Sunday, October 3, 2010

What's Your Favorite Cookbook?

Over the years, I have noticed that I reach for the same worn cookbooks when I’m looking for a recipe. It’s not that I don’t have new cookbooks, but sometimes the prettiest, shiniest, most trendy cookbooks don’t fit the bill. Don’t get me wrong, some of them rapidly make it into my tried and trusty category. Which is actually my point. Some cookbooks just seem to have recipes that taste right to me, and others -- not so much. Fortunately, we all have different taste, and I’ve wondered sometimes if I prefer certain cookbooks because the author likes the same flavors and foods as me.



Flashy doesn’t count here. A friend gave me CHEZ PANISSE DESSERTS, a cookbook that’s about as plain vanilla as a cookbook can be. It has a soft cover and NO PICTURES! In our visually oriented society, that’s hard to imagine. The recipes, however, are worthy of a five star restaurant. Not surprising perhaps, since the author, Lindsey Shere, was the pastry chef at Chez Panisse. The recipes are extremely clear and well written and make it easy to navigate through a complicated dish. CHEZ PANISSE DESSERTS contains my favorite recipe for Dobos Torte, sometimes called Dobosh Torte. Of Hungarian origin, this is the cake you want to serve to a snooty domestic diva mother-in-law. Formal and regal, it’s a once-a-year knockout indulgence. Fabulous. Seven thin layers of cake with chocolate hazelnut buttercream in between, and a thin glossy burnt sugar top. There is nothing more elegant, and Lindsey Shere’s recipe is classic.



I am not, however, a recipe snob, as evidenced by the very worn cover of my copy of the original JOY OF COOKING. The book is so thorough that I use it as a reference. Anyone who is a newcomer to cooking will find it invaluable. I think it makes a really nice bridal shower gift for a young couple because it’s so comprehensive.




One of the newer cookbooks in my kitchen is the Better Homes and Gardens OUR BEST RECIPES. It has a fun feature showing how some recipes have changed over the years. Our mothers’ version of classic dishes has lightened up quite a bit. Do you write in your cookbooks? I do. I make notes after I prepare the dish, like -- substituted dark corn syrup for molasses. I note who liked recipes and who didn’t. It’s fun later on to see that I made the Walnut Mocha Torte for New Year’s in 2007, who was there, and who liked it. Of course, some recipes get the dreaded “don’t bother” or “yecch” note, but those are few and far between in the cookbooks I’m mentioning today!



Possibly my favorite cookbook is Susan G. Purdy’s HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT, TOO. Another picture-less cookbook (note to editors -- use pictures, you’ll sell more cookbooks!), it hits the spot every single time. Susan Purdy and I must have exactly the same taste palate, because these recipes are always just right. Happily, she has reduced the fat and calories in all her desserts and explains how she did it -- but you’ll never notice. This woman is a baking wizard of the highest order, and I would buy any other cookbooks she puts out without giving it a second thought. In fact, I would be first in line!

So, what’s your favorite cookbook?


25 comments:

  1. Can I have 3? I love The Settlement Cookbook (old version) for the basic stuff. But Diane Phillips' Pot Pies is real comfort food. And Improvisations - which has recipes for leftovers which are better than the first cooking.

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  2. I've never heard of Improvisions. Sounds very useful. And I love Pot Pies!

    ~ Krista

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  3. I love Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Her hummus, onion dip and fresh corn salad are my favorites. Something I've discovered recently online is food.com (used to be recipezaar.com). Type in anything you want to make and dozens of recipes pop up with pictures, ratings and comments. Very easy to see what's good and what's not. So far, everything I've made has been great.

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  4. This is hard! And you've had me sitting in the floor pulling out cookbooks trying to decide. Which means I've been sitting there getting totally immersed in them all, saying "Oh - I need to fix this! And this! And this!" And finally decided, if I could only choose one, I'll choose my "latest" favorite - Jean Anderson's "A Love Affair with Southern Cooking."

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  5. My favorite cookbooks are the ones published as fundraisers by the church groups, PTA, FOL, Home Extension groups, etc. I have several spanning the last 30 or so years and I still go back to them for some of my family's favorites.

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  6. Wonderful post. Joy of Cooking is so handy to review basic recipes, and I love my Julia Child's The Way to Cook. I've always been a fan of Jeff Smith, as well, from the old Frugal Gourmet show on PBS and I love his cookbooks, too.

