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Jun 1, 2009 06:13 AM

Time to find a new go to cookbook. Looking for suggestions.

I am a good cook who happens to love working out of cookbooks. What I have found over time is that the difference between a good and bad cookbook is just about as wide as the difference between a good and bad cook. My favorite cookbooks include a lot of recipes I think sound appetizing, which are not too complicated, yet always have good results.

For the past couple of years, I have made Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking my bible. I use it 3 or 4 times a week. I also like Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa books and have an old Marcia Adams book, Cooking from Quilt Country that I sometimes use.

The other night I went to a friend's house and had a wonderful meal she cooked using a recipe in Sunday Supper at Luque's. I was excited to buy it because she spoke highly of it, but when I looked it up on Amazon, the reviews seemed to say that, while the results are excellent, most of the recipes require a lot of work, which is not my thing.

I'd love suggestions of cookbooks you love with great recipes (I am trying to steer clear of pure Italian, since Marcella already has that space covered, but mediterranean influence or straight "American" is fine), many of which are not terribly labor intensive, that usually turn out good if you follow instructions.


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  1. Take a look at "A New Way To Cook" and "The Improvisational Cook" by Sally Schneider.

    1. i'm a big fan of paula wolfert. she seeks out traditional home cooks, all over the mediterranean rim, like north africa and the middle east, as well as southern spain and southern france. they are not bells and whistles type recipes, but have incredible depth of flavor, often from long periods of slow cooking or layering of ingredients. she's my go-to for party apps.

      she often gives a history or anecdote about the recipe too. i like that contextual aspect.

      1. Marcella is one of my most tattered -- and well-used go-to cookbooks. Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone won't let you down. There are scores of recipes with suggestions for variations; ditto Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

        Folks here are loving Bon Appetit Y'all by Virginia Willis.

        I had it out of the library and just ordered it. All the recipes seem to be winners, not too complicated and the recipes cohere well as a book (if that makes sense?!). Southern cooking by a French cuisine-trained chef.

        1. i love sunday suppers at lucques. i have learned a lot about cooking from her recipes and approach, and just about everything i've made has been fantastic. you can check out the old home cooking board threads about the book (it was used as a cookbook of the month); i'm not the only one who loves it. and though many recipes are time intensive, not all of them are.
          i also really like vegetarian cooking for everyone. but the labor to deliciousness ratio is not quite as good as lucques (with some more labor, and much more deliciousness).

          1 Reply
          1. re: rose water

            I agree about Lucques. There are a number of recipes that are pretty straight forward and not time consuming, and I've learned so much from her about combining flavours and textures. And, whie some dishes call for a number of recipes, those recipes in themself are good alone, and you don't have to make all of them, if that makes sense. (I.e., the fabulous pork burgers - you can skip the aioli and romesco sauce, and still have an awfully tasty burger. And I love her beets in horseradish creme fraiche/cream sauce.) One of the biggest things I learned from her was about seasoning (with herbs, etc. usually) the protein a day ahead of time. This seems to really make a nice difference in terms of flavour.

          2. My taste seems to run along yours. I have a couple of Giada's also, her first especially is one I like a lot.