Truth be told, most of the cooking I do these days is inspired from a recipe I find online — usually from allrecipes.com or a cooking blog. Or from my Friday Recipe Exchange!
But back before there were online recipe boxes, I used to love reading cook books. Yes, reading them. Cover to cover.
Although I don’t have as much time (or energy) to cook patchkied recipes these days, my years of reading cookbooks not only taught me how to cook for real; it also taught me how to take short-cuts.
It taught me, for example, what spices to use when cooking Indian vs. Italian vs. Middle Eastern food. It taught me that sauteed onions and garlic are the foundation of, oh, 99% of the things I’m ever going to want to cook! And it taught me basic techniques for everything from braiding challah to wrapping eggrolls.
When I want to sink my teeth into a good cookbook that will both inspire and inform, these are the three I reach for first:
The purple cover of the Chabad cookbook might seem a little … predictable. You might even find some of the recipes cliche. But I’ll tell you what. I have yet to make something from this cookbook that doesn’t turn out exactly as I expect it to! This is good, solid, Jewish food. My favorite recipe is the cake carrot kugel, which we usually bake into muffin tins — to make it extra-palatable to our sometimes finicky five-year. (I have no idea why the cookbook is $60+ at every online retailer I checked. I did NOT pay that much, I’m sure. So, don’t order it from Amazon. Maybe Paperback Swap has it?)
I had heard about Susie Fishbein for years, but this fall was the first time that I really got to delve into one of her cookbooks (KBD Teens & 20-Somethings, which I was fortunate enough to get to review and give-away on my blog!). Although I wasn’t madly in love with this latest offering, I was intrigued enough to keep looking. When I found KBD Entertains, I was completely smitten! The pictures! The presentation! The blended soups! We checked it out from the library, and I’m realizing that I may just have to blow some Swagbucks to get my own copy from Amazon!
3. Enchanted Broccoli Forest — or really anything by Mollie Katzen
As a long-time (former) vegetarian, Mollie’s recipes are perfection to me. In addition to Broccoli Forest, I also love her original Moosewood Cookbook. I especially enjoyed using her recipes in Israel, where fresh produce was so abundant and so delectable. I sadly don’t cook like that as much anymore, and I really miss it — so when I need inspiration, I often find it by leafing through one of her cookbooks.
At least for the moment, these are my top three favorite cookbooks — the ones with the dog-eared corners and the oil-splattered pages.
Are you a cookbook friend? What are your top choices?