Food books are falling this month

Compared to last year, this autumn yields a relatively smaller harvest of books by Chicago chefs and food writers; there aren’t as many aspiring authors cooped up in quarantine, I suppose. But by any standards, four titles dropping over the next four weeks—by a quartet of heavy hitters—offer plenty of projects for the cold weather kitchen-bound.

Justice of the Pies, Maya-Camille Broussard 

I don’t know if there’s ever been a sweeter cookbook published in Chicago history than social justice piepreneur Broussard’s debut. It’s as much a tribute to her late father—a self-proclaimed “pie master”—as it is to local food icons. Both serve as inspirations for the endlessly inventive chef, who creates pies (sweet, savory, and whoopie), tarts, and fetching miscellanea informed by everything from pizza puffs, to Italian beef, to Chicago hot dogs, to the lentil soup at the Nile, the churros at Xoco, and the carrot cake at Lawrence’s Fish and Shrimp. The pies are gorgeous and alluring, and include a collection inspired by activists Broussard admires and profiles at length. But stick to the headnotes alone and a bittersweet portrait of a loving but complicated father-daughter relationship emerges. (Clarkson Potter, October 18)

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Dine in Palestine, Heifa Odeh

In 2019 the blogger behind Fufu’s Kitchen got a nod from Saveur magazine (“best food culture blog”), and now here’s the print expression of Odeh’s command of the breadth of traditional Palestinian cooking (“layered” fattet hummus; freekeh-stuffed chicken, olive oil-preserved labneh) and creative flexes (za’atar cake with olives and halloumi, chocolate almond baklava, fudgy pomegranate brownies with tahini). If, unlike Odeh, you don’t live in a paradise of Middle Eastern grocery stores such as Chicago, you might appreciate a glossary and online sources for some of the more uncommon ingredients. Not everyone can stroll down South Harlem Avenue and price sahlep powder for their homemade ice cream. But that’s what search engines are for. (Page Street, September 13)

Listen to Your Vegetables, Sarah Grueneberg and Kate Heddings

The Monteverde chef and Top Chef runner-up is best known for pasta supremacy, so this encyclopedic 432-page collection (from artichoke to tomato) is a glorious surprise—even if it comes at the end of the growing season. Grueneberg is trained in the Italian aesthetic of simplicity and superior product, but even with that the variety contained within is exhaustive and a mine of useful tips and techniques (ex: don’t oil your vegetables before grilling). You probably don’t think you need eight asparagus recipes, but flip through them and you’ll see that you do. Bonus points for the unwritten assumption (Chapter 11) that pasta is a vegetable. (Harvest, October 25)

Bread Head: Baking for the Road Less Traveled, Greg Wade and Rachel Holtzman

If (like me) you have a visceral distaste for the Grateful Dead, you might not want to give this a chance. Much like an endless Jerry jam, the Publican Quality Bread head baker’s Dead references are . . . gratuitous. But press on. Arising from the sourdough pandemic, Wade’s approach to bread and pastry is, at its core, clear, precise, and beginner-friendly, even when he wades into the weeds. A staunch advocate for local and sustainably grown grains, Wade makes even the most challenging projects (maple rye kouign amann, anyone?) seem like achievable—if long-term—goals. If you’re even a casual restaurant goer, you’ve probably eaten Wade’s bread, and if you have no intention of mastering his signature multigrain sourdough, Bread Head serves as engrossing liner notes to what you might find on the shelves any given day at PQB’s marvelous new West Town retail bakery. (Norton, September 27)

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