Well, 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for cookbooks. After a busy winter-into-spring season, this summer brings a respectable roster of books — in advance of what will surely be a busy fall season. (My current list for fall is already 30 books deep and includes new titles from London’s Yotam Ottolenghi, blog empress Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, and alleged best restaurant in the world Eleven Madison Park.)
Anyway, summer has arrived, and with it, a tight list of new books to add to your collection. Five years after we first heard pizza savant Chris Bianco was writing a cookbook, It. Is. Here. Don’t sleep on these other titles, though. I’m particularly excited to dig into chef Daniel Patterson’s new meditation on flavor, Michael W. Twitty’s emphatic history of race and Southern foodways, and a new cookbook focused on iconic American desserts from Stella Parks.
Bianco: Pizza, Pasta, and Other Food I Like
Ecco, July 2017
Pretty much everyone who visits pizzaiolo Chris Bianco’s compound in Phoenix comes away from the experience in awe. In 2015, Eater’s roving restaurant critic Bill Addison wrote, without hyperbole, that Bianco’s pizza “rewired my synapses... Watching Bianco and his crew inspired me to pursue excellence in my own life.” It’s probably no surprise then that Eater has been tracking this cookbook since early 2012. Five years later it’s here, and it’s a glimpse at how Bianco’s own synapses fire.
In the introduction, the self-taught chef reveals why he was hesitant to write a cookbook in the first place: “I sometimes wonder if cookbooks might be an impediment to learning to cook well, because before you can learn to cook, you need to learn to eat... [cooking is] all practice, repetition... But the magic? That comes from developing your own food sensibility.”
I haven’t made any of the recipes from the book yet, but I can tell they’ve been adapted for the home cook. Bianco does not bake his pizzas in a conventional home oven, for instance. But as his intro suggests, he’s not all that interested in teaching readers how to make his pizza, necessarily. Instead, he’s holding your hand so you can learn to trust your senses on your way to mastering your pizza. Subscribe to the philosophy, lean into the unknown world of yeasted doughs, muster all of your confidence, and fire up your oven.
BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
W. W. Norton & Company, August 2017
Stella Parks is one of many to make the transition from pastry chef to food writer. She’s in a unique position, however, because she writes for Serious Eats, a website obsessively devoted to understanding the science behind cooking techniques and uncovering little secrets that turn the status quo on its head.
In her first book, Parks applies professional and unconventional techniques to classic desserts, including cherry pie, brownies, biscuits, layer cakes, and s’mores. The book goes beyond instruction to dive into the history of icons like the chocolate chip cookie and the ice cream float. Parks’ section on candy-making is a particularly well-rounded and succinct study. This is a great starter book for anyone looking to master American baking basics — and understand the whys as well as the hows — but it offers plenty of tips for more experienced bakers, too.
Offal Good: Cooking from the Heart, with Guts
Chris Cosentino, Michael Harlan Turkell
Clarkson Potter, August 2017
Like Bianco, this is a book that’s been in the works for a while; it was first announced in 2009. In the interim, San Francisco-based chef Chris Cosentino published his first cookbook, starred in some TV competition shows (and won one of them), and worked on several restaurants in the Bay Area, including (the now-closed) Incanto and Cockscomb, that had offal, the off-cuts of meat, on the menu.
The award-winning chef’s early embrace of true nose-to-tail cookery landed him in the national spotlight; no one knows kidneys, hearts, skin, ears, liver, intestines, or tongue like he does. It’s clear Cosentino was a trendsetter, though that trend seems to have crested. This is a book for those who’ve always loved offal.
As Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern writes in the foreword, “cooking offal requires real cooking.” The first half of the book is set up like a 101-course that includes instructions on everything from how to order blood and brains from a butcher to how to prepare them before cooking. The last half presents recipes for preparing various cuts, from terrines, sausages, and pâté to foie gras crudo and stewed lamb kidneys with lentils, chile, and mint. It’s worth noting that the recipes are guided by European technique — Cosentino is most comfortable in the Italian kitchen — so don’t go searching the index for fuqi feipian or tacos de lengua.
