With stay-at-home advisories in place locally and beyond due to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people are doing a lot more cooking than usual — there’s no better time to beef up a cookbook collection.
This guide, the first in a series, focuses on cookbooks specifically tied to Boston-area restaurants that are currently in operation — some old, some new. There’s a lot of New England seafood; there are beautiful Middle Eastern-inspired baked goods from a favorite bakery on the border of Cambridge and Watertown; there are timeless classics from a local restaurant empire that’s been around for over two decades.
Hoping to recreate one of your favorite local restaurant dishes? You might find it within these books, organized by restaurant. For more excellent cookbooks by local chefs and food writers, stay tuned for future installments in this series, coming soon.
Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery & Cafe
Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick
Chef Ana Sortun’s trio of Middle Eastern restaurants — Sofra, Oleana, and Sarma — consistently land on best-of lists locally and beyond. Founded in 2008 by Sortun and executive pastry chef and business partner Maura Kilpatrick, Sofra is the most casual of the trio, a bakery and cafe that features meze, soups and salads, and other light meals alongside gorgeous pastries and other sweets.
The beautiful Soframiz cookbook touches on both the savory and sweet sides of Sofra, from spicy shakshuka and rolled omelets with za’atar and labne to pistachio bird’s nests and almond rose cake.
Novice bakers might find this book more aspirational than practical, with some complicated techniques and specialty ingredients, but that’s no reason to stay away: It’s a worthy adventure, and there are easier recipes as well. Mix a pitcher of orange blossom lemonade, bake some earthquake cookies, and slowly peruse the rest of the book to figure out what to attempt next — and perhaps when to go to Sofra next in order to, uh, “research” the recipes.
Buy: Bookshop | Amazon | Sofra
Double Awesome Chinese Food: Irresistible and Totally Achievable Recipes From Our Chinese-American Kitchen
Andrew, Irene, and Margaret Li
The Li siblings opened Mei Mei in the Fenway area in late 2013, a brick-and-mortar evolution of their popular food truck, which was perhaps best known for its “double awesome” scallion pancake sandwiches. The youngest Li, Irene, runs the restaurant herself these days — the other siblings have moved on to other pursuits — but the trio collaborated on the cookbook, published in 2019, a romp through the kinds of Chinese-American dishes upon which the Lis were raised, mixed with a love of New England ingredients and responsible sourcing.
Flavors like soy, ginger, miso, and chile run through the recipes, which in some cases are nothing like what you’d see at any other local Chinese or Chinese-American restaurant. There’s red curry Frito pie, hot and sour borscht, and kung pao chicken dip, for example, but also more recognizable standbys like honey walnut shrimp, lion’s head meatballs, and five-spice pork shoulder with steamed buns. Don’t worry: The double awesome is in there, too, as are plenty of pantry staples and desserts.
Buy: Bookshop | Amazon | Mei Mei
Flour: Spectacular Recipes From Boston’s Flour Bakery & Cafe
Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for the Cafe’s Most Loved Sweets and Savories
Baking With Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar
Pastry Love: A Baker’s Journal of Favorite Recipes
Joanne Chang (Flour with Christie Matheson)
In addition to running eight locations of Flour in Cambridge and Boston, as well as a South End restaurant, Myers + Chang, Joanne Chang is a prolific cookbook writer, obsessively sharing sweet and savory recipes alike from her seemingly never-ending Flour repertoire (and beyond).
The first cookbook of the bunch, Flour, was published in 2010 and includes many of the bakery’s classics, including the iconic sticky buns, as well as essential baking techniques, tools, and ingredients. Chang’s bakery isn’t just about sweet treats, though, and she brings sandwiches, soups, and other savory options into the spotlight with Flour, Too (as well as more sweets, because why not?). The hot and sour soup recipe is one you’ll return to again and again, an effortless weeknight staple, and the scallion pancakes, which start with Flour’s focaccia dough recipe, are a great accompaniment.
Baking With Less Sugar revisits Flour recipes and adds new ones, all with reduced refined sugar (but not reduced flavor). Honey, maple syrup, fruits, and other sweeteners stand in for white sugar. And Pastry Love, Chang’s newest publication, arrived in late 2019, building on the previous trio with 125 lovely desserts, from passionfruit crepe cake to strawberry slab pie. Any of the four books would be a great addition to a home library; try starting with Flour if you’re a Flour super fan or Pastry Love if you’re new to Chang and her bakery.
