We’re about to face a holiday season that is much more limited than usual, with fewer (if any…) people and parties, less time at our favorite restaurants and a lot more time at home. May I suggest that instead of drowning your sorrows and numbing your brain on whichever TV show you’re binging (for me it’s Greenleaf), you find solace in the kitchen, learning to up your game with new recipes, tricks, and techniques from New York City chefs who have new cookbooks out this season? Until we can get back into their dining rooms with the wild and gluttonous abandon we like to exhibit at their tables (or maybe that’s just me…), it will do as the next best thing, with the bonus of thrilling your quarantine pod, who are as sick of eating the same Trader Joe’s dumplings as you are (or maybe that’s just me again).
If you have young eaters in the house, you’ll want to check out the kid-friendly cookbooks at the end. Happy feasting!
Chasing Flavor: Techniques and Recipes to Cook Fearlessly
by Dan Kluger with Nick Fauchald; photos by Evan Sung (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
If you’ve tasted Dan Kluger’s food at Loring Place or, before that, the groundbreaking ABC Kitchen, you know he has a way of making the simple sublime. You’ll learn how he does it through the instructions he’s peppered throughout his terrific debut cookbook, starting with chapters on his essential tools and pantry ingredients (this would make a great holiday gift) and how to cut everything from herbs to citrus to sashimi. His Building Blocks of Flavor are the dressings, doughs, sauces, and toppings that form the foundation of his dishes — baked ricotta with dried cherry tomatoes, asparagus and puntaralle salad with seared poached eggs, and ricotta cavatelli with spring vegetables and cheese.
The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food
by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn; photos by Angie Mosier (Voracious)
Marcus Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, made his career in New York City, and oversees restaurants around the world from Harlem to Bermuda to Scandinavia. If anyone is qualified to shine a spotlight on contemporary Black cooking, it’s him. The collection of 150 recipes are inspired by and dedicated to the African diaspora — cooks and creators, activists and authors — divided into chapters — Next, Remix, Migration, Legacy, Origin — that reflect the breadth and diversity of too-long overlooked and misunderstood traditions.
Big Love Cooking: 75 Recipes for Satisfying, Shareable Comfort Food
by Joey Campanaro with Teresa Gambacorta; photos by Con Poulos (Chronicle Books)
The first thing Joey Campanaro tells readers is that he learned how to cook as a kid in South Philly, helping his nonna Rosie Bova roll out fresh pasta — “homemades,” in local parlance — and drape it over a broomstick to dry. This is important because it informs his authentic, unpretentious, and, yes, loving approach to everything he cooks, both at home and at his always-mobbed Little Owl restaurant in the West Village. The chef who kicked off the modern slider crazy in NYC shares recipes for fontina sausage biscuits, Mom-Mom pizza and pizza sauce, baked ricotta crespelle, and, yes, his famous sliders. Scattered throughout the book are Italian family stories and photos, as well as playlists and a through explanation of the wonders of gravy.
Il Buco: Stories and Recipes
by Donna Lennard with Joshua David Stein; photos by Gentl & Hyers (Harper Design)
I’ve been hanging around Il Buco on Bond Street since it opened as a furniture store in the early 1990s, when I’d walk in to dream about country farm tables I’d put in a dream house one day, and owner Donna Lennard would serve fresh Italian salumi, breads, and olive oils to the browsing customers. In the decades since, Il Buco has become a treasured Italian restaurant downtown, notable for its style as well as for its pastas, along with sister restaurant a block away, Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria, which is just as delicious.
Pie for Everyone: Recipes and Stories from Petee’s Pie, New York’s Best Pie Shop
by Petra “Petee” Paredez (Harry N. Abrams)
What’s a holiday without pie? (Don’t bother answering that.) Author and pie maven Petra Paredez shares 80 recipes, including autumn peach, wild blueberry, banana cream (the favorite of my Fathom co-founder Jeralyn Gerba), and savories like quiche and cheese and onion pie. The opening chapter is chock-full of helpful and easy to follow instructions that will have you mastering the art of the pie crust, whether you want yours of the vegan, gluten-free, whole wheat, or brown butter hazelnut almond streusel variety.
