This spring yields the first big batch of cookbooks written during the pandemic, and they are filled with resourcefulness, creativity (the life-saving kind), and a deepened commitment to why we cook: to bring those we love close for a moment of shared pleasure.

If only we’d had Vogue writer Tamar Adler’s The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z (Scribner, $35) in 2020. The near-encyclopedic guide has a suggestion for every last stem, spoonful, and grain, with practical yet lusty ideas for how to get those leftovers across the finishing line with, as she says, “economy and grace.” Many of the more than 1,500 entries are traditional recipes, others economically yet elegantly written suggestions. Why dont you roast those wilting radishes and toss them into a frittata? Or transform cheese odds and ends into creamy mac and cheese or a sauce or soufflé? Or use that almond butter to make nutty noodles? Clearly a student of M. F. K. Fisher (and her seminal wartime book, How to Cook a Wolf), Adler makes reading this book a meal in itself.

Yesterday’s pizza gets new life in Tamar Adler’s The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z.

In the U.K., Nigel Slater has been known for writing the hell out of his cookbooks and Observer column for decades. ChatGPT could easily generate Slaterisms, working from such eggplant-tinged sentences as “Whether it is a twee little lamb rib chop or a chunky beef rib, I will always pick them up, chew, and suck, winkling the last little nuggets and meat juices from every crack and crevice.”

His writing is as commanding as it is soothingly seductive, like the wabi-sabi still-lifes accompanying his recipes—all rumpled linen napkins in sun-dappled shadow. With A Cook’s Book (Ten Speed Press, $45), Slater’s 16th, he solidifies his status as a home-cook icon. The recipes are simple and confident, the ingredient lists radical in their hewing to what’s on hand in today’s pantry, however Ottolenghi-fied that may be.

Nigel Slater puts his user-friendly ethos to good work in A Cook’s Book. Don’t miss the pork with sherry and Judión beans.

Comfort is the goal, achievable through meatballs with rib ragù, marmalade chicken, and apricot-and-lemon-curd cake. After shopping for and cooking through so many of this season’s titles, it is a genuine pleasure to sit with a book that reserves its jazz hands for the keyboard.

A British word comes to mind to describe Hetty Lui McKinnon’s food, and that is “moreish,” each bite making you want more, more, more. Her flavor combinations so often hit all the spots. Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Bonds (Knopf, $40) is her ode both to her late father, who moved to Australia from China in the 1950s, and to vegetables. Each chapter highlights a veg or family, be it eggplant or Asian greens, refocusing them in cheerful combinations, like a quick, satisfying bowl of soba noodles and spinach in a richly umami sesame sauce, mapo tofu with silken eggplant, or charred gai lan and farro with soy tahini. McKinnon is inexhaustibly creative, illuminating sections of the produce aisle you’d forgotten but will be so pleased to re-discover.

Hetty Lui McKinnon re-invigorates even the most tired sections of the produce aisle in Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Bonds.

Maya Kaimal is also able to get big flavor from small tweaks. With Indian Flavor Every Day: Simple Recipes and Smart Techniques to Inspire (Clarkson Potter, $28), she demystifies and streamlines the techniques that give classic dishes, such as creamy black-lentil dal and Kerala red fish curry, their elegant depth, while adding new twists like tandoori cauliflower steaks. Her ingredient lists are arranged in helpful blocks, with strategic sections on where the flavor really kicks in. (Also helpful is the instruction, repeated throughout, “Assemble your prepared and measured ingredients by the stove so they’re ready to go.” Obvious, and yet … )

Maya Kaimal’s Indian Flavor Every Day: Simple Recipes and Smart Techniques to Inspire specializes in amped-up flavors, such as the ginger yogurt she adds to charred carrots.

Before you know it, you’ve gotten perfect saag paneer—the cubes of cheese crisped first for a delightful update—Punjabi chickpeas simmered in black tea and northern garam masala, and puffy garlic naan on the table. Kaimal is not as exacting as Madhur Jaffrey or as insouciant as Meera Sodha or Priya Krishna. She is, deliciously, owning the middle.

