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The Flavor Equation cookbook
Credit: Courtesy of Chronicle Books

Looking for ways to become a more confident cook at home? Our food editors are here to help. Each week, we shine a spotlight on the exciting things happening in the Martha Stewart test kitchen. Our editors will share their best cooking tips, favorite products, new ideas, and more in our weekly series, Out of the Kitchen.

One of the bright sides of spending most of 2020 at home was the ability to slow down and take time to do the things we always say we're going to do—cook more, clean more, and read more. For our food editors, that meant getting to spend more time devouring the pages of this year's newly released cookbooks, appreciating the vivid images, learning food science (thanks to Nik Sharma!), and, of course, cooking delicious recipe after delicious recipe.

While traveling to far away lands wasn't an option for most people this year due to the pandemic, senior digital food editor Victoria Spencer took a flavor tour through the pages of Red Sands: Reportage and Recipes through Central Asia, from Hinterland to Heartland Hardcover by Caroline Eden ($27.53, amazon.com). "Red Sands arrived to transport me to the lands around the Kyzylkum Desert in Central Asia. It's a delicious journey that blurs the boundaries between food, travel, and reportage (and yes, there are recipes!)," says Victoria.

Assistant food editor Riley Wofford started cooking through Bryant Terry's Vegetable Kingdom ($17.31, amazon.com) at the beginning of quarantine and hasn't stopped since. "It's educational and celebratory, and Bryant Terry has a unique way of teaching and explaining things," she says of the fully vegan cookbook. "Some of my favorite recipes are the Dry Yardlong Beans with Broken Rice, Simple Celery Salad, Hoppin' John Stuffed Peppers, and Brown Sugar-Glazed Turnips."

I also took this year as an opportunity to dig deeper into topics I was less familiar with. Low-ABV and non-alcoholic beverages have been growing in popularity in the last few years and Julia Bainbridges' Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You're Not Drinking for Whatever Reason ($19.05, amazon.com) proved that you can have a good time with delicious libations sans the booze. Each recipe is categorized by level of difficulty, which is especially useful for deciding what to make depending on how much time or energy you have.

Riley and Victoria are in agreement that The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma ($31.50, amazon.com) was another one of their top picks for 2020. While Riley appreciated the educational aspect of Sharma's book, she didn't overlook his flavorful recipes. "I found myself attracted to the ones in the bitter category—Vegetable Pakoras, Spiced Coffee Kulfi, and his Chicken Lollipops are so fun," she says.

And it's no surprise that our food editors shared a love for another celebrated title—Jason Schreiber's Fruit Cake ($21.85, amazon.com). "This book is a celebration of fruit in all its forms and its versatility in baked goods. There's something in this book to satisfy every sweet tooth," says deputy food editor Greg Lofts. Our team has worked with him closely over the years and while senior food editor Lauryn Tyrell knows him to be a meticulous recipe developer, she says readers will find his prose to be funny and causal. "He is the perfect blend of artist and scientist, taking so much care in every recipe he writes and every project he takes on. Each recipe offers a little something special—from ways to minimize your carbon footprint to moments of lyrical poetry (literally!)," she adds. And before the year officially comes to a close, she plans to try baking his recipe for Apricot Sachertorte—"I think it's just what's needed this holiday to season to brighten our spirits."

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