Right now even the most ardent cooks feel weary of their kitchens, so as we waded through this spring’s hundred or so new cookbooks, we were searching for inspiration. Below you’ll find the books that proved themselves in our kitchens—and got us excited to make dinner again. These 11 books have no-nonsense weeknight stuff and the decadent stuff of future meals with friends. There are superlative baked goods, flavorful dumplings, and a crème caramel for one. This list is the best of the season; we're sure there's a book here that will help every cook find fresh ideas to cook their way through this spring.
Bavel by Ori Menashe, Genevieve Gergis, and Lesley Suter
Often chef’s cookbooks, while gorgeous, prove tricky and fussy for the home cook. Not so with Bavel, the latest cookbook by pastry chef and chef duo Genevieve Gergis and Ori Menashe. Bavel is based around the chefs’ Middle Eastern Los Angeles restaurant by the same name. Bavel the cookbook gets much of its strength from the family recipes dotted throughout, the ones that sustain the chefs in their busy day-to-day life. It’s hard to improve upon a simple roast chicken, but the Turmeric Chicken With Toum, conceived for an easy dinner party, might just edge out your fallback recipe. Crisp, turmeric-stained skin, juicy, yogurt-marinated meat, and a smear of garlicky toum, its bite softened by orange blossom water: this chicken somehow has it all.
Rodney Scott's World of BBQ by Rodney Scott
Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ—is a book that brings the sacrament of whole-hog barbecue down to earth. You would imagine that it might take a full book for Rodney Scott to teach someone to barbecue the way he does in Charleston, but Scott manages to do it in the 30 pages before the recipes start. A year ago, asking the average home cook to build a barbecue pit in their backyard might’ve seemed like too large an ask. But in the past year, many of us have conquered sourdough, mastered pickling, and tried out lamination. And the clear, inviting way in which Scott communicates his techniques will have you pricing out concrete blocks at the hardware store. Writing with a lifetime of experience behind him, Scott manages to make Carolina barbecue feel accessible to the weekend warrior.
To Asia, With Love by Hetty McKinnon
Just make her miso-laced squash ramen or deliciously charred cabbage steaks and you’ll understand why this book is tops. McKinnon, who grew up in Australia to Chinese parents and now calls Brooklyn home, has a special knack for food that’s excellent for families, but isn’t anywhere near dull. The Buttery Miso Vegemite Noodles, all glossy and salty, get a sharp tang from a pile of grated cheddar cheese and come together in a minute. Lots of recipes are accompanied by plenty of options for toppings or fillings, key for anyone trying to feed a slew of demanding palates: for example, her jook has three optional vegetable garnishes with varying levels of spice, crunch, and savoriness, and McKinnon lays out a rainbow of dumpling fillings, which include combos like asparagus, mint, and feta, and lentil and cauliflower curry.
Ripe Figs by Yasmin Khan
Here is what Yasmin Khan does better than almost anyone: dive deep into the cuisine of a specific region of the world to create a compendium of recipes, stories, interviews, and stunning photos that transport you (with all five senses engaged) to that place. I know that sounds like a tall order—and even a little bit cliche—but somehow Khan manages to pull it off again and again, with depth, generosity, and a palpable love of listening and learning.
Cook Real Hawai'i by Sheldon Simeon
In this cookbook Simeon delves into Hawaii's oft-misunderstood cuisine, giving readers a peek into local garage parties and family barbecues. Hibachi chicken barbecue, charred fish sinigang, kimchi dip, and an entire poke primer—these dishes showcase the islands’ mixed cultures, ingredients, and cooking styles. I’ve already got a couple of dishes on repeat: the deeply savory Fried Garlic Noodles, seasoned with soy sauce and dashi powder, and the creamy, coconutty Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes, sprinkled with bonito flakes or bits of skipjack tuna jerky. Both of these dishes offer what feels like a key to the essential flavors of Hawaii.