Zoe's Ghana Kitchen
Mitchell Beazley, June 2017
You’ve probably never had Ghanaian food. You should probably change that. This book, from writer, cook, and instructor Zoe Adjonyoh — who is based in London — is an excellent start. West African cuisine is hearty and spice-forward, much like North African cookery, but with more tropical fruit like mangoes and avocados; starchy vegetables like cassava, yams, and plantains; grains and beans; and fish and shellfish in addition to poultry and meat.
Inspired by her grandmother’s cooking, Adjonyoh presents a cohesive selection of recipes including standouts like pork ribs in sticky plantain sauce; fried whole fish with ginger and shaved papaya; a battered fried chicken marinated in 10 herbs, chiles, and spices; and Ghanaian doughnuts, cinnamon-spiced fritters called bofrot, or “puff puff.” There are rice pilafs, curries, dals, ragus, pâté, salads, cakes, and cookies, too.
In addition to teaching and writing about the food of her father’s youth, Adjonyoh hosts pop-up restaurants in London and Berlin. As she writes in her book’s intro, African food has been marginalized, but a consciousness of it, particularly in European and North American communities, is growing. As Adjonyoh notes, “we’re on the cusp of an African food revolution.” Ready your spice cabinet.
Mexican Ice Cream: Beloved Recipes and Stories
Ten Speed Press, June 2017
It’s almost hard to believe that pastry chef and entrepreneur Fany Gerson, who was born in Mexico City and is now based in New York, is already on her third book. Mexican Ice Cream — which comes out a few months after Gerson opened La Newyorkina, her brick-and-mortar frozen treat shop, in Manhattan’s West Village — picks off where her last book, Paletas, left off.
It offers flavor pairings and inspiration for churned ice creams and sorbets. The combinations are as vibrant as those in the chef’s signature popsicles. Stories of Gerson’s memories seeking out and eating ice cream as a child in Mexico are interspersed with recipes for uncommon combinations like chocolate with peanut marzipan; avocado and passionfruit; goat cheese with hoja santa; mole; and a sour, spicy, and sweet concoction: sour cream with guajillo chile and piloncillo-roasted apricots. Transport yourself to the streets of Mexico City with a scoop of Gerson’s deviled mango sorbet topped with chamoy, a must-taste condiment made from pickled plums that brightens the floral sweetness of mango.
The Art of Flavor: Practices and Principles for Creating Delicious Food
Daniel Patterson and Mandy Aftel
Riverhead Books, August 2017
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the French gastronome and scholar who died in 1826, once wrote: “Smell and taste form a single sense, of which the mouth is the laboratory and the nose is the chimney.” So begins chef Daniel Patterson’s latest cookbook in collaboration with noted perfumer Mandy Aftel. Patterson, who’s best known for his work at San Francisco’s Michelin-starred Coi, and Aftel, who Vogue called “one of the fragrance industry’s most creative thinkers,” have written a treatise on flavor that goes well beyond the average cookbook. The book’s dual scope covers the history of food and eating, explores the multidimensional and multi-sensory ways humans experience the sensation of taste, and finally explains how flavor is created — first on an ingredient by ingredient basis, and then through recipes.
Patterson and Aftel have created a meandering guide to building and layering flavors that’s more nuanced than similar books that address cooking theory. But the stories the authors tell in between their recipes are thought-provoking, and will make excellent conversation starters between like-minded cooks.
Adventures in Starry Kitchen: 88 Asian-Inspired Recipes from America’s Most Famous Underground Restaurant
Harper Collins, June 2017
Some Columbia University student has been making headlines in the past couple of years because he ran a(n illegal) restaurant out of his dorm room. He’s got nothing on Thi and Nguyen Tran, two Vietnamese-Angelenos who started an underground restaurant in their tiny San Fernando Valley apartment in 2008 — when that kid was still in elementary school.
The Trans’ claims to fame include dishes like crispy tofu balls — green orbs designed for people who “hate tofu” and enjoy the occasional off-color joke — and Singaporean chili crab, a dish so sought-after the LA Times’ Jonathan Gold devoted a full three paragraphs of his Starry Kitchen review to it. Here at last is a book for the fans who waited in long lines, snuck into private dining rooms, and have followed Nguyen and Thi through thick and thin. Beyond the LA bubble, Starry Kitchen is a story by and for dogged, food-obsessed dreamers. (Plus, it has a recipe for that killer chili crab.)
