All food writers have an addiction to great writing—no matter how many cookbooks we have (and it’s never just a few), we want to keep adding titles to our shelves, our bedside tables, our unused drawers, and kitchen cabinets. In contrast to average readers—said to own somewhere between 10-20 titles at most—food writers have a bottomless appetite for the new phrases, flavors, and possibilities that a great cookbook can offer us. The holidays are often the only time we can step away from what we have to read, and focus entirely on what we want to read, what will refresh our palates and stoke our curiosity.
And so, despite my overflowing piles of potential reads, the exceptional contributions made to the genre of food writing in 2023 compel me towards the only logical conclusion: it’s time to build another bookcase.
What follows is only a sliver of the best food-focused titles of 2023, but every single one deserves a spot in your growing collection.
Bostonians know chef Karen Akunowicz by the insanely delicious pasta served up at her award-winning restaurants Bar Volpe and Fox & the Knife. In Crave, her first solo cookbook, she drills down into the alchemy of what makes her dishes work—a strategic deployment of contrasting flavors and textures that act as a physiological wake-up call. Use your holiday season to try out her “drunken” fennel bathed in brandy and balsamic vinegar, grilled duck and peaches with a fish sauce-based caramel, or a sweet green curry studded with littleneck clams, fresh cod, and lots of crushed ginger and lemongrass. (Or head straight for her baked ziti topped with crunchy breadcrumbs, a surefire hit on a cold winter night.)
As the world’s tenth smallest country, barely an hour to drive from top to bottom, Malta occupies an unusual place in culinary history. Located between North Africa and Southern Italy, its dishes emerge at a crossroads of economic and political interests, Maltese cuisine is what author Simon Bajada calls a “minestrone” of Mediterranean cultures, informed by history, folklore, and ancient civilizations, anchored in native plants and imported delicacies, prizing freshness and flexibility above all else. As Bajada explores in this beautiful collection, the staples of Maltese cooking include such unexpected pleasures as sourdough pizzas topped with homemade cheese and roasted potato, salads of salt-cured tuna and romano beans, and rabbit stews slow-cooked with tomatoes, olives, and just a dash of chinotto.
Since 1976, women in the food industry have come to know the organization Les Dames d’Escoffier as one of their best allies, advancing the educational and professional opportunities of women food professionals, and in the process building a membership that reads like a who’s who of the restaurant world. Edited by Dames Silvia Baldini and Sharon Frank, with a foreword by Lidia Bastianich, and dedicated to Les Dames’ late founder Carol Brock, this volume is like a community cookbook of the Les Dames village, with recipes offered by seventy-six of its members (including our own EIC, Kat Craddock, whose Rhode Island-style Clam Stuffies make an appearance, as do photographs styled by SAVEUR’s own Jessie YuChen and Matt Taylor-Gross). The cookbook also pays forward Les Dames’ central mission, with all profits going to benefit the organization’s New York Scholarship fund for culinary education.
After more than twenty years as a fixture of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, chef Jason Hammel has finally released a cookbook that captures the warmth and vitality of his endlessly creative coffee shop. In brightly colored photographs and dazzlingly funny prose, Hammel writes about his approach to using food to care for people, and how each dish he makes—from Pasta Ylayla (made with brown butter, garlic, feta, and cinnamon) to sweet corn grits topped with roasted cherry tomatoes and jammy eggs, to a creamy dip of burrata and roasted butternut squash—constitutes a small step towards creating joy. No need to wait in the endless brunch lines anymore; now Lula Café can be wherever you are.
For the wine lover in your life, give them the gift that they’ll reference over and over again—the ultimate reference guide on more than 4,000 varietals. Now in its fifth edition, edited by Julia Harding, Janice Robinson, and Tara Q. Thomas, this is the most up-to-the-minute guide on wine available today, with dozens of contributors and regional specialists, and with new entries addressing the major changes and challenges facing the wine industry, including artificial intelligence and regenerative viticulture. Pick an entry that excites you, and pair a bottle with your copy as an ideal holiday gift to your favorite oenophile.
Growing up in the Dutch province of Zeeland, acclaimed chef Sergio Herman thought of mussels, a staple on his father’s restaurant menu, as profoundly powerful, with an unparalleled power to enhance the flavor of almost any dish. In this slim volume, which doubles as a heartfelt tribute to his home province and its “greatest gift to the world,” Herman offers guidance on how to buy, clean, and store numerous species and sizes of mussels, and features 50 recipes perfectly sized for two. You could start with Herman’s father’s recipe, prepared with white wine sauce à la crème, a version with a bright green sauce of blanched spinach and herbs, or even a take inspired by the Szechuan dish of dan dan noodles, laced with black vinegar and chili oil in pork stock. You’ll never look at the simple bivalve the same way again.
