Now that chilly weather has certainly set in, you may be spending more time at home hunkering down and hibernating, cooking and reading more. I know I have been. Here are some cookbooks and food-related books released in 2020 I’ve enjoyed. Find them at your local bookseller and ask them to order you one if they don’t have it.
“Shake, Strain, Done: Craft Cocktails at Home” by J.M. Hirsch. (Voracious, Nov. 2020). New Hampshirite Hirsch is the former national food editor for The Associated Press and is now editorial director at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. I learned so much from this book including how to improvise recipes and that just 6 to 10 grains of kosher salt enhances flavor. The recipes are simple and the ingredients easy to find. Find your next cocktail by characteristics (warm, herbal, creamy) and find easy variations on classics.
“Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women’s Voices” by Katherine Alford and Kathy Gunst. (Tiller Press, Feb. 2020). There has been much to be mad about this past year and many turned to baking to get out their frustrations. This baking book by South Berwick, ME writer Kathy Gunst and Food Network exec Katherine Alford celebrates women and helps all to express our feelings. Find inspirational essays from our country’s greatest female activists and more than 50 tasty recipes.
“The Farmers Dinner Cookbook: A Story in Every Bite” by Keith Sarasin and Chris Viaud (Cider Mill Press, July 2019). Inspired by the NH chefs’ Sarasin’s Farmers Dinner series (https://thefarmersdinner.com) which will continue beginning in May, these recipes celebrate seasonality in New England. I love the pumpkin bisque with spiced creme fraiche and roasted pork chops with baked beans.
“Black Trumpet: A Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons” by Even Mallett (Chelsea Green Publishing, Oct. 2016). OK, so this came out four years ago, but I cooked recipes from it quite a bit this year if only to feel closer to all of my Seacoast friends. The chile pasta is a favorite in my house as is the ceviche with pico de gallo and cauliflower and chickpea fritters with curred spinach puree. Black Trumpet is doing take out during the winter now so do enjoy their dishes at home whether you cook them or they do. Blacktrumpetbistro.com.
“Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein” by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed Press, Feb 2020). The food editor for the Washington Post, Yonan spent time homesteading in South Berwick, ME so I feel that he does have New England ties! My husband is vegetarian and I’m currently in a region where beans are a staple and included in just about every meal so we use a recipe from this book at least once a week. The smoky black bean and plantain chili is a favorite and we can snack on the crunchy spiced chickpeas all day and night.
A few memoir/recipe books
“Red Sands: Reportage and Recipes through Central Asia, from Hinterland to Heartland” by Caroline Eden (Quadrille Publishing, Nov. 2020). Food is the catalyst, device and organizational model for this exploration/travelogue of Central Asia including Kazakhstan’s walnut forests, orchards in Tajikistan, and home kitchens and cafés in Uzbekistan. It’s a lush, fascinating look at the interplay of food, culture and landscape.
“Everything Is Under Control” by Phyllis Grant (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 2020). This memoir with recipes tells Grants story as a dancer, chef in restaurants like Nobu and Bouley and as a wife and mother. She artfully weaves the recipes from her experiences into each part of her life, which brings it all into sharp focus.
“Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger” by Lisa Donovan (Penguin Press, Aug. 2020). Southern pastry chef Lisa Donovan set out to reclaim her own story and tell the stories of the women who came before her as well as how she relied on a network of strong women to overcome life struggles. As a single mother who escaped from an abusive relationship, she went from being a server to a pastry chef at some of the South’s greatest restaurants. It’s a lovely love letter to the women in her life.
“Rebel Chef: In Search of What Matters” by Dominique Crenn (Penguin Press, June 2020). The first female chef to receive three Michelin stars for her Atelier Crenn, this memoir tells the story of her childhood in Versailles, her rise as a chef and her journey of personal discovery. Truly inspiring.
“Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking” by Bill Buford ( Knopf, May 2020). The author of “Heat: An Amateur Cook in a Professional Kitchen” turns to French haute cuisine. He travels with his wife and 3-year-old twins to Lyon to stage, studying at L’Institut Bocuse and cooking at La Mere Brazier. His lively writing brings it all into sharp focus.
More new cookbooks I’m enjoying
“Eziban Vol. 1 : Recipes Across the Black Diaspora.” “Eziban” means food in Ghana’s Fante language and this collection of recipes which you can download for free, comes from a “collaboration with AfroPUNK on Bites&Beats, a show about food and the Black diaspora.” It’s an 18-page booklet and each recipe is paired with a recommended song to play while you cook or enjoy your food. I made the La Negrita Picante Empanadas from Tiffany-Anne Parkes paired with Oriente by La Lupe and Kelewele, fried spicy plantains from Rachel Laryea. (dinediaspora.com/eziban-vol-1)
“50 Ways to Cook a Carrot” by Peter Hertzmann (Prospect Books, Jan. 2020). Have you run out of ideas for all those carrots? I did! But then I found this book. Pickle them, ferment, make fritters, spätzle, drinks and even macarons. The carrot pesto recipe is great with pasta or roasted meats.
“The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking Explained in More Than 100 Essential Recipes” by Nik Sharma (Chronicle Books, Oct. 2020). Another delightfully nerdy but still accessible explanation of how things work in the world of gastronomy. Learn about the science of taste, how to work with ingredients to elevate taste and use all of your senses to just “wing it.”
“East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing” by Meera Sodha (Flatiron Books, Oct. 2020). As an omnivore, I’m always looking for ways to jazz up the dinner table for my husband, the vegetarian and, frankly, I’m eating a lot less meat myself now. Sodha writes a vegan cooking column for The Guardian and in this book, she presents easy dishes with a lot of pizzazz. I’ve made the Thai green curry with eggplant, zucchini and snow peas and chile salt pineapple with its combo of sweet, hot and sour. I also liked the beet and ginger soup.
“Chi Spacca: A New Approach to American Cooking” by Nancy Silverton (Knopf, Oct. 2020). The co-owner of Chi Spacca and Osteria Mozza, et. al. in L.A. presents meat-heavy dishes including Moroccan braised lamb shanks and beef cheek and bone marrow pie but also charred sugar snap peas with yogurt, guanciale and lemon zest and a whole roasted cauliflower with green garlic creme fraiche. The lardo asador potatoes cooked in a cast iron pan are wonderful. I subbed butter and oil so my vegetarian husband could enjoy them and it worked well.