A great cookbook can keep you happily chained to your kitchen, or transport you to another place and time. Occasionally, both. Here are 10 great cookbooks published in 2016.
'Martha Stewart’s Vegetables'
Every year brings another terrific, useful, beautiful book from the folks at Martha Stewart Living. Vegetables are the lucky subject this year, featured in "Martha Stewart’s Vegetables: Inspired Recipes and Tips for Choosing, Cooking and Enjoying the Freshest Seasonal Flavors" (Clarkson Potter, $29.50). The 150 recipes (many of which are vegetarian) are organized by which part of the plant we eat: bulbs (recipes include roast chicken with onions, shallots, garlic and scapes), roots (radishes tartine), tubers (salt-baked potatoes with shallots and chestnuts), greens (bok choy salad with cashews), stalks (shaved kohlrabi and watercress salad), pods, (green-pea burgers with harissa mayo) and shoots (shiitake mushrooms and pea shoots).
Learn about stalks and stems in "Martha Stewart's Vegetables," from the editors of Martha Stewart Living.
'A Taste of Persia'
I’ve followed intrepid photojournalist Naomi Duguid all over the globe through her seven cookbooks. The eighth, "A Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan" (Artisan, $35), takes me to an ancient region (defined by the Persian empire of the fifth century B.C.E.) that’s a modern political flashpoint. Duguid notes that the people here “speak many different languages and follow many different religions” but that connections are found “in the kitchen, in the garden, and at the table.” The 125 recipes here demonstrate the Persian love of fresh herbs and greens, the use of fruit along with savory ingredients, the utter mastery of rice cookery.
A recipe for Kurdish Fried Chicken in Broth from "Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan," by Naomi Duguid.
'The British Table'
Twenty years ago, recommending a British cookbook to American cooks would have been considered a joke. Then came television stars Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson and internationally renowned chefs such as Fergus Henderson and April Bloomfield — not to mention Gordon Ramsay. Now Colman Andrews, co-founder of Saveur magazine, has published "The British Table: A New Look at the Traditional Cooking of England, Scotland and Wales" (Abrams, $50). The book, with striking photography by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, reclaims the likes of toad in the hole (sausage baked in batter) as well as reminding us of suave sophisticates such as grilled Dover sole and cod pea and lovage soup. Also a treat for fans of British literature: Before the end of the first chapter (breakfast) W. Somerset Maugham and Thomas Hardy have already appeared.
A recipe for Summer Pudding from "The British Table, A New Look at the raditional Cooking of England, Scotland and Wales," by Colman Andrews.
For an exuberant take on vegetables, there’s "Power Vegetables! Turbocharged Recipes for Vegetables with Guts" by Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach magazine (Clarkson Potter, $35). “I didn’t want to tell you to cook with what’s in season (you have already been told to do this) or to treat your beautiful in-season vegetables simply (ditto),” Meehan writes. “I wanted the book to be 98% fun and 2% stupid. . . . WE ARE GOING TO EAT VEGETABLES AND THEY ARE GOING TO BE AWESOME.” Meehan’s “all-caps cooking” translates into an international collection of recipes that includes tabbouleh, borscht, Mexican street corn, mushrooms en papillote, cauliflower chaat and braised collards with peanut butter. With witty photographs and Roy Lichtenstein-style illustrations.
A recipe for Rice Porridge with Corn and Miso from "Power Vegetables! Turbocharged Recipes for Vegetables with Guts," by Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach magazine.
'My Kitchen in Rome'
If I could crawl into a book and live there, you’d find me inside Rachel Roddy’s "My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and Notes on Italian Cooking" (Grand Central, $28). Roddy is a British expat who lives, photographs and blogs (at Rachel Eats) in Rome’s Testaccio neighborhood. She is a delightful writer, her approach to food both sensuous and sensible. The book, illustrated with beautiful pictures by the author and Nicholas Seaton, chronicles her adventures marketing, cooking and dining out, and manages to capture not only the singular, straightforward cuisine but also the soul of the Eternal City. Among the homey recipes are linguine with zucchini, egg and Parmesan; roast lamb with potatoes, chickpeas with greens.
