Amuse-bouche The year’s most ex­cit­ing cook­books


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It be­gins with a hum­ble house­hold task: din­ner. This be­comes a hobby, im­mor­tal­ized on a blog. This can be­come, via ad­ver­tis­ing, a full-time job, and even­tu­ally, for a lucky few, the hum­ble task re­sults in the holy grail: a mass-mar­ket cook­book. Smit­ten Kitchen Ev­ery Day and Half Baked Har­vest Cook­book are such uni­corns, gor­geously pho­tographed books that came from hum­ble food blogs. Smit­ten Kitchen Ev­ery Day is blog­ger and adopted Man­hat­tan­ite Deb Perel­man’s sec­ond suc­cess­ful book, pre­ceded by The Smit­ten Kitchen Cook­book. Half Baked Har­vest Cook­book is Teighan Ger­ard’s first, writ­ten from her home in a con­verted barn in Colorado. Nei­ther woman has a back­ground in the culi­nary arts (Ger­ard worked in the fash­ion in­dus­try, while Perel­man worked as a record store shift su­per­vi­sor, an art ther­a­pist, and tech­nol­ogy re­porter, among other gigs), which means that the recipes are home-cook­ing sim­ple, the in­gre­di­ent lists mostly short, and the method­ol­ogy ap­proach­able.

But the magic sauce for both of these books is that these women cook like gourmets, with no quick mixes, pro­cessed foods, or con­ve­nience prod­ucts to be seen. The books are no­tably sim­i­lar, as is the food within; Half Baked Har­vest’s Pump­kin and Cau­li­flower Gratin and Smit­ten Kitchen’s Wild Mush­room Shep­herd’s Pie could come from ei­ther book, like fruit of the same farm­ers-mar­ket-in­spired tree. Smit­ten Kitchen Ev­ery Day has a much larger dessert sec­tion, with some am­bi­tious items that be more fun to look at than to ac­tu­ally make, and Half Baked

Har­vest is no­table for in­clud­ing op­tional av­o­cado ev­ery­where pos­si­ble. Ei­ther serves well as a gift that, a year later, will likely be spat­tered and dog-eared rather than sit­ting pris­tine on a shelf.

— Tantri Wija

“Smit­ten Kitchen Ev­ery Day: Tri­umphant and Un­fussy New Fa­vorites” by Deb Perel­man is pub­lished by Knopf/Pen­guin Ran­dom House. “Half Baked Har­vest Cook­book: Recipes From My Barn in the Moun­tains” by Tieghan Ger­ard is pub­lished by Clark­son Pot­ter/ Pen­guin Ran­dom House.


The ti­tle is your first clue that this book is not all about the food. A pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished col­lec­tion of East­ern Euro­pean fam­ily recipes that Cipe Pine­les wrote and il­lus­trated in 1945 fills just 50 pages of the new, 136-page tome Leave Me Alone With the Recipes. What comes be­fore the recipes — an over­view of the ac­com­plish­ments of the au­thor and, through that lens, a brief primer on the his­tory of graphic de­sign — is as im­por­tant as Pine­les’ mother’s recipes for borscht and schnitzel, pot­ted liver and stuffed cab­bage.

Au­thor and edi­tor Sarah Rich and il­lus­tra­tor Wendy MacNaughton dis­cov­ered Pine­les’ orig­i­nal hand-painted and han­dlet­tered recipes at an an­ti­quar­ian book fair in 2011, 20 years af­ter the de­signer’s death. Im­pressed by the qual­ity of the art­work, the pair en­listed the help of Maria Popova, founder of the blog Brain Pick­ings, and Deb­bie Mill­man, cre­ator of the De­sign Mat­ters pod­cast, to help them cre­ate this trib­ute to the largely for­got­ten woman who shat­tered the glass ceil­ing of the Amer­i­can mag­a­zine de­sign world. The first fe­male art di­rec­tor at Condé Nast and the first fe­male mem­ber of the white-male-dom­i­nated New York City Art Di­rec­tors Club, Pine­les was as pas­sion­ate about food as she was about de­sign. At the heart of the book are her bright, bold gouache il­lus­tra­tions — a vivid blue enamel pot of chicken soup and a glow­ing green bowl of hot-pink borscht are par­tic­u­lar stand­outs — ac­com­pa­ny­ing 25 hand-let­tered recipes for iconic Jewish dishes served by her mother.

