Top 10 Cooking Books

I’ve run across a few Top 10 Cookbook Lists lately, namely over at The Amateur Gourmet and this article in The Star. I had heard of most of them and own quite a few; luckily, there were none that I took real issue with. Adam (The Amateur Gourmet, not my husband) mentions The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook “not to cook from, just to have.” I see what he’s saying – there are definitely books I keep around because they’re beautiful but I don’t really use them. However, I certainly wouldn’t put those books in my Top10.

So you see what’s coming, right? Yep, I have to do a Top 10 of my own. These are the 10 Books I Could Not Live Without in my Crappy NYC Kitchen:

1. Barefoot Contessa (all of them) – Ina Garten. I have all but Parties! and I use them multiple times a week. Most recipes are manageable for the novice cook. Note: her recipes aren’t terribly friendly for the one- to two-person family; her serving size is usually for 6-8 people, which always makes for a ton of leftovers for our 3-person family.

2. Field Guide to Produce: How to Identify, Select, and Prepare Virtually Every Fruit and Vegetable at the Market by Aliza Green. Truly, I couldn’t live without this. It tells you the origin of every fruit and vegetable, including when it is in season, how to store it, what to look for when buying, and complementary flavors. Amazon has the Look Inside feature on this one so you can browse through it.

3. Patricia Wells’ Trattoria by Patricia Wells. Tough call because I love her Vegetable Heaven as well, but Trattoria is still my go-to book for simple, fresh, easy recipes. No beautiful pictures in this one…just beautiful food.

4. The French Market: More Recipes from a French Kitchen by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. Classic French food without being pedantic or clichéd. Beautiful color photos of France.

5. The New Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Another resource I can’t live without. Especially when my daughter asks me, every meal, which foods contain vitamin C – I’ve looked up apples, mushrooms, and many more… Also gives brief histories and discusses different varieties and preparations.

6. Timing is Everything: The Complete Timing Guide to Cooking by Jack Piccolo. I don’t live and die by the times listed in this book; however, when I have dealt with an unfamiliar cut of meat or a new vegetable, this book has been invaluable at giving me a cooking guideline.

7. What to Drink with What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. As I mentioned before, the definitive guide.

8. Cooking with Jamie and Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver. I’m hooked. Some recipes are super-simple (Fifteen Christmas Salad) and some appear to be so difficult that I can’t attempt them until I have a proper kitchen. A little something for everyone…

9. Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis. I know, total cliché, right? Nevertheless, her recipes are a godsend for a full-time working parent. They’re easy to make with easy-to-find ingredients, not to mention that it actually includes recipes my Kiddo will eat (yay, pasta!). For better or worse, this continues to be one of my go-to cookbooks.

10. I know not technically cookbooks, but I could not live without Saveur, Gourmet, Food and Wine, Cooking Light, and Bon Appétit. I tear out the recipes and keep them in a notebook, which I wrote about here. If you can’t afford subscriptions to all these, your local library should have most, if not all, of them (and they all have lots of content on their websites). But for heavens’ sake, PHOTOCOPY the recipes! Do NOT rip out the pages of the library’s copy. Sheesh, people.

Note: I just checked out Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes from the library and, from my first glimpse through it, I think this could be a new favorite. Cream Puffs in Venice reviewed it.

Eat, drink, and cultivate your food library.

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