2014 was a good year for in the world of cookbooks, and I can’t let the year close out without telling you about some of my favorites. Here are my picks for the best cookbooks of 2014.
If I was forced to cut my cookbook collection down to books written by only one chef, Yotam Ottolenghi would undoubtedly be my pick. The flavor combinations this guy comes up with are thing’s I’d likely never think of, and his food is always the right blend of exotic and comfort. He’s the kind of chef that will have you cooking almost exclusively from his books until you’ve exhausted every recipe and still have you coming back for more. Whether you need some inspiration on making the vegetables in your life more exciting, or you just really like good food, Plenty More should be on your bookshelf ASAP.
For those of you looking for a vegetarian cookbook more familiar to the usual American/European palate, you can’t go wrong with Deborah Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It’s an updated version of 1997’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, the benchmark book in vegetarian cooking. This new edition includes 200 additional recipes, notations on which recipes are vegan, and is presented in an easy to read 2 column format.
When the New York Times puts out a cookbook, it’s usually wise to pay attention. The Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook, a collection of the best grilling recipes and anectdotes from a wide variety of talented chefs, is a fantastic read that would be just as at home on your coffee table as it would be grillside. If you are an avid griller or want to become one, don’t go another grilling season without this book.
David Lebovitz, a former pastry chef for Chez Panisse and current food blogger living in Paris, gives readers a window into his kitchen and his life with My Paris Kitchen and does it with his usual jovial, mildly sardonic, and all-around charming style. He includes information on what ingredients and equipment he considers essential in a kitchen, plus 100 recipes both savory and sweet. It’s my favorite book of his to date.
Easily the most complex, ambitious recipe collection in this list, North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland is also arguably the most beautifully photographed. This book doesn’t do beginner cooks any favors, but it is a gorgeous window into Icelandic cuisine (buttermilk ice cream with pine tree oil, anyone?) and would be a fantastic edition to a more advanced home cook’s library or to pretty much anyone’s coffee table, if only to ogle the stunning photos.
Straight from the editors at America’s Test Kitchen, The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook may not have any earth-shattering recipes hidden in its pages, but it rises above most cook-for-two cookbooks in that it teaches basic technique and skills, proper storage, and other things that you would expect from the scientists-cum-chefs at ATK. This makes it a great book for college students and/or newlyweds who are still newbies in the kitchen, and those who may not need the extra pointers will still enjoy the streamlined recipes (many of which can be on the table in half an hour), the section detailing smart shopping tips for two and good equipment to have in a two-person kitchen, and, my favorite, the fact that there are a few chapters dedicated to making desserts for two. That’s right, no more eating brownies from the freezer for three solid weeks so that you can be rid of them before baking again.
Have you ever attempted baking with non-wheat flours and ended up with barely edible hockey pucks? Yeah, me too. That’s because non-wheat flours all behave differently than the gluten-rich flours we are all used to using. In Flavor Flours, Alice Medrich (who, in my and probably millions of others’ opinions, is the best baking cookbook author in America) does some serious justice to gluten-free baking. She highlights each flour’s strengths and uses their unique flavors to add dimension and charm to well-loved desserts and transforms them into something arguably better than the original, and she explains her techniques with the clarity we all know her for. Even though this is a gluten-free cookbook, don’t think of as such, because that makes it sound like a lame consolation prize for folks who can’t hack wheat; instead, think of it as something that should be on every serious baker’s bookshelf.
That concludes my list of the best cookbooks of 2014. What are your favorites? Are there any out there that you are itching to cook from?
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