My Picks for 2016’s Best New Cookbooks, Including a 5-Star Winner

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Have you been following our Fall 2016 Cookbook Gift Guide? For the past few weeks, I have been gathering the best new titles for the many different kinds of cooks on your gift list.

And now I am going to focus on some of the titles I’m particularly excited to add to my own collection this year. Just to give you a sense of how much I like these titles, The Kitchn editors said I could pick 10, but it was barely possible to stop at 13. Don’t tell them I snuck a few in!

Pick up some of these top titles for anyone on your list — including yourself!

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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Eat in My Kitchen by Meike Peters, $35

  • A Quick Summary: Eclectic and Mediterranean-inspired fare from a Berlin-based food blogger.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Spicy Cauliflower with Harissa, Lemon, and Parsley Yogurt Dip; Roasted Shallot, Caramelized Plum, and Stilton Tartine with Rosemary; Braised Lamb Shanks with Kumquat and Mint
  • A Quick Summary: Diana Henry never disappoints and she clearly outdoes herself here. The title says it all.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Cumin-Coriander Roasted Carrots with Pomegranates and Avocado; Roast Maple and Mustard Spatchcock with Figs; Espresso Loaf Cake with Burnt Butter and Coffee Icing
  • A Quick Summary: Sweets and cookies from a famous bakery in Tel Aviv and NYC. Think: challah, babka, flatbreads, stuffed breads, and more.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: The Famous Chocolate Babka; Shakshuka Focaccia; Berry and Ricotta Brioche Buns
  • A Quick Summary: All the recipes and plans needed to create playful, vibrant gatherings and celebrate friendships.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Lemon-Lavender Fresh Toast; Four Seed Hazelnut Granola with Dried Cherries; Thyme, Pepper, and Parmesan Popcorn
  • A Quick Summary: A South Indian cook moves to the American South and deliciousness ensues.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Onion Lentil Dumplings in Savory Buttermilk; Green Cardamom Shrimp Etouffee; Pink Peppercorn and Ginger Poached Pears
  • A Quick Summary: This book is packed with tips and tricks, plus 95 recipes to become a more confident cook.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Ribs with Gochujang, Fish Sauce, and Honey; Julia’s Caesar; any of the Seven Things to Do with a Can of Chickpeas

A Recipe for Cooking by Cal Peternell, $30

  • A Quick Summary: A Chez Panisse chef cooks beautiful, simple, farm-inspired dishes with his family.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Citrus Salad with Ginger, Cilantro, and Saffron-Toasted Pistachios; Magic Pumpkin Caramelle with Wild Nettles and Sweet Red Chili; Tender Berry Butter Tart

The Short Stack Cookbook by Nick Fauchald and Kaitlyn Goalen, $40

  • A Quick Summary: A vibrant compilation of recipes that showcase 18 essential ingredients.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Kale Salsa Verde; Kentucky Butter Cake with Walnut Frosting; Yogurt-Honey Panna Cotta
  • A Quick Summary: A beautiful guide through the surprisingly diverse history of food in the Appalachia region.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Bacon and Orange Sorghum Vinegar; Shelly Cooper’s Speckled Butter Bean Cassoulet with Rabbit Confit; Persimmon Custard Pie

Everything I Want to Eat by Jessica Koslow, $40

  • A Quick Summary: Bright, vibrant California food that delights and engages all the senses. From the LA restaurant Sqirl.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: “Pozole” a la Gringa; Cardamom Doughnut-ish Tea Cakes; Crunchy Sprout Salad with Kohlrabi, Beet, and Herby Creme Fraiche Dressing
  • A Quick Summary: Modern yet personal food with a strong narrative thread. I suspect I want to live at Poole’s and can’t wait to find out.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Beet Salad with Fromage Blanc and Burnt Orange Marmalade Vinaigrette; Oyster Stew with Twice-Fried Saltines and Charred Turnip Relish; Buttermilk Chess Pie with Grilled Peaches

Dinner at the Long Table by Andrew Tarlow and Anna Dunn, $40

  • A Quick Summary: Seventeen eclectic menus for celebrating family and community from a collection of Brooklyn-based restaurants.
  • Stand-Out Dishes: Hasselback Apple Cake; Drunk Cabbage; Beets Roasted Until the End of Time

I’m going off-formula here because this is my five-star pick of the year, the cookbook I suspect will define my cooking in 2017, and so want to say a little more about why.

On the surface, you might think that this is just another one of those fancy, cheffy cookbooks that’s mostly about brand and ego, with no clue about the challenges a home cook faces. You might think that because those books are often really beautiful with high production values and this book is like that, too: sophisticated layout, glossy pages, gorgeous photography. But start at the beginning and slowly page through and you will start to see that these recipes are doable — very doable. Simple, elegant, but not overly refined, this cookbook inspires rather than thrills; it impresses rather than boasts.

The first recipes are a handful of simple sauces and pistous, which is a brilliant move. Make a few of these, tuck them into your refrigerator, and the only thing you need for dinner is to steam some fish or roast a chicken. Consider: Hazelnut Romesco, Walnut-Parsley Pistou, Parsley Sauce Verte. If you want to get a little fancy, there’s Consomme or Celery Veloute with Bacon-Brioche Croutons, but then turn the page and we’re back to Spring Pea Risotto, Caramelized Delicata, Crispy Fried Egg with Fresh Corn Polenta. It all sounds fancy and involved, but it’s really not.

The proteins are represented, but not overdone — just four recipes each for seafood, pork, beef, poultry, and lamb that are more about teaching a technique that you can use over and over again (perhaps with some of those sauces you saw earlier?). Should you be out of ideas, there’s a handy sidebar with four seasonal variations. A clever trick: Master a simple technique, add a few seasonal ingredients, and suddenly you’ve expanded your repertoire times four. And that’s one of the main reasons why I like this book: it teaches us how to cook and not just to follow recipes.

Desserts are fruit-focused, with Apricot-Brown Butter Tart and Pistachio Meringue Cake grabbing my attention most. I also love the final chapter, which is a pantry section full of what Pomeroy calls secret weapons: Herb Oil, Lemon Confit, Half-Dried Tomatoes, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Oat Thyme Crackers.

I suppose this isn’t a cookbook for the busy professional parent who needs quick meals on the table during the week (but maybe on the weekend?). And if you like the spiky, spicy flavors of Southeast Asia or Mexico, Pomeroy’s palate might not be bold enough for you. But as I consider the cold months ahead, I know her refined-but-deep flavors will comfort and nourish and bring the right amount of celebratory sparkle into the long, thin shadows of winter.

(Image credit: Lindsay Ribe)