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Jun 20, 2007 03:32 PM

cookbooks: hidden gems?

I'm wondering if folks have favorite cookbooks that *aren't* the most popular, most talked about cookbooks? I own and love the usual suspects (Joy of Cooking, How to Cook Everything) but lately I have been returning regularly to The Big Book of Casseroles by Maryana Vollstedt (Chronicle Books) that I picked up at a library sale for a few dollars. The recipes are wonderful, and given the "casserole" premise, surprisingly fresh and creative. So my question is: what other unsung cookbooks do you enjoy?

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  1. McCullough & Witt's "Great American Foods Without Fuss". The notes at the bottom of the pages giving sources for good ingredients, favorite brands, adaptations to the recipes, are an education in themselves, and I've never made anything from it that wasn't topflight.

    F. McCullough's "Low Carb Cooking" hass the BEST low carb recipes I've ever seen.

    There was an earlier book by the same authors, "Great Foods Without Fuss", that I keep meaning to find a copy of.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhoebeB

      McCullough and Witt also wrote "Great Feasts Without Fuss." You're absolutely right--all three books are treasures.

    2. my favorite cookbook that nobody except me seems to talk about is a baking book:

      baking in america, by greg patent.

      10 Replies
      1. re: soupkitten

        That's interesting. I don't think the recipes are well tested in the Patent book. What do you make?

        1. re: janeer

          all of the old-fashioned pound cakes performed really well for me.

          1. re: janeer

            I have the book-everything's worked out fantastically for me. Are you giving the proper beating time when making the cakes? If the recipe calls for beating the batter for five minutes between eggs, do it.

            Greg Patent's cake recipes are even better than Carole Walter's cakes.

          2. re: soupkitten

            I really like this book too. We have made several cakes without leavening which tasted great -- no lingering taste of baking powder or soda. We've also made a coconut tea bread and a few other things.

            1. re: TerriL

              This book is one of my favorites as well. Last year I made my daughter's birthday cake from this book -- The Malted Milk Chocolate Cake. I have also made the Banana Split Layer Cake w/ Chocolate Frosting, which is seriously yummy.

              1. re: Cuoca

                Thank you all; I will have to give this another try. In return, I offer my all-time favorite traditional baking book: Jim Fobel's Old-Fashioned Baking Book. If you can find it, grab it.

                1. re: janeer

                  on the subject of (overlooked) traditional baking books, now that you've got me thinking about them: anything by beatrice ojakangas is stellar esp the holiday baking book and the scandinavian baking book-- hard to find on the coasts i hear-- but the internet is amazing :)

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    I have her scandinavian baking book and haven't tried anything yet. You just inspired me to pull it off the shelf and give it a workout.

                  2. re: janeer

                    Im very fond of this book too. It even has some recipes that my Midwestern mother makes which is indicative of good things. Coffee cakes, cookies etc all good.
                    Also some scandinavian recipes which look wonderful and Ive made a note to try.

              2. re: soupkitten

                My husband got me that for Christmas a few years ago, we gave each other rather ironic books. I got him Beranbaum's Bread Bible. After they had been ordered our MD suggested that we cut out a lot of carbs so the Parent book went on the baking book shelf. I forgot I had it until I was looking for somethign else this summer. I've not yet baked from it but I may start looking at more carefully. This was a response to the comment on the Parent book. I don't know why it is down here where it is out of context

              3. "Threadgills - The Cookbook"

                Threadgills is an incredible Southern food resto in Austin, TX. (Two restaurants, actually.) It's so popular it's practically a church in terms of people's devotion to it. All the food is home-made and is good enough to make you kick your grandma.

                Large, crispy chicken-fried steaks smothered in perfectly-seasoned cream gravy. A broccoli-rice casserole so good it will convert the staunchest vegophobe to the green cause.

                The cookbook is excellent. Directions are clear and easy to follow, and the book details not only recipes, but the history of the restaurant and a window into the beginings of the Austin live music phenomenon.

                The only possible downside is, these are large quantity recipes (usually 8 pr 12 servings, IIRC)--not much of this "Serves 4" routine. These are dishes designed for family-style dining, not tete-a-tetes.

                1 Reply
                1. re: KenWritez

                  That sounds like my kind of cookbook! I've heard of Threadgills for years, might have eaten there in my youth. And I have never learned, after having to cook for a family of 7 and asst. friends, how to do the "Serves 4" recipes. Might as well do plenty while you're at it; someone will eat it or you can almost always freeze it.

