Even though I am a book junkie, I try not to amass a huge cookbook collection, preferring to select ones that I can return to over and over again. Here is a list of my top 5.
I have often mused that I should simply rename this blog "shrine to the Gourmet Cookbook"...and with good reason. Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet Magazine, set out to make this the only cookbook one would ever need, and she succeeds. Equal to its usefulness is this book's ability to entertain; Reichl is my favorite food writer, bar none. Food becomes so interesting when put in a historical and cultural context, something she does so well she even makes a recipe for chicken tetrazzini a riveting read. This book, a gift from my friend Piper, is single-handedly responsible for turning me into a cook.
I received this book as a christmas gift from my son, and I am delighted with it. The food photography is so exquisite, it is worth purchasing just for the visuals. It's a pasta primer, including everything you need to know in an elegant, slender volume. The recipes are organized by season, something I appreciate, as a farmer's market regular. Every recipe I've tried has become an instant favorite, and I even consider myself a baked ziti expert because of this cookbook.
I actually have an older edition of this book, which is now out of print, but I wholeheartedly (whole stomachedly?) recommend the newest one as well. Mine was a gift from Jessie, my bookdealer friend who knew of my new-found fascination with cooking. The putanesca recipe has become a standby for me, and I recently made the creamy pasta sauce with fresh herbs over angel hair pasta, the first non-tomato pasta dish my son approves of. When my mom comes to town, I plan on preparing the raspberry chicken. Hello Silver Palate!
Ok...Jane Brody is a New York Times food columnist, and she has actually written a book whose subtitle is...I must repeat and italicize this for emphasis...living the high carbohydrate way...yes...the high carbohydrate way. My mother bought me this book back in the 80s, and I still have my original copy. This is actually a well-researched concept, and Jane writes about our diet in an anthropological light. Humans evolved on small bits of protein, when we were lucky enough to make a big kill, but it was the high quality carbs that really sustained us. This is another only-cookbook-you-need kind of book, and has many good tips on making recipes low-fat and low-sugar, if that is your thing.
Again, I have the older, pink edition of this. I was fortunate enough to spend 2 years in Seattle, and Pike Place Market is truly such a special place. I was usually too broke during my Seattle years to make much from this, but I do have some favorite recipes: the King Salmon, which we'd grill in the backyard of our apt. building overlooking Elliot Bay, and the purple potato salad. My son was born in Seattle, so it's all very special to me.