Being a home cook can be absolutely exhausting. After a long day of work and responsibilities, searching through tired cookbooks and online databases can become a tedious task. For all of the research that you do, you might only find one or two decent recipes. While outdoor dining and takeout can offer easy alternatives, cooking at home is faster, cheaper, and you can do it in your sweatpants. If you’re looking for something new, there are plenty of incredible cookbooks in the world to help you. Healthy, fresh, and seasonal collections can go a long way to elevate your cooking routine. To spice up your go-to weeknight meals, we’ve put together a list of seven must-read New Jersey cookbooks. These reads are sure to reinvigorate your love of cooking.
1. Ilson Gonçalves – “The Samba Montclair Cookbook”
Chef Ilson Gonçalves always knew he wanted to own a restaurant, but it wasn’t until Samba Montclair had already become a success that he decided to step into the kitchen. After attending the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, Gonçalves felt a renewed passion to source healthy and natural foods for his Brazil-inspired recipes. His New Jersey cookbook of the same name as his restaurant, “The Samba Montclair Cookbook,” was published in 2017, and it reconstructs his childhood experiences of home-style Brazilian cooking in Santa Catarina. “Samba” is full of popular dishes that diners at Samba have enjoyed for years, in addition to recipes that his mom used to make at her own restaurant in Brazil. Gonçalves brings beautiful meals built from scratch and Brazilian cuisine to the fore in “The Samba Montclair Cookbook.”
2. Risa Magid Boyer – “Sweet. Savory. Social. The Vanillamore Cookbook”
At her Vanillamore restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey, Chef Risa Magid Boyer balanced refined desserts with upscale entrees. The New Jersey native attended the Culinary Institute of America, where she recognized her passion for elevating sweet dishes. Unfortunately, due to the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanillamore closed its doors in 2020. On the bright side, chef Boyer has created “Sweet. Savory. Social. The Vanillamore Cookbook,” which is full of fan-favorite recipes to make at home. Made for all experience levels, “The Vanillamore Cookbook” maintains a focus on pastry while using savory dishes as tactful accompaniments. Boyer has made it easy for sugar fiends to bring her confections home, where the legacy of the sweet, savory, and social Vanillamore can live on.
3. Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer – “Cook Something: Recipes to Rely On”
Chefs and Food Stylists Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer have been working together for decades. Both Hamilton and Hirsheimer have considerable and well-earned experience in the food industry. Their production company, Canal House, was founded in 2007 in Milford, New Jersey to serve as a publisher and creative studio for their extensive recipe testing and “Canal House Cooking” series. Their newest cookbook, “Cook Something: Recipes to Rely On,” has 200 recipes for every season, every trained chef, and every home cook. The book contains easy-to-follow instructions and many of Canal House’s signature high-quality images. “Cook Something” is the ultimate New Jersey cookbook for those who have busy lives and a large appetite for home-cooked meals.
4. Shannon Sarna – “Modern Jewish Baker: Challah, Babka, Bagels, & More”
Putting new spins on Jewish classics is Shannon Sarna’s challah and butter. As the editor of the popular Jewish food blog, the Nosher, Sarna’s expertise is deeply rooted in Jewish baking traditions. The South Orange-based foodie’s new cookbook, “Modern Jewish Baker,” celebrates many baked goods that Jewish people love by upgrading them and modernizing them with fun twists. Readers will learn how to make challah, hamantaschen, rugelach, babka, bagels, and even more, as the title promises. With options for make-ahead recipes, tips on techniques and tools, and 100 splendid photographs, Sarna has made “Modern Jewish Baker” as accessible as possible for all experience levels. Once you’ve got the techniques down, Sarna’s creative flavor combinations will give new life to the Jewish comfort foods that you knew growing up.
5. Maricel E. Presilla – “Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor”
Though Chef Maricel E. Presilla lives in Weehawken, New Jersey now, she grew up in Santiago de Cuba. She started out as a cultural anthropologist and history professor who taught and studied the history of cuisine. Presilla co-owned Cucharamama, which sadly closed its doors in July of 2020 after 16 years of business. She earned a James Beard Award at Cucharamama, and she has had parallel success as a co-owner of Zafra in Hoboken. Her newest cookbook, “Peppers of the Americas,” is an ode to all of the peppers that Presilla painstakingly grew at her home in New Jersey. After years of cultivating and testing as many varieties as possible, Presilla’s “Peppers of the Americas” includes about 180 different peppers and 41 Latin-American recipes that utilize them. The cookbook is the culmination of a culinary anthropologist’s intense research and the passion of a thoughtful Latin-American chef.
6. Kate Winslow and Guy Ambrosino – “Onions Etcetera: The Essential Allium Cookbook”
For almost all home cooks, onions are always in the pantry. Recipe developer and food writer Kate Winslow was inspired by both the simplicity and complexity of this humble ingredient, and along with her husband, photographer Guy Ambrosino, she created “Onions Etcetera: The Essential Allium Cookbook.” The couple lives and works out of Lambertville, New Jersey, and draws their inspiration from Ambrosino’s Italian heritage as well as their culinary-focused travels. The book is a love letter to onions, garlic, scallions, and the like. It includes 130 recipes with the allium family at the core. Despite a central theme of onions, “Onions Etcetera” is a New Jersey cookbook that spans many different cultures, flavor profiles, and textures. Winslow and Ambrosino aim to show restaurant and home chefs many ways to appreciate and reimagine an ingredient that we often take for granted.
7. John Holl – “Dishing Up New Jersey: 150 Recipes from the Garden State”
Most people who know John Holl immediately associate him with one word: beer. His path in journalism has taken him on a deep dive into the culture of drinking and producing beer, but his newest cookbook is a complete departure from the yeasty beverage. “Dishing Up New Jersey” is the product of Holl’s most recent venture through his home state. In order to collect all 150 recipes, Holl did an in-depth search from North to South for the absolute best dishes he could find. The result is a comprehensive depiction of New Jersey’s diverse food culture, traditions, and home-grown produce.
Are there any great New Jersey cookbooks that we missed? Comment your favorites below!