Even in more typical years, fall can represent a turning inward: a recommitment to schedules, and an end to languid summer weekends. This year, as Hot Vax Summer became something decidedly less celebratory, it feels like we’ve already spent weeks considering the change in routine the next few months will bring. But, the things that make fall a time to look forward to — namely a new season of art and music and books — are still there. For the person that enjoys time spent in the kitchen, cookbooks can be the very thing to make those quiet indoor evenings a welcome comfort.
Over the next few months, cookbook publishers are trotting out their most anticipated titles of the year. Below you’ll find the 17 most exciting cookbooks from this new slate — the books that compelled us to add to our grocery lists, set aside an hour or two, and actually cook. This isn’t to say that all of these selections require real effort or cooking expertise: The list features cookbooks for busy weeknights, ones that will assist with a rededication to meal prep, and many that will end any kind of bean rut. There are books that aim to expand culinary horizons, too, from Indigenous cuisine to Korean vegan to Ghanaian food. And for the bakers who are already anticipating the need to occupy time this fall, there are a host of options to choose from, covering classic chocolate chip cookies, buttery Southern biscuits, and fluffy Chinese milk bread (just to name a few).
Most crucially, you’ll also find books on this list that just seem fun. And while fun in cooking is always appreciated, it’s perhaps needed now more than ever. — Monica Burton
Life is What You Bake It: Recipes, Stories, and Inspiration to Bake Your Way to the Top
Clarkson Potter, September 7
The title of Vallery Lomas’s debut cookbook is quite sweet. But for Lomas, Life is What You Bake It isn’t just some cutesy phrase — it’s a philosophy that has shaped her life. After becoming an attorney, Lomas quit her job in law to follow a passion for baking. She went on to win the first season of the Great American Baking Show, only for it to be cancelled when one of the judges was accused of past sexual harassment. If not for an outpouring of media coverage, her win may never have reached the masses.
In chapter after chapter of Life is What You Bake It, Lomas weaves together the technical prowess she brought to the Great American Baking Show with stories of personal victories both in and out of the kitchen, providing a tribute to the steadfast vision and excellent cooking of the women — Lomas’s mother and grandmothers — who paved the way for her. There’s something for everyone here, and nearly every recipe ties back to a memory of family or friends. There’s strawberry mash — a mixture of smashed strawberries and sugar — which recalls summer trips to a cousin’s farm to pick lipstick-red, juicy strawberries, and a recipe for cornmeal pancakes, inspired by the ones Lomas’s Grandma Leona made with leftover cornbread batter.
Family and her Southern Louisiana upbringing are central sources of inspiration, but Lomas also draws from a trip to France during her final year of law school, including recipes for crisp twice-baked almond croissants, lemon-honey madeleines that glow bright yellow on the page, and a self-described “very dramatic crêpe cake.” Later chapters cover cookies, brownies, cobblers and pies, showstopping cakes, and sweet and savory breads. There are also plenty of doughnuts and other fried treats. Lomas could have made the central theme of her first cookbook her title as a television-show winner. Instead, she gives us a big, twisting, beautiful story of her life, and an enormously impressive variety of recipes that cement exactly how deserving she was of winning that title. — Elazar Sontag
Foodheim: A Culinary Adventure
Eric Wareheim with Emily Timberlake
Ten Speed Press, September 21
You’d be reasonable to question why Eric Wareheim has the right to publish a cookbook. The comedian is maybe best known for being half of Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! which, depending on your age, may have completely shaped and/or scarred your sense of the world. But he’s also the co-founder of Las Jaras Wines, regularly blogs about food, and has cultivated an impressive technical expertise over his years of eating. All this makes Foodheim a blueprint for eating well, and having a really good time doing it.
