Through his groundbreaking menu at Noma in Copenhagen, René Redzepi questioned our long-held core beliefs of what is delicious and what is edible. In The Noma Guide to Fermentation (Artisan, $40), René and his Head of Fermentation, David Zilber, push us to the next frontier of cooking by challenging us to see what is possible if we pay attention and engage with the ingredients in front of us in an open, questioning way. Much like Samin Nosrat’s 2017 Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, here the essential elements of flavor are broken down and laid bare. Considering the complex science involved in the creation of everything from lacto-tomato water to coffee shoyu, the great surprise of this book is the clarity and simplicity of the recipes and the universal application of the specific processes. I can’t stress enough: this isn’t just for your friends that like to pickle! It’s for any home chef (or eater) that thinks seriously about how to make their food more delicious.
Chef Anita Lo’s warm, charming new cookbook Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One (Knopf $28.95) is a warm, charming testament to the pleasures of cooking (and dining) alone. Lo firmly believes that eating alone should be an act of self-love and a celebration of flavor and her recipes are uniformly inventive, elegant, and spare, influenced both by her Chinese heritage and her classical French culinary training. Perfectly accompanied by Julia Rothman’s playful illustrations, each recipe is streamlined for exactly one serving: there are no leftovers, no waste, just one complete, perfect serving. The imagining of desserts-for-one are particularly exceptional: from a caramelized banana with coconut to my favorite, the peanut-butter-and-chocolate pie, I found myself very grateful that I didn’t have to share.
As a longtime fan of Jessica Hopper’s vigilant, relentless music criticism, Night Moves (University of Texas Press, $15.95) is the book I’ve been pining for. A series of vignettes about her coming-of-age in the Chicago music scene, the pieces are as shaky with youth as a Ferlinghetti poem, and they come together to form one jagged love lyric to a city and a way of life. There’s something markedly elegiac about the life Hopper describes, a roiling, breathing cityscape where the escape from the robotic crawl of gentrification seemed still possible. Can young adults still live like this in a city? Riding bikes through electric summer nights? God, I hope so. Night Moves made me feel very young and very old at the same time: a painful, singular elation.