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Is it just me or have cookbooks officially made a comeback? I’ve always loved cookbooks but for a while there, I was getting all my recipes online. But what cookbooks lack in brevity, they make up for it with personalities that make you feel as though you’re cooking with them in the kitchen, travel stories that make you feel like each bite is a different part of the world, or a restaurant book that lets you recreate your favorite recipes at home, in my opinion, cookbooks are the perfect gift. To help you select the perfect cookbook for you and yours this year (the holidays are just around the corner, after all), we’ve rounded up some of our all time favorites for 2021 (for gifting or for just keeping).
The Food Lab
Starting with a classic, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab is a modern one. Lopez-Alt is a recipe whiz, but more importantly, great at explaining the science behind why these cooking methods and techniques are important and essential. There’s no cookbook out there I’ve learned more from, making this the perfect gift for a beginner chef or an experienced epicure (if it’s not on their shelf already).
If you haven’t gone down the rabbithole of Pasta Grannies on YouTube, you should. This is the book version, which includes pasta recipes from all regions of Italy, made by some of the best home cooks out there. This book makes pasta approachable, fun, funny, and easier than you’d think. If these grannies can do it, so can you.
In Bibi’s Kitchen
Another grandmother book, Somali chef Hawa Hassan presents 75 recipes and stories gathered from bibis (grandmothers) in several African nations. The recipes themselves are almost shockingly easy to make, and the food is transportive. Flavors I’ve never experienced come to life, and so do the stories behind those flavors. This is a cookbook for someone seeking something different.
This is an inspirational baking book. Ex-Bon Appetit Claire Saffitz is both technically skilled and lovingly transparent in her shortcomings, to create a book that is filled with delicious, decadent desserts. Some involve skills you didn’t know you had, but all are easier to bake than you’d think, and the feeling of accomplishment only adds to the chocolatey goodness.
The Nom Wah Cookbook
From acclaimed NY Chinatown Dim Sum spot Nom Wah comes a cookbook that unveils the secrets of Chinese Cooking. Filled with mouthwatering dumpling recipes, noodles, and a chicken feet recipe I’m going to give a shot one of these days, this is a perfect gift for the dumpling lover in your life.
Nicole Rucker is LA’s queen of baked goods, and her cookbook let’s you make some of these delicious treats at home. Even if you are a chocolate lover this fresh fruit-based recipe book has something for everyone, and better yet, the person you gift it to kinda has to make you something from it, right?
This is for the vegan in your life, or just the healthy eater. Even as a meat-eater, I’ve probably cooked out of this book more than any this year (I just really love beans, okay?). It’s filled with recipes revolving around heirloom beans (the latest trend) that are delicious and will completely alter your perspective on legumes writ-large.
The New Craft of the Cocktail
Half Full contributor Phillip Greene recommends The New Craft of the Cocktail for the mixologist in your life. Among its pages, you’ll find an excellent overview of the history of cocktails, what makes a good drink, and new drink recipes of course. The old version was considered a bible in the industry for nearly two decades, and this one surely won’t disappoint either.