Sunday, March 25, 2012


Today, one smart woman I like asked another smart woman I like (no, none of these is me!) about cooking and cook books, which leads me, now, to reflect on cookbooks and things I cook that have formed me into the mediocre cook I am. (Also, I like to think I'm mediocre at a lot of things like: Crossfit, running, swimming, writing, baking, walking backwards, laundry. I would say cleaning, but I know I am terrible at that. In fact, I should be cleaning now.)
Anyway, here are some cookbooks that I think about when I think about cookbooks:

  1. Moosewood: I was a vegetarian working at a fish market and a woman bought me this cookbook, but I may have paid her back. Anyway, my go to recipes from this were Tabouli (I swear, I could live on that stuff!), the Indonesian rice salad, certain varieties of yogurt sauce with cucumbers, spanakopita (I had forgotten that!),the pumpkin pie recipe where you actually bake down the pumpkin, banana bread that has coffee in it, a cheesecake (I think I made this once & once my boyfriend made it for me), the brownies I made a few times. I made pita bread once and it even worked! 
  2. No Cook Pasta Sauces: Someone gave us this for our wedding. Maybe? I can't remember. But I made the Puttanesca a lot. And the clam sauce. I was sort of addicted to both of those until I gave up pasta and got rid of the cookbook. 
  3. Complete Vegetarian Kitchen: A friend gave this to me. From it I got two of my stand bys, a roasted veggie soup w/pesto and a delicious broccoli dish that I used to make with tofu and now I just use broccoli (and which I haven't actually made in a long time).
  4. Seductions of rice: I got this when I worked at a bookstore and it's as much travel book as it is cookbook. I got it because I had been to Thailand and I wanted to make Thai food. I can now make a curry without it. But I also make the Indian curries from this book. And it helped me to solidify a recipe for another favorite soup: African peanut stew. And because of this book at one point in my life I had about six different kinds of rice in the house. And I made sushi. Once or twice. And this is where I got the recipe for the delicious rice salad that I sometimes make and will make this summer.
  5. The Surreal Gourmet: This cookbook made me the Caesar Salad guru that I am. It's a staple and one of Middlebrow's favorite meals (salad + meat = meal).
  6. Cafe Flora: I got this because it has great recipes. I made these amazing burgers from quinoa and split peas and they had a fantastic tomato salsa on them. I made them once. (I think it took me three days but I may be exaggerating). Also: great salad recipes and great dressings. This is where the amazing strawberry and arugula salad comes from.
  7. The Food You Crave: this is a great book with healthy recipes. I've made a few of the recipes, such as the Spinach Salad with Bacon dressing (bacon!). I also got the idea for the Breakfast Salad from this book. I made her energy bars (good), and also the meatballs (but not the spaghetti).
  8. So many recipes that have stuck with me, I actually got on-line or from magazines. Some of my stand bys: Coq au Vin in the crock pot (Whole Foods magazine), Curry soup with noodles (some foodie mag), stuffed peppers (a re imagining of my mom's recipe), tacos (same), my favorite potato sausage soup (I got the recipe from Liberty Heights!).
  9. Mark Bittman: I have two of his cookbooks, and yes, he is God. Everything I make from his cookbooks work and even Middlebrow uses his cookbooks! (and tonight made a delicious chicken stir fry with cashews!)
  10. etc.
What, friends, are your go to cookbooks?


Lisa B. said...

The very first cookbook I fell in love with was the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook. It was precious unto me. But as a grown up: I was given a Betty Crocker basic cookbook when I moved into an apartment my sophomore year in college. But I really fell in love with cooking with: the Tassajara Cooking book, the two volumes of the Vegetarian Epicure, Diet for a Small Planet, and finally a Moosewood cookbook (not THE Moosewood). Also, I learned more about pie from this random pie book I got as a wedding present, I think.

I have more cookbooks than I can shake a stick at, and I refer to many of them (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is splendid, for instance), but those are the ones that I really worked to the bone.

(I love this post.)

Dr Write said...

I forgot. I learned to make bread from that Tassajara book. And I made a lot of bread at one point in my life...

Stephanie said...

Excellent post, Doc! I am addicted to cookbooks and would have shelves of them if our kitchen was bigger. I secretly covet the kitchens on the Food Network shows . . . I'd love to have all of the gadgets and, of course, space to move around and create.

I, too, love the Betty Crocker cookbook. Excellent choice, Lisa B! Aside from that, my current loves include Alicia Silverstone's half health guide/half cookbook, "The Kind Life" and "Vegan with a Vengeance." Come on -- the title alone is awesome!

I also love my "east Italian Favorites" cookbook . . . it's an interesting challenge adapting the recipes to fit our vegan-married-to-a-raging-carnivore lifestyle, but the risotto is one of my go-to recipes now. I don't think "He" knows it's a vegan dish yet.

No matter what the cookbook is, I can always tell my favorite recipes by the crinkled, splattered pages. :)

Stephanie said...

Oops -- that should be "Easy Italian Favorites." Don't know where the "east" snuck in!

Mary Anne Mohanraj said...

I highly recommend Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook. She's Sri Lankan, and those recipes are spot on, but she covers a dozen other Asian countries, and I have made things from all of the sections, and they have all come out DELICIOUS.

aj said...

Can I have these 3 if easy to send? Coq au Vin in the crock pot (Whole Foods magazine), Curry soup with noodles (some foodie mag),my favorite potato sausage soup (I got the recipe from Liberty Heights!).

They would fit right into our meals!

Ann said...

I loved this.

Honestly, Dr. Write, I should give you some of the ward cookbooks my people compile--they're surprisingly full of good old midwestern-type comfort food. Who can resist chocolate cake with Coke as a secret ingredient?

Nik said...

Look at this blog post? How did I miss it? Do you know who I loved the most? The Frugal Gourmet. I still have all his cookbooks even though he was charged for child molestation. I also had the Moosewood and the other way that had the Hungarian Mushroom Soup Recipe. My mom had a cookbook called Creative Cooking that I found again many years later at Sam Weller's. I have all the Martha's, but I don't use them any more. One of my faves? Dean and Deluca. I stole that from Val (also, Paige claims I stole her Martha).
Lately, I've been using the specific chef cookbook: The French Laundry, Elote, Ad Hoc, Alinea (ha! Like I make anything from the Alinea cookbook). This is my favorite blogpost ever and so many good comments to boot.

radagast said...

My go-to recipes:

1. Pour contents in bowl.
2. Add milk.

Or, on fancy occasions:

1. Puncture plastic film.
2. Microwave 5 minutes or until contents scald you as you remove film.