The last few years have been rich in cookbooks for kitchen explorers — the briners and gardeners and smokers, the hunters of black cardamom and Aleppo pepper. But this year's books are for your average cook, who's not new to the kitchen but needed a reason (like the economy, stupid!) to return to it.
It's a vast but practical collection that promises weeknight dinners that don't soil every pot you own, made from ordinary ingredients. The regional and ethnic cookbooks — and there are some fine ones, particularly from the Far East — are mostly homey, one-pot affairs. Even the more adventurous baking books owe more to deep-seated cravings than culinary ambition.
If last year's books tried to teach you everything from shucking a clam to boning a duck, this year the point is just to get in the kitchen and cook. Or, with apologies to two campaigns that put "kitchen-table" issues front and center this year: Dinner first! Can we cook it? Yes, we can!