You can tell the approach of fall when football floods the airways, the kids go back to school — and the cookbooks start hitting the shelves, thick volumes penned by high-profile chefs and filled with prettily photographed, highly cravable dishes. This year's crop is impressive, with first books from Sean Sherman on Native American cuisine and wd~50's Wylie Dufresne, new books from Andy Ricker on the drinking food of Thailand and David Tanis on vegetables, and the first all-dessert cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi — as well as an all-cookie book from the folks at America's Test Kitchen. Here are 10 of this year's best, out now or coming in the next few weeks. And there are more on the way, including highly anticipated bread books due in November from Massimo Bottura and Nathan Myhrvold. Because although the world may be uncertain, our love for baked goods is not.
This is the fifth cookbook by the London-based Israeli chef, and the first one devoted solely to desserts. Written with Goh, a pastry chef and longtime Ottolenghi collaborator and product developer, and photographed by Peden + Munk, the book has more than 120 recipes for cakes, cookies, tarts, pies and, yes, meringues. The book begins with a "sugar manifesto" and Ottolenghi's note that his first professional restaurant job was whisking egg whites for vanilla soufflés. Thus, his justly lauded meringues, which have shown up in a few other of his cookbooks. The recipes are accessible and charming, as you'd expect from the guy who's pretty much single-handedly responsible for the current renaissance of Middle Eastern cooking (with apologies to Claudia Roden). So there's "take-home chocolate cake" and "frozen espresso parfait for a crowd," as well as pages of desserts flavored from along the Ottolenghi spice route — rosewater, pistachio, saffron, pomegranate, lime — plus a few fun gems, such as "festive fruitcake." Because, yes, Ottolenghi can even get us to bake fruitcake.
This is the follow-up to Ricker's first Pok Pok cookbook, a terrific book that chronicled the food of his Portland, Ore.-based Thai restaurants. Consider this the late night companion, a cookbook devoted to the bar food and booze-friendly snacks that Ricker fell in love with over decades of trips to northern Thailand. Thus, there are recipes for all the spicy, salty, sour things that accompany the bottles of lao khao, or rice whiskey, beer and other tipples, as well as asides on the making of many of those drinks. The book, it must be said, is also fun for those who don't drink, as it includes recipes for some seriously heady stuff: aep samoeng muu (pig's brains grilled in banana leaf), som tam thawt (fried papaya salad), tom leuat muu (pork soup with blood and offal) and sii khrong muu tai naam (pork ribs cooked underwater), just to name a few. Ricker's prose, written with Goode, is chatty and engaging, and the photos, by Austin Bush, will pretty quickly get you looking up flights to Chiang Mai.
- “101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die,” by Jet Tila, (Page Street Publishing Co., $21.99)
The Los Angeles-based chef and frequent food television guy has written a cookbook that reads like a super fun kitchen cheat sheet. Imagine all the Asian dishes you've always wanted to cook, crammed into one handy paperback, with colorful pictures, pro tips, asides on rice cookery, ingredients and techniques, and helpful commentary from a chef who's thoroughly qualified to give it. Tila, who grew up in a Thai and Chinese family in a city with a thriving pan-Asian food culture, covers all the bases, and then some. There are the classics — tom yum soup, Mongolian beef, General Tso's chicken, pad Thai — and then plenty of dishes that go beyond the expected — Korean short rib tacos with gochujang sauce, lemongrass lamb chops, five-spice pork belly sliders. Threaded through the pages are engaging photos (by Ken Goodman), of the dishes, of Tila's young family, of Tila throwing rice in the air. It is, as the title makes pretty clear, a very fun book — it's also pragmatic, thorough and a great read.
- “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen,” by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, $34.95)
The chef's first book is a kind of manifesto as well as a cookbook. Sherman, a South Dakota-born member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, has translated his years of professional experience, cooking in restaurants in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana, and catering and teaching, into a compelling book about indigenous cooking. These are recipes using the techniques and ingredients of the Dakota, Lakota and Ojibwe tribes, based on heirloom fruits and vegetables, wild and foraged ingredients — which is to say, bison tartare and wild rice cakes rather than fry bread. Sherman, who wrote the book with Dooley, fills the pages with interesting and helpful notes and asides — a tutorial on beans, "the backbone of Native cuisine"; instructions on how to cook rabbit; a list of indigenous stocks; sourcing information for Native suppliers; seasonal feast menus. This is a pretty good time for Native cuisine to get attention, as Sherman himself points out in his introduction: "It's hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uberhealthy," as well as gluten- and dairy-free. Maybe with Sherman's excellent book, which includes recipes for things like duck egg aioli, wild rice sorbet and Native granola bars, it will finally start getting its due.
