Joan Nathan’s King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World (Knopf, $35) has recipes but it is not a cookbook—it is a travelogue, an ethnography, and a groundbreaking food history that deserves its place on the shelf next to The Joy of Cooking and The Silver Spoon. Nathan’s far-ranging recipes highlight the extraordinary depth, diversity, and innovation of Jewish cooking as it adapted to local ingredients, climates, and traditions. From hand-rolled couscous inspired by a visit to Mejlaw, a tiny village in northwest Morocco, to a Siberian recipe for Chremsel, a Matzo Pancake Casserole, to a Roman Pomodori a Mezzo, every recipe includes a beautiful micro-history of its origins and mutations told in Nathan’s loving, informed voice.
Most cookbooks are built to inspire you, to entertain you, to make you think more creatively about the choices you make in the kitchen. But Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking (Simon & Schuster, $35) is a culinary game-changer: it single-handedly transformed the way I think about food and the equations of the meals I create and eat. Samin Nosrat, an accomplished cooking teacher and now a columnist for The New York Times Magazine, breaks down the essential elements of flavor into these four necessary components, and the entire book is an examination of the ways they complement and compound each other. The recipes included are included are thoughtful and seemingly simple, but yield rich, complex results. The Kuku Sabzi, the Persian Herb and Greens Frittata, has already become a weeknight favorite in our house.
The photographs collected by Scott Crawford in Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington D.C. Punk Scene (Akashic, $24.95) are so vivid and personal, you can almost smell the sweat and stink of the all-ages basement shows and you can definitely hear the pound of the punk rock reverberating off the walls. Crawford continues his investigations into the crucial story of music and dissent he began in his documentary Salad Days through oral histories, ephemera, and photographs from many different on-the-ground sources. This album features histories of Fugazi, Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Bad Brains, and many other D.C. bands that revolutionized the narrative of punk in this country. A radical coffee-table book, this is the only possible holiday present for punk rockers of any age.