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Cookbooks have always been a good gift for any occasion. Now, with the holiday season approaching – consider sending the perfect cookbook for your loved ones.
I love cookbooks. I find myself going to the cookbook section whenever I enter a bookstore. Looking for good cookbook bargains in a garage sale is sort of my hobby. I like having the books in my kitchen, and occasionally I open a few and look for something helpful. It’s hard for me to relate to a cookbook without pictures. I’m a visual learner, and I need the images (and better be good ones!). Cooking the recipes is just one way to use a cookbook. I like to use cookbooks for ideas and inspiration for what to cook next. Also, I want to use cookbooks to learn new techniques or cooking principles. Some cookbooks are great for general education about food and cooking, and some are great for just browsing and enjoying.
The perfect cookbook for the perfect person:
This year, we might not be able to join our families for a big dinner, celebrating the holidays more intimately. But we can still send something to our best friends and families to show them they are on our minds. There’s a cookbook for everyone out there.
Almost anyone would benefit from a great cookbook, but you must pick the right book for the right person. Otherwise, they won’t’ use it.
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For your girlfriend who goes every weekend to the farmers’ market
Six seasons is probably my favorite book at the moment. The reason is that it's organized by splitting the year into not four but six seasons, adding late and early summer as separate seasons to the year. Each season features different vegetables that are in peak during that season. It is followed by a few recipes focusing on these vegetables. Most recipes are for simple yet sophisticated dishes. You can also find tips and tricks for buying, storing, and utilizing vegetables. The author of this book, Joshua McFadden, was the chef who came up with the iconic kale salad that started the kale salad craze back in 2007. His approach to cooking resonates well with vegetable-focused, seasonal cuisine, without being vegetarian. This book would be great for someone who loves cooking with vegetables but may not know precisely what to do with them. Or someone who would appreciate wow-worthy yet straightforward recipes. I use this book so much, and I recommend it to all my cooking friends. I would suggest you get another copy of this book for yourself.
For the friend that started baking bread during the pandemic.
A sourdough enthusiast (either beginner or advanced) would love that book. I wrote a whole post about ways to improve your sourdough baking game, and one of the steps is reading and learning from this book. I stand behind my recommendation, and I think it's beautifully made, well written, and very easy to follow.
For the aunt that loves cooking but never puts enough salt.
The first part of this book is an educational section with stories about the basics of cooking. It is written in a beautiful story-telling way. In the second part of the book, you'll find recipes that demonstrate the principles you've learned in the first part. I got both the audiobook and the hardcover copy of the book. The audiobook is excellent for the first part (narrated by Samin herself) but does not include the recipes, which is a shame. So this is why the hardcover is needed. The drawings are beautiful, and the book’s principles are essential yet straightforward for someone to understand how to cook better. I found this book a real asset in my cookbook library. Don’t shy away from getting this book if you’ve seen the docu-series done by Netflix. My impression of the TV show was pretty bad, but I still recommend this book. This will be an excellent gift for someone with more of an analytic approach in life. They would benefit from understanding why we use different principles to help them cook more naturally.
For the dad that needs more ideas for a quick dinner
Jamie Oliver is probably my favorite celebrity chef persona. He's amazingly good at what he does, and I love all his cookbooks. This one gives a solution to simply and quickly improvising in the kitchen. The design of the book is very aesthetically pleasing. The simplicity and the way he makes it so approachable to take five ingredients and make it into a meal is admirable. I recommend this book to anyone looking for quick and easy recipes for weekly dinners. It would be great for the home-cook to add some clever and creative ways to use what they already have around. It gives the inspiration to be creative in the kitchen, one of my principles of living a food-centric life.
For that super-host friend who invites people over for a fancy dinner party
Do-Ahead Dinners is a cool book written by a chef that used to host pop-up-kitchen dinner parties. I love this book because, like its name, it focuses on what you can prepare ahead of time so that you can cook fewer things last minute. If you ever had to cook for a dinner party and found yourself having to do everything in the last hour or so, this is for you. With better planning and the right recipes, you'd be able to really breeze through the final stages of cooking dinner and actually enjoy your own party. I used so many of the recipes here in the book, and the format is handy: what you can do many days ahead of time, what you can do hours ahead of time, and then what has to be done the last hour before serving. When I first got this book, I thought the recipes would be more basic, but I was positively surprised to find exciting and unique recipes. I want to do everything in this book. It all sounds so amazing.
