What I’m Obsessed With Right Now: Recipes Worth Giving

I’m excited to cook based on my new favorite recipe this weekend. The recipe has changed over the years. Once just collections of recipes, they are now tomes of wisdom and advice, complete with schmoozing narration by the author. Making good recipes is no longer enough. You must be a writer too.

My favorite books this year are light-hearted, creative, engaging, and beautifully written. They get me excited to go to the kitchen and cook. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned cook, check out some of my top picks.

Cook Like You Ruby Tandoh

Cook as is cover image. Book jacket by Ruby Tandohlecture notes

This wonderful book is filled with eclectic and worldly recipes based on Tandoh’s own life, travel and cooking experiences. Tandoh takes second place great british bake off She has written for magazines such as The New Yorker and The Guardian. She’ll talk to you about the recipe, providing notes, substitutions and a collection of books to give context to her vision. Most of the recipes are vegetarian and there are plenty of vegetarian alternatives. Her flavor combinations are original, full of flavors, and her recipes are incredibly simple. Her buttery miso leek spaghetti and her mushroom udon with chilli sauce are a quick and satisfying dinner. She has a natural irreverence – try her fish sticks with Japanese curry. She has chapters on snacking and cooking with kitchen staples. Her creativity knows no bounds. The book’s illustrations are also charming, taking a break from those picture-perfect food pictures that don’t look like something you’ve made. I will come back to this book time and time again.

Remixed by Sixth Belfrage

Meskra cover image. book cover. ByIxta Belfragelecture notes

Belfrage is co-author of the book Yotam Ottolenghi smell, and working in his test kitchen. Her first solo book is full of energy and creativity, inspiring you to cook to extraordinary results. It’s more structured than Tandoh’s book, but it still gives you the freedom to experiment. “Mezcla” means to mix, mix and blend in Spanish, and that’s exactly what Belfrage’s recipes deliver. They originate in Spain, Mexico, Italy, and more, and include many mix-and-match pieces, all done with style, vibrancy, and color. There are notes, tips and substitutions to make the dish easier to complete.

Everything I tested tickled my taste buds. I made pumpkin lasagna and suspected that the hard pieces of boxed lasagna softened during cooking. This dish was cooked to perfection and will accompany our Christmas dinner. Belfrage divides her recipes into simple and complex, but even the latter are effortless. Her Black Forest Crumpets, a blended caramel muffin topped with frozen berries, cherries, chocolate, and whipped cream, will become a staple in our house, as will her Duck with Mexicorn sauce, a fusion of French, Mexican, and other Flavorful, but essentially a peppery sauce, it was perfect with the duck breast. Each recipe has easy techniques and even some one-pot dishes. This book finds the joy of cooking.

Nancy Matsumoto and Michael Tremblay explore the world of Japanese craft sake

Sake Book Hi-Res Images Exploring the World of Japanese Craft Sake By Nancy Matsumoto, Michael Tremblay Foreword by John Gauntnersowyun/Handouts

Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor in Toronto, and Michael Tremblay is a sommelier at Toronto’s Ki restaurant, where he curates Canada’s largest sake program. Their book is one of the most readable and entertaining to come out this year. It is an essential guide to understanding the importance of sake to Japan and the world. Never boring, it’s part travelogue, part sake 101, plus a strong storyline and light-hearted writing style. The reference section, a 30-page sake basics section, is at the beginning. Filled with infographics, it’s easy to dip in and out. It covers all the basics: what sake is, how it’s brewed, the different brewing styles, everything you need to know about rice, yeast, and koji varieties, as well as serving methods and containers, temperature changes, and pairing sake with food.

The rest of the book is narrative. Chapters cover the traditions of regional sake guilds, the rise of female brewers, and iconic sake brewing families.

While not primarily a cookbook, it contains treasured family recipes. Finally, there is the favorite sake bar crawl in Japan for readers’ reference when traveling.

A delightful and inspiring read, it was recently selected as one of the drinks books for the prestigious André Simon Award.

Need some advice on living and entertaining in the kitchen?Send your questions to lwaverman@globeandmail.com.

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