Good For You: Bold Flavors with Benefits
by Akhtar Nawab with Andrea Strong; photos by Antonis Achilleos (Chronicle Books)
After all that pie, you’re going to need something healthy. Akhtar Nawab combines great health with great flavors in a book of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan recipes inspired by his heritage (India) and his childhood (Kentucky), along with the many restaurants he’s thrived at (Gramercy Tavern, Craft, Elettaria, La Esquina), and currently runs (Alta Calidad and Alta Calidad Taqueria in NYC; Otra Vez in NOLA). His favorites in the book include poblano shakshuka, butternut squash soup, gluten-free pancakes, and Indian cauliflower.
Xi’an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York’s Favorite Noodle Shop
by Jason Wang with Jessica K. Chou; photos by Jenny Huang (Harry N. Abrams)
When the weather turns cold, nothing is more comforting than a big, steaming bowl of noodle-filled soup. At its fourteen locations around New York’s boroughs, Xi’an Famous Foods has been dishing up bowls of comfort to countless happy eaters. Biang biang noodles, spicy cumin lamb noodles, and, of course, ramen are among the recipes, along with a guide to NYC’s various Chinatowns.
The Barbuto Cookbook: California-Italian Cooking from the Beloved West Village Restaurant
by Jonathan Waxman (Harry N. Abrams)
“Beloved” is the right word for chef Jonathan Waxman, a favorite not only of the Downtown set but also the generation of big-name chefs who trained in his kitchens. His restaurant Barbuto moved from a former West Village garage into a new Hudson River-facing location right before the pandemic struck, which means diners have been deprived of his epic roast chicken for way too long. The recipe is in here, along with salads, pastas, pizzas, and other contemporary Italian comfort dishes.
Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France
by Melissa Clark (Clarkson Potter)
She may not have her own restaurant, but for many who know her prolific, approachable, quarantine-friendly, and inspiring recipes in The New York Times, Melissa Clark may be the ultimate NYC chef, at least when it comes to home cooking. Her latest is irresistible — sweet pepper and cheddar clafouti, Gruyère latkes, twice-baked cheese soufflés, wine-braised chicken with orange and olives — with photos that will make you wish you could eat the pages of the book itself.
Modern Comfort Food
by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter)
If ever a chef inspired a cult following, it’s Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, with her dreamy Hamptons lifestyle, her stick-to-the-ribs recipes, and her overall ease in the kitchen and as a hostess. You probably already have a bookshelf full of her cookbooks — this one is her twelfth — but if you don’t, this volume will carry you through lunch (tomato and cheese crostata, broccoli and kale salad), cocktail hour (pomegranate gimlets, cacio e pepe cheese puffs), dinner (ultimate beef stew, fresh crab and pea risotto), and dessert (applesauce cake with bourbon raisins, coffee chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches).
Start ‘Em Young: Cooking with the Kids
Milk Bar: Kids Only
by Christina Tosi (Clarkson Potter)
If ever there was a chef who embodies the young-at-heart ethos, it’s Christina Tosi, whose Milk Bar empire was built on desserts based on cereal milk. (Her daily Instagram baking clubs have been the joy of many of my Covid-bored afternoons.) Her fun and colorful cookbook is a celebration of this spirit, with recipes for confections like S’Mores Pancake Cake, Tropical Mermaid Muffins, Berry Loco Cupcakes, and Compost Cereal Squares. For Tosi, too much of a good thing is exactly the right amount.
Kid in the Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Tips for Young Home Cooks
by Melissa Clark with Daniel Gercke (Clarkson Potter)
Another one from Melissa Clark, this one inspired, no doubt, by the precocious kid in her kitchen, her daughter Dahlia. Here’s a mom who knows how to make mealtime — and meal prep — fun, resulting in dishes like Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits Put a Spell on You, Buttery Mashed Potato Cloud, and Classic Caesar Salad with Unclassic Cheesy Croutons. Speaking of all in the family, her co-author Daniel Gercke also happens to be Clark’s charming husband.