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Recipe Cookbooks: Favorites and Duds

Discussion in 'Tilted Food' started by snowy, Jun 27, 2013.

  1. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member Donor

    CinnamonGirl 's recent revelations about her cookbook obsession got me thinking about my own cookbook issues. I have a lot of them. People know I love to cook and when they can't think of anything else to get me for my birthday or Christmas, I often receive a cookbook (or kitchen equipment). I'm not complaining. I've also read a lot of them, as one of my favorite things to do, especially when I have time in the summer, is to check out cookbooks from the public library and read them.

    That said, cookbooks can be expensive, and it's nice to know ahead of time whether a cookbook is in fact useful or not. Additionally, cookbooks range widely in the skills required to follow and complete a recipe. For example, I wouldn't recommend Michael Ruhlman's Ratio to an absolute beginner, nor would I recommend Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything: The Basics to an advanced cook, as they might find it too simplistic (on the other hand, it is very informative).

    In this thread, please share your cookbook favorites. If you've cooked anything from the book, share that too. Think of this as a space to not only review the book, but to review the recipes and reflect on whether or not the recipe worked, why it did or didn't work, and what you would do to change it.

    One of my favorite cookbooks of all time is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It's a compendium of wonderful vegetarian recipes. What I love, love, love about this book is that I can buy weird stuff down at the farmer's market that I've never seen before (sunchokes, anyone?) and know that Bittman has a recipe or method delineated in the book on how to cook it. The book is organized by food type--vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, etc. I find this organizational structure makes it easy to find what I'm looking for. I like that Bittman really strives to include easy fast recipes alongside more complicated ones. The other aspect I enjoy about this cookbook is that it includes basic preparations for everything. For example, if you've ever wanted to know how to cook beans from scratch, there's a page on that. Want to know how to cook teff? There's a whole chart on how to cook different grains. Another thing I like about the book is that it includes menus for different events and themes. I've cooked several of the meals Bittman outlines in these menus, and they're all very good. It's definitely one of my go-to cookbooks. I would say this book would suit beginning cooks on up to advanced cooks, as there are a variety of recipes, and Bittman shares a number of modifications that can be made to take the recipe to the next level.

    I'll be back later with a review of Shirley Corriher's CookWise.
  2. GeneticShift

    GeneticShift Show me your everything is okay face. Donor

    I love anything Mark Bittman.

    My dad and I are obsessed with America's Test Kitchen on PBS, so we have that set of cookbooks. I love them because they also include equipment and ingredient ratings, and most of the books themselves are binder-type books, so it's easy to take out the page you want to read, wipe it down, and put it back.

    I love all the "Good Eats" companion cookbooks (there are three) because Alton Brown is my hero.

    This is number 1 on my wishlist right now:

    • Like Like x 1
  3. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member Donor

    GeneticShift, I agree about the ATK cookbooks. They're great. Generally, their methods are pretty idiot-proof. That said, even my MIL (bless her) can somehow manage to screw up one of their recipes. I still don't know how she did it, but she was using their recipe for a foolproof pie crust that ended up melting and slumping into the bottom of the pan. They do tend to take some attention to detail to work right.

    I also really love cookbooks from the related Cook's Illustrated. I want this for my birthday: Amazon.com: Baking Illustrated (9780936184753): Cook's Illustrated Magazine Editors: Books It has a fantastic recipe for homemade crescent rolls that I adore.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. GeneticShift

    GeneticShift Show me your everything is okay face. Donor

    • Like Like x 1
  5. hamsterball

    hamsterball Seeking New Outlets

    Cook's Illustrated is the best! The recipes have been consistently good.
  6. fflowley

    fflowley Don't just do something, stand there!

    Another Cooks Illustrated fan here.
    Idiot proof if you take your time and read carefully.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. GeneticShift

    GeneticShift Show me your everything is okay face. Donor

    I probably like Cook's Illustrated so much because they're lumped together with all the America's Test Kitchen books. One makes the other, but I forget the right way. I think Illustrated makes ATK?
    • Like Like x 1
  8. hamsterball

    hamsterball Seeking New Outlets

    You're right. The same group is also responsible for Cook's Country as well.
  9. GeneticShift

    GeneticShift Show me your everything is okay face. Donor

    I thought so!

