8 New Cookbooks Coming This Summer – The New York Times

You’ll swoon over recipes for burrata with honey, persimmons and pistachio; lemongrass-scented chai; sesame creamed spinach and more.

Millie von Platen

As someone with an already unmanageable collection of cookbooks, I see a stack of new titles and wonder what they could possibly offer that I can’t already find on my sagging shelves. Then I open one and happily remember: There are as many ways to cook as there are cooks. As long as I have eyes, I’ll want to read new cookbooks, and as long as I can hobble to the stove, I’ll try new recipes.

But unless you live in a warehouse, hard choices must be made. Of the many intriguing cookbooks published thus far in 2022, eight held my attention. First and foremost: THE WOK: Recipes and Techniques (Norton, 658 pp., $50), by J. Kenji López-Alt. This five-pound slab of a book grew out of a planned chapter in López-Alt’s 2015 “The Food Lab and covers all things wok, from why you need one to what to look for (carbon steel and a flat bottom) when you buy it and, of course, how to stir-fry meats, deep-fry tofu, pan-fry dumplings and simmer any number of savory Asian soups in your favorite new pan.

I’m embarrassed to admit that before I read “The Wok,” I thought I could cook anything just fine in my cast-iron skillet. I was right, but is “just fine” all I aspire to? The first batch of López-Alt’s pepper steak that I whipped up in my new $20 wok was far superior to anything I’d ever stir-fried before. The dish had wok hei, the faint smoky flavor you get when flames from a blazing stove mingle with aerosolized particles from the food. After that, for a while I wanted to cook everything in my beloved wok, and the 200 recipes in López-Alt’s book made that easy. Ironically, the recipe I love most from this book appears in a chapter on “simple, no-cook sides” and doesn’t require a wok at all: a cucumber salad showered in fresh dill and chili oil, served on a bed of Greek yogurt, that made a spectacular accompaniment to stir-fried beef. I never would have guessed that yogurt salad might harmonize with Chinese food, and I can’t stop thinking about the way the two worked together.

via Norton

Good recipes aren’t what make “The Wok” a treasure, though. It taught me tricks and techniques that I will use for years to come, long after I’ve moved on to other books. I’ll mention just one: I’ve never been happy with my home-cooked shrimp, which often turns out limp and mushy. López-Alt offers an easy solution: Soak your shrimp in ice water mixed with baking soda and salt for 15 minutes. I tried this technique to make his kung pao shrimp, and they came out plump and crunchy, almost bouncy. Longstanding problem solved.

Techniques like this are portable. I used López-Alt’s method for tenderizing skirt steak (massage quickly with a little baking soda) when I made the buttery beef and peanut stir fry from Andy Baraghani’s THE COOK YOU WANT TO BE: Everyday Recipes to Impress (Lorena Jones Books, 325 pp., $35) and the results were magical. The meat was succulent thanks to López-Alt, while Baraghani’s last-minute addition of butter and vinegar gave the dish a smooth, bright finish. “The Cook You Want to Be” is another outstanding cookbook, full of cheeky opinions (he eschews Instant Pots, baked eggs and leftovers) and invigorating tweaks to popular contemporary dishes.

Baraghani, who interned at Chez Panisse when he was 16 and went on to become a senior editor at Bon Appétit, likes food to be lemony, herbaceous and crunchy. While you’ve probably eaten some version of most of the recipes in his book, they likely didn’t taste quite so vivid. Burrata is paired not with the usual tomato but with runny honey, toasted pistachios and fleshy fuyu persimmons. He enriches tart-spicy Vietnamese nuoc cham with ground cashews, turning the familiar sauce into a creamy elixir that, as he puts it, “can turn a mundane, predictable dish upside down.” I wanted to eat this sauce on absolutely everything, from broccoli and brussels sprouts, as Baraghani suggests, to roasted chicken, which he does not. “I want you to make and love the recipes, and REALLY use the book until it is beautifully turmeric-stained all over,” Baraghani writes. My copy of “The Cook You Want to Be” remains for the moment unstained, but I have been REALLY using it.

In his late 20s, Eric Kim, now a staff writer at The New York Times, realized that no one had ever written down the idiosyncratic recipes he ate as a child of immigrants growing up in Atlanta. He decided to do something about that. KOREAN AMERICAN: Food That Tastes Like Home (Clarkson Potter, 287 pp., $29.99) is his lovingly detailed archive of those recipes as well as an artful coming-of-age (and coming-out) story that is largely told in the metaphorical language of food.

“Korean American” is exuberant and erudite (Kim quotes not just Nigella Lawson but Milan Kundera and Viktor Shklovsky), and it will make you very, very hungry. The recipes are sometimes Korean (there’s a chapter on kimchi) or American (see Kim’s biscuits with strawberry jam), but most often a combination of the two, usually with an eccentric personal twist. Among the quirkier recipes: baked potatoes stuffed with kimchi, bacon, mozzarella and a sprinkling of sugar, inspired by Kim’s mother’s penchant for sweetening her spuds. I haven’t tried the potatoes, though I might have to satisfy my curiosity one day soon.

