If you’re curious about where the saying “dog days of summer” comes from, it was the Ancient Greeks who noticed that Sirius, dubbed the “dog star,” is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. It appears to rise alongside the sun in late July.
This led the Greeks to believe the combined power of the sun and Sirius is what made this season the hottest time of year. With Sirius rising along with the sweltering temperatures, our summer eating habits shift, a change that is apparently rooted in our anatomy. The hypothalamus — the portion of our brains that regulates temperature and hunger — works to cool our bodies down and create cravings for specific foods from fresh produce and fruits to chilled treats. There’s even a link between eating spicy foods and cooling down.
As things heat up, here’s a list of 10 cookbooks that bring the flavors of summer to counter the scorching heat. The bonus? They’re all recommended by culinary hot shots from around the globe.
“50 Pies, 50 States: An Immigrant’s Love Story to the United States” by Stacey Mei Yan Fong
The foodie world seems to have fallen in love with the technicolor brightness and bliss of Abi Balingit’s “Mayumu,” so we reached out to the talented baker for her recommendation for a summery book to indulge in: “I highly recommend ‘50 Pies, 50 States’ by Stacey Mei Yan Fong!” said Balingit. “It’s the perfect book to find a recipe for a pie to bring to a summer BBQ or picnic! And there’s a plethora of sweet and savory options. The Singapore Pandan Cream Pie with toasted coconut, mango and coconut whipped cream is my favorite, and it makes for a refreshing tropical dessert.”
Fong’s book, which is essentially a love letter to the dessert often found atop picnic tables, is a pie map of America’s most beloved crust-based treat. The project led her across the country to find the best pies to represent each state.
In South Dakota, she took inspiration from Sioux nation chef Sean Sherman to create her wild rice pudding pie, and she created an all-you-can-eat-buffet-style pie for Nevada. In Mississippi, she went with the traditional mud pie, and in Kentucky, a Derby pie with blackberry sauce. There’s also several pie recipes from Fong herself which pay homage to her own immigrant journey from Southeast Asia to Brooklyn, New York, like A Kope Jahe Pie in honor of her childhood in Indonesia and a bagel order pie to celebrate her present New York City home.
“I started my project when I was in the process of applying for my green card,” Fong told HuffPost. “Visa application is something that is very long and arduous. You are buried in mountains of paperwork and questions that I wanted to have something on the side that would remind me why I was going through all the trouble of doing so. I loved baking pie and thought it would be fun to learn more about the country I had chosen to call home through pie.”
“Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day is a Good Day” by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie
Fong’s summer recommendation is the debut cookbook from James Beard Award-winning pitmaster, Chef Rodney Scott: “I recently purchased ‘Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ’ after watching his ‘Chef’s Table’ episode and being supremely moved. I can’t wait to visit his restaurant. I will be reading that bad boy cover to cover not just for the recipes but for the heart.”
The cookbook celebrates the culinary legacy, culture and family traditions of slow-cooked meats, as well as Scott’s talent. Scott, who cooked his first whole hog when he was only 11 years old, grew up working at his family’s barbecue restaurant in Hemingway, South Carolina. Decades later, he now owns one of the country’s most awarded and talked-about barbecue joints, Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ in Charleston, South Carolina. The book is co-written by award-winning writer Lolis Eric Elie and details the secrets of Scott’s pit-smoked turkey, barbecued spare ribs smoked chicken wings, Ella’s banana puddin’, and more mouthwatering and award-winning dishes.
Easy enough for home chefs to use, Scott’s book is also interspersed with essays on South Carolinian foodways and traditions — a poignant work of storytelling about a modern American success story. The book provides insight into what has shaped the pitmaster into the man he is today: the small town where he previously worked in tobacco fields and the family smokehouse, the sacrifices made to grow his family’s business, and the hopeful leap he made to venture out on his own in Charleston.
“Salt of the Earth” by Carolina Doriti
If you don’t have plans to be on a Mediterranean isle this summer, try immersing yourself in the recently published Greek cookbook “Salt of the Earth” from Athens-born Carolina Doriti. The chef, food stylist and culinary producer of the BBC TV series “My Greek Table,” Doriti writes about food with an expert inquisitiveness of the history of Greek gastronomy and lost recipes.
Diane Kochilas, author and presenter of “My Greek Table,” praised Doriti’s “Salt of the Earth” for the author’s “obviously deep knowledge of the Greek landscape in every dish she lovingly and generously prepares. To have captured the traditional soul of the Greek table and to give it a breath of fresh air is a beautiful thing.” This treasure of Greek recipes and stories is an eruption of flavors that immerses readers with a focus on Greek local produce and ancient techniques. It’s a stunning cookbook that’s beautiful enough to leave out on your coffee table with photography set against the backdrop of Greece’s mainland and islands. Personal favorite dishes include the “monastery-style” aubergine salad with black olives and sun-dried tomatoes and the “melopita,” a baked honey cheesecake recipe that is based on an ancient version from the book “Deipnosophistae,” which was written by Athenaeus in 230 CE.
