Books for Cooks to Give This Holiday Season

By Dina El Nabli | December 16, 2015

Stumped on what to get the food-obsessed people in your life? You can never go wrong with a thoughtfully chosen cookbook. Here, we share some of the titles we enjoyed in 2015. 

Agricola Cookbook

Agricola Cookbook, by Josh Thomsen, Kate Winslow and Steven Tomlinson (Burgess Lea Press)
Agricola is the namesake cookbook from the celebrated farm-to-table restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey. Executive Chef Josh Thomsen creates simple recipes like Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Herbs using fresh ingredients from the restaurant’s 112-acre farm. The book also shares insights from the farm on growing and harvesting. It's also a book you can feel good about buying: All profits benefit the Edible Schoolyard Project.


Eat Mexico Cookbook

Eat Mexico, by Lesley Tellez (Kyle Books)
Lesley Téllez spent four years living and eating in Mexico City and documenting the city’s cuisine on her blog, The Mija Chronicles. Eat Mexico showcases food from the city’s streets, markets and fondas along with the more rustic dishes from its outskirts. Part culinary travelogue, part cookbook, the book is filled with stunning photography but it also dishes out practical tips for cooks of all levels. How to make great salsa, tacos and nixtamalize your own corn are just some of the things Téllez teaches us in this delicious work.


at home with umami cookbook

At Home with Umami, by Laura Santtini (Ryland, Peters & Small)
This book explores the world of umami, the super-savory fifth basic taste (after sweet, sour, bitter and salty) and amplifier of all flavors. All recipes are organized by mood and are designed to match your food with your mood or change your mood with specific foods. You'll find fresh and uplifting recipes such as Quinoa & Asparagus Salad with Matcha Lemon Vinaigrette, mellow & comforting dishes, like Truffled Mac ‘n’ Cheese, or a bold & bright Sunshine Laksa with Crab, Snow Peas and Millet. The book also shares 35 mostly simple ingredients along with their umami content, a helpful list for home cooks of all skill levels.


at my table by Mary McCartney

At My Table – Vegetarian Feasts for Family and Friends, by Mary McCartney (Sterling Epicure)
This cookbook marries two of Mary McCartney’s passions – photography and vegetarian cooking. The book is filled with McCartney’s celebrated photography, including family pictures with Paul and Linda. Filled with meatless menu inspiration for just about any occasion, the book showcases a range of meals that will appeal to both meat eaters and vegetarians. You’ll find complete menus for a Middle Eastern feast, Mexican night, a dinner party, celebration brunch, a kids’ menu and more ideas to inspire your next gathering. 


Eat Istanbul cookbook

Eat Istanbul: A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine, by Andy Harris and David Loftus (Quadrille Publishing)
This cookbook introduces you to Istanbul’s artisan bakers, traditional chefs, fishermen and street vendors who represent the heart of Turkish cuisine. From muhammara (a red pepper, walnut and bread dip) to Patlicanli pilav (eggplant and veal layered pilaf), the book features more than 90 authentic Turkish recipes and also introduces us to the markets and bazaars of the city through David Loftus’ stunning photography and Andy Harris’ compelling text.


12 Bones Smokehouse

12 Bones Smokehouse, by Bryan King, Angela King, Shane Heavner and Mackensy Lunsford (Voyageur Press)
Whether you’re a fan of 12 Bones restaurant, a local institution (and a favorite of President Obama’s) in Asheville, North Carolina, or just looking to explore the world of progressive barbecue, 12 Bones Smokehouse will satisfy any BBQ lover with recipes and techniques to perfect smoky pork, turkey, chicken and more. You’ll also find vegetarian recipes like tangy Pickled Okra Salad and savory Jalapeno Cheese Grits plus one of the best BBQ sauces we’ve made this year, the restaurant’s famous Blueberry-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce.


The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen by Amelia Saltsman

The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition, by Amelia Saltsman (Sterling Epicure)
The daughter of a Romanian mother and an Iraqi father who met in the Israeli army, Saltsman draws on her own food history while tracing the  thread of Jewish cuisine from its ancient roots to today’s renewed focus on eating with the seasons. Guided by the Jewish calendar, the book is divided into six micro-seasons that highlight Jewish traditions to the year’s cycles. You’ll find the story of Passover told through foods on the Seder plate plus tips on sourcing meals from the farmers' market or garden. Whether you’re Jewish or not, the recipes in the book offer something for everyone with their modern take on traditional foods such as autumn’s Freekeh with Kale, Butternut Squash and Smoked Salt or early spring’s Herb Salad with Feta Cheese, Halvah, and Green Almonds.


Made in India

Made in India, by Meera Sodha (Flatiron Books) 
In her debut cookbook, Meera Sodha proves that Indian cooking can be quick and simple. Most of the recipes in her book can be made in 30 minutes or less, using simple ingredients. The book is filled with cultural bits of wisdom anyone who grew up in an Indian home (and even those of us who didn’t) will appreciate (like eating with your left hand is taboo). The book features 130 recipes collected from three generations of her family including Butternut Squash Curry, Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Tumeric, and Lemon, The Perfect Masala Chai and one of our favorites, Daily Dal.


the chakra kitchen

The Chakra Kitchen, by Sarah Wilkinson (Ryland Peters & Small)
Organized by season, all 60 recipes in this cookbook are designed to work with the body’s seven chakras (or energy centers), nourishing the mind, body and spirit. From a vibrant Raw Lasagna in the summer to a colorful Winter Slaw that supports the root and heart chakras through balancing beet, carrot, red cabbage and celeriac, this book will give you a new appreciation for the healing power of seasonal ingredients. Recipes are organic, vegan and gluten-free.


