Recommend me some good cookbooks!
July 3, 2014 6:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to Powell's this weekend (yay!) and having recently come to face the fact that I'll never make any recipes out of at least half the cookbooks I own and that I'm really simply a cookbook collector more than anything else, I may as well go all in and buy a bunch more. Please give me your favorite cookbook recommendations! Specifics inside.

I'm open to pretty much any cuisine. Especially interested in books on canning/preserving, and basically anything to do with vegetables. I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat very little meat. I like cookbooks where there's a lot to read beyond just the recipe text - stories about food, long footnotes before the recipes, or even just extensive sections on building your pantry. Sometimes I like books just for their aesthetic appeal - in that vein, I especially love both of Marisa McClellan's canning books (Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint) and Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon - they're both small, compact hard covers with no dust jacket. Similarly, I loved both Alice Waters Simple Food books and The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen - both larger hard covers with hand drawings instead of photographs.

Lay it on me! Thanks!
posted by skycrashesdown to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Chang's Momofuku is the best cookbook i own. Phenomenal, and you should at least make the ramen. There are some other fantastic meals in there.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:10 PM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you might enjoy Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries, and Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. The first has long notes before each recipe, the second is all about vegetables.
posted by girlgenius at 6:11 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty and Jerusalem.

Jerry Traunfeld's Herbal Kitchen.

Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.
posted by leitmotif at 6:12 PM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was going to say Ottolenghi.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:16 PM on July 3, 2014

I have The Joy of Pickling and Small Batch Preserving, and I love them. Moosewood anything is great and they have vegetarian cookbooks. I only have the dessert one but I've browsed others.
posted by Lardmitten at 6:20 PM on July 3, 2014

Thirding Ottolenghi. The photography is glorious and I'm irrationally soothed by the unusual pillowy covers (they're hardbacks, but the covers are... a little padded?).
posted by dorque at 6:25 PM on July 3, 2014

Christine Ferber "Mes Confitures"
posted by JPD at 6:27 PM on July 3, 2014

Gale Gand's Butter Sugar Flour Eggs
posted by spinturtle at 6:34 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

All of the Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford cookbooks, especially the Seduction of Rice, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, and Duguid's solo book Burma –all are a wonderful mix of recipes, cultural anthropology, travel and photography. I cook out of them all the time too - wonderful recipes and fun to peruse.
posted by leslies at 6:43 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Vegetable Love" by Barbara Kafka is an oddly arranged book, with a large section of recipes for each vegetable, then a short section of general recipes like salad dressings and stuffings, and a final section with simpler cooking methods for different varieties of a huge list of vegetables. It's full of anecdote and opinion, odd vegetables like cardoons and chrysanthemum greens, and serious cooking methods. For example, under collard greens, we learn a bit about their history, get a recommendation for another cookbook by another author to look up for a "very funny story about collards," information about how to store and wash them, methods for boiling steaming, microwaving, and stuffing them, and the useful information that 2 lbs collard greens equal 1 pound after removing the stems, which is about 13 cups raw, 3 cups cooked. I am not sure exactly how many vegetables are in the book, but there's a lot. Some vegetables are divided by variety, so there's different instructions for 15 varieties of winter squash. It's 708 pages including the index and bibliography. I highly recommend it for geeking out about veggies.
posted by SandiBeech at 6:45 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Noma cookbook and Faviken cookbook are inspiring to read.
posted by vespabelle at 6:50 PM on July 3, 2014

Breath of a Wok by Grace Young is really good reading, and some of the recipes are exquisite.
posted by bluebelle at 6:55 PM on July 3, 2014

If Noma or Favikken appeal you should really get Mugaritz first.

If you want to collect cheffy European books that aren't cook books so much as photo albums - not meant as a pejorative they make up a reasonable share of my collection- you should really look for the Bras book.

I think you might like some of the Luard books as well. Check out her twitter feed. I think you'd really like her sketches.

If collecting is something you want to do you should get to know the Kitchen Arts and Letters folks as well. Especially for non-US stuff.

I think the Paula Wolfert books and Colman Andrews "Catalan Cooking" are my favorite cookbooks in my collection tho.
posted by JPD at 6:59 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food has a lot of historical background and anecdotes, in addition to very good recipes.

Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking likewise gives a lot of background to the fine recipes.

The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking gives extensive background on ingredients and methods (more technical than historical background) along with fine recipes.
posted by Quietgal at 7:00 PM on July 3, 2014

I love cookbooks!

I agree with above votes for Jerusalem.
For books focussing on the veg: consider Crescent Dragonwagon, Isa Moskowitz's Veganomicon, or any of Deborah Madison's books.
Seasoned in the South was a random sale cookbook I picked up while living in the south: fun stories about the food/recipes, and I've made several good things from it.
Susan Spicer's Crescent City Cooking is another good one. The "filet of beef with herbed cream cheese filling and bordelaise sauce" was a hit at the last family Christmas (not vegetarian at all tho).

Happy shopping!
posted by maryrussell at 7:14 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

For Vietnamese cookery: My favorite book to read on Thai cookery is It Rains Fishes by Kasma Loha-Unchit.

