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this may be opening a can of worms... ;-)

but, what are your staple cookbooks? i've collected, over the years, random, and usually-from-the-budget-section cookbooks that i have to say, i've rarely even used. don't know why. perhaps because the recipes don't, for the most part, excite me. plus, i tend to print recipes off the internet, before i leave work, so i know what to pick up on the way home. so! i'd like to overhaul my cookbook collection with a few gems: books with lovely (and hopefully, not too difficult), gourmet-ish recipes. i've heard nigella lawson's 'feast' has some nice recipes, but i'm wondering if you all might suggest some that you really cherish. i'm heading to borders this weekend with a gift certificate, so i'd like to pick up one or two. to help narrow this down a bit: i love to cook with things i can pick up at a farmers' market, and i love goat cheeses, baguettes, nice wine. so, i guess i'm looking for sort of 'artisanal' cookbooks, but for someone who's not a great cook. perhaps a tall order! can anyone help out?

thanks!

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  1. i've just noticed the 'new bride' cookbook post, so have gotten some good tips there, but i'd be open to any other ones!

    1. I just wrote this in the new bride post but will repeat here: Appetite by Nigel Slater. One of my all-time favourite cookbooks!

      The River Cafe cookbooks by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers are also lovely, there are several to choose from. Anna Olson's "Sugar" is good for sweets, and "Anna and Michael Olson Cook At Home" is good for other parts of the meal.

      1 Reply
      1. re: WineWidow

        I wouldn't bother with the River Cafe cookbooks. Been there, done that. Borrow a used copy from your local library before you spend a small fortune for mediocre recipes that are better described eslewhere for less.

        TT

      2. melle 76, I'd like to suggest you visit your public library and browse before buying your books. There are many choices and you may be able to narrow your wish list.

        For Farmes' Market ideas, Deborah Madison's "Local Flavors" is terrific. Her recipes are not difficult to execute for a beginning cook and the book format follows the seasons at various local markets.

        I'll second the Nigel Slater recommendation from WineWidow. I have several of his books and have never had a dud from any of his ideas.

        A piece of free advice -- often the so called "bargain" books are nothing of the sort. They were not good to begin with, which is probably why they did not sell, and they don't get better just because they're cheap. They take up space in your house and do nothing in return. Clear them out, scour these boards for recommendations, check out the recs at the library and buy treasures. Your treasures will be different from my treasures.

        Good luck and have a wonderful time on this great adventure.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sherri

          Absolutely! Cookbook preferences are as individual as people; recommendations should just be a starting point. A test run by borrowing from the library is my modus operandi. I get to keep the book for three weeks: if I find myself making several of the recipes right away, if I find myself constantly flipping through and bookmarking recipes, if I need to renew the book because I just don't want to part with it, I know I've got a winner.

          I'm always shocked when people don't have library cards or don't use the library for this purpose. That's why they're there! (Your tax dollars support them and your patronage keeps them funded by politicians who want to cut their funding.)

          As for a rec, my latest purchase that I really love is Melissa Clark's Chef, Interrupted. For seasonal, my newly purchased Sunday Supper at Lucques is delightful.

          1. re: Pupster

            I borrowed a copy of the Goldbecks' American Wholefoods Cooking from the library once. I wanted to own a copy of it, but wanted to make sure there was enough in it that I would like before I put out the money. It was very good, and I used it nearly every day the whole time I had it. But I'm a little bit of an absentminded cook, and I had the book sitting on the stove while I cooked. (It was a very, very small kitchen, and an electric stove.) When I turned the burner on, I apparently turned on the wrong one (back instead of front), and the next thing I knew I had burned a hole in the back of the book!

            I went down to my local bookstore and bought another copy of the cookbook, and took it to the library to replace the one I had set on fire, and they let me keep it. (It was well-used, so it lays open flat even though it's paperback.) I patched the cover, and it's one of my favorite cookbooks.

        2. I love Nigel Slater. I also recommend Real Fast Food and Nigel Slater's Real Good Food (the only cookbook I've got with a chapter devoted entirely to the joy of potatoes, and another to cheese).

          Laurie Colwin's books are a delight, and I use them often.

          I read Nigella Lawson, and love her books, but don't actually cook from them that often.

          2 Replies
            1. re: lissar

              I also love Nigella and I use her recipes frequently, from the almond flour whole tangerine cake to chicken tikka and tomato/onion/cinlantro salad to her marzipan coconut cake to her fabulous sweet potato or squash and garbanzo bean curry one dish meal....and on and on. She also has some wonderful fritters. I DO need to say that her book (can't remember the name but it has the Elvis sandwich in it as well as deep-fried candy bars) is not that great and I've only cooked a couple to recipes.

              Paula Wolfert's Food of Southwest France, Middle Eastern Greens and Grains and her early Morrocan cookbook. I also really love the new slow food one.

              Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Fun to read and great to cook from.

              Deborah Madison's Green's cookbooks and Madhur Jaffrey's giant veggie world cookbook.

              Ken Hom's East Meets West - where he pairs seasonings from other places with Asian ones (his chicken wings with Mexican and Asian spices are amazing!)

              Bert Greene's books - Greene on Greens, Greene on Grains, and Kitchen Bouquet. Marvelous.

              I also use an oldie (don't know if it's still available) Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni. Gorg. pix and great receipes.

              My, how I do go on!

            2. The Silver Spoon, Italy's answer to Larousse Gastronomique. If it's not in there, you don't need it!