Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cookbooks I'd Rather Not Cook Without

I love curling up with a cookbook and flipping through the descriptions and photos for inspiration. (Unless of course dinner is in an hour and I haven’t even been to the grocery store.) I’ve purchased and been given quite a few cookbooks over the years, but there are some that stand out as absolute favorites that I reach for time and again.

Fairchild, Barbara. bon appetit fast easy fresh cookbook 1,100 quick dishes for everynight cooking

I checked this cookbook out of the library (try before you buy, a great way to get fresh dinner inspiration regularly!), and loved it so much that I mentioned it to my mother who got it for me for Christmas. Every recipe, and I mean every recipe, that I have made from this cookbook has turned out amazing. It has a focus on fresh ingredients and food that is flavored by herbs, spices and produce rather than a lot of fat or sugar. The flavors are amazing, and the recipes are easy to prepare. Some of our favorites: Pork cutlets with figs and balsamic vinegar, salmon with pistachio-basil butter, chicken with spicy peanut sauce, linguine with pears and gorgonzola cheese.

Bittman, Mark. Quick and Easy Recipes from The New York Times

I am a bit of a Mark Bittman enthusiast, and I’ve been slowly converting friends and family too. This is one of my favorite recipe books for a fast dinner because most of the recipes have very few ingredients, which cuts down on prep time and or shopping time if I do need to run to the store for something. They’re simple, but still creative. Some favorites: chicken with apricots, grilled steak with roquefort sauce, penne with butternut squash, salmon burgers.

Bittman, Mark How to Cook Everything

Presumptuous title, insanely awesome cookbook. Each chapter starts with a basic overview of the topic to help provide an understanding of the fundamentals that will benefit you no matter which recipe you choose. Everything from how to select fresh fish to the different types of flour and how to substitute them in various recipes. Much of my confidence in the kitchen comes from reading the beginning of each chapter and applying that knowledge to all of my cooking. He’s also great at providing helpful variations on primary recipes so you can take one basic recipe and make it many ways. His suggestions often spark my own creative combinations, whether it’s add ins to pasta or a new quickbread recipe. Some favorites: sauteed chicken cutlets with lime sauce, overnight waffles, curried chicken and apple salad, chicken and garlic stew.

Bittman, Mark How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Eating vegetarian meals at least a few nights a week is healthier for us and better for our environment. Bittman’s large volume has helped me move beyond the stereotypical pasta and rice dishes and into more exotic grains like quinoa and bulgur wheat. It has charts on how to cook almost every kind of grain and legume you can find, tables on the best methods and cook times for vegetables, and a lot of suggestions on how to cook a balanced vegetarian meal. It’s full of informative reading, excerpts on whole wheat pasta and pasta alternatives, a detailed description on making your own gnocchi, a chart detailing which types of potatoes work best in which types of recipes, 17 dip suggestions for serving with crudite. Reading this doesn’t just make one dinner, it makes you a better and more informed cook. Some favorites: beets baked in foil, curried eggplant with coconut milk, simpler than pilaf baked rice.

Druker, Marjorie with Silverstein, Clara. New England Soup Factory Cookbook

Greg works near the New England Soup Factory, which is one of our favorite lunch spots for rainy days especially. Their lobster bisque is to die for, but I’ve never had a soup there I didn’t like. Their cookbook is absolutely amazing, and it’s helped me reach a new appreciation for soups. They are chock full of vegetables, many of them freeze well, and they can feed a ton of people and keep warm if guests are late in arriving. Not to mention that they’re delicious, especially with these recipes. Some favorites: carrot and ginger soup, sweet potato chicken and barley soup, chicken tortellini soup, apple onion and cheddar soup, caribbean chicken soup with coconut.

Publications International, Hershey’s Best Loved Recipes

Our chocolate loving friend Danielle gave this to me on the occasion of my bridal shower in 2007, and it’s been my default for cakes especially ever since. If you’ve been over and had chocolate cake, it was the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake from page 8. For Greg’s birthday every year? The German Chocolate Cake. My birthday one year and only one because I want to have more birthdays? The flour-less chocolate torte, made by Greg. Oh and it was amazing.

Mom, Kelly’s Family Cookbook

When I was nine months old, my mother took a blank journal and started writing in it all the favorite family recipes that she made, and we requested, often through the years. It has all my favorite bread recipes, plus Grammie Ruth’s vegetable soup, the zucchini bread we couldn’t get enough of growing up, how to make mom’s chicken pie, you name it. Pretty soon I’m going to start one for Will.


  1. I've only just got into cooking so need a recommendation. I'll check out the above books at Amazon and see how I go.