In a world of ever-expanding ethnic cuisine frontiers, specialty diets, and foodie trends, Deb Perelman’s “Smitten Kitchen” is as close as modern American cookery gets to a universal. Perelman is a home-cooking everywoman with indefatigable rigor, irrepressible enthusiasm, a tiny Manhattan kitchen, and great wit. Her massively popular blog and one previous cookbook boast an incredibly deep bench of cult-status recipes. Her Butternut Squash Galette is the millennial Chicken Marbella. And now, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy Favorites (Knopf, $35) follows the birth of Perelman’s second child and a busy season of life, and is Exhibit A of Perelman’s appealing approach to “everyday”: never over-precious, but never, ever, simply rote. You’ll find street-cart style chicken and rice, dry-rub sweet potato steaks, a sushi cobb salad, polenta-baked eggs, and a number of other mains, vegetarian or no, that are eminently scalable. There is a whole passel of inspired sturdy salads that are just as easily served at a dinner party as they are taken to work every day for lunch. And of course, confident, cheeky desserts: caramelized plum tartlets, “bake sale winning-est gooey oat bars,” chocolate pecan slab pie.
Most cookbooks are built to inspire you, to entertain you, to make you think more creatively about the choices you make in the kitchen. But Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking (Simon & Schuster, $35) is a culinary game-changer: it single-handedly transformed the way I think about food and the equations of the meals I create and eat. Samin Nosrat, an accomplished cooking teacher and now a columnist for The New York Times Magazine, breaks down the essential elements of flavor into these four necessary components, and the entire book is an examination of the ways they complement and compound each other. The recipes included are included are thoughtful and seemingly simple, but yield rich, complex results. The Kuku Sabzi, the Persian Herb and Greens Frittata, has already become a weeknight favorite in our house.
Have you started planning for your holiday feast yet? There’s really no reason to stress about it because Jamie has got you covered; he’s thought of everything, from prepping to cooking to serving. He’s assembled a list of things you’ll need to make the magic happen, along with useful tips, cooking charts, times, and even a calorie count. Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook (Flatiron, $35) is just in time to take the stress out of the holidays and get you in the mood for fiddling around in the kitchen. Oliver has included all the classics and then some. No turkey, no problem—how about roast goose or beef, meatloaf or rack of lamb, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not Salmon En Croûte? Not only that, he presents some delicious choices for vegans and vegetarians and a whole chapter dedicated to leftovers and how to make them into scrumptious meals. He didn’t, of course, forget about those of us with a sweet tooth. Just looking at the pictures of Pavlova, Tiramisù and Jaffa Cake, to name a few of my favorites, will make you want to roll up your sleeves and get busy baking. This cookbook has everything you need for the best Christmas ever—and makes a perfect gift itself.