The book is separated into irreverently titled chapters full of saturated and silly photography: Chicken Chapter, Circle Foods, Juicy Foods. All the dishes are influenced by family, friends, or Wareheim’s favorite restaurants, so there’s not one unifying cuisine present. Wareheim’s palate is like if you ran the Epic Meal Time guys through finishing school, bombastic and refined all at once. He recreates crab hand rolls and aguachile he’s eaten on his travels, gives tips for his grandma’s chicken schnitzel, makes a sandwich called a “pork dork,” and even recreates a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza using a cake pan. But the book also guides you on how to best enjoy the food once the cooking is over. There’s a whole spread on how to properly host a raclette party and another on how to saber a bottle of wine, along with guides on how to buy the right tomatoes, oils, and wines for every occasion. It all ensures you’ll have as much fun making and sharing your creations as you do eating them. And everyone could use a party right now. — Jaya Saxena
Burnt Toast and Other Disasters: A Book of Heroic Hacks, Fabulous Fixes, and Secret Sauces
William Morrow Cookbooks, September 21
Cal Peternell could write a dozen books on aspirational cooking: gardens of perfect California produce; pasture-raised cuts of beef; and freshly caught fish, served simply, sprinkled with the freshest, grassiest, most expensive olive oil. This was, after all, exactly the kind of cooking he did while running the kitchen at Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse. But this is not the kind of cooking lesson Peternell offers up in his fourth cookbook, Burnt Toast and Other Disasters. This is a book, as he puts it, “of bad food made good. It’s a book about moving the dial, about meeting food where it is and bringing it someplace better, regardless of the why of it.” This is the book you turn to when cooking for a house of exhausted family, friends, or lovers, when what you’ve got in the fridge is just the dregs of last week’s inspiration.
You should almost burn the bread for the cheesy onion bread pudding, and the vegetables mixed into roasted vegetable cornmeal cakes should be, you guessed it, pretty close to burnt, too. It’s not that Peternell wants you to be mindless in your cooking, only that he thinks you should relax a bit. And when you make a mistake, he wants you to believe you can still put good food on the table. He tells you what to do with really well-done meat — the stuff you meant to cook medium-rare, but that came out closer to rubber — and dedicates a chapter to turning mushy, gloppy rice into dishes like crisped beet-red pancakes dolloped with tart yogurt and mango pickle. In case you think the whole “just relax” thing is a gimmick, written by a chef in a pristine kitchen, let the book’s photos and lighthearted illustrations (done by the author’s family) convince you otherwise. Peternell’s stovetop — like most of ours who cook regularly — is photographed covered in grease splatters from days of good and not-so-good cooking, and a majority of the photos look, in a very appealing way, like they may have been shot at night, on a camera you too might use to document cooking victories.
There’s enough to worry about these days. Cooking, Peternell assures through each carefully written but not-too-serious recipe, shouldn’t be one of those things. So burn your vegetables, overcook the rice, and eat a tin of fish for dinner. It will be fine. Actually, it will probably be great. — ES
Mooncakes and Milk Bread: Sweet and Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries
Harper Horizon, October 12
There are few joys greater to me than walking up to the cases at a Chinese bakery and considering the plastic-wrapped treats within: the baked char siu buns and egg tarts, the scallion-filled twists, and buns holding a corn-and-mayo mixture. The act is one imbued with meaning; as Kristina Cho writes in the headnotes of one recipe in her new book Mooncakes and Milk Bread, “your favorite bun says a lot about you.” And while she’s undoubtedly correct, the book offers a much wider berth than either that statement or its title seems to suggest.
