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The Hottest Cookbooks of Summer 2018

From an encyclopedic look at Cuban cuisine to a collection of dishes from the Middle East, these are the books you need right now

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When the warmth of the summer sun lingers late into the night, it can be tempting to avoid the kitchen. Air-conditioned restaurants and breezy patio tables may beckon — but it’d be a mistake to ignore the call of summer’s produce, the fruit, vegetables, leaves, herbs, and flowers that are just right for use in some of this season’s best new cookbooks.

I was surprised and pleased by the depth and breadth of these books, by their authors’ thoughtfulness and verve, and by their diversity. I’ve taken to reading Picador’s reprint of Sameen Rushdie’s Indian Cookery before bed. In Anissa Helou’s Feast: Food of the Islamic World, I found a connection with the cooking of my mother’s childhood in Iran. Cuba, Phaidon’s encyclopedic overview of the often misunderstood country’s cuisine, reminds me that some of the best cooking happens at home.

Speaking of home cooking and summer produce, don’t sleep on Jam Session, prolific cookbook author Joyce Goldstein’s latest book, a useful collection of recipes for preserving the season’s best peaches, plums, mangoes, cucumbers, and many, many berries. Also consider award-winning pastry chef and restaurateur Brooks Headley’s much-anticipated second cookbook, Superiority Burger: The Vegetarian Hamburger Is Now Delicious. Not only does it contain a recipe for the restaurant’s namesake dish, but it’s full of creative ways to use greens, roots, shoots, and all of the vegetables spilling out of backyard gardens and overflowing atop farmers market tables. Here are the cookbooks I’m most excited to cook out of right this minute.

Feast: Food of the Islamic World

Anissa Helou, Ecco

In the Middle East, identity is tied to religion even more than it is to region. A full quarter of the world’s population practices Islam, and most reside in the area in and around the Levant. In late May, award-winning author Anissa Helou — a prolific writer, chef, and Middle Eastern scholar — published Feast, which builds on her previous nine books to expand upon the diverse foods of the region, from Syria and Egypt to India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.

Appropriately, the first chapter is about bread, and is itself an eye-catching collection of recipes, both unique and approachable, each paired with a photograph that captures the flat or puffed or crisp bread’s texture. The rest of the book is also divided by meal category rather than country, alluding to the fluid nature of the exchange of recipes through the region. There are Uighur scallion pancakes from China, pide from Turkey, parathas from India and Pakistan, tagine from Morocco, rice pilafs from Afghanistan, a Nigerian marinade for fish, Tunisian-style couscous, and sweet and salty cakes made of cassava from Indonesia.

Exhaustive in scope, this is more than an encyclopedia of Islamic foods. Extensive recipe headnotes give the book the feel of a travelogue, while recipes guide the reader with visual cues and reminders to taste as you go. Don’t miss the history lessons and miniature profiles throughout: In Feast, Helou opens new doors in an area of the world that’s often figuratively or literally completely closed off.

Cuba: The Cookbook

Madelaine Vazquez Galvez and Imogene Tondre, Phaidon

Captivating but elusive, the island of Cuba is featured in art-book publisher Phaidon’s series on country-specific cuisines; in past seasons, editors tackled the cooking and dining of China, Thailand, Mexico, and Japan. Although Obama-era policy loosened travel restrictions to the country, and despite its proximity to the U.S., many Americans without ties to the island are unfamiliar with true Cuban cuisine. Here is an essential guide from Cuban writer Madelaine Vazquez Galvez, a food technologist with a background in social food systems, and Imogene Tondre, an American-born cultural coordinator who now lives in Cuba. The pair dive into the roots of the food of the island, approaching it with reverence and newfound appreciation.

Galvez, who was the director and chef of El Bambú, Cuba’s first vegetarian restaurant, is said to own the largest known collection of cookbooks on Cuban cuisine. Her library encompasses more than 150 publications, and served as an important resource into the history of Cuban cooking. Some of these otherwise “lost” recipes were saved and reprinted in Cuba.

But Galvez and Tondre also sought out traditional recipes made in Cuban homes today. A total of 350 recipes comprise the volume, from simple breakfasts, pastries, and toasts to bigger format stews and soups. Historical references spring up throughout. There’s oxtail stew or rabo de res encendido, a hearty (often spicy) dish meant for larger family gatherings that’s also inexpensive to prepare; Cuban-style spaghetti, which is sauteed and mixed with scallions and bean sprouts thanks to China’s influence on the island; and the classic, vaca frita or a dish of braised, shredded beef that’s often served with a dish of white rice and black beans that’s called Moors (blacks) and Christians (whites) — the name comes from the Arab and Mozarabic occupation of Spain from the 8th century through the 15th century.

