12 of Our Favorite Cookbooks for Summer

published Jul 11, 2011
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Cookbooks often feel unnecessary in the summertime. After all, who needs another recipe for grilled zucchini or corn on the cob? And yet with summer’s easy living and easy cooking sometimes I get lazy and forget to try new things. A few cookbooks are breaking me out of my routines this summer, pulling me away from popsicles and grilled eggplant, encouraging me to enjoy the generosity of summer in new ways. Here are three fresh picks — a stunning ode to vegetables, an ice cream book to scream for, and a short and sweet guide to grilling.

I also asked our crack team of food writers about their favorite summer cookbooks. I was curious about the books that inspire them in the summer, sending them off to the farmers’ markets and into the garden, keen to cook and to taste.

I wrote earlier this summer about Plenty, London restauranteur Yotam Ottolenghi’s ode to vegetables. This book made me sit up straight and pay attention. In an over-crowded world of cookbooks, the vibrant photos and fresh, modern vegetarian dishes stand out. I find it impossible to do this book justice in a brief review. (One reviewer said I was “breathless” — sure, and unapologetically so. I rarely find books I love so much at first read.) If you want to explore vegetables this summer, get this book.

The second book I am loving right now is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home — also recently reviewed. It’s full of cold, delicious ice creams, as well as generous recipes for everything from macaroons (for sandwiches) to elaborate sundaes. The combinations of seasonal, farm-fresh flavors, along with Jeni’s signature flair for design and her passionate, knowledgeable voice make this one of my favorite dessert books in years.

And last but not least, I appreciate the new Kindle Single format — small, focused books on one topic. Mark Bittman recently released one on grilling: Bittman’s Kitchen: What I Grill and Why. If you’re a newbie grill-er, then pick this up. It has a good introduction to grilling, and just enough recipes to get you started — but not so many that it will overwhelm.

Summer Cookbook Picks from The Kitchn Team

Now on to our writers’ picks — books old and new to inspire your summer cooking. And please add your own; we’d love to hear what’s inspiring you this summer.

Every summer, I go back to the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion ($23.10, Amazon), their big ol’ book of classic baking recipes. The sections on pancakes, muffins, and quickbreads are for lazy weekend get-aways. And the ones on pies, cobblers, and crisps serve as inspiration (and justification) for buying masses of summer fruit. – Emma Christensen

Although it seems pretty specific and narrow, in the summer I find myself turning to Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Fruit ($28.41, Amazon). I always end up with a bounty of summer fruits and this is a great reference for new ways to use them! – Megan Gordon

I find inspiration in Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors ($17.10, Amazon) all year long, but especially during summer. The book is filled with vibrant recipes, stories, and photos of the ingredients that abound in my farmers’ markets and CSA boxes this time of year – corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, berries, figs, stone fruits. – Emily Ho

I find myself coming back to Ina Garten’s Back to Basics ($19.88, Amazon) book every summer — the photos are stunning, the ideas approachable and the recipes are spot on. – Leela Cyd Ross

Chez Panisse Vegetables ($21.09, Amazon). It’s great to be unencumbered in the summer. Like minimalist architecture this book offers clean, simple lines that belie a quality and complexity. – Jill Slater

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving ($13.04, Amazon). I don’t need much inspiration when it comes to the bounty of the summer… but preserving it so it can be enjoyed in later months is greatly intriguing to me. That’s when I really need inspiration is the dead of Winter when I’m buried under 10 feet of snow! – Sarah Rae Trover

When I packed up my apartment to go live in my summer sublet, I made sure three cookbooks came with me: Canal House Cooking vol 1 (Summer Edition), Canal House Cooking vol 4 (Farm Markets and Gardens) and Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home ($28.41, Amazon). Summer is the time for simple, ingredient-driven cooking at the Canal House Cookbooks offer just that. Keller takes it up a notch, for those slightly fancier occasions. So far, I have not been disappointed. – Dana Velden

OK, your turn! What are your favorite, most-inspiring cookbook picks for summertime?

(Images: Faith Durand; contributor photos courtesy of respective contributors; book cover images via Amazon.com)