Best New Cookbooks: Spring 2023
There’s nothing like a fresh crop of cookbooks to capture the promise of spring: With all those new foods to make and new ideas to absorb comes the realization that creation and innovation are a constant, no matter what the world is doing. The following 12 titles, chosen from a very bounteous roster, deliver on that promise, and then some. Most of them have little in common, save the verve with which they explore their subjects and their implicit message that every day is worthy of at least a little celebration. You’re here and you’re able to feed yourself, they all seem to say. Why not make something great?
In these books, kosher cooking gets an update, yogurt helps to sustain an Iranian immigrant family, fruit finds its full expression, a beloved pastry chef makes her debut, vegetables continue to inspire chefs and cookbook authors to new heights, Japanese American home cooking gets its due in Brooklyn. There is matzo ball ramen and whey-brined Thanksgiving turkey; there is a choy sum galette with feta and there are Flamin’ Hot Doritos fried mozzarella sticks. Family is everywhere; no matter what’s being cooked, the importance of community and connectivity is palpable in these pages. As it should be: Lord knows we could all use it right now, as we watch another season begin to bloom, and wonder, as ever, what to cook tonight. — Rebecca Flint Marx
Yogurt & Whey: Recipes of an Iranian Immigrant Life
W.W. Norton & Company, out now
I’ve heard it from many people and thought it myself: Homa Dashtaki’s Brooklyn-based company White Moustache makes some of the best yogurt you can buy, craveably tart and luxuriously thick. What I didn’t realize from simply eating it, however, was the weight that yogurt held for Dashtaki, who was born in Iran during the Iranian Revolution. Dashtaki and her family, who are Zoroastrian, left for the United States in the 1980s and found a home within the Zoroastrian community in Southern California.
In Yogurt & Whey, Dashtaki writes that as they made a new life, yogurt — which her family had always made from scratch — “saved the day.” And when she was laid off from her law job in 2008, yogurt offered an opportunity. She and her father began making it together and selling it at farmers markets. “Yogurt has been the thread that runs through my attempts at creating community, of being in touch with my ancestors,” Dashtaki writes. “The way I make yogurt, and even the way I eat yogurt, is based on their teachings.”
Want to make White Moustache’s stellar yogurt? With this cookbook, you can learn to follow the three-day process that teaches you to trust your senses (“If you can hold your pinkie in the milk for 3 seconds, your milk is ready to culture”). But Yogurt & Whey isn’t just about making and using yogurt or even cooking an Iranian meal, though it will provide you with everything you need to know to do so. There’s a broad range of recipes including celebratory dishes like aash-e-reshteh, the Iranian comfort food of chips and yogurt, and even a Thanksgiving turkey brined in whey, plus ideas for leftovers.
Yogurt & Whey is ultimately a reminder of why cooking is so important: It’s a love letter to a minority culture with just about 15,000 to 20,000 members left in Iran, rooted in Dashtaki’s sense of responsibility to keep her community’s traditions alive. — Bettina Makalintal
A Cook’s Book
Ten Speed Press, out now
Even though spring is practically here, Nigel Slater’s A Cook’s Book feels delightfully cozy. Its 150 recipes — described as Slater’s essentials — are built on childhood memories and the promise of meals that are simple to prepare but look and taste incredible. Slater, a beloved food columnist and BBC presenter in the U.K., is quick to point out that he doesn’t consider himself a chef, and that’s evident in recipes like “a soup of bread and cheese,” which includes only a handful more ingredients than the two listed in the title.
Originally published in the U.K. (and now being reissued by Ten Speed Press), A Cook’s Book urges the reader to slow down a bit, to find some simple joy in the melding of beans, aromatics, and pancetta into a perfect, low-simmered soup. Almost every recipe is accompanied by a personal story about its inspiration, like how Slater’s time as a culinary student in France shaped his perspective on buying chickens. Their resolute simplicity, along with their occasional pedantry (Slater has strong, intermittently crotchety, opinions on everything from the pitfalls of chicken drumsticks to unnecessary kitchen gadgets) effectively make the book a manifesto of sorts, a pure distillation of Slater’s cooking philosophy.
