Looking for a terrific new cookbook to start the new year off right? Check out our top five cookbooks of 2014.
Unlike the many cooks whose love affair with food was sparked by assisting their grandmother in the kitchen, Molly Watson’s culinary passion grew beside her grandmother at the table. Watson, a Minneapolis native, remembers meals at French restaurants and observing her grandmother effortlessly host dinner parties in their Northern Minnesota cabin. Her affinity for food was bolstered by a childhood spent foraging for mushrooms and blueberries. Though at first she pursued academia, earning a Ph.D. in Modern European History at Stanford University, eventually her passion won out and she embarked on a food writing career. Now a San Franciscan, Watson has become an expert in locally sourced food and recently penned her first cookbook, Greens + Grains: Recipes for Deliciously Healthful Meals.
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson always has a way of getting our attention. At 23, an executive chef at Aquavit, he received a three-star review from The New York Times. At the time, he was the youngest to earn that accolade. But it’s not just that he was a culinary prodigy or an expert at Scandinavian cookery long before we’d ever heard of “new Nordic” cuisine. It’s that he provides us with a new way to look at food, interpreting it through a lens influenced by his being born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and trained in the kitchens of Europe. When he’s not introducing us to less familiar cuisines, he’s taking the more familiar ones and feeding them to us better than those before him, just as he does at his restaurant Red Rooster.
In his new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home, Samuelsson steps out of his restaurant and invites us into his Harlem brownstone. It is there in his home kitchen where he blends near and dear cultures and cuisines with the multiethnic neighborhood in which he now lives and works. The 150 colorful and feel-good recipes are ones he hopes create lasting memories for those he shares them with.
When it comes to cooking for your palate, you can count on husband-and-wife duo Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s Flavor Bible. The tome not only received an award from the James Beard Foundation, but was named one of the 10 best cookbooks of the past century by Forbes. Now Page and Dornenburg are back, but this time they’ve gone vegetarian. Their 554-page reference book, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, uses the same approach to plant-based cooking as their bestseller. In addition to the history of vegetarianism, you can find an A-Z guide to herbs, spices and other seasonings, learn which techniques work best for which veggies and a stock list of flavor affinities for each ingredient. For instance, soba noodles have 16 suggested combinations like marrying them with greens, lime, sesame oil, soy sauce and tofu. Sound good? We think so. Not so much a cookbook as it is a culinary guide, the Bible is an indispensable manual for anyone looking to eat a varied, vegetable-driven diet.
You don’t have to eat just like a caveman to call yourself Paleo. Or at least that’s the attitude of Paleo blogger and cookbook author Michelle Tam, creator of NomNomPaleo.com and the book, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans. “I’m not a slave to ‘this is exactly Paleo,'” she says. “Cavemen ate bugs and raw meat.” For Tam, the real goal of eating Paleo is to make smart choices and be more conscious of where your food comes from and how eating it makes you feel. Oh, and it’s got to taste good too!
Ever since her childhood in rural Australia, Amy Chaplin’s diet has revolved around whole foods. After 20 years of cooking around the globe, the New York-based private chef, teacher, recipe developer and writer — her work appears on this very blog every week — is sharing this nurturing lifestyle in her first book, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well (Roost Books). Through more than 150 recipes — and a slew of striking minimalist photos—for soulful vegetarian and vegan dishes like cherry coconut granola with extra virgin olive oil, millet cauliflower mash and roasted acorn and Delicata squash salad strewn with wheat berries and bitter greens, the former chef of the celebrated East Village vegan restaurant, Angelica Kitchen, illuminates the simplicity and creativity of eating healthy. Read more
Alaskan Coho salmon burgers and roasted monkfish steaks are mainstays of power lunches at Oceana, the upscale, marble-bedecked New York seafood shrine adjacent to iconic Rockefeller Center. Since 2006, executive chef Ben Pollinger has lured in diners with his refined cooking. He’s held on to a coveted Michelin star, successfully transitioned Oceana into new, mammoth-sized digs, and now the ambitious New Jersey native has just released the informative School of Fish (Gallery Books) with Stephanie Lyness. Through more than 100 recipes, ranging from a baked dorade filet emblazoned with potato scales and paired with Swiss chard, to roasted lobster with basil-garlic butter accompanied by olive oil crushed potatoes, Pollinger squashes the myth for kitchen newbies and skilled home cooks alike that preparing seafood always makes for mystifying, grueling work. Read more
What does skinny taste like? Just ask Gina Homolka. For six years, low-fat foodie Gina Homolka has been satisfying the tastebuds of a loyal following with her Skinnytaste blog. Her recipes reflect her own eating philosophy — delicious, healthy, seasonal dishes that also just so happen to be low in calories and fat. This month she debuts The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor.
The Fat Radish, which opened in 2010, is one of those perfect New York City restaurants. The uncomplicated, slightly British, vegetable-focused menu traces the seasons with local as its mantra. The design is that effortless combination of reclaimed barnyard and weathered industrial chic. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. And the folks in the seats all look as though they might have just walked off the set of Girls. All the pieces come together courtesy of owners Ben Towill and Phil Winser, self-taught cooks who are passionate about good ingredients, great design, and feeding guests well.
Sustainable. Gorgeous. Rich in nutrients. These are three ways The Nourished Kitchen captures the fresh and simple elegance of food. In her new cookbook, blogger and real-food proponent Jennifer McGruther — who favors the likes of bone-enriched broths and fermented goods — entices readers to once again get their hands dirty in the kitchen.
What are you growing in your garden this year?
This time of the year, we’re just starting our garden, as mountain living means that snow can linger into June and arrive again in September. This year, my family is planning to plant lettuce, hearty greens, radishes, carrots and a wide variety of mints. Chocolate mint and mountain mint are always favorites.
Do you have a favorite seasonal food or dish, something you look forward to every cooking year?
Every season brings something I cherish, some recipe my family looks forward to all year. In summer, it’s true sour pickles, seasoned with dill, garlic and spice. Pickling cucumbers enjoy such a short season. I buy them by the case, pack them into stoneware crocks and ferment them with a spiced brine until they come out sharp, salty and sour. Fall brings quince, and I like to pair it with apples and pears in a simple sauce, or to poach the quince and drop them into flaky pie crusts. In winter, I lean on savory winter squash pies and stews of root vegetables, grass-fed beef and broth. In springtime, it’s lovage soup — all clean and bright in flavor, but still warm enough to take the edge off the cold evenings of spring.