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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Spring is (almost) here, and the end of the pandemic is nigh!
Yes, we know the lyrics to this song, and the cautious hope that accompanies them. But even if hope proves to be illusory, spring is coming, bringing with it a roster of cookbooks that make the world feel bigger, brighter, and vastly more interesting, no matter what the pandemic has in store.
The season’s new crop of titles vibrates with possibility, to say nothing of the sense of rebirth and renewal typically associated with spring. Below, you’ll find 18 of them, winnowed from a very substantial roster. While their subjects vary widely, each offers a thoughtful way to tell the story of what cooking means at a time when the question of “what to cook tonight” has assumed almost existential proportions.
That story, according to the books on this list, is one of new horizons. Caribbean-inspired cooking goes vegan; the hand-wringing weeknight dinner genre gets a shot to the arm; cocktails take their cues from the Zodiac; the complexities of Korean American identity find nuanced expression on the plate; flour gets a welcome reappraisal; an 87-year-old Gullah matriarch makes her debut. There are noodles and curries and matcha and lemon posset tarts; there is barbecue, and there is lox. And there is travel: from the Himalayas to Portugal, from Mexico to South Carolina’s Edisto Island, from California to Jaipur.
Above all, these books are a reminder that the story of cooking will continue to be told in invigorating ways, no matter what the world may be up to. Spring, after all, is coming. — Rebecca Flint Marx
A Good Day to Bake: Simple Baking Recipes for Every Mood
Quadrille Publishing, out now
Benjamina Ebuehi was a clear standout of Season 7 of the Great British Baking Show. While she didn’t win the title, her instantly likable personality made it hard not to root for her, and, if the judges’ reactions were any measure, she seemed like a solid baker too. Now, Ebuehi’s first cookbook, A Good Day to Bake, is here to confirm it.
To borrow a bit from the GBBO judging criteria, Ebuehi is good with flavors. Her recipes are organized to emphasize this aspect of baking: There’s an herbs and tea chapter, one devoted to chocolate, and one simply called “spice cupboard.” The sweet and savory recipes therein are appealingly British, such as matcha and lemon posset tarts, a blackberry and sage pudding, and spring onion and Comté buns. But while they boast the kind of flavor combinations that might draw crowds at a neighborhood bakery, they’re not at all difficult. On a recent weeknight, I made Ebuehi’s malted brown butter pound cake (from a chapter titled “best of beige”) just because I had all of the ingredients on hand.