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Looking for cookbook

I want to try to cook at home more, but I'm really lacking skills in the kitchen. I am lacking a lot of experience, and I think I often try to cook recipes that are complicated.

I would like to start cooking everyday, and I think it would be helpful to find a cookbook that I could work through, from beginning to end. It would be great to find a cookbook with the following qualities:

1. Has recipes for simple meals that call for fresh ingredients
2. Has variety
3. Does not use a ton of meat
4. Recipes are reasonably healthy
5. Most recipes don't take longer than 40 minutes or so

What I really want is a cookbook I can work my way through over the next few months. In the process I want to become more comfortable in the kitchen, eat better, and also learn some simple recipes that I will be able to remember and use in the future---without consulting a book or the internet.

Is there a particular cookbook that would be goo for this?

Oh...and I like pictures!

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  1. I would recommend Alice Waters 'The Art of Simple Food'. As the title indicates, the focus is on simple, fresh recipes that rely on top quality ingredients. There is a great primer at the begining explaining about pantry basics, equipment, some techniques, etc. The only thing missing are photos but there are some illustrations. You will also find people on this board very helpful if you have questions or need inspiration. Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ms. clicquot

      I second Alice Waters' new book. But I don't know of *one* cookbook that meets your criteria. I wish there were a book that taught you techniques and then provided recipes. Mark Bittman's fairly new "How to Cook Everything" comes the closest to that, but alas, no photos. But that's okay, he guides you through.

      You may want more than one; I don't know of one (other than Julia Child Mastering the Art of French Cooking) that you would want to cook from beginning to end. And anyway, they're often complicated and tons of butter!
      Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" is an excellent cookbook (won an award), fairly basic and mostly very easy and relaxed, with good explanations of techniques and variations (such as many ways to flavor sauteed boneless chicken breasts). A good standby.
      Also terrific is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that on the whole is pretty basic and straightforward.

      Some meals can be put together in 40 minutes; some take more time, or you can cook over the course of a couple days (e.g., making vegetable stock to use in a dish the next day; or using leftovers to make a new dish)

      As Molly Stevens writes, the best way to be a good cook is to cook often.

      Start w/ basics and see what you like and want to develop. With all the glitzy magazines and myriad of trendy cookbooks, it's easy for a beginner to lose their way.
      Julia Child suggested finding some recipes you like, and cook them 3 times until you are comfortable doing so. Almost everyone is happy w/ a good roast chicken (sorry for another book suggestion, but Marcella Hazan has a great roast chicken recipe and her Essentials of Good Cooking is a bible in my home.)

    2. Try the More-with-Less Cookbook. Not too many pictures, but a lot of good, basic recipes, including many main dishes that make good use of small amounts of meat or less-expensive cuts of meat. One big highlight for me is the page that explains how to make your own white sauce and then adapt it so it's the equivalent (minus the HFCS and chemicals) of the canned soup that finds its way into far too many recipes.

      1. Joy of Cooking is a bible not any color pictures but something that will remain a reference for a lifetime....Silver Palate is nice as well as the Moosewood books.....for theatre......picture book cookbooks are for show and tell, and coffee tables, by celebrity author/chefs....decide if you want to learn cooking basics/foundations......or if you want to be amused/awed.....

        1 Reply
        1. re: Saddleoflamb

          Agreed about the Joy of Cooking. It's my go-to reference for everything in the kitchen from more mundane things like muffins and bechamel to the obscure (ie water-bath canning). It's not a pretty cookbook, but it has very reliable instructions and general cooking tips. Both Moosewood and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which have been mentioned in other posts are ok for some things. The Moosewood cookbooks have good baking recipes as well as good tips on how to make meatless versions of some old favorites. However, the recipes are a little on the bland side and often require quite a bit of tweaking. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone has a few good recipes, but again, many require tweaking or simply don't work so it's not a good book for someone learning to cook.
          Do you like Indian or Chinese food? If so, Invitation to Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey or Chinese Vegetarian Cooking, by Eileen Yin Fe-Lo (not sure I spelled that right) are both relatively easy cook books with good instructions.

        2. I concur with the More-with-Less Cookbook recommendation. Excellent for basics. I have an older edition, but it may have been updated in the meantime.

          Another one for you to check out is the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. I received this one years ago (the one from the 1980s) and it really did help me learn to cook. There is a picture for every recipe, plus information on the time it will take to complete a recipe. Good illustrations of each step involved, too. I don't use this one much anymore, but I found it an excellent all-purpose cookbook to learn from. It may have more meat in than you'd like, though, so check it out first (there's a newer edition out, I think).

          1. Lora Brody's Kitchen Survival Guide. It will not overwhelm you, is simple to follow and as a breast cancer survivor the recipes are healthy too. She wrote the book for her sons as they were growing up and moving out of the family home into their own places. Not only does it get you off on the right foot with the basics but it provides a wealth of kitchen info that everyone should know. It is spiral bound so it will lay flat and written like a mom talking to her kids. It is an informational and good read.