Can a cookbook alter evermore the course of your existence? We certainly think so. While the exact composition of said life-altering recipe collection is an intensely personal thing, here are those books—both recently published and those with a little shelf life on them—that we’ve had revelatory moments with in recent weeks. You know, just in the spirit of helping kindred souls stumble upon their truth.
THE ISLANDS OF GREECE
I know armchair travel is when you’re transported to a destination without leaving your seat, but what do you say when you’re transported somewhere without leaving your kitchen? “Kitchen chair travel” doesn’t roll off the tongue in quite the same way. In any case, cooking my way through Rebecca Seal’s The Islands of Greece was just the dreamy midsummer staycation I was craving. The book’s simple design, unfussy recipes, and swoon-worthy photography—a lovely mix of food shots and idyllic Greek seascapes—have me going back to it again and again. I approached the book the same way I might explore a new city, visiting the requisite tourist stops—in this case, the phenomenal tzatziki and chicken souvlaki—before wandering off the beaten path to tomato fritters and squid braised with garlic and rosemary, which are just a couple of the local gems that await. Bon voyage, bon appétit, and don’t forget the ouzo.—Frances Kim
I’d love to be the kind of person who wakes up and craves something made from whole grains. It’s a bit of a stretch from my current IV coffee drip and whatever my kids leave behind on their plates. Megan Gordon, author of Whole-Grain Mornings, is just the person to stage my intervention. Her hazelnut cacao nib granola was approved by all my guys—even the littlest person in the house who usually only eats from the food groups “white bread” and “cheese.” Next on the menu: zucchini farro cakes and banana walnut baked oatmeal. With recipes like these, there may be hope for me yet to be a whole grain devotee. Begone, white bread toast!—Tracey Gertler
BIG GAY ICE CREAM
This time, dear reader, I offer you the Big Gay Ice Cream cookbook. Not because everything has been all rainbows and unicorns since the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. Because the book is damn good and loads more creative than anything I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not sure what kind of drugs Bryan Petroff and Douglas Quint did in their formative years, but their book is a psychedelic ode to their passion for ice cream, laid out in a clever yearbook format. The inside covers are filled with what look like well-wishes from high school classmates, but on closer inspection, they’re rave reviews from the likes of David Lebovitz, Mario Batali, Jim Gaffigan, Anne Burrell, and more. In between, the book is divided into four sections: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years, each populated with photos of toppings, sauces, and cones. Big Gay starts readers off in freshman year with nothing more than the truly basic triumvirate of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Sophomore year is all about homemade toppings and sauces. Junior year tackles sundaes, floats, and shakes, while senior year finally introduces students to the world of ice cream and sorbet making via wacky flavors including extra-virgin olive oil, pumpkin, cranberry and white chocolate, Coca-Cola with black pepper, Lucky Charms, and Mountain Dew sorbet. Brilliantly funny and, I expect, magically delicious.—David Leite
PICK A PICKLE
I don’t care for pickles—not even in this era of unprecedented pickle amour with seemingly everyone sprinkling pickling salt like so much fairy dust. Yet I’m quite taken with Pick A Pickle by that James Beard award-winning good old boy, Hugh Acheson. The recipe collection may be small in stature but it’s substantial in terms of reliability, whether you’re seeking a classic old-time bread ’n’ butter pickle recipe or a reminder that putting up preserves doesn’t necessarily mean you-know-what. We’re talking homemade hot sauce. Kimchi made from scratch. Preserved cherries steeped in sugar and spice and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Intrigued? You ought to be. This book is a keeper.—Renee Schettler Rossi
TO LIVE AND DINE IN L.A.
I’m one of those people who keeps menus as mementos, snatching them from restaurants when the waitress isn’t looking. So flipping through To Live and Dine in L.A., which features more than 200 menus from the rare book vault at the Los Angeles Public Library, was like hitting the mother lode. The collection feels kaleidoscopic in that its menus and related musings jump in and out of different eras, neighborhoods, even perspectives thanks to author Josh Kun turning to local chefs and cultural observers for their take on L.A.’s culinary landscape. I went from picturing what I would order if I was Don Draper (RIP Mad Men) to poring over the inimitable words of Pulitzer prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m from L.A., so I might be predisposed to liking this book, but I promise you don’t have to be a native Angeleno to revel in it. Just a fellow menuphile.—Frances Kim
THE FOREST FEAST
Mom confession: I don’t always serve vegetables with dinner. Sometimes the effort in the face of almost certain kid protests at the end of a long day seems an insurmountable obstacle. (I am trying in the nutrition category. Just choosing my battles. See above mention of Whole-Grain Mornings.) Yet when I flip through Erin Gleeson’s The Forest Feast, I want to run to the closest farmers’ market. Curried crispy carrots and beer-battered artichoke hearts seem so approachable. Easy and enticing recipes and amazing photos are a few of the many reasons why this book never gathers dust on my shelf and why I sometimes get veggies on the table after all.—Tracey Gertler
Curious about other books that are changing our lives for the better? Take a twirl through these titles that we also feel belong in the category of the best cookbooks as well as our Cookbooks We’re Reading board on Pinterest.