Your Gift Guide: The absolute best cookbooks for 2017

We live in a world where we are SATURATED with information. Gone are the days when we had wait with baited breath for the latest and the greatest. We are ALWAYS confronted with the latest and the greatest! But there is also a place for savoring the very best. One of those places is inside the covers of a superb cookbook. These are the books that have penetrated the constant barrage during 2017 for me, the ones that I REALLY like and recommend!

For me, the criteria are:

  • Does the author have a point of view?

  • Is the author telling a compelling story through the recipes?

  • Is the photography enticing?

  • Is it original? (That’s a big thing! So much of what is “new” is not original. Been there. Done that)

  • Does the front matter of the book set you up for success?

  • Is it well designed?

Otherwise, you could just go online. But then again, I haven’t had that much luck online. I get frustrated with the poor quality of the recipes. These books have all passed the litmus test of true value.

My List

Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables

This might be the most exciting of the new books. I did the roasted beets, citrus & olive salad with horseradish. It blew my mind! I NEVER would have thought of this combination. I posted in on Instagram.

Even if you don’t make the recipes verbatim, there’s SO much inspiration! Gorgeous photos, drawings and watercolors. Each edge of the page has a color based on the season and he divides the year into 6 seasons. Smart! That’s what growing is: spring, early summer, mid summer, late summer, fall and winter. When you’re thumbing through the book you can see where you are by the color. Brilliant. It lives in my kitchen. Beautifully produced. Get this one!

The Book of Greens: A Cook's Compendium of 40 Varieties, from Arugula to Watercress, with More Than 175 Recipes

A very utilitarian cookbook, in the best sense. For people who get their CSA box, and are wondering, what do I do with these? Or if you’ve heard you should expand your green repertoire and need some guidance. There’s got to be more than kale, right? Right. This is the book. It’s not strictly vegetarian. But it can be. Whatever you need.

The author does a beautiful job really looking at the greens, when they’re available seasonally and the best method to cook each. She talks about robust greens, tender greens… grilling, stewing, wilting in soups… so many possibilities.  Also troubleshooting techniques. A very smart book that you’re going to keep nearby and refer to. It won’t gather dust. :)

In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes

I hold Deborah Madison in extremely high esteem, because she’s one of the pioneer chefs that put elegant vegetarian cuisine on the map. She created a groundbreaking restaurant in San Francisco called Greens, which is still alive and well today. She defined upscale vegetarian cooking, entirely different than the “vegetarian” I knew when I was growing up.  

Everything has come together in this, her 14th cookbook! With 4 James Beard Awards she’s more than long-since arrived. This book is so beautifully realized, not just in the flavor profiles, and the fact that she’s got a picture of her puppy in this book! (Always going to win my heart). This is a beautiful book, an inspiring book, with gorgeous photography and design. She’s got a lot to say, and it’s beautifully said. She keeps turning up the flame.

Dinner: Changing the Game

NY Times food writer Melissa Clark’s exquisite latest. By no means vegetarian! There are very few recipes in this book that I would not make in a heartbeat. I’m cooking my way through it.

First of all, the book is beautiful. The title is a fair assessment. It’s inventive, and it’s not fussy. I’ve done beautiful recipes out of this book that have come together very quickly. And I, who am always thinking how am I going to change this, have had to make very few if any adjustments.

I love her well-stocked pantry. Very simple things to have on hand so you can really pull this stuff together quickly. Beautiful photography by Eric Wolfinger. These recipes have been tested! And they are made to work. That’s what I appreciate. I love how efficiently they come together. For the 99.9% of us in search of dinner inspiration!

Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life

Of course it’s sensational! It’s Paula Wolfert. Her story is amazing, and she IS unforgettable! She’s an off the charts colorful, native New Yorker who traveled the world and brought us the landmark cookbooks Mediterranean Cooking (1994), Mediterranean Grains and Greens (1998), and The Food of Morocco (2011), a GORGEOUS cookbook and the absolute bible about this region for Western cooks.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013, she’s of course been in her kitchen using food as her medicine. And her editor Emily Kaiser Thelin invited fellow authors and fans to fund this biography with recipes.  Fabulous food photographer Eric Wolfinger donated the gorgeous photography. You won’t want to miss this exquisite and exhilarating biography plus cookbook! The perfect gift for the culinary devotee in your life.

David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient

Simple recipes that are both sophisticated and nuanced are the heart of David Tanis new market ingredient-centered cookbook.   Every page tells a story and contains a beautiful photograph that will make your mouth water and inspire you to grab your bag and run to your nearest farmers market. Tanis was one of Alice Waters chefs at California’s legendary Chez Panisse and is an avid traveler. No surprise that his first stop, no matter where he is on the planet, is an open air market.

Tanis is an advocate for simple home cooking, with a core belief that food doesn’t need to be fussy to be beautiful.  This is a book I will cook my way through, season by season.  



You know I always have to throw in some classics! In case you are looking for a marvelous gift for a newly ardent cook—or to complete your own library—consider these!

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefsor The Vegetarian Flavor Bible

I include these books every year JUST IN CASE you missed them! These are absolutely the 2 books I go to again and again and again. If you REALLY want to learn how to works with herbs and spices—the most overlooked but important players in a dish—you can look up a spice in these books and they will tell you what spices go with what. The color wheel of the spice set. A classic to refer to over and over, like I do! Maybe this is a gift for you. :)

Jerusalem: A Cookbook

A glorious cookbook I reach for all the time for the brilliant flavor combinations and off the charts big taste. A 5 star cookbook, with 120 recipes and gorgeous photography, featuring the vibrant cuisine of the author’s home city of Jerusalem.  This is one of those books that will inspire you to reach out of your culinary comfort zone with very little effort.  I consider Jerusalem the “Joy of Cooking” of the 21st century.   

A GREAT gift for a cook building the foundation of their collection.