Best Cookbooks August 2016

Best Cookbooks August 2016This weekend may be your last chance to linger on the beach with a book for quite a while. If you’re anything like us, you’ll want to make certain it’s a damn good book. Actually, if you’re truly like us, you’ll want to make it one of the best cookbooks published in recent months. Perhaps one that familiarizes you with sorghum syrup. Or teaches you how to make curry. Maybe something that teaches you how to build an arsenal in your freezer for weeknight dinners. Or perhaps you want to finally learn how to build a campfire and cook over it. Then again, maybe you simply want to settle in with a little kitchen-minded literature. Whatever you want, we’ve got the best cookbooks for you right here.—Renee Schettler Rossi


Victuals CookbookI reside in a liminal area between two of the South’s great cuisines. Downstream is the Lowcountry, a region whose food culture has enjoyed a revival in the last few decades. Upstream are the southern Appalachian Mountains, whose foodways haven’t needed so much a revival as an unveiling seeing as they never went away. Appalachian native and food writer Ronni Lundy pulls back the curtains on this overlooked cuisine in her beautiful new book Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, With Recipes, a heartfelt melding of history, memoir, travelogue, profiles, and recipes. Here gristmills have been operating for more than 200 years. Farmers grow the same squash cherished by the Cherokee. The “three sisters” remain dietary staples. Yet time has not stood still in Appalachia and neither has its recipes. You’ll find tradition in a perfect skillet cornbread as well as contemporary chef-concocted cocktails. The book is organized by staple ingredients such as beans, apples, corn, and salt. Lesser-known local commodities, including ramps, candy roaster squash, and sorghum syrup, are also prominently featured and it’s worth the trouble to acquire whatever you can because the recipes in Victuals are consistently excellent, from the cornbread to the pickles, the beans to the magnificent sorghum and apple sticky pudding. This book is not a comprehensive overview of southern Appalachian cooking. Rather it gazes intently into forgotten corners of the American culinaria and delights the mind and the palate in the process.—Melissa Maedgen, LC Recipe Tester


Fast to the Table Freezer CookbookIntellectually, I grasp that stashing suppers in the freezer is a savvy approach to weeknight cooking. Gustatorily, I can’t align my penchant for farmers markets and simple suppers with the typical casserole approach to freezer fare. But after perusing Fast To The Table Freezer Cookbook: Freezer-Friendly Recipes And Frozen Food Shortcuts, I understand that there’s little need to compromise anything. The author outlines foolproof techniques and tricks for freezing basic components for dinner—raw ingredients as well as prepped items such as cooked rice, shredded chicken, stocks, and so on—and explains how to defrost them to ensure minimal quality loss. She then provides recipes that toss together ingredients both fresh and frozen in ways that are practical as well as aspirational. There are also, natch, recipes made in their entirety before being frozen, mostly for occasions when you desperately covet something you can grab and go, such as breakfast items like waffles, breakfast burritos, muffins, and the like as well as side dishes for dinner parties, such as glammed up mashed potatoes and raw cranberry relish, which, trust me, are a godsend when the in-laws descend upon you for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Actually, the entire book is a godsend.—Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor in Chief


Beyond Curry Indian Cookbook“In England and the rest of the world, curry is the catchall word for anything Indian that is mottled with hot notes, with or without a sauce, while curry powder is the blend that delivers it. In keeping with my culture’s saucy heritage, I define a curry as any dish that’s simmered or covered with a sauce, gravy, or any liquid that is redolent with spices and or herbs. In my India, curry is never added—it just is!” This is a quote from my dear friend and cookbook author, chef Raghavan IyerBeyond Curry Indian Cookbook: A Culinary Journey Through India by Denise D’silva Sankhé captures the essence of that sentiment via recipes that represent the various regional cuisines of India. This is food traditionally eaten in Indian homes—you will never find most of these recipes on a restaurant menu. There are also tricks and techniques—including slow cooker and pressure cooker options—that make complex recipes simple enough to manage on a weeknight without losing anything in terms of authenticity. The author manages to capture the exquisite richness of a national cuisine in which the same lentil dish may be totally different in taste and texture 10 miles down the road. And whereas most Indian cookbooks cover only a small region, Beyond Curry encompasses the entire Indian subcontinent and beyond, including Tibetan and Indo-Chinese influences, and the book evokes wonderful childhood memories for me of eating Indian-influenced Chinese food. It’s a lovely and practical testimonial to the vast diversity of true Indian cuisine.Sita Krishnaswamy, LC Recipe Tester


Camp Sunset CookbookIf you’ve never pitched a tent beneath the stars and sizzled eggs and bacon in a cast iron skillet over a campfire the next morning, perhaps you want to rethink that. When you do, you’ll find every last indispensable iota of information you’ll need in Camp Sunset: A Modern Camper’s Guide To The Great Outdoors. It’s not so much a cookbook as a camping manual with cooking-related how-to content smartly situated throughout its pages. There’s concise yet comprehensive information on camping essentials, packing a cooler, setting up your kitchen, building a fire, cooking on a camp stove, using a camp grill, washing dishes, and, rest assured, acquiring your caffeine fix while camping. The book anticipates and answers all manner of questions that arise before and during camping from both practical and emotional perspectives, such as “While a wood fire offers more romance, charcoal is faster.” The handful of recipes included contain make-ahead advice on what can be done in advance at home, and if you read carefully, you’ll glean how to translate this strategy to any recipe. Even if your camping cooking ambitions extend no further than grilling steak over a campfire—a noble prospect, indeed—you’ll benefit from this book. And that’s to say nothing of the rest of the exceptionally reliable how-to-camp content, from picking out a site to pitching the tent to stargazing. [Editor’s Note: Our apologies for telling you about the book at the end of summer. Although this way you have the fall and winter months to study it and share it with your fellow camper wannabes and pick out your equipment so you can be camping first thing next spring.]—Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor in Chief


Voracious CookbookI had set this book aside for months waiting for just the right moment to pick it up, though once I started reading Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti, I devoured it within 48 hours. This sweet book is a page turner of vignettes and essays related to works of art as diverse as In The Night Kitchen and Anna Karenina. Part memoir, part cookbook, part literary tour of titles you’ve either read or wish you had, the book is filled with incredibly engaging writing conveying the author’s interpretations of familiar stories and related recipes summoned either by actual suggestion or her imagination, whether Pippi Longstocking pancakes or porchetta inspired by Lord of the Flies. I love the romp and progression of the author’s stories relating the books to her own experiences, and I found myself torn between walking into the kitchen and seeing what ingredients I had on hand and moving on to the next page. Through the recipes, not only do the stories come alive,(even those with unfamiliar storylines, though they made me want to go back and fill in my literary gaps) but it’s possible to feel even more connected to beloved characters—as well as the author. And the book’s spare, hand-drawn illustrations and beautifully typeset words, in lieu of photographs and visual overload, afford an opportunity to complete the white space with our own imagination. By illustrating her life journey so far with the real or imagined food of her favorite stories, Nicoletti brings us much more than a collection of recipes. She leaves a trail of crumbs through her adult life, and we wonder where it will go next. [Editor’s Note: To hear more about the book, listen to David’s interview with Cara on The Splendid Table.] —Irene Seales, LC Recipe Tester

Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

  1. Elsa M Jacobson says:

    On the train wearing my Summer Camp Music Festival Staff T-shirt–can’t wait to get ahold of Camp Sunset! Only nine months till the start of summer music festival season!! This should make for terrific anticipatory pre-season reading!

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