Monday, October 22, 2012

did you read? {10 favorite cookbooks}


I've been known to gab about my love of cookbooks, even on the blog a few times. A good cookbook can be just as good as the best book, in my opinion. I love to nuzzle into the couch with a few cookbooks from the library to get some great ideas. Norah Ephron once likened the feeling of being taken away to another world by a book to the "rapture of the deep" experienced by deep-sea divers who forget which direction is the surface of the water. Rapture is definitely a word I'd use to describe my adoration of cookbooks.

Not many library selections make the ranks of the cookbooks I buy, but those that make it to my shelves aren't ignored and left to gather dust. I treasure them and consult them weekly. Some women have a purse to match their every mood; personally, I prefer to pair my moods with cookbooks. Whether I'm craving an international meal, a quick comforting recipe for the kids, or one made from ingredients found at the farmer's market, I have a book to do the job well. Below are a few of my favorites, for your consideration (note: these are indeed affiliate links...so I can buy and then write about more cookbooks, of course!).

1) The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman

The hubster's family gave us this one the year after we got married. Mark Bittman is staffed at the New York Times and is one of my favorite food writers (I am also looking forward to purchasing How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food one of these days). I don't always agree with his column (see comments of another post), but his books are thoughtful and well-written. I love that I know when I have a delicious dish in an international establishment, say harira at a North African restaurant, I can come home and flip open the book to that recipe so I can attempt to replicate it. Whether you crave kung pao chicken, masala chai, or plaintain chips, you'll find them in this giant volume. We received a leg of lamb-- a rare inclusion-- in our latest CSA bundle, so I plan to try lamb tagine with prunes next week. I'm a sucker for prunes and meat together.

2) Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food by Jacques Pepin

You can read more about this one on my previous post about it. It's my all-time favorite cookbook and can frequently be found on my nightstand. Jacques Pepin is my food hero.

3) The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook: Heirloom fruits and vegetables, and more than 100 heritage recipes to inspire every generation by "The Fabulous Beekman Boys"

I wrote about this one previously too. The fall recipes are the absolute best, so now is the perfect time to check it out. Be sure to browse their website too (they also have a show on Cooking Channel, which I haven't watched yet because we've been cable-less for almost a year).

4) Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison

Another one given to me by my mother-in-law, a fellow avid home chef, this book pushes the limits of my ability to cook with local ingredients. She doesn't stop at just introducing us to vegetables like kohlrabi and escarole; she elevates humble farmer's market fare to another stratosphere. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the delicious results.

5) Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan

While this isn't a traditional cookbook perse, I would argue its as important an addition to your repertoire as any book, if not more so, if you plan to preserve food. Canning requires exact balances of acidity, sweetness, and pectin in the case of jam, so the chemistry component alone makes me a preserving cookbook evangelist. You can fly by the seat of your pants when making soup, maybe, but unless you have tons of experience, I wouldn't try the same with blueberry jam. Like most cookbook authors today, Marisa also has a wonderful blog, which is how I found her book.


6) The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

I adore her signature style of photographing each stage of the cooking process. It makes for a fun evening read and an instructional guide. She has such a way of making readers feel at ease, like we've been invited into her kitchen for a chat. I can't get enough of her blog. Um, also, carnitas pizza. Need I say more? She has a great show on the Food Network that I catch on Saturday mornings at the gym when I can.

7) Savoring Spain & Portugal by Joyce Goldstein

This one is sadly apparently not being printed any more. But I'm including it anyway because I love the notion that each international trip should be followed by a cookbook of the food in that area upon returning to the states. We went to Spain and Portugal in 2009 and have enjoyed this book (a third gift from mom-in-law!) even more because it reminds of all the delicious food we ate on our trip. We shared our favorite recipe from this book last year, a Galician fish soup that is one of Nate's specialties.

8) The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

I get many of my staple recipes from Ina, like hummus, tabboulehroasted vegetables, and granola. I love how simple and straightforward her recipes are. She of course also has a fabulous cooking program on Food Network. Not surprisingly, they love her in England as much as we do here. She has such a calm and joyful approach to cooking and to life, and her marriage reminds me of a set of my grandparents who seem to love cooking and eating as much as Ina and Jeffrey. They are a delightful pair.


9) My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness by Gwyneth Paltrow

The addition of this book on the list might surprise you, but she is correct in titling this book "easy recipes." They are as much about family and comfort as they are about being cookbook-worthy. It's my kind of cooking, and the photos are fabulous. I wrote about this one previously too. Gwyneth also has a great e-newsletter and website with more recipes.

10) The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

This book will be released on October 30th, so I can't offer an authoritative review yet, but c'mon! Anyone who has ever read her blog knows it will be amazing. Have you pre-ordered yours yet? I did!


Editor's note: This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday, Monday Mania and The Homestead Barn Hop.

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