I confess…I am a cookbook nerd!
I love to read – I always have. However, over the years, the genre in which I like to read has shifted.
These days, I’d pick a cookbook or cooking magazine any day over the NY Times Bestseller list (I prefer to listen to those). Collecting cookbooks is a hobby that I adopted well before college. But it got excellerated when I was a UC Berkeley student back in the day. Everything changed when I discovered City Lights Books Store, in S.F., and bought my first every copy of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.
That magazine was a life changer and helped me become an even more passionate cook with an appreciation for the simplicity of what food represents. The original magazine’s cover was a piece of watercolor artwork and I still have those copies tucked away in a box somewhere in my garage.
I have been buying cookbooks ever since and it’s easy to admit that a month does not go by where I don’t grab a few of the latest and greatest(currently waiting for my pre-ordered copy of Sarah Kieffer’s 100 Cookies). All of my inspiration has been curated because of the pages of so many books (about 200+) and I am the cook that I am today because of the masters that I have learned from on those pages.
It’s hard for me to list my favorites, but I am going to list a few here and tell you why each of them have had an impact on me.
Dorie Greenspan – Around My French Table
Dorie is one of my favorite people and I had the pleasure of meeting here and hanging out with her at the 2010 Blog Her Conference in San Francisco. She was as nice as her pastry’s are sweet and we still hang out with each other to this day(on Instagram). All of her books are amazing and each one of them that I own are used to the point that the pages stick together! But one of my all time favorite recipes is from this particular book. Her Poulet Provencal – it’s delicious every time!
Patricia Wells – Trattoria
I learned to make risotto from this book. Several of her recipes are my fool proof – go to’s, but it’s the baked asparagus and spinach risotto that I love to this day! One of the things on my bucket list is to attend her cooking classes in Paris. There’s still time…right?!
Ottolenghi – Simple
Some of my most recent favorite recipes have come from this book and although I am still working my way through it…a stand out is the Lentil Curry Soup…. I could literally eat this everyday and not get sick of it. What I love most about these recipes is that they force me to use ingredients I would not normally use. So it’s challenging me and I am always up for a good challenge.
Sarah Kieffer – 100 Cookies
Baking cookies is how I relax. So much so, that I have a ton of prepared cookie dough in my freezer at all times. After years and years of trying to figure out the best way to store my cookie dough, I have now solved the solution with these reusable, silicone storage bags (here and here). I have a ton of baking books on my overcrowded shelves, but this one – is occupying most of my time these days. It’s the perfect compliment to her first book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, which is where I first fell in love with her – but at my core – cookies are still my favorite sweet treat. My goal this year to make as many recipes form this book as humanly possible!
Christina Tosi – Momofuku Milk Bar: Cookbook
I have admired this chick for years. I started making her compost cookies for years ago and over the past 10 years her brand has exploded. Over quarantine, I have challenged myself with a lot of lofty cooking challenges and one of them was to make one of her cakes. Although it was a two day project and required me to buy shit I didn’t already have (like acetate, etc), it was the most fun and rewarding cake I have ever made. I should do a post on it! But before I do that, might need to make another one just for fun. What I love most about this book – is her story. Aside from being a cookie girl, I am also story girl – and her story is great!
Erin McDowell – The Book of Pie
I am not a pie expert. Actually quite the opposite. But I have the best pecan pie in the city and I do love my crust. But what I hate – is when my crust shrinks. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to make that stop from happening. No matter how long I chill it, if I cut my fat into my flour by hand or with the food processor, if I roll it between parchment or not. Nothing! So, I am currently reading her book and will be experimenting soon. The bonus of the book – her writing and the images!! You will want to eat the pages of the book – just sayin’!
Chad Robertson – Tartine Bread
I have jumped on the bread baking band wagon. Quarantine did that to many of us. However, I never would have done this if my friend, Ilene, did not give an impersonal lesson and tutorial and she did not gift me with the “mother” or “starter”! With that said his Sourdough Bread Recipe is the gift that just keeps on giving. Once you have the starter made and in the fridge it continues to ferment and grow. I have made focaccia, pizza and right now I am making a chocolate babka! I cannot wait to eat that loaf – all by myself.
