One of the reasons why I love the fall so much is it makes me excited about cooking again. I never feel like eating much in the summer heat, so I usually scale back my cooking and baking operation in the hottest months of the year. But as the calendar flips to September and my iPhone gives me nothing but highs in the 70s, I sigh and know it’s time to buy some yeast and stock up on parchment paper—not to mention pumpkin-themed cupcake liners and glittering red and green sprinkles.
I also pull my trusted and most reliable fall-appropriate cookbooks off the shelf for inspiration. Certain cookbooks are just meant for the fall and winter months. Given the bounty of the fall harvest, I want to be making soups and stews and vegetable-heavy main dishes. If I climb out of cool, crisp sheets and put slippers on in the morning chill of first frost, I’m going to want to find something using cinnamon and nutmeg to fill the house with the undeniable, intoxicating smell of October.
Here are a few of my favorite cookbooks that capture the spirit of autumn. Here’s hoping you find inspiration to tackle a new recipe, whether you’re a baker, a cook, or both. Go beyond pumpkin spice and root for the essence of autumn.
Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food: The Ultimate Weekend Cookbook
In 2015, I bought this cookbook using a Barnes and Noble gift certificate during my birthday month of January—also one of the coldest months of the year. I cooked my way through most of my favorite recipes that winter and rounded it out in the fall. This cookbook is not only astonishingly sturdy, with gorgeous photography, but it also has some amazing comfort-food recipes from around the world. I was suffering from bipolar depression in winter 2015, and I really clung to this cookbook for literal comfort food, losing myself in the complex, hours-long recipes for Ghanaian peanut stew, Polish pierogi, and winter nights chili. The porridge, Insanity Burger, and cornbread recipes are also all good, same with the desserts section—the “amazing” apple pie is amazing, as is the Jamaican ginger cake and the German coffee cake. This cookbook will definitely keep you busy in the fall when you want to kill a Sunday with a complex and intricate recipe while the leaves fall outside.
Walking through a fall farmer’s market, I feel inspired from the vegetables in front of me: rainbow carrots, colorful potatoes, organic carrots, squash… Culinary legend Madhur Jaffrey is the one I turn to for vegetarian Indian recipes for the home chef. This 2015 cookbook includes recipes using okra, beets, cauliflower, eggplant… and so many more. From dal to fritters, biryani to the cold-weather classic, curries, it’s all here. If you’re ready to infuse your house with saffron and cardamon, this cookbook helps welcome in the fall harvest with delicious vegetarian recipes to savor.
Saveur: Soups & Stews by the editors of Saveur Magazine
Okay, soups and stews are absolutely fall and winter territory, right? And if you are looking for ambitious recipes to try on a chilly fall day, Saveur: Soups & Stews by the editors of Saveur magazine is an excellent cookbook. This cookbook is a feast for the eyes. One of the things that I love about Saveur magazine is that it features food from all over the world. I really feel like I’m traveling when I read it and cook from their recipes. This cookbook is no exception with recipes from all corners of the globe. Whether you want to go to Japan to Umbria to Kansas City or Mexico, it’s all here. Saveur inspires me to reach higher and be transported. And for the fall (and winter) weather, I can think of no better cookbook to take you all over the world with comfort food.
Cheryl Day and Griffith Day’s Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
I firmly believe that all baking is better with whiskey—and Cheryl Day and Griffith Day, husband and wife owners of Savannah, Georgia’s Back in the Day Bakery, absolutely agree. I think I’ve made almost every recipe in here, and they are all perfect for fall: drunk blondies—which are now a family gathering staple—snickerdoodles, bourbon pecan pie (Thanksgiving dinner tested and approved!), and my personal favorite, cinnamon sour cream coffee cake (which I usually jazz up with some chai tea leaves)… all of the recipes in this cookbook match classic diner desserts with Southern charm. Say goodbye to salads, bid kale adieu, and surrender to the cinnamon.
Fall is here, and winter is coming. It’s time to double the nutmeg and triple the vanilla. Whether you’re a cook or a baker or both, celebrate the fall in your kitchen and home.