I read cookbooks. Not all the time, but if it’s a good one, I will read it like a regular book. It can’t be that different than my dad’s love of reading computer manuals, and at least I get prettier pictures.
I get that not everyone uses cookbooks. Maybe you prefer to freestyle it all the time, or maybe they just scare you (if you are the second type, contact me. We’ll talk!). But for me, cookbooks have been my friends. They’ve taught me fundamentals, but also taught me creativity in cooking. I feel free to amend recipes that don’t work for me, and if you ask me for a recipe, you’ll get one covered in my notes and changes.
All that said, there are a few cookbooks for me that have risen to the top of the pile. Now, keep in mind that I’m a vegetarian, so some of my selections will reflect that. My husband, however, is not a vegetarian, and I’m not afraid of meat, I just personally don’t like it. So if you’re worried that this post isn’t for you, keep reading. Below you’ll find a list of my top five cookbooks, and if you click the titles it will take you to their Amazon pages.
My top five cookbooks:
- Whole Bowls by Alison Day. Alison Day took off online with her food blog, yummybeet.com. In 2016, she published Whole Bowls, a collection of recipes centered around bowls, balanced composition, and vegetarian/gluten-free eating. I picked up Whole Bowls off of the Barnes & Noble sale rack for $8 because I liked the cover. It ended up becoming my go-to cookbook. I’ve cooked my way through ~50% of the cookbook so far, and it’s my goal to reach 100%. Hands down, my favorite dish is the Banquet Bowls, made up of a cauliflower curry rice, red lentil dahl, and cucumber raita. You will see regular posts from this book.
- Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Simply in Season: Expanded Edition was published in 2009 (and trust me, you want the expanded edition) through the Mennonite Central Commitee, which, as they put it on the title page, “promote[s] the understanding of how the food choices we make affect our lives and the lives of those who produce the food.” So if you want a cookbook full of Wendell Berry quotes, resources on sustainability, and poems and prayers about food, then you have found the cookbook for you. This cookbook was given to me by my college mentor and landlady, and I’ve loved everything I’ve made from it. Plus, it’s taught me so much about the merits and joys of cooking seasonally. Strawberries become that much sweeter when you only eat them in early summer, and butternut squash becomes that much more tantalizing when you only have autumn to go crazy with it. Some favorites from this book include the Vegetarian Groundnut Stew (and don’t worry, it’s not a vegetarian cookbook for all of you carnivores out there; it’s a happy balance of both) and the Autumn Tagine. I also love their versatile taboule recipe. I normally make it with bulgar wheat, but they have several different ingredient suggestions so you can make it safe for your gluten-free friends.
- Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites by the Moosewood Collective. The Moosewood Restaurant was founded in 1973 in Ithaca New York and has authored multiple cookbooks out of their successful and delicious repertoire. I was raised on this cookbook, as my parents were big fans of Moosewood. Now, normally I’m with Michael Pollan on suspecting anything that advertises itself as “low-fat,” because it usually means ingredients that I can’t pronounce and that shouldn’t exist outside of a laboratory, and maybe not even there. But Moosewood is all about making home cooked meals delicious, without the price tag of diabetes and heart disease. Personal favorites from this collection include my all-time favorite meal, their Grown-Up Macaroni and Cheese (which has, wait for it, cayenne and freshly grated nutmeg) paired with their delicious Cucumbers Vinaigrette. It’s my go-to meal to send to people. If you want some meat in it, pancetta on top is perfection. Additionally, I also have two other Moosewood Books that are great, their Simple Suppers cookbook (great for busy weeknights) and their Farm Fresh Meals Deck, a collection of recipe cards that take you through the seasons, and offer entrees, sides, and desserts. This is a great resource for preparing seasonal, multi-course meals.
- Meatless by Martha Steward (kind of). We all know Martha didn’t actually come up with all of these, but they are still a treasure. My husband’s aunt gave this cookbook to me for Secret Santa one Christmas, and it’s become a regular. What I love about these meals is that both Troy and I can enjoy them, even though he’s not a vegetarian. Many of the recipes serve as excellent bases to which he can add chicken and I can add tofu, but most of them are so balanced and hearty that you don’t need anything else. Favorites here include the one on the cover, a pasta dish with kale, heirloom tomatoes, and ricotta cheese (so easy and so delicious), as well as a delicious cauliflower curry I just tried last week for the first time.
- From Asparagus to Zucchini by FairShare CSA Coalition. Troy and I picked up this cookbook at the CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) we were a part of back when we lived in Virginia. What I love about this book is the creativity it inspires. Our CSA would often carry many vegetables I was unfamiliar with (a dangling preposition, I know. So sue me), but this cookbook lists out A-Z produce carried at farmer’s markets and offers not only recipes, but also tips for selection, storage, and preparation. I highly recommend this as a resource.
So what are your favorite cookbooks? Please comment below! I’m always looking for new ways to go bankrupt through cookbook accumulation. And I encourage you to pick up these cookbooks for yourself. If you can, try to find them at a local bookstore before ordering from Amazon (you know, support local business and keep down emissions levels caused by shipping transportation).
Stay tuned, as later this week I’ll have up posts about a new granola recipe, onion soup, and homemade dutch-oven bread!