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cookbooks for my mom -- help please!

My mom is an excellent cook who whips up lots of great Italian, uses many family recipes, but also loves to try new dishes, lots of vegetarian but some meat now and then. I would love to get her several new cook books for Christmas with lots of recipes that she'll actually make. Sometimes I get her books that just sit on the shelves. Looking for nothing outrageously complicated - intermediate difficulty but creative. We currently use lots of recipes from Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Silver Palatte, Moosewood.

Here are my ideas. Suggestions/recommendations, especially if you have/use these books, would be most welcome.

Top choices:
How to Eat - Nigella Lawson - fun reading and fun dishes, right?

Pasta Verde, Judith Barrett - looks delicious and lots of fresh veggies with pasta, creative too.

and then maybe also-- (feedback on these please)

*Everyday Greens - Annie Somerville

*San Francisco Farmers Market Cookbook - a guide to impeccable produce and seasonal recipes --- fond memories at that market, but is the book any good? I found a couple of good reviews

*one of Barbara Kafka's books - I was thinking Vegetable Love

*Zuni Cafe

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  1. HAve you looked at Pepin's Art of Cooking, Volumes 1 and 2.

    We have made some very complicated dishes. The recipes include step by step photos that bring something that may seem very hard to acomplish to become managable.

    1. Zuni Cafe is excellent, I have it and like using recipes from it or just read it to get inspiration!

      1. I LOVE Go Fish by Laurent Tourondel. The recipes are super creative, super tasty, yet remarkably easy. Best fish book I have seen in a long time.

        1. I've never used Pasta Verde but I do have another of Judith Barrett's cookbooks, Saved by Soup. I like that book a lot. A wide variety of soups, from easy to complex. And, there are also many seasonal soups. I've used it for years.

          EDITED: to make the forgotten point (I got hungry and made myself a snack ;-)), that if her Pasta book is similar to the soup book, it should be a very nice gift indeed.

          If she likes to cook with Bon Appetit or Gourmet, maybe look into the big yellow Gourmet book. I've enjoyed cooking from it this past year. I convinced a friend of mine to also purchase it and neither of us has hit a recipe that hasn't worked. It's become my go-to cookbook for basic dinners.

          I do like the Zuni Cafe cookbook. But, it isn't something that I cook from on a regular basis. Mostly, because most of the recipes requires of lot of forethought as many of the items need to be brined or prepped days in advance. There is no throwing together a dinner from it. I haven't looked at it in a while, but other than the desserts, I've only really looked at their meat recipes. Not sure how much vegetarian recipes are in the book.

          1. Have you tried Ina Garten's books? The recipes are fairly basic, but tasty and reliable. I also love Jaime Oliver's The Naked Chef cookbook. Lots of good Italian.

            1. Vegetable Love is excellent, I gave it to a veggie friend last year. You might also want to consider one of Deborah Madsen's books, she has a vegetable one that is beautiful. Also the Barbara Kafka "Roasting" is a family favorite.

              3 Replies
              1. re: caphill2320

                I agree about checking out Deborah Madsen's book - I think the one I have is called "The Occasional Vegetarian".

                1. re: MMRuth

                  I have Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and use it often. The book dips into a large variety of cuisines and provides notes in the margin for most recipes (go withs, options and so on). I can vouch for the authenticity of the Indian recipes in there, in case you care about that. It is also good for information of the "how to select and store" variety for vegetables as well as other staples. The information is well indexed and easy to find.

                2. re: caphill2320

                  Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone has become a staple in my kitchen. Vegetables, yes, but so much more! (the best nut cookies and so simple!) Creative and mostly easy.

                3. The Silver Spoon - it's the cooking bible of Italy just recently translated into English. It's the Italian Joy of Cooking. I can't put it down. In fact I sit and read it on weekends ; ) Authentic, simple, wonderful Italian recipes for every ingredient imaginable. Which is what I love, it's sorted by main ingredient (vegetable, meats, fishes, etc.) so is easy to use.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Meg

                    thanks! Silver Spoon is another on the list, but I had heard that it might be a little too intricate for everyday use. But your rave reviews definitely sounds like it would be something my mom would use a LOT. I like the ingredient-based organization too :) great for seasonally inspired cooking!

                  2. I have been a professional cook for 30 yrs. My single greatest, most used cookbook is the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. inexp, tremendously useful for huge variety of things.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      YES - we own this one and use it often. Any others you really like?

                    2. San Francisco Chronicle cookbook might appeal to her. Not glossy, but lots of top of the class selections from the newspaper column. Whenever I open it I find lots to inspire.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: NYchowcook

                        Simple or advanced or both? In terms of technique and prep time, I mean.

                        1. re: foxy fairy

                          San Francisco Chronicle cookbook's recipes are simple food w/ a creative twist. (weaned to 350 recipes out of 13,000 or so published in the newspaper column)
                          I've made lots of easy and quick recipes; some are longer. It's for the home cook -- not restaurant multi-level techniques. Draws on some of the top chefs of SF. I like it alot, and your mom might too.

                      2. I like How to Eat, and cook from it often. It's one of my favorite cookbooks.

                        That being said, I think Zuni should be in every serious cook's library. The recipes are good but there's a lot of technique in it -- it's a thoughtful book.

                        1. I love the Pasta Verde cook book. Have used it for recipes/inspiration for years and haven't found even one dud recipe. Lots and lots of workhorse recipes that are perfect for everyday tasty meals. (Though I have fed a few to company.)

                          1. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is great. I find Nigella Lawson's books to be - um not very interesting. I liked Vegetable Love. The San Francisco Farmers Market Cookbook (unlike the market itself) I thought was so, so. For everyday use I have given a number of friend a book called "The Way we Cook" by Sheryl Julian and Julie Rivera. Another favorite of mine that she might really like - I think you can still get it is "The Mediteranean Kitchen" by Joyce Goldstein (most of her books are interesting).

                            1. Annie Sommerville & Deborah Madison sound like great possibilities. I love Fields of Greends by Anne Sommerville & Greens by Deborah Madison. Both are creative, fresh more gourmet style vegetarian. Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone is also good but has a lot more basics. I have the Zuni Cafe cookbook and have used it a little and its good but more time-consuming than the others I mention. Good luck!