Flowers may always be winners, but the true gift of the heart for many of us is a book.
Whether your mother searches for new recipes or is simply a longtime fan of all things culinary, here are some recent options that will bring a smile to her face, a book for her shelf — and perhaps a dish to the table.
For the baker of any age: Have you heard of the Palm Beach Brownies? If not, now is the time. If you’re of a certain age and spent any time around flour, sugar and eggs, you would know about Maida Heatter and her recipes. Saveur magazine called her “The Queen of Cake,” and indeed she is, along with queen of brownies, cookies, muffins and more. At 102, she may be one of our most “mature” cookbook authors — think of all that baking! Her new volume of 100-plus recipes, “Happiness Is Baking: Favorite Desserts From the Queen of Cake” (288 pages, $27), is a collection of her favorites that will be welcomed by those who have spent far less time in the kitchen than she has. The book is illustrated with delightful artwork from Alice Oehr.
For the global adventurer: With America’s Test Kitchen in his past, Christopher Kimball has reinvented himself, and we’re all the better fed for it. His new culinary publication, Milk Street, focuses on recipes made from home cooks around the world. “Milk Street: Tuesday Nights” (406 pages, $35) is a delicious gem (and won a 2019 James Beard cookbook award in the general category). From Paprika-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin to Coconut-Lemongrass Shrimp and Crispy Sichuan-Chile Chicken, the recipes are accessible for any skill level.
For the home cook: I think of Dorie Greenspan as strictly a baker — and a great one — but, in fact, she has a broader perspective as an author, with “Around My French Table” (2010) and the recent “Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook” (356 pages, $35). The latest book forms the basis of her everyday meals at home, whether it’s in New York City or Paris. These are dishes she feeds family and friends, from Gingered-Turkey Meatball Soup or Balsamic Chicken With Baby Potatoes and Mushrooms, to Lightning-Fast Tahini Pork, or Shrimp Tacos — all simple dishes with an unexpected surprise.
For the morning cook: We could all use a little help in the morning, and “Cook’s Illustrated: All Time Best Brunch” (182 pages, $22.99) is ready for us with Crêpes With Sugar and Lemon, and Ham and Cheese Waffles. Maybe you’re more interested in Baked Eggs Florentine or a French Toast Casserole. They’re all here, whether you’re gathering a crowd for a late morning meal or simply want to treat the family (or perhaps Mom?).
For the cook with a taste for Vietnam: Over the years, Andrea Nguyen has offered a variety of Vietnamese dishes in her six cookbooks, from “The Pho Cookbook” (a James Beard award winner) to “The Banh Mi Handbook,” and her latest makes the cuisine ever more accessible. “Vietnamese Food Any Day” (234 pages, $24.99) is true to its word: These are dishes you can make after a simple trip to a supermarket, from Hanoi-Style Bacon and Grilled Pork Rice Noodle Bowls, and Curry-Scented Grilled Beef Lettuce Wraps, to Crispy Lemongrass Salmon or Roast Chicken Noodle Soup.
For the one who cooks for everyone: Mark Bittman still has recipes to share, with his new “Dinner for Everyone: 100 Iconic Dishes Made 3 Ways — Easy, Vegan, or Perfect for Company” (432 pages, $40). That means, for example, when he has pasta and vegetables on his mind, he offers recipes for Farfalle With Mushrooms (easy), Pasta With Garlicky Roasted Squash (vegan) and Homemade Spinach Fettuccine With Gorgonzola (company).
For the cocktail enthusiast: Think you know how to make cocktails? Alex Day, Nick Fauchald (of St. Paul) and David Kaplan have distilled their knowledge into six “root” recipes that serve as templates for all others in “Cocktail Codex: Fundamentals, Formulas, Evolutions” (310 pages, $40), which won the 2019 James Beard Best Book of the Year award. Those six are for the old fashioned, the martini, daiquiri, sidecar, whiskey highball and the flip.
For the reader of memoirs: “We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time” (267 pages, $27.99) tells the remarkable tale of chef and restaurateur José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen, which drops into natural disaster areas to feed the hungry and did so a few days after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
At its peak, Andrés’ effort fed more than 100,000 meals a day, serving more than 3.6 million meals before the organization left Puerto Rico many weeks later.
His perceptive analysis of how to address the crisis of hunger and lack of water in disaster areas is both inspiring and instructive.