Spring gift-giving is a tricky thing. Jammed in all at once we’ve got Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, and the start of wedding season. And since no one needs another dust-catcher sitting on a shelf, we’re giving you a dozen fresh ideas for new books that will make great gifts.
Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women is perfect for anyone who loves good food – and a good story. Author Anna Francese Gass focuses our gaze away from the U.S. and presents a sampler of women’s life stories and recipes such as Peruvian Ceviche, Ukranian Gefilte Fish, and Morrocan Chicken Tagine. It’s a delicious read. With photos by Andrew Scrivani.
The recipes in Son of a Southern Chef: Cook with Soul by Lazarus Lynch practically jump off the page. It’s a joyous jumble of soul-food. The Chopped champion’s personality is a big part of this book’s appeal, and the photos by Anisha Sisodia capture Laz’ energy and fashion sense. When you try your hand at Sriracha Honey Wings, don’t worry about dribbling the spicy sauce on the page; there are a few “splashes” from the photo there already. (Hint: Nutella Bacon Banana Breakfast Grilled Cheese for Mother’s Day, please!)
If you haven’t used that giant sheet-pan in a while, dust it off now. Hero Dinners: Complete One-Pan Meals that Save the Day by Marge Perry and David Bonom is a timely take on a genius topic. It’s a simple idea: Instead of dirtying up lots of pots and pans when you cook, you can create an entire meal using just one – a big one. London Broil with Dijon-Balsamic Vinaigrette and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Zucchini. It’s easy, beautiful when you serve it, and there are almost endless variations. Several dozen vegetarian recipes and a handful of desserts round out this collection.
Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion by Maggie Hoffman is a must-have for anyone who entertains. That’s not an exaggeration. Rather than dividing the book according to each spirit, the sections are listed according to flavor profiles such as Herbal & Floral, Spicy, Savory & Smoky, and more. These recipes are equal parts clever, thoughtful, and inventive. An example: Side Porch Sangria that’s modernized with Aperol and Campari. Alcohol-free drinks have their own section, followed by seasonal menu ideas.
Southern Smoke: Barbecue, Traditions, and Treasured Recipes Reimagined for Today by North Carolina’s own Matthew Register is a how-to book that will walk newbie pit-masters and –mistresses through everything they need to get started. First things: “Fire, Fuel and Friends.” From there, the author take readers on a journey from North Carolina to the Lowcountry. Then it’s on to Memphis and the Delta. Along the way, Register shares expertise, lore, and a few thoughts that will surely lead to discussion, if not fisticuffs. “When it comes to the difference between eastern and western North Carolina barbecue, it’s not all about the sauce.” Read this and learn why.
The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook Revised and Expanded Edition by Jane Bonacci and Sara de Leeuw is a real problem-solver. With so many people avoiding gluten – and with our fascination with the new electric pressure-cookers that are easy to use – it was only a matter of time before these two worlds were destined to collide. It’s a breakthrough for people weary of this dietary restriction and the time it can take to prepare separate meals. Personally, I can attest to the fact the Instant Pot cheesecakes are not just stunningly delicious, I’ve never seen one crack the way oven-baked versions always seem to do.
Clean Eating, Dirty Sex: Sensual Superfoods and Aphrodisiac Practices for Ultimate Sexual Health and Connection by Lisa Davis and Erin Macdonald is probably better suited for a wedding/shower gift than Mother’s or Father’s Day (But that’s your call). The first section of the book delves into the dilemmas of dieting, the “Bedroom Blues,” hormones, and other science-themed topics. Then it’s on to a nice selection of recipes for things you’d enjoy regardless of whether or not you’re trying to address a problematic condition. Yes, that Chocolate Cherry Smoothie is good for you. Wild Salmon, Avocado and Cucumber Hand Rolls, anyone?
A Feast for the Eyes: Edible Art from Apple to Zucchini by Carolyn Tillie is shipping to stores right now and we’re salivating already. We caught a glimpse of the works of art it contains, sculpted and fashioned from chocolate, vegetables, and other foodstuffs. From giant designs carved into crop lands to a collection of fruit arranged into a startlingly realistic human head, this book challenges readers to see and appreciate food differently.
Cynthia Bertelsen wrote A Hastiness of Cooks: A Practical Handbook for Use in Deciphering the Mysteries of Historic Recipes and Cookbooks, For Living-History Reenactors, Historians, Writers, Chefs, Archaeologists, and, of Course, Cooks to fill a gap in her collection. She has more than 5,000 cookbooks, but really wanted a book to help demystify the archaic language in historical culinary works. Here’s the result and it’s endlessly fascinating. Also: How to create Game of Thrones recipes. With illustrations by Courtney Nzeribe.
Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won't Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in social justice. Authors Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton and Sinikka Elliott confront the conventional wisdom that family gatherings around the table are a cornerstone to solving everything from obesity to inequity. Through vivid profiles of working families, we see why our overarching belief about people who “just need to make better choices” isn’t merely simplistic, it can perpetuate systemic injustices.
If you want to know the secrets to Charlotte restaurateur Bruce Moffatt’s success, he tells all (well, a lot) in Bruce Moffatt Cooks: A New England Chef in a New South Kitchen. Written with Keia Mastrianni and with photos by Stefanie Haviv, the book showcases many of the recipes that have made Moffatt’s four restaurants so popular. While not a traditional southern cookbook, this work proves the chef is a master in the art of southern hospitality – which is just as important.
Charlotte-based author Jodi Helmer brings us Growing Your Own Tea Garden: The Guide to Growing and Harvesting Flavorful Teas in Your Backyard. One day while buying plants at a garden center, she realized: “Many of the plants that were on my cart were the same as the tea flavors in my cupboard. I planted peppermint, lemon verbena, bee balm and chamomile and started experimenting with delicious results.” With the help of this book, most anyone can plan a successful tea garden, then grow and create their own customized tea blends. Start now, and you can have a plenty ready in time for the next gift-giving season that will be here before we know it.
Amy Rogers writes WFAEats, a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and tackle the meatier side of the food scene in and around Charlotte.