Of all the new cookbooks that landed in my mailbox in recent months, these are the ones that made it into my get-away bag.
Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley I always love the quiet, behind-the-scenes one. In this case, it’s the shy Palestinian partner in Yotam Ottolenghi’s flavor empire and the co-author of Jerusalem. His beautiful ode to Palestinian cooking and produce, developed with Ottolenghi cohort Tara Wigley, is sunny and joyous, taking lots of liberties with his childhood favorites to brighten and personalize them. I’m glad I overcame my fear of filo to make his dramatic chicken shawarma pie. Served with a dip made from roasted beets and sweet potatoes topped with a minty bulgur-pistachio sauce to start and accompanied with a spicy, herb-packed salad with pickled cucumber and whole-lemon dressing, my guest and I were delighted by the incredible flavors and visual zip. I didn’t even have to make Tamimi’s sticky date and halva puddings with tahini caramel to knock it out of the park.
Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings by Susan Spungen If you were a slave to 90s Martha Stewart (Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook, anyone?), then you already worship Susan Spungen’s recipes and styling. Her latest is an honest entertaining book — honest in that her recipes come together easily in front of guests…as long as you do some “get ahead” work. I love Spungen’s flavors and visual appeal (she studied as an artist), not to mention her bossiness, and will therefore do whatever she says. When the woke-up-like-this results are roast chicken with rosy harissa; duck fat oven fries with crispy prosciutto; beet hummus with hazelnut-pistachio dukkah; and a buckwheat banana bread with a glaze of tahini, maple syrup, cream, and confectioner’s sugar studded with pops of toasted buckwheat, I’m willing to do a little behind-the-scenes fluffing. Luckily her timing tips help you plan to a T.
Kitchen Remix: 75 Recipes for Making the Most of Your Ingredients by Charlotte Druckman Full disclosure: Druckman is a good friend. I’m lucky to have lots of recycled Ziplocs with “Xtine’s Scones” or “Weird Flatbread Experiment” written on them, as she occasionally drops off samples of her late-night cooking sessions, brave and thoughtful riffs on her favorite flavors and recipes. Her groundbreaking anthology Women on Food just came out this fall; spring sees her second solo cookbook. (The first, Stir, Sizzle, Bake, is an ode to cast-iron skillets.) What originally began as a cooking lesson for her brother, who has a great palate but zero skills, became 25 sets of recipes based on fundamental ingredients and nonscary techniques that prove that if your ingredients are compatible, the permutations are sophisticated and endlessly delicious. The Carrot + Cashews + Coconut trio can become a Thai-ish carrot salad, a sweet skillet upside-down cake, or curry-roasted carrots with cashew-coconut cream. (She also offers plenty of subs for each of the co-stars.) Crabmeat + Meyer Lemon + Nori add up to Goth, nori-crusted crab cakes, elegantly simple pasta, and yogurty crab salad hand rolls. For the novice with advanced taste, or the seasoned cook seeking fresh inspiration.
La Buvette: Recipes and Wine Notes from Paris by Camille Fourmont and Kate Leahy My friend Camille Fourmont runs my favorite wine bar in Paris, a slip of a place that looks like it’s always been there. A place where you know you’ll always try an interesting glass of wine and meet interesting people — such as Fourmont herself, who’s more of a dame than a dame. It might even be one of my favorite restaurants, even though she only has space for a fridge, a cutting board, and an electric burner, should she decide to bring it up from the basement. Nonetheless, she’s famous for her beans, plump gigantes from a jar that get a bath of Sicilian olive oil, a rasp of lemon zest, maybe some chive blossoms. They’re heaven — either a pre-dinner snack or dinner itself, when your tiny table also includes burrata with clementine dust, housemade pork rillettes, maybe some goat cheese with black garlic, cherries, and hazelnuts. Fourmont’s debut book brings together the elements that make La Buvette so charming: elemental dishes with a clever wink, natural wines made with soul, and stories of the artisans who make it all hum. Recipes range from those beans to clams with butter that you smoke by holding a stick of sage incense beneath it (!); late-night pasta with anchovy, egg yolk, and hazelnuts to a Sunday-at-home beef stew in sweet wine with orange peel. La Buvette, both the book and the place, is a reminder that less is far more — as long as there’s lots of great wine.
See You on Sunday: A Cookbook for Family and Friends by Sam Sifton The premise behind my New York Times Food Festival colleague’s book has taken on new meaning since it came out in February. Original intention: To provide recipes that encourage you to gather big groups around your table for comforting, unpretentious meals that are not dinner parties. (Though his takes on Nora Ephron’s meatloaf and David Chang’s bo ssäm are reason to celebrate.) New interpretation: To provide recipes that provide ballast for your small, unsteady ship, accompanied by text that both nourishes and reassures. With recipes designed to serve at least six (and that won’t cost a fortune to assemble), you can feast off of leftovers or freeze them, like mailing a letter to your future self. Take care of those nearest, and hope that family and friends will be back at the table on Sundays to come.