Despite its title, Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals wasn’t written with your mom in mind. Sure, Caroline Wright mastered quick cooking as editor at Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, and the housewives of America eat better for it. But at home in Park Slope she put a city spin on the concept, whipping up quick-but-killer dinners for her sophisticated friends. Soon she was teaching classes at the Brooklyn Kitchen and compiled the best of the fast-cheap-awesomeness into a book. Break out a timer and a 20 and you’ll be serving up mussels in mustard-beer broth, spaghetti with ramps, merguez burgers, or something called sardines+polenta+onions+raisins that we could eat, well, every day.
Pick up Homemade with Love and you might think the cookbook was written by an upstate farmwife, but Jennifer Perillo perfected everything from chicken potpie to cherry pie pockets in her Carroll Gardens kitchen. The third-generation Brooklynite adopted such a pioneer lifestyle that her Queens-bred husband, Mikey, would teasingly ask when she’d start making their water. But it’s not all biscuits and molasses-butter: Jennie’s BK background shines in her manicotti (which takes you through making your own pasta dough and ricotta) and egg cream—sweetened with DIY chocolate syrup.
If you think strawberries and rhubarb are destined for dessert, you need a copy of New Persian Kitchen. Williamsburg’s Louisa Shafia cooked at Aquavit and Pure Food & Wine, and her new book is replete with Greenmarket ingredients, but the recipes think outside the New American box—drawing inspiration from Iran, Shafia’s ancestral homeland. Stateside, the ancient combinations taste breathtakingly new: watermelon tonic, salty mint soda and a dip that calls only for yogurt, shallots, salt and pepper. Or take those strawberries and rhubarb: Rather than a sweet crisp, Shafia serves them in a savory salad with garlic and radishes. It’s simple but utterly surprising, and fresh in more ways than one.