I would say the better homes and gardens cookbook and the good housekeeping cookbook are two that are great for beginners and I also go back to them over and over to look things up and I have about 100 cookbooks.
Joy of Cooking, both the new and the original.
I think the Silver Palate Basics cookbook is great for someone who has a little cooking knowledge, but needs good instructions and better than beginner recipes. Julia Child's The Way to Cook is also good, and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is a good primer. Anything by Madeleine Kamman will teach you the fundamentals of cooking techniques and ingredients, but it is for someone who wants to go beneath the surface and really learn about cooking, not just get by with easy recipes.
I gave my beginner cook daughter Bittman's How to Cook Everything when she graduated from college. The high success rate of his recipes gave her a lot of confidence. The new (2011) Cooks Illustrated Cookbook is also nice; the long explanations of the magazine are reduced to a good explanatory headnote in the book. On the other hand, my science-minded son enjoyed his subscription to the Cooks Illustrated magazine when HE graduated and built up a nice repertoire from there. Both of them like the CI website, also.
Bittman is good- if she has an iPad you could get her the how to cook everything ap. My mom gave my friends and I madhur jaffrey's World Vegetarian as a grad gift and we all use it regularly many years later.
Agree with Silver Palate...even at 20+ years old, it has a fresh take on fresh ingredients that will not just teach recipes but an appreciation for working with flavors and what is seasonal.
sexyLAMBCHOPx is a trusted home cook.
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I think an online subscription to Cooks Illustrated and Everyday Food are wonderful. Also, Barefoot Contessa are good ones. Biitmans book - yes, as well. When I started to learn how to cook pictures and explanations, and easy ingredients made it easy to follow and less intimidating.
I think any Barefoot Contessa cookbook would be a great starter cook gift. (Ina Garten) Her recipes are classic and foolproof. And they are very stylish and great pics to inspire.
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Thanks to all for the wonderful suggestions!
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is aimed towards novice cooks who want to prepare wholesome, home-cooked meals. Everything in this book is brilliant, easy and really fun, and there's a good variety of ethnic food recipes.
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