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Here's Every Spring 2016 Cookbook That Matters

The nine titles you need to know

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The new crop of spring cookbooks reflect 2016's most vital trends, from celebrity-style eating to chefs' takes on regional cuisine. Culturally, these releases reflect the sheer breadth of our growing culinary obsessions. Publishers are slinging both hyper-regional cuisines and celebrity home cooking, rustic fire and intricate fine dining, and the concept of the cookbook as genuinely useful workhorse and as beautiful, readable object.

While winter and spring are a quieter time than fall for overall releases, there's still plenty of great new books to cook from, peruse, and enjoy. Both kale goddess Gwyneth Paltrow and fried chicken goddess Chrissy Teigen drop cookbooks that promise to accelerate the union between celebrity and food culture. Basque, Nordic, and Korean cuisine all get dedicated cookbooks from well-known chefs. Portland’s fire-obsessed restaurant Ox invites home cooks to get ambitious in their backyard grilling, and Phaidon's Food & Beer takes pairings to intense, Michelin-starred levels. Indian-American chef Floyd Cardoz invites readers into extremely family-friendly, flavor-forward cooking, while Singapore's Andre Chiang marries high-concept and haute cuisine with Octophilosophy.

Read on for Eater’s picks for the season’s nine most essential cookbooks, as well as notable food book releases.

Koreatown: A Cookbook

Deuki Hong, Matt Rodbard
Clarkson Potter, February 2016

One in the burgeoning genre of cookbooks written as much to be read as to be cooked from, Koreatown aims to both paint a portrait of America's vibrant Korean-American communities and invite a broad audience to experiment with this style of cooking. Co-authors Matt Rodbard and Deuki Hong bring wildly different perspectives to the book: Rodbard approaches the cuisine as an outsider turned obsessive fan, while Hong writes as a Korean-American who is re-embracing his heritage with the New York outpost of barbecue restaurant Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong.

The recipes are a mixture of traditional and the pair's own creations (pineapple kimchi is a notable innovation). But Koreatown first and foremost focuses on encouraging home cooks to dive deep into not just a single Korean ingredient or to drop some kimchi on an occasional dish, but to try on an entirely new culinary approach for size. They strongly encourage using only properly sourced Korean ingredients, and the suggested equipment includes a kimchi fridge. Interspersed with recipes are portraits of the restaurants, people, and traditions that make up one of America's most important culinary traditions.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat

Chrissy Teigen, Adeena Sussman
Clarkson Potter, February 2016

Cravings lives at the intersection of two major cookbook trends: food-blog-turned-cookbook and celebrity cookbooks. Model and TV host Chrissy Teigen tackles a range of home-friendly recipes, but non-fans will probably be most intrigued by her easy approach to Thai cooking, inspired by her mother's recipes. With Teigen's years-long commitment to food blogging at her site So Delushious, Cravings is meant to be a "real" cookbook, and for fans tired of those models-who-loooooove-pizza, it will definitely read as such.

Teigen is notoriously funny, and her sense of humor comes through here, as does her self-awareness — she tackles the issue of credibility early and often, always presenting herself more as a cooking enthusiast than as an expert. Celebrity culture fans will want to keep an eye out for Aubrie Pick's supersaturated photos — Teigen's husband John Legend shows up in quite a few. Eater's exclusive preview reveals recipes like John's fried chicken wings with spicy honey butter, jok mo (Thai pork and rice porridge), and zucchini "lasagna" Bolognese.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting From Ox Restaurant

Greg Denton & Gabrielle Quiñonez Denton with Stacy Adimando
Ten Speed, March 2016

Live-fire cooking is having a serious moment right now: physical, risky, and unpredictable, the process' mystique is an antidote to the previous decade's embrace of sous vide and other technologically precise techniques. Ox in Portland is one of the country's standard-bearers for this type of cuisine, and its first cookbook promises to bring chefs Gregory and Gabrielle Quiñonez Denton's Argentine-tinged approach to home cooks.

This is most definitely a restaurant cookbook, though thankfully one that doesn't require the beautiful and massive Grillworks grill that powers Ox. The cookbook aims to take backyard grilling from a casual cuisine to one executed as ambitiously as any other special occasion home cooking. Recipes include the definitive guide for grilling everything from lamb hearts to spaghetti squash, to, yes, a skirt steak. There's also a welcome addition of non-grilled foods essential to making smoky fare go down easily: salads, terrines, desserts, cocktails, and a whole beautiful section on "cold seafoods" like ceviche.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

It's All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook

Gwyneth Paltrow
Grand Central Life & Style, April 2016

It almost doesn't matter what's inside this one; it's a new book from celebrity lifestyle patron saint Gwyneth Paltrow and, as to be expected, she's casually holding a farmers market haul on the cover. Where her first book It's All Good promised "Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great," this one stays away from even implying you can ever look like Paltrow and instead goes for the Pinterest-ready, and perhaps more accessible, slug "Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook." Who isn't super busy? Who doesn't want delicious weekday recipes — especially recipes that are so on-the-nose for Instagramming? Think almond orange overnight oats, "on-the-go" vegetarian collard wraps, poke bowls, za'atar-roasted carrots with avocado, and a lemongrass and mint tisane.

