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A buffet of 2023 cookbooks for the food lovers on your list

NPR

There are a lot of cooks at NPR. Every year when we ask our staff for recommendations for Books We Love — NPR's annual, year-end books guide — we get back a veritable smorgasbord of cookbook offerings. Scroll down to find out what our staffers were up to in the kitchen this year, and to explore selections from food writer, author and NPR contributor T. Susan Chang.This is just a sampling of our food recommendations in 2023 — to see the full list, head over to Books We Love.

Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling by Bricia Lopez with Javier Cabral

Abrams Books

Restaurateur Bricia Lopez says her cookbook Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling is a love letter to Los Angeles. It's an expression of both her Oaxacan and American identity. An asada is a smoky barbecue filled with family, friends, music and drinks. And backyard asada culture reigns supreme in the streets of LA. Lopez's cookbook covers everything you need to know to throw an asada, from making marinades to refreshing agua frescas.Milton Guevara, associate producer, Morning Edition and Up First

The Cookie That Changed My Life by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño

Knopf

If you're like me, every cookie is the "cookie that changed my life." But in the case of veteran baker Nancy Silverton, it was a giant peanut butter cookie from an LA bakery. "Perfection!" Silverton thought – before setting out to make it even more perfect. Every recipe in this book similarly gilds the lily: Walnut oil and ground walnuts intensify the dough for Walnut Sandies. Black cocoa powder, cacao nibs, bittersweet chocolate and flaky salt marry in the Ultimate Chocolate Cookie – which takes hours. But you will want to change your life to make time for it.T. Susan Chang, food writer

Ed Mitchell's Barbeque by Ed Mitchell and Ryan Mitchell with Zella Palmer

Ecco Press

This book is a tribute to the "unspoken cuisine of America" and to the authors' enslaved ancestors, the first pitmasters of eastern North Carolina. The recipes are delectable. The star is whole hog BBQ, pit-roasted over hot embers with a vinegar-based sauce, and traditional sides, like Tobacco Barn Brunswick Stew, Church Ladies' Candied Yams, and Ed's Shindig Slaw. But we also get some fresh takes, like Smoked Collard Green Dip, Bougie Barbequed Whole Turkey, and Smoked Tofu Burnt Ends. This is one of those special regional cookbooks that reads as a rich cultural and historical memoir told through the lens of foodways. Debbie Elliott, correspondent, National Desk

The Global Pantry Cookbook by Scott Mowbray and Ann Taylor Pittman

Workman Publishing

I collect cookbooks. I especially love ones with stories about how recipes reflect local culture and history. This new collection goes around the world to "taste the umami of human history." The authors are test kitchen superstars, and the book is an encyclopedia of flavors with an introduction that explains how they were first introduced to American cooks. It includes a glossary of interesting ingredients to try, like anyuls vinegar, kecap manis and ras el hanout (try it in chicken salad!). Ann Taylor Pittman showcases her Korean and Mississippi roots in her Smokey Pimento Kim Cheese recipe. It's fun to make – you fashion a stovetop smoker with a foil pan to smoke the pimento and add chopped kimchi for punch. Delicious! Debbie Elliott, correspondent, National Desk

Invitation to a Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food by Fuchsia Dunlop

W. W. Norton & Company

Fuchsia Dunlop finds it a pity that Chinese food is among the world's favorites, yet one of the least understood. This is partly because, in her view, there are few Chinese gastronomy critics who can both cook dishes and write prose. In Invitation to a Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food, Dunlop – who in the 1990s became the first foreigner to study at the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine in Chengdu – tries to take on that role. It's a personal journey filled with history of some of the best-known and occasionally exotic dishes, told in lip-smacking detail. It's an invitation hard to resist. Vincent Ni, Asia editor, International Desk

