Recommend inspirational and reliable cookbooks
September 29, 2004 3:15 AM   Subscribe

Continuing the food theme: what cookbooks would you recommend that you find both inspirational and reliable? Inspirational, as in the recipes just beg to be tried, or the photographs look so mouthwatering. And reliable, as in you've learned to trust that the recipes will turn out well - if not every time - then much more often than not. We have shelf-full of cookbooks already, but I'd still like to add a few moreā€¦
posted by misteraitch to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you haven't got it already Escoffier's The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery is the classic & if breadmaking is your thing then Elizabeth David's English Bread & Yeast Cookery should be in there. In fact any Elizabeth David book [more here] will be a good investment.

The Mousewood Cookbooks by Mollie Katzen are a good diversion from yer regular type of recipie book. Even if you're not veggie they'll definitely give you some kind of inspiration.

A few frinds swear by Jamie Oliver and altho' I can't stand the **** but having flicked through a few of his books, he does have a good approach.

If you like curry, the Curry Club of Great Britain have a good range of books.
posted by i_cola at 4:23 AM on September 29, 2004

Madhur Jaffrey's Invitation to Indian Cooking is absolutely terrific and a classic.

Julia Julia Julia.

I don't think I've ever actually made anything from Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook, but it's one of my favorites. It's full of wonderful sidetracks about food in New York.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:35 AM on September 29, 2004

If you are interested in Greek food at all, we use The Food of Greece as our reliable standby. A couple of cookbooks I just love to read (although I also definitely use the recipes) are Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread by Crescent Dragonwagon (just reading her name makes me happy!), and Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (and More Home Cooking) by Laurie Colwin. I also adore Simple French Food by irritable, spiky old Richard Olney.
posted by taz at 4:45 AM on September 29, 2004

How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Bittman writes the "Minimalist" column in the NYT food section. It's so well-written that its interesting to read even if you're not cooking.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:59 AM on September 29, 2004

I've declared a moratorium on buying food porn until I spend some serious time with the books I already have. I'm enjoying the focus, the lighter recycling, and spending all that cash on wine and cheese. Here are my mainstays:

Mastering the Art of French Cooking -Julia Child
I'm working through the entire thing, a la The Julie/Julia Project, though not at the insanely breakneck speed (I am, however, blogging it. Now with pics!) This is a treasure trove of WONDERFUL food!

The German Cookbook - Mimi Sheraton
New accquisition but highly recommended by my mom and brother. There's a sauerbraten sauering in my fridge right now!

The Vietnamese Collection - Jackum Brown
I've made about half of the dishes in this and they are all incredibly delicious (and light, a nice respite from all the butter and cream in MtAoFC). I've annotated it, so if you get this, e-mail me and I can give you the skinny.

Indian Cooking - Madhur Jeffrey
Also new to my shelf; I've made about five or six things and they were easy and yummy. Grill your pappadams.

If you don't already have the OLD editions (raw eggs++) of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking, they're handy.
posted by mimi at 5:10 AM on September 29, 2004

Honestly, I have virtually no cookbooks that even have pictures, because I prefer books that are more how-to manuals than recipe lists. But if it's inspirational pictures you want, Jaime Kennedy has a book called Seasons that's really quite beautiful.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:34 AM on September 29, 2004

If you can get a copy of Lilly Joss Reich's Viennese Pastry Cookbook, it's well worth it.
posted by gimonca at 5:48 AM on September 29, 2004

Our old Joy of Cooking is the cookbook we turn to first, but Barbara Kafka's Roasting - A Simple Art is another favorite.
posted by maurice at 5:52 AM on September 29, 2004

We've gone crazy with the Chez Panisse cookbooks by Alice Waters. They're great because the recipes are of two kinds: (1) incredibly difficult and/or extravagant dishes that are AMAZING and (2) incredibly simple and cheap dishes that are AMAZING too.

The best of them for me are the Chez Panisse Menu cookbook and the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook. The menu cookbook is very inspirational, and it not only lists recipes but a ton of very creative menus served at Chez Panisse and elsewhere over the years. And the Vegetables cookbook is organized by vegetable--so you can go to the grocery store, buy whatever looks fresh even if you have no idea how to prepare it, and make something great out of it when you get home.
posted by josh at 6:05 AM on September 29, 2004

Jeanne Lemlin has written (and here I'm about to blaspheme in the eyes of Katzen) the two best vegetarian cookbooks in my collection, Vegetarian Classics and Vegetarian Pleasures. Both of them have dishes at varying difficulty levels, and they almost always taste great.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:45 AM on September 29, 2004

Marcella Hazan's first two cookbooks, The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking are great stuff; although they were republished in a one-volume edition I still prefer my stained and much-thumbed paperbacks. All the basic Italian cooking techniques plus plenty of bad karma if you use a cheap substitute for real Parmesan.
posted by zadcat at 6:49 AM on September 29, 2004

I'm partial to Caprial's cookbooks, but that's partly because her Bistro, which is just down the road, introduced me to how good food can taste. I love her take on Northwest cuisine. My wife and I like to try random recipes from Caprial's books because we know they'll turn out great.

