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Old 07-19-2004, 09:05 AM
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Default Favorite cookbooks?

I very rarely cook from cookbooks, but I will happily read them from cover to cover and retrieve bits of information when fretting about what to make for dinner.

My criteria for a cookbook are as follows: recipes must not be fussy. They must never require me to stack food on top of other food for aesthetic effect. They must be engaging to read. They must be friendly -- I have never cozied up to Marcella Hazan, who everybody else loves, because she is mean. "If you attempt to produce this dish in your pathetic American home kitchen, with your pathetic American denatured ingredients, it will never in a bazillion years be as delicious as it is in Emilia-Romagna. But if you insist, here is the recipe." </marcella>

There are some cookbooks which fit the above, and my copies are besplattered and dogeared and read to death.

I have Laurie Colwin's books "Home Cooking" and "More Home Cooking" pretty much memorized. My copy of the former is held together with duct tape. Funny because her recipes aren't reliable, especially in the realm of cooking times, but she's just so enthusiastic and full of great anecdotes, and is such a good writer, that it's all worth it. Besides she introduced me to the concept of creamed spinach with jalapeno peppers, which I make on a weekly basis.

I am currently madly in love with Nigel Slater, who I think had a show on the Food Network. His book "Appetite" paid for itself in the first month I had it (and it was a damn expensive tome.) He doesn't use measurements unless absolutely necessary, and he's all about learning to trust yourself in the kitchen and not paying attention to big meanies like Marcella who try to tell you how things SHOULD be. He's also a really sexy, funny, sly writer (his paragraph about mangoes must be read to be believed.)

Last, another damn expensive tome with which I am infatuated is "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Miss Lewis is a national treasure who's been cranking out classic cookbooks since shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs, and Mr. Peacock plays the part of adoring acolyte. Southern food is so profoundly weird to me -- weirder than anything Asian -- and every recipe in this thing is both weird and fantastic. Also TERRIBLE for you, but once in a blue moon BLT salad is just the thing.

Your turn now.

[edited for repetition and nitpicky spelling error]
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Last edited by RevDahlia; 07-19-2004 at 11:01 AM.
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Old 07-19-2004, 09:34 AM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

I've written so much in so many places about this place that I really don't want to do it all over again right now - mostly 'cause it's way past my bedtime. However here's the very simple and straightforward pitch:

Go here, read about the book if you must, then order it. Do it now.
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Old 07-19-2004, 03:04 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Zingerman's has a cookbook?

Still haven't made it there. Yes, I'm naughty.
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Old 07-19-2004, 06:44 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roland98
Zingerman's has a cookbook?

Still haven't made it there. Yes, I'm naughty.
O. M. G.

Go there, Roland. Do it now. Eat what I wish I could right now, which is pretty much anything they have, but preferably a potato knish. :)

Oh and go visit my family while you're at it. :P
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Old 07-08-2014, 05:14 AM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Quote:
Originally Posted by viscousmemories View Post
Go here, read about the book if you must, then order it. Do it now.
Dead link. What kind of two-bit operation are you people running here, letting your links get all stale. :sadno:
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  #6  
Old 07-19-2004, 08:47 PM
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Thumbup Re: Favorite cookbooks?

I'm a cookbookaholic, I think: I cook from them, read them, buy them for friends, scour yard sales for old ones and God knows what all else.

Okay, if you don't mind, I'm just going to start listing. Warning: it'll take a while.

First and foremost, I must pay homage to the classic without which no post-collegiate housewarming party would be complete: The New Joy of Cooking, by the Rombauer dynasty. My mom gave me the original JoC when I graduated college and I used it religiously. Even though it was a bit heavy on the heavy 50s style American foods, as a resource for dewey-eyed cooks it was - and still is - invaluable.

The new edition has far more diverse (and healthy) recipes, plus, it's still the best source of definitions and basic how-to steps I've ever encountered. Need to make a basic guacamole? Joy's got it. Found a delicious looking recipe in Food & Wine but have no idea what deglazing is? Look it up in Joy.

