ISSUE 47  |  The Holiday Table

Gift Guide: Cookbooks That Make Perfect Presents

November 24, 2014 4:00 PM

BY Sarah Lonsdale

I’ve come to treat cookbook purchases the way I approach shopping for clothes: I only buy what I know I’ll put to use and want to have around for a long time. No impulse purchases. I feel the same way about giving books. I want them to be read and used. Here are five that will resonate with a variety of palates and cooks.

Please note that we’re fans of local bookstores, but for the sake of convenience, we’ve linked to Amazon here. 

Above: Back in 2009, Karen Mordechai was one of the first bloggers to start documenting her communal suppers in Brooklyn using food as a way to bring people together. Her cookbook Sunday Suppers: Recipes + Gatherings celebrates these get-togethers. Rather than being locked to a season or a style, the collection is categorized by time of day: morning, noon, afternoon, and evening. It’s the sort of cookbook you can pick up and flip through until you find a recipe that resonates–perfect for days when you’re short on culinary inspiration and looking for something easy and delicious to whip up. Sunday Suppers: Recipes + Gatherings is $23 from Amazon.

Above: I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot is for someone looking to learn the basics of French cuisine from France’s own Julia Child counterpart. (The original French title, Je Sais Cuisiner, sounds so much better; it was first published in 1932.) Mathiot wrote some 30 books in her lifetime–she died in 1998–and this one, now available for the first time in English, is her magnum opus. With over 1,400 recipes–most of them more about French home cooking than grand cuisine–it’s a great resource. I Know How to Cook is $35 from Amazon.

Above: I am an ardent fan of Yotam Ottolenghi, the London-based Israeli chef who has just published Plenty More, which is yet another book on my wish list. A related title to consider is Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich. The couple are both Ottolenghi alums and in the summer, we wrote about Honey & Co., their tiny restaurant, which is one of our favorite London hangouts. Their recipes are easy to make but exotic enough to require tracking down a spice or two. The book also includes the best pistachio cake recipe I’ve ever made–you know, the one everyone wants the recipe for once they try it. Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East is $26 from Amazon.

Above: Last year’s cookbook du jour was the award-winning Noma restaurant chef’s book, Rene Redzipi: A Work in Progress. This year another Copenhagen restaurant is stealing the limelight: Relae: A Book of Ideas by Christian F. Puglisi. Based in Denmark, the Italian chef aims to serve grand food without the accompanying stuffiness–at Relae, he focuses on accessibility and humility in the food he serves and the same can be said of his book. Half is devoted to Puglisi’s ideas and theories and the rest to recipes. Typically, I avoid prose-packed cookbooks, but this one has drawn me in and I love the cross-referencing of ingredient descriptions with recipes. Better still, unlike most books of this genre, many of the recipes are not too complicated for me to try. This book will resonate with the foodie and/or design aesthete (because it looks good on display). Relae: A Book of Ideas is $35 from Amazon.

Above: Anyone who follows Mimi Thorisson’s blog, Manger, will no doubt have been seduced by her seemingly effortless French country life. In her farmhouse in the Medoc, children and dogs (in equal score) hover over tables abundant with fresh ingredients and just-baked tarts. In contrast to Ginette Mathiot’s book (listed above), which presents classic French cuisine í  la Julia, Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse is a slow seduction, equal parts rich lifestyle imagery and recipes. This one is definitely for the Francophile. A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse is $25 from Amazon.

Looking to get a head start on present buying? Get ideas from our Gift Guides, including: