If you love cookbooks as much as I do, you’re always looking for more to add to your (already abundant) collection. As summer draws to a close, I’ve rounded up a few of the most exciting cookbooks from the season, which I’ve been cooking from (and just reading) all summer and all of which I’m super happy to add to my shelves.
For your cookbook-perusing pleasure, I’ve given each book a likely fan category, but many of the books include a wide variety of recipes. Here are the first five; check out the second batch in Part II. (Even the most ardent cookbook fans can experience cookbook overload, after all.)
I am just starting to experiment with the mystifying technique of fermentation, so Mary Karlin’s Mastering Fermentation was a really exciting book for me, explaining the fundamentals in an approachable, not-too-scientific way that I can actually understand. Divided into chapters on Basics, Equipment/Ingredients/Troubleshooting, Fruits/Vegetables, Legumes/Nuts/Seeds/Aromatics, Dairy; Grains/Breads/Flatbreads, Cured Meat & Fish, and Feremented Beverages, this is an all-encompassing primer, with recipes ranging from the basics (kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha) to the less basic (gravlax, black pepper pilsner). As an extra-helpful bonus, each recipe comes with a breakdown of the time required from start to finish, including active and resting time, plus a chapter on Cooking with Fermented Foods that shows how to put all the earlier fermented items to good use.
This weighty book calls itself “the definitive guide” to grilling, and while that’s a bold claim, it actually appears to be true. Coming from the editors of Bon Appétit magazine, this book includes recipes and techniques for everything I’ve ever wanted to grill (five steps to a perfect steak, every kind of burger imaginable), as well as foods I didn’t even realize were grill-able: onion steaks, flatbread, bacon (yes, not one but two recipes for grilled bacon – I would seriously buy this book for the grilled bacon recipes alone). I’ve always loved grilling, but I’ve long been too intimidated/lazy to deal with a charcoal grill myself, always letting others handle it; with the help of this book, that won’t be the case anymore. Plus, the book goes way beyond it’s already definitive take on grilling with recipes for sides, salads, and drinks – in other words, the complete grilling experience. And did I mention grilled bacon?
For the pizza aficianado: Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian by Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens, and Melissa Clark
When I lived in Brooklyn, Franny’s was one of my regular dinner spots, and remains a must when I make a visit back to New York. But with this beautiful book – beautiful photos, beautiful design, beautiful thick pages, beautiful everything – I can at last bring some of Franny’s always-innovative, always-fresh cooking home. The recipes in Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian are exceptionally approachable, capturing the restaurant’s elegant simplicity. But that simplicity yields big dividends; dishes like dandelion greens with a fried egg, croutons, and anchovy dressing and sautéed squid with garlic, lemon, and chili yield complex flavors that are much more than the sum of their parts. As at the restaurant, the pizza is the star attraction here, and the book shows how to make that perfectly charred, perfectly chewy crust in detailed instructions and step-by-step photos.
Over the last year, I’ve been trying to up my home bar game, and The Cocktail Lab certainly sets the bar high. This neat little volume is dense with cocktail information, photos, recipes, and, most of all, inspiration. I absolutely love the way this book is organized and written; each recipe includes a short story about how Conigliaro came up with the drink and many of the chapters follow a kind of narrative arc as Conigliaro investigates and experiments with a certain kind of cocktail or idea (perfumes, cordials, foams). While many of the recipes are beyond my current abilities (ingredients like mallow syrup and homemade lipstick or equipment like a N2O gas charger are beyond me), I am reading this book more like a novel or memoir of a cocktail genius – and as motivation for my own cocktail experiments. Plus, there are still enough approachable recipes – for a New York Sour, a Spitfire, a Fig and Licorice Caipirinha, and many more – to keep me busy for some time.
I love a road trip, and I love to ogle any and all classic stops along the way, all the better if food is involved. Dave Hoekstra’s The Supper Club Book lets me do my ogling without even getting in the car. With photos and profiles of supper clubs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois, this book gives all the details on the history and anecdotes of 24 Midwestern supper clubs – more than I could probably ever visit in years of road tripping – while also trying to answer that unanswerable question: What constitutes a supper club? Hoekstra says it best in his introduction, “They are the fork in the road between yesterday and today.” There are no recipes in this book, and the design is a little retro, but that seems only to contribute more to the supper club vibe (plus a foreword by Garrison Keillor, natch).
Note: These books were all received as review copies, but that in no way affects their inclusion or review on this site.
Claire Stanford is a writer and editor at Simple, Good, and Tasty. She last wrote An Interview with Elissa Altman, Food Blogger and Author of Poor Man's Feast. She also wrote this cookbook round-up in 2012. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her at @clairemiye.