                2. Mutterer - could you share which recipes you like from the Vollstedt book? I was given it as a gift and have yet to try anything.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bananie

                    Two recipes we've made over and over are (1) shrimp, tomatoes, rice and feta cheese, and (2) chicken paprika (which seems to be a variation on paprikash). We've also made the "famous spinach-rice casserole" a couple of times and enjoyed it. Those are the 3 that come to mind, though I know I've made others. I'm making the shrimp and feta one again tonight!

                    1. re: mutterer

                      wow, those recipes sound great, especially the shrimp with feta. any chance of your paraphrasing them (or at least the shrimp one) here for us? or is there a website that might have them?

                      Is the book still in print? I could try to track it down.

                      1. re: missmasala

                        The book is still in print.
                        Here's a quick and dirty version of the recipe: Saute shrimp with some garlic, add white wine, fresh parsley, chopped tomatoes, and simmer. In a small casserole dish, toss the shrimp mixture with cooked rice, sprinkle generous amount of feta on top, bake in oven till bubbly and browned.

                        1. re: missmasala

                          I just ordered a copy in "very good" condition for $2.70 from an Amazon seller. I've heard good things about this book for years and am glad Mutterer reminded me of it. The Amazon customer reviews are glowing.

                          I'm a great fan of casseroles, esp. since the invention of the microwave that allows you to so easily warm up a single serving. They generally get more & more flavorful for several days in the fridg and I always have something (besides PB sandwiches) to feed hungry grandkids who stop in at all hours several times a week looking for food.

                          1. re: PhoebeB

                            I love casseroles because it's usually hard for me to cook right before dinner time (I'm a working mom and I have 3 year old twin boys). I can make the casseroles ahead of time, and they make a great lunch the next day too!

                    2. All of my cookbooks are here:


                      But a special book is Recipe of Memory. It's a very intimate Mexican cookbook with family memories.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                        That is some collection! I scrolled through it and realized that we have an almost identical baking cookbook collection. And here I thought that I was the only somewhat crazy person that owned hundreds of books about baking.

                        1. re: flourgirl

                          Wow! I just looked at SilverlakeGirl's collection and it certainly put mine to shame...and I have so many that people gasp in admiration...or is it horry or maybe pity? when they see them.

                          1. re: oakjoan

                            You know, it's a funny thing, but I've noticed very few people comment on my personal library. And I have 3 big bookcases stuffed with books in my living room. (Not to mention the two in my office and the piles in our bedroom...) The bulk of my collection is about food, but I have an extensive collection of books about glass, pottery, fiber art, and a lot of sci-fi books. And I am particularly proud of my cookbook/baking book collection. I obviously don't know a lot of cookbook lovers, which actually makes me a little sad. I'm always waiting for the one person who will walk in, see my cookbook collection and start to salivate.

                          2. re: flourgirl

                            It would have been larger had I not weeded out over the years. In the last 10 years or so I realize it's almost sick ... I've figured out ways to buy the books at the absolute cheapest price.

                            My regular book collection was getting almost as bad. One spare bedroom in the house has been set aside as a library but books are stacked everywhere as there is no room. So I no longer buy regular books, only cookbooks. I go to the library a couple of times a week.

                            Sometimes it's embarrassing. :)

                            1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                              Yep, same here. Most of the books I buy are cookbooks. And because of space limitations I have to be really selective about what I buy. I've weeded out my collection over the years too. I've sold a few hundred dollars worth of books on Amazon!

                              And I do worry sometimes about my apparent inability to resist the compulsion to keep adding to my stash. But then I just figure that there are worse addictions...

                              1. re: flourgirl

                                I have a collection of what I thought was large. Obviously I am wrong. The next time my dh complains when I bring home another cookbook, I know where I'm pointing him.
                                SLG I look forward to browsing through your library. Sigh....

                                I havn't anyone local that shares the same passion about cooking food either, so I do appreciate CH a whole bunch.

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  I know these posts are a couple of years old now but I thought it would be fun to post my library thing catalog anyway. I love cookbooks!!!


                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                    Me too flourgirl! A new cookbook is always SUCH a treat and whenever I visit someone's home I make a beeline to the cookbooks (especially handy at family gatherings when/if the conversation gets stiff -- "Oh, what are your favorites from this book?")