The 14 best cook­books of the year will make the foodie in your life a very happy cook

Laura Bre­haut

National Post (National Edition) - - GIFT GUIDE -

By Mardi Michels; Ap­petite by Ran­dom House; 192 pp; $29.95

Pint-sized cooks will love learn­ing how to make im­pres­sive French clas­sics, and Mardi Michels is uniquely qual­i­fied to in­struct them. For nearly a decade, the Toronto-based French teacher has led a cook­ing club for boys aged 7 to 14. Michels knows what kids can cook when given the op­por­tu­nity. From a clas­sic omelette to crois­sants and rata­touille three ways (each ac­com­mo­dat­ing dif­fer­ent skill lev­els), In the French Kitchen with Kids is filled with recipes that cooks of all ages will adore.

By Nik Sharma; Chron­i­cle Books; 288 pp; $50

In Sea­son, ac­claimed writer and pho­tog­ra­pher Nik Sharma chron­i­cles his jour­ney from Mumbai, In­dia to Oak­land, Calif. us­ing cui­sine as the lens. “Mine is the story of a gay im­mi­grant, told through food,” he writes in the book’s in­tro­duc­tion. Sharma’s dis­tinc­tive pho­tog­ra­phy style – in­struc­tional and inky with his food, and his hands, front and cen­tre – and im­pec­ca­ble sense of flavour com­po­si­tion make this book a must for cook­book lovers.

Bot­tom of the Pot: Per­sian Recipes and Sto­ries In her de­but cook­book, Bot­tom of the Pot, for­mer Van­cou­verite Naz Der­a­vian in­vites read­ers to gather around her Per­sian ta­ble. The IACP Award-win­ning writer and ac­tor in­ter­weaves al­lur­ing es­says based on me­mories of home with more than 100 recipes. Der­a­vian’s fam­ily left Tehran, Iran for Rome, Italy at the height of the Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion; a few years later, they departed for their new Cana­dian home. Now based in L.A., Calif., she de­scribes her cook­ing style as “ac­cented food”: re­flec­tive of a life lived largely out­side of Iran but with Per­sian home cook­ing at its heart.

By Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi; Ap­petite by Ran­dom House; 320 pp; $42

Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi is renowned for his flavour­ful, fresh and ex­cit­ing cui­sine. With Ot­tolenghi Sim­ple, the Lon­don, U.K.-based chef proves that stream­lined doesn’t ne­ces­si­tate com­pro­mise. Since the def­i­ni­tion of “sim­ple” can vary so widely cook-to­cook, each of the 130 recipes in the book is pared-back in one or more ways. Whether you’re short on time or set on turn­ing out a mor­eish meal us­ing 10 in­gre­di­ents or fewer, Ot­tolenghi’s brand of sim­plic­ity sat­is­fies.

Now & Again: Go-to Recipes, In­spired Menus + End­less Ideas for Rein­vent­ing Left­overs Ju­lia Tur­shen’s ode to left­overs will have you hoard­ing a few slices of meat­loaf just so you can make her open-faced meat­loaf melts the next day… and maybe the day af­ter that (they’re that good). In Now & Again, the best­selling au­thor demon­strates that left­overs are de­serv­ing of rein­ven­tion. Pre­sented as sea­sonal menus, she pro­vides a 125-recipe start­ing point in­ter­spersed with ad­vice for spin­ning your left­overs to save time and re­sources.

Recipes from the Gar­den of Con­tent­ment: Yuan Mei’s Man­ual of Gas­tron­omy Toronto-based re­search sci­en­tist Sean J.S. Chen found an un­usual but ex­traor­di­nar­ily im­pres­sive way to un­wind while com­plet­ing his PhD in bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing: teach­ing him­self clas­si­cal Chi­nese in or­der to trans­late a 225-year-old gas­tro­nomic mas­ter­work. Recipes from the Gar­den of Con­tent­ment is the first English trans­la­tion of the Suiyuan Shi­dan, a hugely in­flu­en­tial Chi­nese cook­book writ­ten by famed poet Yuan Mei in the late 18th cen­tury. Thanks to Chen’s ded­i­ca­tion to stress re­lief, we now have a unique glimpse into Chi­nese food cul­ture with recipes for both elab­o­rate im­pe­rial cui­sine and hum­ble dishes from the era.

Fresh In­dia: 130 Quick, Easy and De­li­cious Veg­e­tar­ian Recipes for Ev­ery Day Award-win­ning Bri­tish food writer Meera Sodha finds joy in cook­ing veg­eta­bles, and her de­light is con­ta­gious. Stem­ming from tra­di­tional In­dian home cook­ing, her sec­ond cook­book, Fresh In­dia, is packed with vi­brant food. Whether a show­stop­ping dish like grand veg­etable biryani (mast biryani) or an any-day snack such as chest­nut mush­room and wal­nut samosas, Sodha’s veg­etable-led recipes are al­ways wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion.