- “David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient,” by David Tanis (Artisan, $40)
Tanis has long been one of the best voices on modern American cooking, a gifted chef — 25 years at Chez Panisse — and equally gifted writer. His new book is a lovely one, with 200 recipes embedded in almost 500 pages, all geared toward today's vegetable-driven cuisine. The term "market cooking," as Tanis points out in his introduction, is a French one, which means what you'd expect: cooking based on what the cook finds at the market that day. This was the ethos behind the famous Berkeley restaurant where Tanis cooked for much of his career, and also behind his New York Times cooking column. So we have a book divided by ingredients and devoted to their appreciation. Strewn throughout are notes on the qualities of all those vegetables, considerations of spices, techniques, pantry essentials and a meditation on seasoning. Tanis' food is deeply flavorful, honest, creative and always, always fun to cook.
If you've grown tired of waiting to get reservations for State Bird Provisions, the crazy popular San Francisco restaurant from chefs Brioza and Krasinski, you might console yourself with getting their cookbook and making some of the dishes yourself. This is the first book by the chefs, a married couple who also own the restaurant, who co-wrote the book with food writer JJ Goode. It is a pretty, fun-to-read cookbook, starting with the chatty backstory to the restaurant, which famously serves its food in dim sum carts. So there are lots of recipes, for all the stuff on those carts: things like sourdough pancakes with sauerkraut, pecorino and ricotta; radish toasts with yogurt butter and shredded dried fish; and cast-iron quail eggs with summer vegetable condiments and garlic chips. There are also plenty of larder recipes (State Bird chicken dashi, salted chile paste, kimchi pickles), plus asides and anecdotes (the Religion of Anchovies, a bit about the importance of peanut muscovado milk). And, important for many of us, there is a serious dessert section, with a heartening number of ice cream sandwich recipes.
- “The Perfect Cookie: Your Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Cookies, Brownies & Bars,” by America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $35)
Just in time for the fall baking season, the folks at America's Test Kitchen have come out with their first all cookie cookbook. Hooray. So we have a hefty volume of well over 400 pages, filled with 250 recipes that, it is safe to say, have been quite thoroughly tested. There are chapters devoted to drop cookies, bar cookies, sandwich cookies, gluten-free cookies and, yes, Christmas cookies. Not only are there plenty of lovely color photographs to help you out and make you hungrier than you already were but there are also how-to guides, shaping instructions, tutorials on candymaking and making puff pastry dough, tempering chocolate and more. How to form perfect pretzel sables? Yep. How to cleanly cut bar cookies? Of course. What pans to use when? Absolutely. All this and a recipe for a giant chocolate chip cookie you cook in a skillet.
Dufresne's New York City restaurant wd~50 closed in 2014, after a pretty spectacular Michelin-starred 11-year run. Now Dufresne, with former Lucky Peach writer and editor Meehan, has written a book about the place, which is both cookbook and homage. It's an extremely compelling read, whether you were a regular or never had the chance to cross the restaurant's threshold — stocked with artsy photography by Eric Medsker, restaurant anecdotes, interesting asides ("more about meat glue"; "how the slow-poached egg came to Clinton Street") and many, many recipes. Yes, there's Dufresne's fried mayonnaise, also aerated foie gras puffs; poached eggs with edible shells; and miso soup with instant tofu noodles. Even if you're not well-versed in molecular gastronomy, there will likely be recipes to suit your skill level, like the lavash that begins the book and that began all the meals at the restaurant. And the story of the place — jammed into an old bodega on the Lower East Side until developers eventually tore the building down — reads like an edible elegy. Maybe chefs should write books only about their restaurants after they've closed.
- “The Art of Flavor: Practices and Principles for Creating Delicious Food,” by Daniel Patterson and Mandy Aftel (Riverhead Books, $28)
Chefs often pair with writers, photographers or illustrators to produce cookbooks — not often do they collaborate with perfumers. Yet this is what celebrated chef Patterson (of the restaurants Coi, Alta and Locol) did for his new cookbook, joining with perfumer Aftel to write a cookbook that is also a consideration of how flavor works in cooking. "We met," the authors begin their book, "at the intersection of scent and taste." Which means that Aftel first met Patterson when she brought a case of her botanical oils to his San Francisco restaurant, and the two spent a morning experimenting with aromas and flavors. The eventual result of that and other experiments is a book that is part cookbook, part meditation. There is much exploration of the chemistry behind food pairings and techniques, of how flavor is balanced, heightened and manipulated. And the conversation can get a bit abstract, especially when the authors delve into issues of "locking" and "burying" flavor. Happily, this conversation is punctuated by recipes for dishes such as chicken stewed with saffron, orange and tarragon; roasted delicata squash with pumpkin seed oil and togarashi; and winter vegetables with charred onion broth and olive oil. Which is to say that you can put down the book when you get hungry and cook some pretty spectacular, very flavorful food.
It’s been 44 years since the Moosewood restaurant opened in Ithaca, N.Y., and more than 40 years since Mollie Katzen’s “The Moosewood Cookbook” was published, a book that many of us have gotten as sauce-stained as