SUNDAY EDITION: The Best Spring Cookbooks
Bust out the apron, because these addictive new cookbooks make even the dirty work a pleasure - Air Mail's BY CHRISTINE MUHLKE
This spring yields the first big batch of cookbooks written during the pandemic, and they are filled with resourcefulness, creativity (the life-saving kind), and a deepened commitment to why we cook: to bring those we love close for a moment of shared pleasure.
If only we’d had Vogue writer Tamar Adler’s The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z (Scribner, $35) in 2020. The near-encyclopedic guide has a suggestion for every last stem, spoonful, and grain, with practical yet lusty ideas for how to get those leftovers across the finishing line with, as she says, “economy and grace.” Many of the more than 1,500 entries are traditional recipes, others economically yet elegantly written suggestions. Why don’t you roast those wilting radishes and toss them into a frittata? Or transform cheese odds and ends into creamy mac and cheese or a sauce or soufflé? Or use that almond butter to make nutty noodles? Clearly a student of M. F. K. Fisher (and her seminal wartime book, How to Cook a Wolf), Adler makes reading this book a meal in itself.
In the U.K., Nigel Slater has been known for writing the hell out of his cookbooks and Observer column for decades. ChatGPT could easily generate Slaterisms, working from such eggplant-tinged sentences as “Whether it is a twee little lamb rib chop or a chunky beef rib, I will always pick them up, chew, and suck, winkling the last little nuggets and meat juices from every crack and crevice.”
His writing is as commanding as it is soothingly seductive, like the wabi-sabi still-lifes accompanying his recipes—all rumpled linen napkins in sun-dappled shadow. With A Cook’s Book (Ten Speed Press, $45), Slater’s 16th, he solidifies his status as a home-cook icon. The recipes are simple and confident, the ingredient lists radical in their hewing to what’s on hand in today’s pantry, however Ottolenghi-fied that may be
Christine Muhlke, a former editor for The New York Times and Bon Appétit, is a co-author of Wine Simple, with Le Bernardin’s Aldo Sohm, and a co-author of Phaidon’s Signature Dishes That Matter. She is also the founder of culinary consultancy Bureau X and creator of the Xtine newsletter
»Claire Ptak: The cookbook author and maverick behind Violet Cakes answers 41 of life’s most pressing questions by Air Mail’s Ashley Baker
Those who have experienced Claire Ptak’s vanilla jam cake—three heaven-sent layers of vanilla sponge, drizzled with vanilla syrup and de-sweetened with tart-cherry jam, and then finished with raspberry dust and crystallized violet petals—will take planes, trains, and automobiles to East London for another taste. Violet Cakes, which Ptak opened in 2010 after working for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, is inspired by her native California. The ingredients are organic and as minimally processed as possible, and the flavors are all derived from fresh fruit, melted Valrhona chocolate, just-pulled espresso, and flower cordials. As delicious as this all sounds, and is, Ptak’s talents are not strictly confined to the kitchen (even though high-profile clients such as the Sussexes keep her quite busy). She’s also a writer, recipe developer, consultant, and cookbook author whose latest release is Love Is a Pink Cake: Irresistible Bakes for Morning, Noon, and Night. Herewith, she shares her key components to the good life. —Ashley Baker