Mother Grains by Roxana Jullapat
While there’s something in Mother Grains for the folks who’ve been ambitious about their sourdough since the early months of lockdown, what delights the most about this cookbook from renowned Los Angeles baker Roxana Jullapat is that it isn’t just for the hardcore. This book offers ways to deepen the flavor of many less-intensive baking projects, including waffles and pancakes, scones and cookies, cakes and muffins. It gives home bakers a taste of what’s been going on in many of the best bakeries lately, illustrating how diversifying your flour pantry and leaning on full-flavored grains like buckwheat, sorghum, rye, barley, and heirloom wheat is a bit like switching from coloring with graphite pencil to painting with a rainbow palette. When the grains are great—like the nutty, creamy Sonora flour she has you use in her spectacular oatmeal cookies—baked goods can taste more cohesive and more intricate in flavor.
Cook This Book by Molly Baz
Cook This Book is a cookbook designed for the novice: Baz lists ingredients by category for logical grocery shopping, and fills the recipe margins with answers to questions she anticipated her readers might ask. That way, One-Pot Chicken and Schmaltzy Rice with Lemony Yog (Yog being yogurt; Baz loves “abbrevs”) is not just a deeply comforting weeknight dinner, it’s also a lesson on how to properly cook rice and crisp chicken skin. Baz’s style of cooking is an appealing mix of unfussy-but-inspired diner fare and cheffy-casual dishes you’d find at any hot, merch-and-orange-wine-selling restaurants. These are recipes you can’t help but like. Who can say no to a pasta salad with mortadella, burrata, castelvetrano olives, and pistachios?
Super Natural Simple by Heidi Swanson
This cookbook is full of dishes that look like spa food but pack more flavor (a hot pink dragon fruit and beet ‘party dip’, amped up with cayenne and citrus), tons of nourishing one-pot meals like the Roasted Chile Peanut Tofu, and lots of excellent, slightly earthy, not-too-sweet baked goods. Because Swanson’s Baked Oatmeal is a perennial Epi hit, I gave its spicier cousin, a Dirty Chai Baked Oatmeal, a go. Warming, complex, and just as good out of the freezer, it reminded me what I loved most about Swanson’s cooking: the fresh, complex flavors that aren’t fussy, the dishes that are sometimes pretty, sometimes (like my three shades of brown oatmeal) unassuming, but food that is always remarkably satisfying.
At Home in the Kitchen by David Kinch and Devin Fuller
In At Home, Kinch leans into simple home cooking as hard as he leans the other way at Manresa. Recipes often have no more than seven or eight ingredients. The chapter “All-Day Eggs + 2 a.m. Dinners” might as well be called Pandemic Dinners—it’s all fried fingerlings, puffy omelets, and crispy grilled cheese sandwiches. The next chapter, “Pasta + Rice,” provided me with a new favorite pantry pasta (sardines, capers, breadcrumbs, lemon). And in the seafood chapter—perhaps the most Californian in a very California-feeling book—a recipe for oven-roasted potatoes with cod spoke to my elemental cravings for well-browned spuds and just-cooked fish.
My Shanghai by Betty Liu
My Shanghai will guide you toward faithfully reproducing many favorites made famous by the restaurants and street vendors of the world’s largest city—and served in Shanghainese restaurants throughout the world. You’ll find fluffy-crispy pan-fried sheng jian bao and tender lion’s head meatballs made from hand-minced pork belly here, as well as the twisted knots of scallion flower buns and hot, fresh crullers for dunking in soy milk. But author Betty Liu emphasizes that the book is really focused on dishes meant to be prepared in home kitchens: She writes that My Shanghai is “a written record of recipes that had previously been passed down orally. These recipes are my family’s tradition.” It’s a refreshing focus, when so many cookbooks (often written by white authors) zoom way too far out, attempting to tackle all of China at once, and glossing over what makes each region special.
Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson
The Nigella effect is undeniable. This is sensual, decadent, joyful food—and, is there not a better time for it. If the sound of meal prep, sheet-pan dinners, or batch cooking screeches on your ears in season forty-five of this pandemic, this is the book to fall into. Luxuriate in a simple and rich Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce, served with a gravy boat of extra cream (that’s equally good stirred into pasta or topped over otherwise chaste vegetables the next day). Finish it up with squidgy Black Forest Brownies, studded with kirsch-soaked cherries and hazelnuts. Whatever you do, don’t rush it. This is a book for a Sunday cook—or, even just a Sunday read, drink in hand, to inspire you for the eventual return of dinner parties.