Another great one in the how-to overview category is Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques. It's long, incredibly detailed and a real revelation to read.

Sorry, Rev, but I really love Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Then again, I may very well be more than reasonably picky when it comes to Italian cuisine, so her snobbery doesn't have an effect on me. :wink:

Another much-used favorite from my old stomping grounds is Mediterranean Light, by Martha Rose Shulman. It features tons of great, easy, healthy recipes from all over the Mediterranean. I've probably made every fish recipe in the book and they were all wonderful.

One of my most cherished yard sale finds is a 1968 Time-Life (yes, you read me right) book called The Cooking of Italy. I got my recipe for handmade pasta from there, and I swear it tastes just like the pasta Nonna Maria used to make me on her farm in Emilia Romagna. (Except nowhere near as perfect, cause she was a truly divine cook.)

Oy. I'm going to go ahead and wrap it up before I get anymore out of control. My last offering is an obscure little volume called Jack's Skillet. It's a compendium hilarious and brilliant articles written by Jack Butler, collected from his food column in an Arkansas daily. In the interests of full disclosure I should state that I know the author personally (and he's damn hot, too). If you've ever had a hankering for biscuits and tomato gravy, the finest Margaritas ever made by hand of man, and, above all, a chicken pot pie that is so undescribably fantastic it redefines the term, look no further. Jack can write, I tell ya, and he can really, really cook too.

Thank you, Rev, for this awesome thread. :yup:

P.S. - Shit. I can't resist just one more. Rev, if you haven't read The Elements of Taste yet, run, don't walk, and get it right now.

Last edited by livius drusus; 07-19-2004 at 09:25 PM. Reason: very embarassing spelling error
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Old 07-19-2004, 09:59 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

I agree with liv about The New Joy of Cooking. It's a great book and a tremendous resource. Another of my favorites is this tiny little book on curries that we picked up in the checkout line at the local for like $4.99. Best investment we've ever made.

Our most recent cookbook purchase was one on traditional French cooking called (not surprisingly) The French Kitchen. The author of this cookbook (Joanne Harris) is more famous for her novels than anything else. I'm sure you've all heard of (or seen or beter yet, read) Chocolat?

But our most prized cookbook is the one we've made. When we've found a recipe that we like, we transcribe it into a blank scrapbook set aside for that purpose. I have recipes for everything from Shrimp Courtbouillant to Homemade Pirohy. From Beef Wellington to Aunt Tilly's Chocolate Cake (which would be a puddin' for Brits out there). Alongside the recipes, we write comments about variations we like to sometimes play with, or to say what this meal goes good with. Of course, there are the ubiquitous stains and spills throughout the book as well.
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Old 07-19-2004, 10:14 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Godot
IBut our most prized cookbook is the one we've made. When we've found a recipe that we like, we transcribe it into a blank scrapbook set aside for that purpose.
Wow, Godot, that's a dream of mine. I have about 4 scrapbooks of recipes I've written down from, gotten from other people and clipped from food magazines, but they're so disorganized and incomplete I never get anything like full use out of them.

Have you ever considered making copies of yours for friends and family, or maybe even (and I dread to say it) typing it all up and printing it? I have an ongoing project of entering all my favorites into a database for easy reference, but by ongoing I unfortunately mean neverending. :sadnana:
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Old 07-19-2004, 10:56 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Oh, we have scraps of recipes that we've culled from newpapers or magazines galore, some of which have been transcribed into The Book whilst others are nestled gently between the pages. We even have a small collection of recipes on the computer. That's mostly because we've been too lazy to get around to doing it though. I blame my atrocious script for why I don't do it; I'm not going to speculate on my partner's reasons. ;)