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South
Michael W. Twitty
Amistad, August 2017
Michael W. Twitty, the well-recognized food historian, instructor, and scholar, has been studying, researching, and writing about the history of the African culinary diaspora for his entire career. In 2011, he started Afroculinaria, a blog dedicated to his research and findings. Finally, he’s put his life’s work into a book — tying it more strongly to his own ancestry and life experiences.
“Growing and sharing food is at the root of who we are as ethical people. It defines us as human,” Twitty told Raleigh’s News & Observer in a recent interview. “The revolution begins in the ground. Having food leads us to be well, and to want justice for our neighbors. Not having it leads us to become desperate, and to act with illogical extremism.”
As racial issues continue to divide America, Twitty offers a personal account of why a confrontation and self-exploration of his own history through the food and agriculture of the South has helped him (and many others) find clarity on the way to healing. The book traces Southern cuisine, including soul food and barbecue, and explores issues of ownership, identity, discrimination, pain, and politics in ways history books have previously ignored. Twitty’s message is heavy but crucial, and ultimately positive: It embraces the idea that food has the power to bring America together again.
Baking Powder Wars: The Cutthroat Food Fight that Revolutionized Cooking
University of Illinois Press, out now
A now-essential ingredient in pancakes, muffins, biscuits, cupcakes, and cookies, baking powder has a surprisingly sordid past. Culinary historian and instructor Linda Civitello, who’s also the author of Cuisine and Culture, tells the curious, little-known story of how the invention and mass production of baking powder transformed America’s diet in the decades leading up to the turn of the 20th century.
After it was patented in 1856, the little can of white powder now found in kitchen cupboards across the U.S. triggered a fight between the big four — Rumford, Calumet, Clabber Girl, and the once-popular brand Royal — complete with bribery, corruption, poison, and a fight involving the Ku Klux Klan. Big Powder gave rise to what we now call Big Food, and through extensive public and political manipulation, the business of baking powder changed American home cooking techniques and recipes forever. The 19th century’s baking powder wars are also one of reasons the U.S. government regulates food and drugs so diligently today.
Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography
Aperture; June 2017
Why do we take photographs of our food? Now that so many of us have cameras in our pockets, we are consuming images of food at a rate faster than ever before. At its most mundane, food is a source of nourishment, but its shape and varied meaning have made it one of the first and most-photographed subjects since the dawn of the camera. Susan Bright, an author, curator, instructor, and critic of photography, has composed a primer on food photography in this, its golden age.
Bright does not simply present a collection in timeline fashion, but adds context to each piece, from fine art to fashion to advertising and cookbook imagery. The book features photographs from Edward Weston, Irving Penn, Stephen Shore, Laura Letinsky, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Martin Parr, among others.
As Bright notes, “photographs of food are rarely just about food. They hold our lives and time up to the light. Food can signify a lifestyle or a nation, hope or despair, hunger or excess. Ultimately, food is not only about literal taste, but also Taste with a capital T — both the lifestyles we aspire to and the building blocks of culture itself.”
Other Notable Releases
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay. Harper, June 2017
L.A. Mexicano: Recipes, People, and Places by Bill Esparza. Prospect Park Books, June 2017
Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America by Amy Ettinger. Dutton, June 2017
101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die by Jet Tila. Page Street, June 2017
What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro. Viking, July 2017
Supra: A Feast of Georgian Cooking by Tiko Tuskadze. Pavilion Books, July 2017
In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire by Peter Hellman. The Experiment, July 2017
Dictators? Dinners: A Bad Taste Guide to Entertaining Tyrants by Victoria Clark and Melissa Scott. Gilgamesh Publishing, August 2017
Cocolat: Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts by Alice Medrich. Dover Publications, August 2017
Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor by Maricel E. Presilla. Lorena Jones Books, August 2017
For the Love of Pie: Sweet and Savory Recipes by Felipa Lopez and Cheryl Perry. Gibbs Smith, August 2017
Daniela Galarza is a senior editor at Eater.
Editor: Erin DeJesus
Special thanks: Chloe Reznikov