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I gots me a $50 gift cert to Barnes and Noble? Best Cookbook to get?

  • d

I have the 2006 Joy of Cooking already, a better homes and gardens, Jamie Oliver, a few vegetarian and fish lover's cookbooks. What is the INDESPENSIBLE book I MUST HAVE?

I love to cook and bake and more, and I eat everything but nuts, to which I am allergic. I'm pretty proficient, so I can handle tricky things. Living in LA, I can get a wide arrange of ethnic and hard to find ingredients.

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  1. Cooking -- The Silver Palate books.

    Baking -- the Maida Heatter books.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dolores

      I second the Silver Palate 25th Anniv Edition. It is great!!
      Also, The Les Halles Cook book (Anthony Bourdain). So interesting and informative!

      1. re: Cecilbee

        is the Silver Palate 25th much different from the original?

    2. We just got the Mark Bittman "The Best Recipes In The World" book and it looks pretty good. Did a pork roast with prunes and dried apricots that was great and am doing a stuffed Squid recipe tonight.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Eric in NJ

        I second this vote -- other favorites are Border Cookbook by Jamison and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Madison.

      2. Two gotta have books from Jfood:

        - Hazan - Essential of Italian Cooking
        - Child - Mastering the Art of French Cooking

        These are both "INDESPENSIBLE book I MUST HAVE"

        6 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          I agree with Hazan, but would buy The Way to Cook before MAFC, though I have those too.

          1. re: MMRuth

            Really? Jfood always seems to grab the MAFC. It's been a few years since he sat in front of the fire and delved into Way to Cook (a present from mrs jfood many years ago).With your reco, jfood will have to do some reading tonight. Just went through the Boulud book this weekend and there are a few recipes that are ao the "gotta try" list.

            Thanks MM, coming from you that is high praise over a high bar.

            1. re: jfood

              It may well be because I taught myself to cook using Hazan and also TWC. I did cook from MAFC when Julia was "cookbook of the month" and enjoyed it, though I think she rewrote a lot of recipes for TWC to make them less labor intensive (adding the FP to her repetoire) and, sometimes, healthier. Also, TWC has some non-French recipes, I realized while browsing through it during Julia month. I think that, at the end of the day, I find TWC much more accessible.

              I also agree with Jennalynn's suggestion of The Cake Bible - I did almost no baking over the holidays - just the cake for Christmas (from Goins) - and miss having some bites of that White Spice Cake.

              1. re: MMRuth

                That's interesting! I rarely use The Way to Cook, while my Mastering the Art of French Cooking is falling apart. I like the way that MTAOFC is organized better than The Way To Cook. Also, I prefer the authentic/intricate recipes in MTAOFC, rather than the more simplified methods/shortcuts and lighter recipes offered in The Way to Cook. It sounds like you and I are point-counterpoint on these two books -- the reasons you like The Way to Cook over MTAOFC are the exact reasons I prefer MTAOFC over the Way to Cook ;-)

                1. re: DanaB

                  Sounds like it - grin. Though I was awfully pleased with myself after completing some of the very detailed/intensive MAFC recipes!

              2. re: jfood

                I happened across this post - a list of TWC recipes that I've used and liked:


          2. I like all Mark Bittman's books, since you've only started your cookbook library.

            You might also go with the queen of classics: Julia Child Mastering French Cooking.

            Baking: Rose Levy Birnbaums The Cake Bible.

            1. I would highly recommend Homebaking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Traditions Around the World by J Alford & N Duguid because: the book contains both sweets and savories, has great photos, stories, and, most importantly, the recipes are excellent.

              For a general purpose cookbook, I love the yellow Gourmet cookbook because it covers a wide range of ethnic foods and spans all cooking skill levels.

              1. For something a little different, take a look at "The Sweet Spot" by Pichet Ong. Beautifully done book, clear instructions, gorgeous photos of Asian inspired desserts. Just received this so I have not cooked from it yet, but it is full of temptations!

                1. New Best Recipe
                  Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: abud

                    I asked for and received " New Best recipe" after Chowser mentioned it. Great book.

                    The CIA cookbooks and Bo Fribergs baking book are great, but they cost more then your gift cert.

                  2. Cooking: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

                    Baking: Cake Bible

                    Reading: Morimoto's book whose name I've forgotten (maybe you would cook from it; I don't think I would)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Ali

                      In addition to Cake Bible, anything from the editors of Cook's Illustrated is the way to go.

                    2. I love The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, and Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Today I "bought" myself The Silver Palate 25th Anniversary cookbook with a Borders gift card that was given to me as a Secret Santa gift at work.

                      1. If I only had those few cookbooks (I have over 1000) I would get either Fannie Farmer, Settlement House, or the Silver Palate. I would not get Marcella, Maida Heatter, and the Cake Bible is so far out of your league that you would never use it. My logic is that Joy is not very good anymore, and you need to expand on your general cooking repertoire, not make fine cakes or Northern Italian. If Fannie or Settlement House sound too old fashioned, take a look at the Silver Palate. That's what nice about my local B & N--you can go in, sit in a comfortable chair and read every book in the store if you like. Have fun and try a new recipe every week, And then have a dinner party a month. After the first year dozens of people will owe you an invitation.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: Curmudgeon

                          I'm curious, Curmudgeon, why would you not get Maida's books? Hers were some of my earliest books and I liked the drawings by her late daughter. I found her very straightforward and her recipes true to the finished product.

                          1. re: dolores

                            Unless I missed something, nobody mentioned Madeleine Kaman's New Making of a Chef. It deserves a place on the shelf right next to Hazan.

                            1. re: Father Kitchen

                              You are right - though I always forget about that book, it is incredibly edifying and useful - and I should use it more!

                          2. re: Curmudgeon

                            What do you mean,"the cake bible is so far out of your league that you would never use it?" How can you possibly know what the OP's "league" is? I find the Cake Bible to be a thoroughly accessible baking book, with meticulous instructions. My daughter baked from this book when she was 15.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              I agree, pikawicca. Same goes for Hazan - and more so - it's not as if Hazan is complicated or requires difficult techniques etc.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                jfood agrees w you as well pikawicca on the Cake Bible. He is a new baker and readingthis book seems very straightforward and helpful. As a baking book it looks like a great addition to the list.

                              2. re: Curmudgeon

                                How do you know the Cake Bible is "out of my league"? I'm not a pro, but I'm pretty good in the kitchen. By "proficient" I mean I can cook well, but do not get paid for it.

                                Perhaps I should say "fluent"?

                                1. re: Diana

                                  I am pretty proficient in the kitchen, and I think the cake bible is too fetishistic. It is really for a real pro. Also I don't really like those kind of cakes, they are of no interest to me. Give me an almond pound cake over any light frilly thing. Look at it noting the complexity of the recipes and see if it's for you. I've had it since it cam out, but never use it. I wasn't being insulting. I guess I'm thinking one can't be a fine baker, and have time to do much else.

                                  But Madeleine Kamen is an excellent suggestion! I considered her for my list, but rejected her as too advanced. But the more I I think of it she is really the most basic of all, because she gives you not only the how but the why, which makes her book essential for people who like to improvise. In many ways it is the best of them all if you want to learn to cook rather than follow a recipe. The others are recipes without explanations of why. Also I've seen it in several places on remainder for $14.95 lately.

                                  Maida's books are great, but I wouldn't add them to my collection of 5 to 10 cookbooks. Maybe when you get to 30 it would be time to add them, but definately before the Cake Bible. They are much more accessible to a good home cook and baker.

                                  1. re: Curmudgeon

                                    I agree that the Cake Bible certainly has its fetishes, but for me, as long as I follow the instructions exactly, that's what makes the recipes turn out so well.

                                    1. re: Curmudgeon

                                      I don't think it's "fetishistic"... it's scientific.

                                      It explains the science behind baking, which is quite helpful. It's an Alton Brown thing.

                                      1. re: Curmudgeon

                                        good use of the F word. I dislike the tone in the Cake Bible. I think it's a love it or hate it book. I don't like the way the recipes are organized, I don't like the way the recipes are usually for only one layer. The first few recipes I made (a chocolate layer and a mousseline buttercream if I remember correctly) I did not care for at all.

