Staff Picks

May 2020 Cookbook Roundup

Blyth Meier

May 28, 2020


“Cooking in” is the new “going out,” so let’s take a look at the new cookbooks that were giving life to our kitchen routines in May.

Each Tuesday (aka “pub day”), our marketing staff writes about our picks from that week’s new releases. With so many good books coming out each week, it’s not at all easy to narrow it down. While my colleagues Dylan and Gabbi have been covering a glorious range of books—everything from economics and philosophy to career advice and short story collections—I’ve been digging deep into the world of cookbooks and food literature. So, for those of you that are similarly food-driven, we thought a cookbook-only roundup of new releases would be useful. Whether you are looking to use up that last can of tuna in the pantry, whip up a batch of tropical cocktails, or add homemade kefir to your diet, the cookbooks from May have you covered. Perhaps you are just exhausted from the weeeek and want to order takeout and snoop in other people’s fridges? Also here. And if you are looking for a way to help all of the restaurants and their employees that may never get back to work, that’s here, too. “Cooking in” is the new “going out,” so let’s take a look at the cookbooks that were giving life to our kitchen routines in May.


Chefs' Fridges: More Than 35 World-Renowned Cooks Reveal What They Eat at Home by Carrie Solomon and Adrian Moore, Harper Design

While we have been living in a sharing culture since the dawn of Facebook, we haven’t seen anything quite like the current “broadcast from home” revolution occurring during this pandemic. Anyone with a cell signal, a phone, and time on their hands basically has their own television network, tapping into our most voyeuristic selves. As journalists report stories from their living rooms and authors stage live readings from their bedrooms, we are either snooping the titles on their bookshelves or distracted by the cats on their sofas. And for those of us who love to cook, we are pausing every frame of kitchen organizational videos to figure out how the pros make the best use of their space, and zooming in when chefs open their fridges so we can sneak a glimpse of what they keep on hand. All of this is to say that when Chefs’ Fridges showed up, my afternoon was planned! The (mostly) North American follow-up to Inside Chefs’ Fridges, Europe, the authors reveal refrigerator habits and provide recipes for what chefs eat after a long day at the restaurant. Alongside endless bottles of local kombucha and a rainbow of homemade chili oils, you’ll also spot things like honey-preserved pine cones, “everyday champagne,” blue Kool-Aid, and Super Glue. Yes, as the authors interviewed subject after subject, they found “under those chef’s whites was almost always a personality trait not visible in the restaurant dining rooms, TV shows, or cookbook pages.” And while I’m curious that Carla Hall likes Koeze’s Cream-Nut peanut butter, or that Anthony Rose uses Soom tahini, what is taking me down an internet rabbit hole are the plastic containers meticulously labeled with various colors of painters tape, the mysterious homemade concoctions that these pros keep in weekly rotation. Christina Tosi’s dulce de leche, Alice Waters’ crab apple jelly, Mette Soberg’s fennel flowers with apple vinegar, Nancy Silverton’s Meyer lemon jam, Ivan Orkin’s sweet black beans, Enrique Olvera’s salted plums—all of these have my mind churning with new ideas for my weekend cooking adventures. 

Read our recommendations for more books published on May 19.

Easy Tiki: A Modern Revival with 60 Recipes by Chloe Frechette, Ten Speed Press

Sometimes, all we need is a change of scenery to make the world seem like a different place. For many, that change used to be found at restaurants and bars. And no place was more of an escape from whatever reality you were in than a tiki bar. Colorful lights, no windows, bamboo chairs, and umbrella-adorned rum drinks served in hollowed-out pineapples—just the place to trick your brain into thinking you are on a tropical beach, thousands of miles away from this unusually cold and dreary Midwestern spring. Of course, when the current situation makes it impossible to do so, you have to bring the island party to your own home. Enter Chloe Frechette’s Easy Tiki, which provides a “new set of simplified drinks designed for the revival age, which aim to bring tiki back within the home bartender’s reach.” Here you’ll find both classic and modern tiki recipes, an overview of international rum profiles, tips for creating the “tiki atmosphere,” and, of course, the history of tiki. Started by a World War II veteran named Donn Beach (whose motto was “What one rum can’t do, three rums can.”), the tiki movement was an escape from the harsh realities of Depression-era living. Included here are no less than five recipes showcasing the movement’s most iconic drink: Classic Mai Tai, Kentucky Mai Tai, Mai Sha Roa Na, Bitter Mai Tai, and (most importantly) Breakfast Mai Tai. And while tiki drinks are renowned for their laundry list recipes, the most important ingredient is our own imagination: “The ability for a cocktail to conjure another world through its composition, presentation, and name.” Let your mind wander far and wide as you peruse recipes from tiki bars all across the world with names like Missionary's Downfall, Quarantine Order, Fog Cutter, Our Man in Havana, Staycation, or Lost Voyage (from my very own neighborhood tiki bar, Foundation). You don’t need Zoom to be transported on a virtual vacation when you have Easy Tiki on your bar cart.

Read our recommendations for more books published on May 12.