Though perfectly explicit, Slater’s recipes read like prose, which means that you’ll want to curl up in your favorite chair and read through each one slowly until you just can’t take it any longer and have to get up to make your own za’atar-spiked chicken cutlets or a bowl of orecchiette tossed with basil and zucchini. There’s even a mildly existential mediation on the “stillness” of the perfect cheesecake. With writing that’s just as satisfying as the recipes it describes, it all adds up to a book that feels like whatever the British equivalent of hygge might be called. —Amy McCarthy
Everyday Grand: Soulful Recipes for Celebrating Life’s Big and Small Moments
Jocelyn Delk Adams with Olga Massov
Clarkson Potter, March 14
A recipe blogger-turned-Williams Sonoma cake doyenne, Jocelyn Delk Adams is taking the leap from baking to everyday meals with this, her second cookbook. In it, the creator of Grandbaby Cakes makes the case for finding a way to celebrate every moment through festive food. “We should celebrate our real lives,” she writes. “And the more we try to take the time to do so, the more purposeful and joyful our lives will feel.” She makes a case for inventing new holidays alongside observing the traditional ones and handily provides menu suggestions to pair with each event. A “Treat Yo’ Self Day” might, for instance, mean baking a batch of honeychile brown butter cornbread, while Christmas in July deserves the Ultimate Mac and Cheese, a recipe whose call for a combined six cups of four types of cheese ensures the pasta delivers on cheese pulls.
Each page exudes Delk Adams’ personality and family ties — that mac and cheese is a family recipe from Auntie Rose. The recipes lean on Black Southern cooking, a touchstone of the author’s childhood visits to her grandmother in Mississippi, and many dishes incorporate nostalgic flavors and spices such as Lawry’s seasoned salt. However, Delk Adams often puts her own twist on tradition — agave-lemon pepper “wangs,” for example, trade chicken for vegan-friendly oyster mushrooms, delivering all the crispy, juicy goodness and sweet-salty flavor of a good wing without the meat. My household was skeptical that her lasagna stew could work (it is what it sounds like: all of the components and flavors of lasagna, in stew form), but by the end found themselves returning to the pot for seconds. There’s also plenty of globe-trotting and some recipes that seem built for the ’gram (Flamin’ Hot Doritos fried mozzarella cheese sticks). No matter the recipe, Delk Adams’s instructions are easy to follow; the golden-brown crust on her crabby hush puppies represented the most success I’ve ever had frying. —Brenna Houck
Clarkson Potter, March 21
You wouldn’t be faulted for associating kosher cookbooks with kugel, gefilte fish, and challah, but kosher (and Jewish, to the extent the two sometimes diverge) cookbooks in America have always reflected their specific time and place. The kosher cookbooks today’s Jewish adults grew up with were seen as modernizing the genre with “globally inspired” recipes. But even those books now feel dated to Jewish millennials fluent in the language of “plant-based” and “local” and accustomed to seeing Sephardic flavors like tahini and harissa dominate menus and Instagram feeds.
Chanie Apfelbaum’s 2018 Millennial Kosher exemplified this new generation of books, with its unsubtle name and use of ingredients like miso, ramen, and Sriracha. Her new book, Totally Kosher, builds on that formula. Millennial may not be in the name, but it’s here in spirit, with chapters like “You’re So Extra!” and “Sammies & Tacos.” There’s mention of paleo and gluten-free diets, and an entire “build your own boards” section. Many of the 150+ recipes sound like they were produced by a 2023 flavor generator — Tahdig Toast With Herb-Whipped Feta and Harissa Eggs, Shakshuka a la Lasagne — while others are straight “Jewish Fusion” formulas, like Corned Beef and Cabbage Ramen and Elote Schnitzel Subs.
