The Best Cookbooks We Cooked From, Drooled Over, and Actually Read This Year
The best cookbooks of 2018, and the ones that actually made it into our kitchens.
Composite image by MUNCHIES staff
This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Every year, the fall brings a deluge of gorgeous cookbooks from renowned chefs and authors, with food styling and photography so artful that sometimes we’d rather leave them on the coffee table for party guests to look at than to actually cook out of because the prospect of getting them stained in the kitchen seems wrong. This year was no different, with a slew of tomes from some of our favorite restaurants, chefs, or cookbook authors that we’d been anticipating getting our hands on for months. Whether you’re giving or hoping to receive, the MUNCHIES staff rounded up our personal takes on the best cookbooks of 2018 that we think you should be adding to your personal cookbook collections. (And, of course, it goes without saying that if you’re looking to expand the horizons of your cannabis cooking skills, we’ve got you covered with our stunner of a collection, if we do say so ourselves, in Bong Appetit: Mastering the Art of Cooking with Weed.)
Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi
I have always been a fan of Ottolenghi's recipes due to his vibrant use of herbs and spices and emphasis on fresh, vegetable-forward dishes. This book spoke to me in particular because it highlighted the beauty of using simple technique and premiere ingredients to create wholly satisfying, unpretentious meals. I also appreciated the structure of the book—instead of lumping all of the recipes together under the "simple" umbrella, he categorizes them based on ingredient amount, time optimization, and work required in a handy outline. — Amanda Catrini, Test Kitchen Manager
Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food, by Nik Sharma
Nik Sharma shares the stories and the recipes that have influenced his life as an immigrant living here in the US, ranging from curry leaf popcorn chicken to a date and tamarind loaf (and also an egg salad with toasted coriander that I keep meaning to try!). I might be partial because he is also a good friend, but this is a book I'll be cooking from well into 2019, and years to come. Did I mention how beautiful the photos are, too? Nik shot the entire thing himself. —Farideh Sadeghin, Culinary Director
Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories, by Naz Deravian
Naz Deravian tells the tale of her emigration from Iran to Italy, then Canada, and now LA where she currently resides, with food being the cornerstone in this book of beautiful stories centered around family and the home. Some of my favorite recipes? The tahcheen (a baked crispy rice dish jeweled with barberries) and the joojeh kabab (chicken! saffron!) and the stews… all the stews. You can smell the spices and herbs as soon as you open it. —Farideh Sadeghin, Culinary Director
Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes and Kitchen Secrets, by Najmieh Batmanglij
Growing up (and still, tbh), Najmieh's cookbook, Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, was always the one that my dad referenced, and now I do the same. When she put out this most recent book, I did back flips. It's not often that a new cookbook comes out that is packed with such detailed information about one of the oldest cuisines in the world. — Farideh Sadeghin, Culinary Director
A Very Serious Cookbook, from the Contra/Wildair guys. These guys’ restaurants are so great, and the way they organized the book is super novel. Also that they don't take the whole thing too seriously is refreshing. —John Martin, Publisher
It’s terrifying to go to your friends’ concerts or plays—and it’s terrifying to look at their books until you can be safely assured that everything’s ok and their work will be as good as you know they are in real life. My anxiety about A Very Serious Cookbook was struck down within the first 30 seconds of reading. Just like their restaurants, it’s fun, insightful, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is very, very good. — Clifford Endo Gulibert, Director of Video
A Burger To Believe In, by Chris Kronner. Even though my essay got cut, Chris still makes great burgers and this book was a winner for anyone who spends an inordinate amount of their time thinking about burgers. —John Martin, Publisher
Matty Matheson: A Cookbook, by none other than Matty Matheson. I'd probably get a real salty text message if I didn't put this one in here. Also, this is a book that I can actually cook out of and it's good hearty food. But when I read the recipes IT'S LIKE I’M BEING YELLED AT. — John Martin, Publisher
Japan: The Cookbook, by Nancy Singleton-Hachisu
Japan: The Cookbook is elegant, refined and dense. The book systematically breaks down Japanese cooking into its distinctive, delicious parts: soups, noodles, rices, pickles, one-pots, sweets, and vegetables. In the end, the cookbook provides over 400 recipes and an in-depth overview of the Japanese cooking tradition. — Ike Rofe, Associate Producer
Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious, by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
I'm about to recommend a cookbook I haven't even cooked out of yet—but stay with me. A primary tenet of my personality is my strong, somewhat blind and borderline-aggressive belief that Philadelphia has the best restaurant scene. This platform became easier to defend when Michael Solomonov opened Zahav in 2008. He, along with Steven Cook, published a cookbook named after the restaurant in 2015, and this year they released Israeli Soul—which is full of authoritative recipes for a range of Israeli basics, as well as meditations on their cultural history and a guide to where to find those foods in Israel. When I got it, I sat down and read it—like actually read the words starting in the beginning and flipping page after page, like a book-book. I made a note of recipes to return to when I have time (and more counter space) but in an age when I'm more likely to turn to Google than my bookshelf for a recipe (sorry! that's just the truth) I love a cookbook that makes me want to learn more about the food I'm craving. — Hannah Keyser, Associate Editor
Sharp: The Definitive Guide to Knives, Knife Care, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs, by Josh Donald and Molly DeCoudreaux
This neat cookbook from San Francisco's wonderful knife shop Bernal Cutlery is all about selecting, caring for, and using fancy knives. For way too long I slummed it with dull trash knives that came in 12-piece sets, and figured that splurging on a decent santoku was something I'd get around to, you know, later. Well, I finally invested in a couple of great knives, and it has made all of the difference. Sharp is a thoughtful, user-friendly guide to decoding sharp stuff, and even includes some tasty-sounding recipes at the end from chefs such as Traci Des Jardins and Chris Kronner. — Hilary Pollack, Senior Editor
I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook, by Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad
I, too, am Filipino, and there’s still a lot for me to learn. This book helps with that. Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad of New York’s Maharlika, Jeepney, and Tita Baby’s explore the breadth of Filipino food: from the dishes integral to my background, to dishes I’ve never explored (like those of the country’s southernmost island group), to more modern takes.
