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.
Showers, flowers, and books! Celebrate the arrival of spring with these great books for kids.
Explore Spring: 25 Great Ways to Learn About Spring
Lauri Berkenkamp Age: 5-8
How do we love spring? Let us count the ways–25 ways to be exact. Whether it’s weather-appropriate activities or planting flowers with furry animals, this book gives you 25 ways to interact with spring.
Jill Esbaum Age: 5-7
“I hate baby animals and warm weather,” said no one ever. Warm up to spring by flipping through cute photographs of animals and the great outdoors.
Feel The Wind
Arthur Dorros Age: 4-8
Air is always moving! You can hear it, feel it, even smell it! Wake up your spring senses with this eye-opening, breezy read.
Who Likes Rain?
Wong Herbert Yee Age: 4-7
Grab your umbrella and hit the puddles! Check out this interactive question-and-answer book to find out which species enjoy the rainy April showers as much as humans do.
Planting a Rainbow
Lois Ehlert Age: 2-5
With her Eric Carle-esque illustrations and colorful text on wide, easy-for-little-fingers pages, Ehlert introduces the youngest kids to vibrate spring images and simple site words.
What Will Hatch?
Jennifer Ward Age: 2-5
The Anticipation is haunting! Full of playful text and rhythmic couplets, kids will get excited as they learn about different animals and their life cycles, which begin in spring.
And Then It’s Spring
Julie Fogliano Age: 4-7
In this sweet story, a young boy and his dog prepare a garden for spring. Children can learn a wonderful lesson about patience and friendship just by reading this instant favorite.
Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms
Julia Rawlinson Age: 4-8
Say it ain’t snow! Fletcher the Fox is very excited for spring! The flowers bloom, the air is fresh and crisp… but snow?! The transformation of seasons can be full of surprises, as your little ones will learn with via Fletcher’s adventures.
Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic
Steven Schnur Age: 2-4
This book has great appeal for both kids and adults, and can be read and reread at home and in school. Adults appreciate the sleek writing style that exposes kids to a unique form of poetry.
A New Beginning
Wendy Pfeffer Age: 6-9
What is the spring equinox? Learn some simple spring science and history lessons along with suggested activities to try with your kids this season.
Source: PBS Kids by Danielle Steinberg March 21, 2018
Want to make your own gorgeous green and gold St. Patrick's Day decorations? In search of easy St. Patrick's Day crafts for kids? Lucky you! These easy projects will look adorable on display in your home and keep both kids and adults entertained and in crafting bliss. There are ideas here for all skill levels, from beginner to the semi-professional. Whether you’re looking for a quick, easy craft like printable lunch box jokes to brighten your child’s day, or an elegant DIY shamrock wreath to hang on your door this is something is this gallery for all types.
Pot of Gold Hanging Mobile: Gold, or mini yellow pom-poms? Either way, craft this DIY hanging mobile and lots of luck and riches will surely come your way!
To make: Cut 1-inch-wide strips of paper from colored craft paper. Use a hole-punch to make a hole in the middle of each strip of paper; stack paper in the order of the rainbow. Thread a piece of twine through holes, knotting it just above and below the paper to hold paper in place. Fold a piece of black craft paper in half and cut out a pot shape, so that you have two identical pieces. Cut out two dome-shaped pieces of yellow craft paper and sandwich between the black pieces, gluing everything together. Glue mini yellow pom-poms to the yellow paper. Punch a hole at the top of the yellow dome, and thread twine through, securing with a knot. Cut out mini clovers from green craft paper and glue to the front and back of the pot; outline with a white pen if desired.
Mini Four-Leaf Clover Pin: Proudly display your Irish pride with this DIY clover pin.
To make: Roll out green oven-bake clay to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out shape with a mini shamrock cookie cutter. Bake per manufacturer's instructions. When cool, brush a light layer of craft glue on the shamrock and sprinkle with green glitter. Glue a brooch pin on the back.
Tissue paper Four-Leaf Clover Ornament: This sweet four-leaf clover ornament will look equally cute hanging from a magnet on the fridge or on the front door. Make it as small or large as desired.
To make: Tear light green, dark green, and white tissue paper into small pieces. Lay pieces in between self-sealing laminating pouches; seal. Cut out a four-leaf clover shape. Punch a small hole in the top of the clover with a small hole-punch. Thread ribbon through the hole and hang.
Pot of Gold Mason Jar Gift Idea: Fill up these cute Mason jars with chocolate coins to remind your loved ones that they make you feel lucky every day.
Get the tutorial at Polka Dot Chair.
Rainbow & Gold Lucky Sign: You'll want to keep this adorable sign up all year, especially with the fun gold accents.
Get the tutorial at Landeelu.
Paper Shamrock Wreath: All you need are different scraps of paper to create this cute shamrock wreath.
