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Favorite recipes/cookbooks - for hounds who are also maniac cooks

  • s

Made Marcella Hazan's recipe from "Marcella's Italian Kitchen" for cabbage rolls with beef, prosciutto, and Parmesan cheese filling last night (I know, not very summery, but...)and was musing on the fact that I've never made anything bad from one of her books. Anyone have other particular can't-fail, total favorites they would like to discuss?? The veal with hazelnits and pork scaloppine w/onions, balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, and currants from the same book are also divine.

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  1. m
    Michael Lewis

    Bernard Loiseau's 'Trucs, Astuces et Tours de Main' is an excellent general food book, full of tips for dealing with all kinds of ingredients. For practical recipe books of the non-coffee table kind the Roux brothers' are pretty useful, very well tested and easily adaptable recipes, practical standard preparations and a minimum of close-ups of dewy bunches of spring-onions, they also have the added advantage of being written in English.
    Ones to avoid would be any of Charlie Trotter's. They are designed to strike one with awe, confuse and make one feel incompetent while at the same time making him and his restaurant seem so much the cleverer with their execution of the seemingly impossible dishes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Michael Lewis

      Thanks to all for responses - most things ring a big bell with me too, especially Sunset magazine (former Californian still subscribes...) but occasionally their recipes are a little twee (I remember a risotto w/persimmons that was unthrilling - come to think of it, why did I bother)???
      Also - Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is very good - the shrimp recipes esp. so.
      Brother Juniper's book on bread baking which came out in 98 or 99 (formulas for various types, the baguette prime among them) has replaced most other bread books in my affections, and for brownies, NicK Malgieri's Chocolate book's supernatural brownies, ditto.
      So much cooking to do, so little time.

    2. Agree with the Hazan assessment. A fixture at many of our meals is her totally elegant,simple chicken with lemon. And always a hit with company, too. We often serve it with a pasta w/pesto side starch. Brownie recipe in Joy of Cooking is also a staple, never fail. (In fact my 13 year old daughter has become very adept at baking, starting with this recipe.)

      1. Marcella's recipes always seem to work for me. I make her two roast chicken recipes from "Essential Classic Italian Cooking" (lemon chicken, and w. rosemary & garlic) repeatedly and never tire of them. Try her Bolognese sauce from the same book some time; it takes a while to do and is a heart-attack special but tastes terrific and is actually quite easy.

        But there are lots of other cookbooks that work. I'm fond of Jacques Pepin's stuff. A recipe for a sauteed chicken in one of his books gave me a whole new slant on any chicken saute. (I'll put this in a separate post sometime). That recipe included "steak sauce," and this from a French restaurant chef. One reason I like his stuff that he's willing to adapt to ordinary American home kitchen requirements and that he also realizes people are unwilling to spend all day shopping and can't always afford truffles.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hobokenhenry

          You're right about the wonderfully unpretentious frenchman. Probably comes from his many years as a "culinary engineer" for Howard Johnsons - I wonder if he was the one to come up with those perfect clamstrips....

        2. Cookbooks--my favorite things next to the tools in my kitchen. Yes, Marcella Hazan is a treasure. The recipe that popped into my mind while reading your post is penne with spinach and ricotta sauce, probably because I make this fast and easy dish from "More Classic Italian Cooking" relatively often. (Add a grate of nutmeg.) Patricia Wells too. "Bistro Cooking" in particular has inspired many a menu when my own brain clicked off. Paula Wolfert's "Couscous And Other Good Food From Morocco" has served me well over the years. And I dare not leave out Julia Child or "The Splendid Table" by Lynne Rossetto Kaspar. "Larousse" and "Le Cordon Bleu At Home" have been good resources too.

          For the past few years, though, James Peterson's books have been getting the most use. I have all of them and refer to them frequently. Sometimes in search of a specific recipe and other times for guidance on a technique or how to improve a recipe from another source. They're packed with sound advice and information that inspire confidence.

          When I was little I'd take all of my stuffed animals to bed at night because I didn't want to hurt any of their feelings. (My parents stopped getting me stuffed animals.) I'm feeling kind of like that now. Did I leave out a trusted friend?

          1. I've said it before: Julia Child is God. She had more impact on the way people cook--and eat--in this country than any single person of the century. (She always demurs and says "There's Before Beard and After Beard," but I've thought about this for a number of years.) Her books are lively, fun to read, intensely informative, and I have yet to be anything less than thrilled by my results with her books by my side.

