Some of my favourite cookbooks
My cookbook collection is very large, at least a few hundred titles collected over the years. I love reading cookbooks, looking at the images, catching a glimpse of an ingredient and a feel for a place or a season. My library shelves are full of cookbooks and there are stacks of them by every chair, by my bed, in my office, in my sunny “morning room” and in baskets around my much loved kitchen area. The funny thing is, I am not a recipe cook. I don’t follow recipes but rather get inspired by a story, an image, a style of cooking, an ingredient, and then go into the kitchen and do my thing. I intend to do an inventory list of my cookbooks with the help of specialized software and will provide a list of my books in case anyone is interested. What I am offering here is a list of books I am currently enjoying or think you may want to know about, whether they are new in my library or have been on my shelves for a long time. Each of my books is a favourite book in one way or another. Here is a list of what I have been looking at recently. For your convenience I included a link with each title. If you click on the title it will link you to a website where you can purchase the book.
The authors are the owners of world renowned Al Forno Restaurant in Rhode Island. The term al forno is Italian, referring to dishes baked in the oven and the chefs/owners/authors elevated that style of cooking to a work of art. As the name suggests this book is about pasta and the authors say they don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like pasta. I subscribe to the sentiment. On Top of Spaghetti is a book about pasta with chapters about pasta with vegetables, sauces, eggs, seafood, meats etc. There is plenty here for the vegetarian palate. There is also a chapter about their signature baked pasta with some excellent recipes for pasta baked with vegetables, cheeses and cream. Rich but incredible flavours. The book also includes tips for cooking pasta and a list of resources that is very helpful for anyone interested in the subject.
Another treasure from the chefs/owner of Al Forno Restaurant in Rhode Island, this I believe is their second book in what I hope is a series of books to come from their kitchen. It features hearty Italian dishes for every course, from soups to salads, pastas to pizzas, polenta and more. In their clear, unique and engaging style they offer their kitchen secrets and their generosity and love of food comes through on every page. The authors are trained in the visual arts and view their kitchen as an art project in progress.
Jack Bishop is a writer for Cook’s Illustrated, a wonderful food magazine that has a unique old fashion feel to it. Recipes in the magazine are extremely detailed and tested. In this book Bishop has taken a vegetarian approach to Italian cuisine and offers 350 recipes from antipasto to soups, pasta, rice, polenta, gnocchi, vegetables and more. The recipes are easy to follow and execute and everything I tried has always worked out perfectly. Recipes are followed by serving suggestions creating a little vegetarian menu to serve with the food you just made.
A good, informative book with excellent recipes to help you serve un bel piatto di pasta (a nice bowl of pasta) as the author’s mother likes to call it. Good information about equipment and ingredients guides you as you orient your self in preparation for cooking with Domenica. An excellent glossary listing and describing 60 shapes of pasta helps you determine what is the best pasta shape for the dish you have in mind. A good step by step explanation and instruction for how to make your own fresh pasta either by hand or machine walks you through the process step by step. With recipes for all things pasta, from soups to sauces, baked and stuffed pasta to quick pasta dishes, this book is worth having on your bookshelves or better yet, on your kitchen counter.
A beautiful book with alluring photographs and recipes that make you want to grab a suitcase and run off to the author’s castle in the Tuscan hills to enjoy her amazing cuisine. Aurora Berti is the proprietor of an exclusive resort Castello di vicarello, a 12th century castle surrounded by vineyards and vegetable patches where she collects her ingredients. The book is organized by season featuring foods using seasonal ingredients. Spring asparagus risotto, summer zucchini recipes, autumn radicchio and walnut salad and cozy winter beans and kale on toast. The integrity of the food is with out compromise. A must have for Italian food lovers.
An older book, considered the “Bible” for vegetarian cooking, this book contains 400 recipes covering anything from vegetables and pastas to grains, egg and cheese dishes, breads and desserts. Madison has a lovely way of communicating her philosophy of food (she never turns down any food that someone has prepared for her) that involves love of vegetables, grain and basically all plant food. Deborah Madison is the author of a number of excellent books including her original The Greens cookbook, The savoury Way and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, among others. I consider her books a must for a well stocked cookbook library, vegetarian or not.
Beautiful vegetarian foods from the Green Kitchen Stories bloggers David Frenkiel and Luis Vindhal. No dairy, refind flour or sugar are used in the recipes. It’s one of the new wave of cookbooks by food bloggers and it’s a good one.
Harvesting and cooking form her own garden Sarah Raven, an early promoter of “eat local: says: “A great bonus of eating local, seasonal food is that your diet will never be repetitive. As the seasons unfold, old favourites recur and new opportunities present themselves. And, for the most part, there is no need for it to have traveled from the other side of the world. In the winter, there are almost as many delicious possibilities as there are in summer”.
This is not a recipe book but a reference book containing list of complimentary flavours in hundreds of ingredients from every cuisine and culture. If you bought some chervil in the market and don’t know what to pair it with you look up the herb in the book and find a list of ingredients whose flavour would go well with chervil. Look up cumin and find all the ingredients that would benefit from a touch of cumin. I think it is a must have for anyone serious about cooking.
10 years in the making, this 700+ page book is very ambitious, offering to teach the reader a new way to think about food. Influenced by Mediterranean cooking the author provides 600 recipes as well as tips and techniques that she believes will help the reader understand the building blocks of flavour and learn to cook without relying on specific recipes. Conscious of the trend to use less butter, less cream and less sugar, the author devised cooking methods to intensify flavours without having to completely give up these foods. She shows you how to use spices, herbs, flavoured oil, sauces and broth to elevate flavour in any food preparation. There is an excellent chapter at the end about flavour essences and marinades where she generously divulge her secrets for combining ground dry flavouring to use in every aspect of your cooking. A final chapter about sauces and vinaigrettes complete the retraining of how you think about food. While I believe that there is nothing new under the sun, I like how she shows you how to build flavours from the bottom up and the recipes are very enticing. If you like to keep up on trends in cooking this is the book for you.
The Starch solution
Bestselling author John A. McDougall, MD of the Mcdougall Center shakes the commonly held belief that starches are bad for you. In fact, just the opposite is true. A starch-rich low fat diet can help you lose weight, prevent illness, and even cure common diseases. The Starch Solution is based on a simple swap: By fueling your body primarily with carbohydrates rather than proteins and fats, you’ll feel satisfied, energetic, and look and feel your best. Open your mind. A must read.