What to buy for the home cook on your list? Here are five books that might fit the bill for your holiday gift list – or hey, just for yourself as inspiration to get back in the kitchen in the new year!
I guess saying “It’s Dorie” doesn’t exactly qualify as a review, huh? But those of you who know Dorie’s body of work will know that her recipes are 1. reliable, 2. easy to follow and 3. taste great (I have five years of cooking my way through Around my French Table and (so far) few years’ cooking my way through Baking Chez Moi under my belt, so I feel I am uniquely qualified in this area!). Dorie’s latest book has been eagerly awaited by many, though, because it’s a departure from baking and French food (though there are still definitely some French influences in her recipes) – a move towards a more simple way to cook and eat – the way Dorie herself does.
From the publisher: What makes a “Dorie recipe”?
Each one has a small surprise that makes it special. Mustard and walnuts in the cheese puffs. Cherry tomatoes stuffed into red bell peppers and oven-charred. Cannellini beans in cod en papillote. The dishes are practical, made with common ingredients from the supermarket, farmers’ market, or pantry, like Sweet Chili Chicken Thighs, which is both weeknight simple and fine enough for company, and Eton Mess, a beautifully casual dessert of crumbled meringue, fruit, and whipped cream. They are easygoing, providing swaps and substitutions. They invite mixing and matching. Many can be served as dinner, or as a side dish, or as an appetizer, or hot, cold, or room temperature. And every single one is like a best friend in the kitchen, full of Dorie’s infectious love of cooking and her trademark hand-holding directions.
The “trademark hand-holding directions” is one of the reasons so many people love Dorie. Cooking from her books is like having her in the kitchen with you; she really breaks down instructions to be very “do-able” and even more complex recipes become accessible. Everyday Dorie includes recipes for dishes like frittata and fried rice but also recipes which will make you do a double-take (those “surprise” ingredients mentioned above) and for those of you who are fans of using up the “bits and pieces” in your fridge and pantry, you’ll love this new Dorie style of cooking (many of the recipes came about because she had “a bit of this of that” leftover and wondered how it would taste in an unexpected place in a recipe (cranberries in a beef stew!?).
Buy this. It’s Dorie.
Home Cooking with Kate McDermott
You may know Kate McDermott from “Art of the Pie” – certainly she is known for her pie-making prowess, previous cookbook and workshops, among other things. Her latest book, “Home Cooking” is a tribute to Kate’s love of feeding people and is a practical book full of recipes you’ll want to make and eat, everyday.
From the publisher: When she isn’t making pie, Kate McDermott has people to feed. From roasted chicken and veggies for Sunday supper to batches of hearty soup to reheat when there’s no time to cook, this practical cookbook focuses on staple recipes for people who aren’t looking for a part-time job in the kitchen. Using ingredients that can be found in any supermarket and techniques that every home cook needs, McDermott shares tasty and repeatable meals for friends and family. Like those in Art of the Pie , these recipes are accompanied by moving stories—from anecdotes of single motherhood to building a home in the foothills of the Olympic mountains. Andrew Scrivani’s stunning photographs appear throughout.
The book includes recipes for all hours of the day – Simple Breakfasts to Start the Day, High Non, Short and Sweet Treats, From the Land, Wood Stove Days and Suppertime. Kate says these are meant to be “quick, satisfying recipes for mainly one-dish meals to please even the pickiest of eaters.”
The recipes are clearly written (like Dorie’s recipes, Kate’s make you feel like she’s standing there, talking your through the process), easy to follow and laid out in a clean, simple design. The recipes themselves are peppered with “Storytime” anecdotes and (sometimes very personal) stories which really bring the food to life. It’s a delight to read. Alongside Kate’s words and recipes, Andrew Scrivani’s gorgeous photos bring the food to life even more – I love the rustic simplicity of these images – they really highlight how accessible these recipes are and make everything feel so do-able. This is food you’ll want to cook. Come for the recipes, read the entire book in one sitting because you’re hooked on the stories!
Weekday Suppers (Best of Bridge)
Best of Bridge, the iconic Canadian cookbook series, is back with recipes to help you get dinner on the table, even during the busiest of weeks!
From the publisher: Following the success of Sunday Suppers, the Bridge family continues to grow, with two new contributors joining the team to bring us innovative recipes developed in classic Bridge fashion and delivered with signature Bridge humor and wit. Best of Bridge Weekday Suppers serves up 175 recipes that are easy enough for our busy modern lives, are delicious and nourishing as always, and are perfect for sharing with family and friends.
The delectable weekday recipes include Smoky Tomato Chickpea Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons, Shrimp and Bacon Spinach Salad, Pineapple Pulled Pork Buns, Stovetop Gnocchi and Beef Stew, Rosemary Lamb and Feta Meatballs on Lemon Garlic Potatoes, Curried Turkey Pot Pie, Thai Shrimp Cakes and Baked Mushroom and Herb Risotto. With over 4 million Best of Bridge books sold, the ladies have truly become an integral part of dinnertime for families all across North America.
