In our experience, one of the best ways to learn about noteworthy new cookbooks is to sidle up to a food writer and ask what they’ve been cooking from.
With that in mind, we asked the authors featured in our CB Book Club this year to share their favorite cookbook or culinary-related book from 2019. Now we have a long list of titles to search out on our next trip to the local bookstore and plenty of inspiration to kickstart our kitchen experiments in 2020.
Alice Feiring, Author of Natural Wine for the People
There are two that I use constantly. The first is The Italian Table by Elizabeth Minchilli. Full disclosure, she is a friend, one of my favorite home cooks, and I just love the book and the straightforward simplicity of the recipes. Then there are the brilliant tips that you know came from a real nonna, like the honey in the caponata. But I also am smitten with Adeena Sussman’s Sababa. Like Elizabeth’s book, the recipes are seamless, vibrant, and they work – every other page is bookmarked. I especially love the chickpea and spinach harira.
Caroline Eden, Author of Black Sea
Baan, which in Thai means the hearth, the home, is my cookery book of 2019. Born and brought up in 1970s Bangkok, and fluent in Thai, Kay Plunkett-Hogge has a uniquely enviable insight into Thai food and culture. She is also brilliantly honest and is not shy when it comes to dismantling a few well-peddled untruths. As she says of Thai street food: “There seems to be an urban myth that the best type of Thai food is street food. It is not. It’s just one type of Thai food. It is cheap, quick and often relies on the skill of someone who has been cooking the same one dish for 40 years.”
In Baan, Kay captures all that I love about Thai food, the fiery curries and dipping sauces, snacks such as red curry fish cakes and pumpkin fritters, hill tribe relishes and fruit-heavy desserts, and in classic Kay style, the pages are full of great style, wit and wisdom.
Darra Goldstein, Author of The Georgian Feast
Adeena Sussman’s new cookbook, Sababa, lives up to its subtitle, “Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen.” The recipes are luscious in their judicious layering of basic ingredients with spices to create dishes that are at once simple and deeply layered with flavor. The sunniness of Sussman’s approach to Israeli food is evident in the brilliant interplay of colors in Dan Perez’s photographs and in her enthusiastic yet informative headnotes. You don’t have to live in a hot climate to enjoy this book – Sussman’s “Melted Green Cabbage” is not only perfect for winter, it’s the most intoxicating cabbage I’ve ever had.
Tim Anderson, Author of Tokyo Stories
I had the privilege of visiting Burma for a few weeks back in 2008. While I fell in love with the food there, I found it quite complex and never thought it was something I could reproduce at home. This year that all changed with the arrival of MiMi Aye’s Mandalay, a beautifully written and easy-to-follow guide to this endlessly fascinating and delicious cuisine. The book is worth the cover price for the Burmese fried chicken recipe alone, which is crisp and juicy and served with an incredibly addictive sauce, electric with lime, garlic, and fresh chile.
Vicky Bennison, Author of Pasta Grannies
Although it was published in 2017 (I tend not to be interested in latest releases), my culinary book of the year is Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life, which is part biography, part cookbook and part history. Wolfert’s recipe for grated egg salad is one I have cooked regularly this year.
Derek Sandhaus, Author of Drunk in China
Definitely Fuchsia Dunlop’s The Food of Sichuan. I’m a longtime fan of her work – her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook is the reason my friends mistakenly think I’m great at cooking Chinese – but for whatever reason I never got around to picking up the book that made her famous, Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking. After all the time I’ve spent in Sichuan, delighting in its food and drink, this was inexcusable. As usual, my bad habits have been rewarded: Dunlop’s recently released revised and renamed edition has fully improved recipes and 70 new dishes. Not only does it contain instructions for making my favorite Sichuan fare, but it also explores the stories behind each recipe, painting a rich portrait of the region. Required reading for any lover of Sichuanese food, and food in general.
Danny Mena, Author of Made in Mexico
I really enjoyed Vegetables Illustrated, put together by the team at Cook’s Illustrated magazine and edited by America’s Test Kitchen. As I get older and hopefully wiser I tend to eat more and more vegetables. I always enjoy the science behind cooking and trying to bring the best flavor out of items. This book offers so much science that it feels as if I’m combining my engineering background with my passion for cooking.