But if you can get past the mashup gimmick, many of the recipes also look delicious. I admire how Apfelbaum combines a wide array of ingredients and Jewish flavors — especially Sephardic ones — in genuinely interesting and exciting ways, as with her Malabi Pavlova or Hawaij Gingersnaps. Of course, as in previous kosher cookbooks, such ingredients aren’t always presented with the most nuance: Corned Beef and Cabbage Ramen is described simply as “Irish/Asian fusion soup,” while Chickpea Curry gets no explanation whatsoever. If you’re looking for an in-depth exploration of Jewish cooking vis-a-vis the cuisines of other cultures, Totally Kosher isn’t it. But it is a fun book, one that brings kosher cookbooks into their chaos era. —Ellie Krupnick
Indian Flavor Every Day: Simple Recipes and Smart Techniques to Inspire
Clarkson Potter, March 28
“Indian food has a reputation for being intimidating,” writes Maya Kaimal. It’s a frustrating truth. Despite the fact every Whole Foods carries turmeric now, there are some people who continue to insist South Asian cuisine takes too many spices, too many techniques, or is just generally unknowable. To that end, Kaimal has built her career on making Indian food accessible in the pantry aisle. Her simmer sauces, spice blends, and premade rices and dals are available in grocery stores across the country, ensuring even those who continue to insist it’s “too complicated” can enjoy homemade korma.
Kaimal has continued this mission in her cookbooks; now, in her third, Indian Flavor Every Day, she holds readers’ hands through a survey of Indian and Indian-inspired recipes, with flavor profiles from around the subcontinent. The book is full of classics like chicken Chettinad, Keralan thoren and Goan pork vindaloo. But Kaimal is more concerned with ensuring readers can bring Indian flavors to the table any way they want to. Many of the recipes are twists on Indian flavors, like nigella seed butter cookies, tandoori cauliflower steaks, and a potato salad with mint and cilantro fit for any Midwestern picnic. Kaimal also includes guides to Indian pantry staples, and mastering techniques like making tarka and ghee and mixing your own masalas.
“Every day” might make you think these recipes are dumbed down. But the thing about Indian food is that it is made every day. Kaimal reminds readers that “Indian food” is not a monolith, and that it is only complicated if you want it to be. —Jaya Saxena
Sweet Enough: A Baking Book
Clarkson Potter, March 28
Having weathered both a pandemic and her own well-documented annus horribilis, it seems fitting that Alison Roman would turn to the sweeter side of life with this, her third cookbook. The very first word in Sweet Enough, from the Mary Oliver quote that prefaces the book, is “joy,” and everything that follows it is a celebration — of dessert, of desire, of the rejection of expertise. “Lopsided and wonky, occasionally almost burned, unevenly frosted, my desserts are consistently imperfect,” Roman, a former pastry chef, writes in an introduction that effectively doubles as a disclaimer. “But perfection is boring.”
Like Roman’s previous cookbooks, this one is rooted in its author’s unapologetically personal preferences: The chapter on tarts, pies, and galettes is the longest because this genre of desserts is her favorite, while the cookie recipes are all shortbread or shortbread-adjacent because Roman, by her own admission, isn’t that much of a cookie person. She describes her desserts as “a little wild-looking and decidedly unkempt,” and the book’s overall vibe follows suit: The photos showcase crumbs, paper plates, caramelized fruit goo, ripped apart strawberry cake, and shirtless people wearing short-shorts; everything looks like it’s being served at a picnic where everyone’s been drinking for several hours. I mean that as a compliment — it’s hard not to want some of that sunny hedonism for yourself.
But for all of the laissez-faire staging and Roman’s insistence on her lack of expertise, the recipes really work. Her coconut cake, which I made simply because it was February and I wanted a hulking layer cake that would make my existential angst look tiny by comparison, more than fulfilled its purpose. Four layers tall, it was a magnificent beast, improbably light, stuffed with three kinds of coconut, and, as advertised, just sweet enough. — Rebecca Flint Marx
Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking With Fruit
Chronicle Books, April 4
Single-subject cookbooks can feel like they’re for serious cooks only. And to be sure, serious cooks would benefit from the kind of pointed focus that chef, baker, and author Abra Berens brings to Pulp, her “practical guide to cooking with fruit.” But here’s the thing about Berens: Her expertise, steady voice, and expansive view of what fruit can actually do in a recipe means that this, her third single-subject cookbook, has over 200 recipes, including for critical building blocks like lemon curd, pickle brine, and various cake, cookie, and pie doughs.
