If you read my best cookbooks of 2022 article last year, you’d know that I’m obsessed with them. I finally got my bookshelf pared down a couple months ago, donating some of the cookbooks I don’t ever use. But the tidiness was short-lived as new titles from 2023 started pouring in, and now they are, once again, stacked in every which way — books on nightstands, books on my kitchen table, books on books piled to the top of their shelves. If you’ve seen City of Gold, the documentary about legendary food critic and journalist Jonathan Gold, maybe you remember the stacks of books lining the stairs in his L.A. home. If I had a staircase like that, you’d better believe cookbooks would have a place there, too.
Cookbooks make me a better cook, which is why I cram as many as possible into my Brooklyn apartment. Not only do they provide instructions on how to make something delicious, but they also provide the why those dishes exist through history lessons, essays and other cultural touchstones. This selection of the best cookbooks of 2023 is no exception, and they’re sure to fill your kitchen with delicious moments in the years to come.
Uyen Luu is a London-based author and photographer, and yes, she shot all of the beautiful images in her latest book, Vietnamese Vegetarian. Luu isn’t a vegetarian, but she’s become increasingly conscious of her meat consumption and also really enjoys fruits and vegetables, which is apparent throughout the book’s pages. Love of food was passed down to Luu from her mother, who often asks, “Have you eaten yet?” when greeting family and friends. Not only does the book include Luu’s unique creations, it also has vegetarian (and often vegan) versions of Vietnamese dishes classically made with meat. Vegetable curry puffs are a take on bánh patê, which are filled with carrots, asparagus and cauliflower instead of pork. Mushroom and tofu pho is packed with vegetables in a spiced, savory broth. Dill is one of my all-time favorite herbs, and it comes alive in Luu’s turmeric and dill tofu, served over fluffy steamed rice. The condiment du jour, chili crisp, stars in the crispy chilli tofu noodles, a quick meal that’s become part of my weeknight rotation.
Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel, Love Japan: Recipes from Our Japanese American Kitchen
Shalom Japan in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood celebrated a decade in business this year, which can seem like a lifetime in New York. Its beloved Japanese-Jewish cuisine highlights the roots of married chefs and owners Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel for brilliant dishes like Wagyu pastrami okonomiyaki and matzo ball ramen. Just like most chefs who run busy restaurants, Okochi and Israel are short on time when cooking at home, so they often turn to the Japanese dishes that Okochi grew up eating. The recipes come together in Love Japan, which are rooted in the flavors and techniques passed down by Okochi’s mother, with influences from Israel’s Jewish heritage and seasonal produce plucked from the neighborhood farmers market. A veggie deluxe sando is piled high with summer produce and slathered in a shiso pesto, and the bonito-cured lox will change your weekend breakfast for the better. On a gorgeous summer day earlier this year, I whipped up the pork chops with teriyaki-bacon jam, and the saucy, savory meal was a favorite of the al fresco dining season.
Nasim Alikhani, Sofreh: A Contemporary Approach to Classic Persian Cuisine
James Beard-nominated chef Nasim Alikhani departed her native Iran in 1983 at a time of political and social turmoil after the 1979 revolution and beginning of the Iran-Iraq war. She landed in NYC with two suitcases packed by her mom, filled with dried fruits and herbs and other Persian cooking staples. Alikhani took a job as a nanny to an Iranian family where she got to put her love of cooking into practice. In 2018, at the age of 59, she opened her Brooklyn restaurant Sofreh to much acclaim, and now eaters who can’t get enough of her contemporary Persian cuisine can cook through her recipes in this book of the same name. Learn to master loaves of naan-e barbari, and discover Persian flavors like saffron and dried lime in abgousht, a lamb and bean stew. The “Sofreh” chapter celebrates recipes from the restaurant, and I gravitated toward the rib-eye “kabab” on a recent Saturday night when I needed a quick, delicious dinner. Marinated and glazed with a mix of garlic, fenugreek, pomegranate molasses and walnuts, it was one of the best bites of meat I had all year.
Eric Ripert, Seafood Simple
I don’t cook seafood much at home because my husband doesn’t eat it, so I typically reserve it for dinner parties when I know someone else will partake in my seaworthy culinary experiments. But because I don’t work with fish a lot, I’m not entirely confident with my skills. That’s starting to change with Seafood Simple, the latest cookbook from Michelin-starred chef Eric Ripert. Ripert is, of course, known for Le Bernardin, his lauded New York City restaurant dedicated to seafood. But you won’t find his complicated, three-star dishes in this book. Instead, Ripert teaches you how to make tuna carpaccio, dressed simply with olive oil, lemon and chives, and blackened red snapper that gets a delicate crust from searing it for a few minutes. There are also detailed instructions, with step-by-step photos, on how to fillet and skin fish, clean shrimp, shuck oysters and split a lobster. If you don’t know where to start, the salmon rillettes are not only easy to make, but a crowd-pleaser, too.
