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ISO Cookbook - simple & delicious recipies

Can someone recommend a cookbook with simple but delicious recipies? A friend is looking to give a cookbook to someone going to college, so the food has to be pretty down to earth. The best I could come up with was one of Rachel Ray's (I know, I know), but he is looking for one without the RR 'stigma' :)

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  1. A good basic cookbook is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. The recipes aren't complicated, and it covers, well, pretty much everything.

    Here's a link to a recent thread on the book:


    1. I like Rachael Ray's cookbooks, or at least the one I have -- 30 Minute Meals 2, I think. The recipes fit your requirements of simple, delicious, and down to earth. And they're not intimidating at all to someone who is new to cooking or who doesn't have a whole lot of exotic ingredients at hand.

      For simple recipes featuring fairly common ingredients, I really like the latest Weight Watcher cookbooks, Pure Comfort and From Pantry to Plate. I also found the Frugal Gourmet books very useful in my learning-to-cook days, but I suppose they're pretty dated now!

      1. I have been cooking for so many years, it's hard to know if books I find simple and straightforward really are anymore. But the two Ina Garten books I have are simple and straightforward to me. The Barefoot Contessa and The Barefoot Contessa Entertains. Some of the recipes have long lists of ingredients...sauce for her chicken satay, for example...but are easy to actually make. Plus, every recipe I've tried works as advertised. And taste really, really good. I've relaxed a lot in the kitchen in middle-age, and if I don't have the time to pull off a production, I'll happily serve Ina's quick and easy Indonesian Chicken to guests...and they'll happily devour it.

        Don't have Bittman's "How To Cook Everything," but I've heard only good things about it. That would be a good choice too.

        1. The very best all-around cookbook, which not only provides recipes but teaches a novice how to cook and provides all the useful information he or she might want at that stage of his or her cooking life, is The Joy of Cooking -- in my view, the 1973 edition, in paperback, is perfect for a college student and not in the least expensive. It's in print, and available through Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Joy-Cooking-Sta...) and I'm sure many other sources. I've been cooking for many, many years and almost never use cookbooks any more, but when I need to know solid, basic information -- what temperature do you cook that at? How do you prep this? -- I turn first to Joy of Cooking. Rachel Ray is a lightweight; Mrs. Rombauer is a COOK.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ozhead

            I agree. The JOC is a great cookbook to start with and one you will keep forever and refer to over and over again.
            The Bittman book sounds good, and my first cookbook was The Best Recipe from Cooks Illustrated, but JOC is still my standby.

            1. re: ozhead

              Yep, I learned from the Joy of Cooking - the 1973 version. My first recipes out of that cookbook were chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles (still a standby for me), and lemon bars (although my mother cut the sugar in the former two recipes in half, because she deemed them too sweet for me), when I was around 9 or so. I also just loved reading the cookbook for all the knowledge contained within. The newest version, the 2006 version, is good as well.

            2. It's not a cookbook but Cooks Illustrated has a new companion magazine that focuses on simpler homestyle cooking and weeknight suppers. As expected, the recipes are developed using C.I.'s tasting and revising process. It's called Cook's Country and I find it at all the places that carry C.I.

              1. I agree with the others in that Bittman's How to Cook Everything is a wonderful first cookbook, the recipes couldn't be easier and simpler to follow. It's a perfect choice for college because the ingredients Bittman suggests can be found anywhere. Joy of Cooking (1973) is my hands-down favorite of all time, but the EZ2 Read formatting of Bittman's recipes may be the better choice for your requirements.

                However, if the student is going to do any baking, I would suggest JOC over Bittman because Joy of Cooking's section on baked goods, cookies, cakes, pies, offer never-fail recipes -- and I can't say the same for Bittman.

                Bittman and Rombauer, through care and passion for and endless knowledge of the art of cooking offer a genuine service to novice or uncertain cooks. A school, if you will.

                Another tip is to buy the Jacques Pepin and Julia Child cooking series "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" on DVD, a veritable cooking class offering many great and simple recipes that a college student can easily master and use, including great burgers, healthy and tasty vegetable soups, roasted chickens, salads, sandwiches, etc.

                1. When my husband got his first apartment, during graduate school 30+ years ago, he received 2 cookbooks - the Joy of Cooking from his mother, and the Campus Survival Cookbook, from me. They were his bible, and we still turn to them both occasionally, The Joy of course is readily available. the Campus Survival is out of print but used copies are available. They are very different but both useful for a beginner cook. I recommend them both.

                  1. The Bittman book others have recommended is good. But given the realities of college life, I'd recommend my old standby, the Mennonite Central Committee's More-with-Less Cookbook. It has recipes for all sorts of things--even good breakfast cereals--with the goal of eating well on few resources. It's sort of a church cookbook on a grand scale, with contributions from everyone from midwestern farm families to missionaries all around the world.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: revsharkie

                      I have a older version of a bittman like cookbook by Betta Givens is a cookbook
                      that is simple to use and you can cook anything from moose to french pastry
                      I have a Bittmans cookbook, you can cook everything, and really enjoy it I
                      think your person will like it if it your choice, easy to use.

                      1. re: bigjimbray

                        Meta Given, you mean? I have those, too. They were evidently what my mom learned to cook from.

                        Another cookbook I have in my collection that was very valuable to me when I was first learning to cook was a Betty Crocker. Mine is from 1978 or 1979, I forget just which. Someone told me once that Betty Crocker cookbook recipes are tested so they work regardless of which of a variety of common mistakes you might make, which means they're pretty much foolproof and guarantee that someone cooking them, even someone new to cooking and without a whole lot of confidence, can still have success.

                    2. JOC is a definite must - no frills and just about everything you could imagine. I also got a New Basics Cookbook when I first graduated from college (oh lordy, it was that long ago...) and that still holds up. For a more modern one, I am always recommending Alton Brown's "I'm Just Here for the Food" mostly because it gives you more than the recipes - it gives you a good knowledge base of why you're doing whatever you're doing to a set of ingredients.