We’ve Got the Perfect Cookbook to Give to Every Type of Cook This Holiday
What lasts longer as a gift for someone who loves to cook than a wonderful new cookbook? Honor the cooks new and experienced in your life this year with a cookbook that suits their interests and curiosity. (And it’s perfectly fine to snag one for yourself while you’re at it!)
Best for Cooking Fanatics: The Flavor Equation, by Nik Sharma
If Samin Nosrat’s extraordinary Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat was your Cooking 101, welcome to your master’s degree syllabus. Nik Sharma, the award-winning author of the bestselling Season, has put the full weight of his scientific mind into exploring how flavor works, and I think this book is going to become a foundational and seminal text on cooking for the future. Half exploration of how to explore and balance flavors and half recipes that reinforce how that works means that you not only get the education to experiment with your own recipes, but also more than a hundred of Sharma’s to inspire you.
First Recipe to Try: Roasted Tomato and Tamarind Soup, page 157. The perfect fall and winter lunch, and equally at home with a grilled cheese or a Bombay Sandwich.
Buy it: The Flavor Equation ($31.50), amazon.com
Best for Curious Cooks: The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, by Marcus Samuelsson & Osayi Endolyn
Celebrity chef cookbooks are a dime a dozen, but Marcus Samuelsson and his writing partner Osayi Endolyn have taken a whole new approach, using Samuelsson’s platform to amplify the extraordinary work of more than 50 Black chefs and writers, both living and transitioned, from all over the country. This book shares personal stories and personal recipes in such an engaging manner that you can cozy up with it on a blustery day and just the reading will make you warmer. Samuelsson conveniently includes social media handles for all of the participants: Just go down the list and follow everyone for an instantly more delicious feed.
First Recipe to Try: Just in time for holiday meals and easy enough for making a weeknight dinner extra special, Donna Battle’s Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls with Pecan Prune Butter, page 167-8.
Buy it: The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food ($33.99), amazon.com
Best for Busy Folks: Keeping it Simple, by Yasmin Fahr
Sometimes the gift that keeps on giving is a cookbook that is designed to get you through the basic everyday dinner without adding stress or extra work. This terrific cookbook by food writer Yasmin Fahr is devoted to one-pot or one-pan recipes that get a whole meal on the table with minimal sweat and maximum pleasure. Whether you are cooking for a family or just want some simpler dishes for one or two, there is something for everyone in this fun book of creative recipes.
First Recipe to Try: Cheesy Pasta Bake, page 95. This riff on baked penne dubbed by Fahr as the love child of pasta and pizza is a kid pleaser with bold flavors that adults will appreciate.
Buy it: Keeping it Simple: Easy Weeknight One-Pot Recipes ($19.19), amazon.com
Best for Sports Fans: Tailgreat: How to Crush It at Tailgaiting, by John Currence
Whether you have a season ticket holder in the house, or just an at-home superfan, someone in your life is desperately missing tailgating and watching parties. But that doesn’t mean your meals and snacks can’t get that spirit shining. Chef and restaurateur Currence has put together the ultimate cookbook for enjoying with sporting events that doubles as a great resource for entertaining in general. Use this season to cook from the book and by the time tailgating returns in earnest, you will have leveled up your game.
First Recipe to Try: Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls, page 33. These one-bite wonders eat like pop-able sausage cheese biscuits, which make them an all-day delight.
Buy it: Tailgreat: How to Crush it at Tailgating ($20.36), amazon.com
Best for Travelers: Chaat: Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets and Railways of India, by Maneet Chauhan & Jody Eddy
Whether you know Chauhan from her judging on Chopped or her ever expanding restaurant empire in Nashville, one thing is for sure. When she brings her passion and energy to something, everyone needs to get on board. This cookbook celebrating chaat—the snacks and street food of her native India—is like taking a lush vacation from the comfort of your couch. If you love Indian food, this is a no-brainer, but I challenge you that if you think you do not love Indian food, the recipes in this book will change your mind.
