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My sister is 24, lives in NYC and is just beginning to enjoy cooking. For Christmas I would like to buy her a cookbook, but I need one that is simple with great photos. Any suggestions?

asked by Table9 about 6 years ago
28 answers 827 views
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drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added about 6 years ago

I think Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa cookbooks are very user-friendly and have gorgeous photographs. Her latest is called, "How Easy is That?" so it could be right up your alley.

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added about 6 years ago

My friend Amy McCoy's "Poor Girl Gourmet" cookbook is great for young cooks on a budget. http://poorgirlgourmet...

I'm also really excited about Kate McDonough's new book "The City Cook". It's not as photo-heavy but is an incredible resource for New Yorkers, in particular, who want to take full advantage of their small kitchens.

http://www.thecitycook...

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added about 6 years ago

You may want to check out the Tom Colicchio book, Think Like a Chef. It's got great photos. It teaches you some very valuable techniques.

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added about 6 years ago

I agree with drbabs that Ina really makes new cooks feel comfortable. If you have a Costco nearby, you can get her books discounted. Pre Ina, the Silver Palate cookbooks are very user friendly and there are great diagrams and such with meat cuts, oven temps, and great variations on themes.

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added about 6 years ago

Get her 2 and make one The Flavor Bible.

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added about 6 years ago

I second (or third?) the Ina Garten cookbooks. Her newest has very simple recipes. I also would recommend Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. One of the first cookbooks I ever owned was Everyday FOOD (a Martha Stewart company, but the recipes have different authors). The recipes are fast, simple and the cookbook is organized by season, which I love. I learned how to cook via Martha, and I still use many of the recipes and techniques in this book, many years later.

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added about 6 years ago

How to Eat Supper, Lynn Rossetto Casper and Sally Swift, or a significant step up, A New Way to Cook, by Sally Schneider. Schneider really teaches how to improvise and have fun.

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added about 6 years ago

I would recommend a subscription to Cuisine at Home. It's got excellent photos along with step by step photos for the more difficult recipes. The recipes are always a success! Plus, there's nothing more fun than being remembered every month of the year.

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added about 6 years ago

I would recommend the Better Homes and Gardens red plaid cookbook. It's a good beginners comprehensive cookbook with all the food terminology, a glossary, cooking technique and simple, easy to understand recipes for every course, plus has chapters on canning and pickling if she wants a go. I think everyone should have one reference type cookbook. I had the Joy of Cooking when I started and it was comprehensive, but too difficult for me who had never stepped foot inside a kitchen. I appreciate it now as a reference book, maybe that would suit her if she has some experience. There's always the internet for demo's too.

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added about 6 years ago

My favorite gift cookbook is Five Spices, Fifty Dishes by Ruta Kahate. It's tasty Indian food that's do-able at home, by beginners.

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added about 6 years ago

Anne Willan's "The Good Cook" is a great book for beginner foodies--it has photos and explanations about technique; the recipes work and are not complicated--just what a budding cook needs when she wants to know how to cook steak, or make a sauce, or cook a vegetable. Anne wrote it I think for her daughter who was always asking her why do you do it this way and not that way (guess she didn't read her mom's "La Varenne Practique!")

For inspiration and since she lives in NYC, get her the Mamofuko book too!

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Peter

While Peter no longer works for Food52 he still thinks up ways to make the website better.

added about 6 years ago

Wow. Lots to weigh in on here.

The Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. Yes, they are full of gorgeous photos. The first book has dozens of foolproof recipes, but some of them can be a bit involved. The newest book -- "How Easy Is That?" -- is actually *terrible*. Go look at the Amazon reviews to see what I mean. Maybe her 2nd most recent book? "Back to Basics"?

Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" really does teach a lot of the basics, but I find a lot of the recipes underspiced and a newish cook might be hesitant to ignore his quantities. That said, it does have a lot of technique and hand-holding. It's more or less picture-free though.

The Tom Colicchio "Think Like a Chef" is a *beautiful* book, but it's NOT for a new cook. Lots of very complicated technique, few "basic" recipes, and I've found some of the cooking times and temperatures to be way, way off.

The Momofuku Ko cookbook is also gorgeous, but oh my goodness is it complicated. Maybe in a few years. ;-)

I'm surprised no one's mentioned "The New Best Recipe". It can be a little overly pedantic, but if you're someone who likes to understand the "why" of things, it really can teach you a lot without boring you completely to death with science like Harold McGee can.

Finally, if you wanted to splurge, I've taken a number of classes at Manhattan's Institute of Culinary Education (google it up) -- they're quite good and have made me much more at ease in the kitchen.

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added about 6 years ago

What about Amanda Hesser's "The New York Times Cook Book"?

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added about 6 years ago

There are no photos of any of the recipes in Amanda's "Essential NYT Cook Book," but the recipes are so well-written with no detail overlooked, it's like Amanda and Merrill are holding your hand all the way through the cooking process. Ditto for Bittman, even without the pictures.

One of my sons gifted me with "The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, 2001-2010" and DVD from the PBS series. Besides a color photo, each recipe has a headnote telling "Why This Works." If you know anything about ATK, Chris Kimball, "Cook's Country" or "Cook's Illustrated," you know that each recipe is tested and tweaked pretty thoroughly before it goes public. The recipe alone for foolproof chocolate frosting (the best, chocolatiest, easiest, smoothest and creamiest frosting ever) is worth the price of the book.

