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29 November 2010

10 Best Cookbooks of 2010 (plus 2 more)

Our top ten

They say that print is dying.

Great magazines have left us (I still miss Gourmet) for lack of subscriptions and monetary interest. Newspaper presses are stopping in one city after another. Yesterday, some good friends of us said that they are reading most of their books on their telephones.

Print is dying, right?

Not in this house, it's not.

We subscribe to the Seattle newspaper, no matter how thin it grows. (Danny's the one who reads it every day. He's far more up on the news than I am these days.) Stacks of books in every room threaten to topple over onto the adjoining stack. Lu loves when we read to her; she probably hears 40 books a day. (Many of them she demands to be repeated 12 times each. Thank goodness I'm still crazy about Curious George.) And even though I have started, tentatively, reading a few articles on our new iPad, and even downloaded a free copy of Winnie the Pooh to read to Lu when we are traveling, I will never pass up the chance to take a well-worn book into the bath.

From the amount of cookbooks we receive and buy every year, we're keeping the publishing industry humming.

(Perhaps you have bought our cookbook? Or you are thinking about it for a holiday present? Now is the time to buy. Keep print alive!)

We feel really lucky. Due to the nature of our work, we're sent copies of cookbooks from publishers almost every week. As some of you might remember, we did regular features last year where we cooked out of one book all week long and gave you our recommendations. (We especially loved David Leite's The New Portuguese Table and Monica Bhide's Modern Spice.) We like to test drive cookbooks for you.

In the past few months, we have been too busy traveling and spreading the word about our cookbook to spend evening after evening with anyone else's book. Of course, this is the season for stacks of cookbooks to appear on Amazon and your local bookstore. We have been overwhelmed with choices.

We thought, therefore, we'd just share our 12 Best Cookbooks of 2010.  (We tried to narrow it down to 10, but we couldn't do it. Think of it as 1 cookbook for every month of the year.)

Oh, and we're giving away a copy of each one.

Even in a big year for cookbooks, some stand out strong. In the past few weeks, we have been looking through our favorite cookbooks of the year, cooking here and there, curling up in bed reading to each other at the end of the night. Reading a great cookbook is like entering an entirely new world, like walking through the closet to Narnia.

For me and Danny, there are a few criteria that will keep a cookbook in our kitchen:

-- trusted recipes that work
-- a strong, clear voice from the author
-- a sense of playfulness with food
-- a feeling of joy in the act of standing in front of the stove singing through the instructions
-- spices or ingredients, flavor combinations, and techniques we had never considered
-- something intangible that inspires us to put down the book and go cook instead of read

We don't run a newspaper or food magazine here. This is our personal site, entirely biased and constantly changing. So we don't claim that the following cookbooks are The Best Cookbooks of 2010.

We just want to share them with you.

(Oh, and this list is organized alphabetically by the author's last name (with one exception), rather than beginning with the best book and the following eleven. Also, not one of these books is a "gluten-free" book. They are great cookbooks that have inspired us in the kitchen.)

This book, Anjum's New Indian, is the surprise come-from-behind book of the bunch.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Anjum Anand. I didn't know she existed. However, our book editor, Justin, who has a food blog of his own, started posting photos of enticing shrimp curries and Bengali squash with chickpeas a few weeks ago and my mouth began watering.

Since reading and cooking out of Modern Spice last year (and still cooking from it -- good cookbooks keep on giving), I have been eager to find another Indian cookbook that seemed approachable. I know so little about Indian cuisine and all its intricacies. However, I don't want lack of knowledge to prevent me from eating great food. Where to begin?

I really love this book. So does Danny. It's clear and plainspoken. Unlike some of our other favorite books of the year, there is not a lot of the author in here. Instead, she focuses on why she has chosen each recipe as a way of highlighting a particular region of India. (To say "Indian food" is, of course, an oversimplification.) The photographs are splendid and plentiful, which helps those of us unfamiliar with the dishes.

Something that struck me was her description of a Goan shrimp cake: "This is an old Goan dish that many have already been forgotten about and locals are worried that it might soon become obsolete as newer, faster recipes encroach on the New India." I love that dispersing a recipe like this can save it. I'll make it, gluten-free.

Green meatball curry, Bengali red lentils, Kashmiri lamb cooked in milk, Coconut chicken fry, Wild Mushrooms in Black Marsala — these are just some of the dishes we're going to be cooking in our kitchen in the next few weeks. We're making lots of cookies for you. I can't wait to feel those spices on my tongue.

"MaggyPam!" Lu shouts out when she sees the cover of this book.

You see, she loves Pam Anderson and her daughter, Maggy, who visited us here on Vashon in the fall. (Poor Sharon. She's the third of Three Many Cooks, but Lu didn't have a chance to spend enough time with her to shout "MaggyPamSharon!") She also loves this video about the three that our dear friends Todd and Diane made about their book. Honestly, she wants to watch it every single day. She sits there, transfixed, watching these wonderful women in the kitchen, cooking food and talking, laughing and making memories as they chop herbs and onions.