Though it’s an island surrounded by water, there’s less fish in Cuban food than one might imagine. Instead, trade and politics have shaped Cuba’s cuisine, with notable influences from Spain, Africa, Russia, and China. Photographs of life on the island aren’t as evocative as those in other books such as Paladares or a Taste of Cuba, but they do flesh out the volume with imagery that inspires.

Superiority Burger Cookbook: The Vegetarian Hamburger Is Now Delicious

Brooks Headley, W. W. Norton & Company

There’s often a line snaking out the door of chef Brooks Headley’s New York City restaurant, Superiority Burger. It’s congested near the register, where diners order, pay, and then wait around awkwardly, never sure where to stand. Some of them end up eating their burgers on the curb, in between parked cars: There are only five seats inside the restaurant, so all surfaces outside its front door — stoops, ledges, tree planters — become de facto patio seating. On that dingy street, in that cramped corner of the East Village, this rough, seemingly haphazard system somehow feels right. The food, by almost every account, is worth it — making Headley’s second cookbook, named after his restaurant, so highly anticipated.

Superiority peddles a (vegan) patty on a roll with some sauce and various pickled and fresh vegetable accoutrement. Appropriately, the book’s first recipe is for that burger. It’s fairly straightforward, with no technology or lab-grown faux blood: The patty contains a blend of roasted and sauteed vegetables, grains, and beans, ingredients probably listed on a box of frozen veggie burger patties in the freezer section of any American grocery store. People like it. But the regulars know Superiority offers more than a souped up veggie burger.

The rest of Headley’s menu rotates through often seasonal, sometimes starchy, inventive salads, soups, and vegetables that would make fantastic sides or main courses. The cookbook is filled with these dishes, their ironic influences, haphazard origins, and Headley’s professional tips and tricks that make vegetable scraps, leftover grains, and wilted greens shine: Cook jasmine rice with star anise and tamari to give it the flavors of pho; coat vegetables in tahini and roast them to create fried chicken-like crunch; use malt vinegar powder in a dressing to make string beans taste like salt-and-vinegar potato chips; crunch up grocery store sesame breadsticks for a quick and nutty crumble topping.

A friend remarked that Headley’s business model could be summed up as a chef bending over backwards to make highly technical food seem really basic. For the most part, this sentiment encapsulates the cookbook as well.

Indian Cookery

Sameen Rushdie, Picador Cookstr Classics

Nearly three decades ago, Sameen Rushdie wrote a book that collected dozens of recipes from across North India and west into Bengal, combining those with the recipes her mother made. Essentially home-style cookery at its core, it was among the first widely distributed Indian cookbooks in the U.K. Unfortunately, it was never officially published in the U.S. This summer, with a new foreword by her brother, novelist Salman Rushdie, Sameen’s book takes on a new generation and continent of cooks, thanks to a reprinting by Picador Cookstr Classics.

Indian Cookery compiles essential techniques, notes on spices and seasonings, pantry staples, and menu suggestions. Recipes are written for a cook with at least some intuition, though histories of dishes and regional specifics are expressed with gentle guidance.

In straightforward, conversational prose, Rushdie writes of table customs (it’s not common to serve rice dishes with lentils, but is traditional to serve rice dishes with daal, a cooked lentil stew) and misconceptions (“I have no memory of ever being squeamish about eating meat,” she writes. “I was conscious every time I unpacked my containers that I was asserting my right to be Indian despite being a strict carnivore, a minority in a world of vegetarians.”) She beautifully renders restaurant scenes: “It is seldom quiet in an Irani restaurant, most of which run a full house from dawn, when they open, to the early hours of the next morning when business from hungry truckers, taxi-drivers, builders, laborers, shoppers, passers-by, hangers-on and dope peddlers quietens down for a few hours — just long enough to put out the rubbish and feed the leftovers to stray cats and dogs.”

Packaged into the size of a novel, Indian Cookery would fit neatly into a nook in the kitchen, easily referenced and always at hand, but like a book of fiction, it’s also a delight to read before bed.

