When it comes to pleasing everyone at the table, many cookbooks miss the mark – either aiming too squarely for the more sophisticated palates of mom and dad or resorting to nursery food and babytalk. During the holidays, especially, when dozens of glossy new titles beckon from bookstore shelves, it can be hard for a practical cook to know where to look. Well, search no further. We’ve combed the shops for the latest crop of cookbooks and selected a handful that promise to entice readers – and eaters – of all ages. – Sarah Karnasiewicz
Jamie Oliver understands kids as well as cooking – after all, he started his career working in his parent’s pub at the tender age of eight. Since then, thanks to his casual approach, commitment to ingredients and healthy home cooking (not to mention his cute accent), Oliver has built an edible empire in Britain and abroad. While any one of his nine books would make a scrumptious gift (In my house we’re especially fond of Jamie at Home) his latest, Jamie’s Food Revolution, is clearly written, heavy on charm, and perfectly geared for cooks who have a surplus of ambition but a shortage of time.
Feed the kids: Pork kabobs
Feed yourself: Fish pie
If you’re a cook with a penchant for improvisation, you know that when it comes to baking, that can backfire – leaving you with sodden scones or a birthday cake that’s hard as a brick. No matter: with the aid of Karen DeMasco, there may be hope for you yet. In her book, DeMasco, who made her name as pastry chef for Tom Colicchio’s Craft empire in New York, offers bakers of all levels creative encouragement and innovative recipes for simple, surprising desserts with a seasonal twist, like berry bread pudding and apple beignets.
Feed the kids: Carrot cake sandwich cookies
Feed yourself: Pine nut tart
Like a hippie-chick Rachel Ray with a passion for salads, in her new book Mollie Katzen (author of the iconic Moosewood Cafe cookbooks) brings decades of experience and a roster of nutritious, delicious recipes to the masses. Get Cooking contains a whiff of crunchy Northern California earnestness (spice-crusted tofu cutlets, anyone?) – but it’s nonetheless a terrific primer that’s chock full of everyday dinner ideas, like old-fashioned Italian sausage and peppers and green pea and feta quiche, while still basic enough to hearten even the most elementary cooks.
Feed the kids: Corn chowder
Feed yourself: Pasta shells with chickpeas and arugula
You don’t have to hail from below the Mason Dixon line to appreciate the appeal of southern cooking. Sweet potato pies, banana pudding, fried chicken: these are family favorites designed for the ages (if not for the cholesterol-conscious). And that’s the genius of Simple Fresh Southern: while not shying from butter or cream, the Lee brothers wide-ranging approach takes inspiration from old time classics and hand-me-down recipes but boldly interprets them with a lighter, modern twist.
Feed the kids: Easy ambrosia
Feed yourself: Shrimp and deviled-egg salad rolls
Marco Canora, the beloved (and now, Michelin-starred) chef of stellar New York restaurants Insieme, Terroir, and Hearth, has for years been a savant of Italian-accented comfort food with a craftsman’s touch, like airy eggplant parmigana and thick, pancetta-studded pasta e fagoli. In Salt to Taste, his first cookbook, Canora shares his kitchen knowhow in a manner that is both inspiring and instructive, and his emphasis on building flavorful recipes from pantry staples and attention to the principles of cooking seems designed to enliven any dinnertime routine.
Feed the kids: Lasagne verde bolognese
Feed yourself: Rabbit stew with Nicoise olives