Cookbooks: Five Favorite Cookbooks That Make Perfect Holiday Gifts


The Noma Guide to Fermentation

The Holidays are here, and what better time than now to crack open a new cookbook and learn some new tricks for the dinner table.

1: The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber

The Noma Guide to FermentationIf you thought fermented foods began and ended with sauerkraut, René Redzepi (a One Grand Books curator; his favorite books are currently available at our COS annex in Chicago as well as online) is here to make you think again. The genius behind Copenhagen’s award-winning Noma restaurant, Redzepi constructed a fermentation lab out of shipping containers in 2014, and hired David Zilber, his co-author here, to run it. Now comes a book that spills the secrets on a range of techniques from lacto fermentation (essentially salting fruit and vegetables) to kombuchas, misos, and garums (think fish sauce), among others. Redzepi is no lightweight and suggests that serious fermenters create their own fermentation chamber, but don’t worry if you just want to muck around with a few jars and see what happens. It’s a cookbook stooped in the love of experimentation, and part of the pleasure will be seeing what works and what doesn’t. It’s about exploration not perfection, the best rule for any home chef.

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2: The Great Dixter Cookbook by Aaron Bertelsen

The Great Dixter CookbookPublished in 2017, this book is full of simple but affective recipes from Aaron Bertelsen, the current vegetable gardener at the gorgeous medieval manor that gives the book its name, and which was the home of Christopher Lloyd, a legendary English gardener who died in 2006. The photography, as with every Phaidon book, is exceptional, and the recipes are a mix of English classics—a beautifully moist fruitcake, a creamy chicken and leak pie—as well as simple vegetable sides like crispy kale with sea salt and lemon, or a tomato tart that screams summer. Bertelsen, who spent time working at a botantical garden in Israel, also makes space for a shakshuka in which the onions are switched out for leeks, a subtle British twist on a Middle Eastern staple.

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3: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

Salt Fat Acid HeatSamin Nosrat, the Iranian-American chef and food writer, who writes frequently for the New York Times magazine has become, in very short order, a celebrity thanks to her popular Netflix series, for which this book was the forerunner. Like the UK’s popular 90s cook show, Two Fat Ladies, in which Clarissa Dixon Wright and Jennifer Paterson traveled around the country on a motorbike and sidecar, Nosrat’s show has helped to reframe the conversation by gleefully disregarding those pesky admonitions against fat. Although she received her training at Chez Panisse, the legendary restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., founded by Alice Waters, Nosrat’s interest is firmly located in the home kitchen, with an emphasis on using intuition and curiosity.  In Salt Fat Acid Heat she walks readers through the techniques inherent in creating a balance that makes the difference a mediocre dish and a great dish, whether it’s a grilled cheese sandwich, a Caesar salad, or buttermilk roast chicken.

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4: Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ottolenghi SImpleEvery Ottolenghi cookbook is a source of joy—Jerusalem, the 2013 cookbook he co-wrote with his business partner, Sami Tamimi, has quickly become a classic—but if there’s a frequent complaint it’s that his ingredients can be hard to source. Ottoleghi Simple takes note of the critics, and promises that every recipe of the 130 collected here will either have 10 ingredients or less, work for those who are lazy or short on time, or in some ineffable way prove to be easier to make than seems apparent. A lot of them are vegetarian-friendly, and most feature his trademark spices, from the barberries and cumin that spike his Iranian herb fritters to the pungent za’atar that is blended into his beet puree, alongside maple syrup, chili, and garlic. A standout, per one of our regular customers, is the Chicken Marbella, a twist on a 1970s dinner party staple that substitutes dates and date molasses (regular molasses will do) for the prunes and sugar of the original.

Purchase here

5: The German Cookbook by Alfons Schuhbeck

The German CookbookFor a young country, existing as a nation only since 1871, Germany has a long and rich culinary history. It stretches back through the Prussian empire—long the dominant state of the region—and beyond to the conquering Roman battalions that brought with them wine and pungent green herbs. In Phaidon’s gorgeously-illustrated new tome, The German Cookbook, author and chef Alfons Schuhbeck includes a recipe for Frankfurt Sauce—a variation of salsa verde—that Teutonic tribes likely adapted from the Romans (Schubeck’s version involves watercress or parsley, chives, and the rather less easily available borage, sorrel, and chervil, though you should be able to find those at farmers’ markets). The footprints of more recent invaders can be found in the country’s Currywurst, invented in Berlin in 1949, apparently when food kiosk owner Herta Heuwer secured curry powder from British soldiers, adding it to a medley of tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Heiliger Strohsack! From such humble origins, greatness springs. Today, some 800 million currywursts are eaten every year in Germany, and the dish is so popular it even has its own museum, the Deutsches Currywurst Museum in Berlin.

Scouring Germany’s states, Schuhbeck compares and contrasts dishes as they pick up regional accents. In Westphalia, for example, potato pancakes are paired with ham and served with apple and pear puree. In Hesse, sausage-stuffed potato dumplings come with a creamy bacon sauce. But although German cuisine has long been synonymous with dairy- and meat-heavy dishes, Schuhbeck also takes note of changes in German diets that have paved the way for lighter fare. A bowl of creamed spinach, spiked with nutmeg and black pepper, accompanies a fried egg and a few boiled potatoes for a hearty and easy supper. But Schuhbeck knows when to tinker and when to leave a classic well alone. His strudel is exactly the one your German grandmother would make, if you had one—juicy with apples and rum-soaked raisins, and served with a pool of vanilla sauce. On no account deny yourself.

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