Unicorn Food: Beautiful, Vibrant, Plant-Based Recipes to Nurture Your Inner Magical Beast

Kat Odell, Workman Publishing Company

The multi-colored unicorn food trend is tackled from a plant-based, vegan angle in food writer (and former Eater editor) Kat Odell’s new book. While so-called Lisa Frankenfoods seem to have peaked in 2017, true converts to the unicorn lifestyle will find plenty to soak in here.

Odell created and compiled 75 original recipes — such as miso-almond cookies with date caramel glaze; hazelnut-mocha overnight oats; roasted sweet potatoes with black honey tahini, dukkah, and dill — into a colorful book. There’s even a recipe for a “Lisa Frank Mountain Cake,” a creation heavy on coconut and freeze-dried fruit powders that, when sliced, looks like the layered jars of sand art your aunt bought when she visited the Southwest. Everything from flax, oat, and teff-based “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” in nut milk tinted blue to ingenious coconut flakes dyed a rainbow of colors and dried into “sprinkles” is perfect for the ‘gram. Because if you’re not performing your health and wellness lifestyle, are you even living it?

Sharp: The Definitive Guide to Knives, Knife Care, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs

Josh Donald and Molly DeCoudreaux, Chronicle Books

The world’s most important cooking utensil is the subject of cutlery store owner Josh Donald’s new book; alongside photographs by Molly DeCoudreaux, Donald explores the hows and whys and history of the knife. The comprehensive guide takes readers through what is essentially a knife-skills class, detailing knife care, offering tips on how to buy a knife, explaining each type of knife’s purpose, and showing off the most highly coveted knives in the industry today.

Like others before him, Donald was inspired by knife craftspeople in Japan and Europe, and the book pays homage to those metalsmiths. Get drawn into the stories, and then dive into the recipes. Chefs from San Francisco share their favorite recipe — Melissa Perello (of Michelin-starred restaurant, Frances) offers an autumn squash salad with spiced honey vinaigrette; Traci Des Jardins (Jardiniere, among others), sauteed artichokes; and Stuart Brioza (State Bird Provisions) a duck breast with cucumber salad — and the knife they use to make it. Here’s a reference and resource that’s as fun to flip through as it is to read and cook out of.

Dosa Kitchen: Recipes for India’s Favorite Street Food

Nash Patel and Leda Scheintaub, Clarkson Potter

“Every time you go into a little crevice of India, you find a new cuisine,” legendary cookbook author and actress Madhur Jaffrey once told longtime radio host Lynne Rosetta Casper. Jaffrey was a pioneer in introducing English speakers to not just Indian cookery, but the concept that India has not just one cuisine but hundreds of them. Where Rushdie promoted North India and some of West India’s foods in her seminal cookbook, Indian Cookery, the chefs behind Vermont-based food truck Dosa Kitchen, Leda Scheintaub and Nash Patel, are celebrating one of South India’s most iconic foods: the lacy, crispy, eggless crepe-like pancake known as the dosa. Made from fermented rice and lentils, it’s one of the world’s thinnest naturally leavened breads, and yet a major publisher has not heretofore supported a book focused on it.

Dosa Kitchen: Recipes for India’s Favorite Street Food is a fresh look at dosas with precise instructions on how to master the basic batter, as well what to fill them with. It’s a food that’s easy to romanticize — and Scheintaub and Patel fall into this trap — but it’s also a food that can create a child-like sense of wonder. Make a dosa the size of a blini or one the size of your head or one the size of your biggest skillet. Fill them with a vegan sprout salad, saag paneer, pork vindaloo, or hot dogs — the point is always the same. As Scheintaub and Patel’s story suggests, dosas are about having fun with your food.

Jam Session: A Fruit-Preserving Handbook

Joyce Goldstein, Lorena Jones Books

There are too many jam cookbooks. Mes Confisures Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber by the legendary French jamstress is widely regarded as the jam bible. Foolproof Preserving by America’s Test Kitchen is a solid option, and includes recipes for pickles and other condiments. And, if I’m being honest, when I make preserves these days, it’s probably from a David Lebovitz recipe, easily found online.

