Our Community's Favorite Moments of Small Victories by Julia Turshen

February 24, 2017

When we asked readers to review a cookbook chosen as a 2017 Piglet Community Picks, one of the questions we asked them was: If this book were a vegetable, which would it be and why?

We were mostly amusing ourselves, but the answers are also a telling gauge of a book, we've found. Exhibit A: Two people said that Julia Turshen's Small Victories would be a carrot.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

There are carrots swimming in that chicken noodle soup on the book's cover, sure—and the carrot was also Julia's vegetable of choice for her fill-in-the-blank lentil soup. But Small Victories would be a carrot "because it's versatile," Gauri Joshi thought—and because "it's practical, delicious, and does way more than you think it does," our pal Caroline Lange said.

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Annie chose a leek, "because once you start cooking with it, you reach for it all the time and can't imagine not having it on hand."

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Top Comment:
“Small Victories is also a pleasure to read! It is a fabulous everyday cookbook for people who love to cook but only have a reasonable amount of time to get food on the table. Love, love, love this book!”
— alygator

See? Don't you already have a good sense of this cookbook? Here's what else our community loved about and learned from Small Victories:

A review, in one sentence

"This book not only provides you with excellent recipes, but it also delivers innovative and impactful techniques to expand your kitchen skills and prowess." —Annie

I love the simple photos and use of white space. The pictures made me want to bookmark every other page for dinner ideas.
Nia Bowling

"My grandma's kitchen with a classic twist." —Gauri Joshi

"This is the perfect cookbook for food-driven folk who want to make good food and be able to eat before 10 PM on a weeknight." —Nia Bowling

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Who's this book for?

Folks agreed that non-cooks will take to this book, but it also has tricks that knowledgable cooks might not have thought of—and are now really happy to know.

Annie considers herself "an advanced and prolific cook, yet was surprised by how many of the tips and techniques were game-changing for me." She was so happy to learn to add a drop of water and cover eggs while frying them. It "was a brilliant tip. It creates perfectly cooked over-easy eggs."

If you like Canal House, anything Barefoot Contessa, or The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, this book is for you. All are beautiful, geared towards the home cook, and exhaustively tested, with clear directions, best practices, and shortcuts.

Annie said it also "brings to mind other technique-driven books such as All About Braising or The Bread Baker's Apprentice, with the difference being that it covers a much broader category of cooking."

Readers couldn't really think of anyone who couldn't benefit from this book. Well, only pass on it if "you are a grump," says Caroline.

the standout recipes

Caroline mentioned the curried lentils with coconut: "They're deceptively simple, include some of smart tricks, and they're very, very cozy." (Pssst: Here's the recipe.)

Annie said the kimchi avocado toast is "a game changer": "It beats the original and so many other variations hands down."

Turkey meatballs! Photo by Bobbi Lin

Cathryn Davidson chose the Turkey Ricotta Meatballs: "I've made them so many times that I have the recipe memorized. They've been a hit with the pickiest eaters in our house and have disappeared from a potluck table within minutes."

Nia found it hard to choose one, but keeps going back to the Caesar salad dressing: "Having homemade Caesar salad dressing on hand is a game.changer. The bottled stuff is crap and this is both GOOD and EASY. While I know Caesar salad dressing isn't exactly new/exciting/rocket science, it is never something I attempt on a weeknight: egg yolks? whisking? No thanks. The simple and logical introduction of mayo is awesome and the results are as good as any restaurant Caesar."

2017's roster of Piglet Community Picks were chosen by an open call to our community; the reviews you see here are from some of the folks who voted these books into the tournament. To see other Piglet Community Picks reviews, head here.

Small Victories is available wherever books are sold.


The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • alygator
  • Jocelyn Grayson
    Jocelyn Grayson
  • Dani Elis
    Dani Elis
  • Allyn
  • Donna
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


alygator May 18, 2017
I love how accessible the recipes are and how all the little tips and modifications take all the pressure off of getting the dish perfect. Small Victories is also a pleasure to read! It is a fabulous everyday cookbook for people who love to cook but only have a reasonable amount of time to get food on the table. Love, love, love this book!
Jocelyn G. May 1, 2017
Was thinking of making the orecchiette with spicy sausage and parmesan (p. 142). Hoping to sub merguez for the italian sausage and creme fraiche for the heavy cream. Anyone have thoughts on that? Thx.
KDH9966 May 1, 2017
I made that recipe and loved it....although I used the heavy cream and cooked it a little (she suggests just pouring it on after) with the sausage and then tossed with the pasta it will very yummy.
Dani E. February 28, 2017
I LOVE this cookbook.
Allyn February 27, 2017
This might be my favorite cookbook I've ever owned in terms of usability. So many of the recipes have already become favorites (chicken soup, lasagna, brisket, sour cream pancakes... I could go on and on), and I honestly hope to make every single recipe and recipe variation over the next year. The flavors are simple but excellent. and while it isn't the most advanced cookbook, it's one that I reach for almost every week while meal planning.
Donna February 26, 2017
The lasagne is astonishingly good!
mcs3000 February 25, 2017
Small Victories is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. Instant classic. As Julia said in her book: "Celebrating small victories is not only how I've marked my life (both in and out of the kitchen), but it's also a sure way of becoming a comfortable and intuitive, even inventive cook." Thanks for inspiring and making me a better cook, Julia!
Rachel A. February 24, 2017
I am loving this cookbook. I have taken it out of the library twice and finally ordered it. The apple muffins and the lentils I have made twice. My husband and I ate the whole pan of 'kinda, sorta patatas bravas' (a Spanish potato dish) last night. I want to make the bread, sausage and apple hash next!