Source: Epicurious by Lauren Joseph and the editor's of Epicurious, March 14, 2021.
Decorating sugar cookies always seems like a good idea, but they never quite turn out like the ones baked by the professionals. Even if you stick to the recipe you've been baking for decades, there are a handful of tips to keep in mind to make sure your cookies don’t crumble. Follow these tips—which span from dough to delivery—to make the best sugar cookies of all time, and get ready for Christmas cookie success.
1.) Make the Dough Ahead of Time
Get the Recipe: Basic Sugar Cookie Dough
Trying to roll out freshly made sugar cookie dough is nearly impossible. It’s too soft, too sticky, and totally unwieldy. It can be tempting to just stick the soft dough in the freezer to speed things up, but that won’t work either: The dough will be frozen on the outside and too soft on the inside. The verdict? It’s a good idea to make it at least a day before you bake. In fact, dough will last double-wrapped in the freezer for more than a month, and can be kept in the fridge for three to four days. “I go ahead and portion the dough into little balls and chill them on a cookie sheet, then put the chilled cookie balls in a bag in the freezer to use later,” says Sarah Rich, pastry chef at Rich Table in San Francisco, Calif. When you’re ready to bake, let the dough thaw slightly, then roll between two sheets of parchment paper to just under a quarter-inch thick, says Jen Yee, head of the pastry program at Lafayette in New York City. The chilling process also gives the gluten in the dough time to relax, which makes for a more tender cookie.
2.) Take Your Time Rolling the Dough
That said, trying to roll just-out-of-the-fridge dough can be super frustrating. Even with all your weight and good intentions focused on the rolling pin, the dough can crack from the edges inward. Instead of battling the fissures, pull the dough out about 15 minutes before you’re ready to roll. Unwrap the dough, place it on a lightly floured surface, and give it a few whacks with your rolling pin to encourage the dough to soften. Then, roll on. If at any point the dough gets super soft (i.e., holds an indent when pressed with your finger) transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and stick it in the fridge for a couple of minutes. Repeat as often as necessary until all your cut outs are cut out.
3.) Don't Overwork the Dough
There are a few ways to prevent your cookies from ballooning in the oven. For starters, be gentle when mixing your ingredients together. “Over-creaming your butter can aerate the dough, which will cause your cookies to expand in the oven and collapse upon cooling,” Yee says. “Be sure to just work the butter enough to homogenize with the rest of the ingredients.”
4.) Use a Bench Scraper
A bench scraper or great big spatula is a dough-rollers best friend. Use it to gently get under and lift up the dough so you can keep it from sticking to the surface. This allows you to use a lot less flour on the surface (excess can make for tough cookies), and moving the dough as you roll makes an evenly rolled sheet of dough more accessible. Chances are you’re consistently putting more pressure on one area of the dough (it’s OK, we all do it). Rotating as you roll helps you compensate for any irregularity—or super strength—in your rolling.
5.) Chill Again After the Cookies Are Formed
Once you’ve cut the dough into shapes, put the cookies back into the refrigerator before baking, says Chris Hanmer, chef and owner of CH Patisserie in Sioux Falls, S.D., and winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts. Why? Whether you’re making simple snowball cookies or plan to decorate cut out shapes, a quick chill in the freezer after your cookies are formed or punched out will help your cookies hold a well-defined edge even after baking. Cold dough means cold butter. The colder the butter, the slower it melts helping cookies of all shapes—especially ones with more intricate details (looking at you, Rudolph)—hold their edge.
6.) Set a Timer While Baking (and Watch It)
A friendly reminder that all ovens are not created equal. Neither are all cookie sheets, or eggs, or cups of flour. All those little variations can mean big differences in your finished product. Those are just a few of the reasons we give you a range for the finished cooking or baking time. For the best odds, set your timer at the low end of the range, say 12 minutes for a 12 to 15 minute cookie. Take a look at the cookies. Now look at the recipe. What are you looking for? Golden Brown? Dry and firm to the touch? Remember, you’re baking to the indicator, not the time. If you have to add a few more minutes (even if it's longer than the recipe says), keep going. Your cookies will thank you for it.
