Cookbooks! I am just learning about the amazing selections by Dorie Greenspan, Alice Waters, (and of course Amanda Hesser). I already love the Essential NYT so I would love to know your top three (or five) favorite cookbooks! Thanks from a eager learner.



bella S. January 15, 2011
I don't know if there is a 12 step program for cookbook addiction, but I would not even be interested, even if there was. I love cookbooks. I love being surrounded by them. I love reading them. I love getting ideas from them. I love making new things. Someone who does not seem to be very well known here in the U.S. is Donna Hay. She hails from Australia. Her recipes are fairly straightforward. They have simple but very good ingredients. I also like Joyce Goldstein's cookbooks quite a lot. The Mediterrranean Kitchen is wonderful although, I must say that I have found wonderful things to make in many of her books. Lately I have been enjoying her book Mediterranean Fresh. I am very fond of The New Basics by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins. I read that book more than I cook from it. I can randomly open to any page and find "Trade Secret" boxes, or famous quotations, or interesting tidbits to read. Speaking of "basics", despite the backlash that comes when one mentions liking anything Food Network related, Ina Garten's Back to Basics has some wonderful recipes that we have made again and again. I will also second those you have a fondness for. I especially like the writing styles of Dorie Greenspan and Amanda Hesser.
virgieandhats January 15, 2011
Oh, it is so hard to pick just three! Right now, my top three are:

1. Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. There is so much to learn from this cookbook--not just recipes, but the whole approach. If you eat meat, her treatment of poultry, beef, pork--through brining and salting--is life-changing. But her non-meat offerings are wonderful as well. This book has the addition of being beautifully photographed as well.

2. Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Italian Cooking" is, well, essential. Every sauce you ever wanted to make, plus the clearest, simplest instructions for making homemade pastas that you'll ever read. Hazan's orthodoxy regarding method and ingredients is also charmingly grumpy.

3. A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, by David Tanis, rounds out my current list. Gorgeously photographed, lovingly written, with wonderful seasonal menus offered to help you envision an entire meal. (Which, of course, can be broken down into parts.)

For specialty items such as bread and desserts, I would recommend for starters the new Tartine bread book, and the re-issued Classic Home Desserts, which is still a wonderful all-around dessert reference.

Enjoy the journey of discovering cookbooks!
amysarah January 15, 2011
Lots of good foundation books already listed here: Joy, NYT, Rose Levy Bernbaum's Cake Bible. I also second Marcella Hazan's Essentials - many Italian cookbooks offer more personalized or creative recipes, but this has long been my 'back to the source' reference. Ditto Julia Childs' How to Cook and her Baking book.

For French, I also love Patricia Wells - she's a cooking teacher and it shows in her books - sophisticated but very accessible; if I had to chose, I guess her Bistro book is my most loved/used. Also love Paula Wolfert's Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean - classics, regional variations and specialties; interesting food history/culture too.

Then there are 'restaurant' cookbooks - I love several, but frankly not all translate equally well for a home cook - unless unusually well-equipped or with a sous-chef on speed dial. Still, I've used a few pretty regularly over the years: The River Cafe Cookbook (Grey/Rodgers) is excellent; Babbo (M. Batali); An American Place (Larry Forgione); Coyote Cafe (Mark Miller); Staff Meals from Chanterelle (David Waltuck); etc.

There are probably a dozen more favorites I could list, but I'd recommend starting with the real basic, foundation books and expand from there as you discover which authors/types of books work best for you.
innoabrd January 15, 2011
Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: She has definite opinions about how things should be done and isn't shy about expressing them, with great flair and character. And, the recipes, whether complex or simple, are the essence of Italian cooking.

La Varenne Pratique by Anne Willan: The basic textbook for everything. Good recipies, but the book is all about technique. Buy a fish you don't know what do do with? Look it up here. Wondering how to glove bone a chicken or make merangue? La Varenne shows you, step-by-step with terrific colour photos.

