I’m not sure it’s possible to capture how much I love books - or how much I love cookbooks. While my love of food may come from my Mediterranean blood, my teachers largely exist in the pages of cookbooks - and a whole bunch of trial, error and try again.
Before our house fire I collected cookbooks along with about a million other books. But my life looks different now, more intentional and less attached. I got all Buddhist with my books is what happened. I started borrowing them from the library rather than buying them ALL. Plus, when I have a limited amount of time with them, I’m more motivated to use them.
I am not picky either. I have super fancy, technical ones and weird ambiguous ones (like the $4 one called Yoga Food - terrible name, but I swear by the pistachio pesto recipe). There are those that preach a nutritional message that I largely ignore (I’m looking at you Gwyneth Paltrow) or ones that say that Veganism will save me and Paleo will make me skinny. Some are filled with food photos, a few have only recipes and no photos. There are some gems that I, like, sit down and read, read because they are so well written and manage to artfully weave a story and passion into a piece of art. I love them all for what they are and have no shame in taking what I need and what I want and leaving the rest.
Here is an eternally incomplete list of some of my go-to cookbooks at this time in my life. They are the ones that taught me, that I turn to on the regular, that have an element of simplicity that is deeply satisfying to me.
1. Everyday Food: Great food fast - Martha Stewart. This taught me a TON when I was just trying to get comfortable in the kitchen. I highly recommend it for newbies and young cooks.
2. How to Cook Everything: The Basics - Mark Bittman. How to hard-boil or soft-boil an egg, how to make pie dough, break down a chicken, definitions (difference between mincing and chopping) and a bunch of easy, go-to recipes.
3. Twelve Recipes - Cal Peternell. This is a new addition to my inner circle and it echoes the simple beauty of Alice Waters’ books/food. There is a whole section on Toast and plenty of explanation taking the cook-reader through the process of roasting vegetables and all the things you can pair them with lending each to multiple different meals and dishes.
4. The Art of Simple Food - Alice Waters. This book is my cooking bible. If I ever write my own real life cookbook, this is its conceptual mentor - though I’d want photos in mine and you won’t find much of that here. It’s like a kitchen textbook, what every home cook needs, at least each one with a love of fresh, local food and a strong Mediterranean streak (basically, me). She understands health in a way that transcends pseudo-nutrition and green juice.
5. Cook This Now - Melissa Clark. On a whim I grabbed this signed copy at this amazing cookbook store (yes, it’s a glorious place that I’ve given a lot of money to) in Seattle and it’s ended up being a total go-to. It’s broken down into seasons, more specifically months of the year so I can flip to the month and it gives me a handful of options - this is way less overwhelming than scanning an entire collection of recipes. I love it and I for some reason deeply trust her.
6. Eat Good Food - Bi-Rite Market - Sam Mogannam + Darby Gough. This is totally a geek book. Not a lot of recipes, but good ones and it's full of handy tips about buying, storing and using produce, meat, seafood and diary. Better quality ingredients means better tasting food and now I know that one should never put a tomato in the refrigerator.
7. It’s All Good - Gwyneth Paltrow + Julia Turshen. This is a surprising addition because I’m not exactly a big Gwyneth fan as an actress or wellness maven, but I love this freaking cookbook. The recipes are really, really flavorful and not long or complicated. The book itself is beautiful and I strongly stand by the Chicken Posole Recipe - so good, so freaking easy.
8. The Kitchn - Sara Kate Gillingham + Faith Durand. A regular player for our weeknight family meals. I’ve made so many of the recipes in here and yet there are still many I haven’t gotten around to trying. The first half of the book is worth it for its tips on cooking and entertaining for a group that ratchets down the anxiety by giving you prep steps and more basics info that’s also useful.
9. Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Marcella Hazan. This book came free with my new set of pots and pans and I was unaware at the time that it was such a classic. If you are curious about actual Italian cooking, beyond pasta in red sauce or pizza, this is a beautiful book, I learned to make legit Salsa Verde, which is a sauce we all should have in our back pocket. Last summer, Jack and I used it make pasta from scratch and it’s got my go-to red sauce recipe. Be warned, no photos.
10. Dinner a Love Story - Jenny Rosenstrach. I borrowed this from the library and then bought it. It’s all about making dinner quick and doable but the recipes aren’t dorky. It taught us how to have a salad bar night (so key when it’s hot, hot, hot), that chicken pot pie is not hard to make and she’s a blogger so she’s got a lot of good stories about feeding yourself and small (often picky) children. This is also a go-to when we need no fuss weeknight meals.
Happy cooking, friends!
What are your favorite cookbooks? I'm always looking for more inspiration and would love to hear.