Celebrating the simple beauty of food, A Platter of Figs by David Tanis will tempt you with beautiful, unpretentious recipes, gorgeous photos and a simple philosophy – cooking should be a joy, eating should be a pleasurable experience and both should preferably be shared with friends.

The recipes are arranged seasonally, spring through winter, rather than by course, the idea being you should celebrate what each season offers. This fits in nicely with the current trend toward eating locally and sustainably, but it also has everything to do with flavor – fresh picked, in-season food is undeniably the best tasting.

Recipes range from the simple – Warm Asparagus Vinaigrette – to the more complex – Chicken Tagine with Pumpkin and Chickpeas – but all are clearly explained. Stories of Tanis’s life and travels (which are reflected in his recipes) are scattered throughout the book, adding a warm and friendly atmosphere to the cookbook. A beautiful book about beautiful food.

Love Chinese food but are intimidated by the thought of cooking a cuisine so different from what you grew up with? Looking for some family-satisfying meals that go beyond chicken and hamburgers? Kylie Kwong provides just the help you need with Simple Chinese Cooking.

Starting out with detailed descriptions of equipment and ingredients unique to the Chinese kitchen, Kwong presents recipes by ingredient – beef, pork, chicken, tofu, vegetables, noodles and wontons, etc. Each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful color picture; if more detailed preparation techniques are required, the recipe is accompanied by a series of step-by-step black and white photos. The book finishes with a chapter on “Eating Chinese-Style” (just exactly how do those chopsticks work?) and menu planning.

This lovely, encouraging book will have you enjoying Chinese food right from your own kitchen in no time.

The “breath” of a wok is the steam that rises from a sizzling hot finished dish. This charming cookbook takes a slightly different approach to Chinese food by focusing on the wok and its recipes. In addition, there is a history of the wok and it’s importance (central to so much Chinese cooking), the construction and manufacture of woks and advice on buying and seasoning a wok.

While many of the recipes are familiar, there is also a wide range of fresh ideas, gathered from a variety of people including chef Michael Yan, writer Amy Tan and Young’s own family, and range from beginner friendly to master lessons.

Practical, smart and fun, The Breath of a Wok will have you cooking confidently with a wok in no time.

Stepping beyond the familiar Chinese cuisines, Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid explores the flavors and foods of the outlying areas of China, including Tibet and Xinjiang in the far west of the country. Authentic recipes, gathered by the authors over a series of visits to China over the past 20 years, are “translated” for the Western kitchen (no need to go looking for camel meat!)

However, this is much more than a cookbook; stories of the adventures and people that were met along the way are scattered throughout the book. The photography is spectacular – there are the usual mouth-watering close-ups of delicious dishes, but there are also sweeping views of the landscape, intimate portraits of the people, and a careful recording the customs and practices of this distant land.

Part cookbook, part travel book, part cultural education, Beyond the Great Wall will feed the soul as well as the body.

New England Soup Factory CookbookJust in case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been having a dozy of a winter with rain, freezing rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures all making headlines. And, I hate to be the one to tell you this but warmer temperatures are still a few weeks away for the Midwest.

What better time for the warmth and comfort of homemade soup? The New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker will provide you with dozens of ideas. Soups as varied as “Wild Mushroom and Barley” and “Curried Crab and Coconut” as well as familiar favorites such as “New England Clam Chowder” will inspire you. Luscious photos may tempt you to chew on the pages (please don’t) and the stories of the restaurant (a long-time favorite located in Boston) will keep you entertained.

It just might be enough to get you through those last few weeks of cold and snow.