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Cookbook Potluck

by Stefanie Berntson

Bookshop’s annual staff cookbook potluck is an event I look forward to as much as a birthday or special occasion. As the store’s cookbook buyer, it’s no surprise that I love trying out the new books of the season before they’ve landed on our shelves, but my favorite thing about the potluck is the participation of my coworkers. It is such a pleasure to see what dishes they make, to hear about their experiences cooking from the books, and of course, to sample all of the food! It’s also a great pleasure to recap the potluck for you. We hope you find some new books to try or to gift to your favorite home cooks. Looking for even more great new cookbooks? See our culinary staff recommendations here.

The World Central Kitchen Cookbook
by José Andrés

One of the biggest books of the season is The World Central Kitchen Cookbook. Jocelyn read and reviewed José Andrés’s book We Fed an Island (2018) and couldn’t wait to try out this continuation of WCK’s story. Proceeds from sales of this collection of stories and recipes support Andrés’s nonprofit, which feeds communities impacted by natural disasters and humanitarian crises. This cookbook is filled with global recipes, scaled to serve 4–6 people or 100+, and includes Chicken Chili Verde, a dish made for local firefighters who battled the 2020 CZU Lightning Fire. Jocelyn made Firefighter Chili, described in the introduction as “a simple, forgiving dish,” and our staff (especially those who like spice) loved it!

Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours
by Adeena Sussman

Adeena Sussman, author of the staff favorite Sababa, returns with Shabbat—a book packed with family memories and stories, plus recipes for main dishes (Bubbe’s Extra-Crispy Potato Kugel, Fig & Pomegranate Brisket), challah, salads, side dishes, and desserts. Jenny was the lucky one to try out Shabbat at home and said it was wonderful to read and cook from. She baked the Cardamom Berry Crisp for the potluck and said it could not have been easier to make. We think it couldn’t have been tastier to eat. The juicy berries and crispy crumble were seriously delicious!

Basics with Babish: Recipes for Screwing Up, Trying Again, and Hitting It Out of the Park
by Andrew Rea

Jax started learning to cook during the pandemic, and one big reason she had the confidence to try was Andrew Rea’s Binging with Babish show on YouTube. She is happy to report that the Basics with Babish cookbook features all of the fantastic qualities of his show—instructions on techniques like knife skills, easy-to-follow recipes, remedies for when things go awry, and Rea’s irreverent sense of humor. Jax says it is truly a book designed to hold beginners by the hand and guide them through cooking. Based on her glowing review (and the delicious Chili con Carne she made for the potluck), we suggest you run out and get this book for anyone starting out in the kitchen. 

Simply West African: Easy, Joyful Recipes for Every Kitchen
by Pierre Thiam, with Lisa Katayama 

Pierre Thiam wrote Simply West African to show how easy it is to incorporate West African dishes into everyday cooking and to showcase the beauty of a culture that’s centered around community. I couldn’t wait to try out the book’s tempting recipes, which use easy-to-find ingredients. I finally settled on Sautéed Corn, Shiitake Mushrooms & Cherry Tomatoes for the potluck. Thiam promised that it would be incredibly easy to prepare and a popular dish at any gathering and he was so right! I made the garlicky parsley rof (which he says “makes the dish uniquely West African”) the night before, so all I had to do was sauté the vegetables and add the rof right before our get-together. Lest you worry, as I did, that the habanero-laced rof might make the dish too spicy (when I tasted it on its own, it was fire!), fear not! Once mixed in, it makes everything sing. I am looking forward to continuing to cook from this fantastic book.

Company: The Radically Casual Art of Cooking for Others
by Amy Thielen

This gorgeous new book by Amy Thielen (Give a Girl a Knife, The New Midwestern Table) is designed with relaxed hosting in mind. Jax brought a copy home and loved the casual voice of the author, how fun (and funny!) the book was to read, and the full menus for all occasions (“Saturday Nights,” “Holidays”). Trying out recipes turned out to be a great lesson in trusting the author, as the Reformed Dill Dip & Iced Garden Veggies she made for the potluck had so much dill that Jax’s inner voice screamed “What? No!” but of course, it turned out to be just perfect.   

South of Somewhere: Recipes and Stories from My Life in South Africa, South Korea & the American South
by Dale Gray 

Food blogger Dale Gray’s unique experience of growing up in South Africa, teaching in South Korea, and now living in the American South drew me to her book. How are all of these cultures and experiences reflected in her food? The answer is: Deliciously. Some of her recipes clearly reflect one region or another, like Forgotten Greens Mac & Cheese (southern US), Shebashuka (South Africa), and Soul Satisfying Fish Cake Dinner (South Korea). Others, like Kimchi-Braised Lamb Shanks, bring flavors from multiple cultures together. For our potluck I made the Pimento Cheese Tomato Pie Galette, and it was fantastic. A savory crust envelopes a pimento cheese base and layers of heirloom tomatoes and shallots. Once baked, it’s topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and torn basil. It’s a total stunner—which is a common theme in South of Somewhere. Can’t wait to try some of those shrimp and chicken recipes that made my mouth water!  

Snacking Bakes: Simple Recipes for Cookies, Bars, Brownies, Cakes, and More
by Yossy Arefi

Ivy was excited to try out Snacking Bakes, Yossy Arefi’s highly anticipated follow-up to her bestseller Snacking Cakes. Like its predecessor, Snacking Bakes features quick-to-make recipes (using time-saving tricks like melted butter instead of room-temperature butter) with minimal special ingredients and easy cleanup. Basically, a total win! Arefi thinks baked goods shouldn’t be saved for special occasions and should be made and eaten anytime. You won’t find Ivy (or any of us) arguing, especially after enjoying Frosted Lemon-Lime Sugar Cookie Bars at the potluck. Expect this book to be another hit! 



Stefanie Berntson has had the pleasure of being the cookbook buyer at Bookshop Santa Cruz for more than 30 years.

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