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Easy, elegant, sweet and salty: Laura Brehaut savours the best cookbooks of 2022

From a culinary journey through the Himalayas to a mother-daughter lesson in stress-free cooking, here are 14 of the year's best cookbooks

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The best cookbooks of 2022 took us places. One was the result of an epic road trip across Mexico, another an adventure high in the Himalayas. Others invited us to make the most of where we were, from a collection of easy and elegant dinners to the fun of filling your plate with small bites. There were single-subject deep dives on bagels and a seasoning we all need to survive — salt. A baking book broke new ground with a novel approach to naturally sweet desserts. Another revisited the past, digging into the history of baking in Eastern Europe. A Canadian culinary legend partnered with her daughter to pen her first book in more than a decade, and an Ethiopian hospitality professional made the most of being furloughed by writing a heartfelt debut. It’s never an easy decision, but here are 14 of the year’s best cookbooks.

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In Praise of Veg by Alice Zaslavsky

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In Praise of Veg
In Praise of Veg is Australian author Alice Zaslavsky’s second book. Photo by Appetite by Random House

Just looking at by Australian writer and broadcaster makes me happy. Candy-striped chioggia beets, sunny butternut squash and wavy red cabbage leaves — this book is a colour-coded celebration. Zaslavsky has been teaching kids to embrace vegetables for more than a decade. In Praise of Veg inspires the same sense of curiosity in home cooks of all ages. With vibrant illustrations by Halifax-based artist Vera Babida, freestyling tips and more than 150 recipes, deliciousness is the ultimate goal.

On the Himalayan Trail by Romy Gill

On the Himalayan Trail by Romy Gill
On the Himalayan Trail is chef Romy Gill’s second cookbook. Photo by Hardie Grant

Chef takes readers on a breathtaking journey from Kashmir to Ladakh in her second cookbook, . Few foreign tourists visit Jammu and Kashmir due to the security situation. But during the pandemic, Gill — who grew up in West Bengal — managed to make several research trips from her home in England. Whether witnessing or visiting Srinagar (famous for its Mughal-era gardens), Wular Lake, the Aru and Betaab Valleys and, finally, the high-altitude city of Leh, Gill’s enthusiasm for the region — and its cuisine — is contagious.

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Good & Sweet by Brian Levy

Good & Sweet by Brian Levy
In his cookbook debut, Good & Sweet, pastry cook Brian Levy shares dessert recipes sweetened entirely by fruit. Photo by Avery

Pastry cook groundbreaking debut, , fills a void. It’s also filled with treats the people in my life (especially the littlest ones) couldn’t get enough of. “Naturally sweetened” recipes typically swap cane sugar for sugar in other forms (e.g. syrups, honey or fruit juice concentrate). Primarily for the challenge of it, Levy uses only fruit and other “unexpectedly sweet ingredients.” Whether you’re cutting back on foods with added sugar or looking for fresh baking ideas, Levy’s desserts bring a new perspective — and incredible flavour.

The Cook You Want to Be by Andy Baraghani

The Cook You Want to Be by Andy Baraghani
The Cook You Want to Be is Andy Baraghani’s first book. Photo by Lorena Jones Books

New York City-based cook, food writer and video personality debut, , inspired me to look at ingredients differently. Juicy, late summer tomatoes were made all the better by being splashed with vinegar and bathed in . And true to Baraghani’s word, his coconut creamed corn has all but erased my memories of the canned stuff. Coloured by his Persian heritage, travel, and years in restaurants and editorial test kitchens, developing his own cooking style took time. Now, Baraghani wants to help readers find theirs.

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Don’t Worry, Just Cook by Bonnie Stern and Anna Rupert

Don't Worry, Just Cook by Bonnie Stern and Anna Rupert
Food writer and cookbook author Bonnie Stern co-wrote her new book, Don’t Worry, Just Cook, with her daughter, Anna Rupert. Photo by Appetite by Random House

In her first cookbook in more than a decade, culinary legend and her daughter, Anna Rupert, provide readers with a comforting assurance. “I tell you not to worry because I’ve done all the worrying for you!” Stern writes in the appropriately named book, . Drawing on favourites from her now-closed cooking school in Toronto — which she ran for 37 years — dishes in Israel and elsewhere, and new family classics, Stern and Rupert offer a timeless lesson in stress-free cooking.

Enebla by Luladey Moges

Enebla: Recipes from an Ethiopian Kitchen by Luladey Moges
Enebla: Recipes from an Ethiopian Kitchen is Luladey Moges’ cookbook debut. Photo by TouchWood Editions

Luladey Moges found an upside in forced downtime. Furloughed from her Los Angeles hotel job during the pandemic, she realized a long-held dream: writing an Ethiopian cookbook. (Amharic for “let’s eat”) represents years of trial and error. As a university student living hours away from the nearest Ethiopian restaurant, the Addis Ababa native began to figure out how to make the dishes she craved in a shorter period of time. Enebla — photographed by Canadian food photographer — is the result. Filled with memories, family snapshots and dishes that have been passed down through generations, Enebla has heart.