7.) Embrace Royal Icing
Royal icing (a mixture of powdered sugar and egg whites) is what gives bakery-made cookies their professional sheen. The best part? You don’t have to follow an exact recipe, Hanmer says: “The icing will tell you what it’s doing. If it’s too liquidy, add powdered sugar. If it’s too thick, add milk or water.” Add acid (in the form of lemon juice or cream of tartar) to help the icing dry more quickly, and experiment with different colors using gel paste coloring.
8.) Work Quickly When Decorating
The first step in decorating is to apply the icing, which involves piping the border with a piping bag, then filling in the center. Yee recommends making two consistencies of royal icing, one for each step. “You want a firm icing for the border, and a looser one to fill or ’flood’ in the border, which can be done by adding a touch of water to your ’flooding’ icing,” she says. You can use a piping bag, an offset spatula, or a paring knife to frost the center, and toothpicks can help to make designs, spread icing into detailed corners, and pick up mistakes.
Quickly add the sprinkles while the icing is still wet and tacky—within two minutes of frosting. Though the surface of the icing will feel dry after about 10 minutes, it’s important to let it fully harden for about four hours. And don’t stress too much about achieving perfection, she says: “Be patient and have fun! They’re cookies, so do yourself a favor and don’t take the icing too seriously.”
9.) Get Creative With Your Tools
You can still whip up picture-perfect cookies without professional-grade equipment. If you don’t have a piping bag (though they can be easily found in craft stores), use a squeeze bottle or create a “cornet,” which involves rolling parchment paper into a cone and snipping the tip to the size of your liking. And don’t fret if you’re lacking in the cookie cutter department. “Some cutters can be turned upside down or sideways to [make] a new creation,” says Summer Bailey, pastry chef at The Dutch in New York City.
10.) Be Strategic With Transportation
If you’re planning on transporting or packing the finished cookies for shipping, choose to bake rounder, less complicated shapes. “Snowmen will ship a lot better than snowflakes,” Hanmer says. In terms of packing them up, place the cookies in flattened paper muffin cups to keep them separated, and use tissue or crinkle paper as padding, Yee suggests. And though it may seem counterintuitive, load in as many as you can. “The more you can carefully pack into a container and the less that they move, the better,” Hanmer says.
11.) Store Sugar Cookies Correctly
Once you've made the perfect batch, you'll need to know how to store sugar cookies so they stay fresh for as long as possible. If you like your holiday cookies soft and chewy, head to the bread box. “A slice of white or potato bread helps prevent soft cookies from drying out,” says cookbook author Jessie Sheehan. Place the cookies in an airtight plastic container, separating layers with parchment paper, then drop in a slice of bread. The cookies will draw moisture from the bread, which will help keep them from getting stale (and harder than a lump of coal). If you’re on Team Crispy Cookie, reach for a glass container—or better yet, reheat them in a 300°F oven for no more than five minutes. And remember that cookies play by bagel rules: Store flavors separately, or they’ll all taste like everything.
Source: Real Simple Magazine By Betty Gold and Grace Elkus
Updated November 23, 2020
We're not supposed to play favorites, but there's just something about fall dinner recipes that makes autumn our favorite season of the year (hello, comfort food!). Don't get us wrong, we love summer grilling recipes and spring's bounty of bright and beautiful greens — but hearty fall soups, harvest salads, and cozy pasta recipes really warm our hearts (and fill our bellies!). Not to mention the overflow of apples, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and winter squash popping up. With so many fall fruits and vegetables to cook with, the family dinner ideas are endless this season.
Chicken, Sausage, and White Bean Stew Slow cooked chicken and beans make for a protein-packed stew. Get cozy and get cooking.
Get the recipe for Chicken, Sausage, and White Bean Stew »
French Onion Soup Onions, slowly cooked until deep brown and caramelized, give this classic its distinctive flavor. Great for a party, this recipe is easily doubled; simply cook the onions in two skillets.
Get the recipe for French Onion Soup »
Instant Pot Risotto A comforting bowl of this Italian classic now requires zero effort with the help from a multi-cooker. Top with any flavors you fancy: Pesto, lemon zest, peas, or a fried egg will all do the trick.
