|Cookbook Awards (Part I)|
Jun 22nd, 2006
So hopefully you've had time to click over to the Cookbook Awards post on The Amateur Gourmet. Apparently, memes are so five minutes ago, so this is not a meme per se, just encouraged copycatting. Basically the idea is that I've taken a look through my cookbook collection, and will present to you the best in a few different categories. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, in order to do this I had to count up my cookbooks. Gulp. One hundred and twenty-five. Yeah, that's a lot, but even worse is the fact that out of that number there are 78 books that I've never cooked from. At all.
There are a couple reasons for this. The first is I've acquired a lot of these cookbooks within the last year, so I just haven't had time to try them all out. I pick up most of my books at thrift stores, so they don't cost a lot, but you never know what you're going to find so when I see things that look interesting I'm powerless to resist. It's not like they'll be there the next time I come back. The second reason so many of them remain untried, is that I have a similar compulsion about checking out cookbooks from the library. Currently I have five at home, and while that's a little high, it's not so unusual. And since I can't keep those books forever, I feel like reading through them and cooking at least one recipe from each should be my first priority. So my books keep piling up and never getting read.
However, I do have my favorites, so without further ado, on with the awards:
Best Desert Island Cookbooks (the all around category):
The Gourmet Cookbook: Okay, this is a sort of a weird choice, since as you can see I don't own it, although I have read through large portions of it. But I have to agree with The Amateur Gourmet on this one, it really has just about every recipe you'd ever want to make, and they're good recipes too. In fact the reason I don't own it is because it makes me sort of start to hyperventilate. It's too big and overwhelming to read for fun, and I start freaking out because even if I quit my job and started cooking all day every day I don't think I could cook my way through the thing. But if I was headed to that proverbial desert island stocked with ingredients, I'd definitely swing by a bookstore and pick this one up.
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone: Definitely a masterpiece in the field of vegetarian cookbookery, Deborah Madison's huge collection of tasty meat free recipes would round out the desert island collection nicely, assuming you had access to a farmer's market. I'm not a vegetarian but cook from this book quite a bit, and I've enjoyed each and every recipe.
How to Cook Everything: I turn to Mark Bittman's collection when I need to figure out the cooking times and temperatures for a roast, or the best proportions for a fruit crisp. He's less pedantic than the folks over at The Best Recipe, and I've found most of his methods work well for me. I like his The Best Recipes in the World cookbook too, but I haven't picked it up yet.
A New Way to Cook: Healthy, flavorful, not too labor intensive - Sally Schneider's approach really works for me, and she supplies so many recipes and ideas for improvisation that I could happily while away quite a bit of time on my desert island with this one.
The Healthy Hedonist: I had a hard time deciding in which category to place this book, especially since this is another one I don't own yet, but it's coming soon I promise! As soon as I find another can't live without book that will get me over the $25 free shipping limit at Amazon, this baby is coming home with me. This is probably my current favorite cookbook - the author really knows how to pack the flavor into her healthy recipes. And while it isn't as large or comprehensive as the other books I've nominated in this category, everything I've made from it has been divine. Albion Cooks is just as taken with it, and has featured several delicious recipes from the book on her site.
I don't tend to go for the glossy coffee table books by prominent chefs, so this is a fairly slim category for me, but to me you can't have a most beautiful list without Donnna Hay.
New Food Fast is the book of hers I happen to own, but any of her books could appear on this list. I love the clean layout with lots of white space and tons of pictures.
The photographer and stylist behind the Donna Hay books, Petrina Tinslay, has done other books. But I associate her style with Donna Hay so much that when I came across Fresh by Michele Cranston, which is also styled by Tinslay, I freaked out and thought it was some sort of knockoff. Cranston's book Zest has an even prettier cover, but I don't own that one.
Simple to Spectacular is probably the prettiest and glossiest book I own. It's a collaboration between chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman, where they take a recipe concept and show four different versions of it, from the first very simple one, to the final which is very chef-y and elaborate but builds on the techniques explored in the preceeding treatments. This book could also fall into the Glad to Own but Barely Use category for me, as I've yet to cook out of it. But I do like to look at it.
Phew, my time is up and this is getting gargantuan, so I'll have to finish off the remaining categories tomorrow. Next up, Glad to Own but Barely Use, Best for a Specific Purpose, and an award or two of my own invention.