            But there are many, many others, as you've all indicated. Marcella Hazan is phenomenal--those recipes ALWAYS work!! Jacques Pépin, who, second to Julia, has taught me the most. Yes, he is delightfully unpretentious. I love Tom Colicchio's new book--thinking of him because he actually learned to cook from Pépin's LA METHODE and LA TECHNIQUE--I'm cooking my way right through Colicchio's THINK LIKE A CHEF and learning all sorts of wonderful techniques.

            THE JOY OF COOKING was my first cookbook, and I'm not alone in adoring it in all its incarnations. Mark Bittman's books---with and without Jean-Georges Vongerichten--are marvelous. Rick Rodgers and I seem to have the same palate--his books, esp. FONDUE, FRIED AND TRUE, and PRESSURE COOKING FOR EVERYONE--are intensely delicious. Lynne Rossetto Kasper's two books are sublime. Rozanne Gold's 1-2-3- books are simply amazing--you think her concept is going to be simple stuff for people who hate to cook or who can't afford certain ingredients.They are nothing of the kind! And yes, James Peterson is irrepressibly great to cook with.

            Two that true chowhounds should check out: THE BAD FOR YOU COOKBOOK by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller (authentic recipes for the BEST stuffed cabbage, all sorts of forgotten and/or forbidden recipes) and EAT DANGEROUSLY by Benjamin Lewis and Rodrigo Velloso. I think i'ts available only at their web site of that name.

            Two patron saints of chowhound hood are surely Jane and Michael Stern, and their books are all treasures.

            Oh, I feel like Dee and those stuffed animals--I know I'm leaving someone out in the cold. Sorry most of these are so familiar--they are for very good reasons well-known.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Tom Steele

              See, I DID leave one out. How could I have forgotten "Joy of Cooking?" When I first went solo in this life, I bought two cookbooks, "Joy of Cooking" and "From Julia Child's Kitchen." Even though I'd started cooking at an early age, Mom had always been a phone call (local) or a yell-down-the-hall away when I needed advice. But long-distance calls every time I had a question weren't in the budget. "Joy" was much more than a cookbook for me in those days..."she" was substitute Mom.

              Thanks for the recommendations on the Maynard/Scheller and Lewis/Velloso books. I'll check them out.

              1. re: Tom Steele

                Great list, Tom! I printed it out and will take it on my next trip to the bookstore.

                1. re: Tom Steele
                  Caitlin Wheeler

                  I love the New Joy of Cooking and all recipes from Gourmet (I have never had a recipe from Gourmet come out badly). My favorite beginner's cookbook is the Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes -- It's simple and delicious. I found it in a little tiny used bookshop in the English countryside, but it may be worth poking around on the internet (half.com) to find books of hers.

                2. If you judge your favorite cookbooks by how dogeared and stained they are, I think "The Silver Palate" would be right up there with the classics (Joy of Cooking, etc.).

                  The recipes are well laid out and easy to use, they tend not to require complicated preparation methods, and it has a combination of "basic" recipes and recipes with a little added twist. The apple cornbread stuffing recipe has become our Thanksgiving standard, and several of the other recipes have become staples in my repertoire (the beef stew with cuminseed, the red pepper soup). It's also among the handful of cookbooks that are among the first I reach for when I'm looking for something new.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I too use the stain technique to evaluate which cookbooks are most useful to me. Hands down, my "dirtiest" cookbooks are Sundays At the Moosewood and Joy of Cooking, though I have several issues of Saveur Magazine that have really been through the ringer. (There's probably some off-color joke to be made here about magazines with the pages stuck together.) I've had very good luck at used book stores and library sales by picking up the nastiest, most stained, falling-apart cookbooks they have. The recipies are rarely as exciting as in some of my flashier, newer books, but much more dependable.

                  2. All of the stand-by cookbooks mentioned have been favorites in my kitchen over the years. My newest (1996) fave is David Rosengarten's Dean and Deluca Cookbook. I've never prepared a better Boeuf a la Bourguignonne than from his book, including Julia's. His method of sauteeing soft-shell crabs using a brick to weigh the crabs down and eliminating some of their inherent moisture is an innovation. His style of writing, the "asides" he offers, but especially the recipes that never fail me, keep me returning to this cookbook when I want something just right. pat

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Pat Hammond

                      I'm intrigued. What do you think makes Rosengarten's boeuf bourguignon better than Julia's? Hers was the first I ever made, I loved it, and I've stuck with it ever since. But old(er) hounds can learn new tricks. Not asking for the recipe...a friend has the book. Just your sense of what accounts for the difference. Thanks.

                      1. re: Dee Gustay

                        Dee: This is entirely off the top of my head: differences I can recall (Julia's book is still packed) is that Rosengarten also adds cloves and celery and the vegetables and beef are marinated over night in the wine. And NO tomato paste. I think there are other subtle differences, Oh yes, sugar as you carmelize the onions. Actually, I guess you could say that most of the differences are subtle.

                        Do borrow your friends book and tell me what you think of it. Pat

                        1. re: Pat Hammond

                          I'll definitely check it out. Subtle differences, yes, but they can certainly alter the flavor. Thanks.

                    2. I don't have a lot of books, but more on that in a second. I'm a newbie - only been cooking in earnest for a couple years now, so I'm looking forward to hearing all these recommendations for beefing up my book collection! Of the 6 or 8 books I do own, I consult Sunset volumes, The Silver Palate and Moosewood most. After clamoring for the latest Martha Stewart Living cookbook for a year I've found I rarely use it, but haven't quite put my finger on why (perhaps an inherent dislike of Queenie Martha?).

                      What I DO rely on 90% of the time are magazines I pick up or subscribe to. And I love Sunset Magazine. Every single recipe I've *ever* made from their pages has been among the very best I've cooked. Sunset is published/distributed in/for the West, but could probably be procured at very well-stocked newsstands nationwide. Their website is good but not great. However, they publish volumes upon volumes of cookbooks (been doing it forever - some of mine have been passed down through my Grandmother), including my favorite: the annual "recipe roundup" collected from the magazine.

                      Link: http://sunset.com/Magazine/Sections/F...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Lisa Bee
                        Caitlin McGrath

                        I've always liked Sunset--grew up with it in the house and my mom used many of their recipes. I now live in the east but got a free subscription this year. I was disappointed to see they've cut their food/recipe coverage down by half or more since ten years ago. Some of their older cookbooks are great, though; my mom's paperback bread and pastry book from sometime in the 60s is a thorough primer for all the basic/classic techniques that's very well illustrated.

                        1. re: Lisa Bee

                          I agree re Sunset magazine and cookbooks. I've had some of the books for years and years and still use many of their recipes. And I look forward to their magazine each month. Their recipes use ingredients that are easy to find and the instructions are clear cut and easy to follow. I've never had a bad Sunset recipe and I've been cooking for many, many years.

                          1. re: Lisa Bee

                            I find inspiration from my copies of Cooking Light and Cooks Illustrated Magazines. Cooking Light is good for beginners, and doesn't rely on convenience foods nearly as much as all the gloppy white-bread Family Circle type magazines. I've learned how to slim down many of my favorite recipes using their methods (I now make a killer turkey-sausage lasagna that's like 12 grams of fat lighter than my old vers.). I LOVE my Cooks Illustrated. Nearly every recipe I follow from them works out perfectly. I'm thinking in particular of the oven-fried chicken which used melba toast (sooo good) and the roast-potato stuffed zucchini I made all last summer. And the geek in me enjoys the description Cook's provides of the test recipes they ran through before they arrived at the perfect combination of ingredients for, say, butterflied roast chicken. Good for experts and amateur cooks alike.

                          2. Don't own a Julia Child cookbook...what's the best, especially for relatively simple meals?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Lisa Bee

                              The most basic is "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom'. Another easy to do one is "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" which compares Pepin's recipe and Julia's recipe for the same dish. The T.V. series this was based on was entertaining when they had mild disagreements. Both books are good for learning technique. Pepin has a site with lots of recipes,www.jacquespepin.net. WWW.epicurious.com has tons of recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit and a very good advanced recipe search engine by ingredients and other categories.

                            2. Indian cookbook favorites!Julie Sahnis' vindaloo recipe,the Southern Indian dishes in Madhur Jaffreys' A Taste of India...codfish stew,Appams,etc.Marcella Hazans' classic roast chicken,where you stuff a few pierced lemons into the bird and truss it tightly is great.The Time Life Good Cook series from the 1970s' can be really useful,especially the more unusual volumes,like Preserving,Beverages,and Candy....