                                        Now recently, I have fallen in love with the chocolate angel food cake, and a different buttercream, so ....she's growing on me. But I can certainly see why you wouldn't want it to be your main baking cookbook.

                                        I vote Zuni for cooking, Martha for baking.

                                    2. re: Curmudgeon


                                      I don't know where you get the idea that the original poster is a beginning cook and that the books would be out of her league...I guess you only meant the Cake Bible. I don't think she said anything but that she loved to cook and bake.

                                    3. Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
                                      (search Zuni on this site and you'll see why)

                                      no book is "INDESPENSIBLE book I MUST HAVE"
                                      what do you want to cook? Asian? French? Italian? Mexican?
                                      do you want revered or hip?

                                      for baking, one of the following perhaps
                                      + Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World
                                      by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
                                      + In The Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker's Companion
                                      by Regan Daley (if you want more textbook fussy baking with a ton of information)
                                      + Room For Dessert (or some other book, like the ice cream one) by David Lebovitz

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: pitu

                                        I love Hazan for classsics- I also turn to the Barefoot Contessa Cook book all the time!

                                      2. "Classic Home Desserts" by Richard Sax is a wonderful book.
                                        Not really a "cookbook", but everybody should read "The Art of Eating" by MFK Fisher

                                        1. A really idiosyncratic selection from my end of the kitchen. These are books that have become indispensible for me in a quarter century of cooking.

                                          I don't much care for any of the Silver Palate gals' output, including (especially?) "The New Basics Cookbook." And my antipathy towards "Joy" is well known among my food friends.

                                          I'll speak up in favor of "The Way to Cook". I acquired it when new, and it really kicked up my learning curve several notches. "Mastering" is good too. But "Way to Cook" was really innovative in its approach. It's where I go when I really need to know how to do something.

                                          "The New Fannie Farmer" is a wonderful tool as well. If I can't find info anywhere else, I can always find it there.

                                          Barbara Kafka's "Vegetable Love" has become a staple on my work island over the year and a half since my wife bought it for me. I simply don't know another cookbook that gives such complete information on vegetables and their purchase, storage, and preparation. And the Avocado Salad Dressing is worth the price of admission all by itself.

                                          "Baking with Julia". My copy is flecked with flour throughout its pages. I've learned so much, including pita bread, naan, bagels, and working with phyllo dough. Breads and pastries and desserts, Oh My!

                                          Jacques Pepin's "Fast Food My Way" (another gift from Herself -- think she likes to be fed?) has become a godsend since my son entered high school and I have less time in the space of a week to cook.

                                          "The Italian Country Table" by Lynne Rosetto Kasper is a great book. I use it all the time. Less so her "The Splendid Table", but it's a great read.

                                          1. Don't forget to check out the clearance section online... Frank Stitt's Southern Table is on sale for $8.98 right now! I'm all about getting more bang for my buck if it happens to work out that way!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Katie Nell

                                              I always check out www.half.com before buying any new book. I've gotten amazing deals on slightly worn/used books that way.

                                              1. re: Jennalynn

                                                won't help with the gift card, though.

                                                Thanks, guys, this is all really great! Amazing suggestions. I have to go and see if I can find these and compare them all!

                                            2. If you're interested in baking, in addition to the Cake Bible, which I love, I actually like both her other books - Pie and Pastry Bible and Bread Bible even better. I'm definitely a baker (and a scientist in real life), not a cook, so the intense "follow the rules or else" appeals to me. I mostly like those books better than the Cake Bible because I like to eat pies and pastries and bread better than cakes :) But I have all 3 and all are falling apart from how often I bake out of them.

                                              For cooking I also 2nd the New Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated. All the recipes are great and easy to follow and very thorough - it's how I've learned all the basic techniques of cooking that I know so far. As far as the other CI books, I know at least the the Best Baking Recipes (or similar name) has almost all the same recipes as New Best Recipe, so isn't worth getting. I have a feeling the same might be true of the others in the series...

                                              I also 2nd the Les Halles cookbook by Bourdain. It's short and I've already made a bunch of the recipes and they all turn out amazing. Much better than most cookbooks of the same kind.

