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posted: 8/6/2014 5:30 AM

11 cookbooks for summer and beyond

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  • Looking for a fun summer read? Consider any of these cookbooks.

      Looking for a fun summer read? Consider any of these cookbooks.
    The Washington Post

By Bonnie S. Benwick
The Washington Post

Faced with a choice between updating a beach wardrobe or my cache of cookbooks suited to warm weather, I'll go with the latter every time. Waves of spring and summer ingredients ebb and flow with such urgent appeal that it's all too easy to celebrate them simply, and mostly unadorned. But an innovative recipe that involves, say, blueberries will work its way into my gray matter -- the result of which is that twice the usual amount comes home from the farmers market, or half of what's on hand is held in reserve.

Besides quirks of preparation, I look for cookbooks with resource value. Although I won't dive into "The Freekeh Cookbook" every other day, I might remember from flipping through it that lasagnas, a shrimp dish and even a spicy meatless burger are among my options. Finding an engaging, thoughtful writer like Sunday Telegraph columnist Diana Henry is a bonus. Her "Change of Appetite" has spent as much time on the bedside table as it has on the kitchen counter.

In alphabetical order:

"A Change of Appetite: Where Healthy Meets Delicious" by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley, $35). If you're not acquainted with this London author's work, this is a fine place to start. She's smart, detail-oriented, an enthusiast of many cuisines and does her own lovely food styling.

"The Better Bean Cookbook: More Than 160 Modern Recipes for Beans, Chickpeas and Lentils to Tempt Meat-Eaters and Vegetarians Alike" by Jenny Chandler (Sterling Epicure, $25). The very long subtitle means there's meat and seafood in the book. In addition to this trove of unfussy recipes, the cooking instructor and food blogger offers a gemlike glossary and soak/no-soak chart.

"The Freekeh Cookbook: Healthy, Delicious, Easy-to-Prepare Meals With America's Hottest Grain" by Bonnie Matthews (Skyhorse Publishing, $18). The former part-time Trader Joe's demo cook was so taken with freekeh that she partnered with a producer to grow and sell an organic form of the ancient, cracked green wheat.

"Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes" by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck (Running Press, $27.50). Props go to the farm-savvy authors for offering several gooseberry dishes. Skip ahead to the "Putting Up for Winter" chapter, where more summer fruits are featured.

"International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World" by Mark Kurlansky and Talia Kurlansky (Bloomsbury, $29). This is an early favorite in the upcoming wave of cookbooks for children, because of its rating system for difficulty, its range and the way in which Talia's notes are spot-on. Everybody can learn, and everybody will eat.

"Itsu the Cookbook: 100 Low-Calorie Eat Beautiful Recipes for Health and Happiness" by Julian Metcalfe and Blanche Vaughan, with Angela Dowden (Mitchell Beazley, $20). The man who has planted a Pret Á Manger on hundreds of street corners focuses here on clean Asian eating and simple preparations, with a particularly chockablock chapter of sauces and dressings.

Southern Living's "The Slim Down South Cookbook: Eating Well and Living Healthy in the Land of Biscuits and Bacon" by Carolyn O'Neil (Oxmoor House, $25). We'll put aside any debate over whether almond biscotti and migas tacos represent the title material. "Stay-slim secrets" of the successful and Southern, including the Lee Brothers and chef Hugh Acheson, are sprinkled throughout the book; chew on those.

"The Cheesemonger's Seasons: Recipes for Enjoying Cheeses With Ripe Fruits and Vegetables" by Chester Hastings (Chronicle, $35). The chef-author's pairings are unexpected; he understands that cheese can play a key role alongside a well-constructed dish as well as incorporated within it. Chances are good that you'll be seeking out cheeses you've never heard of -- a worthwhile endeavor.

"Treat Yourself: 70 Classic Snacks You Loved as a Kid (and Still Love Today)" by Jennifer Steinhauer (Clarkson Potter, $20). Boomers' guilty pleasures are writ pure (read: preservative-free) in this clever collection. This is not all Twinkies and Heath Bars -- there are Fritos and Ritz Crackers, too.

"Vibrant Food: Celebrating the Ingredients, Recipes and Colors of Each Season" by Kimberley Hasselbrink (Ten Speed Press, $25). Ingredient combinations are as appealing as the photography here: za'atar and pecans on broiled figs; kiwi and grapefruit in parfaits; grilled haloumi cheese with strawberries and herbs.

"Yucatan: Recipes From a Culinary Expedition" by David Sterling (University of Texas Press, $60). Endorsements from Mexican culinary expert Diana Kennedy come few and far between, so Sterling, the founder of Los Dos Cooking School in Merida, Mexico, must know what he's doing. At 500-plus pages and coffee-table size, the book is sure to be a long-term, definitive reference guide.

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