I will also recommend all of Alford and Duguid's books which are beautiful, useful and revealing, in certain ways.

Baking book-wise, I would recommend Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours is rock solid and her other book, Around My French Table is not too shabby either.

I, like you, collect cookbooks. Many cookbooks have more of the person in the books so reading Ruhlman's Soul of Chef, where Michael Symon and his restaurant, Lola, are featured then Symon's own book, Live to Cook, is revelatory. In essence, it is really easy to get a personalized feel to cookery books, now.
posted by jadepearl at 7:22 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anything by Bryanna Clark Grogan. I'm especially fond of Nonna's Italian Kitchen.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:22 PM on July 3, 2014

I see they have a copy of Helen Nearing's Simple Food for the Good Life. It makes for wonderful reading. Its main thesis is, "All that food you buy and cook is bad for you. In fact, it might be better if we could quit eating entirely." (I exaggerate, but not by much.) And yet it includes recipes! This excerpt will give you an idea of the tone. Radical cooking from the 70s!
posted by JanetLand at 7:35 PM on July 3, 2014

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a little older, but a great vegetarian cookbook and some good personal bits about the recipes. The Greek Vegetarian is also one I like, with a story about most of the dishes.

Wild Fermentation is another you may want to try--not exactly canning or preserving, but kinda like that.
posted by freejinn at 8:22 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry is really good. It has song pairings for every recipe!
posted by Fig at 8:39 PM on July 3, 2014

David Tanis, One Good Dish.

Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal is not really a cookbook, but it's delightful.
posted by BibiRose at 9:18 PM on July 3, 2014

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. Can't go wrong with that one. Learning the specific properties of your ingredients is more valuable than a whole pile of recipes.
posted by Ferreous at 9:37 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I really like Sherry Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook.

And it has photographs and a dust jacket, but I have to suggest Isa Chandra Moskowitz's latest, Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, which is a fun read and has become a go-to for me even though I am not a vegetarian either.
posted by mishaps at 10:02 PM on July 3, 2014

The cookbook I've used the most over the years is Biba Caggiano's Trattoria Cooking: More than 200 authentic recipes from Italy's family-style restaurants
posted by Short Attention Sp at 2:55 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you can get it, then the Terre Et Terre recipe book is one of my favourite ridiculous recipe books. I have cooked from it before but mostly, I just ogle it. It's a beautiful vegetarian restaurant here in Brighton, UK.

To give you an idea of the sort of recipes/content, you can see their current menu. Also, the book does include the recipe for:

Better Batter and Lemony Yemeni Relish
Soft buttermilk soaked halloumi dipped in chip shop batter, served with vodka-spiked preserved plum tomatoes, bright fresh pea mint hash with pickled quails egg, sea salad tartar and chubby chips,finished with lemony Yemeni relish.

Which is a) divine and b) the one thing I have cooked from it. It is a fairly epic undertaking for the home-cook!
posted by halcyonday at 6:26 AM on July 4, 2014

Ferran Adria - The Family Meal
Laura Calder - French Taste

pretty much anything by Bob Blumer (he delves a lot into storytelling and sort of lifestyle-y stuff around his food)

Seconding Ad Hoc At Home.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:53 AM on July 4, 2014

For cookbooks to actually read, if not cook from, I'd look for M.F.K. Fisher and Elizabeth David, both terrific writers about food.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:51 AM on July 4, 2014

Oh, also Arabesque. I just remembered this one looking through my cookbook collection for dinner ideas. I keep eyeing Claudia Roden's other books as well, especially Picnics and Other Outdoor Feasts which looks like it may also fit your bill perfectly. That one has been on my Amazon Wish List. So tempted to hit the purchase button now.
posted by freejinn at 1:01 PM on July 4, 2014

Food geek here. I've been curating a list of well-reviewed cookbooks to check out for a few years. Maybe there's something there that you'd be interested in?
posted by turniphead at 4:12 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ideas in Food and Maximum Flavor (both from the folks behind the excellent food blog Ideas in Food) are both enjoyable, inspiring (in the sense of, makes me wanna cook stuff and then I do) reads. If you're only going to get one, get the latter, it's a little more immediately-useful.

Seconding Momofuku for its engaging and entertaining storytelling as well as the best damn pork belly recipe ever, and Ferran Adria's The Family Meal for its collection of recipes that are interesting and delicious and very easy to make at home.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:49 PM on July 4, 2014

Seconding Crescent Dragonwagon, especially The Cornbread Gospels and Bean by Bean.

Also seconding Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The Veganomicon is great and so is Vegan With a Vengeance (it's shorter but with entertaining stories in between most chapters and heading most recipes.

And recommending The Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups. Part story, part cookbook. Quite a few of the soups are vegetarian. I keep rereading it for the (often fantastical) tales.
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:31 PM on July 5, 2014

It's not about canning or vegetables, but throughout The Cheese Board: Collective Works: Bread, Pastry, Cheese, Pizza is a wonderful oral history of the place from former and current members, including the trials and tribulations of developing the recipes and running a business as a collective in Berkeley. I've tried many of the recipes in my tiny kitchen and they've all been success.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:43 PM on July 5, 2014

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