Buy Flour: Bookshop | Amazon | Flour
Buy Flour, Too: Bookshop | Amazon | Flour
Buy Baking With Less Sugar: Bookshop | Amazon | Flour
Buy Pastry Love: Bookshop | Amazon | Flour
Myers + Chang at Home: Recipes From the Beloved Boston Eatery
Joanne Chang with Karen Akunowicz
Yep, it’s Joanne Chang again, this time with longtime Myers + Chang executive chef and partner Karen Akunowicz, who has since gone on to open her own restaurant, Fox & the Knife (and appear on two seasons of Top Chef). Myers + Chang, open since 2007, is a quirky, energetic South End destination for Asian food — Chinese recipes from Chang’s childhood, but lots more, too. Dim sum dishes like tea-smoked pork spare ribs and pork and chive dumplings sit alongside Thai street market-style fried chicken, Indonesian fried rice, and Burmese curry skate wing. The journey through Asia winds through the cookbook as well: The aforementioned pork and chive dumplings and Indonesian fried rice (nasi goreng) are in there, as well as bacon and calamari pad thai, a ginger chicken salad based on Southeast Asian larb, Taiwanese dan dan noodle salad, and even a nod to Chinese-Polynesian-American fare of the Massachusetts North Shore, “Kevin’s old-school egg roll.”
Cru Oyster Bar Nantucket Cookbook: Savoring Four Seasons of the Good Life
Erin Zircher, Jane Stoddard, and Carlos Hidalgo, with Martha W. Murphy
It feels like summer every day in the pages of the cookbook for Nantucket oyster bar Cru, with chapters focused on raw bar basics, summertime grilling at home, and more. (The “four seasons” part of the subtitle isn’t a lie, though; the book also gets into fall — “the romance of the fading light and fleeting days,” Christmas, New Year’s, and more.)
Chapters are centered around a theme rather than dish type (although an index by dish type is available at the end). For example, a chapter entitled “Daffodils and Antique Cars” provides an array of recipes aimed at early spring, Nantucket-style: clam chowder, lobster rolls, spiced fried chicken, bittersweet chocolate whoopie pies with sea salt buttercream, and more. Stories about Nantucket’s culture and history are interspersed among the recipes, making this as much a coffee-table book as it is a cookbook.
Whether you spend all or part of the year on Nantucket or you’re just there in spirit, Cru’s cookbook will bring the New England island vibes into your home with dishes such as crudo of Nantucket Bay scallops with ginger mignonette and pear; oyster crackers with cracked fennel seeds; and key lime pie jars with coconut graham cracker crust.
Buy: Bookshop | Amazon | Cru
Thrown Out of an Italian Kitchen: Recipes From Sweet Basil
Stewed: A Collection of Soups, Braises and Stews From Sweet Basil
David Becker (Thrown Out with Anathea Chartrand)
Chef Dave Becker took over Sweet Basil in Needham in 2000, turning the cozy Italian restaurant into a neighborhood favorite over the past 20 years. Introducing “rules” like “ignore all conventions,” “cook from the heart,” and “be smarter than the food” in his 2008 cookbook Thrown Out of an Italian Kitchen, followed by Stewed in 2012, Becker has been sharing Sweet Basil’s recipes — and an insistence that they’re simple to cook at home — for years.
Becker’s books have a lot of heart, and his recipes are quite approachable, even for a novice chef without a well-stocked pantry. The first book features staples like steamed mussels, sauteed calamari, and Caesar salad; there are plenty of sandwiches, soups, and other simple and satisfying meals, and there’s a whole section dedicated to sauces, stocks, and other building blocks. Home cooks can get a little fancier, too, with entrees like a stuffed pork loin or lamb osso bucco.
The second book, Stewed, dives further into the restaurant’s soups and braises; think veal shanks and seafood chowder.
Either book, or both, will please longtime Sweet Basil fans as well as those looking to do some beginner-friendly, Italian-style cooking.
Buy Thrown Out of an Italian Kitchen: Sweet Basil
Buy Stewed: Sweet Basil | Amazon
Juniper: A Quasi Mediterranean Restaurant
Dave Becker with Ashley Eaton and Tim Fichera
Another option from Becker is tied to his second restaurant, Juniper, which he opened in Wellesley in 2014; he self-published the book five years later with executive chef Tim Fichera and bar manager Ashley Eaton. Meant to be “a motley amalgam of recipes, cocktails, and irreverent musings straight from the friendliest little restaurant in Wellesley,” Juniper: A Quasi Mediterranean Restaurant touches on dips and spreads, entrees, sweets, cocktails, and more.
Buttermilk & Bourbon: New Orleans Recipes With a Modern Flair
Local chef Jason Santos — a Tremont 647 and Gargoyles on the Square alum who went on to open several of his own restaurants in Boston, including Abby Lane and Citrus & Salt — opened his New Orleans-themed spot, Buttermilk & Bourbon, in 2017. Santos’ honey-glazed biscuits, beignets, fried chicken, and more have attracted plenty of fans over the past few years, and now you can make them at home.
The cookbook has some gimmicky (but fun) inclusions, such as Flamin’ Hot Cheeto mac and cheese and chicken and waffle tacos, where the waffle is the taco shell. Laughs aside, the tacos are a showstopper, and you’re going to want to set aside plenty of time to make all the components, from the avocado butter to the watermelon pico de gallo. (This one’s actually from Santos’s Mexican restaurant, Citrus & Salt.)
