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My Favorite Cookbooks

When I was little I remember making "soup" out of buttons and spare change. 

It was delicious.

But I suppose the first edible thing I ever tried to cook was a yellow cake with chocolate frosting from my old-school orange Easy-Bake Oven. 

Who knew an ordinary lightbulb could yield such a delicious homemade treat?

The first time I used the actual, grown-up oven, I was 9.  I'd taken an after school class on cooking and they taught us to make something called Applesauce Muffins. 

I'm pretty sure it involved adding some Motts to a box of muffin mix, but I felt like a baker and I couldn't wait to come home and make it for my family.

It's funny that my first cooking memories are of baking, since I'm horrible at it.  Seriously, I am a bad baker.  I don't have the patience for it.  All the measuring, and the sifting, and the mixing, and the kneading, and the timing -- it's annoying.

But I do love to cook.

As you know, I have an addiction to buying small kitchen appliances.  And even though I can't bake to save my life, I'm dying to get a mini-pie maker.  Yeah, it's a problem.

I also love buying cookbooks.  Have a whole bookcase full of 'em.  But I hate following recipes.

(I am a riddle, wrapped in an enigma.)

I'll follow a recipe as it was written for the first time, but then I make it my own.  Here's a baker's dozen of my favorite cookbooks:

The Joy of Cooking (1931)
by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker

Why I like it: It's a classic. Ironic that it's called "joy" since it's a total snoozefest to look at -- no pictures, and it's a bazillion pages long -- but anything you ever wanted to know how to cook is in here.

My favorite recipe: Baked Macaroni & Cheese (p. 320)

Mrs. Fields Cookie Book (1992)
by Debbi Fields

Why I like it: My mom got this for me my senior year in college, and my roommate and I put it to good use by making about 30 dozen Christmas cookies that we hand-delivered to friends (mostly boys). We were pretty popular that day.  So seeing this one on my bookshelf always makes me smile.

My favorite recipe: Christmas Sugar Cookies (p. 57)

Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen (1996)
by Rick Bayless

Why I like it: My mom taught me everything I know about Italian cooking, but this book told me what I needed to know about Mexican.  So many great recipes in here for burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, chili, moles, and more.

My favorite recipe: Guacamole (p. 78-80)

Top Secret Restaurant Recipes (1997)
by Todd Wilbur

Why I like it: I randomly picked up this one to fulfill my commitment in a book club.  Little did I know how awesome it was!  I love how he deconstructs and recreates the things we love to order when eating out.  And while I've only eaten at Olive Garden once in my life, their dip has become a party staple in our family.

My favorite recipe: Olive Garden Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip (p. 188-189)

Boy Meets Grill (1999)
by Bobby Flay

Why I like it: I first learned of Bobby Flay when he did a show called Grilling & Chilling where he BBQ'ed with a hillbilly chef.  I've always been a fan of his straightforward style, and I have a few of his cookbooks, but this one was my first and my fave. 

My favorite recipe: Turkey Burgers with Brie and Granny Smith Apple Slices (p. 18-19)

Pizza, Pasta, and More (2000)
by Wolfgang Puck

Why I like it: I went to a friend's house years ago and she used this cookbook to make the best homemade pizza I've ever had.  So I bought the book.  I haven't made the pizza yet,  but the tapenade is another one of my family's go-to recipes.  I think my dad could eat the whole bowl!

My favorite recipes: Black and Green Olive Tapenade (p. 22) and Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Pizza (p. 84)

Barefoot Contessa Family Style (2002)
by Ina Garten

Why I like it: I've seen and heard enough about Ina to know we wouldn't be buddies, but I do like a chubby chef that looks like she eats her own food.  I had the fish & chips from the Barefoot Contessa and they were really delish.  Although you could probably deep fry a boot and I'd like that too.

My favorite recipe: Parker's Fish & Chips (p. 97)

The Soprano's Family Cookbook as Compiled by Artie Bucco (2002)
by Allen Rucker and Michele Scicolone

Why I like it: You'd think a novelty cookbook like this would be junky, but this one has some great recipes.  And there are some fun show tidbits sprinkled throughout the pages.  Sure, I have cookbooks from Patsy's and Rao's too, but I like this one best.  Fuggedaboutit.

My favorite recipe: Tiramisu (p. 179)

The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook (2003)
by Roger Berkowitz and Jane Doerfer

Why I like it: I loved going to Legal Sea Foods at the Short Hills Mall because it reminded me of summer and being young.  The only chowder I've ever had that beats the Black Pearl in Newport, RI (where I spent many a summer in my 20's) was here.

My favorite recipe: Clam Chowder (p. 236)

Everyday Italian (2005)
by Giada De Laurentiis

Why I like it: She's adorable and her food is really yummy.  What more could you want?

My favorite recipes: Arancini di Riso (Rice Balls, p. 133) and Everyday Caponata (p. 206)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks (2009)
by Ree Drummond

Why I like it: When I grow up I'd like to be this gal.  I want to hang out in her cabin with her cute-as-a-button kids and whip up ranch foods (occasionally served with ranch dressing) for her cowboy husband, then snap some pics, blog about it, and shoot a cooking show.  I'll skip milking cows and getting up at dawn.  That isn't on the menu.

My favorite recipes: Spicy Pulled Pork (p. 94-95)

5 Ingredient Fix (2010)
by Claire Robinson

Why I like it: I hate recipes that have a zillion ingredients.  Who wants to spend $57 to make homemade risotto AND have to wash the dishes?  No thanks.  I was psyched to discover Claire because all her recipes contain 5 ingredients or less.  Perfect for NYC living.

My favorite recipe: Buttermilk Pecan Chicken (p. 116)

The Epicurious Cookbook (2012)
by Tanya Steel and the Editors of Epicurious

Why I like it: This one was written by some of my most fave peeps, so it automatically makes the list.  But it's also a pretty awesome collection of recipes.  And they're grouped by what's in season, so it's not just tasty, it's smart too!

My favorite recipes: Tom Colicchio's Herb-Butter Turkey (p. 260-261) and New England Sausage, Apple, and Dried Cranberry Stuffing (p. 262)

So are YOU cooking any books?  See one I'm missing?  Add your favorites below...

tags: food


chris said...

I don't own any cookbooks..........does a stack of Take-Out Menu's count? ;)

Jessica said...

Love collecting cookbooks! I have to check some of these out and I have 10 more to add.....
1) How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
2) Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone By Debra Madison
3) The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum
4) Entertaining by Martha Stewart
5) Gourmet Magazine Cookbook
6) Molto Italiano by Mario Batali
7) French Laundry Cookbook
8) Jamie's Family Dinners by Jamie Oliver
9) At Home with Madhur Jaffrey
10) Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

How are Rachael Ray and Paula Deen not on this list?