This March, we're taking you on a tour of the Old World, with a focus on how traditional European dishes are influencing modern cuisine.
We'd all love to spend a few months backpacking through Tuscany, but petty things like money and jobs can get in the way. So we turn to alternative outlets to cure that travel bug. These 14 cookbooks, both old and new, are our go-to resources for European cuisine from the Western tip of Portugal to Russia in the East, ideal for wishful travelers and aspiring chefs alike. Pick a region to explore or go ahead and buy them all—it's still cheaper than a plane ticket.
Catalan Cuisine, by Colman Andrews (Harvard Common Press, $19)
Andrews's extensive guide to the cuisine of northeastern Spain was first published in 1988, before tapas bars had yet to spring to prominence in many U.S. cities' restaurant scenes. Now, nearly 30 years later, it's just as reliable a resource. Use it to master paella or to prep your palate for a trip to Barcelona—there's even a pronunciation guide in the back.
Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, by Jody Williams (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)
There's always a line at Williams's quaint West Village restaurant, so use this book for your own Buvette experience. She proves that eating like the French doesn't have to mean a stick of butter with every meal. Exhibit A: this mayo-free warm chicken salad that's perfect for easing into spring.
A Kitchen in France, by Mimi Thorisson (Clarkson Potter, $40)
Thorisson gives new meaning to kitchen envy by the way she documents a year of farmhouse cooking. She grew up in Hong Kong, moved to Paris and then ventured into the Southwest French countryside, where she learned to pick cèpes on the side of a road. The recipes are organized by season and highlight seasonal market goods, like artichoke soufflé for spring and vegetable cocotte for winter.
Please to the Table, by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman (Workman Publishing Company, $30)
While some wet blanket power brokers were busy with political negotiations during the collapse of the USSR, these culinary experts were compiling the definitive guide to Eastern Europe's varied cuisine. It brought to light food from these 15 suddenly new countries and, quite literally, put them on the map. Though organized by meal rather than country, the authors' goal to avoid "homogenizing the terrific diversity of foods in the USSR" means there are abundant side notes about the individual countries' cultures that help you learn beyond the stove.
My Portugal, by George Mendes (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $35)
The chef of Aldea and Lupulo in New York uses his first cookbook to pay homage to his Portuguese heritage, weaving personal touches with hard facts and recipes. The result is a blend of extensive research eating and drinking through his mother country and his lifetime of meals prepared by his Portuguese parents.
Spritz, by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau (Ten Speed Press, $19)
This book's pages bubble with 50 recipes for the iconic Italian aperitivo, with headnotes proving that the Punch editor in chief and former managing editor have done their research. There are also snack recipes, because the Italians would never drink without ample crostini and sautéed artichokes. If you're heading to the Boot soon, a photocopy of the section entitled "where to spritz in Italy" will be your best travel companion.
Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Eastern Europe, by Olia Hercules (Weldon Owen, $35)
This book from Ukraine-born Hercules is a welcome reminder that Europe extends past Italy and France. She shares versions of classic regional recipes that are gently refined by years spent as a chef in London and still manages to keep everything accessible to the home cook. She also generously shares stories with each recipe, like her family's stuffed cabbage that she ate so often growing up.
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Das Cookbook, by Hans Röckenwagner (Prospect Park Books, $30)
It might not seem like California's kale salads would mesh well with Germany's spaetzle, but Röckenwagner's book will leave you thinking otherwise. There's both potato rösti and California hash, proving the two cuisines do live harmoniously and add to the playful but believable vibe. And in a region so dedicated to artisanal breads, making a sourdough starter for a whole-grain-speckled Steiner brot doesn't seem too off the mark.
The Food of Spain, by Claudia Roden (Ecco, $45)
Any search for the best Mediterranean cookbooks will inevitably lead to Roden's name—at least twice. The James Beard Award-winning author covers Spain with 600-plus pages of incredible scope and detail that won't leave you wanting. It doesn't hurt that her writing is a delight.
The Hungarian Cookbook, by Susan Derecskey (William Morrow Cookbooks, $20)
Simple yet delicious recipes for chicken paprikash, strudel and traditional goulash redefine our notion of comfort food as being thoroughly central European. Whichever recipe you go with, don't go gentle into that Hungarian paprika. There's also a brief primer on the different wines from Hungary, a region that has experienced a recent boom of interest.
Food from Many Greek Kitchens, by Tessa Kiros (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $35)
Traditional Greek dishes are full of rich backstories, and Kiros never fails to go into detail, which is evident in her extensive section on the dishes and traditions of Greek Easter. The recipes are written with an easy, flowing hand ("cook until the onion and garlic smell good") that reflects the Greek's anything-goes culture.
The Farmette Cookbook, by Imen McDonnell (Roost Books, $35)
Warning: This book will make you want to start a new life in the Irish countryside. That's what McDonnell did, and then she wrote this cookbook about how she used cooking to navigate her new life on her husband's family farm. Diverse recipes like Irish dulse miso soup and soft Irish cheese tamales prove that the region's ingredients lend themselves to more than just bangers and mash—though she's not one to leave out the classic.
Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking, by Darra Goldstein (Ten Speed Press, $40)
The term new Nordic is getting stale, but this is not new Nordic. This is Scandinavian cuisine as it's always been but rejiggered for the American home cook—no foraging necessary—and presented with stunning photography. Work your way through the larder section for a dreamy pantry stocked with juniper butter, birch-infused vodka and glögg made with white wine.
Pasta by Hand, by Jenn Louis (Chronicle Books, $25)
We're sure the Portland chef didn't mind the research it took to write this book. Namely, the time spent in a Fiat traveling around Italy, cooking and tasting one regional dish after another. She proves that gnocchi is just a gateway drug into the world of Italian dumplings, which also includes passatelli (bread crumb-based and passed through a potato ricer) and crescentina (leavened, fried and highly snackable).
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