                              1. Arthur Schwartz's Soup Suppers is as close to a perfect cookbook as I've found. Everything I've made from this book (and I've cooked my way through about 3/4's of it) is excellent. Not just the soups, he also has various breads, salads, and desserts to complement the soups (almost all of which are hearty and use the standing up spoon test) and these recipes are as much a reason to buy the book as the soups.

                                Also anything by John Thorne. I just ordered Serious Pig from him, but have generally enjoyed everything I've read so far.

                                I find cookbooks which are just recipe collections to be a little overwhelming and uninspiring, I like a cookbook I can read through.


                                1. I've gotten along quite well with my Pierre Franey NYT 60-Minute Gourmet. It was laying on a top shelf in a kitchen of a place I rented, and looked like it had been there forever and a day. I had never heard of Franey before and was scoffing at the book because of the hokey very-seventies-oarange cover - but then I opened it... I should probably treat myself to a new copy one of these days - all of the pages fall out when I pull it off the shelf.

                                  1. I second virtually all the recommendations made thus far, especially Marcella Hazan.

                                    Let me add a couple that have yet to be mentioned:

                                    1. For recipes: Barbara Kafka's "Roasting: A Simple Art." She really opened up the roasting of vegetables for me and they are a cornerstone of my repertoire, as it were.

                                    2. For education and practice:

                                    a. LaVarenne Pratique (well chosen photographs that can really help the just-beyond-novice).
                                    b. Madeleine Kamman's magisterial "The Making of A Cook." Yes, it's a large tome, but it explains so much that cannot readily be found in one place elsewhere. Invaluable. She converted me, for example, to the virtues of the cooked (versus raw) marinade for meats (I still use raw marinades, of course, but her cooked marinades really taste sooooo much better).
                                    c. The Victory Garden Cookbook (a wonderful primer on approaching the world of produce that both beginners and experts will appreciate)

                                    3. Gloria Bley Miller's groundbreaking "Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookboook." The mother Chinese-for-Americans cookbook of them all, and still packs more punch than any other I have ever read.

                                    1. A few of my favorites haven't been mentioned. For Chinese cooking, I love Barbara Tropp's Modern Art of Chinese Cooking -- try the strange-flavored eggplant, Irene Kuo's Key to Chinese Cooking -- her writing is very clear and the recipes work, and my new favorite, Grace Young's The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen -- wonderfully written, the recipes are very good and the stories are great.

                                      For beginners, the inexpensive Sunset paperback books are very good. You might have to look for some of these at used bookstores because a bunch of them are out of print. The bread book is particularly good (the newer editions of the book contain the wonderful sourdough recipe that was developed by the Sunset kitchens with the help of UC Davis researchers,) but the all the other books offer very clear recipes with lots of illustrations and photographs.

                                      If you really get into bread baking, look for Beth Hensperger's books. They are quite detailed and contain tempting, delicious recipes. I particularly like her bread machine cookbook -- the artisan bread recipes that you shape outside the machine and bake in the oven are particularly good. Two other excellent bread books are Daniel Leader's Bread Alone and Daniel Ortiz's The Village Baker.

                                      Another good beginner's cookbook is Marion Cunningham's Fanny Farmer Cookbook. I love Marion's recipes -- they're straightforward, well-tested, and they work. Her other books, particularly the Fanny Farmer Baking Book and The Breakfast Book, are also on my "favorites" list. The baking book contains a fabulous rugelach recipe!

                                      Flo Braker's baking books -- The Simple Art of Perfect Baking and Sweet Miniatures -- are wonderful, too. Flo's instructions are incredibly detailed -- necessary for baking, I think.

                                      I have lots of other suggestions (I've been collecting cookbooks for over 30 years -- over 5000 books), but this is getting very long, so I'll stop here.

                                      If anyone wants to know about cookbooks for other cuisines or for specific types of cooking or baking, just ask. I might have a favorite or two to recommend.

                                      By the way, the web has a few excellent sources for both new and used cookbooks. My favorite new cookbook source is Jessica's Biscuit, www.ecookbooks.com, and my favorite used cookbook sources are www.abebooks.com and www.alibris.com.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Nancy Berry

                                        Glad to see someone mentioned Cunningham's Fannie Farmer. I've never used it, but I was going to recommend it on the basis that (1) I learned to cook with the Fannie Farmer Junior Cookbook (when I was 10), and (2) Marion Cunningham has such a sterling reputation, and she also teaches a class for people who know absolutely nothing about cooking (I think she starts with boiling water, i.e., "this is what is meant by a "rolling boil").