The beloved New York chef JJ Johnson knows quite a bit about rice; his restaurant, FieldTrip, anchors its menu on innovative rice bowls with heirloom grains, ethically sourced from farmers around the globe and freshly milled on site. Here Johnson offers his take on the world’s rice-eating traditions as a means of starting conversations about what sits at the center of the table and of family life in households on every continent. After working through Johnson’s expansive primer on rice cooking techniques and journey through rice history, explore the dozens of recipes that put this essential grain to work, be it staples of Chinese congee with Chicken Sausage or Liberian jollof or special occasion dishes like Dominican sancocho or Egyptian khalta. Pair this beautiful volume with a bag of Carolina Gold rice, and you’ll be ready for a bowl of hoppin’ john on New Year’s Day.
In her first solo cookbook, writer Yewande Komolafe explores the rich culinary scene in her childhood home of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, whose flavors she summoned for many years from memory alone. After twenty years of being unable to return, Komolafe recently rediscovered the city’s culinary life in person, shaped by its vibrant bukas (street eateries), sprawling markets, creative restaurants, and welcoming home kitchens. Accompanied by a glossary of essential food word in Yorùbá, a detailed guide for sourcing and appreciating key ingredients, and gorgeously detailed photographs and recipes, the arrival of Komolafe’s book is nothing less than cause for àjọyọ̀ (celebration).
Michał Korkosz grew up with an ambivalent relationship with his own “Polishness”, especially the stereotypical bigos, pierogi, and żurek of his childhood. However, in writing about the multicultural and wide-ranging flavors of the vegetarian Polish kitchen, Korkosz has found a way to merge traditional cuisine with the contemporary Polish diasporic community. Organized by culinary method (“smashed & blended,” “charred, grilled & pan-roasted”, or “infused and browned” and more) and featuring dishes with surprising combinations, such as a Caesar-esque salad of tomatoes and golden berries topped with pickle brine dressing, a warming miso red cabbage stew, and a salted szarlotka (apple pie) with no-churn brown butter ice cream. These recipes give you plenty of cause to say smacznego (bon appetit) to this delicious collection of innovative nouveau-Polish recipes.
In this comprehensive, approachable guide to the ubiquitous cooking and seasoning oil, Skylar Mapes and Giuseppe Morisani thoroughly demystify the production, processing, and uses of olive oil. After an expansive exploration of olive oil’s history in ancient Greece and Rome, to the intricacies of the annual harvest, to the scientific distinctions between types of olive oil, they offer twenty recipes that put all this knowledge to work, including a perfect pasta pomodoro, a salad of summer beans and fresh herbs, and a batch of crunchy olive oil waffles. Paired with any one of our favorite olive oils, this is a perfect stocking stuffer that will enhance the flavors of your meals all year long.
Rome-based writer, culinary guide, and SAVEUR contributor Katie Parla’s spectacularly photographed third cookbook spotlights the lusty and colorful cuisine of Italy’s 400+ islands. The cookbook delves into the rich cultural and culinary fabric of the islands from Ischia to Venice to Capri, providing historical insight while documenting pleasures such as the fried delicacies of Palermo’s street food vendors and the infused spirits of the islands’ many bars and distilleries. While Parla’s wine-spiked Sardinian couscous and clams, pickly and oil-slicked Sicilian caponata, and Pantellerian caper leaf and tomato salad may not be quite so nice as a first-class flight, her transportive followup to the best-sellingjust may be the next-best thing.
When writer Klancy Miller founded the magazinein 2019, she did so to feed other Black women writers the wisdom and “sisterly insights” she had craved as she found her way in the food world. This book expands that mission into 66 portraits and interviews of brilliant Black women and femme contributors in food and hospitality, those “on whose shoulders we stand, and who serve as a collective North Star.” Punctuated by gorgeous full-color illustrations and loving portraits, the book also features numerous recipes created by its subjects. In short, it’s as rewarding and revealing a read as it is a pleasure to cook from.
Sylvan Mishima Brackett’s passion for the izakaya culture of Tokyo extends far beyond his restaurant Rintaro in San Francisco—it infuses his entire approach to cooking with clarity, pleasure, and friendship in mind. What he offers is neither fusion food nor traditional Japanese cooking, “food that imagines California as the farthest western prefecture of Japan.” What emerges is a poetic, ingredient-centric collection of recipes that bring the Japanese izakaya to the American home kitchen. Whether the dish is a miso-cured black cod served over sunomono cucumbers, or a grilled duck and chrysanthemum leaf salad, Brackett captures the elegance of the izakaya for home cooks everywhere.
As the award-winning chef of New York’s Atoboy and Naro, Junghyun (JP) Park is one of the leading figures in Korean fine dining today. Collaborating with writer Jungyoon Choi, Park offers his interpretation of hansik, the culture of Korean cooking—infused with Park’s mastery of culinary science, but also a deepened appreciation of traditional Korean cooking methods. In doing so, he offers a close look at the intense regionalism and seasonality that shape the dishes of the Korean table. With dishes like brothy soy-preserved blue crabs, chicken braised in mirin, brown sugar, and rice syrup, and delicate mung bean buchimgae (pancakes), along with 14 different types of kimchi, this book offers a sophisticated, flavorful introduction to Korean cooking.
