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It's been a long time since I've grabbed a stack of cookbooks from one of my shelves to share with you. So here is another edition of a look at my cookbook shelves. I'll start at the top of the photo and work my way down. For a closer look at the spines, click on the photo to enlarge it.
1. Every once in a while I think Mr. BFR and I are going to transform ourselves into cocktail drinkers, so I pick up a fun book on mixed drinks. Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan's New Classic Cocktails (Macmillan 1997) has a lot going for it. Not only does it include the usual bar-tending tips and recipes but it provides a history for each of the included drinks plus some beautiful photography. Although the drinks are no longer new, several have indeed become classic: the Cosmopolitan and Lemon Drop, for example, were developed in the 1990s and are still with us. Recommended and useful.
2. I picked up several good books during my French phase, and I'm sure I bought Diana Shaw's Sweet Basil, Garlic, Tomatoes, and Chives (Harmony Books, 1992), for the title alone. As the subtitle says, this book is all about vegetables from Tuscany and Provence. Oddly enough, the only recipe I remember making from it is one for stuffed grape leaves--not a dish I associate with Italy or France. Apparently Greek is (was?) popular in Aix-en-Provence. The grape leaves were good but not particularly spectacular. Neutral recommendation.
3. Sitting comfortably next to the last book is The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells (HarperCollins, 2004). I would buy pretty much any book Wells wrote, and this is one I'm happy to own. I love the wine recommendations, spotlights on local growers and winemakers, tips on technique, and the descriptions of the French countryside. The recipes are easy to follow and wonderfully appealing. Recommended.
4. In the old days (meaning before the Internet) I devoured the Wednesday New York Times, and one of my favorite columns was "The 60-Minute Gourmet" because the recipes were always winners. Cooking with the 60-Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey and Bryan Miller (Times Books, 1999) is a wonderful collection of 300 recipes that originally appeared in the newspaper. If you find this or any of the 60-Minute Gourmet books for sale, don't hesitate to buy. The recipes have stood the test of time, and I still love cooking with Franey. Highly recommended.
5. I bought South American Cooking by Barbara Karoff (Aris Books, 1989) because when I was a graduate student I lived in Peru for a few months while doing research. I thought maybe I would try my hand at some of the dishes I discovered when I was there. Sadly, I don't think I've ever cooked out of this book. Though now that I'm looking it through it again, I may be inspired. Unknown recommendation.
6. As many of you know, I love to bake bread, and Carol Field's Focaccia (Chronicle Books, 1994) is a beautiful book all about bread from Italy. If you're not familiar with Field, she is a well-known food writer who got her start in 1970s. Her recipes are always tasty and easy to follow. I love the great variety of breads in this book and the lovely photos. My favorite recieps feature fresh herbs and colorful garden vegetables. Highly recommended.
7. Judith Olney's The Farm Market Cookbook (Doubleday, 1991) is one of those books I look through a lot but never seem to cook from. The recipes are appealing, but I haven't yet been inspired enough to try one. I wish I knew why. Unknown recommendation.
8. Do you shop at the farmers' market? Belong to a CSA? Elizabeth Schneider's Uncommon Fruits & Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide (Harper & Row, 1986) could be your new friend. The book is arranged alphabetically and includes everything you need to know when your market basket includes veggies such as celery root and Jerusalem artichokes. Some of the included foods aren't all that uncommon anymore (arugula, kiwi) and some never were rare (Swiss chard, sour cherries), but all the advice and recipes are still useful and welcome. Recommended.
9. Sarah Leah Chase's Cold-Weather Cooking (Workman, 1990) is one of my favorite cookbooks. First, it's a Workman publication, and we all know how I feel about their books. Second, the recipes are homey, warming, and welcoming, bringing cheer to the winter months. If you were a fan of the Silver Palate cookbooks, you'll love Chase's solo venture. I turn to this for family meals, casual entertaining, and holiday parties. Don't pass on this one.
10. Mark Bittman's The Minimalist Cooks at Home (Broadway Books, 1999) is another cookbook based on a New York Times food column. I don't think I've ever cooked from this book but I have used it to help me "minimalize" my own recipes. A nice reference.
11. Oh gosh. Apparently I raided my New York Times shelf for this post. The New York Times Cook Book by Craig Claiborne (Harper & Row, 1961) shown here is the original edition (it was updated in the 1980s, and I have that one too). My copy is beaten up, with a ripped jacket and broken spine and food-splattered pages. All 1500 recipes found within originally appeared in Claiborne's newspaper columns. I'm not sure what I can say about this classic book, except, well, it's a must have for any serious cookbook collector. Highly recommended.
I hope you enjoyed this look at one small section of my cookbook collection. I have no idea how many of these books are still in print, but you can always look at used book stores, your library, and flea markets.