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Rose Previte, Maydān: Recipes from Lebanon and Beyond
Rose Previte grew up in Ada, Ohio, a tiny village that’s surrounded by cornfields. Her dad is Siclian-American and her mom Lebanese-American, so the cooking in her home looked very different from anyone else around her. She moved to Washington, D.C. after college where she met her husband David while waiting tables, and soon after they were married, they moved to Moscow for his assignment as a foreign correspondent for NPR. It was there that she discovered her love of Georgian food and got to visit more than 30 countries during her three years living overseas. It’s also where she decided she wanted to work in food, so she opened Compass Rose, followed by Maydān, when they returned to D.C. The book, of course, is named after the latter, and celebrates the cuisines of Lebanon, Eastern Europe, North Africa and beyond. You’ll find a recipe for hummus with lamb shoulder (Obama’s favorite from the restaurant) and ma’moul, Lebanese date-filled butter cookies. I love beans, and the lobio mtsvanilit — a Georgian herbed kidney bean stew — is now in my vegan main course rotation.
Nik Sharma, Veg-Table: Recipes, Techniques, and Plant Science for Big-Flavored, Vegetable-Focused Meals
Nik Sharma didn’t start his career in food. The author is a former microbiologist who now writes and develops recipes, but he always had a keen interest in watching plants grow, a subject on which he reminisces in the intro of Veg-Table. At his home in Los Angeles, he spends almost as much time gardening as he does cooking, and a lot of the produce he used to test the recipes in this book came from his backyard. The book starts with a botany lesson, breaking different vegetables down by origin, growing season, edible parts and plant science families. And at the beginning of each chapter, Sharma explains the characteristics of the particular family and its members (did you know bamboo and corn are both in the grass family?). A beets, toasted barley and burrata salad gets a sweet-spicy tang from maple syrup and red pepper, and sesame sweet potatoes with gochujang chicken is one to add to your sheet pan repertoir. I recently made a meal out of the radish salad with black vinegar and sweet and sticky Brussels sprouts, and it proved, once again, that veggies reign supreme.
West African cuisine is one of the world’s most nutritious, filled with lean proteins, leafy greens, beans and legumes, and it’s unbelievably flavorful with its many spice blends and mother sauces. It’s also terribly underrepresented in the United States. But with Simply West African, Pierre Thiam — a renowned chef, author and founder of Yolélé, a food company that focuses on African ingredients like fonio — shows that the vibrant cuisine can become an everyday kitchen staple. Thiam grew up in Senegal but has lived in the United States for more than half his life, so the book focuses on recipes from the diaspora rather than the motherland. Thiam’s wife, Lisa, was raised in Japan, so those influences find their way into recipes like pumpkin-peanut rice balls and a breakfast fonio porridge. A recipe for piri-piri sauce (did you know chili peppers are not native to Africa and were brought by Portuguese settlers via Latin America in the 15th century?) makes its way onto a roasted spatchcocked chicken. But nothing will bring your winter kitchen alive like the root vegetable mafé, a warming, comforting, peanut-based dish that is as nutritious as it is yummy.
Rome is a city of magical nooks and crannies — one minute you’re walking down a narrow, winding street with few people beside you, the next it opens up to a grand spectacle like the Fontana di Trevi or Pantheon. But one of the most beautiful corners of the Eternal City is also one of its most complicated. Rome’s Jewish population is the oldest in Europe, dating back more than 2,000 years. For 316 of those years, Jewish residents were forced to live inside the walled Jewish Ghetto and would be locked out if they didn’t return by curfew. Born from this dreadful history, Rome’s Jewish Ghetto is now one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city, and Leah Koenig celebrates its rich cuisine in Portico. Classic cucina ebraica dishes, like fried artichokes and stracotto di manzo, a rich beef stew traditionally served for Shabbat and holidays, come to life on the pages alongside beautifully-written stories. Looking for a way to use the last of summer produce, I made roasted tomatoes alongside spaghetti with artichokes and bottarga, and the flavors brought me back to leisurely meals in one of my favorite corners of the world.
Nigel Slater, A Cook’s Book
Nigel Slater is an award-winning author, journalist and television presenter who’s been the food columnist of the Observer for more than 25 years. His latest tome, A Cook’s Book, celebrates the simple food that he makes on the regular, prepared without fuss and the sub-recipes that turn a single dish into a full-blown project. The collection of essays and recipes flows together seamlessly, and Slater has a knack for turning a couple paragraphs about something like a simple chicken wing into poetry. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to cook every single day, just as Slater does himself. A potato cake with Fontina and herbs is cut and served like a slice of pizza, and chicken with peppers, lemon and mint is a nutritious dinner that comes together quickly. When looking for a way to use my favorite bit of fall produce, honeynut squash, I whipped up his squash stuffed with sauerkraut and Gruyère. Every sweet, tangy, savory bite was damn near perfect.
In the introduction of Made in Taiwan, Clarissa Wei reminds us of a very important fact: despite the Chinese government’s refusal to recognize it as a sovereign nation, Taiwan is a self-ruled democracy with its own culture, traditions and culinary history. And while some dishes do have Chinese roots or were brought over by immigrants, Taiwanese food is undeniably unique. Wei was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently resides in Taipei, so she brought in cooking instructor Ivy Chen and a Taiwan-based team for this book. Fans of project cooking will dive into Made in Taiwan with fervor, as many of the recipes require multiple steps to achieve its vibrant, flavorful dishes. The island’s famous black pepper buns have steps for making the pork filling, yeast dough and oil paste, and fried mackerel thick soup entails marinating, frying and making a broth. But the shiitake and pork congee, which is typically a breakfast food, came together easily for a recent weeknight dinner in my house, and it’s hands-down one of the best meals I’ve made all year.
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