Have some summer free time? Pore over these cookbooks that go beyond recipes.
Each year’s crush of Very Important Cookbooks starts in the fall and heads into the holidays. But I prefer summer’s leaner crop, which comes with a bonus: the gift of time.
These are the cookbooks meant to be pored over, and chances are good that smoldering briquettes and warm vacation days will allow for just that. Plus, with so many fresh ingredients at their peak, the cookin’ is easy.
Here’s a pile worth keeping on your kitchen (or bedside) table.
“River Café London: Thirty Years of Recipes and the Story of a Much-Loved Restaurant” ($40), by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli. This sequel to the 30-year-old restaurant’s first cookbook is practically perfect in every way. It is artistic. It has a story to tell. It recognizes the contributions of its late co-founder Rose Gray. It doesn’t gussy up any of its food, which is a hallmark of the famous café on the Thames.
“How to Eat a Peach: Menus, Stories and Places” ($35), by Diana Henry. Understanding how to build a meal that fits the occasion can vex all manner of kitchen hands, but that’s not the only reason you’ll revisit this cookbook again and again. It merits special attention because it delivers timeless and thoughtful food writing, accompanied by handsome visual vignettes.
“The Minimalist Kitchen: 100 Wholesome Recipes, Essential Tools, and Efficient Techniques” ($30), by Melissa Coleman. This book might require a bit more than a minimalist kitchen, as its stocked list of ingredients includes 110 pantry items, 53 seasonal ones and 22 dried spices. But the recipes are clear, the food looks appealing, and the tips are worth considering. To wit: You need only a half-cup and a single tablespoon measure for all your measuring needs.
“Breakfast with Beatrice: 250 Recipes From Sweet Cream Waffles to Swedish Farmer’s Omelets” ($20), by Beatrice Ojakangas. Take this to the beach house and you won’t have to beat the morning rush at the diner. It is the definitive greatest-hits, carb-heavy compilation from an American culinary hall of famer.
Nordic inspiration runs deep: Danish butter crown, Icelandic coffee wreath, Swedish tea ring. How does Ojakangas manage to stuff so many delights into a mere 211 pages? No photos and brief recipes that run in “galley mode.” Old school.
“Good Fish: 100 Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast” ($30), by Becky Selengut. The timing’s right for this update of the author’s successful 2011 dive into fish. Selengut gives an easy-to-read course on how to choose and store seafood. Dishes are paired with wine or beer.
“Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up the Southern Kitchen” ($30), by Eddie Hernandez and Susan Puckett. Just about everything in this book looks like it’s meant to be consumed in warm weather. This is not fusion food, but rather a recognition of what Mexican and Southern cuisines have in common: cultural adaptation, in the best sense.
“Great Vegan BBQ Without a Grill: Amazing Plant-Based Ribs, Burgers, Steaks, Kabobs and More Smoky Favorites” ($22), by Linda and Alex Meyer. Pulled sweet potatoes with chipotle barbecue sauce and a Southern-style skillet corn bread with maple butter sound good for all, right?
While the recipes call for an indoor grill pan, we think they can work outside on the Weber as well.