    I have a lot of time to thumb through cookbooks at work. I love it.
  10. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member Donor

    I love the library because I can test-drive cookbooks before committing to a purchase. My husband approves of this system, which is good. Usually I'll check out a couple books, read through the recipes and suggestions, and see if I feel like cooking anything out of it. I'll typically try one or two recipes before I return a book. That said, there are some books that immediately I know I should have them.

    If you don't know who Shirley Corriher is, you haven't been watching enough Good Eats. She's the food scientist that shows up on several episodes of the series, and Alton totally borrowed her fried egg method. She's written two cookbooks, CookWise and BakeWise, and I love both, but I only own CookWise, which I picked up used at the local bookstore. Interested in the hows and whys of recipes? If food science is your thing, this is the perfect cookbook. Shirley gets into all the details behind why the recipes work the way they do. Personally, I find this information exceptionally useful as it allows me to understand the method in more depth. BakeWise has a similar style with some excellent recipes. I really love her recipe for wedding cakes, the little snowball-like cookie. I get raves every Christmas without fail. I wouldn't say the recipes are difficult--after all, there is a recipe for fried eggs. I would say it is a cookbook for people looking to understand their cooking in a more nuanced manner.

    I'm still on the lookout for a used copy of BakeWise. That said, many of the more popular recipes--such as the wedding cakes and Shirley's Touch of Grace biscuits--are available online.
  11. I have BigOven, AllRecipes and Epicurious on my iPad. I find them useful when I'm looking for something special, like the marinade I used last Sunday when I grilled salmon.
  12. girldetective

    girldetective Getting Tilted

    My favorite cookbook ever is The Vegetarian Epicure.
    There are 2 volumes, 1 and then the other, and theyre both good.
  13. spindles

    spindles Very Tilted

    Sydney, Australia

    I read this and it reminds me of *my* favourite cookbook, which is Stephanie Alexander's "The Cooks Companion"
    Amazon.com: The Cook's Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen (9781920989002): Stephanie Alexander: Books

    Pretty much exactly as you described above, but not vegetarian. An absolute 'go to' when you have a new ingredient.

    We also have a couple of Jamie Oliver's books. The french toast and Jules favourite beef stew from "Jamie's Dinners" are both favourites.
    Jamie's Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook: Jamie Oliver: 9781401301941: Amazon.com: Books

    Less pleasing books?
    We have a pastry chef's (Adriano Zumbo) book - holy #$%^ batman, is this stuff complicated - waaaayyyyy out of my league and way to fiddly. It looks nice on the shelf, but I'm scared to take it down.
    Amazon.com: Zumbo: Adriano Zumbo's Fantastical Kitchen of Other-Worldly Delights (9781741968040): Adriano Zumbo: Books

    I also have a bbq book from Ben O'Donoghue.
    Ben's Barbecue: Ben O'Donoghue: 9781740668071: Amazon.com: Books
    This one just has way to much chilli for my children + I don't really have the BBQ setup to do a lot of what he suggests (need to recover my weber from the parents-in-law's house).
  14. Charlatan

    Charlatan sous les pav├ęs, la plage Donor

    I have a big pile of cookbooks that I've collected over the years. Some were given as presents by family and other were collected from my last job (distribution companies like to give presents to buyers).

    For baking, I really like Anna Olson's books (actually, I like her savoury books too... she has a roast chicken recipe that has become my go to) her pastry recipe works extremely well in the tropics.

    I like using Jamie O and Nigella's recipes as well.

    I don't have any Bittman books but I do use his recipes frequently. His no corn syrup pecan pie is excellent and is a staple during the holidays.
  15. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member Donor

    If you're comfortable with cooking, one cookbook I would recommend is Ratio by Michael Ruhlman: Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking: Michael Ruhlman: 9781416571728: Amazon.com: Books

    As I mentioned in the OP, it's not a cookbook I would recommend to complete beginners; it is for the more experienced cook looking to experiment or devise their own recipes. I've used several of the templates provided in the book to come up with my own recipes. It gets at why recipes work the way they do--the same reason I love Shirley Corriher's books.
  16. spindles

    spindles Very Tilted

    Sydney, Australia
    I won this at a golf day last year:
    Good Food: Neil Perry: 9781740459235: Amazon.com: Books

    Good Food by Neil Perry. This guy (and his ponytail) is an icon of the Oz food scene. Some really simple recipes like Potato Gratin, which I think people make more complicated that it needs to be. The recipe for this is thinly sliced potato and cream, salt and pepper, baked for 30-40 minutes. Absolutely yum and really easy to make!
  17. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member Donor

    I've been working my way through The Best of America's Test Kitchen from the last several years, as the library has them pretty readily available. I like the amount of information present in each one, which is an important consideration for me when reading cookbooks that aren't focused solely on vegetarian cooking.
  18. jerseyboy Vertical

    I have both the Best of America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated cookbooks. There is a lot of overlap but each has some unique stuff.

    I am a big fan of both the Noma cookbooks. I couldn't and wouldn't ever cook anything in them, but they are beautiful to look at.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member Donor

    I continue to check out a lot of cookbooks from the library. The latest ones include: Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Feast by Sarah Copeland, and Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono.

    Isa Does It is the latest vegan cookbook by a prominent blogger, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who blogs about her recipes at | Post Punk Kitchen | Vegan Baking & Vegan Cooking Regardless of the vegan aspect, Isa's recipes rarely disappoint. Her Bestest Pesto has long been my go-to pesto recipe, as it is incredibly flexible and easy to freeze; it's also much cheaper than traditional pesto recipes. As a cookbook, Isa Does It is a great compendium and an excellent addition to her previous cookbooks. For the curious, check out her website; a number of recipes from there made it into Isa Does It, and I feel like it gives a good sense of the kind of food Isa makes. I haven't cooked anything out of this cookbook yet, but I know that it will be tasty when I do.

    Feast by Sarah Copeland came to my attention because of an interview she did on The Splendid Table, as Copeland is a non-veggie with a veggie husband (sounds familiar). I was intrigued, and requested her cookbook from the library. The recipes are diverse, beautifully photographed, and cut across many different cuisines. The only problem? They're very complicated. Like, overly so. I appreciate the cookbook's focus on fresh, in season ingredients via the use of one basic recipe then modified according to season. However, fully expect to have a kitchen full of dirty dishes after using nearly any recipe in this book.

    Obviously, I love Japanese food, so of course I wanted to read Japanese Soul Cooking, which is by a chef from New York named Tadashi Ono. Ono has written several other books on Japanese cuisine, including a book about hot pot and another about grilling, both of which I'd already read. The book itself is exceptionally attractive. As for the recipes, they are pretty straight-forward ho-tos of the hallmarks of Japanese comfort cooking: ramen, tempura, donburi, and youshoko, or Western food as it has been interpreted by Japanese culture (omurice, spaghetti napolitan, korokke). I didn't find it particularly useful as a cookbook, but I cook Japanese food several times a month (mm curry), so I'm probably not the audience best able to judge this cookbook's effectiveness. As a primer in modern Japanese comfort food, it is a good place to start.
  20. Chris Noyb

    Chris Noyb Get in, buckle up, hang on, & don't criticize. Donor

    Large City, TX
    Thanks for bumping this thread, snowy.

    I wish that I had known about before, I've post a few CB comments here & there in other threads. The following redundant, and is more of a comment than a review, but oh well.

    From a thrift store, Salvation Army IIRC, I bought Pillsbury's BEST 1000 Recipes BEST of the BAKE-OFF Collection. This is, literally, old-school cooking; it was published in 1959. I like how the recipes are written--straight forward with very clear instructions. The downside, if you want to call it that and which is to be expected, is nothing is light & healthy. And obviously flour is used in many of the recipes (it's Pillsbury cookbook).