If you’re looking for the best cookbooks of 2017, here’s the second part of a list of cookbooks I loved from a cookbook obsessed man!
You probably thought I was completely done with talking about cookbooks but you’d be wrong! 2017 had so many fantastic cookbooks that came out that I had to break into two posts. Here’s part 2 of my favorite cookbooks from 2017. (And if you missed it, check out part 1 of my favorite cookbooks from 2017.)
I’ve talked about Lily Diamond’s Kale and Caramel cookbook before when it came out but I have to reiterate that it’s a such a vibrant cookbook. Filled with recipes that cater to your stomach and your skin and hair, along with Lily’s enrapturing stories, have me wondering why I don’t take care of myself more. I’m a basic soap and shampoo type of guy but one of these days I’m going to try one of her face scrubs or masks and I’ll blossom in the beautiful butterfly that I am sure is lying underneath all the dead skin. In the meanwhile, I’ll just indulge in her Burrata Artichoke Tartines with Roasted Lemon Mint Pesto or take comfort in her Roasted Tomato Soup with Thyme Crusted Grilled Cheese.
Growing up my best friends were Jewish. I went to so many bat mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs, I actually owned a yarkmulke (ok, actually I accidentally brought one home from Jill Levinsky’s bar mitzvah and just continued to wear it to all the other ones). So when my friend Emily Paster told me about her cookbook The Joys of Jewish Preserving, I was intrigued. What exactly made her recipes Jewish? It turns out a lot. From flavor combinations that are inspired by traditional Jewish foods (like the Rosh Hashannah inspired Apple, Honey and Rose Water Jam) to recipes that use preserves in them (like Hamantaschen). Anyone interested in preserves and want to get different ideas from a food rich culture or folks who are Jewish who want to get into more food preservation would love this book.
Full disclosure, I somehow snuck into the book Hot Mess Kitchen by Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman a million times because I crashed their photoshoot, but even if I wasn’t, I would still adore it. Gabi and Miranda met via social media but not in a creepy Tinder sort of way. They quick became friends and born from that friendship was Hot Mess Kitchen, a hilarious cookbook for every person out there who is just trying to figure out their life. With essays on imposter syndrome and recipes like I’m a Fraud French Toast, to detailed instructions on how to get out of helping to plan the dreaded bachelorette party this book has life advice and kitchen advice all rolled into one. Just one question to Gabi and Miranda though: am I a BFF, Enemy or Frenemy? Because I really hope it’s the last one. It’s sounds way more juicy fun.
I received Robyn Stone’s Add a Pinch cookbook back in the spring when it was released and immediately earmarked a number of recipes. I grew up in St. Louis which isn’t necessarily the deep south but (as I like to call it) is south ADJACENT. So I have soft spot for southern food and Robyn’s book doesn’t disappoint. With to weeknight dishes that will soon become everyday favorites (think Skillet Lasagna or Cheesy Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts) this is the sort of cookbook that makes food accessible for everyone.
Some people’s comfort food is mashed potatoes or lasagna. My comfort food is a warm bowl of Asian noodle soup. But the idea of making pho at home is pretty daunting to me. So I couldn’t wait to get a copy of Andrea Nguyen’s The Pho Cookbook. I love how straightforward Andrea’s recipes are, with tips on how to make every sort of pho that I can think of, from vegetarian to chicken to wok-kissed beef. Expanding on the pho recipes, she also includes recipes for homemade hoisin, chile sauce, and other condiments. I also love how she gives recipes for both “quick” pho (40 minutes total) and more traditional style pho (1 hour to prep and 3 1/2 hours to simmer). Suddenly, making pho at home is within my reach.
Cenk Sönmezsoy from the blog Café Fernando was one of the first blogs that I started reading. He used to live in San Francisco but sadly moved back to Instabul before I had a chance to meet him. So when his book The Artful Baker was released here in the US and he came back to SF, I knew I had to go and meet him at Omnivore Books where he was doing his signing. As I walked in, he nervously stood there with Sarah, the manager and she pulled me aside and asked me if I wouldn’t mind interviewing him! Of course, I was thrilled to chat with him and his gorgeous book (one of the best-selling cookbooks in Turkey) as well as chat with him about blogging. The cookbook itself is stunning, with recipes that are as vibrant as his photography. The Triple Raspberry & Lemon Birthday Cake is a delightfully vivid while the cover cake The Devil Wears Chocolate is just a stunner with the shards of chocolate affixed to the sides. And don’t get me started on his macarons which all look like works of art. Cenk may not live here in SF anymore but at least I have his book here as a poor man’s substitute for hanging out with him.
I’ve adored all of Joanne Chang’s cookbooks, even if I haven’t made it to Boston to go to her bakery Flour or her restaurant Myers + Chang. So it’s not surprise that I would fall in love with her cookbook Myers + Chang at Home. Her recipes are both familiar and comforting but often with a little bit of elevation, nothing too difficult but obviously just a touch to make bring the dish to the next level. Sugar Snap Peas with Ginger Goddess Dressing is the perfect example. Updating the classic Green Goddess dressing with a touch of ginger juice and cilantro pulls the dish in a new direction that sounds just lovely. Her take on Beef and Broccoli is equally exciting, updating it with a peppery ginger beef and Chinese broccoli and serving it over chow fun noodles. This is the sort of Chinese-American cookbook that was meant for me.