Cho, a Chinese American recipe developer, highlights many recipes for those familiar bakery items, most revolving around one of two main dough recipes (for milk bread and steamed bun dough; each comes with several variations). But the cookbook also harkens to the broader traditions surrounding bakeries and cafes, with recipes for dim sum classics like har gow and turnip cakes. There are recipes for jianbing, congee, and Hong Kong’s famous pork cutlet sandwich. There are sweets and celebration cakes and mooncakes and milk teas. But the book never feels overwhelming or scattered — Cho roots the chapters around a specific immigrant experience I know well, one of seeking out a highly specific food to fill a specific fleeting craving. The hunt-and-find nature of the book, anchored by brief glimpses into four noted Chinese bakeries across the U.S., functions much in the same way. So while the process of acquiring those specific tastes, for me, has long involved sauntering up to one of those pastry cases and overloading on items, Mooncakes and Milk Bread has inspired me to actually recreate that experience in my own kitchen. For those unfamiliar, Cho invites you into this world with clear instructions, tons of enthusiasm, and lots and lots of flour. — Erin DeJesus
That Sounds So Good: 100 Real-Life Recipes for Every Day of the Week
Carla Lalli Music
Clarkson Potter, October 12
Cookbooks specifically designed for home cooks ought to do more than just offer new recipe ideas; at their finest, they help home cooks gain confidence and skill. Carla Lalli Music, the former food director at Bon Appétit, has been doing that work for years — both at BA and with her first cookbook Where Cooking Begins. Her second book, That Sounds So Good, continues the mission.
More than any single recipe, what I most admire about this book are the many, many ways Lalli Music attempts to make the collection as educational and adaptable as possible. Organized by weekday versus weekend cooking, each recipe’s steps include which order to cut and prep individual ingredients, reminding the reader that in many cases it’s in fact more efficient to do some prep while other components are cooking (even if years of listening to experts shouting MISE EN PLACE might have us convinced we need to have every single ingredient sliced in a ramekin and at the ready before we start). At the bottom are several ideas about how to swap ingredients based on what you might already have at home, a wonderfully useful format I hope other cookbook authors consider.
With all this helpful insight, the recipe becomes more of a template than a specific set of instructions to follow — and those templates are incredibly inviting: I’ve already bookmarked the one-pot chicken and rice and the pantry eggs in purgatory to add to my own weekday rotation. From the weekend ideas, I’m especially drawn to the spaghetti with melted cauliflower sauce, utterly intrigued by the promise of what totally softened cauliflower could mean for my household: another pasta idea, for sure, but also the base of a scoopable mashed cauliflower for my toddler and a new toast spread for me, too. The structure of That Sounds So Good will encourage even the most harried home cook to think more flexibly — and more than any one thing to eat, being confident and adaptable in the kitchen is what sounds so good right now. — Hillary Dixler Canavan
The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen
Joanne Lee Molinaro
Avery, October 12
Many of the most beloved Korean dishes are meaty: One of the easiest ways for people to get into Korean cuisine is Korean barbecue, Spam has become an essential pantry item for many Korean recipes, and Korean essential kimchi is often made with pungent fish sauce and salty, fermented shrimp. It almost feels impossible to be vegan and enjoy Korean dishes at the same time. But, Joanne Lee Molinaro, better known as @thekoreanvegan on social media, wants to challenge this idea.
In her debut cookbook, The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma’s Kitchen, Molinaro presents plant-based recipes for some of the most popular Korean dishes, while remaining true to original techniques and flavors. Bulgogi, often made with beef, is instead prepared with soy curls, a meat alternative with a slightly chewy texture. Her kimchi recipe replaces fish with “fishy sauce,” which gets its subtle umami punch from dried shiitake mushrooms. Variations of quintessential Korean soups, like doenjang jjigae (fermented soybean stew) and yukgaejang (a spicy beef soup with vegetables, veganized here with shiitake mushrooms), appear in the book, titled with their Korean characters, reminding readers this book is indeed Korean first.
