Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors
Sonoko Sakai tells the story of visiting a carpenter and his 83-year-old mother, who had grown buckwheat, milled it, then used the flour to make buckwheat noodles by hand. She sat on the hardwood floor of her kitchen as she watched her son and Sakai enjoy this perfect, simple lunch in the next room, too humble to join them. That vignette tells one a great deal about what Sakai’s culinary journey is all about: a life of riches discovered through the joys of using one’s hands in the kitchen. Here, Sakai gets to the heart of this cuisine: simplicity married to perfection. Holding this book in your hands is a bit like meditation. Your pulse slows, your mind clears and you remember why you fell in love with cooking in the first place: for the inestimable joy of creation.
Guy Crosby is a long-time collaborator, my science expert-in-chief, who has answered every food science question I have ever had, from explaining glutenin and gliadin to doing his best to unravel the chemistry of amino acids for a layman. The genius of his new book, “Cook, Taste, Learn” is that he pairs useful science with the history of cooking. This makes for a digestible work that can be read like simple prose punctuated by useful deep dives into boiling in water versus cooking in oil, the science of gels, why terroir matters when cooking beans (the calcium content varies wildly) and how atomic theory changed the understanding of cooking. In “Cook, Taste, Learn,” you can have your cake and understand its chemistry, too.
Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking
Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine
Maangchi (it translates as “hammer”) is a pseudonym for the author, one that she earned while she was a superstar online video gamer in the early 2000s. After her kids suggested taking up cooking, she soon became a YouTube sensation with over 3 million followers. Watching Maangchi rip open the head of a four-pound octopus explains why. She has the quirky devotion and knowledge of Julia Child married to a childlike love of Korean food. However, she pulls no punches: Yes, you have to make rice dough from scratch and boil lima beans, rub off their skins, then cook them to make a sweet bean filling. And there is the aforementioned octopus. She is going to get you cooking whelks, walk you through a dish called Cold Salty Fermented Radish Soup and show you how to soak and prepare fernbrake. That being said, there are plenty of dishes that are easy to adopt, including Blanched Seasoned Spinach and Sweet, Crunchy Fried Chicken. Whether you are game to massage octopus tentacles or just want a simple noodle soup, Maangchi delivers with a girlish smile that belies an intense devotion to and knowledge of her native cuisine.
You will either love this book or hate it. As Pete Wells remarked about her restaurant, The Beatrice Inn in the West Village, Angie Mar “cooks animals for animals,” which means that she thinks that cooking and eating are visceral acts, with or without the viscera. “Butcher and Beast” is not for the faint of heart. Some recipes are expected—Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Roast Rack of Lamb—but she will also ask the reader to vine-smoke a rabbit, age beef with lavender, cook veal kidneys, make posole using wild boar, and whip up authentic mortadella. Mar herself is a fashionista, at all times appearing sublimely dressed for Anna Wintour’s Met Gala, and posed in the most unlikely venues, including a long stretch of leg on a bed next to a Truffled Hen and Leek Pie. As I said, Mar is a culinary provocateur. For my money, I love her just for her unbridled enthusiasm for life and the acceptance of death that is implicit in her style of cooking.