The Secret of Cooking: Recipes for an Easier Life in the Kitchen by Bee Wilson

W. W. Norton & Company

More than a cookbook, this is an empathetic guide to how to make cooking work for you – and even become a joy (or a joy again). Sure, Bee Wilson says, cooking is easy if you have all afternoon, no kids pulling on you and someone prepping your ingredients. But what if you have picky eaters, a full-time job and a kitchen with only half the ingredients the recipe calls for? This book has the answers, explaining everything from how to figure out what flavors go together, to how to build a repertoire of favorites, to how to cut yourself some slack when everything goes wrong. The book's simple, delicious recipes are treated more like blueprints – if something in a recipe doesn't work for you, Wilson is happy for you to try putting in something that will. Jennifer Vanasco, editor and reporter, Culture Desk

A Splash of Soy: Everyday Food from Asia by Lara Lee

Bloomsbury Publishing

If your personal gastronomic paradise is centered somewhere off the South China Sea, this one's for you. Australian food writer Lara Lee draws inspiration from foodways spanning the Eastern Hemisphere; she'll lead you on a lemongrass-scented, tamarind-flecked, coconut-infused frolic through the aisles of your local Asian grocery. We tore our way through Sambal Shrimp with Coconut and Cashews, Tom Yum Roast Chicken, Pickled Ginger Soba Noodle Salad, Tofu and Cabbage Okonomiyaki, Lemongrass Pork Burgers and much more. By the end, way more than a splash of soy adorned my copy – and I bet it'll be the same for yours. T. Susan Chang, food writer

Start Here: Instructions for Becoming a Better Cook by Sohla El-Waylly

Knopf Publishing Group

I really can't think of a better kitchen mentor than Sohla El-Waylly. She's created some of my most favorite recipes, and Start Here will teach you any technique you need – whether it's new to you, or you're just a bit rusty or unsure – to make your food taste incredible. My family inhaled her Baked White Beans with Dates, and I got over my fear of cooking with dried legumes, thanks to her gentle but authoritative guidance. Next up? Maybe Turmeric Potatoes with a Whole Lotta Lemon. Yum. Sarah Handel, senior editor, All Things Considered

Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds by Hetty Lui McKinnon

Knopf Publishing Group

Prolific cookbook author and daughter of a produce wholesaler Hetty Lui McKinnon knows her way around her greens. While many vegetable cookbooks worship at the altar of the unadorned plant, Tenderheart advocates an exuberant, over-the-top vegetarianism, enhanced with innovative homemade chili crisps, pickles, aiolis, harissas. King Oyster Mushrooms with Whipped Almonds, Roasted Broccoli and Crispy Chickpeas with Sichuan Dukkah, and Sticky Gochujang Brussels Sprouts are like nothing you ever encountered in the Moosewood generation. With mouthwatering, high-def photography and a pristine layout, this one's eminently giftable, too. T. Susan Chang, food writer

The World Central Kitchen Cookbook by José Andrés and World Central Kitchen with Sam Chapple-Sokol

Clarkson Potter Publishers

This is much more than a cookbook: It's a chronicle of World Central Kitchen's profound work nourishing millions of people worldwide in the wake of natural disasters and other crises. WCK founder and chef José Andrés has organized the recipes into WCK's core principles, like "empathy," "adaptation," "resilience" and the like. The inspiring text and photos highlight WCK's work all over the globe, including in Haiti, Lebanon and Indonesia, as well as across the United States. Several of the dishes here have already become weeknight family favorites in my own home, including the tangy Chicken Chili Verde, the flavorful one-pot Turkey Bolognese and the mouthwatering Venezuelan Banana Bread. Anastasia Tsioulcas, correspondent, Culture Desk

This is just a sampling of the titles in the Cookbooks & Food section of Books We Love. Check out all of this year's selections, and stick around to browse picks from the last 11 years.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Beth Novey
Beth Novey is a producer and editor for NPR's Culture Desk. She creates and edits web features, plans multimedia projects and coordinates the web presence for Fresh Air.