Weekday Suppers offers a wide variety of recipes to suit any style of weekday dinner – soups, sandwiches, salads, pasta and pizza, meats (beef, veal, pork and lamb), poultry (chicken and turkey), fish and seafood, vegetarian dishes and quick and easy desserts. Recipes are designed with busy families in mind – using easy-to-find ingredients and simplified methods and techniques that help you get a nutritious dinner on the table fast. I love that many of the recipe include some options to help you make dinner even faster (rotisserie chicken, bottled sauces and frozen items) – because we can’t always do everything from scratch (and that’s MORE than ok!). Semi-homemade beats takeout anyday!
Fact: I had this book at school and the students in my cooking club (aged 10-14) were leafing through it and loved the sound of SO many of the dishes. The fact that there are less images than in typical cookbooks didn’t deter them from looking at the book and a couple of them even commented how they liked the spiral bound book because it lays flat (I agree – out of the mouths of babes!).
Keep this one on hand to help you through busy weeks – there are many recipes bound to become firm favourites!
If you own any of Ottolenghi’s other books you’ll know his recipes are flavourful and wonderful but for many people (me included!) they’re a little too much work for the everyday – not the recipes you’d use for a “quick and easy dinner”. This book, however, is much more accessible than the others which will please those who love the flavours but not the labour intensive recipes from the other books!
From the publisher: Yotam Ottolenghi’s award-winning recipes are always a celebration: an unforgettable combination of abundance, taste and surprise. Ottolenghi SIMPLE is no different, with 130 brand-new dishes that contain all the inventive elements and flavour combinations that Ottolenghi is loved for, but with minimal hassle for maximum joy.
Bursting with colourful photography, Ottolenghi SIMPLE showcases Yotam’s standout dishes that will suit whatever type of cooking you find easy – whether that’s getting wonderful food on the table in under 30 minutes, using just one pot to make a delicious meal, or a flavoursome dish that can be prepared ahead and then served when you’re ready.”
So, the “simple” in the book title actually refers to the fact that these dishes are all simple in at least one of these ways: S – short on time: less than 30 minutes, I – 10 ingredients or less, M – make ahead, P – pantry, L – lazy, E – easier than you think. With recipes for brunch, raw and cooked vegetable dishes, rice, grains and pulses, noodles and pasta, meat, fish and desserts (pudding), there’s really something for everyone. In the back of the book there are “meal suggestions” – menu plans for everything from mid-week dinners to weekend feasts which I find is a great starting point for a dinner party (I’m not sure I’d make three or four of the recipes for a mid-week dinner….). A really useful section in the book is the “Ottolenghi Ingredients” where he outlines the 10 ingredients you need to keep on hand – ingredients he loves to cook with which are put to use again and again in these recipes (“flavour bombs, enriching and making bold whatever they are added to”). With a properly stocked pantry, these recipes become, well, simple to execute 😉
This is the Ottolenghi book I’ll reach for again and again, when I want the big bold flavours but not too much work!
It seems the “simple” theme is what home cooks are after – so many books published both this year and last focus on getting good food on the table in the least amount of time and Claire Tansey’s Uncomplicated is no exception.
From the publisher: “An indispensable cookbook that introduces a happier, easier way to get a homemade dinner on the table and proves that it doesn’t have to be difficult to be delicious. Cooking can be easy, fast, and fun!”
Many people buy cookbooks which sit on their coffee tables and are more aspirational than practical. Uncomplicated is a book to sit on your kitchen table and counter – a book to be used, not simply admired! Claire has all your dinner requirements covered – from quick weeknight suppers to fancy meals (the Entertaining chapter includes recipes for cocktails, snacks and party dishes with a slew of menu planning ideas for parties too!) and even a section on uncomplicated baking – there’s something for everyone.
The recipes include lots of classics, made simple (her three ingredient mac and cheese is quite brilliant and you’ll never use the boxed stuff again after trying this!) – dishes which use everyday ingredients, cooking equipment and techniques. There’s a handy section on ingredients which are used throughout the book as well as some “must have” equipment (again, nothing too complicated!) and I love that Claire’s included a guide for how often to shop for certain ingredients – she’s really thought of everything to help you make the recipes with the most success possible. A book to cook from, not just look and admire and think “someday when I have time, I can cook like this”. As Claire says, delicious doesn’t need to be time consuming!
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Disclosure: I purchased Ottonelghi’s Simple and Home Cooking with Kate McDermott for myself. I was sent review copies of Weekday Suppers, Everyday Dorie and Uncomplicated by the publishers. I was not asked to write about these books and am not being compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own