle Cocktail. It features cocktails using a single spirit, streamline your bar and your cocktail offerings. Each chapter is broken down into spirits (rum, tequila, gin, vodka) with innovative cocktails featuring fresh ingredients like shaved fennel or harissa paste. The Golden Lion Tamarin features fresh ginger and rye whiskey, while Midnight in the Garden has a strawberry gastrique (made with balsamic vinegar) paired with light rum and lime juice. These cocktails prove that you don’t need a huge bar with a massive array of bottles that you’d only use once to create innovative drinks.
It’s no secret that AJ and I like to go on roadtrip and camp. All you need to do is follow us on our road trip via Instagram Stories this past summer. So I was exceedingly excited by Emma Frisch’s Feast By Firelight cookbook. Her lushly photographed cookbook is filled with recipes you can make while camping or grilling outdoor next to a cabin. Packed with tips on how to prep ahead of time, these recipe function just as well for summer (or winter) when you want to cook outdoors. Honey Coriander Glazed Pork Chops sound divine while Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini with Zesty Za’atar look totally doable while camping (or maybe just on my backyard). Though some of the recipes seem to border on glamping (we usually stick to yogurt and granola when we camp, so the Tiramisu French Toast is probably a little ambitious for us) other recipes that sound daunting like Birds in a Nest with Honey Avocado are actually really doable (it’s toast with eggs, avocado and a drizzle of honey). I know what I’m going to be packing in our car next summertime!
Lisa Q. Fetterman is the creator of the Nomiku sous vide machine and her book with co-authors Scott Peabody and Meesha Halm, Sous Vide Made Simple lives up to its name. The Nomiku machine is the one that I have in my kitchen and her first book was my introduction and gateway to sous vide. It’s also what I turn to when I am looking to make something with the sous vide wand. This book simplifies the sous vide process with recipes that are easy to make for everyone. Master recipes for the protein of your choice (pork, beef, chicken, etc) along with variants uses for each protein and sides make this book a great introduction to sous vide if you are intimidated by it. I’m currently excited about trying out the Beef Bouguignon Pot Roast, the Seared Five-Spice Salmon with Stir-Fried Snow Peas and the Pork Tenderloin Piccata.
If you’ve followed along on my Instagram Stories at all, you know that AJ and I are obsessed with our coffee. Well, AJ is obsessed. I’m just strongly interested. Thankfully Coffee Isn’t Rocket Science by Sebastien Racineaux and Chung-Leng Tran takes the mystery out of all the various ways you can make coffee beyond drip and running to your local coffee shop. Starting from the way you grind the beans, to the water you use and then onto t the way you brew, this book has everything you need, in easy to understand infographics, to brew the perfect cup of coffee for your own individual tastes. It breaks down the various different contraptions (aeropress, clever, siphon, etc) explaining how to brew for each method, as well as what the resulting cup of coffee will taste like (less body, more flavor, less sediment, cleaner taste). And it even tells you about the countries that the coffee is grown and what the tasting notes are like for each country. AJ and I (mostly AJ) will be referencing the book often (when we’re not on the road sampling our coffee in third-wave coffee shops across the country).
I adore Julia Turshen ever since her cookbook Small Victories came out a few years ago. So I was excited about her new cookbook Now and Then and it doesn’t disappoint! She has a warm inviting voice that just makes you want to go into the kitchen and cook food for the sake of cooking food. But she’s also a realist. She knows that everyone is short on time and wants to get the most out of their meals. So she created accessible solid recipes that not only will feed you for that meal but will also feed you for the next meal, with side bars that talk about how to repurpose leftovers into whole new dishes. This is the sort of cookbook that you will reaching for again and again because it’s such a rich source of inspirational information. From Stir Fried Roasted Eggplant with Pork (turn the leftovers into potstickers!) to Grilled Beef and Zucchini Meatballs with Tahini Dressing (turn into meatball sandwiches) this is going to be one of my everyday favorite cookbooks!
Years ago I accidentally-on-purpose sat down with the then editor of Food and Wine magazine, Dana Cowin. I tried to slip her my business card but I’m pretty sure she immediately discarded it. Nevertheless we had a lovely conversation about hip and hot restaurants in San Francisco and she specifically mentioned Rich Table as the buzzy restaurant that everyone was talking about. Fast forward to the present day when the owners Sarah and Evan Rich finally released their Rich Table cookbook. Beyond being beautiful, the recipes are approachable enough for most home cooks, with only a few ingredients that might need specialty sourcing. And even though special ingredients are often listed with more common substitutions in case you don’t feel like going out and foraging for pine needles (try using dried rosemary or thyme instead). I’ve eaten at Rich Table and can attest that their Porcini Doughnuts with Raclette Dip is ABSOLUTELY worth every calorie. Now I can make it at home, along with their Spaghetti with Peas, Lime, Goat Cheese, and Duck Fat as well as three variations on New York Strip Steak. Sure some of the main course are a little more ambitious in scope (which they often warn you ahead of time in the headnotes) but components of most of the main dishes could be made for separately for a more casual meal. I can’t wait to dive right into this one.
Look for the second part of my cookbook round up next week!
Special thanks to Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Chronicle Books, Grand Central Life & Style, Lorena Jones Books, Power House Books, Running Press, Storey Publishing, Ten Speed Press, and William Morrow for sending me review copies of their books. I was provided books free of charge to review but I was not compensated for this post and was not even required to write about them. All opinions above are my own.