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Ingredient-focused cookbook

In the past year or so I've become a weekly visitor to my local farmers market, and come home with piles of whatever looks amazing that day. Then I come home and dig through my cookbooks and scour the internet for interesting ways to prepare (and sometimes identify) it all. I've been relying heavily on my old copy of Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and have found great success, but I'd love to find a supplement, and even some "second opinions."

Does anyone have other suggestions for similar books that break down ingredients - including proper storage, shelf life, preparation styles, and possibly even nutritional components? While it can be primarily produce-based, I am always happy to find new (or proper) preparation techniques for meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, etc. as those items find their way into my market tote as well. I'm looking for more of a textbook-style book than a traditional cookbook. I want to get away from relying too heavily on internet searches (present company excluded, of course!) as the reliability is sometimes unknown...

Thank you! :-)

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  1. On the vegetable front, Chez Panisse Vegetables is a classic. The new Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison is fantastic -- it includes information about families of vegetables, to help you mix and match more adventurously.

    2 Replies
    1. re: maxie

      I am in absolute LOVE with Vegetable Literacy. I've used it almost daily since it arrived a couple of weeks ago. Tonight it's "Braised fennel wedges with saffron and tomato" included is the recipe for the braising liquid, fennel stock using the fennel fronds/stems (which I have always thrown away). The stock is so good you could drink it all by itself!

      I do also love my Chez Panisse Vegetables (and the Fruits book). But, Deborah Madison's book would be my first choice.

      1. re: pagesinthesun

        I didn't know about the new Deborah Madison! I was about to recommend her "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone."

    2. My favorite book for farmers market finds is Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop (of America's Test Kitchen fame). It's arranged alphabetically and has tips for prep and storage of pretty much every vegetable you can think of. The recipes are pretty quick and easy, and they're always good.

      Another book that I like is Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman. It has side dish vegetables as well as main courses. It actually gives information about growing each vegetable as well as preparing it. The only problem with this book are that the vegetables are alphabetical within season, and her seasons don't seem to match mine even though we're both in the northeast. So it's hard to easily page through to find the vegetable. It's even harder because some publishing genius decided to use yellow ink for chapter and recipe titles. Despite those caveats, the recipes I've made have been quite good. I just usually turn to the Jack Bishop book because it's so easy.

      2 Replies
      1. re: AmyH

        I love Jack Bishop on ATK but know him only for his taste-testing expertise. I'm interested to see what his cookbook style is!

        1. re: EggyEggoo

          Very approachable. I find his recipes brief, with just the right amount of instruction. Every one of them that I've tried has worked very well. And they let the vegetables' flavor shine through. I believe he also has a book of Italian vegetarian recipes that is supposed to be very good.

      2. With your mention of farmer`s markets I think of the following:

          1. Another great resource for your situation is the Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash, a 1982 companion to the PBS gardening show on which she had a regular cooking segment. It covers a lot of combinations with meat and fish, and is a reliable reference on buying, storing, and preparing the vegetables. It's organized by ingredient. Out of print, but there are a fair number of used copies out there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ellabee

              I have really find memories of watching Victory Garden with my mom when I was little. Thanks for reminding me of that lovely show. And her book is a great recommendation, thank you!

            2. It's really old-school, but Joy of Cooking has sections about different families of food that are just what you're looking for.

              4 Replies
              1. re: sunshine842

                You know I've never owned a Joy of Cooking partly because there are so many editions. Do you have a favorite year - or is the most current the best?

                1. re: EggyEggoo

                  I have the 97 edition, which is pretty controversial, as the Rombauer family didn't actually write most of it. It does, however, have a boatload of recipes from around that world that I have thus far found to be as true to the original as is possible in an American kitchen. (I use the ratatouille recipe all the time, to the delight of my French friends...)

                  It's stained, dogeared, has a broken binding, and is losing pages -- but I can't bear to toss it because I have notes written in all the margins.

                  I've loved it hard.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    I've worn out several copies of the pre-97 editions, but they are easy to find in used book stores. The 97 edition is sufficiently different to be worth having both. As you noted it has more of an international flavor (shepherds pie gets its own British recipe, rather than being a variation in the lunch section). But they also trimmed back some things including the ingredients section. I haven't looked at more recent ones.

                  2. re: EggyEggoo

                    Since you have Bittman, Joy won't add a lot.

                2. Maybe Shirley Corriher's Cookwise--that's not geared towards any specific type of food, but is about cooking in general, with a how/why approach. It has recipes, too, but I'm a baker/candy maker type so I can't recall any specifics beyond those sections of the book

                  1. IMO, the best ingredient focused book is Culinary Artistry by Michael Dornenburg & Karen Page. While not a cookbook per se, it is the most comprehensive ingredient pairing reference I have ever seen.

                    Another great cooking technique book/DVD is The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking by Bill Briwa, a CIA instructor. You can get it from The Great Course website.

                    1. Not specifically ingredient focused, but I really liked Rhulman's twenty. Our focuses on basic techniques...

                      1. OK, I'm going to have to bring a wagon to the library because all of these recommendations are wonderful! Thank you everyone!

                        1. have you tried "eat your books" to find ingredients in cookbooks that you both own and don't own, without having to rely on always incomplete cookbook indexes?

                          I also love Deborah Madison's Local Flavors.....organized around farmers markets, but can't wait to get Vegetable literacy.

                          1. Sally Schneider's "A New Way to Cook" and "The Improvisational Cook" would be perfect for you.