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The Miracle of Salt by Naomi Duguid

The Miracle of Salt by Naomi Duguid
The Miracle of Salt is Toronto writer, photographer, traveller and home cook Naomi Duguid’s ninth cookbook. Photo by Artisan Books

In , Toronto-based writer and photographer celebrates a vital ingredient. Historically, humans have gone to great lengths to secure “the only food that we all need.” Even today, harvesting methods can be harsh and the labour undervalued. Duguid’s exploration touches on salt archeology, geography, harvesting techniques and history. Her — and how to use them in everyday dishes — highlight the transformative qualities of an essential we all too often take for granted.

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The Vegan Chinese Kitchen by Hannah Che

The Vegan Chinese Kitchen by Hannah Che
The Vegan Chinese Kitchen by Hannah Che. Photo by Appetite by Random House

The hype over modern meat alternatives makes chef ’s exploration of the more than 2,000-year-old tradition of vegetarian cooking in China all the more compelling. After graduating with a master’s degree in piano performance, Che moved to Guangzhou, China to train at a vegetarian culinary school. From the use of chopsticks to the fine prep work, she learned just how much of Chinese cuisine has been influenced by vegetarian tenets. In , she shares her own path of discovery, more than 100 recipes (including a , which originated in the ) and the stories of some of the craftspeople carrying this rich tradition forward.

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Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow

Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow
Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish is Cathy Barrow’s fourth book. Photo by Chronicle Books

Thanks to , I now know the satisfaction of slathering your own homemade with your own homemade . offers pure pleasure, but it’s also practical. Barrow’s bagel recipes yield six, so you’re not struggling to fit a full sheet pan in your fridge for the slow, cold rise. The bagels themselves are also perfectly sized: not too big, not too small but just right for breakfast or sandwiches. If you too have been charmed by Dan Levy’s new cooking show, , let Barrow be your guide to your next bagel-centric meal.

Snacks for Dinner by Lukas Volger

Snacks for Dinner by Lukas Volger
Snacks for Dinner is Lukas Volger’s fifth cookbook. Photo by Harper Wave

taps into the beauty of choose-your-own-adventure eating in . The concept came to him before COVID-19 hit, after a satisfying lunch at a friend’s house composed entirely of snacks. As the pandemic wore on, stuck in the grind of cooking every day, the benefits of this style of eating were only reinforced. Volger’s fourth cookbook, (2020), got me through waves of lockdowns. This year, his fun and highly cookable followup made my snackiest dreams come true.

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Tava by Irina Georgescu

Tava by Irina Georgescu
Tava is Romania-born, U.K.-based writer and cook Irina Georgescu’s second book. Photo by Hardie Grant

Romanian-born, Wales-based author takes readers on a wonderful journey through time and space in her new baking book, . Interweaving the past and present, and her own experiences growing up in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, Georgescu crosses borders. From iconic plăcinte filled with apple or curd cheese to Saxon lichiu (plum pie), German-Swabian gugelhupf and Armenian pakhlava, Georgescu explores the diversity and common threads that connect Romanian baking traditions.

Mi Cocina by Rick Martínez

Mi Cocina by Rick Martínez
Mazatlán author Rick Martínez travelled more than 32,000 kilometres and visited all of Mexico’s 32 states researching his debut book, Mi Cocina. Photo by Clarkson Potter

is a unique culinary snapshot. Cook and video host travelled the entirety of Mexico for his cookbook debut, driving more than 32,000 kilometres and visiting 156 cities in all 32 states. Martínez tasted multiple versions of his favourite regional dishes, so he had a broader point of reference when it came to developing his own versions at home in Mazatlán. The result is his “love letter” to the cooks who made the food — each a retelling made with his own personal sazón.

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Arabiyya by Reem Assil

Arabiyya by Reem Assil
Arabiyya is Oakland, Calif.-based chef Reem Assil’s first book. Photo by Ten Speed Press

Reem Assil’s is an incredibly inspiring book about food and healing. The Palestinian-Syrian chef and activist shares how, inspired by the Arab street-corner bakeries she visited in Lebanon and Syria, she came to build community through her San Francisco bakery, . Bread is the foundation of many of the book’s more than 100 recipes, with detailed instruction on how to build both sourdough and yeasted doughs. Assil’s story is as powerfully evocative as her food is delicious.

Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food by Colu Henry

Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food by Colu Henry
Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food is writer and recipe developer Colu Henry’s second book. Photo by Abrams

Most of ‘s dinner parties materialize without pre-thought menus or premeditated plans. Instead, the writer and recipe developer rummages through her well-stocked pantry and produce-packed fridge to create something special. Her second cookbook, , came together in a similarly spontaneous way, as she jotted down recipes on the sketch pad she keeps by the stove. The book is filled with welcome dinner inspiration, whether you’re cooking for yourself or a crowd. Henry is a believer that it doesn’t take much to make a beautiful, simple meal. Through her thoughtful essays and elegant recipes, she’ll make you a believer, too.

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