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a cookbook to cook my way through?

Any recs for a great cookbook to cook my way through? I live in a very small, rural town that has 5+ months of winter so I need something that doesn't require a lot of specialty items. Although our farmer's market has begun its season, they are still mostly selling last year's root vegetables. Still some weeks away from fresh produce, I think.

I have Sunday Suppers (love it, but lots of particular ingredients that I don't have access to), Marcell Hazan (too heavy for summer), Nigella's How to Eat and a lot of baking books. My local library has the Gourmet Cookbook (which I check out about once a month), a Madhur Jaffrey veg boook, Fannie Farmer and a smattering of others.

Other requirements: I usually cook just for myself and have dinner parties 3-4 times per month (max 8 guests). Something that would translate well to dinners for one would be great. Also, I don't eat too much meat.

Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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  1. "Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe" by Brother Juniper sounds like it would fit the bill perfectly. It's one of my favorite cook books. Not many hard to find ingredients, it's not all about meat entrees, there are plenty of really good versions of old stand by salads, soups, sides,, breads and desserts.

    1. I love Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and it sounds ideal for your situation. Each vegetable, grain, protein is described in-depth with at least five or six cooking suggestions- all sorts of ideas, none of which are fussy or impractical. Every time I open that I want to race into the kitchen and start cooking. I made the most divine asparagus last week and I ran to the store the next day to get more asparagus and make it again. Simple, gorgeous food with imagination. This is also quite a tome so it would be a feat to cook your way through it!

      I do have a fondnesss for Moosewood too though. I first learned to cook through a combination of my mom's old standby recipes and the Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen. It's vegetarian and I just love it - she is cool and imaginative and affordable for veggie chefs wanting to step out and be gourmet. I have never had a problem finding ingredients without the need to scour specialty stores. Molly Katzen has come out with a whole fleet of cookbooks - the original is so great, but if you're already a more experienced cook you might check out one of the others.

      1. I think that The Theory and Practice of Good Cooking by James Beard is the best cookbook for cooking through. I did that in my early twenties, 20 years ago, and the lessons I learned in that book are still with me, hundreds of cookbooks and a restaurant later.

        1. 'How To Cook Without A Book' by Pam Anderson, a food writer, not from Bay Watch. It has a basic recipe for a particular dish, and then variations on a theme. This book has been around a while.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ChiliDude

            Another vote for How to Cook....... A much underrated (or unnoticed?) book, really practical, suggests lots of riffs on the basic recipe which stimulates old follow-the-recipe-to-the-last-dot me to actually trying original ideas. Pam started off at Cook's Illustrated, so her recipes are absolutely accurate; but unlike CI, they are simple and almost never (actually, never, now I come to think of it) call for exotic hard-to-find ingredients.
            For those dinner parties, I also suggest her Perfect Recipes for Having People Over. They have a lot of the same virtues as Without a Book, but are more elegant without being fussy or fancy. Get your local library to order them through library loan (do you have that kind of system?) so you can take a browse. Her Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes (available year-round at your supermarket) with Garlic and Basil are to die for. The simplest thing in the world, but all my guests want the recipe before they leave. And she's very big on interesting soups and salads.

          2. Julie Powell cooked her way through all three volumes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, blogging all the way. The blog and a description are now published and absolutely worth reading and cooking from. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw/...

            And of course MTAOFC has plenty of vegetable recipes that don't call for exotic ingredients. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw/...

            The old reliables like Joy of Cooking have too many variations on a theme to do everything, but I often open my copy at random and have seldom made anything inedible. Avoid the brand new edition, though, which has been roundly panned.

            Finally, the recipe collection here has lots of vegetarian entries. http://www.chow.com/search?item_type=... as does Epicurious and lots of other sites.

            4 Replies
            1. re: KRS

              Mastering the Art of French Cooking is in two volumes, not three. And I believe Julie Powell cooked her way through volume 1, not both volumes.

              1. re: Timowitz

                Yes - just volume 1. But I have to confess to being too fickle to work my way through one book. I need variety ;-).

                1. re: MMRuth

                  And I felt really excited, however briefly it took me to scroll down this page, at the thought of a third volumn.
                  Dang.

                  1. re: shallots

                    Maybe you could think of The Way to Cook as being a 3rd volume of sorts! That's pretty much what I used to teach myself to cook, and in many places she writes that she adapted recipes from Mastering .....