Too many cooks have found their kitchen time devoid of the contemplation and creativity that can make feeding others so spiritually nutritious. Too often cooking has become a series of negotiations between the clock and your sanity, leaving you wrung out of fun like an old dishrag.
The cookbooks I want to bring to your attention this holiday season can rejuvenate your kitchen. These are not cookbooks to leave on your coffee table, like brochures for that cruise you’ll never take. These are cookbooks to read, and take to heart, so you can grow as a cook.
“Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” by Samin Nosrat, Simon & Schuster, 469 pages, $35
A thorough but engagingly intimate graduate course in the four most transformative tools in the cook’s arsenal. Understanding how the elements of a dish aid in its metamorphosis equips cooks to make the most of any ingredients. Its thoughtful explorations make it impossible to read without becoming a better cook.
“Kitchen Creativity,” by Karen Page, Little, Brown, 427 pages, $40
A doctorate-level tome on inspiring and harnessing culinary alchemy. Page draws on the collective wisdom of more than 100 leading chefs, boiling it down into a powerful elixir presented in three stages. Mastery, alchemy and then creativity is their prescription for bringing out your inner improviser.
“Smitten Kitchen Every Day,” by Deb Perelman, Alfred A. Knopf, 330 pages, $35
A collection of recipes that exist for particular reasons, to fill a need that Perelman had, a hunger she couldn’t fill otherwise. Reading the stories behind the recipes gives cooks a blueprint to sate their own desires, and the permission to strinke out into the unknown.
“The Home Cook,” by Alex Guarnaschelli Clarkson Potter, 368 pages, $35
The book puts an accomplished chef into a homemaking parents’ shoes, resulting in relatively simple food that still aims for the stars, with culinary influences from around the globe. The freewheeling approach results in recipes like a warm caramel corn salad. Chapters include “Supermarket Mushrooms Made Sexy,” and “Salad for Dinner.”
“The Savvy Cook,” by Izy Hossack Mitchell Beazley, 240 pages, $19.99
Documents the transition of a cooking blog wunderkind from a family kitchen to an apartment kitchen she shares with roommates. The result is a primer on vegetarian cooking that delivers flavor without fuss. Also notable: suggested hacks and swap suggestions to adapt recipes to less-than-deal cookware or ingredient shortages.