    Cook with joy!
    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

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  7. I have a confession. I don't like to cook. The one cookbook I pull out again and again is "Hey, it's Potluck" by the Decorah,IA Wal-Mart Associates to benefit Children's Miracle Network. I have given this book as a gift several times and it never fails to please. It boasts a crowd pleasin' "Party Punch" recipe, infamous "Taco Dip", stick to your ribs "Calico Beans" and the make two pans or you'll run out "Cheesy Potatoes". To top that all off there is a "Cocoa Drop Cookie" recipe that is chocolately goodness. Mmmmmm, this makes me want to put an extra leaf in the kitchen table and make a big Sunday dinner. :)

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  8. My favorite cookbook is the Betty Crocker Cookbook

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  9. Like you, I have ruined my "Joy of Cooking" over the years with drips and spatters. Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" holds a place of honor on my kitchen shelf, although the recipes in it are rather fancy to use very often. I also have a lot of cookbooks that people have given me over the years.

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  10. Layinda, I'm often disappointed by on-line recipes. Seems like a lot of sites pick up any recipe and then the same recipe is repeated everywhere over and over.

    Oh, Kaye! I have this image of you sitting on the floor surrounded by cookbooks! I'm learning about a lot of cookbooks today and Jean Anderson's sounds like I need to check it out.

    ~ Krista

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  11. Diana, I heard the same comment on Facebook. I have a wisp of a cookbook that came from a school I attended, and I'm so upset that I can't find it. It contained recipes that I've never seen anywhere else.

    Cleo, I forgot about The Frugal Gourmet! Must dig that one out.

    Molly, it's okay if you don't like to cook -- as long as you like to eat. ; ) Hmm, why do I think you might like to cook a little bit if you're contemplating a big dinner? Just teasing. I love those, too, and not just for the food.

    ~ Krista

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  12. Dru, I have Betty Crocker cookbooks, too. Some purchased ages ago by my mother.

    Patricia, maybe those drips and splatters are like a blue ribbon to a cookbook. The books that don't get used much are in perfect condition.

    ~ Krista

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  13. I am a product of the Internet. Most everything I make has been inspired by blog posts. But, The Bread Baker's Apprentice did change my baking skills astronomically.

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  14. What a great discussion you can never have too many cook books just like mysteries there is never enough ha. I have my grandmothers 1950 Betty Crocker Cookbook that I love. I also have their 1950's cookie one. I also have a Pillsbury cookbook that my mom got when she got married in the 60's. I also love my Irish cookbook and my quiche cookbook. I could go on and on with this one ha.

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  15. I have a ton of cookbooks that I've used.. I have to say a favorite would be a tossup between:

    The 2nd Ave. Deli Cookbook (Recipes and Memories from Abe Lebewohl's Kitchen)

    and

    Junior's ! Remembering Brooklyn with
    Memories from It's Favorite Restaurant

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  16. I would have to say ALL the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks.

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  17. I've got all of my grandmother's Junior League cookbooks. I love checking out the old recipes (and maybe modernizing them a *little* to make them healthier!)

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  18. That's a tough one! I love Giada DeLaurentiss and then my go too is an old Fannie Farmer book.

    beholdthemetatron.com

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  19. Wow, Dave! A Year On the Grill is looking very fancy! I think you may have become a domestic diva!

    I will admit that I see fabulous recipes on blogs. It's the recipe sites that often leave me cold.

    ~ Krista

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  20. Kaye's reply made me laugh, as I did exactly the same thing! I have a collection of over 100 cookbooks and had to force myself to stop buying them, even before the recession. (I use the library & the net for new recipes)

    Joy of Cooking has always been my standby, and like you, Krista, I still give them as gifts. My copy is so tattered I had to make a cover for it out of a brown grocery sack about 10 or 15 years ago!

    There's no way I can choose just one favorite, so here's my Top Ten list of Tried & True go-to's:

    Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen

    Talk About Good!-The Jr. League of Lafayette, La.

    River Road Recipes:The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine by the Jr. League of Baton Rouge

    The Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking-Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz

    The Art of Mexican Cooking-Diana Kennedy

    McCall's Introduction to Italian Cooking

    A Book of Middle Eastern Food-Claudia Roden

    The Complete Asian Cookbook-Charmaine Solomon

    A Taste of Country Cooking-Edna Lewis

    Stop and Smell the Rosemary-The Jr. League of Houston

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  21. I just picked up a really good one (an ARC from BEA) from America's Test Kitchen about cooking healthy (I forget the exact title).

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