Mother’s Day is around the corner, but do you really need a special occasion to buy a cookbook? I know I don’t. Speaking as someone whose office and kitchen are stacked with cookbooks on every conceivable surface, I confess I have a bit of a problem. Yes, I check out recipes online, and cook from many of those sources. But nothing beats the feel of a brand-new cookbook in your hands, turning the pages to discover gorgeous food photography and graphics and reading the author’s stories of the foods that inspire them or harbor a precious family memory. Each cookbook is an intimate window into other cultures, lives, and kitchens, and I, for one, am here for that. Here are eleven new spring cookbooks that I will be cooking from — and reading — on repeat in the coming months. Buy one as a gift for Mother’s Day or just treat yourself and reinvigorate your cooking routine.
A Good Day to Bake by Benjamina Ebuehi
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I am absolutely loving this book by one of my favorite Great British Baking Show contestants of recent seasons, Benjamina Ebuehi. Her confident, friendly demeanor and creative flavor combinations won me over; you’ll want to follow along on her engaging website, Carrot & Crumb, for more great content. As for the book, I’ve made her Flourless Chocolate, Olive Oil & Almond Cake a few times now and it is perfection — moist and dense, and frosted with a supremely glossy ganache. Herbs and spices punch up the Peach & Fennel Cobbler and the delicate Bay Leaf Custard Tart. Feeling savory? Head directly to the Roasted Carrot & Harissa Galette with mascarpone, cheddar, and thyme. This book is a keeper.
Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow
Making homemade bagels has always felt a bit daunting, but Cathy Barrow’s new book makes it an easily approachable goal. The trick, she says, is all in the use of high-gluten flour. So roll, boil, and bake away with her tried-and-true recipes and you’ll be producing NYC deli-quality bagels in no time at all! Schmears (made with your own homemade cream cheese, or sub in store bought) like her Dried Apricot, Coconut and Thyme or Hot Honey and Marcona Almond flavors will have you off and running to the nearest dairy section of your nearby market. You’ll also find sections on bagel sandwiches, Jewish deli salads, pickles, and appetizing soups. My bubbe would be so proud!
Drink Lightly by Natasha David
There’s been a big trend in recent years toward zero-proof (aka “virgin”) cocktails, and deservedly so. Many people abstain from drinking liquor for various reasons. But for those who choose not to sling ‘em back but still want a little bit of buzz, mixologist Natasha David finds the sweet spot with easily quaffable, party-pleasing aperitifs that are about flavor — and often a little fizz — rather than hard-hitting, high-proof cocktails. She relies on bitters, fruit juices, simple syrups, and fruit liqueurs along with low-alcohol fortified wines like sherry, vermouth, lillet, and saké to craft her drinks. The disco-influenced graphics are a delight, as are her breezy headnotes for each drink. You will be charmed.
For the Table: Easy, Adaptable, Crowd-Pleasing Recipes by Anna Stockwell
The fact that every recipe in this book is gluten-free is almost incidental; it is really a very effective primer for entertaining friends in your home, complete with scheduling game plan (make dessert the day before), an inventory for what you need to keep on hand to throw a dinner party, and author Anna Stockwell’s thoughts on cocktails and snacks (ALWAYS) before dinner. All that, and the recipes sound enticing and properly attainable. She encourages you to involve guests in the dinner, so let them help set the table, or grill the swordfish steaks. Dishes like Grilled Paprika Chicken with Garlic Vinegar or Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings in Spicy Tomato Sauce may well find their way into your everyday rotation as well. After a few years of keeping people at arm’s length, the premise of this book is like a warm hug.
Half-Baked Harvest Every Day by Tieghan Gerard
Wildly successful food blogger Tieghan Gerard has a devoted legion of fans who follow her life in the mountains of Colorado. They know she’s the oldest of eight kids, and that she started her blog back in 2012 at the tender age of 17 (!). She does her own food styling and photography, often using the family’s gorgeous property as a backdrop. This is her third cookbook, and it’s filled with crave-worthy recipes that you will immediately want to make for your own family, like Sheet Pan French Toast with Whipped Lemon Ricotta, Crispy Chipotle Fish Tacos with Creamy Poblano Sauce, and Spiced Chopped Chicken Salad with Pita Crisps and Tahini Vinaigrette. BRB… want to make the spring-intensive Strawberry Rye Shortcakes with Honey-Vanilla Cream ASAP.
I’ve been obsessed with the NYT Food section for years, and many of my favorite recipes during the plague years were from the mind of Ali Slagle (run and make her Crispy Gnocchi with Burst Tomatoes and Mozzarella RIGHT NOW). So naturally, I pre-ordered this cookbook and read it from cover to cover the moment it arrived. Just beyond the table of contents is a listing of recipes that breaks down not only by ingredient but by cooking method. Eggs may be beaten, soft boiled, or fried; Beans can be crisped, stewed, combined with “crunchies.” Sea Creatures? Cook them “Fast & Hot” or “Fast & Slow.” The object is to use these recipes as a guide; whether you follow them word for word, or improvise, if you start with the ingredients suggested, you will find your way. Sesame Chicken Meatballs called out to be made for weeknight dinner, as did One-Pan Chicken Piccata & Orzo. Neither disappointed. Next up: Turmeric Shrimp with Citrus and Avocado.