Get the tutorial at The Craft Patch.
St. Patrick's Day Lunch Box Jokes: Brighten your child's day with these silly St. Patrick's Day jokes and riddles that will have them giggling until they get home from school.
Get the tutorial at Artsy Fartsy Mama.
Paper Potted Shamrocks: Give your nearest and dearest a little luck of the Irish with some paper four-leaf clovers in matching mini pots.
Get the tutorial at Design Improvised.
St. Patrick's Day Pencil Toppers: At last, the magical homework incentive your little ones will love—green clover pencil toppers.
Get the tutorial at Laura Looloo.
DIY Fabric Wreath: You only need a bit of green fabric and a wire frame to bring this wreath to life... because even your front door could use some holiday love.
Get the tutorial at A Mom's Impression.
Source: Country Living Magazine by Charlyne Mattox Mar. 10, 2021
CELEBRATE ST. PATRICK’S DAY 2021!
Saint Patrick’s Day is Wednesday, March 17! Who was Saint Patrick? Why are shamrocks a symbol of this day? Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day history, legends, and lore.
Although the holiday originally started as a Christian feast day celebrating the life of St. Patrick and the spreading of Christianity to Ireland, today, it is a day of revelry and a celebration of all things Irish. Don’t forget to wear green!
WHEN IS ST. PATRICK’S DAY?
St. Patrick’s Day is officially observed on March 17 each year, though celebrations may not be limited to this date. The significance of March 17 is that it’s said to be the date of St. Patrick’s death in the late 5th century (circa A.D. 493).
WHO WAS ST. PATRICK? WAS HE A REAL PERSON?
Saint Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. He is credited with successfully spreading Christianity throughout Ireland—hence the Christian celebration of his life and name.
Was There Really a St. Patrick?
Definitely. However, there are many legends about him that mix with the truth. Did he play a large role in spreading Christianity to Ireland? Yes, absolutely. Did he really drive all the snakes out of Ireland? Probably not, since snakes weren’t native to Ireland to begin with!
In any case, St. Patrick’s impact was significant enough to warrant our modern-day celebrations.
WHY IS THE SHAMROCK ASSOCIATED WITH ST. PATRICK’S DAY?
We wear a shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day because, legend says, St. Patrick used its three leaves to explain the Holy Trinity in his teachings. (The Trinity is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit as three divine persons who are one divine being [God].) The truth of the St. Patrick legend, however, is in question, as there is no direct record that the saint actually used the shamrock as a teaching tool.
Note: The symbol of St. Patrick is a three-leaf shamrock, not a four-leaf clover. However, long before the shamrock became associated with St. Patrick’s Day, the four-leaf clover was regarded by ancient Celts as a charm against evil spirits. In the early 1900s, O. H. Benson, an Iowa school superintendent, came up with the idea of using a clover as the emblem for a newly founded agricultural club for children in his area. In 1911, the four-leaf clover was chosen as the emblem for the national club program, later named 4-H.
MORE ST. PATRICK’S DAY FACTS, FUN, AND FOLKLORE
“On St. Patrick’s Day, the warm side of a stone turns up,
and the broad-back goose begins to lay.”
ST. PATRICK’S DAY RECIPES
Would you like to cook something special for St. Patrick’s Day? You don’t need the luck of the Irish! Check out our list of St. Patrick’s Day recipes for corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and more ideas beyond green milk and beer!
JOKE OF THE MONTH
Q: Why should you never iron a four-leaf clover?
A: You don’t want to press your luck!
How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Let us know in the comments!
Source: The Editors of The Old Farmer's Almanac, Jan. 14, 2021
Who Is Maud Dixon?, Alexandra Andrews (March 2)
Entry level publishing employee Florence Darrow is desperate to be a successful writer, like best-selling Maud Dixon, whose debut captured the world’s attention even as her true identity remained a secret known to very few. The stars align in the strangest ways for Florence when she somehow becomes the personal assistant to the author, leading them on a research trip to Marrakesh, where things go haywire. It’s there that this publishing satire transforms into a lively suspense novel as Florence is forced to reckon with the person she’s become in her quest for fame.
What’s Mine and Yours, Naima Coster (March 2)
A debate over school integration divides a community in North Carolina and forever alters the lives of two families. At the center of the story are students Gee and Noelle, whose worlds collide at their newly integrated school. The convergence of their paths sets off a series of events that Naima Coster traces through the following 20 years in her piercing examination of race, identity and generational trauma.
Infinite Country, Patricia Engel (March 2)
Talia is a teenager serving time at a correctional facility in Colombia. She’s desperate to flee and return home to her father in Bogotá where a plane ticket to the U.S. is waiting for her. It’s there that Talia’s mother and siblings are living. Patricia Engel follows Talia’s journey to reunite with her family, illuminating the struggles of the fractured unit. The result is a heartbreaking portrait of a family dealing with the realities of migration and separation.