The other element of the book, as the title declares, is Molinaro’s reflections on her family. Many of these focus on her omma (mom), who immigrated to America to become a nurse without knowing the language, her appa (dad), who at 9 years old started selling bags of rice at the market with his father, and others. Each of these anecdotes ties into a recipe. Before the kimchi chapter, for example, Molinaro describes her hahlmuhnee’s (grandma) cherished kimchi byung (a glass container made for storing kimchi) and why it means so much for her hahlmuhnee to reuse the same container to store kimchi despite its strong, lingering fish smell. With these stories, it becomes clear that every dish is deeply personal to Molinaro, and by presenting the recipes here, she does more than offer up delicious food — she invites the reader to honor one immigrant family’s story. — James Park
Italian American: Red Sauce Classics and New Essentials
Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli with Jamie Feldmar
Clarkson Potter, October 19
At Don Angie, the critically acclaimed restaurant in New York City’s West Village neighborhood, husband-and-wife duo Scott Tacinelli and Angie Rito surprise diners with their unconventional takes on Italian-American classics. (I’m looking at you, pinwheel lasagna). Upon first glance, their cookbook, Italian American, seems like a collection of red sauce favorites, but at its core it’s a book about family. As Tacinelli and Rito write in the introduction, “Italian-American cooking always is.”
Divided into 10 chapters, including hot and cold antipasti, sauces and ragus, pasta, and desserts and after-dinner drinks, Italian American is rich with Tacinelli and Rito’s family history. And among old family photos and anecdotes is a mix of classic and not-so-classic Italian-American dishes, some of which have been passed down through generations (Grandma Rito’s marinated roasted peppers, Grandma Addario’s lasagna with tiny meatballs), and some of which were born of Tacinelli’s and Rito’s own imaginations and experiences:
The chrysanthemum Caesar salad calls for delicate greens the couple was introduced to when they lived in an apartment above a restaurant serving Yunnanese food. Most of the 125 recipes are doable on a weeknight and home-cook friendly, calling for ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. But it’s the duo’s spirited take on each recipe — if the Campari & orange sticky ribs “remind you of Chinese-American takeout, then we’ve done our job” — that speaks to the heart of the book: While these are comforting, familiar dishes, Tacinelli and Rito provide all the technique and inspiration necessary to bring old-school classics new life. — Esra Erol
Roberta’s: Still Cookin’
Carlo Mirarchi and Brandon Hoy
Rizzoli, October 19
Roberta’s: Still Cookin’ is bookended by a close-up of the legendary Bushwick’s restaurant’s most recognizable dish: a wood-fired pizza. The book will teach you how to make that pizza, from starter through dough through sauce — and even how to make mozzarella, in the penultimate pantry section. But that only scratches the surface of what is really part scrapbook, part tribute to what has become the “Roberta’s universe” — not one but two Brooklyn restaurants, a Los Angeles restaurant, a name synonymous with plucky early-aughts optimism that has been veneered with the elegant luster of a three-restaurant, two-cookbook brand — and the tensions that arise out of such a journey.
It begins with a frank roundtable retrospective between co-founders Brandon Hoy and Carlo Mirarchi, and acolytes will be delighted by the punky attitude that punctuates every page. Muppet-like puppets ham up dish photos; curt recipe headnotes tread the line between instruction and good-natured insults. One reads, “Warm the sungolds, but don’t let the skin burst, otherwise you’re a jerk”; the intro for pasta carbonara is simply: “Don’t be afraid.”
The recipes are similarly unfussy, assembled dishes built around a few ingredients and some items from the pantry section, which covers compound butters, flavored oils, condiments, and other staples like that pizza sauce and mozzarella. Methods tend to be looser, with helpful warnings and cautions where required.
But what might be most interesting about this cookbook is what it leaves out. Before there were two co-founders, there were three: Chris Parachini left amid a $5.4 million lawsuit in 2015. His part in the Roberta’s story is absent, although photo collages depict the raucous parties and gritty build-outs of those early days, with bootleg salumi setups and beat-up walk-ins sometimes sitting uncomfortably alongside the lusher interiors at its more recent outposts. In a way, producing this cookbook is an acknowledgement that what “Roberta’s” meant in 2008 is not what it means in 2021. But if that’s a kind of honesty, Still Cookin’ is also deeply nostalgic and rose-tinted, to the point that the statement feels, most of all, like one of defiance. — James Hansen
Baking with Dorie: Sweet, Salty & Simple
Mariner Books, October 19
There are four chocolate chip cookie recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, preceded by a two-page primer on how to get the most out of the ingredients and techniques used to make them. Taken together, the recipes and primer encapsulate what Greenspan stans (Greenstans?) such as myself love about her cookbooks: thoroughness mixed with innovation, seasoned with just the right amount of borderline obsession. (Also, I made the first of those chocolate chip recipes — the “classic” — and it was extremely good.)