“Mayumu” by Abi Balingit
There’s a reason you’ve seen the brightly colored tantalizing cover of Abi Balingit’s “Mayumu” on just about everyone’s baking “it” list — it’s like the baking revolution we all wanted, but the publishing industry didn’t know it needed. Balingit’s delicious and fun debut, “Mayumu,” is an ingenious reimagining of Filipino American dessert recipes with essays about the Filipino American experience by the baker and author. It comes heavily recommended by fans and the media.
Jonny Sun, New York Times bestselling author of “Goodbye, Again,” gushed about the cookbook: “Every recipe and every story in ‘Mayumu’ bursts off the page with joy, love, ingenuity and personality. Abi’s work is vibrant, eclectic, comforting, funny, deeply moving, and, to me, feels like a uniquely perfect articulation of the intricacies, depths and jubilations of being Asian American. ‘Mayumu’ is a celebration of what it means to be human and alive today. I absolutely adore this book.”
Balingit, who grew up in California’s Bay Area and Central Valley, explored her culinary tastes in a diverse part of the state from an early age — from American junk food like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to her local Mexican paleterias and nearby Asian markets ― along with the inspiration of her mother’s own Filipino heritage and culture, which inspired Balingit’s ingenious and exuberant book. Try your hand at making the Halo-Halo Baked Alaska for the next outdoor cookout or jump in on the trend of making Balingit’s now New York Times-famous Adobo Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.
“Cooking in Marfa: Welcome, We’ve Been Expecting You” by Virginia Lebermann, Rocky Barnette and Douglas Friedman
Marfa, the small town resting in the high plains of the Chihuahua desert, remains an elusive place in West Texas. Sure, it’s been blessed multiple times by Beyoncé and hosts the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love. But life in Marfa moves at a purposefully slowed-down pace and, for Chef Tony Lurhman, the taco master behind the award-winning El Topo in Houston, it’s wonderful.
“I like Marfa because of how strange it is. It’s a storybook town on the fumes of an acid trip in the middle of a desert known for UFO activity and somehow unsurprisingly a wellspring for virtually every art imaginable,” he said. And for a summer read, Luhrman recommends the Phaidon-published “Cooking in Marfa,” co-written by chef of The Capri Virginia Lebermann, which takes inspiration from “locals and ranchers to artists, museum-board members, and discerning tourists” with more than 80 recipes inspired by local food sources to shine a light on this unique community told through the lens of food. “An authoritative source for cooking food for hot weather that explores native ingredients, myriad techniques, and the complicated, strange landscape of West Texas.”
“Pulp: A Practical Guide to Cooking With Fruit” by Abra Berens
Bias can only hold so much weight when you’re discussing food. It’s a pretty visceral response for most where taste is concerned. Rarely will someone, even if they know the chef personally, make a plea to eat somewhere they don’t like. For Rodger Bowser, head chef of Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he certainly has the bias of having worked with Abra Berens previously, but in my own personal opinion, his recommendation is a perfectly ripe one.
Berens’ latest book, “Pulp,” is an inventive cookbook that encourages home chefs to not just use fruit for mornings and desserts but in their mains throughout the day as well. With recipes bursting with fruit that offer a twist on the usual roasted vegetables to elevate the flavor of pork and brisket, “Pulp” presents the adaptability of fruit in many dishes.
Chef Bowser, in an email, mentioned his past experience with Berens, who previously worked in Zingerman’s Deli kitchen with him: “I think she’s done a really great job in all her books of coming up with recipes for Michigan’s diversity of agricultural offerings. They’re all great books, including this latest one that is all about fruit — perfect for summer!” When it comes to a favorite recipe in Berens’ stunning ode to the sweet produce, Bowser said, “It’s really hard to choose in this book, but the grilled chicken and apricots is a summer favorite for me, and I am also a sucker for fresh Western Michigan blueberries, so the savory salad with oat groats and chicory hits home.”
Berens’ book has also been touted as a Best Books of Spring 2023 by Eater.
“Mezcla” by Ixta Belfrage
Last year, it was difficult to miss the electric pink cover of Ixta Belfrage’s fusion cookbook, “Mezcla,” but the book is so much more than a pretty exterior: It was named one of the Best Cookbooks From Chefs Around the World by Forbes, an impressive nod for Belfrage’s debut cookbook. The book is a collection of over 100 recipes inspired by Italy, Mexico and more cultural influences. In an article with Vogue, Belfrage mentioned the sometimes mixed responses to fusion: “When fusion first started in the late ’90s, early noughties, people thought it was code for food that was all over the place, without focus, a bit sloppy,” but with a razor sharp talent for combining flavors (many of which are a mixture of her own up-bringing), the chef has proven a deft ability to create inspired dishes.
Chef Shelagh Ryan, who is also the food director of Old Queen Street Café, is one of the many, many fans of Belfrage’s talent. “‘Mezcla’ by Ixta Belfrage is my go-to cookbook. Her recipes are so original and full of flavor, color and personality. It’s exactly the type of food I like to eat — lots of fresh flavors and spice with multicultural influences.” When asked which recipe is best for summer, Belfrage recommends her chicken with pineapple and nduja, or the brown butter sea bass with tangerine dipping sauce.