                                              1. I have to raise my hand and say: Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking." Absolutely fascinating book that will keep you pinned to your reading chair on cold winter evenings. Well, if you're into the science of it all. Exceptionally well done reference book.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: cayjohan

                                                  I agree! Not a cookbook exactly (no recipes), but excellent explanations of how and why cooking and baking works. I use it more as a reference, to look stuff up when I'm curious, rather than actually sitting down and trying to read it though :)

                                                2. I had another idea: since you live in LA, and have a window onto Asian cultures, you might really enjoy two books by Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid: "Mangoes & Curry Leaves" & "Hot Sour Salty Sweet". They are gorgeous to look at, and explore the foods of India and Southeast Asia, respectively. Might not be able to bring both of them in for $50 however...

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: whs

                                                    Those are two favorites of mine as well and I use them often.

                                                    1. re: whs

                                                      I"ve been tempted on the Hot Sour book. Their recipes in "Baking with Julia" were astoundingly accurate and easy. I always thought pita bread was a chore; it's one of the easiest "regulars" in my repertoire now. And in addition to Julia's show, I've heard them interviewed on the radio. They are just fascinating people.

                                                      1. re: whs

                                                        When I grow up, I want to be these two. If you're interested in Asian and can get the ingredients, any of their books are great.

                                                        1. re: waver

                                                          Bistro Cooking at Home by Gordon Hammersly
                                                          simple straight forward food that is vvery approachable.

                                                      2. Hi Diana,

                                                        I like the Dean and Deluca Cookbook . . . It has great recipes from a wide variety of foods . . . I've made alot of the dishes in the book and they have all turned out well...


                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: snackboy

                                                          I absolutely love the Dean and Deluca Cookbook as well. Much better than their overpriced, snooty store/mail order. Their cookbook is wonderful. No desserts or sweets, though. Weird.

                                                        2. The thing about Barnes and Noble is that they don't always stock all these great books. I like to look through them beofroe I buy, so online is not an option. Andit HAD to be from Band N

                                                          Still I went and found the anniversary edition of Mastering The Art of French Cooking and a copy of the Tassajara Bread Book. I wanted more, like the Silver Palate, Gale Gand chocolate books, Jame Beard books but I only had $50.

                                                          I looked for a Torres book on chocolate to no avail!

                                                          Still, I'm reading MTAFC right now. It's great! I'm not sure what my first attempt at mastery will be. I want to try a few sauces and veggie dishes first. Plus a vanilla souffle.

                                                          Any suggestions on other things to try?

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: Diana

                                                            Have you checked out the threads from the Julia COTM threads? I think there's a link on the current COTM voting thread. On the vegetables - a number of us noted that she seemed to call for rather long cooking times for vegetables and made adjustments accordingly.

                                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/446374 - link to Julia COTM master thread

                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                              I noticed the long time...an hour for cucumbers?

                                                            2. re: Diana

                                                              Gale Gand's book is available for $9.95 at http://www.zooba.com. You'll find many other books on this site for the same price minus tax or shipping charges. I see no reason to pay retail if you can avoid it.

                                                              Sign up for Borders rewards and you'll save up to 30% off retail. They always have some cookbooks on clearance and the savings add up.

                                                              Another source is Bookstorecloseouts at http://www.bookstorecloseouts.com. They offer a flat rate on shipping and have amazing bargains.

                                                              Recently I joined The Good Cook book club (http://www.thegoodcook.com). You basically get 5 books for $30. But the biggest deal was the end of year sale offering every book on the website for $9,95. I scored French Culinary Institutes teaching volume for that price and it retails for over $70. They have James Peterson's Cooking which is excellent for someone desiring to learn the fundamentals.

                                                              Last bit of advice. Find someone that shares your passion for cooking and is willing to try their hand at the recipes from the same book. It offers comraderie and encouragement for exploration for both parties. Not to mention the critique factor which is priceless. In this way you'll have books that you actually use, not merely stare at.

                                                              1. re: Diana

                                                                They will order anything for you.