To read a Greenspan cookbook is to feel welcomed to a party given by an uncommonly empathetic host, and this, Greenspan’s 14th, is no exception. Dedicated to recipes that are, as she writes, “simple, rely on basic techniques, and have deep flavors and complex textures,” the book delves into cookies, cakes, pies/tarts, savory baked goods, breakfast, and just the right amount of pastry. There are both stalwarts (chocolate babka, English muffins) and lots of fun twists on familiar forms, such as rye-cranberry chocolate chunk cookies and a glorious miso-maple loaf with apricot jam glaze. All of the 150 recipes are accompanied by the generous, accommodating instructions that characterize Greenspan’s books: She encourages playing around with different ingredients, offers helpful insights on technique, and reassures you that even if you end up with a mess, it will be a worthwhile one. Really, the biggest difficulty here, especially given the unrelentingly gorgeous photography, is deciding what to make first. — Rebecca Flint Marx
4 Color Books, October 19
The notion that a cookbook can amount to more than a mere collection of recipes is commonplace — recipe headnotes often contain historical context and personal narrative, which can put forth a particular idea of a place or cuisine. But when I say that Black Food is more than a cookbook, I mean that literally. The first offering from 4 Color Books, Bryant Terry’s imprint with Penguin Random House dedicated to uplifting BIPOC voices, Black Food is also a book of essays, poetry, and art. It’s the kind of book that belongs both on your coffee table and in your regular kitchen rotation.
Terry is the author of several cookbooks, but for Black Food, he drew on the contributions of more than 100 Black creators, thinkers, and community leaders to explore the question of what is “Black food,” really? The pieces that make up the answer include writings on the role of food in Black culture as well as explorations of Black culture and identity more generally, as in Lazarus Lynch’s essay on growing up Black and queer. But it’s the recipes, with the kind of headnotes that reference deeper cultural themes and histories, that form the book’s through line. They include the vegan options Terry has become known for through his cookbooks, which include Afro-Vegan and Vegetable Kingdom, as well as recipes with origins in the American South (such as Kia Damon’s sweet potato grits and Terry’s Dirty South jackfruit tamales) and in the wider African diaspora (including Hawa Hassan’s Somali lamb stew and Eric Adjepong’s corn and goat milk pudding, which uses West African ingredients to tell the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade). There are also how-tos that highlight various aspects of the Black experience, like Amanda Yee on building a late-fall shoebox lunch, or Kanchan Dawn Hunter on growing and preparing medicinal plants. It’s a collection of recipes and more that makes it clear that Black food doesn’t mean any one thing: Black food is many things from around the world and, like this book, it defies categorization. — MB
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen: An Introduction to New African Cuisine – From Ghana With Love
Voracious, October 19
The foodways of the African diaspora are, as Zoe Adjonyoh puts it in the American edition of her 2017 U.K. hit cookbook, “the last frontier of food.” Adjonyoh isn’t suggesting that people within the continent lack awareness of the incredibly rich and varied culinary traditions surrounding them. Instead, she points to the way African food has been criminally overlooked by mainstream food media. That was certainly the case when her book was first published, but now, Adjonyoh sees interest and representation picking up, at the perfect time for her tribute to Ghanaian cooking to reach American readers.
The book promises an introduction to “new African cuisine,” but “new” is not intended to suggest that these recipes are dumbed down or oversimplified for an unfamiliar reader. On the contrary, Adjonyoh encourages cooks to push beyond what may feel most comfortable, to seek out potentially hard-to-find ingredients. To that end, Adjonyoh also operates an online store — by the same name as this cookbook — that sources and sells many of the ingredients one will need to cook their way through this book.