Berens firmly roots her book in Michigan, where she lives, but given the scope of Michigan’s bounty, most readers should be able to find what they need at a farmers market in their area. Helpful glossaries and profiles of producers give the book an easy-to-read, almost magazine-y vibe. Organized by type of fruit (apples, blueberries, quince, etc.) and then further organized by preparation (raw, roasted, grilled, baked, poached, stewed, preserved) the book offers a master class in how to think holistically about a single ingredient. The sweet recipes all offer an element of surprise — why don’t more people put grape into custard pie?? — while the savory recipes are especially compelling, as in a grilled melon with tahini, chile oil, and sesame seeds or coconut milk shrimp with jalepeno-peach cornbread. So yes, Pulp works for beginners, but for an enthusiastic cook it really shines. — Hillary Dixler Canavan
More Than Cake: 100 Baking Recipes Built for Pleasure and Community
Artisan, April 11
“More Than Cake is not about baking for one,” Natasha Pickowicz writes in the introduction to her first cookbook, because “baking is about reinforcing connections and creating new ones.” The book’s recipes are exactly the kind you would make to impress a group: Even the simplest ones are imbued with an extra something that separates them from the category of weeknight I-just-need-a-cookie baking. A chocolate sheet cake, for example, calls for chicory and glucose, the former to give it a rich flavor and the latter to make a picture-perfect glaze. The result is a grownup, almost savory chocolate cake that demands to be plated and served like a dessert at one of the elegant New York City restaurants where Pickowicz spent years as a pastry chef.
The idea that baking is inherently a celebration is perhaps clearest in the chapter on layer cakes: You’ll find recipes for mousses, curds, and frostings to mix and match your way to a cake customized to your tastes, as well as clear instructions for building and decorating the cake in Pickowicz’s signature aesthetic, which incorporates unexpected vegetation. She also encourages the reader to explore their own: “Like piling your hair into a messy bun, it does take a little practice to get just the right look.”
Ultimately, More Than Cake shows that it’s not only cakes that have the potential to bring people together. The chapter on cookies includes tips for building a cookie box fit for gifting, as well as an essay on bake sales (Pickowicz has been active in many of the bake sales that have emerged as effective fundraisers in recent years). And while none of the recipes feel casual, they all feel achievable; as Pickowicz writes, they merely “ask that you be present.” For her, this is also what baking is about. — Monica Burton
Vegetable Revelations: Inspiration for Produce-Forward Cooking
Harper Wave, April 18
Don’t let the gorgeously styled photos fool you: Vegetable Revelations, from the James Beard Award-winning Atlanta chef Steven Satterfield, is incredibly approachable, full of flavorful recipes with short lists of easy-to-find ingredients. It’s a cookbook that understands that when vegetables are good, they don’t need much fussing — just a saffron aioli to accompany grilled asparagus, the bottoms of which Satterfield recommends you use to make a soup. Or that with a little preparation ahead of time, like mixing together a bagna cauda vinaigrette, salad comes together in a snap: Just cut a persimmon, wash some radicchio, and tear a handful of olives. It’s a book that tweaks familiar formats; instead of cheese and bacon on a twice-baked potato, it’s crispy oyster mushrooms and kale tossed in garlic oil — lighter, but no less delicious.
Vegetable Revelations is not a vegetarian cookbook (at times, it calls for anchovies, lamb, chicken broth), and animal protein is central to some of the recipes, like a pan-fried fish served with minted pea mash, or chicken braised in tomatillo salsa. Given their simple, pared-down approach, many of the book’s vegetable techniques are unlikely to be new for the experienced vegetarian cook. But they’ll certainly inspire the omnivore who feels they’re not eating enough greens or the person who just got a CSA membership and now anticipates a springtime bounty. With Vegetable Revelations, it’s not just easy but also exciting to take advantage of vegetables in their prime. — BM
Ever-Green Vietnamese: Super-Fresh Recipes, Starring Plants From Land and Sea
Ten Speed Press, April 25
Andrea Nguyen’s 2019 Vietnamese Food Any Day has been my go-to resource for Vietnamese cooking. Still, as a mostly vegetarian cook, I often make calculations as I read it: What can I swap here? But Nguyen’s comprehensive new book Ever-Green Vietnamese puts that in the past. The book isn’t entirely vegetarian, but it’s anchored by that point of view, drawing on Nguyen’s experience of adopting a more vegetable-forward diet as well as the long history of vegetable-centric cooking in Vietnam.