In the year 1999, I made a new year’s resolution to be “fearless”. I had just moved to San Francisco and everything frightened me. From how to do laundry at a laundromat properly (are those carts available for anyone to use?) to going on dates (oh man, so many bad dates) I lived in fear. And the year of fearless-ness was life changing. It was the year I settled into San Francisco life. The year I found my groove as a graphic designer pre-internet. And the year I met AJ. So when Erin Jeanne McDowell’s The Fearless Baker showed up on my doorstep I was already sold on the book. Packed full of sidebars with tips and hints on how to be a better baker, this book is like having a friendly pastry chef standing next to you telling, hey maybe you should bake that pie on a baking stone to help crisp up the bottom crust more. With recipes like Caramel Corn Layer Cake (yes please!) and Bourbon-Rosemary Peach Pie this is one cookbook I can’t wait to bake from.
I met Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen years ago at a conference. She was a bit reserved but smart and sassy, just as I expected her to be. Her first cookbook Smitten Kitchen ended up being one of my favorites, with a few go-to recipes that I adore. Her follow up, Smitten Kitchen Everyday, is packed with even more recipes that I know will become favorites. Take her Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Fritters. Born from the fact that takeout always leads to leftover rice, this is the sort of ingenuity that we all need. Because I HATE tossing stuff like leftover rice. And her idea of Manhattan-Style Clams with Fregola, inspired by how much hate there is for Manhattan-style clam chowder, makes me want to run and get clams immediately. I can’t to whip up some practical-but-never boring meals from this book.
I absolutely love reading stories about recipes and where they came from. For me, I can curl up into my couch and read some cookbooks like novels. Unforgettable functions as both a cookbook and biography of Paula Wolfert, the award-winning cookbook author. The book initially was a self-published by Emily Kaiser Thelin then re-released by Grand Central Life & Style. Wolfert’s books were never as popular as contemporaries like Jacques Pepin or Craig Claiborne but her cookbooks on Mediterranean cooking were groundbreaking and her life pretty amazing. The book follows Paula from going to college at the age of 16 in New York at Columbia to hanging out with the influential Beats of the 1950s like Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky to moving to Tangier where she befriended Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and William S. Burroughs all the way up to her Alzheiemer’s diagnosis in 2013. And, of course, all along the way are recipes that are equally engaging, from Indonesian Beef Satay to her Cassoulet in the Style of Toulouse which takes 3 days to prepare. This book is a must.
I’ve loved the blog Baker’s Royale for ages so I was excited to hear about Naomi Robinson’s cookbook of the same name coming out. The book lives up to my expectations with gorgeous photography and playful recipes like Funnel Cake Cupcakes and Monster Cookie Bark. Though some of the recipes look intimidatingly beautiful and destined to be Pinterest Fails, once you start to look more closely at the instructions they are totally doable even for beginners. With a broad range of easy recipes (Honey Grilled Peaches with Whipped Ricotta) to weekend projects (Raspberry Almond Opera Cake), this cookbook is just the right amount of inspiration and aspiration for all who love to bake.
I’m not a huge fan of single topic cookbooks, unless I absolutely love the ingredient or topic, but there’s something special about Orange Appeal by Jamie Schler. Oranges themselves have such range, from the sweet typical Navel oranges to the sour and bitter oranges like Seville oranges that marmalade is traditional made from, to my favorite, the Blood orange with it’s crimson red inside. But more than that, oranges are one of those versatile fruits that play well with savory and sweet dishes. Jamie explores this topic thoroughly with savory recipes ranging from Mediterranean Lamb (or Veal) Meatballs to Sweet and Sour Marmalade Glazed Oven Baked Chicken to the sweet side of orange, with Chocolate Orange Marble Loaf Cake and Orange Riz au Lait (the French version of rice pudding). With citrus season in full swing here, I’m excited to dive into this book.
There are so many types of cuisine in the world that I am unfamiliar with and Turkish cuisine is one of them. Sure I know about kebabs, dolmas and baklava. But there has to be more that that right? Thankfully Istanbul & Beyond by Robyn Eckhardt is out and can solve that problem. With gorgeous vibrant photography and recipes that reach into lesser known areas of Turkey, this book is the ultimate in armchair food travel. The recipes are accessible and most of the ingredients can be found at a well stocked grocery store. From Meatballs with Pumpkin and Spice Butter to Fingerprint Flatbread to Fresh Fava Beans with Yogurt and Mint, I super excited to dive in deep and start making food.
I was a little baffled by the title Salad for President by Julia Sherman, wondering if it was some sort of political slam on our current president sitting in the White House. But once I started thumbing through the book I was sold on the premise of recipes inspired by artists. I don’t talk about it much but a long time ago, in a previous life, I went to art school and so anything related to art perks my interest. The juxtaposition of art and food, even better. With interviews and recipes from folks like William Wegman and Alice Waters, this cookbook functions as both a coffee table book and a proper cookbook. Recipes like Flank Steak with Bean Sprouts and Kimchi-Miso Dressing and Crispy Yuca Spears with Toasted Fennel Seeds and Pepita Pesto, are truly inspirational. For anyone who loves creativity in all it’s forms, this book is for you.
There are a number of cookbooks that are currently on my wishlist that I haven’t gotten a chance to look at yet but I hope to get for Christmas! They include David Lebovitz’ L’Appart, Kristen Kish Cooking, Night + Market by Kris Yenbamroong, Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark, America The Great Cookbook edited by Joe Yonan, Tartine All Day by Elisabeth Pruiett, Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles, and David Tanis’ Market Cooking. I’m sure I’ve left out tons of other great cookbooks! Who knows what Santa will bring me this year? Happy holidays everyone!
Special thanks to Abrams Books, Atria Paperback, Clarkson Potter, Gibb Smith, Grand Central Life & Style, Harvard Common Press, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Knopf, Running Press, and Ten Speed Press 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.