My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own (Pam Krauss Books, $24.99), by Alice Waters and Fanny Singer, is the latest lovely cookbook from the renowned founder of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California. It’s one of Waters’s most personal books, in part because her daughter and collaborator, Fanny Singer, an art historian, provided charming illustrations for the cover and inside pages. In My Pantry the reader is given a tour of Waters’s home kitchen, and a glimpse of how and what a celebrated chef cooks for herself in a pinch. Perhaps not surprisingly, the same rules apply at home as in the restaurant: simplicity, ease, fresh ingredients, and healthy staples are musts. Next to Waters’s stove, we learn, is vinegar and a pepper mill, and in the cupboard are homemade preserves, as well as pasta and beans. Her recipes for spice mixtures and condiments, roasted nuts and nut milks, preserves, grains, fruits, and cheese, are interwoven with her own stories of discovery as a chef and advocate for slow, simple, and sustainable food.
Near and Far (Ten Speed Press, $29.99) is the long-awaited second cookbook from the James Beard Award-winning food blogger Heidi Swanson. The book is framed around Swanson’s travels, beginning with a “Near” section of favorite recipes inspired by her home in San Francisco. It then moves on to cuisine drawn from Swanson’s explorations of India, Japan, France, Italy, and Morocco. This “Far” portion of the book is not a standard set of traditional ethnic dishes but rather Swanson’s own style of cooking filtered through the culture and savors she encounters in each place. What results is a collection of unique recipes that vary widely in flavor but share an elegant simplicity and exquisite attention to detail. Whether you are drawn to the clean flavors of a salad of spring carrots and beans or the more surprising nori granola, Swanson will win you over with her thoughtful approach in the kitchen and the evocative photographs of food and place.
Many cooks still have treasured recipes from Madhur Jaffrey’s first book, Invitation to Indian Cooking, from 1973, which is in the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame. Or, perhaps, from their battered copies of her square-format, paperback classic, World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking (1981), or any of her two dozen or so other cookbooks. Over the last few years, Ms. Jaffrey has travelled throughout India to uncover recipes for Vegetarian India: A Journey through the Best of Indian Home Cooking (Knopf, $35). She cooked side by side with local cooks at stoves and grills, whether in homes, shops, or roadside stands. She provides chapters on eggs and dairy, grains and pancakes, and of course, dals, chutneys, desserts, and drinks. Kodova Mushroom Curry With Coconut, Okra Fries with Chile, Turmeric, and Chickpea Flour, Stir-Fried Spinach, Andhra Style, and Goan Potatoes are a few of the 200-plus recipes, profusely illustrated with photos. Ms. Jaffrey always makes the recipes approachable—and mouth-watering.