Where Vietnamese Food Any Day is oriented towards streamlined weeknight cooking, Ever-Green Vietnamese is more roomy, with information about techniques, tools, ingredients, and swaps. Nguyen gives herself, for example, four paragraphs to explain how to wrap rice paper rolls filled with noodles, mango, and shrimp, and that’s in addition to a two-page spread featuring pictures of the process and a rice paper roll FAQ. At times, the recipes in Ever-Green Vietnamese lean more weekend project-worthy, but Nguyen offers hacks when she can, like using soaked-then-steamed rice paper wrappers for bánh cuốn instead of making rice sheets from scratch, or speeding up a creamy rice porridge by blending it.
Those new to Vietnamese cooking will find a teacher ready to hold their hand through each step of the unfamiliar, while the more experienced will benefit from Nguyen’s rigorous insights. Ever-Green Vietnamese is poised to be an essential resource for any cook interested in Vietnamese cuisine, not just the vegetarian ones. — BM
Love Japan: Recipes From Our Japanese American Kitchen
Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel with Gabriella Gershenson
Ten Speed Press, May 16
I first encountered Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel’s cooking at Shalom Japan, their Japanese Jewish restaurant in Brooklyn, a decade ago, when dishes like their matzo ball ramen could be — and were — read as a fusion trend. A pared-down version of that dish now appears in Love Japan, the couple’s first cookbook, written with Gabriella Gershenson. But, as the authors write, the book isn’t about their restaurant. It’s a more intimate look at their home.
Love Japan focuses mostly on the Japanese side of the couple’s food culture, though it’s by no means a strict ode to Okochi’s upbringing. Many recipes display their inventions of necessity and preference, whether that’s braising kombu left over from dashi to make “awesome sauce” or hacking okonomiyaki by cooking its components in multiple pans. Fittingly, Okochi and Israel encourage readers to diverge from the recipes, too.
Harumaki (spring rolls) is the dish Okochi’s mother served Israel upon his first visit to Japan, and it makes an ideal introduction to the book. It’s a long recipe that could be divided across multiple days for convenience, but as I discovered, its pork-shiitake filling smells too good to stop short of frying. The gomaae broccoli I made alongside was simpler, leaning on a fistful of ground, double-toasted sesame seeds and dashi powder for flavor; it makes a solid weeknight side.
Okochi and Israel provide enough context, shopping tips, and technique breakdowns to make their book a good intro to Japanese home cooking. There are a few challenges for more advanced cooks, such as the shokupan made with fermented rakkenji starter (I’m coming back for that one). For anyone else, it’s a handy jumping-off point for developing your own go-to recipes, as well as an endearing portrait of a chef couple putting together enviable dinners in a two-child household in Brooklyn. —Nicholas Mancall-Bitel
Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds
Hetty Lui McKinnon
Knopf Publishing Group, May 30
Hetty Lui McKinnon’s To Asia With Love has become a standard in my kitchen, one of those flip-to-any-page-and-it’ll-be-good cookbooks. McKinnon is a master of combining flavors and ingredients across cultural traditions, like pierogi with kimchi and dill, or her famous cacio e pepe udon, making each dish not necessarily fusion but a fuller, more forward-thinking expression of what food can be when we don’t limit our palates. After cooking with her follow up, Tenderheart, I can tell it’s going to be another kitchen staple.
Tenderheart sees McKinnon leaning even further into her love for vegetables, which she comes by honestly — the book is in part a remembrance of her late father, who worked at a wholesale fruit and vegetable market and would shower the family with produce. Working with vegetables, she says, is a way to remember her father and process her grief over his death. It also became even more of a priority for her during COVID lockdown, as McKinnon spent her time in isolation experimenting with vegetables, “scheming on all the ways I could fashion several diverse meals from just one cabbage or a single butternut squash.”
McKinnon organizes her recipes by central ingredient, offering a few riffs on each. She explores preparations as straightforward as cauliflower Manchurian or a choy sum galette with feta, as playful as double potato noodles (stir fried potato with glassy noodles made of potato starch), and as inventive as spinach and pandan chiffon cake. Even the most devout vegetarians are bound to learn something new about what vegetables can do. —JS
Marylu E. Herrera (she/her) is a Chicago-based Chicana collage, print media, craft, and fiber artist. Her collage work has been featured in the Cut, the Los Angeles Times, Bitch Media, Eater, and Punch.