True fans and hate-readers alike will find what they're looking for in It's All Easy. In the book there's a photo of Paltrow laughing alone eating… not sure... something in a bowl (clams?) with a side of bread (lol). There's a claim that Paltrow "pretty much invented" avocado toast. There are photos of her kids. And some fun details for cookbook obsessives: This is the first Paltrow cookbook without her collaborator Julia Turshen as a credited co-author or disputed ghostwriter. Instead, Paltrow tapped Thea Baumann, the food editor of her lifestyle brand Goop, as her co-author. Ditte Isager remains as Paltrow's cookbook photographer of choice.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

Floyd Cardoz: Flavorwalla

Floyd Cardoz
Artisan, April 2016

Best known for his distinctive and flavorful Indian-American cooking at New York City’s now-shuttered (and much-lamented) restaurant Tabla, Floyd Cardoz currently has a new restaurant in the works in New York. But his cookbook, Flavorwalla, is definitely geared toward the home cook. With sections like "Weeknight Meals," "Family Style," and "Game Time," the book is filled with approachable recipes for everything from classic Indian dishes like shrimp curry with cauliflower to corn on the cob elote-style. The headnotes often mention whether dishes are favorites of his two children, and although the ingredient lists include a few more spices than you'd expect in a novice chef's pantry, most recipes are well within a casual home cook’s reach.

The focus, then, is not on re-creating Cardoz's restaurant dishes but instead to capture his overall approach to making more flavorful food. The introduction offers a detailed guide to the role various spices and aromatics can play in the kitchen, and there's even a bonus section on how to pack a perfect game-day tailgating bag. Not the ideal book for the Tabla-bereft, but a good option for those in search of ways to amp up their everyday cooking game.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

Octaphilosophy: The Eight Elements of Restaurant André

André Chiang
Phaidon, April 2016

This season's most beautiful restaurant cookbook, André Chiang's Octophilosphy captures the ethos of Singapore's most distinctive fine dining destination, Restaurant André. Many restaurants are described as "personal," but Restaurant André's entire menu is built around the chef's idiosyncratic list of values he considers core to both his life and his cooking: Pure, Salt, Artisan, South, Texture, Unique, Memory, and Terroir. A Taiwanese chef raised in Japan who trained in French kitchens starting at the age of 15, Chiang's cooking reflects every aspect of that background.

Singapore's unique mixing of cultures makes it a major food destination, and Restaurant André expands the conversation past the (rightfully) revered food halls to the world of global fine dining. Housed in a renovated shophouse, his tiny tasting-menu restaurant serves food synched with the seasons of Southern France. This book is written for an insanely high skill level, but the hyper-ambitious recipes round out the biographical and philosophical portrait of the chef.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes From the Kitchen of Txikito

Alex Raij, Eder Montero, Rebecca Flint Marx
Ten Speed Press, April 2015

The Basque Book is and isn't a restaurant cookbook. The subtitle here tells readers what to expect: "a love letter in recipes from the kitchen of Txikito." And while chef Alex Raij's book —€” authored with her husband and co-chef/owner Eder Montero and food writer Rebecca Flint Marx —€” does pull recipes from her New York City restaurant Txikito, the book is more interested in laying a foundation of Basque cooking techniques than it is in capturing the verve of the restaurant. Ultimately, this is more general cookery than restaurant documentary. Sun-touched photography by Penny de Los Santos helps convey that same message: that the heart of the book lies in Spain, not New York City.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

The Nordic Kitchen: One Year of Family Cooking

Claus Meyer
Mitchell Beazley, May 2016

2016 is the year for Danish restaurateur, entrepreneur, and Noma co-founder Claus Meyer. He's opening a Nordic food hall in New York City and releasing his debut English language cookbook, The Nordic Kitchen. It's a jam-packed guide; the book has 350 recipes, often displayed three to a page, all to introduce the reader to the intensely seasonal, occasionally foraged, whole-foods-driven Nordic cooking style. Per Meyer's introduction and the very layout of the book, The Nordic Kitchen can serve as a home cook's idea generator: Stumbled on some elderberries at the market and want to make something Nordic-ish with them? Meyer's got you covered. Of particular interest are the bread and cake recipes scattered throughout the seasonally chaptered book, like a two-day dark rye bread, a sweet Swedish syrup bread, and a rhubarb cake.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

Food & Beer

Daniel Burns, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Joshua David Stein
Phaidon, May 2016

Food & Beer goes deep into the symbiotic relationship at play between, well, food and beer at Brooklyn's only combination beer bar and Nordic-leaning tasting menu destination: Tørst and Luksus, respectively. Some background for those not familiar: In 2013, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin Brewing teamed up with former Noma pastry chef and onetime Momofuku test kitchen runner Daniel Burns and the duo created a sensation, with Luksus earning a Michelin star in the 2015 guide.

Not surprisingly, the book celebrates the art and craft of pairing. In the Tørst section of the book, recipes and their corresponding beers are separated by flavor profile: sour, bitter, funky, tart, etc. The Luksus part of the book reads as a more typical restaurant cookbook, complete with multipage recipes. Food & Beer boasts an intro from René Redzepi, photography by not one but two big name photographers (Gabriele Stabile and Signe Birck), and co-writing from (occasional Eater contributor) Joshua David Stein.

Buy it on: Amazon / Powell's

Other notable releases:

  • Sunny's Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World by Tim Sultan. Random House: February 2016
  • Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City by Katie Parla & Kristina Gill. Clarkson Potter: March 2016
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi. Ecco: March 2016
  • Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein. Phaidon: March 2016
  • The Wurst of Lucky Peach by Chris Ying & the editors of Lucky Peach. Clarkson Potter: April 2016
  • The Great American Burger Book by George Motz. Stewart, Tabori & Chang: April 2016
  • The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish. Ten Speed: April 2016
  • something to food about: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs by Questlove and Ben Greenman. Clarkson Potter: April 2016
  • 32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working The Line by Eric Ripert and Veronica Chambers. Random House: May 2016
  • Double Cup Love: On the Trail of Family, Food, and Broken Hearts in China by Eddie Huang. Spiegel & Grau: May 2016

Lead photo: Valentina G/ Shutterstock

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