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COOKBOOK RECOMENDATION FOR YOUNG, BEGINNING BUT SERIOUS COOK

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I've just started cooking few months ago. It's a whole new world and I love love love it!

I looked through the recomendations below, but I was hoping to narrow the search to books that weren't just quick-and-easy just to get you by.
I am rather serious about my food:) - about its quality, taste/flavor, texture, presentation (heart creative/ethnic dishes too)- and being a curious person I am, I want to learn every detail from scratch, and get solid fundamentals to start building up from.

So I'm looking for
1) encyclopedic info on ingredients with colored pics - seasons, how to pick the best, how to store, etc.
2) fundamental, essential tools + techniques + recipes with colored pics
3) LOTS of details and explanations. whys of things.

Examples are
* A Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...
I haven't tried it yet, but I really like the details and explainations on why I would see certain things, etc.
* Martha Stewart
I came across her magazine in high school (when I didn't have to cook) and I enjoyed her detailed article on few dozen kinds of salt and their specific uses- she seemed to get down to some hardcore basics.

I do love experimenting, but I also want to take a more structured and organized approach to my learning and skill-building.. Thanks in advance and happy cooking!

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  1. To get that level of detail, you need to go with specialized books that focus on specific cuisines or techniques. RLB's "The Bread Bible," as you would expect, is great on providing thorough explanations. I just started reading Rick Bayless's "Mexican Kitchen," and I loved how he starts with essential sauces, providing descriptions and drawings of different peppers. Although Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" discusses dishes we don't really eat any more (eggs in aspic, etc.), her detailed instructions on how to cook an omelet, souffle, etc., are fun to read.

    So the upshot is, what kind of cuisine or skill do you want to start with?

    2 Replies
    1. re: AppleSister

      That's a good point.. I also thought one book may not be enough.
      Should I say 'Western' or 'North-American', which seems to be mostly from Europe plus combination of influences from S.America, Asia, and Africa?
      I guess something in the line of "Martha's Cooking School" http://www.marthastewart.com/page.jht.... Topics here include Knives 101, How to Marinate, How to Fry, Eggs 101, and others.

      1. re: leeau

        I know you didnt just say martha stewart........

    2. The book I like to give to aspiring cooks is "Chez Panisse Cooking" by Paul Bertolli(with Alice Waters). The preface in itself is awe inspiring. Not the pictures you are looking for but plenty of love for food.

      La Technique and La Methode by Jacques Pepin are great resources.

      The Oxford Companion to Food.

      Le Livre de Michel Bras.

      Further recommendations could be made with a better understanding of technical competence and type of cuisine preference.

      1. Check out Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For the Food. It explains how things work. For a long time I followed recipes not understanding why things were done this way or that, this book helped me understand why.