To really understand what Adjonyoh means by “new,” perhaps start with her suya flank steak, a twist on steak and fries in which steak is seasoned with the spices of beef suya, a classic West African street food, and the fries are made with starchy yam. For more familiar Ghanaian dishes, turn to a spiced, rich stew of garden egg (an African eggplant variety) and tilapia, or work your way through five preparations of both green and yellow plantain. Born in Ghana, Adjonyoh spent most of her childhood between Southeast London and West Cork, Ireland, and some of the most exciting recipes come when the author joins Ghanaian and Irish foodways: Think Ghanaian-Irish Scotch eggs, brought together with mashed yam, seasoned with a Ghanaian five-spice mixture, and coated in gari, or fermented, ground cassava.
The excitement Adjonyoh feels in sharing these recipes and stories with readers is tangible in the gorgeous photos of both food and of Ghana, and the little treats she sneaks in between recipes. For the fullest experience, flip to the playlist of highlife and Afrobeats music to fill your kitchen while you cook; something to enjoy as you dig into stews and curries, perfectly cooked fish, and for good measure, a warmly spiced slice of honey and plantain ginger cake. — ES
New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian
Freddie Bitsoie and James O. Fraioli
Abrams, October 19
It will likely come as no shock to learn that the Indigenous foodways of America have been largely ignored by the culinary mainstream for the last few hundred-ish years. Fry bread and the occasional bison burger notwithstanding, the diverse cooking styles of Native Americans have only recently drawn attention from scholars and cooks outside Indigenous communities. Even before then, though, there was Freddie Bitsoie. A member of the Navajo Nation and a longtime chef and advocate for Indigenous cooking, he led the kitchen at Mitsitam Native Foods Café at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., and today continues to promote Indigenous cooking as a living, breathing, varied, and evolving cuisine. Written in collaboration with James O. Fraioli, this book of recipes seeks to further that mission. “Referring to all Indigenous peoples, or their foods, as one homogenous group is like saying that there’s no difference between Spain’s tapas and France’s hors d’oeuvres,” Bitsoie writes. As such, in addition to recipes for Three Sisters bean soup, roasted duck with summer berries, and pumpkin bread pudding, there are handy one-page primers on Indigenous culinary regionalism, with variances by terrain and tribal nation, from the people of the Chaco Canyon to the Hopi, Muscogee, Chumash, and more.
By its very nature, this kind of cooking is not fussy, so recipes feel weeknight-level inviting, hyper-seasonal, and full of good, whole ingredients (Bitsoie provides tips on how to procure any of the more-obscure ones, like acorn meal and fiddlehead ferns). Dishes like a dandelion salad with jicama and prickly pear vinaigrette and cornmeal-crusted walleye with roasted corn and grilled chiles will appeal to health-focused home cooks as well as the historically curious. But Bitsoie is emphatic to explain this is not a history book. “I ... find ways to be creative within those traditions — taking Indigenous ingredients from thousands of miles apart and building their flavors in ways traditional recipes never could have, given the limits of geography,” he writes. The result is a delicious “snapshot of the continent’s ancient ingredients, shown through modernized recipes inspired by ancient traditions,” as well as a fitting manual for a more considered, more wholly American dinner table. — Lesley Suter
Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes
Chronicle Books, October 26
The sheer volume of grains and legumes in the world can be overwhelming. And yet you can only make so many grain bowls before you’re in a cooking rut. Enter Grist, chef Abra Berens’s follow-up to Ruffage, her 2019 cookbook focused on vegetables. A thorough A to Z of grains, beans, seeds, and legumes, Grist is based on the philosophy that great cooking comes from working with ingredients you’re excited about; once you’ve mastered them, you can bend any number of recipes to showcase those ingredients.
