Fall doesn’t just kick off the start of school or represent the beginning of many cold months to come. It also signals the start of publishing’s cookbook season. Needless to say, our desks have been sagging under the weight of such recipe tomes. So over the next two months or so, we’ll occasionally be highlighting our top picks for recipe books, culinary memoirs, and all-around food porn as they get released. Top picks that have all come out this week: Anita Lo’s Cooking Without Borders, Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now, and Tracey Zabar’s One Sweet Cookie.
Anita Lo, the chef at Annisa in the West Village, has come up with a book of recipes reflecting a chef sensibility peppered with international ingredients. As Lo writes in the prologue, “It provides a window onto world cuisine from a contemporary American perspective.” Indeed, many of the featured recipes call for ingredients like shiso, kombu, white soy, or gochujang, which can be difficult to find outside of urban areas with Asian markets. Still, you’ll still find certain recipes that don’t require a laundry list of ingredients, like the kimchi gazpacho with shrimp or Lo’s aunt’s recipe for chicken paprikash — a dish that seems like a bit of a misnomer at first, until you realize that this book isn’t so much a collection of recipes as it is a portrait of an artist as a chef. Lo’s headnotes provide extensive commentary on the dishes, explaining their origins (many of which come from Lo’s family) and how they wound up at Annisa. Most importantly, the book features dishes and flavors that we’re excited to discover on a lazy Sunday when we’ve got some time to experiment in the kitchen: roasted kabocha and maitake with bitter chocolate; pan-roasted scallops with uni, bacon, and mustard greens; ragout of lobster, steamer clams, and corn, with chanterelles and tarragon; and, yes, even those famed foie gras soup dumplings.
Melissa Clark’s new book, Cook This Now, examines ingredients in season throughout the year, offering up easy-to-follow recipes with plenty of helpful tips about how to modify the recipes according to taste preferences. This month, for example, features recipes for raw kale salad with anchovy-date dressing and cumin-seed-roasted cauliflower with salted yogurt, mint, and pomegranate seeds. We’re a big fan of Clark’s weekly column in The New York Times, because her dishes are always flavorful and brightly seasoned, and this book can be particularly useful for those looking to expand their vegetarian repertoire, as many of them are meat-free, celebrating instead a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies.
And for a sweet finale, we come to One Sweet Cookie, the first of many cookie-related books this season. Tracey Zabar (yes, of the Zabar family) has collected favorite cookie recipes from some of the top pastry chefs around (plus a smattering of her own creations). Some are classic bites, like Karen DeMasco’s fig squares or Thomas Keller’s ice cream sandwiches, while others are more inventive, like Pichet Ong’s coconut Nutella almond macaroons and Angela Pinkerton’s Hungarian crescent cookies. The book is very New York City-focused, which could be a bonus or downside depending on whether or not you live in the Big Apple, but the simple recipes and pretty photography will further lure in those people who always opt for the cookie plate come dessert.