My mother-in-law gave me the red-plaid BH&G cookbook in 1970. I still have it, but barely--it's very well-worn and a few of its butter-stained pages are falling out. I gave copies to my three daughters-in-law, who all used it regularly and still refer to it, even though they've gone gourmet. I think that says a lot for the book. One of its best features, besides its trustworthy recipes, is that its three-ring binding allows its pages to lie flat while the book is open. (Don't buy the paperback edition with the plastic-spiral binding--I bought the pink-ribbon edition for myself, just to have the new, revised version, and it started to fall apart within months.) Another feature that I love is that it's arranged and typeset in a way that every recipe--the complete recipe--is on one page, so you don't have to flip pages back and forth while you're cooking because the ingredient list is on one page but the directions are behind it. (Ahem, WW Norton, Amanda's publisher.)

I think the easiest way to go about this is to go to either the local library or amazon.com and look through the table of contents of all the books mentioned here and a whole lot more that aren't (quite a few of the cookbooks available through amazon.com have a feature that lets you look inside the book). The book with the most recipes that suit your sister's taste is the winner.


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added about 6 years ago

Even without the photos, Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" is hands down just the best cookbook-bible. He explains everything in detail and explains how and why certain things work, so that you can actually learn how to cook, rather than simply follow a recipe.

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added about 6 years ago

I would go on Amazon and find a used copy of Guiliano Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook. It is a WONDERFUL book with lovely pictures, a keeper forever, and your sister will be able to get all the ingredients called for in NYC (tell her about DiPalo's on Grand Street and Buonitalia in The Chelsea Market) - and, seriously, who doesn't love Italian pasta?

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luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added about 6 years ago

The Supper Book by Marion Cunningham, tho without photos, is a wonderful, quirky, practical book for cooking every day, including for one. Her companion book The Breakfast Book, ditto for breakfasts. Agree with above about Bittman. Nigella Lawson's books are pretty and easy but unreliable recipes (at least for me) so not great for a beginning cook. Love the 1950s Betty Crocker re issue with the red and white cover. Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, although it is large and could be overwhelming, Nice small cookbook: Judith Evan Jones Cooking for One.

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luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added about 6 years ago

What about The Urban Pantry? Canal Street series?
Martha Stewart's Quick Cook books (two books about dinner in under an hour, beautifully photographed). Lee Bailey's books have easy recipes and are gorgeous and southern, might be nice if your sister is homesick. This is absolutely the best gift to need to think about and buy! Have fun!!

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luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added about 6 years ago

and get her a copy of the dvd of Julia Child's The French Chef for inspiration. also you might be able to get a gift certificate for the cookbook store on lex and 94th Kitchen Arts and Letters and the staff could help her pick out a cookbook of her own!!
should i stop now?

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added about 6 years ago

I'm pretty partial to La Varenne Practique by Anne Willan. Despite having some advanced stuff in there, there are great pics on how to do EVERYTHING you could ever need to do in a kitchen. Great way to learn what to do with stuff. Mostly technique, but good recipes as well. Alternatively, I think an old edition of Joy of Cooking is great. No photos, but all the basic info you could ever need...

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added about 6 years ago

I find Donna Hay cookbooks to be simple, straightforward, and have absolutely gorgeous pictures. She has many cookbooks on different topics, but I really like The Instant Cook and Modern Classics 1 for a young person just beginning to cook. If you don't know Donna Hay, she is a best selling cookbook author from Australia. I'd say most recipes are very simple and use a minimum of ingredients, full of flavor and easy to prepare. http://www.donnahay.com...

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added about 6 years ago

It doesn't have photos, but Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food is a book I go to over and over again for basic recipes and techniques. I've never had a dish from it fail me, and I have used it a LOT.

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added about 6 years ago

If you check out "The Pioneer Woman's" blog you will see how detailed her photos are of the recipes she prepares. Her cookbook is the same..detailed gorgeous step by step photos of EVERY recipe.
Also, check out Susan Branch's website. She writes THE cutest cookbooks you will ever see. Every recipe is handwritten, and she paints all the pictures in watercolors. She writes very sweet stories about the recipes,and it makes you just want to curl up in a cozy chair and feast your eyes on the cutest cook book ever!
Even if you didn't want to cook a thing, ALL of her books are a pleasure to read.

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added about 6 years ago


The new Cook Book by The Culinary Institute of America , The Flavors of Asia [Hardcover] Mai Pham(Author) is excellent Asians recipe book All TRYOUT RECIPES by top CHEFS with great photos http://www.amazon.com/Flavors...

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added about 6 years ago

one more please one of our favorite book simble recipe easy to do but excellent Savor the Moment : Entertaining Without Reservations [Hardcover] http://www.amazon.com/Savor... we tried their Plantation Salad top..

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Peter

While Peter no longer works for Food52 he still thinks up ways to make the website better.

added about 6 years ago

Table9, have you chosen a cookbook yet?

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added about 6 years ago

I am narrowing it down between Ina Garten and Donna Hay? They both are simple and have beautiful photos. All the suggestions were so wonderful. I am going to purchase a few of these cookbook suggestions for myself.ha.

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added about 6 years ago

Thanks to everyone for all of there marvelous answers...I will let you know which one I choose.