Buttermilk & Bourbon also helps readers with step-by-step photographs and instructions for techniques like breaking down a chicken for a 10-piece fried chicken feast.
The tone is conversational; the dishes are jam-packed with flavor. If you’re looking for a serious tome on traditional New Orleans cuisine, this probably isn’t the book for you. If you want to fry up some killer fried chicken with a side of smoked gouda cornbread and a strong cocktail, give it a try.
Buy: Bookshop | Amazon
Fresh & Honest: Food From the Farms of New England and the Kitchen of Henrietta’s Table
Peter Davis with Alexandra Hall
Henrietta’s Table has long been a Harvard Square mainstay, tucked away in the Charles Hotel and featuring sustainable, farm-to-table food before “sustainable” and “farm-to-table” were marketing buzzwords. The Sunday brunch buffet is especially popular, but it’s also the type of place where college kids make reservations when their parents come to town.
It’s no surprise that chef Peter Davis’s 2008 cookbook based on his work at the restaurant also centers around local, sustainable sourcing. It’s full of New England recipes that feel classic but will never go out of style: cider-braised pork, smoked scallop chowder, butternut squash pie, and lots more.
The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food
Continuing on the classic New England theme, there’s Jasper White’s Summer Shack cookbook, a compendium of New England seafood recipes. White came to prominence for his upscale, seafood-focused waterfront restaurant, Jasper’s, which operated from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. But in 2000, he opened his first Summer Shack location to offer a much more casual destination for seafood like lobster potstickers, crabcakes, fried fish, and more. These days, there’s a location each in Boston and Cambridge, as well as a couple (one is a fast-casual location) at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
The cookbook — accessible to those with all levels of seafood-cooking experience — keeps things simple with dishes like a “fabulous retro” shrimp cocktail, steamers cooked in beer, clam chowder, a Maine lobster roll, and Portuguese-style clam stew, not to mention desserts like strawberry shortcake and whoopie pies. Published in 2007, the cookbook doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to.
Buy: Bookshop | Amazon
The Smoke Shop
The Smoke Shop’s Backyard BBQ: Eat, Drink, and Party Like a Pitmaster
Andy Husbands and William Salazar
Chef and restaurateur Andy Husbands has already written several cookbooks on barbecue and other topics, but his newest, written with William Salazar, is dedicated to his growing group of barbecue restaurants, the Smoke Shop, which debuted in Cambridge in 2016 before spreading to Somerville and Boston.
Like the Cru cookbook above, the Smoke Shop cookbook features sections based on a theme or occasion. “Taco Tuesday,” for example, includes recipes for brisket ropa vieja tacos, the Smoke Shop’s guacamole, barbecue empanadas, tres leches mini cakes, and more, while “Tailgate” includes dishes such as salt-and-pepper back back ribs, pork belly burnt ends, and the incredible Smoke Shop wings, which are among Boston’s best.
Barbara Lynch Collective
Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition
It’s a testament to the longevity of chef and restaurateur Barbara Lynch’s Boston restaurant empire that Stir was published way back in 2009 and includes recipes from virtually all of her restaurants. While fans of Lynch restaurants might realize that her Beacon Hill flagship, No. 9 Park, dates back over 20 years, Sportello, B&G Oysters, and the Butcher Shop have also been around for quite some time now; all are 10 to 15 years old. (Even her “newest,” Menton, is now about a decade old — the only one to open after the book came out.)
Stir includes some of the restaurant group’s heavy hitters and iconic dishes, such as spicy tomato soup with crispy grilled cheese from Sportello, Bolognese from the Butcher Shop, lemon aioli lobster rolls from B&G, and prune-stuffed gnocchi from No. 9 Park, along with lots of other pasta dishes and much more.
Eventide: Recipes for Clambakes, Oysters, Lobster Rolls, and More From a Modern Maine Seafood Shack
Arlin Smith, Andrew Taylor, and Mike Wiley, with Sam Hiersteiner
New Englanders are obsessed with Eventide Oyster Co., a Portland, Maine, seafood gem. It made a successful southern expansion in late 2017, opening up a fast-casual offshoot in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood, and fans can’t get enough of its famous brown butter lobster roll, soft serve ice cream, and other pristine foods that scream “summer in New England.”
Set to be released on June 2, 2020, the Eventide team’s cookbook is one of the best new cookbooks of spring 2020, according to Eater Boston’s sister site Eater.com, which reviewed an advance copy. The “breezy cookbook for easy entertaining and coastal-inspired cooking,” writes Eater’s senior social media manager Esra Erol, will help you “turn your kitchen into a New England oyster bar.” Not just limited to standard recipes, the cookbook has visual guides for preparing various types of seafood to help you make your at-home raw bar dreams come true. The aforementioned lobster roll is in the cookbook (how could it not be?), as are dishes such as halibut tail bo ssam, oysters with kimchi rice, a smoked tofu sandwich, and more.