We've gone through stacks and stacks of recent cookbooks to pick out a handful that we think would make a nice gift for Mother's Day. We've shied away from those monster tomes that are more "book" than "cook"—they just end up on the coffee table to impress people. These are practical books that real people could cook out of, by some of our favorite recipe authors.
River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
There are lots of cookbooks that toss around the phrase every day (hell, two out of this list of five do), but the new edition of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book has recipes that actually seem doable on a weeknight—like a warm broccoli rabe salad with chorizo and soft-boiled egg. The meat chapter focuses on "thrifty" cuts, from more adventurous bits like pig's liver (fried with onions and sage) to more familiar things like chicken and mushroom casserole slow-baked with hard cider. Plus there are smart cooking tips, like how to make vegetable stock in 10 minutes (grate all the vegetables: Genius!), and a good selection of vegetable dishes, from roasted Jerusalem artichoke, hazelnut, and goat cheese salad to lentil soup with caraway and minted yogurt.
Saveur The New Comfort Food, edited by James Oseland
This book of greatest hits from Saveur magazine gathers up comfort-food recipes from all over the world. There's Korean fried chicken, Veracruz red snapper, and supercreamy mac ’n' cheese with ham. But one of the best parts is all the recipe headnotes and sidebars, which, in typical Saveur fashion, give interesting history and context for each dish. Example: The incredibly easy green bean casserole originally made with Durkee onions and Campbell's soup was developed at the request of a reporter who was writing about a dinner where a (homemade) version had been devoured by the queen of Iran.
Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
One of the moms on the CHOW staff has been raving about Swanson's new book of healthy recipes. It's focused on whole grains and vegetables, with lots of one-dish meals such as farro soup with curry, lentils, and salted lemon yogurt, and roasted kale with coconut, tamari, and grains. Great for a mom trying to eat a little healthier.
A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell
This London chef's book has tons of pretty, earthy photos of recipes, flowers, and produce. The dishes fall in between fancy/restauranty and weeknight in scope—mostly things that would make awesome weekend suppers with friends, like pan-roasted chicken with lentils, roasted tomatoes, and basil oil, and cauliflower soup with Gorgonzola and pickled pear relish. The book is divided by season but doesn't get too precious about the whole deal, other than a brief digression into mushrooms being fall's gift or something.
Maida Heatter's Cakes by Maida Heatter
This book combines recipes from two of Heatter's ’80s classics into one no-frills guide to cake-making. And we mean no-frills: There is not a single photo in it! Instead the book's divided into useful chapters: cakes to serve plain, layer cakes, fancy cakes, cakes with fruits or vegetables, etc. And where else will your mom find a recipe for sauerkraut chocolate cake? (Heatter insists the sauerkraut just gives the cake a moist, fudgy texture and that no one will ever guess the secret.)