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (March 2)
In his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro brings readers to a strange world filled with human-like robots called Artificial Friends (AFs). His narrator is a particularly observant AF named Klara who studies the behavior of the customers who come to the store where she’s patiently waiting to be bought. What ensues is a quietly devastating narrative about the intersection of humanity, technology and love.
The Committed, Viet Thanh Nguyen (March 2)
In 2015, Viet Thanh Nguyen published his debut novel, The Sympathizer, to critical acclaim. The sweeping tale about the Vietnam War went on to win the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in fiction and sold over 1 million copies globally. Now, Nguyen revisits the saga of his unnamed narrator through a sequel, which follows the protagonist, a South Vietnamese army veteran, as he attempts to live as a refugee in 1980s France.
The Code Breaker, Walter Isaacson (March 9)
In his biography of Nobel Prize–winning chemist Jennifer Doudna, former TIME editor-in-chief Walter Isaacson explores the story behind CRISPR, the technology that can edit DNA and is showing promise as a way to both test for the COVID-19 virus and potentially even protect human cells from infection. Isaacson chronicles the integral role Doudna played in the development of CRISPR and outlines the impact the technology will have on generations to come.
Black Girl, Call Home: Poems, Jasmine Mans (March 9)
In her new collection, spoken-word poet Jasmine Mans examines her relationship to home and her journey navigating life in America as a queer Black woman. The pieces vary in form and subject, tackling everything from race to feminism to belonging. Together, they showcase Mans’ power as a poet who can relay her experiences in lyrical, vivid terms.
How Beautiful We Were, Imbolo Mbue (March 9)
The second novel from the author of Behold the Dreamers details the plight of a fictional African village as it faces extreme environmental degradation at the hands of an American oil company. The consequences are severe and long-lasting—toxic water is killing children, pipeline spills are destroying farmlands. In surveying the damage over several years, Imbolo Mbue crafts an aching narrative about greed, community and perseverance.
A Place Like Mississippi, W. Ralph Eubanks (March 16)
From William Faulkner to Natasha Trethewey, some of the most prolific American writers have hailed from Mississippi. Included in that list is essayist W. Ralph Eubanks whose newest work of nonfiction seeks to understand the state’s influence on modern literature. Eubanks takes readers on a literary tour of his home state, charting the role Mississippi has played in shaping the writers who lived there and the work they produced.
There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job, Kikuko Tsumura (March 23)
The English-language debut from award-winning Japanese writer Kikuko Tsumura tells the story of an unnamed 30-something crippled by career burnout who is desperate for an “easy” job. Tsumura chronicles her narrator’s experiences as she moves between jobs that require little thought or effort. But as strange and magical moments arise, the protagonist begins to realize that perhaps the search for an easy occupation is harder than she thought. It’s a revelation that plays out through Tsumura’s sharp prose and biting observations on late capitalism.
A Little Devil in America, Hanif Abdurraqib (March 30)
Poet and critic Hanif Abdurraqib crafts a stirring account of the relationship between Black artists and American culture in his new book. A blend of cultural analysis, criticism and memoir, A Little Devil in America takes a close look at a wide range of Black performances, from a dance marathon to a game of spades to a performance by Whitney Houston at the 1988 Grammy Awards. Throughout, Abdurraqib writes with urgency as he highlights what these performances mean, how they connect to his own feelings on grief, love and life, and where they fit into American history.
Girlhood, Melissa Febos (March 30)
In eight haunting essays, Melissa Febos unearths the trauma of her adolescence as she picks apart the burdens that accompany being a young woman. In sharing the darkness that clouded her coming of age, Febos asks pointed questions about the expectations placed on women and how they impact a person’s sense of self. Febos combines her own stories with investigative reporting to argue why we need to transform the way we think about girls as they grow up.
Of Women and Salt, Gabriela Garcia (March 30)
Jeanette is living in Miami, where she takes in the daughter of a neighbor who has been detained by ICE. The decision comes as she wants to know more about her own family—a yearning that soon yields revelations about the legacy of those who came before her in Cuba. Flipping between the voices of several characters, Gabriela Garcia creates a thoughtful portrait of women coming to terms with the difficult decisions they’ve made in their lives—and the betrayals they’ve committed along the way.
Libertie, Kaitlyn Greenidge (March 30)
Though Libertie Sampson grew up free in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, she knows that freedom is limited. Her mother wants her to follow in her footsteps and become a doctor—something Libertie not only doesn’t want to do, but also can’t because of her darker skin. As the young woman wrestles with what it means to be free, a notion made more complicated by time spent in Haiti, Kaitlyn Greenidge weaves together an intricate narrative about colorism, classism and community.
Source: Time Magazine website, by Annabel Gutterman, February 26, 2021.