This is a unique book - I wouldn't even consider it a cookbook. This book is like an ingredients index and used as a tool to help you curate new dishes according to suggested flavor combinations. For example, if you're looking to cook a red cabbage dish and you want to consider what kind of ingredients would go well with that, you can open this book on the red cabbage page and see what ingredients it pairs well with and what you should be avoiding. It also gives you flavor affinities, a list of classic combinations of ingredients that always go well together. For example, here, it would be cabbage-apple-pork. It also gives you some information about the peak season and the best cooking techniques. You can also find little sections of restaurants’ dishes featuring these ingredients. The Fat Duck Restaurant in London has a red cabbage gazpacho served with mustard ice cream. I would give this book to the more advanced cook, someone who feels comfortable creating their own thing, someone who doesn't necessarily follow a recipe but always looking for inspiration and ideas for new experimental dishes.
For your uncle that loves Indian takeout and spicy food from around the world
Curry Cuisine would be perfect for the traveler-home-cook who comes back from each vacation intending to cook the dishes he tasted. The variety of curry dishes from various countries in the world is extraordinary. And this book shows the different ingredients for every cuisine in a beautiful way. The recipes are well-written, and the pictures are appetizing. You can browse according to the country of origin, and overall it's an excellent book for authentic recipes of curry.
This book is a restaurant-book-type-cookbook, for Ad Hoc restaurant by Thomas Keller in California. The restaurant concept is family-style dinners that are shared with all diners, with simple yet delicious dishes. This book gives me many ideas for dinner parties when I have to cook something impressive for the center of the table. It could be for a holiday or family gathering, or a birthday celebration. Similar to the concept of the restaurant, nothing is extra complicated or extra fancy. Yet, everything is very well prepared and delightful. I would give this book to either someone who likes Thomas Keller’s restaurants or the person who shows off with a big roast of beef or a big seafood stew and spends good money on high-quality ingredients.
For your nerdy teenage nephew that got into cooking lately
This is one of these books I wish I had before going to culinary school. It covers all the cooking basics, techniques, methods, and tools, only in a more modern and science-based way. It's not so much of a book to search for a recipe, but it's an excellent book to discover the fundamentals of cooking. It's a giant book, more like an encyclopedia. It’s very comprehensive, and the detailed pictures of every step of the way are very clear and useful. Everything written by Kenji Lopez-Alt is worth its weight in gold (and this is a hefty book). I would get this as a gift for someone really passionate about cooking the “right way,” an analytical person who appreciates some research that went behind every single page and recipe in the book.
This is another restaurant cookbook that used to be in the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco called Bar Tartine. This was one of my favorite restaurants in the city before it closed down, and now the owners open Tartine Manufactory alongside their Tartine empire. This restaurant had everything I'm looking for in a restaurant. It had a lot of innovation and a lot of work put into the basic elements they cook with. This cookbook showcases what goes on behind every dish. The recipes are more complicated than the average cookbook. It would be an excellent gift for someone enthusiastic about fermenting their own vegetables or making their own cheese. But you don't have to go through all the processes that they mention here in the book. You can use the recipes with shortcuts to make some refined dishes without cooking it all from scratch.
For the coworker who bakes cookies every occasion they got
I wanted to recommend a patisserie or dessert cookbook but I don't own many of those, so I decided to recommend this book instead. Even though this book is all about vanilla, it is not exclusively all about sweets and desserts. Most of the recipes in this book are savory. But I think someone who uses a real vanilla pod in their baking might appreciate the selection of different dishes made with vanilla as a spice. And it's a nice change to see how we can use vanilla in so many different types of preparations. My favorite idea that I embraced was using vanilla in tomato gazpacho. I like this book because all the quantities for the ingredients are written in a conversion table to make it easier. Some of the recipes here are borrowed from renowned chefs like David Lebovich. This is a fascinating book to have around to give you some unique inspiration and ideas for unconventional flavors.
For the Ottolenghi fan who already has all the other Ottolenghi books by now
Yotam Ottolenghi is so trendy right now, you won’t find a cookbook list without one of his books. I chose to recommend this book, called Nopi, after his restaurant in London. I haven't visited the restaurant yet, but I quickly grabbed this book at a garage sale. I loved the pictures and unique recipes, which made me want to eat at Nopi as soon as I visit London. The recipes are more complicated, but what I like about this book is that everything looks appealing and nothing is ordinary. It gets me excited about cooking, and this is what a cookbook should be all about. I would purchase this book as a gift to someone who likes Mediterranean cuisine with a twist because this is where it nails it.
Getting holiday gifts shouldn’t be such a daunting task. A cookbook can be something we never use and collects dust. But a perfect one can literally change lives. Each cookbook that one owns has a story of how it got there. If you nail this one, you’ll be getting praise throughout the year!
What’s your must-have cookbook to add to this list?