Fall always floods our bookshelves with more phenomenal cookbooks than we can count. Many of them are arduously researched, tested, re-tested, and artfully written, so it can be nearly impossible to pick just a few. So instead of compiling a list of books we’re obsessed with, we picked a few that delved deeper into a specific area of cooking, expanding our knowledge in the kitchen beyond the basics. From Lillie O’Brien’s ode to jams, jellies and all things seasonal to Sonal Ved’s tome of 500 recipes spanning beautiful and fragrant dishes across India, these books have expanded our culinary repertoire and changed how we approach cooking.
Five Seasons of Jam by Lillie O’Brien
Lillie O’Brien, owner of London’s first jam-only storefront London Borough of Jam, has put together this ode to jams and jellies. She shows us how to firmly plant yourself into your surroundings and preserve ingredients that only come to us once a year. The book ranges five seasons: Alive (spring), Hot (summer), Blush (early Autumn), Barb (late Autumn) and Frost (winter). Every other page is graced with ethereal photos of syrupy kumquats suspended in a brandy marmalade or sugared Seville oranges packed into mason jars. O’Brien also includes her famed Fig and Earl Grey Jam recipe, which softens the intensely sweet fig with tannic and flowery tea. Lillie O’Brien
Chicken and Charcoal: Yakitori, Yardbird, Hong Kong by Matt Abergel
If you’re someone who geeks out over yakitori, then this is the book for you. Matt Abergel, chef of the acclaimed Yardbird in Hong Kong and self-professed yakitori nerd, gives crazy-detailed descriptors and illustrations of these grilled skewers. Be warned, this book is not for the faint of heart—or stomach. Abergel does not spare his readers any of the gory details, giving step-by-step instructions (with accompanying photos) on butchering whole chickens, and offering detailed guidance into the oft-discarded hearts, necks, and gizzards. But if grilled bits and pieces on skewers aren’t your thing, Abergel also gives us a wide range of vegetable-based side dishes, soups, and other snacks that will help you dive head first into Japanese crossover cuisine. Matt Abergel
Korean Home Cooking: Classic and Modern Recipes by Sohui Kim
Sohui Kim could have chosen to highlight the usual American knowledge of Korean cooking in this book, but she expands way beyond Korean fried chicken (affectionately known to many as KFC) and kimchi, bringing us into the Korean home with a variety of pickling, braising, and deep-frying techniques. I loved learning about new ingredients, including perilla leaves, which can be salted and transformed into kimchi or stuffed with sausage, lightly battered, then fried until crunchy and crispy. If you’re looking to further develop your sohn mat, or ‘taste of the hand,’ this book is a must-have.
Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes and Kitchen Secrets by Najmieh Batmanglij
I got goosebumps just reading the introductory paragraphs and stories accompanying the variety of regions of Najmieh Batmanglij’s home country, Iran. Exiled for 39 years, her first journey back was to create this anthology of Iranian cooking. Her book is littered with passionate snippets dedicated to cities within Iran, along with stories of her family and long-lost friends. It comes with a silk ribbon to help you keep your place in this 700 page tome. I found myself bookmarking every other page, drawn to dishes such as the aromatic rice, lamb, rose petals and barberries, or the tangy dish of tomato and lime broth with tiny meatballs. The journey Batmanglij took to research and write this book is truly astounding; my Persian pantry has grown tenfold with her guidance, exuberance, and recipes. Najmieh Batmanglij
Israeli Soul by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
In Michael Solomonov’s latest book, he shows us that many of the beloved foods in this region were brought by a variety of immigrants, from Syrians to Egyptians. Take the fact that falafel (also the first chapter in his new book), something that many consider to be distinctly Israeli, could in fact be Egyptian in origin. Solomonov goes on to explain that this dish has no borders or geographical classifications. It exists as a food eaten daily in Israel—the golden fried chickpea balls wrapped in soft pita bread, balanced by pickle-y peppers and fresh tomatoes, with nutty tehina drizzled over top. In fact, he says this very combination began his love affair with Israel. Each chapter is an homage to his favorite home country foods. Falafel, pita bread, sabich, shawarma, hummus—you name it, he’s delved deeply into its history. Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
The Food of Northern Thailand by Austin Bush
After spending the last 20 years in Thailand, author Austin Bush knows the intricacies of northern Thai food. This region of Thailand is less documented than the well-known curries and pad Thai of Bangkok, and Bush shines a light on what makes this cuisine its own. The dishes in the north usually focus on just one or two flavors, allowing them to shine independently. Thai staples such as coconut milk and palm sugar are instead replaced by naam plaa, a fermented fish sauce, or bitter leaves such as phak lueat. His passion and knowledge of this area is evident through recipes that are told as stories, as well as his recommendations to adjust seasoning by taste and feel. Cooking through this book makes you feel as though you’re in the kitchen with a Thai grandmother, tasting and re-tasting to make slightly unfamiliar techniques and flavors familiar to your palette. Austin Bush
Tiffin by Sonal Ved
Tiffin is the cookbook for those who are looking to delve deeper into the diversity of India. Although each of the country’s five regions may have basic similarities, like mustard seed, lentils, or ghee, each has its own story, comprised of years of colonization and border-based influence. And while Ved shows us that variety with the 500 recipes included in this book, she also shows us how regional dishes can be mixed and matched together on the table to showcase India as a whole. The book includes recipes from well-known Indian chefs, but she also sought out the grandmothers, mothers, and friends who have carried these dishes with them from generation to generation. While Ved includes recipes such as the ubiquitous butter chicken, she also highlights dishes such as the Northern Indian murgh musallam, a slowly cooked chicken stuffed with sweet raisins and spiced with black cardamom, ground mace, and cloves. The care and dedication she took when creating this cookbook shines through each illustration and brightly colored photograph. Sonal Ved