A recipe for chickpeas with greens from "My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and Notes on Italian Cooking," by Rachel Roddy.
'Land of Fish and Rice'
British writer Fuchsia Dunlop has emerged as the West’s greatest interpreter of Chinese cooking. Her latest, "Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China" (W.W. Norton, $35), focuses on a region, Jiangnan in the country’s east, whose cuisine is highly refined but relatively unknown — I’d characterize it as “cleaner” than Szechuan, but more complex than Cantonese. From Shanghai come the famous broth-filled soup dumplings and red-braised pork; other specialties include tender “lion’s head” meatballs, Dongbo pork and beggar’s chicken. Dunlop’s recipes are entirely doable (especially with Asian ingredients more available on Long Island). With its eloquent photography by Yuki Sugiura, the book is also a treat for the armchair eater and a guide for diners who want to explore this cooking locally (at Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao or Shanghai 33 in Flushing, among others).
A recipe for stir-fried potato slivers with spring onion, from "Land of Fish and Rice, Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China" by Fuchsia Dunlop.
'The Gefilte Manifesto'
Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Long Beach native Liz Alpern founded their gefilte-fish business, The Gefilteria, with a manifesto that pledged to “bring our foods out of the jar and back to the street, to the pushcarts where we began, to the flavors of the people.” After all, if the culinary world was salivating over the humble peasant foods of Italy, Mexico and Thailand, perhaps the time had come for a new appreciation for Ashkenazi cuisine, the cooking of Eastern European Jews. Yoskowitz and Alpern have now expanded their mission into a cookbook, "The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods" (Flatiron, $35), whose recipes include re-imagined classics such as lokshen kugel with plums, roast chicken with barley and vegetables and root-vegetable latkes, to more intensive projects like bialys, home-cured corned beef and, yes, gefilte fish.
A recipe for Sweet Lokshen Kugel with Plums in "The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods," by Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern.
'The Spice Companion'
“The problem with most recipes is that they end with ‘season with salt and pepper,’ ” writes Lior Lev Sercarz, proprietor of the spice boutique La Boîte in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. His new book, "The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices" (Clarkson Potter, $40), aims to rectify that. This A to Z encyclopedia is an authoritative guide to 102 seasonings — how to buy, store and use them, plus recipe ideas and blending suggestions. Drawings and photography express exactly which part of the plant is in play: leaf (bay), rhizome (ginger), bulb (garlic), fruit (pepper), fruit kernel (mahlab), seed (cumin), flower seed (poppy) or bark (cinnamon).
A primer on lemongrass in "The Spice Companion, A Guide to the World of Spices," by Lior Lev Sercarz.
For 15 months, baking doyenne Dorie Greenspan operated a cookie boutique, Beurre & Sel, in the Essex Market on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When it closed three years ago, cookie nuts mourned, but now Greenspan is back with "Dorie’s Cookies" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35), a doorstop of a cookbook containing 170 cookie recipes, from everyday cookies to bars and biscotti to savory wafers to “the Beurre & Sel collection” where you’ll find “world peace cookies” (chocolate, with more chocolate), coconut-lime sables, spiced pumpkin jammers, coconut patties and popcorn streusel tops, hot-and-spicy togarashi meringues. With photos of every cookie and lots of general cookie counsel.
A recipe for Cocoa Almond Uglies from "Dorie's Cookies," by Dorie Greenspan.
In the great tradition of David Macaulay’s “The Way Things Work,” "Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Our Edible World" (Storey Publishing, $16.95) provides a visual overview of every facet of our eating life. In this modest paperback, illustrator Julia Rothman (with an assist from food writer Rachel Wharton) manages to explain how to cut a block of ice from a frozen pond, how to braid a challah, how to hand-pull noodles; the differences between winter wheat and summer wheat, between dressed and drawn fish, between diner favorites Adam and Eve on a log and Adam and Eve on a raft (the former with bacon, the latter on toast). A testament to the power of pictures and an absolute delight.
A spread on 6 Superb Spice Blends from "Food Anatomy, the Curious Parts & Pieces of Our Edible World," by Julia Rothman.