Donna Hay – Modern Classics Book 1
I have been a fan of Donna Hay for a very long time. At first I was attracted to the aesthetic, the photos, the layouts and so much of it was a visual experience for me. But then when I started diving into the recipes – what I found most remarkable were the limited amount of ingredients and instructions. The simplicity of the recipes translated on to the plate and I will forever be a fan.
Chez Panisse – Pasta, Pizza and Calzon
When I was a student at UC Berkeley I worked as a nanny (for the best family – EVER). Although I was responsible for all of my expenses (food, rent, school, books), I would cobble a few bucks away each week for something special. That something special was to take my self to the causal cafe of Chez Panisse. I couldn’t afford the “restaurant” nor could I even get a reservation, but Alice Waters was and still is a trailblazer and pioneer. I can still taste the lentils that I had as well as few other sides, but eating those lentils set the bar for how would ultimately create lentil dishes in my humble kitchen. I love all of her books, especially her memoir, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook -she’s a rockstar in my opinion! I would fan girl if I ever got to meet her!
Amanda Hesser – Cooking for Mr. Latte
One of my all time favorite books – not so much a cookbook is Cooking For Mr. Latte. This was my first introduction to Amanda Hesser(2004), who was, at the time, a writer for The New York Times Magazine and I have followed her career since then. She is the genius behind Food 52 and another pioneer in this whole food space. Why I love this book is because it is more a food journal and story as to how she was courted and ultimately married her husband. It’s fabulous.
Rose Levy Beranbaum – Rose’s Christmas Cookies
Making holiday gifts started way back in the early days of Little Folk Art. I wanted a way to thank and appreciate my clients, but with them being who they were, buying them something was pointless. You see, they could afford their own jets and ski chalets and whatever I could purchase for them would be meaningless. Having a full on design studio and woodworking empire – I was able to create vessels that were unique and special. What better way to package up homemade goodies than in something they could get no where else in the world than from me. Rose’s Christmas Cookies is still, to this day, my all time favorite cookie book. I have gone through multiple copies because of overuse and I do believe that I bought my original copy around 1990, right after it was published. The Dream Bars are Eli’s favorite and the traditional sugar cookie recipe is the only one I use when I want to roll and cut for various holidays and celebrations. If you like to bake – this is a must have!
David Lebovitz – The Perfect Scoop
I learned to make ice cream from this dude, David Lebovitz. The Perfect Scoop sits proudly on my kitchen bookshelf and his coffee ice cream is better than any thing I have tasted, both near and far. It’s even better than the famous Berthillon in Paris. Seriously! I had the pleasure of hanging out with David 10 years ago at a Food Blogger event in Playa del Carmen. Yeah, I know…life is rough. We were all broken up into “pods” and mine was with David. I fangirled for a few and then spent the next week getting to know him. As well as 30 other amazing food bloggers. We ate, we cooked, we had guest speakers, we photographed and drank a lot of margaritas and ate buckets of guacamole. That was a once in a lifetime thing and I am just one lucky girl that I got to be a part of it!
Martha Stewart – Entertaining
I can’t write this article without mentioning Martha Stewart. I found her at the time that I was in-between colleges (transferring to U.C.L.A from Berkeley) and my morning routine included watching AM Los Angeles with Steve Edwards and Christina Ferrara. I was in the middle of planning my mom’s 50th birthday party with my dad and on this one particular morning, an up and commer; Martha Stewart was the featured guest. She was talking about her first ever book, Entertaining. I ran to my local Hunter’s book store at the Sherman Oaks Fashion Square and gulped the 50 dollar price tag and bought the book! Although I did not cook any of the recipes from that book, it was the inspiration for my mom’s party. I was only in my early 20’s, but needing and wanting a project – I planned, organized, meal prepped and cooked the entire meal myself (for 60 people). Although my dad and I were partner’s in crime for this event (he commanded the bbq and paid for all the groceries), it was one of my most favorite cooking experiences. This event changed the way I saw and embraced food. I realized then that cooking and sharing what I create in the kitchen is my love language and many moons later – this is still how I operate!
If you have a favorite cookbook – I’d love to hear about it. Drop a link in the comments – I’ll probably run out and buy it just on your recommendation!
Happy reading and cooking!!