Sunday, December 19, 2010

Best Cookbooks

How can you not love cookbooks?  They sing to you with their mouthwatering full color covers, pages full of enticing foods, aromatic ingredients, creative imaginings of meals you never had before!

I love browsing cookbooks.  But after years of trying recipes and falling for so-so collections, I can honestly say I am happy with the books I already have.  I'm here to share our collection with you, so that you too can enjoy the fulfillment that comes with knowing your next meal is just a flip of a page away.

And yes, having a cookbook is still very relevant in this age of internet recipes galore.  The internet is a magical place for finding information, but what about when you don't need a million choices but just the ones that work best?  What about when you need inspiration and don't have those search terms in your head yet?  Having a resource you trust will guide you through to the delicious end results is an absolute necessity, don't miss out!

BEST NEW COOKBOOK, geared toward the busy mom (or dad) who wants to put together fabulous meals in the quickest time possible, with the least amount of brainpower and effort possible.
Time for Dinner, by Pilar Guzman and friends.

I love love love the layout of this book!  I didn't think I had any use for another cookbook until I met this one.

They have a section for make-ahead meals, for when you have a chunk of time (Sunday afternoon, perhaps) and want to get some cooking done to spare you for the next few days.  It's brilliant, and wonderful time savor!

There is also another section that's built around the main ingredient you may have already lying around at home.  Why isn't every cookbook organized in this way?  If it's last minute and your stomach is already growling, you just flip to the page with the stuff you have (say fish), choose the variation that interests you (can of tomatoes, etc), and end up with gourmet flavors at a fraction of the time (fish chowder stew, yum)!

I just got this book a couple months ago, and already I've learned the coolest trick for cooking squash.  Just poke a hole in it with a screwdriver, then bake for an hour.  So simple!  And it works.  Voila, tasty squash to use in as many ways as you can imagine (and of course they offer great suggestions here).

The set up is modern, relevant, and absolutely works.

BEST COOKBOOK FOR INTERMEDIATE KITCHEN LEARNING, extremely comprehensive, and well-written.
How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.

It's just like the title says.  This book has extended explanations for every new ingredient covered, tells you first how to make that meat/veggie/fruit/whatchamacallit sing in the simplest way possible, then gives ideas for how to take it to the next level, then the next.

It gives confidence in cooking, by breaking it down for you.  It doesn't assume you know any fancy cooking terms, it shows with simple illustrations how to prepare the food, starting from when you pull it out of the grocery bag.

It honestly took my husband from amateur experimental chef (with frequent misses...), to glorious creator of mouthwatering delights.  He lives by this book, in the kitchen.  Seriously.  His salmon with red wine sauce is to die for!  And many other meals can be credited back to this gem.
(Thank you to the wonderful friends who gave this as wedding gift!)

BEST TIMELESS COOKBOOK, that every kitchen should have.
Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

An oldie but truly goodie, this cookbook never goes out of style.  Despite the fact that many of the recipes have been in here since the 1950s, don't think for a second that they won't be relevant today.  Just tonight in fact we enjoyed an amazing slow-cooked lamb and fruit stew, courtesy this book.

It covers everything from salads to mains to desserts to baking bread to crockery cooking and more.  It's a great book to have on hand for those classic recipes.  Like their version of Waldorf Salad that is the best tasting I had ever had (hint courtesy the cookbook, use flavored yogurt instead of mayo!)

I suggest this as a starter cookbook for the 20 something fresh out of college, ready to start making simple meals at home, and dishes they can happily serve to dinner guests.  But still like I said, it is a staple that I still use it all the time (beyond my 20s...).

BEST VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK.  I was lucky enough to go to college in the same town that this book was born.  Ithaca, New York.  Home of the awesome Moosewood Restaurant.
Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.

Each recipe is lovingly handwritten, complete with quirky doodles, quotes, and all.  The combinations are fantastically innovative, and numerous.  You will never get bored of vegetables again.  Especially rewarding are the soups and stews.  Is it bad that I use those as backbone for making my own version and adding meat?  Heck no, I'm the one eating it and I happen not to be vegetarian!

There's a lot of variations on this book that have sprung up since the lovely original.  I admit I haven't tried them, because I haven't needed to.  The first is that good, it doesn't need a sequel!

BEST ASIAN COOKBOOK.   This one is very true to authentic tastes, with delicious twists that give it modern feel.  Think California Asian-fusion cuisine, and you'll get the idea.
Quick Cooking with Pacific Flavors by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison.

Love love love every single recipe I have ever tried out of this book!  It never fails to tantalize my taste buds.  I know the Tropical Salad recipe by heart and it has become one of my trademark never fail dishes (getting hungry just thinking about the zingy lime/ginger/cilantro dressing atop salad filled with mango, avocado, and tomato, mmmm!).  Other delights include asian bbq marinades for meat or fish, warm curry soup, spicy caesar salad, and many more.

This book does a great job teaching the basics about ingredients to help you navigate the "ethnic" aisle of your grocery store, or better yet the Asian grocery store you might otherwise get lost in.  Right down to the brand names, they give you their take and preference to help make your meal the best it can be.

BEST PERSIAN COOKBOOK.  And I should know, being Persian myself.
Food of Life by Najmieh Batmangli.

There's really no contest here.  This is the only cookbook you can find that delivers on its promise to help you make authentic home cooked Persian dishes.  And the photography is just gorgeous.

This isn't easy cooking by any means but to be fair, that's what it take to make this type of cuisine.  Gourmet stews bubble for hours to perfection, even the rice is a 2 day event- to make it just perfect.  This may seem absurd to us busy American's, but in Iran, it's a way of life.

If you want to start off easy go to the appetizer and salad section.  You will get a feel for some of the flavors with much less prep-time.  Then when you feel like really diving in, try the Fessenjun (pomegranate and walnut stew), it's to die for!!

BEST QUICK-MEAL COOKBOOK.  That is, a book geared solely toward making meals quickly and efficiently.  And deliciously of course.
Express Lane Meals by Rachel Ray.

You gotta love Rachel Ray, she's so gosh darn endearing and charming.  And boy does she know how to cook with colorful flavors.  This book is great for menu inspirations.

The idea is to keep on stock certain go-to staples, which are listed out nicely.  Then there are few ingredients to put on your "express shopping list" which you then pick up for that particular meal.  The organization is nice, moving from simplest up front to more complicated recipes in back.

We keep going back to it because of the ingenuity.  Who would have thought a can of clams could turn into the perfect pasta sauce in twenty minutes?  Or that anchovy paste is a must have ingredient?  Rachel Ray, that's who.  She's got lots to teach, and she does it with style.

With that, I give you the perfect culinary repertoire of recipes to entertain and delight you.  Bon Appetit!  Or as we Persians say, Nushi Jan!


  1. I've wanted a Persian Cookbook, I can't believe I hadn't thought to ask you! :) I will definitely check out Food of Life. Thanks!

    Also, I've been making a lot of mark bittman recipes lately (they seem to be syndicated in the FoodDay section on tuesdays) and I think I'm going to get How to Cook Everything in the very near future!

  2. I would love to know what cookbooks are your favorites, since you always seem to have the best tasting dishes on your kitchen table!