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Cooking Through a Book

I'm thinking about cooking my way through a cookbook. I love to try new recipes, and I think working through a cookbook would be fun -- but I need the right book. I tend to collect recipes more than cookbooks, so I'm not sure what to choose. I like to cook more rustic than refined -- I'm looking to make great tasting food, but not necessarily learn new cooking techniques. I was thinking about one of Marcella Hazen's books, but I could use some suggestions. Has anyone done this -- any ideas?

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  1. The Julie-Julia Project was a wildly popular blog in which Julie Powell cooked her way through Mastering the Art of Fr. Cooking. I think she only got through Vol. I and she set herself a deadline of 1 year. It was published as a book last fall.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheryl_h

      I loved reading the Julia-Julia project - much more ambitious cooking than I plan to do. There is also a blog by a woman who baked her way through a baking cookbook -- maybe the Pastry Bible.

    2. Someone wrote a book (ok, maybe an article) about cooking every recipe in one of Julia Childs books (The Art of French Cooking?). It was interesting to hear what worked and what didn't, difficulties finding ingredients...

      Marcella Hazen is a wonderful place to start. Her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is truly a gem.

      Simple To Spectacular by Jean-Georges and Mark Bittman might also make an interesting choice since it gives you one simple recipe and slowly increases its level of sophistication. The recipes still have a very rustic feel to them.

      Let me know if you need any tasters!

      1. I've done it a few times, I'm doing one right now, but I do a modified version of it, where I go in order, but skip recipes that are unreasonable to me (Like Big Roasts that feed 12 or anything with Salmon or another core ingredient I don't like), I end up doing like 80% of the book, I'm about to finish one shortly actually! :)

        Another thing that I do is be sure to do other recipes, do I don't feel chained to the book only (especially if the book is JUST mexican or a specific ingredient). It also brings back the excitement of doing a few more recipes in a row to finish.

        I just got Essentials of Italian Cooking at a used book store, it does look great. I tend to like smaller books however to start off (So you can get through faster!), so I liked Rick Bayless' Salsas that Cook...


        1. The single most seminal cookbook to shape my cooking is Richard Olney's "Simple French Food". Originally published in 1974, his book was admired and employed by no less than Alice Waters and Simone Beck. It was republished in 1992 with comments by James Beard and Patricia Wells. Not so much a recipe book as a journey of discovery into the sensory exploration of food preparation.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Dieppe

            I agree. I haven't 'cooked through' it yet but I think it would be a great choice based on what I have cooked from it.

          2. If you're not very into meat, you might try one of the Moosewood books. Those are usually not huge and pretty varied and full of interesting dishes.

            I'd like to try this out too. What is Mark Bittman's big book?

            1. Won't you get tired of only one style of cooking? How about Mark Bitman's The Best Recipes in the World? Just for the variety.

              1 Reply
              1. re: yayadave

                didn't he write "how to cook everything". that would be very ambitious too.
                how about nigella lawson's "feast"? it will hit every holiday and have some fun recipes parties and get togethers in between.

              2. As a big fan of Julia Child, I am almost all the way through two books. . .

                Julia's Casual Dinners and Julia's Breakfasts, Lunches and Suppers.

                Not too large to be intimidating, and very approachable!

                1. Apparently I am cooking my way through "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" even though I didn't mean to. Everything sounds so good, and always ends up so delicious, that I keep making things out of it even though I own about 100 other cookbooks. No disappointments yet. The food can take awhile but the effort is all in pursuit of flavor, not appearance. The desserts are just as good as the savory dishes.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: celeste

                    There are two reasons why Sunday Suppers might be particularly good for this project: 1) recipes are grouped into menus ie. a full meal of app, entree, veggie or side and dessert are matched together, and 2) these menus are chaptered seasonally so that it would theoretically take a year to get through the book.

                    Another way to go is a compilation (as the Bittman recommender has) to get some variety and not be locked into one ethnic food or one chef's style for the many meals you will have to go through. Instead of the Bittman book, however, I would suggest Melissa Clark's Chef, Interrupted which has a far superior set of recipes. (I have mentioned her book a few times on these boards since I bought it. I've already made many of the recipes in the short time I've had it.)

                  2. I'd never get bored of cooking Marcella's food. I worship the woman!

                    I have a cookbook called Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews and One-Pot Meals. It's unlike most other one-pot books I've seen--delicious braises, stews, etc., and doesn't require processed food or anything like that. It also reads quite well. (I especially love the recipe for tuna tomato sauce.) He also covers all the different pastas, etc., as I remember. And at 125 recipes, you have plenty of time to get through it, and he covers cuisines from French to Moroccan to Italian to American. You might want to leaf through it at a bookstore.