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Books for the cooks in your life

This year has brought a bumper crop of cookbooks for deserving people in your life.

I’ve got suggestions appropriate for the armchair traveler and sensation-hunters, the home cook looking for new ideas, and the accomplished cook looking to add more flavor to their year.

There’s also a love letter to Harlem, in words and recipes, from one of New York City’s star chefs, and a cookbook that is really only suited to fans of television personality Anthony Bourdain.

The Adventures of Fat Rice: Recipes From the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau, By Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo and Hugh Amano, Ten Speed Press, 312 pages, $35

For a taste of ethnic adventure, consider exploring the cuisine of Macau. Its history as a trading port is reflected in a culinary tradition shaped by Chinese, Portuguese, African and Indian influences. The Chicago restaurant Fat Rice offers versions of dishes like “African chicken,” smoked chicken in a spicy tomato-curry sauce. With more than 80 recipes and illustrations, it’s part travelogue, part cookbook, and all inspiration.

Simple: Effortless food, big flavors, By Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 336 pages, $32.99

Shunning esoterica and intricate recipes, the author, a veteran British food writer, offers a slate of weekday dishes rewarding enough to make after work. There are some weekend recipes too, but the book’s core is recipes pitched to join your regular rotation. They’re flexible, able to adapt to refrigerator contents or at least require only one pass through the market. It’s so low-key that eggs and toast each have their own chapters.

"The Red Rooster Cookbook" by Marcus Samuelsson. (Handout/TNS)

"The Red Rooster Cookbook" by Marcus Samuelsson. (Handout/TNS)

The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem, By Marcus Samuelsson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 384 pages, $37.50

Born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, the author became a critically acclaimed chef in New York City before he was 30. Red Rooster is his newest restaurant, located in Harlem, his adopted home base in the city. The book is as much a love letter to Harlem, its people, its history, its future, as it is a guide to cooking his food. The recipes owe debts to Southern church cooking, but also Swedish home cooking, and the bubbling stew of cultures that fill the borough today.

Flavorwalla, By Floyd Cardoz, Artisan, 352 pages, $29.95

The author is New York City chef known for Indian food, but this isn’t an Indian cookbook. It’s the dishes he cooks for family and friends, for occasions from dinner for two to family breakfast to feeding the masses at special occasions. There’s Indian echoes, spices and fresh herbs aplenty, but dishes like flank steak with Thai salad, rendang short ribs and shellfish and linguica stew make clear that his palette is not limited to any one continent.

Appetites, By Anthony Bourdain, HarperCollins, 304 pages, $34.95

The author started his media career as the anti-chef, a culinary turncoat full of hair-raising tales from behind the kitchen door. After more than a decade of shambling across television screens in search of something to eat, Bourdain has written the anti-cookbook. It’s the real deal, what Bourdain eats and cooks for his family, friends, and little girl, now that he’s a dad. It’s full of wince-inducing photographs and foul language, and Bourdain fans will find it deeply satisfying. Others best beware.



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