Also, Best Recipe from the Cook's Illustrated folks is worth a shot. They recipes may not always be the best, but they are good. (Personally, I can't imagine life without a subscription to Cook's Illustrated. I learn a lot from that mag.)
posted by jdroth at 7:03 AM on September 29, 2004

Molly Katzen and the Moosewood cookbooks taught me how to cook.

MFK Fisher's The Art of Eating taught me why to cook.

(Fisher's translations of Escoffier and Jean Brilliat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste are also considered by many to be definitive.)
posted by melissa may at 7:22 AM on September 29, 2004

A couple of baking cookbooks:

The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. If you bake it, it's in here. Much like Cooks Illustrated, every recipe has been tested in their test kitchen until they get it right. Good sections on baking ingredients and equipment. They don't push their own products, so the reciepes are unbiased. Everything I've done so far has come out perfectly.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice. If you love bread, get this. Mmmmm... bread. The best cookbooks are the ones that give you the tools you need to think for yourself. This is one of them.
posted by bondcliff at 7:36 AM on September 29, 2004

Lord Krishna's Cuisine. Indian vegetarian cooking, from soup to nuts--literally. I'm not a vegetarian anymore, but still use this as my primary Indian cookbook.
posted by Tholian at 7:44 AM on September 29, 2004

Any of the various Frugal Gourmet ones.

Not highly inspirational, but on the off-chance you don't have it, you'll be hard pressed to find a more reliable cookbook than the Better Homes and Gardens one.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:57 AM on September 29, 2004

I can't believe no one's mentioned Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food. I really like his approach explaing the "why" of techniques and recipies rather than just dictating the "how". It's cooking for nerds.

And, of course the venerable Joy Of Cooking. Everything from pancakes to how to jugg a hare.
posted by Capn at 9:11 AM on September 29, 2004

Since people already mentioned my other favorites [Joy of Cooking and the King Artur Flour books], I'd like to put in a plug for Chris Kimball's Kitchen Detective book. It's got a good selection of recipes and it tells you the HOW and WHY of all the different choices that went in to making the stuff. Why you toast the oatmeal, how you can make low-stir risotto, how to make a coke can chicken that is delicious. I'm a medium range cook but this book has taught me a lot of stuff about technique as well as giving me some fine recipes to trot out for guests. It's mostly standard American comfort foods with some interesting variations thrown in. The emphasis is on showing you how to make really good food that doesn't require superhero skills or an entire weekend in the kitchen.
posted by jessamyn at 9:37 AM on September 29, 2004

I second the Bread Baker's Apprentice. The most useful baking book I've ever bought.
posted by transient at 9:40 AM on September 29, 2004

Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. Really. I'm an avid cook, and this isn't just a gimmicky excuse for naughty-ish food-related photos. The recipes are pretty simple, hard to screw up, and turn out fantastic. I've gotten raves about many of these dishes, even when I didn't cook them for their aphrodisiac powers. (The fennel pesto and rosemary tomato cream pasta sauces are two of my favorites.)

And the naughty-ish photos and accompanying anecdotes are, well, inspiring.
posted by occhiblu at 10:20 AM on September 29, 2004

My kitchen authority for handling vegetables, roots, mushrooms, and squash is the Victory Garden Cookbook. This woman tells you exactly how to select, clean, prepare, and cook all produce. However, her dishes are high in butter and fat, so I don't really use it for any good meals. Martha Stewart really is amazing in the kitchen, and i've always used her advice on great dishes. My family is also fond of the Moosewood cookbooks, and we have like 10 different versions from their line! Another great one is the Whole Foods cookbook. You can find many of their salads and deli things in the book.
posted by naxosaxur at 2:35 PM on September 29, 2004

Ok, some people love em, some people hate em, but I will g on record as saying I have enjoyed many of the recipies from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen.

It has a few easy recipies and some difficult ones, and some lovely photography.
posted by punkrockrat at 8:10 PM on September 29, 2004

Appetite by Nigel Slater for good food that hasn't been needlessly fucked around with.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:51 PM on September 29, 2004

Response by poster: Many thanks everyone: I'll be ordering at least 3 or 4 of the above!
posted by misteraitch at 11:44 PM on September 29, 2004

The Best of Bridge (and the others in the Bridge series) has an excellent collection of recipes. Some of my best received recipes have been culled from their pages.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 7:48 AM on September 30, 2004

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