Word on the street is that as the economy worsens, cookbook sales rise. Isn’t that American? Wouldn’t one think that cookbook check-outs at the library might go up instead? Perhaps it has. Chosen method of procurement aside, I’m not begrudging you the investment in a superior culinary tome–I spent too much time looking at one yesterday, although I was able to walk away without a purchase. But I also already have a good library of cookbooks at my disposal that I’ve picked up over the years that allow me to cook great meals, from whole foods, in my own kitchen. If you’re a fledgling home cook, or just someone looking to eat at home more to save a little money, here’s a list of comprehensive cookbooks, vegan, vegetarian, and meat-eater, that have proved themselves to me time and time again.
1. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything or How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Bittman champions the idea that anyone can cook and cook well, and these volumes are infamous for their ability to empower people to do so. Both of these must-haves contain over 1,500 recipes that build a basic repertoire of skills and dishes. If you can master Bittman (and he thinks you can!) you can easily move on to more difficult recipes.
2. Vegan With A Vengeance or Veganomicon. If you keep an animal-free kitchen, or are just looking for delicious vegan meals to prepare on occasion, these books by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (the latter co-authored by Terry Hope Romero) are a great start to cooking really, really tasty food that makes you forget about meat. The ladies behind Post Punk Kitchen focus on what you can eat, not what you’re missing, and the results are fantastic. They make vegan accessable and tasty.
3. Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Deborah Madison knows how to write clear and simple directions for really, really good food. I thumbed through VCfE this morning to find a tasty soup recipe (I went with summer tomato with shallot, by the way). The book is beautiful, packed full of tips, tricks, and skills, and will leave you knowing how to manipulate vegetables into any kind of dish you could want. She’s also my go-to for classic baking recipes, because of baking’s precise nature and her ability to write clear directions, I feel less inclined towards disaster.
4. Simply In Season. By Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, this cookbook my mom picked up for me in Door County is organized by season, you’re always cooking with what’s fresh and available. With plenty of meatfree dishes (and suggestions for modification for meat-based ones), this is good for most kitchens. The reason why I love it the most is that Lind and Hockman-Wert don’t make me dread that stretch of winter where fresh, local produce is few and far between. We can still eat well and try to eat local.
5. The Moosewood Series has reputation for being on the…crunchier side, but Mollie Katzen and the Moosewood Collective always put forth a variety of recipes from their restaurant that people love, and I’m no different. My favorite is Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, which I cook from all the time for quick and simple veggie classic dishes.
6. The Silver Spoon. Known as the Italian cooking bible,this book is hefty–with over 2,000 recipes organized by ingredients. This is real Italian cooking, and although sometimes information is lost in translation (seriously, read through everything first to make sure it makes sense, because there are a few glaring typos) if you love the varied cuisine of Italy (as we do in our Italian-roots household), you will love this book. For me, The Silver Spoon represents moving away from American cuisine and moving towards cooking methods of the world.
Check out other cookbook reviews on Green Options below.
Readers: What cookbook would your kitchen be incomplete without?