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Holiday recipes and everyday meals highlight season’s top cookbooks

At their best, cookbooks can instruct, educate, entertain, and nourish us in surprising ways. This year’s batch emphasizes inclusivity, plant-based foods, and extra-enticing baked goods. Cooking from them has been a good reminder that the kitchen provides lessons in flexibility and adaptability, especially during a period that has required a lot of both. We could have collected a superstar list of baking books alone, from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking With Dorie” to Aran Goyoaga’s “Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple,” but our kitchen collection is about balance and variety. These are our holiday recommendations.

Updated classic reflects modern concerns

Amanda Hesser makes 150 years of recipes newly relevant in “The Essential New York Times Cookbook,” a massive compilation from the newspaper’s archives. For the 2010 edition, she tested more than 1,400 recipes; for 2021, she decided that the racial justice movement and cultural upheavals in the United States required a “stronger, fairer and more inclusive” update. She trimmed 65 recipes and added 120 more, emphasizing diversity and approachable home cooking. (No fear, it still includes the Times’ most-requested recipe, Marian Burros’ plum torte, originally printed in 1983.) From an 1875 Welsh rarebit to Jamie Oliver’s 2003 braised Ligurian chicken, Hesser provides charming, expert commentary. While not a scholarly work of food history, the book offers a fascinating reminder of changing tastes and priorities. Hesser gives useful context, for example describing an old-school salad from the days when “you didn’t so much as dress a lettuce leaf, you clobbered it.” 

Beautiful baked goods and gifts