Beginning with a section on condiments (vinaigrettes, gussied-up dairy) designed to elevate newly cooked dishes and leftovers, Grist is then divided into two categories: legumes and grains. Seems simple, right? But what follows is a crash course on beans, chickpeas, lentils, oats, and rice, including how to prepare them, answers to the age-old question “to soak or not to soak?” and average boiling times and “signs of doneness.” Berens also shows readers how to build meals around a week’s worth of a particular grain or legume, providing day-by-day instructions for transforming an ordinary pile of beans into a solid breakfast (with two big scoops of cooked beans, a soft-boiled egg, and a handful of greens), a warm bowl of black bean and sweet potato soup, or a $15 knockoff Sweetgreen salad. Have buckwheat flour on hand? Begin your morning with a different plate of buckwheat crepes for every day of the week, perhaps with a fried egg and sauteed kale, cherry tomato conserva and ricotta, or mascarpone and berries.
Regular cooking has become a consistent part of our lives over the past year, and this book will help you take comfort in knowing that after a long, grueling day of work, a quick, heart-warming dinner with some vegetables, already-boiled grains, and a good sauce is well within reach. — EE
Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking
Artisan, October 26
Cheryl Day has written several cookbooks with her husband Griffith Day, with whom she opened Savannah’s Back in the Day Bakery in 2002. But in the first cookbook that bears her name alone, Day begins by establishing her Southern-baker bona fides. Although she grew up in Los Angeles, her mother lived in Alabama before moving during the Great Migration, and Day spent many summers there. After her mother passed away, she found a trove of handwritten family recipes, including those inherited from her great-great-grandmother. Day acknowledges the contributions of her ancestors and all the Black women in the South who have shaped Southern baking on the dedication page, writing, “My great-great-grandmother Hannah Queen Grubbs was born enslaved in 1838 and was among the women who created many of these Southern recipes … With reverence for her and so many like her, I carry this history forward in sharing recipes that I love.” And in presenting them in Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking, Day makes her position clear: “I feel that there is no better baking than that happening in Southern kitchens, but you can bake like a Southerner no matter where you live.”
It’s a prospect that seems eminently achievable. Although Day outlines some rules to Southern baking, they’re really more akin to tips for success: Butter for creaming shouldn’t be warmer than 70 degrees; eggs should be separated by hand. In fact, there’s little that’s limiting about Southern baking. Day makes it a point to say there is, for example, no one proper Southern biscuit. “How many Southern grandmothers are there?” Day writes. “That is perhaps how many ways there are to bake a biscuit.”
To this point, Day includes four different biscuit recipes, and you’ll find similar variety in other categories. A section on crackers includes buttermilk, benne, sea salt, crispy cheese, and cheese straw versions. Along with Day’s doughnut recipe, you’ll find seven different options for glazes and instructions on how to make filled doughnuts with milk jam, pastry cream, or lemon curd. Cake, that essential baked good, is the subject of three separate chapters, including one for gathering cakes, the kind of cakes that “travel well and are enjoyed as a part of everyday life.” All this is to say, Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking is just that: a wealth of recipes that home bakers will be returning to for occasions, years, and even more generations to come. — MB
Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets
Mariner Books, November 2
The charming, infectiously enthusiastic Pati Jinich has been educating audiences for years about the breadth and diversity of Mexico’s cuisine through her PBS show, Pati’s Mexican Table. Her latest cookbook, Treasures of the Mexican Table, allows her to continue showcasing hyper-regional dishes from the country’s 31 states and capital, whether it’s chipotle oyster soup from the port city of Atlanta in Sinaloa, or the Pueblan specialty of Lebanese-influenced tacos arabes. Jinich seems less interested putting her own spin on these dishes and more on capturing the focus that chefs, home cooks, and street vendors put into their cooking (the cookbook celebrates many of these individuals in the recipe intros, shouting out folks like Oaxacan chef Ixchel Ornelas, who promotes her city’s traditions with an easy-to-execute, warming corn soup with queso fresco).
