Reading a cookbook is often my idea of curling up with a good book. I have found that the more you read through recipes, rather than just follow along as you’re attempting something new, and realizing you should have saved that San Marzano juice for your sauce later when crushing the tomatoes rather than dumping it down the drain, the better in the kitchen you will be. I have a range of favorites spanning from the queen of the kitchen, Julia Child, to a favorite food blogger’s collection released in 2016. Here’s a brief synopsis of each cookbook and why I reach for them:
This cookbook, published in 1961 and followed up by a second volume in 1970, was truly the first of its kind in that it ventured and succeeded in making French cuisine accessible to the home, American cook. The writing is technical, yet the tone delightful and gives the reader confidence to beat egg whites by hand for a soufflé or to perfectly brown butter. Chapter two is entirely devoted to sauces and if you can master just a handful, your cooking will be forever changed. It is widely accepted that without Julia Child, we would not have Martha Stewart as we know her, or any number of personalities for whom she paved the way with her book and cooking show. Most-referenced recipe: Salade Niçoise with Pommes de Terre À L’Huile.
I adore the Barefoot Contessa and among her many cookbooks, this one is my favorite not only for her simplified technique for French cuisine, but for a peek into her passion for Paris. She and her husband, Jeffrey, have an apartment there and in this book, she details her favorite markets, shops and foodie tips for visiting. Full of entertaining tips as well, this has to be the cookbook I look to the most, especially for pantry-stocking tips. Most-referenced recipe: Lemon Chicken with Croutons.
Gifted to me by my mother-in-law, this cookbook is an instant classic. Eponymous restaurants exist in New York and Paris, and my husband and I have had the good fortune to have brunch at the Paris location for what was the most supreme Croque Monsieur of my experience. The idea behind Buvette is that you should use the best and freshest ingredients, and prepare them in a simple, unfussy way. This book is organized by time of day from Mornings to Sweets (after dinner) and a number of occasions in between. Most-referenced recipe: Oeufs à la Coque with Savory Toasts.
This was my first-ever cookbook, and in addition to my Grandma Larson, I credit Giada for sparking my love for cooking. Filled with many pasta recipes, this book showed me that unless in a pinch, jarred sauce just will not do, and in not much time, you can create your own Marinara that is superior on its own, or the jumping-off point for a number of other dishes. Most-referenced recipes: Vodka Sauce and Chicken Piccata.
What I love about this cookbook is the way it is organized – by ingredient! I found it to be a great help when shopping at my local farmer’s market because I often pick out something that looks wonderful and when I get it home, I don’t have any ideas for the item short of roasting with olive oil, salt and pepper (always works though). Each of the 26 different fruits and vegetables featured from Apples to Zucchini have a few recipes each where they are featured in a variety of applications. Because there are so many ideas for main courses, this is a great book if you are looking to make more wholesome, vegetable-focused meals. Most-referenced recipe: Summer Squash & Cherry Tomato Pasta.