New cookbooks offer comfort, creativity

Do cooler temperatures make it more attractive to get in the kitchen? Here are some new cookbooks that might feed that impulse.

‘Sweetness: Southern Recipes to Celebrate the Warmth, the Love and the Blessings of a Full Life’ by Christy Jordan. Workman Publishing, $16.95 trade paperback

Christy Jordan, a Huntsville, Ala., native and founder of, takes on the sweet side of Southern life in her latest cookbook.

The 192 recipes are steeped in tradition and accompanied by charming vignettes. Recipes include Old-Fashioned Banana Pudding, Chocolate Chess Pie, Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, Five-Cup Fruit Salad, Cream Cheese Divinity, Ambrosia and Buttermilk Lime Pound Cake. But there are unexpected treasures, such as Water Pie, developed by a creative woman decades ago who had eight children and little money; something called Tiger Butter, a candy combination of white almond bark, peanut butter and semisweet chocolate; and Sweet Potato Dumplings in a sweet sauce. They might have a history, but none of these is complicated, not even quick breads such as Almost Famous Orange Rolls.

‘Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked — And Fried, Too!’ by Raghavan Iyer. Workman Publishing, $16.95 trade paperback

Who doesn’t love a tater? Here’s a cookbook dedicated to the potato and the many, many ways this tuber can be prepared. Iyer, a Mumbai native who now lives in Minneapolis, offers 75 recipes which cover appetizers, sides, main dishes and desserts. Consider Moroccan Potato Stew with Saffron Biscuits, Spinach-stuffed Potato Cakes, Crispy Potato Skins with Creme Fraiche, Cheesy Tarragon Tots, Potato Moussaka, Potato Lasagna (with a recipe for homemade ricotta), Hasselback Potatoes with Cardamom Butter, Potato-Habanero Biscuits and Chocolate Sweet Potato Pound Cake, and you see an international influence on the cookbook’s contents.

Iyer includes an introduction to potato varieties and uses, tips on buying and storing potatoes and options for special diets, such as gluten-free, vegan, lacto-vegetarian and lacto-ovo vegetarian.

‘Infuse: Herbal Teas to Cleanse, Nourish and Heal’ by Paula Grainger and Karen Sullivan. Hamlyn, $16.99 trade paperback

If prepackaged herbal tea blends aren’t your thing, this book by Santa Cruz, Calif.-based clinical herbalist Paula Grainger and Karen Sullivan presents recipes for making your own, focusing on properties of specific ingredients. Chapters are divided into cleanse and detox, digest and nourish, boost and revitalize, peace and calm, fortify and protect, and bliss and happiness. A separate chapter covers “beyond tea,” including recipes for Chai Honey, Almond Milk, Immune-Boosting Smoothie, Fresh Herb Sorbet, Ashwagandha and Turmeric Colada, and Allergy-Ease Cordial. There’s also a directory of herbal ingredients as well as a resource list.

‘Cake Magic! Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations’ by Caroline Wright. Workman Publishing, $17.95 trade paperback

This is a different kind of cake cookbook. The idea is to flip through the mouthwatering photos of completed cakes at the front and choose a cake. Each completed cake has three components: the cake itself, a syrup and a frosting. For example, Cookie-Butter Cake is made up of Brown Sugar Cake, Spiced Syrup and Cookie-Butter Frosting. You find the recipes for each component in the back of the book. Components can be used in more than one recipe. In this example, Brown Sugar Cake also is used to make Honey-Walnut Cake with Ginger Syrup. Three ribbon bookmarks, color coded to match the cake, syrup and frosting sections, make flipping to recipes easier. Wright notes that using flavoring syrups is a step that professional bakers use.

Making things even more interesting, Wright includes variation options for most of the components’ recipes.

‘The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini’ by Cara Mangini. Workman Publishing, $29.95 hardcover

“Vegetable butcher” might sound like an oxymoron or extreme treatment of innocent veggies, but Mangini has a plan. A descendant of a long line of butchers, she owns Little Eater, a vegetable-inspired restaurant, produce stand and artisanal foods boutique in Columbus, Ohio. Just as a butcher knows the proper way to cut meat, Mangini shows, in step-by-step photo illustrations and text, the ideal way to cut vegetables. That’s not all. She also includes recipes using those beautifully prepped veggies. So after cauliflower is cut, recipes for Cauliflower and Caramelized Fennel Soup and Cauliflower Steaks follow. Want to do something different with okra? Consider Okra, Corn and Tomato Curry with Cilantro and Lime. In addition to common veggies, Mangini addresses those produce items you’ve perhaps seen but didn’t know how to use, such as tomatillo, jicama, chicory and endive, ramps and nettles.