Jenny Huang. via Clarkson Potter

What I have tried I can wholeheartedly recommend. Start with Sprite-marinated short ribs that require no tabletop grill, just 15 minutes of prep time, a sheet pan and an oven. Kim’s roasted chicken, slathered in a spicy, strawberry-jam-sweetened sauce, is terrific, and with a side of sesame creamed spinach — the best creamed spinach I’ve ever eaten — you’ve got dinner. Nor can you go wrong with Kim’s crispy curried chicken cutlets or pan-seared rib eye enriched (as if it needed enriching) with gochujang butter.

If you don’t own a kadhai, the traditional steep-sided Indian pan “perfect for frying vegetables and for the tempering of spices,” Maunika Gowardhan suggests using a wok instead. Just what I wanted to hear! I pulled out my wok one night to make a fast dinner of spicy stir-fried garlic potatoes, one of many simple, gratifying dishes I tried from Gowardhan’s new cookbook, THALI: A Joyful Celebration of Indian Home Cooking (Hardie Grant, 223 pp., $32.50). The book takes its name from a traditional Indian thali — a “complete meal on a platter” — that attempts to balance a wide variety of flavors, textures and nutrients. While in the United States a complete meal on a platter might incorporate a meat, a starch and a vegetable, Indians are considerably more ambitious. According to Gowardhan, an elaborate thali might call for 40 or 50 dishes, while even the most minimalist thali includes at least eight: chutney, rice, fresh flatbread, a crunchy savory snack, stir-fried vegetables, a curry, a soupy dal and a sweet.

While I have cooked extensively from “Thali,” I’ve so far lacked the stamina to assemble even a modest thali. Gowardhan encourages us to use her book however we like. A recipe I’ve made a dozen times now is her milky gauti chai, which is fragrant with lemongrass and just slightly sweet. I’ve tried a lot of chais, and this one is a gem. Another gem: her recipe for pan-fried sweet-potato cakes — crusty on the outside, meltingly soft within — that I served with her zippy mint and mango chutney.

Ironically, a book that is named for labor-intensive Indian feasts turns out to be a trove of dead easy, spur-of-the-moment weeknight meal ideas. All you need to do is stock up on a few essential Indian herbs and spices, like curry leaves and mango powder.

Tracking down Indian products is a breeze compared with acquiring the ingredients to cook from SAKA SAKA: Adventures in African Cooking South of the Sahara (Interlink Books, 207 pp., $30), by Anto Cocagne and Aline Princet. You won’t find red palm oil or fermented cassava paste at most well-stocked American supermarkets. In fact, you might not find some of the ingredients called for in this book at a dedicated African grocery store. Trust me, I tried. Fortunately, almost everything can be ordered online, and I’m glad I made the effort. As Princet writes in her introduction to this snappy book, African cuisine has been “grossly underappreciated” in the West, and she and Cocagne aim to change that. “Saka Saka” features interviews with pop culture icons like a Cameroonian slam poet and a Beninese singer, who describe their Proustian memory triggers, except rather than madeleines they reminisce about chicken mafé (a peanut-thickened stew) and pounded yams.

A lot of these recipes are easy for even timid eaters to appreciate, starting with a fabulous street-food baguette spread with spiced mayonnaise and stuffed with ground meat. You could serve sorghum cupcakes frosted in white-chocolate ganache at a picky 5-year-old’s birthday party and hear no complaints. One of my favorite recipes was for kinkeliba tea, made from the leaves of a flowering African shrub brewed with lime juice, cardamom and brown sugar and served over ice. According to Cocagne and Princet, it can treat gallstones and gastroenteritis, which is welcome news, although it makes kinkeliba tea sound like medicine. It doesn’t taste like medicine. It tastes like nectar.

Aline Princet, via Interlink Books

But if you’re looking for dishes that push the boundaries of your palate, “Saka Saka” has you covered. You make égousi by sautéing beef tenderloin in thick orange palm oil with spinach and ground African pistachios. The flavors of this rib-sticking dish are deep, earthy and satisfying, and unlike anything I’ve tasted before. To mop up the sauce, I served placali, which started with a bag of fermented cassava paste that I soaked in water, cooked into a dough and then shaped into very sour white dumplings. Placali is what some might call an acquired taste, and by the end of that dinner a few of the people at my table, though by no means all, were beginning to acquire it.

For the curious American cook who wants more than weeknight dinner hacks, this engrossing book will point in a new direction, whether you head for the thiep bou dien (grouper, cassava, pumpkin and “dried fish and shell”) or a slightly more familiar black-eyed-pea and beet hummus.

