Tablets, smartphones and television all offer countless resources for expanding culinary knowledge. But still, there is nothing like a cookbook. Here are our Top 10 picks for 2015.
'Tacos: Recipes and Provocations'
In 2011, Alex Stupak surprised the New York glutterati when he left his job as pastry chef at modernist temple WD-50 to open Empellon, a modest taqueria in Greenwich Village. He'd had an epiphany at a taqueria in East L.A. where he tasted his first "real-deal tortilla and the earth moved just a little. It was... earthy and supple with the flavor of toasted corn. It tasted ancient. That tortilla got under my skin." In "Tacos: Recipes and Provocations" (Potter, $32.50), written with Jordana Rothman, Stupak shares his reverence for authentic Mexican street food, providing exhaustive instructions for producing genuine, earth-moving tortillas, as well as playing with tradition in such recipes as pastrami tacos with mustard-seed salsa.
Trine Hahnemann's "Scandinavian Baking: Sweet and Savory Cakes and Bakes, for Bright Days and Cozy Nights" (Quadrille, $35) is the cookbook equivalent of the beautiful Swedish exchange student in your high school. It's not that she's prettier than the other girls, she just has this ineffable otherness that makes her irresistible. Every page of this book (photographed by Columbus Leth) contains some intriguing recipe whose ingredients are familiar but whose end result is fascinating. Cakes owe a large debt to nuts and whipped cream; learn how to make true Danish pastry; there's a whole chapter on rye breads and another one on crispbreads. For the baker who thinks she's baked everything.
'The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen'
California food writer Amelia Saltsman had an "aha" moment inspired by a tzimmes (sweet vegetable stew) recipe that aired on a local cooking show and quickly went viral. "It dawned on me that many cooks are seeking the kind of Jewish cooking I do," she wrote, "modern, seasonal, ingredient-driven, lighter and brighter... and reflective of the many flavors of the Jewish Diaspora." The result of this epiphany is "The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition" (Sterling Epicure, $29.95), a cookbook that highlights the profound connection of Jewish traditions to the year's agricultural cycles. With stunning photography by Staci Valentine.
'100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials'
Chris Kimball and the folks at America's Test Kitchen have been at it since 1993, exhaustively testing recipes to be featured in Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines or on the PBS show "America's Test Kitchen." But perfection is a moving target and the unavoidable result of all this research is that even the sagest advice evolves over time. In "100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials" (America's Test Kitchen, $40), the editors select 100 recipes that are well-nigh foolproof, from scrambled eggs to roast beef, risotto to tandoor chicken. "Make twenty recipes in this book," it concludes, "and you will have earned the right to call yourself a great cook."
'Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking'
Michael Solomonov's cookbook made headlines for its deeply personal revelations: After his brother, an Israeli soldier, died in combat, the author struggled with addiction before righting himself to become one of Philadelphia's most celebrated young chefs (named the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic in 2011). But the recipes in "Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking" by Solomonov and Steven Cook (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35) are as vibrant as the stories. At Zahav, his Israeli restaurant, Solomonov knits together all the culinary strands that make up modern Israeli cuisine, from Balkan kebabs to Yemenite chicken soup to Eastern European rugelach. Plus seven recipes for hummus.
'V Is for Vegetables'
"V Is for Vegetables: Inspired Recipes & Techniques for Home Cooks - From Artichokes to Zucchini" by Michael Anthony (Little, Brown, $40) is an encyclopedia that articulates "the new, exciting, and sensible way of eating that puts vegetables in the spotlight and consciously reconsiders the role that proteins play." Anthony, executive chef of Manhattan's Gramercy Tavern and Untitled (at The Whitney Museum), is a natural teacher who translates his professional experience into more than 150 recipes for the home cook. Luxurious production -- gorgeous photographs by Maura McEvoy and faux-vintage line drawings by Mindy Dubin -- belie the book's workmanlike approach.
'Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen'
Zoe Nathan and her husband, Josh Loeb, are the owners of Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe in Santa Monica. In "Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes From Our Kitchen" (Chronicle, $35), a charming volume, Nathan shares the homey-yet-elegant recipes that put it on the So-Cal map. The book covers a range of American breakfast, brunch and lunch favorites -- muffins, biscuits, scones, breakfast breads (bagels, English muffins), doughnuts, pancakes, sandwiches and "hearty plates with an egg on top." The blueberry cornmeal cake, a signature at the cafe, is a real standout.
'Eat Istanbul: A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine'
David Loftus is a food photographer best known for his work for Jamie Oliver's cookbooks; Andy Harris is the founding editor of Jamie Oliver's Jamie magazine. Their collaboration, "Eat Istanbul: A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine" (Quadrille Publishing $29.95) celebrates a shared passion, the exotic yet straightforward cooking of Turkey's capital. Sun-dappled salads, sizzling kebabs, hearth-baked breads, syrup-slicked confections, bustling markets, overflowing vegetable stands -- all come alive in this stunning volume. It might satisfy the desire to visit Istanbul... but more likely it will inspire a vacation there.
'The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science'
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is more than qualified to write about the hows and whys of cooking. An MIT graduate and former restaurant cook, he uses both the scientific method and serious cooking chops to question all received culinary wisdom on his quest to create the best recipes. "The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science" (W.W. Norton & Company, $49.95) is based on Lopez-Alt's popular blog of the same name at the food website Serious Eats. At more than 900 pages (and more than six pounds), the book reveals the secrets to making potatoes crisp, biscuits flaky, macaroni and cheese gooey and turkey moist -- among hundreds of other recipes. For the serious food nerd.
'101 Easy Asian Recipes'
Have you been waiting for the book that is finally going to get you to cook Asian food? Here it is: "101 Easy Asian Recipes" (Potter, $35) is written by Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach, the literary food magazine he co-founded with Momofuku restaurant mogul David Chang. Meehan and company have combed the continent for virtually every dish you want to learn. Among the recipes that walk that fine line between authentic and doable are dumplings and cumin lamb from China, ramen and miso-glazed eggplant from Japan, green papaya salad from Thailand, japchae noodles from Korea and much more. With witty (and, occasionally, laugh-out-loud funny) photographs by Gabriele Stabile and a useful photographic guide to the Asian pantry.