The Best Cookbooks Out This Spring (That We'll Be Gushing About All Year)
Prison provisions, Mediterranean meals, and Indian subcontinent substitutes are all on the menu from our favorite spring cookbooks.
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Even with millions of recipes on the internet to click your way through, we still appreciate a well thought-out cookbook. There is no shortage of cookbooks coming out this year, but we picked out a few worth adding to your library.
Indian-ish, out on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2019
Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna
The title of this book is very accurate, but not at all what I was expecting. I picked up this book because I thought it would have recipes that simplify Indian food for home cooks, but most of the Priya Krishna's recipes are welcome amalgamations of experiences, ideas, and inspiration from her mother. Like the recipe for Spinach and Feta Cooked Like Saag Paneer, many of the dishes start to go down the path of traditional Indian cuisine but get re-routed with the addition of unconventional ingredients borrowed from other cultures, all cleverly curated in an approachable package.
Why Indian-ish is useful for the home cook
One of the things that can be intimidating about Indian cooking is the number of spices required to make a single dish. Krishna makes a deliberate effort to keep the recipes fairly simple and easy. She does include a few hard-to-find ingredients, but makes up for it by including a spice guide which tells you the different names of spices, their uses, where to find them, and substitutes.
Best parts of Indian-ish
For me, the best part of this book is the section on "Mother Sauces" (not to be confused with the French mother sauces). While some of them are actual sauces (there are five variations of raita, some are spreads and dips and, IMHO, there can never be too many things to dip my naan in.
Other notable perks of Indian-ish
A lot of the book honors Krishna's mother, who is an entertainer by nature. For most people, entertaining and wine go hand-in-hand, but pairing wine with Indian spices can be challenging, so the book includes a guide to pairing wine with Indian food.
Downsides to Indian-ish
Indian-ish is a mostly vegetarian cookbook. It includes three fish recipes and one chicken recipe, so if you're a committed carnivore, it's probably not the best cookbook for you.
Takeaways from Indian-ish
I'm definitely not done with this book — I have a lot more spreads, dips and beans in my future.
The Turkish Cookbook, out on Phaidon Press, April 2019
The Turkish Cookbook by Musa Dağdeviren
If I had to name a Mediterranean diet bible, it would be The Turkish Cookbook. Musa Dağdeviren's book is also, by far, my favorite cookbook of 2019 to date but I will admit to being reluctant about picking it up: It is a tome. Turkish food is something I hadn't explored — I really only knew about Turkish coffee and döner kebabs — but there seems to be a lot of crossover between Turkish and (the more commonly found) Greek food, which I love for its simplicity.
Why The Turkish Cookbook is useful for the home cook
This book is packed with healthy recipes that effortlessly embolden cooks to use the principles behind the Mediterranean diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains). The recipes also happen to be very accessible. Before picking it up, I thought it would have crushing lists of ingredients, but it's quite the opposite. Each recipe comes with a set of symbols that denote if the recipe is: dairy-free, gluten-free, one-pot, vegan, vegetarian, takes less than 30 minutes to complete, or requires less than five ingredients. In a world where data is collected on our preferences and sorted for us, this bridges the gap between the digital and analog cookbook experiences.
Best parts of The Turkish Cookbook
Though I'm not a vegetarian myself, I'm very impressed by the number of hearty, filling vegetarian and vegan recipes included. At the same time, it does not alienate meat lovers. There are plenty of recipes that almost any person with any dietary restriction or preference can enjoy, cook with ease, and rely on for meal-planning. Musa Dağdeviren may just be the next Yotam Ottolenghi.
Other notable perks of The Turkish Cookbook
Thanks to the Mediterranean diet, more Americans are warming up to Turkish cuisine, but I think that people who haven't tried it would be surprised that most of the recipes call for everyday American ingredients. Of course, there are ingredients in there that I've never heard of that I'll have to get at specialty shops, but when I finish the recipes that call for common ingredients, I'll be ready to tackle the unfamiliar ones.
Downsides to The Turkish Cookbook
The only downside to this cookbook is that, even though most of the recipes are fairly easy, unadventurous eaters might not be willing to try what may seem like unfamiliar dishes. To someone who doesn't take risks in the kitchen, beyaz fasulye salatası might sound scary (it's white bean salad with a citrus-tahini dressing). Even then, that person might be happy to try domates çorbası (simple tomato soup).
Takeaways from The Turkish Cookbook
I cannot wait to make as many recipes as I can out of The Turkish Cookbook. I suspect it will be a transformative book for me, and many others.
The Last O.G. Cookbook, out on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2019
The Last O.G. Cookbook With Recipes By Nicole A. Taylor
I know what you're thinking: "Tracy Morgan wrote a cookbook?" He didn't. It's a book based on a character he plays on the show The Last O.G. on TBS about an ex-con (played by Morgan) who learns how to cook in prison and uses those skills when he's released and returns to a gentrified Brooklyn. While I am an unapologetic TV enthusiast and developed an affection for Morgan during his 30 Rock days, what intrigued me about this book is that Nicole A. Taylor wrote the recipes. She's the author of The Up South Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen and has written for notable publications like Food & Wine along with the James Beard Foundation. She also serves on the board of Equity At The Table, an organization that focuses on giving exposure to culinary professionals who are women, people of color, and LGBTQ; a lot of the work she does is to preserve culture through food. While this book is fun and silly, it also pauses between recipes to bring attention to serious subjects like nutritional inequality and food deserts, the effects of mass incarceration and how ex-convicts re-enter society, along with how to support organizations that are working to address those problems.
Why The Last O.G. Cookbook is useful for the home cook
The recipes are riffs on the classic cuisine of New York — a melange of different cultures. You'll find recipes like Pretzel-Dusted Kebabs that could "put halal food carts in the tri-state area out of business" and Gowanus Gumbo which is both a nod to Creole cooking and a dig at the gentrification of Brooklyn. In short: It's a good introduction to a variety of cuisines through recipes that are fun for any level of cooking experience.
My favorite parts of The Last O.G. Cookbook
For the most part, the big draw for me is that it's a multicultural cookbook with items in it that I keep forgetting that I need to try to make. Knishes are an example, and so is Spam — it has a terrible reputation, but it's a staple in Hawaiian, Filipino, and Puerto Rican cooking and deserves a shot in my kitchen.
Other notable perks of The Last O.G. Cookbook
Not only does The Last O.G. Cookbook encourage multicultural cooking, but it also encourages what is referred to as "wild style," which is just cooking with what you have on hand — there's even a section on the different ways to make use of a packet of ramen noodles alongside the recipe for Prison Pad Thai.
Downside to The Last O.G. Cookbook
If you're looking at this book from a vegetarian's perspective, it's a little light on vegetables, but there are recipes with vegetables in them, they're just not a focus.
Takeaways from The Last O.G. Cookbook
You're The Greatest Mac & Cheese had me at Cheez-Its; they're crumbled on top, which was a mind-blowing idea for a Cheez-It evangelist like myself. There are many more surprising and inventive recipes that await as I laugh my way through the book.
If you're intrigued by these cookbooks, Yummly has more than a few recipes you can try to give you a taste of what you might find in them and maybe inspire you to explore more.