Reem Assil would not approve of the nomenclature of that “hummus.” If it doesn’t contain chickpeas, don’t call it hummus, Assil commands in her handsome, stern ARABIYYA: Recipes From the Life of an Arab in Diaspora (Ten Speed Press, 295 pp., $35). Nor should we fall for the “harmful idea” of “hummus kumbaya,” which suggests that by simply enjoying the same food, Palestinians and Israelis are somehow brought closer together together.

Born in suburban Boston to a Palestinian mother and a Syrian father, Assil is uncompromising and ardent about both politics and food. While people can debate her politics, few will argue that her recipes are anything but brilliant. In “Arabiyya” (which means “Arab woman”), Assil — who owns the San Francisco bakery and restaurant Reem’s — celebrates ancestral foodways, from her mother’s lamb dumplings “brightened with a drizzle of minty oil” to a recipe for shrimp cooked in a clay pot that she stumbled upon in a Gazan cookbook.

Alanna Hale

There are dozens of gorgeous recipes in “Arabiyya” that I want to try, chief among them the Yemeni honeycomb bread — a cluster of tawny yeasted buns stuffed with mascarpone and brushed with aromatic honey syrup. Of the recipes I have tried, I loved Assil’s miraculous toum — garlic, oil, lemon and ice water, whipped for a good 10 minutes into an ethereal snow-white cloud. Braised dandelion greens, sweetened by caramelized onions and enriched with walnuts, were a new-to-me way to appreciate greens, which I always need. I don’t need more ways to appreciate hot chocolate, but I won’t turn one down. To make Assil’s sahlab chocolata, you whisk milk, cornstarch, sugar and cocoa in a saucepan until velvety, then add vanilla, orange-blossom water and some nuts. The result is a warm, drinkable pudding. Sahlab chocolata won’t bring about peace in the Middle East, let alone the world, but does ensure a few moments of personal happiness.

Actually, a few moments of personal happiness might be a good place to start if it’s world peace you’re after, according to Christina Tosi. Her charming new book is called DESSERT CAN SAVE THE WORLD (Harmony Books, 226 pp., $26), and she’s only half joking. Tosi, the founder of Milk Bar, writes, “I do believe that the spirit of dessert — the relentless, unflinching commitment to finding or creating joy even when joy feels hard to come by — can save us, and then we, in turn, can save the world.” She is an evangelist for dessert, “the anti-grown-up food,” and credits her mother, Greta, with modeling an ethos of celebration. Throughout Tosi’s childhood, Greta worked as an accountant by day and a fairy godmother by night, baking and delivering apple dumplings, cookies and cakes to everyone she knew on every conceivable occasion. Greta has, Tosi writes, “the equivalent of a Ph.D. in care packages.”

Because it contains only a few recipes, “Dessert Can Save the World” doesn’t quite qualify as a cookbook; it’s more of a manifesto. As you might expect from the inventor of cereal-milk ice cream, Tosi calls on us to think deeply about what we really crave, however bizarre it might sound. Her “dirtiest dessert secret,” she confides, is that “‘fancy’ and ‘awesome’ are not one and the same.” Why not drop a doughnut into the blender next time you make a milkshake? Why not try grape soda in your cookie glaze? And why not take some of those weird, delicious grape soda-glazed cookies to a friend who just got a cool — or better yet, bad — haircut?

Reading Tosi’s book, you may feel, as I did, an urge to send someone you love a care package. An excellent recipe to consider for this purpose: the crunchy, chewy caramel cornflake squares from A GOOD DAY TO BAKE: Simple Baking Recipes for Every Mood (Quadrille Publishing, 191 pp., $32), the second cookbook by Benjamina Ebuehi. They’re not fancy, they’re definitely awesome, and they won’t fall apart in the mail. Fancier, more awesome and equally sturdy: a batch of Ebuehi’s millionaire’s shortbread, a spiced cookie crust supporting an inch of hazelnut-packed caramel glazed with chocolate.

Laura Edwards, via Hardie Grant

Of all the books I’ve pored over in 2022, “A Good Day to Bake” is the prettiest, an escape into a timeless English dream world of sticky toffee treacle tarts and split scones spread with clotted cream. In fact, Ebuehi’s recipes themselves are contemporary and unorthodox. A contestant on “The Great British Bake Off,” Ebuehi tweaks classic desserts to make them new: She lays slender tarragon leaves atop macadamia blondies, stirs pink peppercorns into shortbread, rolls churros in thyme-scented sugar.

Skeptical? I was. I baked Ebuehi’s white-chocolate miso cookies in a slightly perverse spirit, expecting to prove that fermented soybean paste has no place in dessert. I proved the opposite. Three tablespoons of miso gave these cookies a salty umami that made them irresistible. Golden turmeric five-spice buns had a delicate licorice fragrance straight from the oven and were still soft and flavorful two days later. From Ebuehi’s rosemary-honey scones to peanut butter cookies fortified with oats and shards of chocolate, I didn’t bake anything I didn’t love from this elegant book. As with every other book I’ve mentioned here, there is nothing quite like it on my shelves.

Jennifer Reese’s work has appeared in the Book Review and The Washington Post.

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