This year I added some cookbooks to my collection that I’m pretty sure I’ll have forever—the kinds that are going to be dog-eared and grease-stained and loved until the spines are falling apart. Here they are in case you’re looking to add a few to your own collection.
Deep Run Roots I had the pleasure of interviewing Vivian Howard, owner of Chef & the Farmer, star of PBS’ A Chef’s Life and author of Deep Run Roots, last year, and she was charming: eloquent, serious, self-deprecating, funny and passionate about food, particularly Southern food and particularly food from eastern North Carolina, where she grew up. (You can read the interview here.) I also had the pleasure of eating of Chef & the Farmer last summer, when a work assignment took Rob and me to North Carolina and he suggested we take a detour to the restaurant so we could have dinner there for my birthday. (Aww.) While we were there, I preordered a copy of Howard’s book, and when it arrived—all 600-plus pages of it—I spent a few evenings reading each beautifully written chapter and earmarking recipes I wanted to return to, like sweet potato and caramelized onion bread (which Howard served at the restaurant when we were there and which I dream of), chocolate-orange beet cake, spoonbread with sausage ragout and spring onion gratin. What I love most about this book is how thoughtful each story and recipe are; the book is a direct reflection of Howard and her sensibilities, and it’s wonderful.
Small Victories There’s a reason this is called Small Victories—it’s such a great, easy cookbook, and you feel like a champ after you make one of Julia Turshen’s delicious and satisfying recipes. Each one comes with notes that offer alternatives based on the main ingredients, and each is delicious; there’s not one thing I’ve cooked from it that I wouldn’t make again. Favorites include turkey-ricotta meatballs, sweet potatoes with caramelized onions and pancetta, curried lentils and Caesar salad. Also, I swear by Turshen’s cold elixir, which is a potent brew of lemon, ginger, honey, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon and cayenne pepper that I promise shortens the life of whatever ails you.
My Kitchen Year Ruth Reichl is a culinary goddess, we know this to be true, and My Kitchen Year is an excellent addition to her impressive canon. The book is, really, the story of grieving and healing, and how Reichl coped with the closing of Gourmet magazine, of which she was editor-in-chief, through cooking. It’s part memoir, part cookbook, and each recipe Reichl includes is thoughtfully chosen to accompany a corresponding essay. My favorites include a dead-easy avogolemono soup, shirred eggs with potato puree and pumpkin pancakes.
Six Seasons I impulse-bought this book after reading a review in our sister magazine in Portland, and I haven’t been disappointed. Written by Josh McFadden, the celebrated chef behind Ava Gene’s and Tusk, the recipes are seasonal, vegetable-forward and delicious. I love peas, so I’ve made a bunch of McFadden’s pea recipes so far—my favorite’s the pasta carbonara with peas—but everything I’ve tried has tasted great, and I can’t wait to McFadden’s whipped ricotta, roasted radishes with butter, chile and honey and onion-pancetta tarts, among many others.
P.S. Currently in my Amazon cart: the Cherry Bombe cookbook, Julia Turshen’s Feed the Resistance and Sweet by Yottam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. Anything else I should add?
Photo by Hannah Queen