In a sup­ple­men­tary chap­ter, the recipes are up­dated by Sarah Rich “to make the in­struc­tions clearer, and the in­gre­di­ents more … en­tic­ing to the mod­ern eater.” Rich’s re­vi­sions in­clude swap­ping out the bread­crumb coating for a sa­vory, salsa-style top­ping in the recipe for veal cut­lets and re­plac­ing the gin­ger­snaps in a sauce for stuffed cab­bage with fresh gin­ger. Pine­les, writes Sarah Rich in the in­tro­duc­tion to

Leave Me Alone, “is the artis­tic great-grand­mother we never knew we had” — and this book aims to rein­tro­duce her work in the kitchen and at the draw­ing board to a new gen­er­a­tion of read­ers, cooks, and col­lec­tors. — Pa­tri­cia West-Barker “Leave Me Alone With the Recipes: The Life, Art, and Cook­book of Cipe Pine­les” by Cipe Pine­les, with con­tri­bu­tions by Sarah Rich, Maria Popova, and oth­ers is pub­lished by Blooms­bury USA/MacMil­lan.


This was a ban­ner year for bak­ing books. Top­ping many of 2017’s “best of” lists is BraveTart by Stella Parks, the res­i­dent “pas­try nerd” at the web­site Se­ri­ous Eats. Parks takes a metic­u­lous, sci­en­tific ap­proach to per­fect­ing her recipes, but she cashes in on nos­tal­gia, kitsch, and home­y­ness, col­lect­ing recipes for “Amer­i­can dessert, in all its cozy splen­dor, ev­ery messy, un­pre­ten­tious bite.” She ad­vises that her recipes aren’t “about mak­ing any­thing fancy” but

“about mak­ing every­thing from scratch.” In ad­di­tion to one of Amer­ica’s most iconic cakes — clas­sic yel­low with fudge frost­ing — she pro­vides meth­ods for craft­ing your own ver­sion of Oreos, Nutter But­ters, Fig New­tons, and Twinkies.

On the restau­rant-kitchen end of the spec­trum is Sweet, Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi and pas­try chef He­len Goh’s col­lec­tion of recipes for lovely treats, which dis­plays an al­most global di­ver­sity. Goh has a fond­ness for nuts and fruits that’s ev­i­dent in every­thing from al­mond, pis­ta­chio, and sour cherry wafers to ri­cotta crêpes with figs, honey, and pis­ta­chios. “The Ot­tolenghi way has al­ways been about abun­dance, in­clu­sion, and cel­e­bra­tion,” the chef says in his preface, and this col­lec­tion in­cludes every­thing from Dutch spec­u­laas, Per­sian love cakes, France’s fi­nanciers and madeleines, Ital­ian amaretti, and an all-Amer­i­can choco­late-chip cookie.

The bread-ob­sessed will want to check out Jim Lahey’s Sul­li­van Street Bak­ery Cook­book. The James Beard Award-win­ning au­thor is known for his no-knead breads, and you’ll find recipes for those here, as well as nat­u­rally leav­ened loaves, tips on sour­dough starters, and lovely pho­tos. His fo­cus on fer­ment­ing seems timely (there’s even a recipe for lacto-fer­mented mus­tard), as does the recipe cre­ated for chef Dan Bar­ber’s food-waste ed­u­ca­tion project and one for Hamil­ton Buns, lit­tle ham sand­wiches in­spired by the Broad­way mu­si­cal. The book isn’t just about bread; it also in­cludes recipes for cin­na­mon rolls, dough­nuts, pizza, and dishes Lahey de­scribes as “‘baker’s food’ — meals or snacks made to go with bread or cooked along­side bread, in the heat of the baker’s oven.” — Laurel Glad­den

“BraveTart: Iconic Amer­i­can Desserts” by Stella Parks is pub­lished by W.W. Nor­ton. “Sweet” by Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi and He­len Goh is pub­lished by Ten Speed Press/Pen­guin Ran­dom House. “Sul­li­van Street Bak­ery Cook­book” by Jim Lahey is pub­lished by W.W. Nor­ton.