The book is a progression, showing that Filipino food isn’t static and modern iterations are just as legitimate as the foods of our ancestors. Beyond recipes alone, it’s a love letter to our culture and an acknowledgment that we are here: Our food is worth learning about, it’s worth the glossy pages and beautiful pictures, our food has a story—and even more importantly, our food has a future. — Bettina Makalintal, Staff Writer
The Green Roasting Tin, by Rukmini Iyer
I’ve got a few, so hold on here. The veggie follow-up to food stylist Rukmini Iyer’s hit one-tin recipe book, The Green Roasting Tin features 75 new vegetarian and vegan recipes. If you can chop stuff and put it in the oven, you’ll master pretty much all of these dishes, including sweet potato and mushroom polenta; harissa cauliflower steaks; and miso tofu with aubergine, which I was lucky enough to have Iyer cook for me on a visit to her home earlier this year. — Phoebe Hurst, UK Editor
Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen, by Yasmin Khan
Food writer Yasmin Khan travelled Palestine to cook with locals of all ages and backgrounds for her latest cookbook, explaining to MUNCHIES earlier this year: “This project in particular was everything: fun, frightening, joyful, stressful. But that’s the reality of what’s going on out there and I wanted to be true to what people of the region are experiencing, so I shared their stories.”
Which makes Zaitoun sound very worthy and not all that tasty—which couldn’t be further from the truth. The book spans the black olive groves of Burquin to plates of musaka’a eaten under a full moon in Ramallah, and sharing platters of fragrant sumac chicken. You’ll want to eat everything. — Phoebe Hurst, UK Editor
La Grotta Ices, by Kitty Travers
Vibrant scoops of passionfruit ice on retro tablecloths; hot-pink raspberry and fig leaf granita; technicolor apricots. The first cookbook from Kitty Travers, founder of London ice cream company La Grotta Ice, is almost as delicious to look at as her sorbets, granitas, and gelatos are to eat.
And, fun fact! After interviewing Travers about her new cookbook earlier this year, UK staff writer Ruby Lott-Lavigna bought an ice cream machine off Gumtree [editor’s note: like the British equivalent of Craigslist] and went *actual* foraging for fig leaves. You have been warned. — Phoebe Hurst, UK Editor
Bong Appétit: Mastering the Art of Cooking with Weed, by the Editors of MUNCHIES
I know, I know, I'm kind of tooting our own horn with this recommendation—but honestly guys, this is the only cookbook any weed enthusiast needs. And since I didn't participate in writing this gorgeous and absolutely beautifully edited publication, I can boast about it as much as I want to! It's still a free country, after all. At least if you live somewhere with legal weed.
The knowledge about cannabis and how you can extract its various terpenes and potency is incredibly vast in this book, and most importantly, it is explained in a way that even a cannabis cuisine noob like me gets it. This book is both about delicious, home cooked meals for you and the special stoner in your life as well as to educate the world on the positive and flavorful effects cannabis can have and to destigmatize its bad rep once and for all. — Katinka Oppeck, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany Editor
Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus, and Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers
I’m constantly in awe of how good of a person Julia Turshen seems to be. In the wake of the 2016 election, she crash-published Feed the Resistance, a pocket-sized tome full of protest-inspired dishes from those on the front lines of the struggle for justice, both past and present, with proceeds going to the ACLU. I bought copies for all of my friends for Christmas. She helped launch Equity At The Table (EATT), a database of women, people of color, and gender-nonconforming folks in the professional food space to help make kitchens, cookbook publishing companies, and food media mastheads reflect the diversity of the rest of the world. I follow her on Instagram and am inspired by her dedication to volunteering regularly at her local soup kitchen in upstate New York. In her newest book, Now & Again, I’m similarly inspired by her commitment to making the most out of every ounce of food in the home kitchen. I’m a fundamentally cheap-ass person, so the premise of making your leftovers count speaks to me on a very personal level. But the fact that all of the leftover ideas come from whole dinner party or holiday menus—because I love hosting a good dinner party—makes this book even more practical for me. This is for the home cook in your life who doesn’t care about making it pretty or precious—they just like to feed people. — Danielle Wayda, Editorial Assistant
Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse, by Frederic Morin, David McMillan, and Meredith Erickson
I'm not entirely sure of my capability to outlast an apocalypse—like, I'm probably looking at being in the second third of people up against the wall when the time comes. But that's probably why I love Joe Beef: Surviving the Apocalypse as much as I do. The second book from the Montreal-based team is an ode to the pleasures of the outdoors and the rustic and the no-bullshit delicious, and includes primers on all the things you're going to need (or at least want) when the world crumbles around you. The recipes range from wildly impractical to only slightly so, and the writing is shot through with the Joe Beef team's characteristic wry humor. If you need me when the shit hits the fan, I'll be in my bunker, eating a platter-sized pastry shell piped full of whitefish salad and topped with artfully arranged sturgeon and decorative choux swans. — Rupa Bhattacharya, Editor-in-Chief