We don't mind sharing any of the recipes with an appreciative audience in the least, but there's no way in hell that it'll be copied in full for anyone else. The whole point of The Book is to create an heirloom for our children and grandchildren. We want to leave open pages in the book for them to place their favorite recipes alongside ours. It's a perpetual work in progress that will only be complete when the last page is full and I don't expect that day to come for many, many years. I don't even have an index of recipes in the book (merely a demarcation point for meals and desserts) since I feel that journeying through the book, looking for the desired recipe is as much a chance to reminisce as it is to cook the perfect dish.
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Old 07-20-2004, 09:11 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Here's another vote for Joy of Cooking and all its updates. It's the cookbook I use to find out the whats and wherefors of cooking, making it possible to go ahead without a recipe.
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Old 07-20-2004, 09:21 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Quote:
P.S. - Shit. I can't resist just one more. Rev, if you haven't read The Elements of Taste yet, run, don't walk, and get it right now.
That's a big can-do, chief. Thank Jeebus for my discount at B&N.
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Old 07-21-2004, 04:41 AM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RevDahlia
That's a big can-do, chief. Thank Jeebus for my discount at B&N.
Outstanding. Let me know when you've read it. I've been wanting to start a thread about it for ages; I'd love to talk about it with you.
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Old 07-21-2004, 08:20 AM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

My favourite all-purpose cookbook is La Varenne Pratique by Anne Willan. It doesn't just have recipes, it has information about ingredients and about choosing and storing them, a short section about equipment, instructions for basic preparation of fruits and vegetables, pictures of both US and French cuts of meat (useful for those of us who spend time in the US and Europe), and sections about herbs, spices, fats, and oils as well as about regular ingredients, and it's illustrated with good colour photos and drawings all the way through.

The only disadvantages are the price ($60) and the weight, which makes it a (literal) pain to carry around, especially in one hand while trying to do culinary stuff with the other.
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Old 12-12-2007, 09:31 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, by Nigella Lawson.

It's a wonderful read. Each recipe has a story and the stories are interesting and relatable. Despite her obvious upbringing, she's not a food-snob. The true test of a recipe book for me is do i --can i-- cook the food contained therein. I would estimate i've cooked a full third of the food in the book, and intend to try more yet. It's accessible and not intimidating.

I resurrected this thread because i'm sure there's some new books on your shelves. Just a curious wannabe foodie.
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Old 12-12-2007, 10:22 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Oo, cool bump, Histrionica. I've had this for a while, but I've revived my use of The Occasional Vegetarian lately, especially for the whole grains section. Her instructions make the best brown rice I've had.
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Old 12-12-2007, 10:03 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

We've gotten a lot of mileage out of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook we were given as a wedding present. I also like the Rachael Ray cookbooks, though I find myself modifying them to make them less expensive.

I asked for The Art of Simple Food for Giftmas. I'm looking forward to reading that, since it's apparently got a lot of instructional material.

I've been making a lot of recipes from the Eating Well When You're Expecting cookbook. The meals are simple and well-balanced, but not always the tastiest (can't have everything, right?) Still, I basically have to force my wife to eat well when she's pregnant, since her cravings are all over the place.
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Old 12-12-2007, 11:59 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

I like both additions so far, but to make the best brown rice? Maybe it'd make the kind of brown rice i'm not the only one in the house willingly eating.[/hint,hint]
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Last edited by Histrionica; 12-13-2007 at 12:00 AM. Reason: added a missing slash
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Old 12-13-2007, 01:53 AM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Ah, then what ye be needing is her recipe for fried rice. It's not greasy or heavy at all, but it's a most scrumptious brown rice delivery system.
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Old 12-13-2007, 09:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by livius drusus View Post
Ah, then what ye be needing is her recipe for fried rice. It's not greasy or heavy at all, but it's a most scrumptious brown rice delivery system.
I believe that is what i need. Can you share it, or is that copyright infringement? :innocent:

The Roasted Vegetable sounds awesome!

*pokes Mister Scarlatti*
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Old 12-13-2007, 09:37 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Okay, first you have to cook the rice. This is her method for cooking whole grains. It works for brown rice, wheat berries, wild rice, barley and probably other stuff I haven't tried.

