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Cookbook Club

A Holiday Gift Guide

Simply put, cookbooks are magical. The combination of recipes, graphic design and photography into a single package can teach essential cooking knowledge, transport you around the world, and help make any celebration iconic and memorable, which is why we think cookbooks are the perfect gift. Use this list to find a holiday present for that foodie in your life or choose one for yourself to inject some excitement and variety into your regular dinner routine. Below are some of our absolute favorites, both new and old.

Essentials

Where Cooking Begins by Carla Lalli Music

Carla Lalli Music of Bon Appetit YouTube channel fame has a personality and way with words to make cooking thoroughly enjoyable. Where Cooking Begins takes a fresh look at truly everything leading up to that first mouthwatering bite. The first third of the book dedicated to anyone who has ever been overwhelmed by meal planning, grocery shopping, or cooking techniques; Music is here for you with plain and simple advice. <3 For me, this book was an eye opening look into ways to stock and simplify a pantry so I always have amazing meals up my sleeve and a lesson in finding staple recipes that are extremely flexible depending on what is looking good at the grocery store. The remainder of the book is full of the recipes she uses to feed her family. Simple, practical, and forever spinnable. \ Tom

The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook: A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well  by Kate O’Donnell

Ayurveda is the indigenous health science of India, and a huge component of it is proper digestion and nutrition. The aim of this book is to help you achieve balance between mind, body, and your environment. Food can be medicine, and eating seasonally is the key to correcting imbalances that are occurring in your body. The seasonal shopping lists have been super helpful for me when deciding what to snatch or ditch at the grocery store. And the cooking tables are handy for preparing basics like lentils, rice, and beans. But by far the coolest part of this book is the classification of foods, seasons, and symptoms by their sensual qualities. For example, “In summer, the weather increasingly warms and may be wet. Keeping the body cool becomes important as the summer gets on. Reactions to hot and humid qualities (oily, penetrating, mobile) may look like acne, inflammatory conditions, swelling, acid stomach, and/or irritability. The tastes that balance summer are bitter, sweet, and astringent. Sweet and bitter tastes have a cooling effect, and bitterness and astringency help reduce water in the body.” Every ingredient and recipe in this book is classified in this way, so you can essentially self-medicate by identifying your symptoms and choosing foods that balance those qualities. The next time you feel like you need a 7-day juice cleanse, try this instead. Your prana will thank you. \ Carmen

The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt

All cookbooks will tell you How to cook a dish, but not all tell you Why you cook a dish using specific techniques. This is where Kenji’s cookbook sets itself apart from others. The Food Lab started out as a column on the website seriouseats.com, but became a full blown modern cookbook that leans into using science to find better ways to cook. Kenji’s Food Lab recipes have few barriers of entry and still manage to teach you how to best execute a dish. The focus is on American cuisine, but one shouldn’t purchase this book for the recipes alone. To fully appreciate this cookbook, the reader should want to learn why a specific technique or ingredient is chosen over others. Once you start understanding why in the kitchen, you can rely less on recipes and begin creating your own style of cooking – that’s the fun part. I am a huge advocate of technique in cooking, and this is a great starting point to hone your technique while making great food in the process. If you’re not sold yet, check out Kenji’s Youtube channel for no nonsense home cooking videos that are as accessible as they are informing. \ Owen

Broaden Your Horizons

Vegetarian India by Madhur Jaffrey 

Madhur Jaffrey is to Indian cuisine as Julia Child is to French cooking. What I’m trying to get at is Jaffrey is a big deal. Being the first person to translate the complex and varied cuisine of the great country of India into something that can be cooked in a western kitchen is no small feat, and she did just that with her tantalizing first cookbook An Invitation to Indian Cooking in 1973. Since then, Jaffrey has gone on to become an icon of the Indian food world and more recently has released several cookbooks that refresh her classic recipes. With Vegetarian India, Jaffrey gives us a big book full of beautiful glossy photos set between vibrant vegetarian recipes described in expert detail. From dal and grains to paneer and chutneys, you will start to second guess takeout with Jaffey’s expert help! \ Tom

The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop

Chinese food is daunting. With so many regional cuisines, techniques that are not traditional to western cooking, and ingredients that we have never heard of, we tend to rely on restaurants to get our fix. But Fuchsia Dunlop’s cookbook The Food of Sichuan has allowed me to bring Chinese cooking into my kitchen. By remaining focused on one regional Chinese cuisine, Sichuan, she created a book with guides and recipes that are consumable for western homecooks. The taste of Sichuan food is like no other, and it’s not always easy to find in the Midwest. Sichuan taste is a balance of salt, sweet, vinegar tang, and spice; the flavor is truly next level. Another byproduct of this cookbook’s focus is that you do not not need to go on a wild goose chase and drop a paycheck on cuisine specific pantry ingredients that you only use once. With a proper wok and a $50 trip to a well-stocked Asian market (or an Amazon order), you are ready to cook the majority of Dunlop’s recipes. Most of the required ingredients have an almost indefinite shelf-life, so they will always be on standby and don’t go to waste. Many of these Sichuan recipes can come together in 30 minutes which will make your weeknight stir-frys truly transcendent. For mouthwatering Chinese recipes without the headache, look no further than The Food of Sichuan. It will leave you with an openness to jump into new cuisines that have once felt overwhelming and out of reach. \ Owen

The Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy

This cookbook will take you on an exploration of Mexico and introduce you to the flavors of each region. Out of a lineup of cookbooks centered on Mexican cuisine by Diana Kennedy, The Cuisine of Mexico remains an absolute staple if you’d like to know real Mexican cooking (disclaimer: no shredded cheddar is involved). Diana Kennedy, a white British woman and unlikely candidate to be the authority on Mexican cooking, threw herself into learning and appreciating the regional and traditional scope of Mexico and its cuisine after she moved to Mexico City in 1957. After a short return to the states, Kennedy remained infatuated with cooking and teaching and writing about her interest and understanding of the food she had grown to love. Since its 1972 release, it has lasted the test of time and taste and remains to be one of the most solid authorities on traditional Mexican cooking. \ Anna

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley

The Sioux Chef himself was first introduced to me in 2014 when I worked a dinner my workplace put on with him and environmentalist Winona LaDuke. The menu and dishes he created were undeniably beautiful and delicious, yet at the time I was hardly aware of the depth of his work. As my first “North American” cookbook, this book helped me understand. And by North American, I mean my only indigenous cookbook. Sean Sherman (also known as “The Sioux Chef”) grew up on Pine River Reservation in South Dakota. His first job was in a restaurant where he knew little about cooking. Now, as a professional chef, Minneapolis, MN based Sherman has dedicated his life’s work to deeply knowing, expressing and teaching the food of his Native American heritage. He credits this mission to time spent in Mexico where he observed the ways in which culinary traditions lived on with Indigenous people which made him reflect on what he knows of his own ancestral cooking. The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen is filled with modern dishes made solely of food available in an America before European arrival or influence. This means you won’t see any wheat flour, dairy, chicken, or pork. As for what you will see? Expect the three sisters: beans, corn, and squash, and also look forward to new knowledge of wild berries, greens and meats like venison and grouse that are reworked into contemporary, exciting, delicious recipes. Much of this James Beard Award winning cookbook reads like folklore and is full of the rich history of our food systems and what flavors and meals were like so long ago. Without a doubt, it is as interesting to read through as it is to cook through. This book gifts us with an education while also guiding us through the creation of delicious meals we’ll turn to again and again. \ Anna

Celebrations

The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

In a moment when time consuming French cooking was all the rage, Julie & Sheila dared to ask, “Can we not?” And they created the now legendary The Silver Palate Cookbook consisting of recipes for the home cook who doesn’t want to spend their entire life in the kitchen yet still wants that serious gourmet shit. The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook takes things a step further and focuses on celebrations. With just a glance at the cover you will notice the duo sporting iconic looks surrounded by what looks like an iSpy of essential holiday dishes, drinks, and decor from every holiday imaginable. The book organizes the recipes into a full calendar year starting with “The Splurge of Spring” and wrapping up with “Winter Wonderland.” With themed menus along the way like “Daffodil Weekend” and “Sassy Ginger Salute,” you are bound to find surprising and fitting dishes for any celebration. For being an older cookbook, these recipes are still very relevant. I am lucky to occasionally borrow my Mom’s first edition copy which has a noticeably stained page containing our families favorite Chicken Pot Pie recipe. Now let’s raise our obnoxiously large champagne flutes to Good Times. \ Tom

Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz

Claire from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen is one of us, and yes, I would die for her. We have experienced her perseverance and relatable fits of depression on her hit YouTube show Gourmet Makes. Now, no longer required to make gourmet Skittles on the regular, Claire is thriving as a Dessert Person. This book shuts the mouths of those who dare to say “I don’t like sweets.” Saffitz executes perfectly balanced Preserved Lemon Meringue Cakes and Salted Halva Blondies like her life depends on it. The methodical mind of Clair Saffitz perfectly lays out each step of the most complex of methods with clarity, making execution a sinch. I have been pleasantly surprised and inspired by the ingenuity of ingredients and flavors Claire introduces as well as her focus on seasonal ingredients to imbue a vibrant freshness into every desert. These recipes are celebratory, abundant, and at times a tad luxurious. With Claire’s guidance, you too can become an unapologetic Dessert Person.  \ Tom