Whether your giftees are seasoned home cooks or new to the kitchen, a cookbook is always a welcome gift. After all, who doesn’t like learning about ways to use new ingredients (or new ways to use the same ingredients), or diving into a completely new-to-them cuisine? We asked these Portland chefs for their recommendations, from vegan Mexican dishes to a book that explores Black foodways, stories, art, and yes, recipes. Find them at local booksellers like Powell’s, Broadway Books, Annie Bloom's or the newly reopened, revamped Vivienne, which is now both a cafe and culinary bookstore.
Luna Contreras (Chelo, For Esme) — Tu Casa Mi Casa by Enrique Olvera and Provecho: 100 Vegan Mexican Recipes to Celebrate Culture and Community by Edgar Castrejón
I love [Tu Casa Mi Casa]! It’s just so approachable. For someone who has heard about Enrique and Pujol, but [is] scared of the million ingredients—[this is] pretty food, still classy but from the heart. I love this in all honesty just because it’s more like [his more casual restaurant] Molino. I’m finding that simpler is better.
[Provecho] is a vegan Mexican book. [It’s] a good seasonal source for me at times if I feel blank. Or want more garnish!
Gabriel Pascuzzi (Mama Bird, Feel Good) — Everyone’s Table by Gregory Gourdet
Gregory is a good friend, but most importantly, it’s a great book full of flavor for amateur cooks that doesn’t have intimidating recipes. Also, it’s great to introduce new flavors to people. I love his salads; [his] pikliz are delicious, and I always have a jar in my fridge.
Robin Wheelwright (Vivienne) — The Modern Larder: From anchovies to yuzu, a guide to artful and attainable home cooking by Michelle McKenzie
I really love this book. It profiles 58 different pantry ingredients from all over the world. So you’ve got nduja and miso and mirin and curry leaves and lime leaf and all kinds of great things in the pantry, the global pantry, and then all kinds of recipes, just really smart recipes that incorporate these different ingredients. And each ingredient from the pantry tells you what recipe it’s used in, so you can look things up by ‘Oh hey, I have some koji, what should I do with it,’ and it’ll tell you, here’s five recipes that use koji. It’s a really helpful guide to how to use everything in your kitchen, and a really smart way to eat from that new cuisine perspective where you’re not really any one nationality or ethnicity, but you’re drawing from a global pantry and using flavors and things that help you be creative, and a good cook that is able to improvise.
Jaclyn Nakashima (Bakers Against Racism) — Black Food by Bryant Terry and The Korean Vegan by Joanne Lee Molinaro
Black Food by Bryant Terry not only includes recipes, but Black stories and art. I think stories [are] so important for food in cultures that have not had the luxury of print or accessibility to archive these narratives over the course of history.
The Korean Vegan because Joanne is another incredible storyteller who weaves [the] personal [and] cultural, and offers more interesting vegan food options than [the] incredibly whitewashed vegan narrative we have seen displayed.
Craig Melillo (Gracie’s Apizza) — Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream by Dana Cree and Gluten Free Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich
I think [Cree’s] approach to ice cream is perfect. Easy-to-digest science, she talks through all the options (stabilizers, etc), [and] why and how they work so that you are armed with all the relevant information to make your own choices.
I also love a book called Flavor Flours. It’s a book about gluten-free baking, but not from the stupid approach of gluten-free flour blends and substitutes, but from the perspective [that] each of the flours is special for what it is, and how to make baked goods based on the special qualities of said flour.