Lavish dinner parties are wonderful, but 90 percent of our time in the kitchen is about feeding our families and the occasional friends that we've invited over. Food that's nothing special, nothing fancy — yet full of comfort and nurture.
That's where these five new cookbooks come in.
Do you know a home cook who is looking for some inspiration? A new way to approach getting meals on the table or some ideas to shake up the same-old, same-old? Perhaps one of these family cooking-focused cookbooks will give them just what they need.
- Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten, $35: Is there nothing more comforting than a new Ina Garten cookbook? This one is especially sweet because it's all about cooking for Jeffrey, her husband of more than 40 years. Stories of their life together, along with photos of the two, are woven throughout. And the recipes are classic Ina — elegant, celebratory, pure comfort food. There's Roast Chicken with Radishes, Italian White Beans and Escarole, and Cherry Pistachio Biscotti. But really, let's be honest — that slice of four-layer devil's food cake pictured on the cover is all anyone needs.
- A New Way to Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, $35: Amanda and Merrill are working mothers and the founders of Food52, a popular cooking website. With this book they seek to solve the challenge of getting delicious, nutritious dinners on the table during the week when time and schedules are tight. Their answer is to do a thorough meal plan and cook as much as possible over the weekend. And it works! This beautiful book is divided into four seasons, with each author providing two meal plans per season, for a total of 16 plans in all. There are recipes as well as cooking strategies, substitutions, grocery lists, etc. An excellent concept, well-executed. Brava!
- Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever, $38: Anthony Bourdain likes to cook for his wife and daughter and he doesn't like to get too fancy about it. If your friend's household is more tattoo than gingham, this is her cookbook. The recipes are solid, a combination of old-school food from Bourdain's restaurant days and surprisingly trendy things like an acai bowl (his wife's influence). Lots of pictures, lots of fun.
- Scratch by Maria Rodale, $35: Maria Rodale grew up on the first official organic farm in America and went on to become CEO of Rodale, Inc., a healthy, happy lifestyle company. (Full disclosure: Rodale Books published my book.) In this cookbook she shares recipes from her original farm-to-table roots, her travels, and the influence of raising her own family. The recipes (soups, pastas, roasts, snacks, breakfast, and desserts) are very family-friendly and kid-focused, and many accompanied by color photographs. It's all here, plus some great stories from a very interesting life.
- The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer, $27: A home cooking cookbook list would not be complete without a home baking book, and this is my choice. Sarah Kieffer is the author of The Vanilla Bean Blog, a mother of two, and a self-taught baker who honed her skills in professional bakeries — so she knows her stuff. Paging through her beautifully photographed book, I kept getting snagged by enticing-sounding treats: Honey Bundt Cake, Cardamom Braided Knots, Lime Mint Bars. Her recipes are approachable, and her spare, simple photographs highlight the form and beauty of each bake.