From ‘Black Food’ to ‘Arty Parties,’ here are cookbook gift ideas for the holidays

By Evan Kleiman

The phrase “to everything there is a season” perfectly describes the deluge of recipe books released each fall. As in past years, the number of books you’ll want to read and/or cook from is enormous, and there are many lists out there to help you choose. To pick just five titles is a fool’s errand, but let me try. The following are books written by authors I’ve interviewed on Good Food. I’d gladly cook from all of them, but “Black Food” in particular is a book that invites you to spend hours reading.

Black Food” by Bryant Terry

“Black Food” is one of the most important releases of the year from a seasoned vegan food author and activist. As chef-in-residence of the Museum of the African Diaspora, Bryant has worked for years curating shows to bring Black voices to the forefront. His dream of creating a publishing imprint to give BIPOC culinary voices a home has been realized with the new Penguin Random House imprint 4 Color Books. Bryant Terry is the founder and editor-in-chief. “Black Food” is the first publication from 4 Color Books. Terry has compiled a powerful collection of verse, poems, photographs, paintings, and recipes that is a rich shared history.

Listen to Evan Kleiman’s interview with Bryant Terry here.

“Black Food” by Bryant Terry is an important first release from new imprint 4Color Books. Credit: 4 Color Books.

Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds and Legumes” by Abra Berens

We’re told to eat more whole grains, beans and legumes, but those categories have many foods, each cooked differently. “Grist” is a very smartly put together resource that will be useful both as a reference work and for daily recipes. Especially useful are the guides to cooking up a week’s worth of a bean or grain, and using them in different ways throughout the week without becoming bored. First recipe I’ll make is Barley Flour Thumbprint Cookies.

Evan Kleiman’s interview with Abra Berens will be available later this week.  

Grist by Abra Berens is a practical guide to cooking grains, beans, seeds and legumes. Credit: Chronicle Books. 

Burnt Toast and Other Disasters: A Book of Heroic Hacks, Fabulous Fixes, and Secret Sauces ” by Cal Peternell

This is the kind of book you buy to give as a gift and end up keeping for yourself. Peternell was the chef at Chez Panisse for two decades. Accustomed to working with the greatest ingredients in the world, he had an epiphany while staying with his parents about regular grocery store food and how to make it more delicious. As a bonus, he’s a funny and engaging writer. “Burnt Toast” is useful and entertaining. First recipe I’ll make is the Unthick Clam Chowder: New England Version, Diner Edition.

Listen to Evan Kleiman’s interview with Cal Peternell here.

“Burnt Toast” by Cal Peternell inspires you to turn easily accessible ingredients into really delicious meals. Credit: Harper Collins.

Mooncakes and Milk Bread” by Kristina Cho

Have you ever had the impossibly fluffy treat that is Japanese milk bread? Kristina Cho uses it as a master recipe that takes you into the world of Chinese bakeries. It’s the first book to focus exclusively on baked goods found at the bakeries and cafes. Clear directions and gorgeous photographs inspire bakers to learn new techniques and expand both sweet and savory repertoire. A bonus are the portraits of a few legendary Chinese bakeries. First recipe I’ll make is for Milk Bread Donuts with Salted Egg Yolk Cream.

Listen to Evan Kleiman’s interview with Kristina Cho here.

“Mooncakes and Milk Bread” by Kristina Cho is the first cookbook to go inside traditional Chinese bakeries and cafes for home baking inspiration. Credit: Harper Collins.

Arty Parties” by Julia Sherman

Julia Sherman straddles the worlds of food and art. Her mission to bring artists and their work to a bigger audience led her to interview artists about their salads. “Salad for President” ended up being one of the most interesting books I’ve read. Now she again brings us into greater intimacy with artists by looking at how they party. It’s what you would call an “Arty Party.” Sherman says, “Artists use their gathering as a laboratory and a space for experimentation.” Her book of artist party profiles is entertaining and inspires us to embrace a less perfectionist way to host. Her recipes are colorful and full of flavor while being easy to execute. First recipe I’ll make is the Cast Iron Cabbage Tinga.

Listen to Evan Kleiman’s interview with Julia Sherman here.

“Arty Parties” by Julia Sherman offers new approaches to entertaining plus recipes. Credit: Abrams Books.