Read | Amanda’s Ten Favorite Home Cookbooks

 

 

I am a cookbook lover. And a cookbook collector. And a cookbook thumber-througher and a cookbook daydreamer. You know cookbooks, right? As in those ancient things people used to buy and actually use before Pinterest and blogs happened? Before recipes exploded out of the internet like confetti on at a New Year’s Party? Yes, those beauties. I love them. In fact, this love is why my luggage is almost always overweight upon returning from travel, and why nearly 1/3 of our home library is made up of either chef memoirs or books from which to cook from. I cannot get enough of a good cookbook, as they are one of my favorite things to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon, meal plan somewhere nearby, inspiration abound.

And it’s not that I am a particularly good cook. Sure, I’ve got some intuitive skill and do enjoy chopping and stirring, but more so that I have always enjoyed learning about the mix of food and culture, along with the creative transformation that takes place when combining simple, delicious ingredients with fire or air or other elements to make something new. It has always been a fascinating art to me, albeit a necessary one, making food and meals for those I love, and the fact that I absolutely live to eat has helped widen and deepen my love for such literature.

Which brings me to today’s post, which was a downright joy to write for you. Below is a rundown of the top 10 cookbooks I use most often at home, books that have recipes we enjoy, with meals that do not cause a fuss when making. There are SO many cookbooks out there, and this post doesn’t even scratch the surface, but perhaps it’ll give you a nice place to start if your cook’s library is bare and or could use a bit of an ol’ refresh.

 

 

What are the values and qualities you look for in a cookbook?

 

There are many qualities I look for when getting a cookbook, and while delicious food is first and foremost the first criterion I prefer when adding such culinary literature to my library, there are six other qualities I feel add to the value of good home cookbooks, and they are as follows:

 

Informational | It’s nice to learn things, isn’t it? I quite like cookbooks that offer a bit of knowledge or wisdom between the recipes, whether it be about how to grow a kitchen garden or the history of a certain French dish.

Visually Appealing | As a very visual creature myself, this one is fairly important to me, but it doesn’t mean that cookbooks without photos and illustrations cannot and do not offer delicious recipes. In fact, some of the best don’t. Alas, the visual component can be helpful and inspiring.

Seasonal Recipes | Because we live where there are four distinct seasons, it’s handy to have recipes that coordinate with the temperatures we feel in nature. It’s one of the pillars of this space, and is also a beautiful way to organize one’s recipes I think.

Simple Directions | Some cookbooks are easy to follow, others harder. Some cookbooks give you five steps, others offer twenty five. I tend to look for directions that are easy to follow when making simple suppers at home, the less fuss the better.

Humble Ingredients | This one is important to me because it adds to the overall ease and seasonality of the meal being prepared. If you cannot source six of the twenty ingredients listed to make a pie, that’s a problem. I like cookbooks that share recipes with food I can actually use and that my family will enjoy.

Healthy Meals | While this isn’t top on my list, it is important that the meals I make at home are somewhat healthy. Home cooking by nature is fairly healthy, given that it doesn’t contain additives and excess salts and sugars, but I also like food that tastes good. So.

 

 

Amanda’s 10 Favorites Home Cookbooks

 

Rating System | **** (exceptional!) *** (pretty darn good) ** (just okay) * (eh, could be better)

Like all rating systems, this one subjective and based on my personal experiences with the following cookbooks. As you will find, none of them get a solid **** through and through. Which is to say, each cookbook has its strengths and carries them well. I enjoy the following for different reasons, every one wine-stained and tattered with loving care. These are the ten I use most frequently, both for recipes and inspiration.

 

  1. The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution: A Cookbook  by Alice Waters – A great cookbook if you are wanting to weave simple, seasonal recipes int0 your weekly meal plan. Alice’s recipes get back to the basics and are very nourishing. I cannot tell you how often I consult this book, but given that it’s first on the list you can go ahead and guess. My favorite recipes are: all of them, but if I had to choose…pork shoulder braised with chilis, apple tart, carrot soup, and  the ever so humble boiled dinner.
    1. Informational | ***
    2. Visually Appealing | *
    3. Seasonal Recipes | ****
    4. Simple Directions | ****
    5. Humble Ingredients | ****
    6. Healthy Meals | ***

 

  1. The Art of Simple Food II: Recipes, Flavor, and Inspiration from the New Kitchen Garden: A Cookbook  by Alice Waters – A great cookbook if you have a kitchen garden and needs some simple and fresh recipes to go alongside your harvest. I think this is a great companion to any vegan or vegetarian, for like her book before it, it gets back to the basics and truly offers good food grown from the earth. My favorite recipes are: leek tart with bacon, butternut squash gratin, salt-roasted potatoes with créme fraîche and chives, dill pickles, and all of her salads.
    1. Informational | ***
    2. Visually Appealing | *
    3. Seasonal Recipes | **
    4. Simple Directions | ****
    5. Humble Ingredients | ***
    6. Healthy Meals | ****