The tra­di­tional in­dige­nous diet is steadily in­creas­ing in food-world stature, which is no won­der — af­ter all, Na­tive peo­ples are the OG lo­ca­vores of the con­ti­nent. As Oglala Lakota chef Sean Sher­man points out in The Sioux Chef’s In­dige­nous Kitchen, the cur­rent at­ten­tion to eat­ing lo­cal, sea­sonal, un­pro­cessed foods was first prac­ticed by his an­ces­tors, who main­tained their food sovereignty through a sto­ried knowl­edge of the land and its re­sources.

With an eye to­ward de­col­o­niz­ing the ta­bles of north­ern tribes, in 2014 Sher­man founded The Sioux Chef, a Twin Cities culi­nary non­profit cater­ing com­pany and food truck aimed at re­viv­ing in­dige­nous in­gre­di­ents and ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about their culi­nary her­itage. Now, with a Min­nesota-based restau­rant in the works, he has set down his ideas with co-au­thor Beth Doo­ley in a re­source­ful cook­book that is part man­i­festo, part his­tory les­son, and all in­spired and time-hon­ored ideas.

Raised on the Pine Ridge Reser­va­tion in the 1970s, Sher­man grew up eat­ing tra­di­tional dishes made from chokecher­ries and wild prairie turnips, along with gov­ern­ment-is­sue canned chipped beef. Af­ter burn­ing out in Min­neapo­lis as a cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive chef at age twenty-nine, he went to Na­yarit, Mex­ico, and saw how the Hui­c­hole peo­ple had re­tained their pre-Euro­pean cul­ture, real­iz­ing “how food weaves peo­ple to­gether, con­nects fam­i­lies through gen­er­a­tions, is a life force of iden­tity and so­cial struc­ture.”

Thus, The Sioux Chef’s In­dige­nous Kitchen es­chews frybread for corn or hominy cakes. Atop those, Sher­man urges read­ers to nes­tle wild-greens pesto, cedar-braised bi­son, or smoked duck. His In­dige­nous Pantry sec­tion strives to line your shelves with nut and rice flours, sun­flower but­ter and oil, corn or game stocks, maple vine­gar (ap­ple cider vine­gar and a bit of maple syrup can do); cedar, ju­niper, and rose hips; and duck and quail eggs. Bean va­ri­eties are lov­ingly, metic­u­lously de­tailed, as are the health ben­e­fits of brais­ing a va­ri­ety of heir­loom legumes with a 6-inch branch of cedar (the wood aids di­ges­tion and strength­ens the im­mune sys­tem).

Asides on top­ics like har­vest­ing wild rice and where to buy sus­tain­able north­ern fish like wall­eye, crap­pie, and smoked white­fish (Red Lake Na­tion Fish­ery ships fresh and frozen) add to the stores of use­ful knowl­edge here. The book is rounded out by recipes from other Na­tive chefs and pro­po­nents of in­dige­nous cui­sine, in­clud­ing Santa Fe’s Lois Ellen Frank, who con­trib­utes a fes­tive recipe for co­rian­der-cured elk with dried chokecherry sauce. Pair that with a col­or­ful salad of ap­ples, grid­dled acorn squash, toasted wal­nuts, dried cran­ber­ries, wild greens, and sage with maple dress­ing, and you’ve got a hol­i­day meal for the ages. — Molly Boyle

“The Sioux Chef’s In­dige­nous Kitchen” by Sean Sher­man with Beth Doo­ley is pub­lished by Univer­sity of Min­nesota Press.

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