No sad desk salads here for food writer Meike Peters—for her, lunchtime is an opportunity to feast. In this gorgeous cookbook built on years of experience and experimentation in her Berlin kitchen, she offers her primer on creative midday meals, strategically assembling leftovers, pantry staples, and the freshest produce she can find into meals that reenergize her day. With lots of storage suggestions for those returning to office life, these unexpected pairings—like her salad of artichoke, butter beans, and pink grapefruits with pistachios, a rich cauliflower soup laced with tahini and topped with sourdough croutons, or gnocchi with sauerkraut and juniper butter—each recipe offers a dish worth savoring.
The founders of New York’s Edible History dining series, Victoria Flexner and Jay Reifel, take you on a time machine through food history, anchoring you to moments in the distant past through dishes that deserve your attention in the twenty-first century. Adapting ancient recipes to modern sensibilities requires both extensive research and creative interpretation, but somehow they come together as wondrous invocations of history’s most revelatory meals. Dishes a honey-soaked bread stuffed with fruits and nuts from Baghdad’s Golden Age, ravioli prepared in the style of late 15th century Naples, an oyster-stuffed capon from Versailles, mole mestizo with turkey and chorizo that captures the collision of Spanish conquistadors and the indigenous peoples of Central America, and of course the famed cockenthrice of Tudor England (half-suckling pig, half-poultry, sewn together before roasting and served in a cinnamon-infused wine sauce).
This volume is both a community cookbook, with dozens of delicious recipes gathered across New York’s Asian eateries by the volunteer organization. But it’s also a call to action–a chance to ensure the survival of the city’s Asian culinary landscape, by recognizing the sacrifices, contribution, and profound gifts of the cooks across the city. With a vendor guide that spans from Flushing to Staten Island to the Bronx, and with extensive portraits of the shops and restaurants contributing recipes, this cookbook is a love letter to the more than 18 Asian communities that call New York home. (100% of net proceeds of this cookbook will go back to funding Send Chinatown Love’s community-building efforts.)
Rose Previte’s restaurant in Washington, D.C. lives up to its name, “the gathering place,” and its menu is a journey through the overlapping foodways of the Middle East, Central and South Asia, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and North Africa. After decades of working on national and international policy initiatives, Previte turned her attention to food, discovering new flavors and dishes everywhere she traveled. What emerges in the pages of her cookbook is as much travelogue as it is gastronomic treasure chest, highlighting different styles of dining and hospitality around the world alongside the recipes that bring it to life. Assembling Previte’s sampler platter of pickled cucumbers, turnips, and green tomatoes, or a platter of Egyptian kushari layered with crispy onions, stewed tomatoes, pasta, rice, and chickpeas, will bring everyone to the table. (But even as a solo diner, her Za’atar Martini is calling my name.)
Sohla El-Waylly’s warmth and expertise have made her beloved by millions of home cooks. Now in her debut cookbook, Sohla distills her wisdom into what she calls a “one-stop culinary school,” offering succinct and compelling lessons on cooking and baking, which you can read chapter by chapter like a course syllabus, or sampled dish by dish, whatever helps you learn best. Its thorough guidance on everything from knife maintenance to instructions how to read a recipe the way pros do is unmatched, and Sohla explains why each technique is going to produce results. Once you’ve mastered Sohla’s techniques, put them to work in tomato salad seasoned with nori and sesame, loaded sweet potatoes with vegan queso, seared scallops with pepperoni and sweet corn, and a must-make cherry pumpernickel pie. As Samin Nosrat says in her introduction, “You’re holding the book I wish someone had handed me when I began my own journey as a cook.”
“A signature cocktail is a bespoke drink that expresses the nature of the time, person, venue, city, or country for which it was created.” Thus writes seasoned drinks writer Amanda Schuster at the start of her essential compendium of signature cocktails, each of which represents a perfect creation whose appreciation moves far beyond its origin story. From the highlands of Scotland to the cafes of Milan to the speakeasies of Prohibition-era New Orleans, Schuster gathers the preparation and serving details and the distilled histories of 200 iconic drinks, each of which represents a distinct flavor, liquor, and glory of cocktails that are eternally appreciated. Whether you crave a classic Bellini, a trending Espresso Martini, or the new Panamanian creation the Bird of Paradise Fizz, there are plenty of tipples here to tickle your fancy.
In her previous books, the British writer Bee Wilson has proven herself to be one of the greatest kitchen thinkers of our time, finding rich historical narratives in food subjects that range from the development of taste preferences to honeybees to the evolution of the spork. Yet in her latest book, Wilson brings her critical eye to bear on her own kitchen, and wonders if cooking “doesn’t have to be as complicated as we often make it,” and uses that as her call to action, sharing recipes that unlock cooking as a joyful, restorative experience. Though any of Wilson’s 140 recipes will delight you—her “chicken stew for tired people” is sure to become a staple in any kitchen—the best part is that they’re all designed to be stress-free. As Wilson writes, “Your comfort, ease, and pleasure in the kitchen must come first.”
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