Farmhouse Rules by Nancy Fuller

Farmhouse Rules: Simple, Seasonal Meals for the Whole Family, by Nancy Fuller (Grand Central Life & Style) 
In her debut cookbook, Nancy Fuller, host of Food Network’s Farmhouse Rules, combines comfort cooking with eating locally. A mom of six and grandmother of thirteen, Fuller lives in an 18th century farmhouse in New York’s Hudson Valley. A huge advocate of the family dinner, Fuller shares family favorites like Carrot Cake, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Scallions, Lamb Stew with Sherry and Mushrooms (her 3-year-old(!) granddaughter Eleyce’s favorite) and Gracious Grapes, Fuller’s go-to holiday appetizer. The book also features cooking tips useful for the beginner and experienced cook along with mealtime etiquette that’ll help us all be more present at the dinner table.


Classic Sourdoughs Revised, A Home Baker’s Handbook, by Ed and Jean Wood

From our sponsorClassic Sourdoughs Revised, A Home Baker’s Handbook, by Ed and Jean Wood
From the founders of Sourdough International comes this sourdough baker’s cookbook featuring more than 90 recipes using ingredients and directions for flax, soy flours, kamut, spelt, organic flours and others. In their revised cookbook, the Woods describe how the baker uses changes in temperature and proofing times to influence the flavor and quality of the crumb. A solid go-to for anyone looking to create a range of different sourdoughs.


The United States of Pizza

The United States of Pizza, by Craig Priebe and Dianne Jacob (Rizzoli)
Chef Craig Priebe, the pizza-obsessed executive chef for Henry Crown & Company in Chicago, traveled across the country to discover the best local pizzerias for this book. The result is a celebration of homegrown pizza styles ranging from Louisville’s Hot Brown Pizza made with turkey breast, bacon and Gruyere to Baked Mac & Cheese Pizza from Jimmy the Greek’s in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, this book is filled with creative regional takes on everyone’s favorite savory (and sometimes sweet) pie. You’ll discover pizza styles you’ve never heard of (like Pierogi Pizza, a cheesy mashed potato pie served at Jigsy’s Old Forge Pizza in Enola, Pennsylvania) along with the stories behind each.  


the yellow table by anna watson carl

The Yellow Table: A Celebration of Everyday Gatherings: 110 Simple & Seasonal Recipes by Anna Watson Carl (Sterling Epicure)
A great resource for anyone who loves a good dinner party, Anna Watson Carl’s debut is named after the yellow wooden table in her childhood kitchen. Gatherings around that table inspired her Yellow Table blog and this book, filled with seasonal recipes and menu ideas for get togethers throughout the year. Carl traveled across the country while writing the book, throwing dinner parties in 8 cities. Her tips for stress-free entertaining ("throw perfection out the window") come from years of throwing dinner parties in a small New York City apartment and include everything from the guest list and meal planning to the table and décor. There are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menu options (we love this Roasted Winter Squash with Kale and Pomegranate Seeds) along with affordable wine pairing ideas. 


Ferment Your Vegetables

Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer (Fair Winds Press)
We love the simplicity of recipes and techniques in this book, a great gift for both novice and seasoned fermenters with how-tos on making your own pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and more. Beginners will appreciate recipes that call for just veggies, a few spices and a mason jar (hello Curried Cauliflower Pickles and Ginger Beet Kraut). More experienced fermenters will appreciate the large-batch projects, along with tips on how to choose the right crock. Feifer also shows us how to ferment without salt, and shares a bunch of creative ferments like this Pumpkin Spice KimchiFeifer's easy-to-follow tips and creative flavor combos make fermenting fun and approachable for everyone. 


gone with the gin

Gone with the Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist, by Tim Federle (Running Press) 
This is the perfect gift for the cocktail-loving movie buff. Each of the book's 50 cocktail recipes is named after an iconic movie. There is A Sidecar Named Desire, Whiskey Business, and Star Wars: The Empire Likes Jack to name a few. A funny (and punny) book with some of the best illustrations we've seen all year, it also boasts snack recipes and drinking games to complete your next movie night in.


the csa cookbook

The CSA Cookbook, by Linda Ly (Voyageur Press)
If you feel like you’re tossing way too many bits of produce you could be cooking and you want to reduce waste in your kitchen, this cookbook will inspire you to use every piece of every vegetable, top to bottom, from your CSA box, farmers' market haul or backyard garden. Garden Betty blogger Linda Ly's book is full of ideas on how to cook with the leaves, flowers, stems and seeds you may have previously relegated to the compost pile. We especially love the Spicy Bulgur Salad made with kale buds and Butter-Braised Radishes enhanced with radish greens.