Given the important conversations around the appropriation of ethnic cuisine and ingredients in recent years, a cursory glance at the cover of Love Japan: Recipes from Our Japanese American Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, $30), written with Gabriella Gershenson, might elicit a teeth-sucking response. Read on. It’s charmingly legit. Chefs Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel fell in love and opened the Brooklyn restaurant Shalom Japan, reflecting their upbringings in Hiroshima and on Long Island. Not a daunting restaurant book, this is how they feed their family (while running that restaurant).

Chefs Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel reveal their favorite family-friendly recipes in Love Japan: Recipes from Our Japanese American Kitchen.

Whether you already make dashi or use the powdered version they default to at home, they can guide you through getting a proper Japanese breakfast on the table on weekends, or whip you through a weeknight “spaghetti Napolitan” [sic], also known as ketchup pasta with bacon. Hearty Japanese home cooking shares table space with mashups like a tofu Caesar, roasted cauliflower with addictive miso-panko butter, pork chops with bacon-teriyaki jam, and a project-y matzoh-ball ramen. There’s a lot of love in this book—all authentic.

In New York City, the pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz is as known for the surprising creations she brought to Ignacio Mattos’s restaurants as she is for the sold-out fundraising bake sales she’s helmed. On the plate, page, and tongue, the combination of her Chinese and Californian heritage, laid-back generosity, and fearless artistic spirit is a welcome spark. More than Cake: 100 Baking Recipes Built for Pleasure and Community (Artisan, $40) presents new favorite recipes—I’ll serve her sesame-and-coconut-tinged date cake at every dinner party for the foreseeable future—and opens new pleasure pathways with such recipes as a nectarine-and-miso tarte tatin. It’s also a next-level baking book for avant-garde-ish cake aspirants.

New Yorkers know (and love) Natasha Pickowicz for her sweet work (like this chamomile puff crown) at Café Altro Paradiso. Now everyone can get in on the fun with More than Cake: 100 Baking Recipes Built for Pleasure and Community.

Assemble your own modern layer cake from options like whole-wheat-and-almond chiffon cake, yuzu-and-olive-oil curd, and black-sesame-and-cream-cheese frosting. Like Claudia Fleming’s seminal dessert book, The Last Course, Pickowicz’s More than Cake feels primed to awaken the next generation of pastry chefs.

Over a decade since Violet Cakes opened in East London, Claire Ptak’s bakery has won as many loyalists with its homey, California-inspired cookies, brownies, and cakes as it has newer fans, thanks to “that” royal-wedding cake, circa 2018. Fans of Ptak’s The Violet Bakery Cookbook from 2015—and there are many—have been waiting for her next drop. Love Is a Pink Cake: Irresistible Bakes for Morning, Noon and Night (Norton, $35) does not disappoint, with its continued exploration of seasonal ingredients through a California-U.K. lens. (The title takes its name from a series of Warhol prints.)

A dozen, please: chocolate-glazed donuts are among Claire Ptak’s many triumphs in Love Is a Pink Cake: Irresistible Bakes for Morning, Noon and Night.

On the NorCal side, that means Big Sur cookies packed with granola; roasted plum and brown-sugar-buttercream cake; and a plant-based, gluten-free California cake with birthday vibes that’s one of the most popular cakes at the bakery. U.K. recipes include bakewell bars, English angel cakes, and, yes, a certain lemon-and-elderflower wedding cake. Ptak once again excels as both friend and guide, creating more enchanting recipes of the memory-making variety.

Christine Muhlke, a former editor for The New York Times and Bon Appétit, is a co-author of Wine Simple, with Le Bernardin’s Aldo Sohm, and a co-author of Phaidon’s Signature Dishes That Matter. She is also the founder of culinary consultancy Bureau X and creator of the Xtine newsletter