                                        The other book I learned to cook with was the Betty Crocker cookbook. It's pretty old fashioned these days (uses a lot of convenience products) but I still use it for basic baking: cookies, cakes, frostings, and their classic fudge recipe.

                                      2. I'm a much less experienced cook than most on this board, but to that end I'd recommend the La Varenne Cooking Course cookbook (still available? same as La Varenne Pratique mentioned below?) It helped me get from beginning to intermediate level -- how to make stocks, other basics of trad French. Not too difficult lemon souffle good way for young cooks to impress friends...

                                        Also: Since Mexican hasn't been mentioned yet... My father's wife (a sometime contributor to the L.A. board) turned me onto Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen. I think he's fantastic. In depth look at chiles and moles and all kinds of regional Mexican. When we went to Oaxaca recently his recipes and info provided a kind of culinary guide...

                                        Of course I too am a Hazan fan. A couple times I've had big spaghetti and meatball parties, replete with red and white check tablecloth, using her meatball recipe...Fun and work -- rolling meatballs -- for everybody! (Come to think of it, when I finally get around to that dry pasta brands tasting I keep saying I'm going to do, maybe we'll do the meatballs again.)

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Rafi

                                          The Mexican Kitchen is excellent! Mexican is my first love and I spent forever trying to find a good cookbook. Bayless' first book, Authentic Mexican is also very good, although more so than Mexican Kitchen it requires special ingredients that can be hard to come by depending on where you live.

                                          Now if I could only find a good armenian cookbook.


                                          1. re: ben fisher

                                            If you liked Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, try his "Mexico One Plate at a Time" - the companion cookbook to his TV series. I cooked an entire new years weekend out of it (even turkey mole from scratch - took me two days)home made crema, tequila flamed mangos, tortilla soup - everything was delicious. I also like Sheila(?)Lufkin's cookbooks "The All Around the World Cookbook" and the "USA Cookbook". Both read a bit like travelogues. I like cookbooks that give you menu ideas as well - not just recipes.

                                            1. re: ben fisher


                                              Perhaps you have not seen the link below.

                                              Link: http://www.cilicia.com/armo_cookbook....

                                              1. re: Pat Goldberg

                                                Wow, ask and ye shall receive.

                                                Thanks Pat, this looks like a great site. Are their any standout recipes I should try? I have found especially good lamb around here (the Triangle) so I'm sure I'll be trying something this weekend.


                                              2. re: ben fisher

                                                Ben, try contacting the closest Armenian church or school in your general area. At one time or another one of the fund raisers was a cookbook to which the members contributed recipes. There are most likely copies available for around $10-15. I received one such book from an Armenian friend, and it's a great source of Armenian home cooking.

                                                1. re: ben fisher

                                                  Although it's currently out of print, used copies of Sonia Uvezian's wonderful cookbook, The Cuisine of Armenia, are widely available on such websites as amazon.com.

                                                  Also, if you go to the following link, you'll find lots of Armenian cookbooks listed.

                                                  Link: http://www.cilicia.com/armo7_cooking....

                                              3. One of my favorites is "Sacramental Magic in a Small-Town Cafe" by Br. Peter Reinhart (of the now defunct Brother Juniper's Cafe). 100% of the time when I do the cole slaw recipe someone asks for the recipe. The book also reads very well, but many of the recipes are real winners.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: scottso

                                                  Can you post a reasonable, copyright OK facsimile of this coleslaw? I'm a coleslaw lover (it's one of my favorite foods) and am very interested in what sounds like a never-fail recipe. Could eat it probably 5x a week.

                                                  1. re: berkleybabe

                                                    Glad to hear someone else likes slaw as much as I do. I served this version to a finickey New Yorker who said, "your cole slaw makes me weep" His wife said, "it's true and he's really critical"
                                                    Hope you can glean the gist of it from this discription. If not e mail me and I'll get more specific.
                                                    It is very easy:
                                                    cabbage, some sweet onion or scallion, half as much balsamic vinegar as sugar freshly ground pepper to taste and good mayonaise.

                                                    1. re: scottso

                                                      I think I have a slaw recipe that beats all!! 8 ounces grated cabbage and carrots (can use Dole mix if in a hurry), 2 tsp horseradish, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1/2 c plain yogurt, 1/2 c mayo, 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt. Mix and devour!