                                                                You can go elsewhere to look at it and then if you have to use B&N, have them order it.

                                                                1. re: Diana

                                                                  I love Julia's recipe for Chicken Tarragon, and also many of the egg dishes are fabulous. All of the sauce recipes are fool-proof and delicious. As for vegetables, her recipe for braised leeks is revelatory, it's so good. Also, the sauteed potatoes.

                                                                  1. re: DanaB

                                                                    Those sauteed potatoes are great. But I kept kicking myself during JC month b/c I could not find my melon baller, and I think it was a lot harder to brown the cubed potatoes and a complete pain to "carve" the football shaped ones. Delicious all the same.

                                                                2. The Best Recipes in the World, Bittman; The Way to Cook, Julia Child, The Cook's Bible from Cook's Illustrated, Those three would be the one's I use in my kitchen regularly, and I consider myself a good home cook whose been cooking for 25 years.

                                                                  I never could understand the appeal of the Silver Palate series, though many people do love it.

                                                                  I think it's hard to know what cookbooks will become your standards, but you should to find books that suit how you cook and eat, to make it easy to use them and try new things.

                                                                  I still love to cook, and gladly spend an entire Sunday preparing meals that we can use all week for the family.

                                                                  Good luck.

                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Felixnot

                                                                    For anyone interested, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is on sale at Williams-Sonoma for $19.99. I am considering buying it.....it needs at least a few glossy photos for me. I guess since the anniversary edition is out, they are making way for it. Should I get it? I am amateur at best but I do love to cook when I have the time.

                                                                    1. re: chocchipcookie

                                                                      I noticed a number of cookbooks on sale there yesterday by the way - bought a Dunlap (Dunlop?) one on Hunan cuisine. Also saw the Silver Spoon for about $20.

                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                        You will be very happy with the Hunan book, the recipes are (mostly) simple and the results delicious. Try the Mao's family red-cooked pork when it gets colder again.

                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                          Thanks - they did look pretty straight forward. Of course, I needed another cookbook like the proverbial hole in the head. But I'd read such good things about Land of Plenty that it caught my eye, while I had a gift certificate in hand!

                                                                        2. re: MMRuth

                                                                          Ooooh! I've been looking for price-reduced Dunlop books. I got a couple out of the library and they're GREAT. Interesting reading as well, but I can't stand the high price.

                                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                                            Sorry if I'm being thick - where is Dunlop on sale? Borders?
                                                                            (I too was looking at the Hunan one from the library last week. niiiice. I am trying to resist, but I fear this resistance is futile.)

                                                                            There's always Jessica's Biscuit i.e. ecookbooks.com
                                                                            Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook Recipes From Hunan Province $18.86
                                                                            Land Of Plenty for $21.00

                                                                            1. re: pitu

                                                                              I'd bought the Hunan book on sale at WS a week or so ago - a clearance sale. I think it was 12.99.

                                                                          2. re: chocchipcookie

                                                                            I'll wander over this Friday for a look!

                                                                            1. re: chocchipcookie

                                                                              I learned to cook from Mastering the Art of French Cooking -- it has a few illustrations, although no photographs. Because Julia's exposition and explanations are so thorough, I find I don't miss the photos. If you love to cook, this book is a must-have.

                                                                              1. re: DanaB

                                                                                Thanks Dana-I think I will buy it. I love to read the why and how you do something and I think I will benefit from it. I hope they still have some on sale!

                                                                          3. I've been watching reruns of "Baking with Julia," and am really enjoying it. Just saw the companion book in Borders. It's $40, though, a bit on the pricey side. I think I'll ask my husband to get it for my birthday.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. I'm in love with the Alton Brown books for telling me not what to do but how and why. You sound more experienced than me though, so they may not be for you. Light on recipes too, if that's what you're looking for.

                                                                              Also, I have recently discovered that you can use a B&N giftcard to buy used/remaindered books from third-party sellers on their website. I turned in my Christmas giftcards using this method and got twice the books I could've gotten at a store.

                                                                              1. i would say buy a book (s) about your favorite type of foods ie; ital or german etc.....
                                                                                no sense in getting julia's books if french is not your fav.