12 January 2013

Weekend Cooking: A Look at My Cookbook Shelves

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Last week in the Weekend Cooking comments and then yesterday on Twitter a few of you asked for a peek at my cookbook shelves. It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, so I picked a random stack, photographed it, and now I'll describe it. (Click the photo to enlarge it.)

This group contains an eclectic mix of books I haven't used in while, so I hope I'll be inspired to get reacquainted them. I'll start at the top and work my way down.

1. Diana Shaw's The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook (Potter, 1997) is more than 500 pages of everything a vegetable lover needs to know. Of course, there are tons of recipes, but Shaw also talks about buying, prepping, and storing ingredients; provides sample menus; and clarifies nutritional information. I've cooked out of this one quite a bit. Recommended and useful.

2. Who could resist The Sopranos Family Cookbook, compiled by Artie Bucco (AOL Time Warner, 2002)? I've never cooked out of this book, but I love the photos, information about the show, and fun layout and design. The recipes, as you might expect, are very Italian, and none of them looks too difficult. If you were a fan of the HBO show, you should at least check this one out of the library. Fun reading.

3. I'm not quite sure why I bought Pam Anderson's How to Cook without a Book (Broadway, 2000) because the vast majority of my cooking is done without a recipe. I guess I thought I might learn some new tricks. Perhaps I could have. I don't remember ever reading this one. Unknown recommendation.

4. Beth Hensperger is one of my go-to bread sources, and I just love her Breads of the Southwest (Chronicle, 1997). Recipes include tortillas, flat breads, sour doughs, and the breads of the many different cultures native to the American Southwest. I think I'm going to put this one in the kitchen for a while. Highly recommended.

5. Jeffrey Alford and Namoi Duguid's Homebaking (Artisan, 2003) is mostly a bread book but also includes chapters on pastry and cakes/cookies. The recipes are from around the world and each one looks better than the last. This is an oversize book with glossy pages and stunning photography. Recommended for baking from and for reading.

6. I bought Spirit of the West by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1996) after it won a IACP Cookbook award. The focus of this book is, as the subtitle says, on the ranch house and range. I absolutely adore this book. It takes a historical perspective, describing foods (and providing recipes) from the cowboy tradition, homesteading, early cattle ranching, and even dude ranches. The flavors have a Mexican influence and are heavily meat oriented but oh so yummy. The information, photographs, and resources are invaluable. Recommended for anyone interested in the Old West.

7. Marlene Sorosky's Cookery for Entertaining (HP Books, 1979) is one I've had since it came out. I don't think I'll ever let it go. It has a photo of a carved-out watermelon whale on the cover (filled with fruit salad), and the recipes preserve a piece of Americana. Although I never did and never would shape liver pate into a football for a fall Saturday party (yes, that's in the book), I recall that the recipes were easy to make and fit my graduate student budget. Recommended for nostalgic purposes only.

8. Finger Food by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern (Ryland Peters & Small, 2002)  is a beautiful book filled with all kinds of fantastic ideas, like cold soups served in liqueur glasses and tiny radicchio leaves filled with yummy goat cheese spread. It's not that I couldn't re-create these pretty dishes in my kitchen, but when it comes down to it picking an appetizer, I seem to look elsewhere. Unknown recommendation.

9. Another beautiful book is Cool Cocktails by Ben Reed (Ryland Peters & Small, 2000). If you're into colorful and delicious cocktails, this a book you might want to check out. From classic rusty nails to the New Orleans sazerac, you'll find something for everyone's taste. Unfortunately for this book, I tend to stick to wine or scotch. Recommended for classic drink lovers.

10. Madur Jaffrey's gigantic World Vegetarian (Clarkson Potter, 1999), contains about 650 recipes from (yes) around the world. Jaffrey's is one of my dependable cookbook authors, and this book doesn't disappoint. The recipes feature rich, full flavors and are easy to follow. Unsure cooks will appreciate the tips, techniques, and buying guides. Highly recommended.

11. I love Japanese food, but I bought Shizuo Tsuji's Japaneses Cooking: A Simple Art (Kodansha International, 1980) because the foreword was by M. F. K. Fisher. Really. Someday when I have the time and if I ever live near the ocean, I may actually tackle one of these so-called simple recipes. Not for the casual cook.

12. One of the gems in my collection is Joel Patraker & Joan Schwartz's The Greenmarket Cookbook (Viking, 2000). The photography, stories, and recipes from Manhattan's Union Square market are fantastic. The cookbook is divided by season and focuses on fresh vegetables and fruit (though it is not a vegetarian cookbook). From ice creams to hearty soups, this book has you covered no matter what your mood. Highly recommended.

13. And finally, in the unlucky 13th place, is the famous French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller (Artisan, 1999). Have I ever cooked out of this book? No. Will I ever? Maybe. Am I sorry I own it? Absolutely not. The immense amount of information in this cookbook makes it worth every penny. There's a section on the importance of trussing a chicken, information on how to make the perfect cheese plate, and a discourse on the different kinds of chinois (known as sieves to us regular folks). Plus, let's face it, what cookbook collection is complete without it? Recommended for cookbook fools (like me).

I hope you enjoyed this trip through one small section of my cookbook collection. If you want to see the watermelon whale, you can find a cover shot over at Amazon. I have no idea how many of these books are still available in stores, but you can always look at used book stores and flea markets.


Marg 1/12/13, 6:03 AM  

The only author I have heard of from that list is Madhur Jaffrey! Nice mix of food options in that list!

rhapsodyinbooks 1/12/13, 6:38 AM  

I totally agree about loving to have cookbooks even if you would never use them. I think probably many food lovers feel that way!