The Joy of Cooking: get an old edition, not the new one. Good background info and every recipie an American housewife could ever ask for...

pierino January 15, 2011
Judy Rodgers' ZUNI CAFE is a book that restaurant chef's constantly praise, and with good reason
Third choice is a toss up between Mario Batali's BABBO (or his Molto Italiano) and Marcella Hazan's ESSENTIALS OF CLASSIC ITALIAN. I've spent a lot of time in Italy and my single problem with Marcela is that she has a decided bias toward the cooking of the Veneto and Friuli. Mario on the other hand is rather broad minded and down right Rabelaisian in his own style.
susan G. January 14, 2011
I'm another hopeless cookbook lover, but looking at my shelves I see that the ones that gave me my foundations wouldn't do -- not up with the spirit of the times, although I love and use them still. Bittman's Everything books would probably suit as a contemporary stand in, to ground you in a very wide range of styles and cultures, with plenty of helpful information. (I have the vegetarian version.)
Magazines are another avenue to explore. I've always thought it would be smart to cook through the issues as they arrive -- to tackle whatever they throw at you as it comes. Currently I'm getting Eating Well -- tasty, healthy, informative, thoughtful. Like Nutcakes, I keep working on my list, gleaned from library, reviews, and references from Foodpicklers.

Nutcakes, my NYTCB doesn't have a soup like that, sorry!
Kayb January 14, 2011
Ditto the Bittman; if there was only one cookbook I could have, that'd be it. I also love Shirley Corriher's Cookwise, for a good, educational book; Cooks Illustrated New Best Recipes; Amanda's Essential NYT, which is so peppered with post-it notes that I can never hope to cook all I've marked. I've cooked a lot out of The New Spanish Table (author's name escapes me) and Nigella Lawson's How to Eat.
vvvanessa January 14, 2011
the cake bible by rose levy beranbaum and the king arthur flour cookie companion are two that i turn to constantly for recipes that are not just reliable but delicious. the original moosewood cookbook and the joy of cooking (i have editions from several decades) are ones i love, too.
Homemadecornbread January 14, 2011
Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is a great book for expanding your ideas about which flavors can be put together. I've also found that his techniques are very useful.

Claudia Roden's New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Great! Wonderful recipes plus interesting explanations of the when, why, wherefore of this varied cuisine.

The Joy of Cooking - for me it's not really a recipe book but more about ingredients and how they should be used. Many of the recipes are basic but they truly help you to understand classic flavors.

mrslarkin January 14, 2011
I think I'm not alone in stating I have a slight cookbook addiction. For me, cookbooks provide inspiration and a jumping-off point for creating good food.

A few of the books that I turn to again and again are James Beard's American Cookery that I picked up at the library book sale, Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, and The Flavor Bible (not really a cookbook, but loaded with ideas).

I agree with nutcakes - definitely try out any cookbooks first at the library and give them a test run. You'll soon find out which ones are your favorites when you start racking up late fees, like I do all the time. :)

Have fun!
nutcakes January 14, 2011
I learned to cook from an old NYT cookbook edited by Craig Claiborne that I found in a closet in a San Francisco flat in the 70's. I can't find it anymore, and I have been a little obsessed with finding a strange but good soup recipe that used tinned anchovies and stale bread. Apparently it is not in all editions of this book.

I expanded on that with the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook. Ambitious dishes for the most part, for a new cook. I still make several things from it, but can't find this book either. I would like the pear tart tatin recipe.

My favorite cookbook is The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp. It is a cookbook and a lesson book in one. I still have this one, yay! Chinese food is my favorite food.

I am super picky now about getting new books. I only get ones that have high ratings. I do try ones out at the Library. A few I have used and liked:

Martha Stewart Hors d'Oeuvres- essential, I need this, it helped me cater a rehearsal dinner

Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, Deborah Madison - lots of basics and fancy too for when you get a CSA box or just went overboard at the farmer's market.

Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads - I made an insanely good bread from this and if the book was in the house, I'd do it more

I would like to have: Tartine, Dorrie G, Nick M., new NYT, T. Keller, and the list goes on.
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