Family Meal: Recipes from Our Community, Penguin Random House

Two months into our new collective “cooking at home” efforts, I’m running out of new ways to make tacos and soup. If you’re feeling the kitchen strain as well, the kind folks at Penguin Random House are here to save your sanity! In Family Meal, they have rallied their incredible group of cookbook authors to raise money for the Restaurant Workers’ Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which supports our country’s 13 million restaurant workers, 40 percent of which live at or just above the federal poverty line. This digital-only cookbook features 50 exclusive recipes from your favorite IGTV and YouTube superstars including Ina “Cosmo” Garten, Samin “Lasagna” Nosrat, Christina “Bake Club” Tosi, and Claire “Don’t Make Me Temper the Chocolate” Saffitz, along with many soon-to-be-favorite new authors. Coming in to break up my taco-monotony are dishes such as: Farm Box and Pantry Stir-Fry from Bryant Terry, Broccoli and Ancient Grain Salad from Edouardo Jordan, Vegetarian Mushroom Bolognese by Eric Ripert, Shrimp and Chorizo White Bean Stew from Kwame Onwuachi (with helpful pescatarian and vegetarian substitutions), and Vegan Cookie-Dough Snacking Squares from Angela Liddon...because don’t we all just want to straight up eat a pile of cookie dough while watching reruns of The Good Wife? Let’s all end our day with John deBary’s Ridiculously Simple (but Fancy if You Want) Punch, which teaches you how to whip up a batch of craft cocktails from whatever booze, juice, and sweetener you have on hand. What I love about the recipes coming out of this era is the “If you do or if you don’t” flexibility built in: use your 9-inch non-stick professional grade springform pan...or something else round? Chop your broccoli in the food processor for three quick pulses...or just hack it to pieces with your too-dull knife? More than ever, recipes are guides for your inspiration, motivation, and situation. Let’s all come out of this time as confident chefs and not just recipe-followers! 

Read our recommendations for more books published on May 5.

Homemade Yogurt & Kefir: 71 Recipes for Making & Using Probiotic-Rich Ferments by Gianaclis Caldwell, Storey Publishing

All of us are responding to this time differently in our kitchens. My brother is on a bread mission, perfecting his focaccia and Sicilian pizza. Others like my colleague Lauren are tackling homemade versions of their favorite store-bought snacks (graham crackers from scratch, anyone?). As for me, I’m focused on squeezing every last edible drop out of my weekly grocery trip. After making a jar of margaritas, the pile of leftover lime rinds became a revelatory citrus simple syrup a day later. A collection of forgotten pears, shriveled ginger, and too much sugar turned into perada (pear paste) over a lazy Sunday afternoon while watching the Stephen Sondheim 90th birthday tribute. And each time I have to use up that not-quite-empty carton of milk to make room for a new one, it eventually becomes ricotta or yogurt, with the leftover whey subbing in for rice-cooking water. I think it’s fair to say I’ve become obsessed with this zero-waste game, which is why I’m thrilled to now have Gianaclis Caldwell’s Homemade Yogurt & Kefir at my fingertips. What sets this yogurt book apart is the global range of yogurts featured—from Russian Ryazhenka and Vietnamese Sữa Chua to Icelandic Skyr and Indian Mishti Doi. So many ways to transform my leftover milk! Caldwell also includes recipes for kefirs, cheeses, sweets, and many dairy-free options. With farmer profiles, bacterial charts and step-by step photos and illustrations, it’s a great primer for those new to fermented dairy, yet still has enough to challenge those whose yogurt making is already a weekly routine. 

Read our recommendations for more books published on May 12.


The Tinned Fish Cookbook: Easy-to-Make Meals from Ocean to Plate—Sustainably Canned, 100% Delicious by Bart Van Olphen, The Experiment

Every night after I close my laptop and pack away my “home office,” I get outside to stretch my legs and find out what’s happening in my Milwaukee neighborhood, which is a good mix of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, interspersed with lovely parks. One of the places I pass quite often is the Ma Baensch factory, a purveyor of fine marinated herring since the Great Depression (and proud owners of a simply amazing theme song). Now, marinated herring has always sounded, um, not better than pizza to me, and the thought of fish from a can has kinda turned my stomach. But if this strange time has taught me anything, it’s that what’s up is down and what’s down is bananas. What a perfect time to dig into some high-quality tinned fish and change my notions of the food world! The person to take me down this new road is Bart Van Olphen, the Amsterdam-based founder of the Fish Tales company, advocate for sustainable fishing, and Jamie Oliver’s BFF. His fourth book has landed at the perfect time for a world simultaneously digging into the far reaches of their cupboards and thinking about the climate change crisis still bubbling in the background of the pandemic. Starting with a quick overview of what to look for when choosing your fish, Van Olphen breaks down recipes by fish type, highlighting the versatility and range for each. Making their way to my grocery list are ingredients to make Pita with Mas Huni (a spicy tuna salad served daily in the Maldives), Salmon Cakes with Chimichurri, Smoked Herring Shakshuka, and the gorgeous Mackerel and Potato Frittata that adorns the book’s cover. Won’t you join me on this new food adventure, my friends? 

Read our recommendations for more books published on May 26.

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