First Recipe to Try: Chicken Bamboo Curry, page 224. This is a soulful hakka stew that blends Indian and Chinese traditions, and you’ll make it all winter long. It is a perfect gateway curry for beginners, and all it needs is rice for a one-bowl meal of deep comfort.
Buy it: Chaat: Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets and Railways of India ($28.04), amazon.com
Best for Cookbook Collectors: Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook, by Dorie Greenspan
Anyone who has cooked from one of Greenspan’s award-winning cookbooks or articles in the New York Times knows one thing. Her recipes ALWAYS WORK. Full stop. This glorious book is one that I turn to again and again, because it is literally the recipes that Dorie cooks for her family on a daily basis. It is a one-stop shop for food that is easy enough for everyday but special enough for dinner parties, and you can source every part of a meal from its soon-to-be-spattered pages, whether you are cooking a one-pot supper or a five-course party.
First Recipe to Try: Oven Charred Tomato Stuffed Peppers, page 39. One of Dorie’s go-to dishes, this new riff on stuffed peppers will become an instant household favorite.
Buy it: Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook ($20.21), amazon.com
Best for Introverts: I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors from My Kitchen and the World, by Asha Gomez
Award winner Gomez who blended her Southern Indian and Southern American influences in her spectacular My Two Souths is taking us around the world through the lens of her Georgia kitchen. And once again, she has pulled together a cookbook of simple soulful cooking that will indeed banish the darkness from the season. When Gomez says she cooks in color, she is not kidding: The food throughout this book is sunny, but she also cooks with the kind of flavors that themselves make the day seem brighter.
First Recipe to Try: Roasted Butternut Squash with Tomato Ginger Gravy, page 80. This will make your heart sing all season long. It’s minimal effort and major flavor, and a dish you’ll cook again and again.
Buy it: I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors from My Kitchen and the World ($32.50), amazon.com
Best for Bakers: The Good Book of Southern Baking, by Kelly Fields & Kate Heddings
Whether you’re a recent convert to baking or an old dog looking for some new tricks, James Beard Best Pastry Chef winner Fields is going to take your baking to a whole new place. Sharing her secrets for everything from an impossibly flaky biscuit to the world’s best chocolate chip cookie (with three chocolates, no less) to the kind of cakes that birthdays were made for, every recipe in this book is an exercise in deliciousness. If you have shied away from Southern baking because you think it is too sweet, never fear. These bakes are all balanced, exciting, and never heavy on the palate.
First Recipe to Try: Willa Jean Cornbread, page 32. Just what your soups, stews, and chilis are going to need all season long, and a revelation in technique that converted me from an indifferent consumer of cornbread into a major fan.
Buy it: The Good Book of Southern Baking: A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes and Cornbread ($26.16), amazon.com
Best for Baking Show Fans: The Last Course, by Claudia Fleming & Melissa Clark
Another James Beard winner and the pastry chef at the iconic Gramercy Tavern, Fleming creates a book about the kind of desserts that Paul Hollywood would give a handshake to and Prue Leith would call worth the calories. This book brings the sophisticated and elegant meal-ender into the home kitchen, with recipes that are equal parts aspirational and achievable, and is the ideal library addition for a passionate home baker who wants some fun and delicious challenges.
First Recipe to Try: Chocolate Caramel Tarts, page 220. If you only bought the book for this recipe it would still be money well spent. Crisp chocolate tart shell, oozing caramel filling, perfectly balanced and shockingly not too sweet.
Buy it: The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern ($25.52), amazon.com
Best for Everyone: Cookcentric Recipe Journals, by Jennifer Booker
Chef Jennifer Booker realized that home cooks need smart ways to keep track of the recipes they develop or tweak, family recipes that need saving, and ways to take notes on how and what they are cooking. So, she designed these gorgeous journals with space for 50 recipes, in a variety of beautiful covers. A perfect gift for everyone from the newbie cook to a seasoned vet, these journals will become a kitchen companion that then becomes an instant heirloom. And even better, at a price that is more stocking stuffer than major gift. Be sure to explore all the cover options; there are a lot to choose from!
Buy it: Cookcentric Recipe Journal ($9.95), amazon.com