Tina 1/12/13, 7:01 AM  

I am intrigued by many of your cookbooks, the Homebaking on in particular. They are like novels to me, some of them with such beautful stories and photos.
French Laundry is a real prize, gorgeous book.

Tea 1/12/13, 7:03 AM  

Wonderful cookbooks, I could stay here awhile looking at and reading the descriptions. I love bread cookbooks, the entertainment one and....on and on and on. This is so much fun.

Molly 1/12/13, 7:27 AM  

I became almost obsessed with Farmers' Markets this summer. I plan to check out The Green Market cookbook before the 2013 season

caite 1/12/13, 7:57 AM  

that Cool Cocktail one sounds up my alley!
How many cookbooks do you have??

Beth F 1/12/13, 8:02 AM  

@Caite: over 1000 I stopped counting years ago when I got close to 900.

Rikki 1/12/13, 8:16 AM  

Nice stack! I am looking forward to seeing more.

Janel Gradowski 1/12/13, 8:24 AM  

I have 3 or 4 of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's cookbooks. I think they are my favorite cookbook authors. I was thrilled to see them on a Baking With Julia episode last week, making naan.

jama 1/12/13, 8:33 AM  

What a treat! So many here I hadn't heard of but will now look for. 1000 cookbooks? Wow. Can't wait to see more :).

Kaye 1/12/13, 8:33 AM  

Yow! Over 1000 cook books? You must have many many bookcases! Nice variety in that stack. Thanks for sharing.

bermudaonion 1/12/13, 8:40 AM  

So many of them sound good, I don't even know where to start!

Esme 1/12/13, 10:58 AM  

Ah yes, I have so many cookbooks that I have never made a meal from. that is always my goal to make at least one meal from each book.

Fay 1/12/13, 11:29 AM  

How surprising that our library here in Montana does not have a copy of Spirit of the West. Interlibrary loan for sure. I have the Alford/ Duguid book Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China, which also has fabulous photos. Their baking book sounds great.

Margot 1/12/13, 11:47 AM  

I love it when you do these peeks at your bookshelves. It's almost as good as reading one of the books. Your list is a grerat inspiration for books I want to check out, like the Spirit of the West and Homebaking. Thanks for sharing.

Joy Weese Moll 1/12/13, 11:49 AM  

Fun group of books! I requested Thomas Keller's from the library -- it migh be just what I need to take my cooking to the next level.

Anonymous,  1/12/13, 12:04 PM  

I love this post! Perhaps I will make a similar post myself next weekend :)

Peaceful Reader 1/12/13, 12:21 PM  

You and my mother could compete! She has a whole wall in her basement devoted to just cookbooks. I'm drawn to Jaffrey's book and the bread baking books. I can't wait to see the next section.

Daryl 1/12/13, 12:50 PM  

i have one cookbook .. someone gave it to me when we got married as a joke .. Betty Crocker Cookbook .. and i do believe its been used as a reference for some dish or other in the 34 yrs i have it ..

Julie Goucher 1/12/13, 2:25 PM  

Thanks for the peek at your shelves. I love looking a people's bookshelves. (I am the sort that doesn't mind if someone I am visiting needs to go and do something, as long as they leave me in a room with their books then I can have a nose!)I have not heard of most of those, but that means I get to go to Amazon. (First I will hide my credit card)

Sandy Nawrot 1/12/13, 5:11 PM  

Have you ever told us how many you have? I'd be curious. I bet you have hundreds. Then I'd like to know WHERE you put them.

Julie P. 1/12/13, 6:32 PM  

My husband just made a risotto from the Sopranos cookbook for New Year's Eve!

Laurie C 1/13/13, 6:53 AM  

This was fun to read. I love looking at people's bookshelves too. Please do another one soon!
I have a couple of Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks, but use them only for a few go-to standards and should try some other recipes. The more time I spend blogging, the less time I spend cooking these days.
I never watched The Sopranos, but I was given a Desperate Housewives cookbook a few years ago as a gift and have used it a couple of times. (Mrs. Hubert had a great date nut bread recipe, apparently!)

Howard Sherman 1/13/13, 9:32 AM  

What a great idea! The only day I can really cook is Saturday - if at all. That plus I've got a stack of cookbooks I've barely cracked the spine on.

Kailana 1/13/13, 10:09 AM  

Love the collection! I want to get more creative with my cooking this year, so maybe I should take some recommendations.

Cecelia 1/13/13, 3:43 PM  

This is a great idea! I should look at my cookbook shelf and see where and how I picked up the books I have. A great exercise and a cool idea, too. Thanks for sharing!

Sue Jackson 1/13/13, 4:45 PM  

Wow, impressive collection - and you said this is just one stack of many? As I've mentioned here before, I mostly refer to my 12+ years' of Cooking Light issues and rarely refer to a cookbook (other than checking The Joy of Cooking for basic info like how long to cook a hardboiled egg - 17 min). But I do have a few cookbooks, and I suppose I should take a look at them every once in a while and try to use them.

Thanks for the inspiration (again!) -


Book By Book

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 1/14/13, 7:18 AM  

I have the Sopranos Cookbook - recipes are very good, but definitely not low calorie:)

Astin 1/17/13, 2:14 PM  

I find the best prices on books and post the best one on my website.

Christine 1/19/13, 11:06 AM  

What an eclectic mix of cookbooks! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to check out the Greenmarket Cookbook. I have a little Greenmarket Guidebook that I adore flipping through every now and then to remind myself what fruits and vegetables are in season where we live and just reading about the farmers who sell at the Union Square Market and a few other of NYC's markets.

One of my favorite local restaurants shops the Union Square Market for a lot of their produce. I follow the owner on instagram and twitter where she posts photos of her weekly excursions there.. it's part of my early Saturday morning ritual to go on instagram and check out what's selling that day. Today was shallots, parsnips and salsify, by the way. ;)

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