The versatile cookbook is a fit for home cooks of any experience or ambition level. Treasures of the Mexican Table teaches cooks newer to Mexican cuisine how to carefully prep prickly nopales for sauteing, roast and sweat poblanos, and differentiate between various dried chiles, while never reading like an encyclopedia. Some recipes, like a tomatillo-enhanced chicken and mushroom mole, delve into project-cooking territory, but others, like a quesadilla-like crispy shrimp taco vibrant with peppers, chipotle, and tomatoes, are perfectly suitable for weeknight meals and can even be easily adapted into something new the next day — pair corn and poblano-spiked rice with chorizo and bacon-topped pinto beans inside a tortilla with some cheese, and you’ve got a monster burrito on your hands for lunch. And recipes like the pistachio- and guajillo-spiked salsa macha and the chorizo- and bacon-topped piggy beans are great for entertaining small groups — you might even be interested in sharing some of those fun facts from Jinich (such as the fact that said beans are a popular bar snack in Jalisco) with your guests. — Missy Frederick
Sambal Shiok: The Malaysian Cookbook
Quadrille Publishing, November 2
Celebrated London restaurateur Mandy Yin states her case on the very first page of Sambal Shiok: “My mission in life is to introduce as many people as possible to Malaysian cuisine.” Then, she complicates it: “It is incorrect to refer to all Malaysian food as Malay, which I will now explain.”
And explain she does, in a warmly pedagogical tone that runs throughout the book’s cultural framing of Malaysian cuisine, its explanation of its building blocks, and recipes that chart a kind of two-pronged journey: Yin’s path from street food trader to restaurateur in the U.K., and the childhood and family life that led up to it. The book is, at its core, a paean to the seemingly infinite permutations of Malaysian cuisine, emphasizing how geographical, cultural, and sociological differences create variations on both macro and micro levels: not just region to region or city to city, but household to household.
Recipes are accordingly both instructive and adaptable: learning to cook through Yin’s clear, encouraging guidance on sambals, rice, and rempah — spice pastes that are the backbone of myriad dishes — could create room for improvisation. But that would be to miss out on replicating the restaurant dishes for which people traverse London, particularly the curry laksa for which the restaurant is best known. Here Yin explains that it is campur-style and hails from the city of Malacca, ontologically somewhere between Kuala Lumpur’s curry laksas and Penang’s assam laksas. She writes that those cities are the three names — alongside Malaysia — that she painted on to the front of her restaurant in the North London neighborhood of Holloway, in homage to the cities that produced her family and saw her sit at their tables. It’s this effortless folding of the personal into the cultural that makes Sambal Shiok such a wonderful book from which to read, as much to cook. — JH
The Latin American Cookbook
Virgilio Martínez and Nicholas Gill
Phaidon Press, November 3
The Latin American Cookbook is the latest in the truly massive regional cookbook series from Phaidon, and for this one, publishers turned to acclaimed chef Virgilio Martínez who, along with running some of Lima’s top restaurants, also works with a fascinating culinary research group called Mater Iniciativa. Martínez applied the Mater Iniciativa philosophy to his culinary research across the region, investigating the food of Latin America in its “natural, social, and cultural context” and finding the common threads in how Latin America eats “at home, the food made in the streets and in our markets.”
The result is expansive: Chapters comprise dishes from around Latin America, organized by broad categories like lamb and goat, fish and seafood, sweets, and, of course, an entire chapter devoted to corn. The headnote for each of the 600-plus recipes is only a short paragraph, but together the notes and recipes tell a complex history of how the foodways of Latin America came to be and what these recipes mean today: A hit ’90s song from Honduras opens the recipe for conch soup; the headnote for chocolate atole notes that beverages like it date back to the Aztecs and then hypothesizes how it might have tasted back then; the headnote for yellow chile tiradito traces the steady ascent of Nikkei cooking in Peru as well as the power of Nobu Matsuhisa. So while the book is encyclopedic it’s also lively, entertaining, and surprisingly navigable. The Latin American Cookbook has as much to offer research-oriented readers as those who are only on the hunt for something good to cook. — HDC
Andrea D’Aquino is an illustrator and author based in New York City.