“PAON: Real Balinese Cooking” by Tjok Maya Kerthyasa and I Wayan Kresna Yasa
I’m sure there’s a culinary proverb about trusting a New Orleans chef when it comes to recommending food. Here is the recommendation from Sophina Uong, chef and owner of Mister Mao in New Orleans, which was named one of Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants 2022: “Paon: Real Balinese Cooking” by Tjok Maya Kerthyasa and I Wayan Kresna Yasa.
“The recipes in this cookbook speak summer garden party to me. It’s filled with great ideas and recipes to celebrate summer weekends with friends over dishes like chicken or pork Satay, young papaya salad (which you can substitute green mangoes or fresh corn), shredded chicken salad with white cucumber sambal and more. There are a ton of standout dishes for a backyard BBQ or gathering.”
Authors Tjok Maya Kerthyasa and I Wayan Kresna Yasa’s feature 80 recipes, including the Pepes Telengis, a savory and sweet snack made from the coconut oil pulp that is blended with spices, wrapped in banana leaves, and then grilled over coconut husk. There’s also a transcendent grilled spiced snapper recipe, perfect for the summer season.
“Tin to Table” by Anna Hezel
Several chefs rave about Anna Hezel’s ode to tin-based fare that pops open the briny delicacies of tinned fish cooking with over 50 recipes. Hezel is a senior editor at Epicurious, and her second book is perfect for anyone aiming for no-fuss snacks or quick and creative meals. Taking inspiration from the shores of the “Mediterranean to the salmon smokehouses of Alaska and the deep blue coves of Spain and beyond,” the cheeky cookbook has enchanted many in the food world including Ryan Bartlow, the chef and owner behind acclaimed Basque-inspired restaurant Ernesto’s. It has also been named one of Bon Appetit’s Best Cookbooks of Spring 2023.
“If there is one cookbook that I could recommend to kick off the summer, it would be ‘Tin to Table’ by Anna Hezel,” Bartlow said. “The book gives a fabulous insight into the world of tinned fish, which has come into fashion as of late. There are many different conservation brands producing premium products which are listed in the book. On top of that, there are simple and delicious recipes that utilize these products. Most are perfect for summer.”
Chef Charlotte Langley, co-founder and chef of Scout, a responsibly-sourced craft tinned seafood cannery is naturally a fan of the book as well: “A treasure trove of tinned fish cooking secrets, [‘Tin to Table’] has me absolutely buzzing with excitement! As much as I love experimenting in the kitchen, there’s something about the convenience and versatility of tinned fish that has always captivated me.” One of the many standout recipes is the Vermouth hour potato chips with mussels, olives and piparras — this with a view along a riverside is the ultimate summer experience.
“Tenderheart” by Hetty McKinnon
“Tenderheart” is a loving homage to author Hetty McKinnon’s father, a Chinese immigrant in Australia. It’s also a highly praised vegetarian cookbook named one of Bon Appetit’s Best Books of Spring 2023 and raved about by some of the top culinary minds like Nigella Lawson and Molly Yeh. This is McKinnon’s fourth cookbook, which explores how food serves as a form of connection to our loved ones and familial roots full of healthy, economical and vibrant recipes. “Tenderheart” features 22 essential fruits and vegetables that become the basis for over 180 recipes.
“The versatility of vegetables and her new cookbook ‘Tenderheart’ is a delightful celebration of ingredients,” said Yewande Komolafe, a Berlin-born, Lagos-raised and Brooklyn-based food writer and food stylist. “She shares with readers how memory has played a role in her career in food, moving through themes of family, sustenance and a personal account of the evolution of grief. It’s an incredibly moving read, and her recipes are a delight to cook through!” Standout dishes include the carrot and vermicelli buns, chocolate-eggplant brownies, and broccoli wontons with umami crisp.
“State Bird Provisions: A Cookbook” by JJ Goode, Stuart Brioza and Nicole Kransinski
The 2017 debut cookbook from one of the country’s most celebrated and pioneering restaurants, Michelin-starred State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, won over many fans including Chef Ric Rosser of Spread Oaks Ranch based in Markham, Texas.
“The quail...and the onions...damn those onions! This is the book that inspires other chefs with the use of condiments, aioli and vinaigrettes,” Rosser said. “It has great content to peruse and consider what will be your next dish during the long days of summer. To top it off, I will finish with their ice cream sandwich...meringue cookies? When I heard it, I felt dumb for not thinking about it myself, and then I read the recipe and knew at once this was a great cookbook to have in our kitchen.”
State Bird Provisions Chefs Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s original approach to cooking blends seemingly disparate influences, flavors and textures in their finely crafted dishes ― ranging from potato chips with creme fraiche and cured trout roe to their famous savory chanterelle pancakes with lardo and maple vinegar and, of course, their signature fried quail with stewed onions. The book, although several years since publishing, remains a favorite for many chefs like Rosser.