But when a seasoned, lauded cookbook author puts out a new book on jam, it’s worth a read. Joyce Goldstein has done it all: Most know her as a public speaker who’s won nearly every award there is to win, but she’s also owned a restaurant (Square One, San Francisco); founded a cooking school (California Street Cooking School); consulted on the menus and concepts for restaurants across the country; taught kitchen design for the University of California’s Department of Architecture; developed packaged products for companies and independent shops; and written 28 cookbooks (including one on the foods of the Jewish diaspora, and several on Italian and Mediterranean cooking). Her latest is on preserves, especially the jammy kind, though it also features recipes for mostarda, chutney, candied eggplant — a Moroccan speciality — ketchup, relish, marmalades, and spiced squash butters.

There’s a gorgeous-looking recipe for mango-lime jam that Goldstein suggests would be “good on toast and French toast, as well as on ham and cheese sandwiches, and is wonderful when warmed and spooned over coconut ice cream.” Yes, please!

Goldstein writes with an easy sort of earned confidence that reels the reader in. Of note for those who live in states where so-called “cottage food laws” exist, allowing home jamsters to sell their wares: Jam Session offers some basic guidelines on food handling and the legal requirements to start one’s own mini jam factory.

Supra: A Feast of Georgian Cooking

Tiko Tuskadze, Pavilion

Probably the most familiar dish from the Caucasian nation of Georgia is khachapuri, a boat-shaped loaf of bread filled with molten cheese. Often a raw egg is dropped in, and it poaches slowly in the cheese pocket, or can be scrambled as the bread’s residual heat cooks it. Needless to say, there’s a recipe for this iconic dish in chef Tiko Tuskadze’s new cookbook, published in the U.K. last year and now available in the U.S.

At Tuskadze’s London restaurant, Little Georgia, which has two locations, she serves fare found at restaurants in and around Tbilsia, like kababi (herbed sausages with a spicy tomato sauce), badrijnis salata (a roasted eggplant salad), and mtsvadi (a marinated, roasted pork kebab). But Tuskadze’s book also includes standards found throughout Georgia, including Russian salad, the meaty dumplings called khinkali, and Georgian-style bread not filled with cheese.

Her book is full of these recipes, plus others for more homestyle dishes: a stew of onions, red peppers, and eggplant called ajabsandali; a cold chicken salad with walnuts (nigvziani katmis salata); and a roasted chicken in a sauce of garlic and pureed walnuts (ckmeruli). Pates, dips, breads, and sweets fill out the collection of fragrant, nuanced meals, snacks, and desserts.

Other notable titles

Pasta, Pane, Vino by Matt Goulding. Harper Collins, June 2018

The New Rum: A Modern Guide to the Spirit of the Americas by Bryce T. Bauer. Countryman Press, June 2018

Pantone Foodmood by Guido Tommasi Publishing. Arnoldsche Verlagsanstalt, June 2018

A Taste of Vengeance: A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel by Martin Walker. Knopf, June 2018

Formerly Known As Food: How the Industrial Food System Is Changing Our Minds, Bodies, and Culture by Kristin Lawless. St. Martin’s Press, June 2018

Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book by America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen, June 2018

The New Spanish: Bites, Feasts, and Drinks by Jonah Miller and Nate Adler. Kyle Books, June 2018

Shojin Ryori: A Japanese Vegetarian Cookbook by Danny Chu. Marshall Cavendish International, June 2018

Killing It: An Education by Camas Davis. Penguin Press, July 2018

Provincetown Seafood Cookbook by Howard Mitcham, foreword by Anthony Bourdain. Seven Stories Press, June 2018

Honey & Co: At Home: Middle Eastern Recipes From Our Kitchen by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich. Pavilion Books, July 2018

A Bite-Sized History of France: Gastronomic Tales of Revolution, War, and Enlightenment by Stéphane Henaut and Jeni Mitchell. The New Press, July 2018

Food & Drink Infographics: A Visual Guide to Culinary Pleasures by Simone Klabin. TASCHEN, July 2018

Dessert: A Tale of Happy Endings by Jeri Quinzio. Reaktion Books, August 2018

Mastering Pizza: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pizza, Focaccia, and Calzone by Marc Vetri and David Joachim. Ten Speed Press, August 2018

The Great Grilled Cheese Book: Grown-Up Recipes for a Childhood Classic by Eric Greenspan. Ten Speed Press, August 2018

Le Gavroche Cookbook by Michel Roux Jr. Orion, August 2018

Daniela Galarza is Eater’s senior editor.
Additional reporting provided by Helena Gonzalez.

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