New books by Deb Perelman, Molly Yeh, and Illyanna Maisonet provide kitchen inspiration this fall
Once again, fall is here, and no, we don’t know how that happened either. What we do know is that along with colder temperatures (we assume? but who can really say anymore?) and midterm elections, the season augurs a new and very welcome crop of cookbooks. As cookbooks do so dependably, these latest additions to the canon provide an incentive to both turn inward and see (or eat) more of the world, to try new things while seeking solace in stories with happy endings. Because recipes, at least the good ones, are exactly that.
And there are a lot of happy endings to be found in this fall’s cookbooks. So many, in fact, that it was exceedingly difficult to choose just 10 titles to spotlight. The list below includes a variety of cuisines and approaches to cooking, but their common denominator is that they all make us want to stop whatever we’re doing and cook. There are books aimed at those of us who are short on time but long on appetite, and books that take deep, luxurious dives into the foods of Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, and Great Britain. There are books that show us the exquisite layers contained in vegan Chinese and Taiwanese American cooking, and for the bakers, there are long-fermented breads and a long-awaited second book from a legendary pastry chef.
Winter is coming, it is true, but when it does, these books will be doing their part to keep both our stomachs and spirits well-fed.
The Vegan Chinese Kitchen
Clarkson Potter, September 13
With this, her first cookbook, Hannah Che, a vegan chef, photographer, and blogger, has made an invaluable contribution to the canon of vegan and vegetarian home cooking. Plant-based cuisine is a tradition that has existed in China for more than 2,000 years, as Che points out, and her book — its chapters organized by plant type — provides a vibrant glimpse of its breadth and complexity. Che weaves in her own history as the child of immigrants who initially didn’t understand her embrace of veganism, along with her desire to recreate the dishes of her childhood. “It feels like my Chinese American friends and I have started waking up to the heritage that is our parents’ home cooking,” she writes. With recipes like braised winter melon, fish-fragrant eggplant, five-spice vegetarian chicken, kung pao mushrooms, and a chorus of steamed buns, Che offers food that nods respectfully to the past while pointing forward to a dazzling future.
Home Is Where the Eggs Are
William Morrow Cookbooks, September 27
The appealing second cookbook from the Girl Meets Farm star was written after the birth of her first child; its recipes, Molly Yeh writes, are for “food that I find satisfaction in serving to my family on any old day.” Yeh’s Jewish and Chinese heritage, and her husband’s Midwestern Scandinavian roots, inform recipes like salami matzo brei, moo shu chicken, and weeknight lefse; there’s also a stellar brown rice bowl with smoked salmon that makes ingenious use of Ritz crackers.
Bread Head: Baking for a Road Less Traveled
Greg Wade with Rachel Holtzman
W.W. Norton & Company, September 27
“The bread I’m going to teach you to make is a little rough around the edges, a little louder than is polite, and stupid good,” writes Greg Wade, the head baker at Chicago’s Publican Quality Bread. Locally farmed heritage grains — “the wayward sisters and brothers of common wheat” — are the subject of Wade’s ardor and the building blocks of his naturally leavened, long-fermented loaves. With straightforward, accessible recipes for everything from a multigrain baguette to rye puff pastry to an exceptional cornbread, this is, true to its title, perhaps the most easygoing bread cookbook ever written and also an enormously informative one.
Octopus, October 4
Persiana author Sabrina Ghayour, who here delivers a collection of recipes from the Middle East and its environs, is a virtuoso of approachable, weeknight-friendly cooking. That said, she writes in her new book’s introduction, “if you are expecting all these recipes to take 15 minutes or have just 5 ingredients then I’m sorry to say I am not that girl.” Ghayour has little use for other people’s restrictive rules about recipe structure and substitutions: She advocates for roasted peppers in brine (for her muhammara, which also uses hazelnuts instead of the more traditional walnuts), store-bought puff pastry, “cheap and cheerful” tinned chickpeas, and packaged pasta, the latter of which stars in her so-called lazy manti. Spices like pul biber chile flakes, cumin, and coriander are also featured judiciously, adding layers to dishes like zesty mackerel pate, “cheat’s dahl,” and seared pepper steak and tomato salad. This is a lovely, chilled-out cookbook with a winning balance of practicality and creativity.