Joe Beef: Sur­viv­ing the Apoca­lypse: An­other Cook­book of Sorts There are in­struc­tions for mak­ing soap and grow­ing en­dives. Preser­va­tion tech­niques like smoth­er­ing fresh herbs in salt and bury­ing pota­toes in sand. Ad­vice on brew­ing beer from bark, roots and twigs, and bak­ing canned bread. Recipes for Mo­hawk corn soup and a savoury Saint Honoré cake crowned with white­fish-filled choux swans. Suf­fice it to say, the lat­est from Joe Beef, Sur­viv­ing the Apoca­lypse: An­other Cook­book of Sorts, is as sin­gu­lar as the Mon­treal in­sti­tu­tion it­self. “This book is about how to build things for your­self,” Erickson writes, “about how to make it on your own.” It’s hard to imag­ine a more per­fect book for the prep­per with panache.

By Anissa Helou; Ecco; 544 pp; $75

Anissa Helou – one of the world’s au­thor­i­ties on the cuisines of North Africa, the Mid­dle East and Mediter­ranean – is just the chef to guide read­ers on a jour­ney through­out the Is­lamic world. She con­ducted ex­ten­sive field­work while writ­ing Feast, trav­el­ling from In­dia to In­done­sia and Sene­gal to Zanz­ibar, col­lect­ing dishes along the way. Helou’s tales of con­ti­nentspan­ning jour­neys, his­tor­i­cal back­ground and recipes rang­ing from mul­ti­lay­ered Ye­meni bread to Azer­bai­jani yo­gurt soup make for a cap­ti­vat­ing read and colour­ful cook­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

By Mag­nus Nils­son; Phaidon; 576 pp; $59.95

If the Nordic peo­ple cook or bake it us­ing grains, it’s within the cov­ers of Mag­nus Nils­son’s im­pres­sive 450-recipe tome. The chef, fa­mous for his work at two-Miche­lin-starred Swedish restau­rant Fäviken, refers to The Nordic Bak­ing Book as a documentary cook­book. He set out to col­lect and com­pile recipes from the en­tirety of the re­gion, as well as ex­plain why bak­ing re­mains so vi­tal to the cui­sine to­day. As with his pre­vi­ous 700-recipe book, The Nordic Cook­book (Phaidon, 2015), one of Nils­son’s main mo­ti­va­tions was to take read­ers be­yond iconic dishes like Swedish meat­balls and gravlax, and the ex­em­plary restau­rants that de­fined New Nordic Cui­sine. These bakes, en­com­pass­ing the tra­di­tional and the con­tem­po­rary, re­flect what the peo­ple of the re­gion ac­tu­ally make in the com­fort of their own homes.

How to Eat a Peach: Menus, Sto­ries and Places This book even feels like a peach, with its invit­ingly fuzzy cover. Dive in, and Diana Henry will tell you the best way to en­joy one: un­hur­riedly dunk­ing the slices into a glass of chilled Moscato on a sum­mer’s night, prefer­ably some­where in Italy. Henry is one of the U.K.’s best-loved food writ­ers and if you’re new to her work, this col­lec­tion will ex­plain why. In her eleventh cook­book, How to Eat a Peach, she ex­plores the con­nec­tion be­tween food and place in 24 sea­son­ally in­spired menus and ac­com­pa­ny­ing es­says. From fall­ing in love with the food of Brit­tany to miss­ing New York in the win­ter, this beau­ti­ful book is ideal for those prone to culi­nary wan­der­lust.

By Brooks Headley; W.W. Nor­ton & Com­pany; 320 pp; $39.95

In his sec­ond cook­book, James Beard Award-win­ning pas­try chef Brooks Headley shares the se­crets be­hind the tiny, al­lveg­e­tar­ian Su­pe­ri­or­ity Burger in NYC’s East Vil­lage, in­clud­ing the recipe for its name­sake ham­burger. But the sought-af­ter menu item, which GQ named “year’s best burger” in 2015, is lit­er­ally just the begin­ning. It’s the first recipe in the book, and it is in­deed de­li­cious, but what fol­lows is supremely ex­cit­ing food… with­out caveats.

Waste Not: How to Get the Most from Your Food Chang­ing your per­spec­tive on the bits and pieces many of us ha­bit­u­ally throw away – stems and scales, tops and tails – can be a cre­ative and tasty ex­er­cise. Cana­dian house­holds pro­duce a mon­u­men­tal amount of food waste (amount­ing to $17 bil­lion na­tion­wide each year), but do­ing your bit to mit­i­gate the global is­sue needn’t feel like a bur­den. In Waste Not, the James Beard Foun­da­tion stylishly il­lus­trates how to take your cook­ing in new di­rec­tions us­ing oft un­der­val­ued or ig­nored in­gre­di­ents and in­no­va­tive, achiev­able recipes from some of the U.S.’s best chefs.

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