We frequently feature local authors and notable new food books, but the stacks of new cookbooks from publishers and library lists keep piling up faster than we can shelve them. Here are five top picks from recent releases:
River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ($35, Ten Speed Press): Some of the River Cottage cookbooks are classics, some left us cold. The latest, an all-vegetarian collection, is a credit to the series. Fearnley-Whittingsall may be best known for his carnivorous cooking, but he’s just as inspired on the vegetarian side, coming up with fresh ideas that have been brightening up our weeknight dinners. Favorite recipes so far are an easy roasted root vegetable frittata, a spicy carrot-chickpea salad in homemade pita bread, and a zingy cold “herby, peanutty, noodly salad.” I had been in a rut for a while of cooking the same old dinner recipes, but every time I page through this book, I get excited about planning our next meal.
The Flying Brownie by Shirley Fan ($17.95, The Harvard Common Press): Emails may replace handwritten letters, but not much can substitute for getting a genuine care package in the mail. Fan’s book hits one of those niches-we-never-realized-needed-to-be-filled, coming up with packing tips and 100 recipes for homemade cookies, candies, and other treats that keep well and can be shipped the maximum distance with minimum crumbles. Ideas range from chocolate-cherry brownies to apricot-almond granola bars to sriracha-spiked party nuts.
Crackers & Dips by Ivy Manning ($19.95, Chronicle Books): Manning, a Portland-based author with two well-thumbed books already in our collection, is here to tell us that making crackers is not too tough. With a digital scale (recommended but not required) and a rolling pin, she turns out to be crisply, crunchily correct. Manning takes those baking skills beyond the basics, providing not just standard crackers, but gluten-free recipes, homemade versions of classics like animal crackers, goldfish and grahams, plus fancy originals like amaranth crackers with cheddar and pepitas. They’re matched up with a spicy selection of dips, schmears, tapenades, and other toppings.
Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook ($24.99, Jessica Goldman Foung): Plenty of people think about cutting back on salt, but few have to do it at the same level as Foung. As a 21-year-old on dialysis, kidneys damaged by lupus, she began a strict low-sodium diet. Now, years later, she’s a healthy, upbeat, and downright charming food writer who can skillfully come up with salt-free, high-flavor recipes from chicken broth to a Bloody Mary. Foung tracks the sodium content of every ingredient from carrots to chicken livers to (who knew?) half-and-half, and provides smart overall tips for reworking recipes on your own and for eating out salt-free. She’s also just fun to read; even salt addicts would be glad to have her at the table to set down the shaker and share that bowl of low-sodium French onion soup.
All the Good Cookies by Gretchen Holt-Witt ($19.99, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): The initial appeal here is a collection of irresistible, professionally developed bake sale treats, from lemon squares to faux Oreos to peppermint meringues to spicy “hermits” made with coffee, cinnamon, and dates (it’s like a cookie version of one of my favorite quick breads). The book’s also worthwhile for its advice on presentation, planning, and publicity for a successful sale. But the heartbreaking background is that Holt-Witt has led the charge to mix up hundreds of thousands of such cookies to benefit Cookies for Kids Cancer, the non-profit organization she and husband Larry organized in honor of their son, Liam, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 2 and died four years later. Read through the book’s stories of the millions of dollars that the cookies have raised toward pediatric cancer research, and the difference that they’re making for others like Liam. You’ll not only want to bake your way through the recipes, you’ll want to sell them at your own Cookies for Kids Cancer fund-raiser.