Rambutan: Recipes from Sri Lanka
Bloomsbury, October 11
It is rare to find a cookbook — let alone a debut cookbook — that has it all: recipes you bookmark compulsively, photos that convey the beauty and complexity of food and place, and writing that reliably moves you to laughter, tears, and a fuller understanding of the world. But Cynthia Shanmugalingam, born in England to parents who emigrated there from Sri Lanka in the early 1970s, has pulled it off (with an assist from photographer Alex Lau). Whether she’s describing hoppers as “the racy underwear of Sri Lankan food,” using an anecdote about sexism to introduce a cooking technique known as the temper, or recounting how her childhood home swelled with displaced relatives in the late ’80s when “Sri Lanka was being torn apart by violence,” Shanmugalingam goes to unexpected, often arresting places. The food, including a retinue of curries, a pneumatic mango fluff pie, and an oozing seeni sambol, egg, and cheese sandwich, invites sudden and intense hunger. More of all of this, please.
The British Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking Recipes from England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland
Phaidon, October 12
“What is British food?” Ben Mervis asks at the outset of his sprawling, impressively researched tome, nine years in the making. The answer, of course, lies far beyond easy categorization. British food, Mervis writes, “is not a neatly unified cuisine.” Instead, it is highly regional, shaped by forces as disparate as immigration patterns and what kind of crops can grow in the local soil. As such, this is a treasure trove of splendidly named delicacies, from Scottish rumbledethumps (a breakfast casserole) to stwnsh (Welsh root mash) to the evocative, somewhat macabre Stargazey pie, a Cornish dish so dubbed for the head-on sardines that stare lifelessly from the flaky crust. This is one of those cookbooks that works as well for reference as it does for actual cooking, though the wealth of griddle cakes, crumpets, loaves, and buns alone makes a compelling case for the latter.
Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook
Ten Speed Press, October 18
Illyanna Maisonet would like you to know that this is not, contrary to its title, a Puerto Rican cookbook — it’s “for the Diasporicans,” she writes, “the 5.5 million people living Stateside who continue to cook the food of our homeland.” So begins her fascinating and refreshingly opinionated ode to the cuisine of Puerto Rico — which, like the island and its people, continues to be misunderstood. Recipes for dishes like jamonilla guisada and arroz chino boricua nod respectively to the ways colonialism and immigration have shaped Puerto Rico, while the preponderance of meat and deep-fried dishes illustrates the importance of foods that offer both flavor and long-lasting sustenance. A vivid, compelling book.
Delectable: Sweet and Savory Baking
Claudia Fleming with Catherine Young
Random House, October 25
Fans of Claudia Fleming, the legendary pastry chef who made her name at Gramercy Tavern, have been waiting 21 years for a follow-up to her equally legendary first book, The Last Course. The wait was worth it: These recipes, the products of Fleming’s time in pandemic isolation, are a home baker’s fantasia. Between the kumquat tatin, devil’s food cake with Earl Grey cream, maple shortbread, and a garden’s worth of vegetable tarts, it’s hard to know where to begin. I chose the Blueberry, Blueberry, Blueberry Tart, the repetition of its name serving as an affirmation of both the fruit and the exclamatory joy of eating the final result.
First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home
Ten Speed, October 25
Dedicated to his parents, the Asian community, and the LGBTQ community, Little Fat Boy blogger Frankie Gaw’s debut cookbook is a buoyant, deeply felt exercise in memory, identity, and flavor. Gaw, the son of Taiwanese immigrants who settled in Cincinnati in the mid-1980s, “wanted to write this book to celebrate the first-generation Asian American experience,” he writes. “As I’ve grown up navigating my identity, food has been at the heart of my discovering both deep shame and overflowing pride.” The food in Gaw’s cookbook attests to a palate shaped by the foods of the Midwest and the dishes cooked by his Taiwanese grandmothers: There are recipes for lap cheong corn dogs (a “dream pairing” for “a young Asian American kid from suburban Ohio”), stir-fried rice cake bolognese, Cincinnati chili with flour noodles, and lion’s head Big Macs, a creation that Gaw describes as “a love note to the Midwest seen through the lens of my heritage.” You’ll also find thorough guides to making bao, dumplings, and hot pot — and, underscoring all of it, Gaw’s thoughtful, often very funny tributes to the family and food that made him who he is today.
Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files
Knopf Cooks, November 22
For her third cookbook, Perelman has taken the wisdom she has accumulated in the 16 years since she created Smitten Kitchen and funneled it into “keepers,” i.e., recipes deserving of a place in her “forever files” and yours. That means, for example, a towering broccoli cheddar quiche baked in a springform pan, deli pickle potato salad that makes smart use of both pickles and brine, and chocolate peanut butter cup cookies that I can personally attest merit the “keeper” designation. Perelman, as is her wont, employs her trademark warmth and humor as she shepherds you from breakfast to dessert and beyond, making this both a fun and practical read.
Don Caminos is a visual vaquero providing editorial illustration from Mexico City.
Copy edited by Leilah Bernstein