I don’t know about you, but the first place I head when I walk into a bookstore is the cookbook section. I adore looking through cookbooks. Oh, the promise they offer of future culinary adventures, delicious food, images of far off exotic places, I love it all! I could spend hours there, even if I don’t bring one home (it takes a very special cookbook for me to plunk down my money these days). My collection is large, so I choose very carefully.
My cookbook collection goes back 20 + years, back to a time when I was a single working girl living on my own and trying new things in the kitchen every chance I got. My cookbooks are like my best friend Rena, they are where I turn when I need the truth. When I need a good recipe that I know will knock people’s socks off, I know just which cookbooks to reach for. Most are full of my handwritten notes to remind me of how recipes turned out and what I would do differently the next time. Many of the pages are stained from sitting on the counter while I was cooking, occasionally hovering over to read the instructions. They are worn but cherished. Here are a few of my all time favorites:
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is one of the first cookbooks I ever bought. It was this book that took me beyond the typical Italian recipes we all know, and taught me what authentic Italian food is about. Marcella Hazan is considered the Julia Childs of Italian cooking. This cook book is full of delicious straight forward Italian recipes. When she says classic, she means classic. Everyone should have this one.
Mangoes & Curry Leaves is an absolutely gorgeous cookbook with recipes from the Asian subcontinent countries of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid, who also wrote Hot Sour Salty Sweet (another great cookbook), do a lovely job explaining what they find beautiful and special about the food and people. The recipes are easily adapted to the American palate and everything I have made from this cookbook has been superb. The book is filled with gorgeous images and is worthy of a spot on your coffee table or to give as a gift.
Cradle Of Flavor Home Cooking From the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia was the first cookbook I bought when I moved to Singapore in 2007. I gave up quickly on preparing dishes we ate at home since nothing I made tasted the same there. I decide that “When in Rome do as the Romans” was the only way to go.This book was written by James Oseland, an American who fell in love with southeast Asia as I did. Most people aren’t used to the cuisine from this part of the world, but if you are an adventurous cook, this book is for you.
Barefoot Contessa Family Style. You didn’t think I would forget our beloved Ina Garten did you? I don’t know what I like more, watching Ina on her cooking show living her perfect life in her perfect East Hampton mansion with her perfect Jeffrey, or watching her cook. Either way, it’s always, well, perfect. This cookbook is full of crowd pleasing recipes that I turn to time and time again. I admit I don’t have all of her cookbooks, but I love this one. Oh Ina, to live in that house with a husband who is only home on the weekends, leaving you free the rest of the week to visit with your fabulous gay friends…..how does a girl get so lucky?
Saha A Chef’s Journey Through Lebanon and Syria by Greg and Lucy Malouf is another beauty of a book with killer recipes. I have to say, if I had to choose one type of food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be Lebanese. The food is incredibly healthy and delicious. Salads, dips, grilled meats, lemons, garlic, olive oil, oh man, it’s so good. This is where my previous post recipe of Zucchini and Mint Fritters came from. A few of my favorite recipes include Spinach, Lentil and Lemon Soup, Red Pepper, Walnut and Pomegranate Dip, Lemony Lamb Kebabs, and Barbecued Young Chicken Scented with Cardamom and Thyme. Ok, now my mouth is watering.
Last but not least is my go to Summertime cookbook Boy Meets Grill by Bobby Flay. I have made 80% of the recipes in this book and they are all great. This is one of those cookbooks I turn to when planning a dinner party or cookout. I know whatever I make from this cookbook will be a hit. Bobby always puts together great dishes with an interesting sauce and sides that make them perfect for entertaining. I know he has many cookbooks, but this is the only one I need.