 

  1. Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Vol. I by Julia Child – A great cookbook for the nostalgic home cook who has a love for both French cuisine and the older ways of doings things. I love my edition of this book, as it’s stained and tattered and torn, as it has accompanied me many a moons spent in the kitchen. My favorite recipes are: quiche Lorraine, roast chicken, and Julia’s entire section on le omelette. It’s a treasure.
    1. Informational | ***
    2. Visually Appealing | **
    3. Seasonal Recipes| *
    4. Simple Directions | ***
    5. Humble Ingredients | **
    6. Healthy Meals | **

 

  1. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat – A great cookbook if you are keen on learning a great deal about the alchemy of food and how the taste elements can affect one’s palette. The extensive food wisdom Samin imparts is a delight, as are the illustrations throughout. This is one I return to again and again for simple but delicious meal ideas when in a rut. My favorite recipes are: tuscan bean and kale soup, pasta with clams, and avocado, beet and citrus salad. But truly you cannot go wrong with this one if you love to eat.
    1. Informational | ****
    2. Visually Appealing | ****
    3. Seasonal Recipes | *
    4. Simple Directions | ****
    5. Humble Ingredients | ***
    6. Healthy Meals | ***

 

  1. The Kinfolk Table by Nathan Williams – A great cookbook for the slow home cook who enjoys getting lost in the stories behind the meal. It’s an inspiring read that offers simple recipes that mean something special to the ones making them. The photography is beautiful, as is the soulful prose. My favorite recipes are
    1. Informational | **
    2. Visually Appealing | **
    3. Seasonal Recipes | *
    4. Simple Directions | ***
    5. Humble Ingredients | ***
    6. Healthy Meals | **

 

  1. It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great by Gwyneth Paltrow – Is a great cookbook if you are looking to clean up your lifestyle with regard to mealtime and eating. The recipes in this book are very simple and straightforward, and offer a wide variety of flavors and seasonings with less meat and wheat. This book is a staple in our home, and is chock-full of nutritious mealtime inspiration. My favorite recipes are: banana-date muffins, carrot ginger dressing, all her dressings really, lamb tagine with squash and chickpeas, Korean chicken tacos, risotto with peas and greens, and lentil salad with mustard and tomatoes.
    1. Informational | **
    2. Visual Appealing | **
    3. Seasonal Recipes  | **
    4. Simple Directions | ****
    5. Humble Ingredients | **
    6. Healthy Meals | ****

 

  1. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon – Is a great cookbook if you are ready to roll up your sleeves and read a bit (okay, a lot) about old-fashioned animal fats, modern whole grains, digestion, and ancient preservation methods to increate nutrients in food. I share this not because I blindly agree with all of it, but it is a handy resource to have in the kitchen. My favorite recipes are peppered throughout, but nothing in particular. I am still getting used to this one truth be told! But it is full of useful inspiration and information.
    1. Informational | ****
    2. Visually Appealing | *
    3. Seasonal Recipes | **
    4. Simple Directions | **
    5. Humble Ingredients | ***
    6. Healthy Meals | ****

 

  1. Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden – Is a great cookbook if vegetables and seasonal cooking are up your alley. This beautiful book takes you through six, yes six, seasons sharing a range of recipes that are sure to become household favorites. I use this cookbook more for inspiration than anything else, and have had a nice time taking ideas from these pages and putting a twist on them as I cook. My favorite recipes are: raw asparagus salad with breadcrumbs, walnuts, and mint, little gems salad, pan roasted carrots with salsa verde, Chinese beef and broccoli, baked cauliflower, tomato, melon and hot chili salad with burrata, and farrow and roasted carrot salad. Honestly, I could go on. I love this book.
    1. Informational | ***
    2. Visually Appealing | ****
    3. Seasonal Recipes | ****
    4. Simple Directions | **
    5. Humble Ingredients | **
    6. Healthy Meals | ****

 

  1. Sunday Suppers: Recipes + Gatherings: A Cookbook by Karen Mordechi – A great cookbook if you enjoy entertaining and gathering to share good food among friends and family. This communal cookbook is as beautiful as it is useful, and offers great out of the box ideas when it comes to seasonal get togethers and what to eat while in one another’s company. My favorite recipes are: perfectly scrambled eggs, warm citrus salad, homemade ricotta, whole roasted cauliflower, and corned beef with root vegetables.
    1. Informational | **
    2. Visually Appealing | ****
    3. Seasonal Recipes | ****
    4. Simple Directions | ***
    5. Humble Ingredients | ***
    6. Healthy Meals | **

