Our Top Four 2013 Summertime Cookbooks

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


Well, it’s not even summer yet and we already have our top four 2013 summertime cookbooks. (Early summer, at least.)

A good book. Reading by the pool, at the beach or maybe a quiet room somewhere is one of the great pleasures of summer. Sure, there are murder mysteries, spy novels, books involving da Vinci and coded messages, but you can’t eat anything out of those books. We like books that show the way to eating something delicious. There are many, many well-written cookbooks and books about food out there. The ones we’re enjoying right now seem to have, roughly, a summer theme–but they are more universal than that.

In no particular order, here are our top four summertime cookbooks, at least for right now:

First off, The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue by Daniel Vaughn. This is, perhaps, the most definitive book on Texas barbecue written to date. Mr. Vaughn logged 35 days, 10,343 miles and 186 barbecue joints on his mission to compile this thorough bible. He quit his profession as an architect when he was named barbecue editor at Texas Monthly. Even the New York Times weighed in, calling his ascension “a milestone in the history of Texas barbecue.” His book is the first under Anthony Bourdain’s banner, Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Big leagues. The only problem with this book is it will make you want to put it down and go get some ‘cue!

We are long-time admirers of Deborah Madison. Her taste and style of writing, not forgetting her deep well of knowledge about all things food make her one of our favorite food writers. Her newest book, Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipesreveals the surprising relationships between vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs within the same botanical families, and how understanding these connections can help home cooks see everyday vegetables in new light. Sounds kind of heavy, but it isn’t. With her her clear, crisp recipes, she takes the reader traipsing through the garden with delicious dishes as the result.

Third on our list is The Hot Sauce Cookbook: Turn Up the Heat with 60+ Pepper Sauce Recipes by Robb Walsh. Who doesn’t enjoy what hot sauce does for food? Instead of a compendium of bottled heat, Mr. Walsh shows the way to creating sauces in one’s own kitchen using chiles, fresh veggies and basic kitchen tools. And he should know what he’s talking about, after all he is the founder of the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, now in its 23rd year. His book features sixty-plus recipes, from buffalo wings to Bloody Marys, even to ice cream–as Mr. Walsh deftly works his way up the Scoville Scale. He doesn’t limit his focus to American tastes, he shows the global appeal of hot sauce with spicy dishes from African and Southwest Asian cuisine.

All the way from London comes Jane Hornby and her book, Fresh & Easy: What to Cook and How to Cook it. We have been cooking out of her book here in early summer and we love her step-by-step style, how easily her recipes come together and more importantly, how she revels in the seasonal produce from the farmers’ market. (Right now, we’re particularly enamored with her Balsamic Butter recipe.) We found this comment on goodreads.com and couldn’t agree more: “This book would be excellent for someone who wants to cook but feels intimidated by it, this book will hold your hand as you learn.” That doesn’t mean it’s rudimentary, it means it’s well drafted.

Do you have a favorite summertime cookbook that you would like to share?

Photo montage: Craig McCord