First you wash it. Put the rice in a bowl of cold water and swish it around. Let it sit for a few minutes, then drain.

Now on to the cooking. She uses less water than usual and I love that because I like al dente grains, especially for fried rice 'cause they're going to be cooked twice.

Her proportions:

1 cup whole grain to 1 1/2 cups water
2 cups grain to 2 3/4 cups water
3 cups grain to 3 cups water (this ratio holds for any amount of grain larger than 3 cups)

So, for two people, you'll be going with 1 cup of rice. Bring 1.5 cups of water to a rolling boil in a saucepan with a tight-fitting cover. Add the drained rice and stir once with a wooden spoon. When the water comes back to a boil, stir again, cover the pot and turn the heat down as low as it can go.

Wait for 30 minutes. If you can see through the lid, you'll know it's ready because there'll be "fish eyes" in the rice -- those steam holes thingies. If you can't see through the lid, peek just to confirm the holes are there, then take the pot off the burner, lid still on.

Let it relax, covered, for 30 minutes, then fluff it with a fork. Voila: perfect brown rice.

Now, if you're making fried rice, you have to ensure the rice is cool and dry as a bone. That's why using leftover rice you get from chinese takeout works so well.

With fresh rice, you need to spread it out on a cookie sheet or a serving dish or something and just let it air dry. Once it's cool, cover and refrigerate. Make a bunch of rice ahead of time and you can fry it up on a moment's notice.

Whole-Grain Fried Rice

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil
2 cups cold or room-temp rice
1 unpeeled carrot, sliced into thin rounds
2 scallions, white and green parts sliced into 1/8" rounds
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

Heat a wok or a large cast iron skillet over high heat until it smokes. Add one tablespoon of high-heat vegetable oil. (I've used safflower and peanut, but most anything will work.)

Add the rice immediately and stir-fry until all the grains are shiny. If you want to scorch the grains, press it with the back of a spoon and flip every minute for 5 minutes or so. I don't usually have the patience to do that, myself.

Remove the rice from the wok. Add teaspoon of oil, then the carrots and the scallions. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Return the rice to the wok then add the soy sauce. Stir-fry for a minute until the soy sauce has evenly colored the rice.

Empty the wok onto a serving platter and sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds. Serve hot or at room temperature.

And that's all she wrote. It's a versatile recipe. I've used all kinds of veggies in it, and of course you could add chicken or shrimp or anything else your heart desires. Just be sure to stir-fry them separately because they'll take longer to cook than the veggies.
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Old 12-13-2007, 02:28 AM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

speaking of veggies...

I got this one, The Roasted Vegetable recently, along with another by the same author on oodles of delicious ways to cook grains, rice and beans.
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Old 12-13-2007, 06:04 AM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Yellow Pages: 'P' for Pizza.
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Old 12-13-2007, 09:12 AM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

So practical, yet concise D. Scarlatti.

I have been using this one for 20 years now, Hot & Spicy by Marlena Spieler, it has a good selection of Indonesian recipes too.
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Old 12-13-2007, 09:40 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Not a cookbook but a must have kitchen reference book Williams Sonoma Kitchen Companion. It has uses and storage of almost every ingredient along with cooking tehniques and equipment. My hubby's grandma had one and after I saw it I had to have one too.
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Old 12-13-2007, 10:06 PM
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Default Re: Favorite cookbooks?

Quote:
Originally Posted by biochemgirl View Post
Not a cookbook but a must have kitchen reference book Williams Sonoma Kitchen Companion. It has uses and storage of almost every ingredient along with cooking tehniques and equipment. My hubby's grandma had one and after I saw it I had to have one too.
I found one of those at St. Vinnie's for about $2. Its a great book, and I have turned to it countless times for quick answers to many questions.

BTW, I just love looking at all Williams-Sonoma cookbooks
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