 

  1. Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams – Is a great cookbook if you enjoy passionately eating and making incredible comfort food. This book is full of both classic French and Italian dishes, but many others with a purity for the ingredient like no other. Andrew and I have dined at Buvette in both NYC and Paris, and this book was a souvenir from this restaurant. My favorite recipes are: shaved brussles sprouts, roast chicken with haricots verts with mustard vinaigrette, coq au vin, soupe au pistou, marinated olives (great for hosting), and beets with horseradish cream. Now I’m hungry.
    1. Informational | ***
    2. Visually Appealing | ***
    3. Seasonal Recipes | *
    4. Simple Directions | ***
    5. Humble Ingredients | **
    6. Healthy Meals | **

 

If there’s one area I am truly okay with being a maximalist in, it’s my library. I’d be delighted if you shared your favorite home cookbooks below, and what about them that keeps you coming back!

 

 

Book links shared in this post are affiliated with Amazon. Thank you for supporting this space and the various ways I create income to support its creation. 

  • Esther

    I am also a cookbook collector, it’s the only thing I collect and I’m forever finding excuses to add to my stash! My personal favorite is Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi – I’ve not made a single recipe from that book that I didn’t love! Also, Homemade Happiness by Chelsea Winter – I realized recently that I’ve cooked almost every recipe from the book, simple recipes but SO full of flavor! And the Southerners Cookbook by Garden and Gun is beautiful and inspiring.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Esther, my fellow cookbook collector, thank you for sharing! I am a part of a cookbook club (it is as magical as it sounds) and Jerusalem was the book selected for last month! I was sick in bed and couldn’t attend, so bummed. But I heard the meal was a great success and everyone loved that book as much as you. xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Jacinthe

    I absolutely love Six Seasons, The art of Simple food and, Julia Child. I also use my Yellow Table book for simple, seasonal and healthy recipes and Victuals by Ronni Lundy is stunning and full of interesting information.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Jacinthe, thank you for sharing! Adding this to my library holds 🙂 xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Michelle

    I really like the Whole Life Nutrition cookbook by Alissa Segersten. Great healthy meals!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Michelle, thank you for sharing! xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Andrea

    Oh, I also love reading a good cookbook. I sometimes use recipes I find online, but I find paging through a cookbook and making a recipe so much more grounding. I have my grandmother’s worn copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art is French Cooking. It has her food stains on it and notes, and while I haven’t yet made many of the recipes I do treasure it. My other go to cookbooks right now are Simply in Season, and Sarah Waldman’s Feeding a Family. Thank you for sharing yours! Lately, I’ve taken to checking cookbooks out of the library and seeing how I like them, so maybe I will add some of your top ten to my hold list 🙂ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Andrea, I hear you. There is something so much more intentional about using an actual book, feeling the pages etc., over online recipes. I love that you have your grandmother’s copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking! How special. Oh, yes to Feeding a Family. I have used that one too, it’s great and simple. xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Anne

    The Green Kitchen at Home!! Thanks for the tips from a fellow cookbook lover!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Anna, I have not heard of this one! Thank you for sharing. xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • melissa

    my two always-used cookbooks are the joy of cooking, which I use if I know what I want to make but don’t know how–it has everything and clear instructions. It is not pretty or fancy but has given me a great foundation. the other one is dinner a love story by Jenny rosenstrach. her voice and stories and cooking style suit me to a t! I also love her website, and I know she has more cookbooks but I have been using this one for like 5 years now and it hasn’t gotten old.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Melissa, ahh The Joy of Cooking! Yes, yes! Such a wonderful home classic. I have an old tattered copy on my shelves and haven’t used it in eons. You’ve inspired me to make something from it this week! xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • I’m really looking forward to finding some of these at the library! My current most-used cookbook is Magnolia Table, it’s so full of comfort food! Thanks for this helpful list!ReplyCancel

  • Naomi Jaensch

    Such great suggestions! I currently love Gweneth’s other book, It’s All Easy, as well as Simple by Ottolenghi (THE best mustardy cauliflower bake, and honey-thyme cheesecake). I also love The First Forty Days for just after having a baby! xxxReplyCancel

  • Amanda

    I LOVE cookbooks! Some of my favorites in this season of life are “New England Open-House” by Sarah Chase and “Raising Generation Nourished” by Renee KohleyReplyCancel

  • Heather

    What a great list! I think I’ll add Sunday Suppers to my Christmas list. Have you ever perused ‘The Taste of Country Cooking’ by Edna Lewis? It is lovely and homey and one of my very favorites.ReplyCancel

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