Get the recipe for Instant Pot Risotto »
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad With Tahini Vinaigrette Butternut squash and a rich nutty dressing will convince you to introduce this vegetarian dinner to your fall meal routine.
Get the recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Salad With Tahini Vinaigrette »
Coq Au Vin Rosé A twist on classic coq au vin made with pink wine, this crowd-pleaser is loaded with mushrooms and bacon too.
Get the recipe for Coq Au Vin Rosé »
Winter Squash and Lentil Stew Reason no. 765 to invest in an Instant Pot: A bowl of this cozy, hearty stew will be ready in 35 minutes flat.
Get the recipe for Winter Squash and Lentil Stew »
Short Ribs With Creamy Polenta These tender braised Instant Pot short ribs are the newest star of weeknight dinner: No effort required.
Get the recipe for Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta »
Patty Melts Step aside, cheeseburgers, and grilled cheese. Meet the epic mashup of these two nostalgic diner meals.
Get the recipe for Patty Melts »
Moroccan Meatballs Skip the spaghetti! These jazzed-up meatballs are served over a bed of roasted tomatoes, feta, and herby couscous.
Get the recipe for Moroccan Meatballs »
Pork Chops With Bok Choy and Coconut Rice Creamy rice cooked in coconut milk is the perfect rich partner to a golden-brown pork chop.
Get the recipe for Pork Chops with Bok Choy and Coconut Rice »
The best season of the year is finally here. And with summertime comes the need for some quick and easy summer dinner ideas to feed your crew so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time soaking up the sun with your family! Indulge in all that the summer has to offer by gathering around a table full of the best grilled chicken recipes, grilled vegetable recipes, and refreshing BBQ side dishes that aren't too heavy for the heat. From June through August, fill up on the season's finest with these family-friendly picks, which are quick, easy, and seriously delicious — plus, many of them store well as leftovers for later. Oh, and to top things off, might we recommend one of our favorite summer drink recipes too?
Barbecued Chicken With Roasted Corn Pudding This charred chicken and corn recipe makes for the quintessential summer dinner. Glass of rosé optional. Get the recipe for Barbecued Chicken with Roasted Corn Pudding »
Chicago-Style Chicken Dogs Sweet and spicy pickles and peppers make this barbecue favorite a real winner. Get the recipe for Chicago-Style Chicken Dogs »
Grilled Haloumi This protein-packed vegetarian salad stars haloumi, a salty Greek cheese that doesn't melt over high temps. Toss it on the grill, and mix together your fave veggies and grain and dinner's done! Get the recipe for Grilled Haloumi »
Steak With Grilled Green Beans, Fennel & Farro Fire up the grill to char green beans and steak for the ultimate summer dinner. Get the recipe for Steak with Grilled Green Beans, Fennel & Farro »
Grilled Chicken With Coconut-Lime Slaw Shake up your chicken routine with this easy weeknight dinner that will be on the table in just 20 minutes. Get the recipe for Grilled Chicken with Coconut-Lime Slaw »
Peach and Prosciutto Flatbreads Who knew everything you needed to make your pizzas taste wood-fired was already in your backyard? Fire up your grill to give these flatbreads a beautiful char. Get the recipe for Peach and Prosciutto Flatbreads »
Tomato, Peach & Basil Salad With Italian Sausage What more could you want in a fresh summer dish? This one has peaches, tomatoes, and basil. Get the recipe for Tomato, Peach & Basil Salad with Italian Sausage »
Summer Squash, Mint, and Pecorino Pasta Squash, mint, and lemon juice lighten up this fresh summer pasta made in under 30 minutes for the perfect weeknight meal. Get the recipe for Summer Squash, Mint, and Pecorino Pasta »
Summer Rolls Get the whole family involved in rolling these vegan finger foods. They make for the perfect light dinner, complete with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Get the recipe for Summer Rolls »
Creamy Corn Pasta With Bacon and Scallions Brighten up weeknight pasta with corn, basil, and scallions to satisfy your summer comfort food cravings. Get the recipe for Creamy Corn Pasta with Bacon and Scallions »
Where can I find a great cup of tea (or a cuppa as the Brits say) you ask? Look no further than our suggestions below. Oh and feel free to "spill the tea" about this to your friends!