Korean American: Food that Tastes Like Home by Eric Kim
Eric Kim is another NYT Food columnist that I’ve followed religiously. Born and raised in Atlanta, he grew up eating his mother’s Korean cooking, but felt in some ways that he was “between cultures.” This book is his love letter to both Korean and American cuisines, and to his mother, Jean. I love the way he introduces traditional Korean flavors and ingredients into other dishes, as he does here with Gochugaru Shrimp and Roasted-Seaweed Grits, a riff on Southern shrimp and grits that fires on all cylinders. The grits are cooked with water and milk, enriched with butter and sesame oil, then gilded with crumbled roast seaweed, while the shrimp is marinated in garlic, gochugaru and sesame oil before a quick sauté in the pan. Recipes like Caramelized-Kimchi Baked Potatoes, Cheeseburger Kimbap, and Sesame-Soy Deviled Eggs intrigue. Chapter headings add to the theme, with TV Dinners (fast foods to eat on the couch), Kimchi is a Verb, S is for Stew, and more. But my favorite part of all are the beautiful essays he writes about growing up in Atlanta, working in NYC, and the role food has played in all of it. An exceptional book.
Mi Cocina by Rick Martínez
In 2019, Chef Rick Martínez bought a car in Mexico City and took off on an odyssey that would take him 20,000 miles through all 32 states of Mexico. This beautiful cookbook is the fruit of his labors, starting with the básicos of the Mexican kitchen (tortillas, rice, beans, and salsas) and branching out to the different regions, from El Norte to the Baja. Come along on the journey with him and you’ll wrap handmade tamales in banana leaves before steaming, pull together ingredients for rich moles, and revel in Shrimp Aguachile and Pozole Rojo. Bien provecho!
Salad Freak: Recipes to Feed a Healthy Obsession by Jess Damuck
After years spent in the test kitchens of Martha Stewart Living magazine an on set with Martha and Snoop Dogg, Jess Damuck has come out with a book of her own, and it’s all about salads. Don’t for a moment think this means the book is boring. She’s all about combining what’s fresh, seasonal, and organic into salads that will make your tastebuds sit up and take notice. Springy salads like Smoked Trout, Cucumber, and Potatoes with Crème Fraîche Dressing or Asparagus, Peas, and Cucumber “Cacio e Pepe” will be gracing my table this season. And salads aren’t just for lunch! The Shaved Radish Breakfast Salad with Jammy Eggs and Dukkah will happily get you going in the morning, and make you glad you made the effort to get out of bed.
That Noodle Life: Soulful, Savory, Spicy, Slurpy by Mike Le and Stephanie Le
Who doesn’t love a noodle? Whether made of flour, rice, bean curd, or legume, they are a staple of many world cuisines, and our lives are the richer for having pasta in it. Married photographer/writer duo Mike Le and Stephanie Le make the most of noodle joy in their new book with slurpable bowls of Super Creamy Chicken Miso Ramen and Spicy Sichuan Mapo Tofu Chitarra, which you can enjoy while perusing their Haiku Guide to Noodles (Rice Sticks: “A flat rice noodle/ Often for pho or stir-fried/ You’ll find it online,” or Casarecce: “Short S-shaped pasta/ Hard to spell, easy to eat/ Sub with rotini”), a highly entertaining romp through the wide world of noodles.
The Modern Proper: Simple Dinners for Every Day by Holly Erickson and Natalie Mortimer
There’s something for every member of the family in this very accessible book from Holly Erickson and Natalie Mortimer, the gals behind the popular website The Modern Proper. They’ve taken the time to be mindful of different tastes and allergy limitations, and the result is a cookbook filled with mouth-watering photos and recipes that sing. Charred Summer Squash with Whipped Feta? Coconut Rice Bowl with Cilantro Lime Chicken? Jammy Eggs on Lentils with Wilted Greens? Yes, please. They’ve even revamped the beloved Silver Palate Chicken Marbella recipe and made it… dare I say?… better. Sealing the deal for me: a whole chapter on meatballs, an essential food group. You’re welcome.
How to Help:
As you whip up your next meal at home or enjoy dinner out, consider paying it forward by doing something to support those in our community who might not have access to regular, healthy meals. These 10 organizations are using the power of food to make a difference.
More from Better:
- On the Market: 5 Chicago-Area Homes with Beautiful Kitchens
- New in Town: Publican Quality Bread, Upscale Mexican in Highland Park, Sophia Steak in Lake Forest, Mindy Segal’s New Bakery, and More
- Tomatoes, Passion Flowers, Kumquats and More: It’s Spring Year-Round at this Tudor Home with a Bespoke Victorian Greenhouse
Julie Chernoff, Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.