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Good first modern/gourmet type cookbook

Hello, newbie here. I'm looking for suggestions for a good first cookbook... something that contains recipes that are easy for a beginner (explains steps and techniques), but with a modern, gourmet slant to it (I have the Joy of Cooking but don't get very inspired by it, a little too old fashioned for me).

I enjoy muddling my way through "gourmet" recipes, but it usually takes me a whole day to prepare something! I'm not well versed in the basics, so I want to learn so that I can put together a good meal on a weeknight with only 30-60 minutes of time to prep and cook.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. I've found Nigella Lawson's cookbooks easy to use, and she encourages improvising if you don't have all the ingredients ... or at least she did. I have Tyler Florence's Real Food (or Real Kitchen), which has a lot of recipes that aren't too time consuming and don't call for too many ingredients. Another of my favorites is Betty Rosbottom's Cooking School cookbook. But I think it's out of print.

    1. My first coobook (besides the Betty Crocker cookbook I had through college) was How to Cook Everything. I still refer to it regularly.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Megiac

        Such a subjective choice--the question is, which will inspire you to cook--but I second the Bittman. It feels more modern than joy and really equips you to improvise. I learned with the classic, basic recipes in this book, and now as a I cook more "gourmet" I use recipes less and less, except for really specific things that I can just do a search on epicurious for.

        Think Bittman did a book with some French chef called "From Simple to Spectacular" which helps you see the steps involved in more complex food. I was recently flipping through Jacques Pepin Celebrates and it seems like there are some (albiet complicated) recipes in there.

        1. re: Mandymac

          Simple to Spectacular (with Jean-Georges Vongterichten) is really a fun cookbook, but not good for all around. Because it has five different variations on each of the basic recipes, it's scope is necessarily more limited. What's in there is great though. I'd recommend it highly as a second or third cookbook when the poster wants to start testing her new-found skills.

      2. Gotta agree about the Bittman "How To Cook Everything", it's a great cookbook for beginners.
        OTOH, My first "real" cookbook was "The Silver Palate Cookbook" and it is coming out with its 25th anniversary edition soon. I still use that book a lot. There are interesting sidebars about what to serve with what, how to pair wines with food, etc.

        1. If you are not a fan of Joy of Cooking (I'm not either), I think you definitely *would* like How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I far prefer this book over Joy of Cooking for everything from the basics to more gourmet preparations.

          1 Reply
          1. re: DanaB

            The original Barefoot Contessa cookbook. The majority of the recipes are extremely simple, yet modern, with a focus on using high quality ingredients. Everything I've made from it has been a hit.

          2. I second Silver Palate as I reference it for the simple things: salad dressings, meat temperatures, appetizers, etc. If you like Italian food, I have gotten a lot of use out of Giada deLaurentis's Everyday Italian. Simple and easy-to-follow recipes for sauces, pasta dishes and desserts. Most of all: Keep trying something new. You learn technique and what you like through experimenting. And if you flop or don't like how a recipe turns out, order take out.