"Food!" Lu shouts next when she sees this book. And she's right. That's this book.

Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers is a pretty simple, straightforward book. There isn't a lot of narrative. (Pam, are you listening? I want more of your stories in the next one.) Instead, the book offers one after another of main dishes (plus sides and desserts) that work.

Pam writes clear recipes relying on tested techniques. In this book, she focused on helping people to get dinner on the table quickly, so there's more time to sit around that table after the food is finished and talk. (The dishes can wait. The conversation is what matters.)

After all those times of watching the video with Lu, we're making the sweet Italian sausage cassoulet soon!

For the past five years, I have been baking gluten-free cookies, breads, and pizzas. Honestly, the first three years were a steep learning curve. What I love about this process is the mistakes, the leaps up, the investigation, the writing of ratios, and the failures. And oh, have there been some failures.

Starting a couple of years ago, I had an intuitive feel for the flours and how they tasted, how they worked together in heat, how they rose or fell. I knew that I didn't like the bean flours. Coconut flour left me annoyed since it sucks all the moisture out of everything it touches. Amaranth flour, once a favorite, now sits in the back of the cupboard for its grassy taste. Still, I didn't really understand it. Sometimes the recipes worked and sometimes they did not.

Two books changed everything about the way I bake and helped our recipes to work for you. One was Michael Ruhlman's Ratio, which started me scribbling numbers on the backs of envelopes, then covering them with flour from an experiment. The other book was Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours.

You see, Kim Boyce was in a similar situation as mine (except she's a trained pastry chef, and I'm just figuring out the craft at the kitchen counter). At home with her daughters, she intended to bake every day. She didn't want to give her kids that much bleached white flour. So she started playing with amaranth and teff, plus other whole grains. Her book is a gorgeous evocation of the successes she had. And, it will make you hungry.

After reading and baking from Good to the Grain I realized that the way I use whole grains should be more than haphazard. For decades, gluten-free baking relied on white flours: white rice, tapioca, potato starch, and cornstarch. Those starches are important — we cannot bake with only whole grains. Kim Boyce realized that too. However, as I wrote in the post where I extolled this book, past spring, finding the right balance of whole grains and starches, for taste and texture, means light-as-air muffins, cookies, and cakes.

Now, I always make sure that our gluten-free baked goods have 40% whole grains and 60% starches. In many ways, that means that gluten-free baking is more nutritious than goods made with only bleached white flour! It also works. Danny and I came up with our all-purpose gluten-free flour mix after reading Good to the Grain. We'll be using it in the coming weeks for our holiday cookie binge. It's 40% whole grains and 60% starches.

Thank you, Kim. You really changed my baking life. I'm pretty sure that anyone who buys this book will feel the same.

Every Wednesday, I read Melissa Clark's column in the New York Times dining section. Most Wednesday evenings, I am making whatever dish she created in black ink on newsprint for me. Melissa has this wonderful power, not only to make you hungry (many folks can do that on Twitter), but also to make you feel you must fling away the newspaper and turn on the burners of the stove.

I truly adore her book, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love. A few weeks ago, I told you a bit about it in my post on brussels sprouts salad. I feel somehow I love it so much that I can't write much here.

(Do you remember that scene in Annie Hall where Alvie Singer says, "I don't just love you. I lurve you. I loff you." That's how I feel about this book.)

Melissa's prose manages to be both crisp and giddy, filled with conversation and descriptions of quirky relationships between people. Each recipe has an essay preceding it and usually they're funny. (How often do you laugh at a cookbook?) Reading Melissa's book, you just want to sit at her table and talk while she cooks and you peel the onions for the next course.

However, the book is more than chatting at the table. These recipes are extraordinary, filled with great ingredients but fairly easy to prepare. Melissa has an incredible palate. I'm still waiting to try the pan-fried cheese with anchovy-date salad, the chorizo corn dog bites, the heirloom potato latkes, and the lamb tagine with apricots, olives, and buttered almonds. I'll be cooking out of this book for years.

There's a batch of the gingerbread cookies, with orange zest and cardamom, in the fridge right now. Next week, you'll see how they turn out.

Or, you could buy the book and make them yourself.

A friend of mine flipped through our copy of The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual the other day and said, "Wow, this feels like an old book." Yep. That's the intention. This is an old-school book. The edges of the pages are gold. The size and feel of the hardback reminds me more of a Thackeray novel than a modern-day cookbook. Instead of vivid color photographs in the same style that everyone is shooting these days, this book has line drawings.

I love it.

Danny and I were lucky enough to meet the Frankies in June, which inspired this roasted vegetable pasta salad. Listening to them talk about the the ethos of their cooking, and thus the cookbook, inspired me deeply. Slow cooking, good ingredients, simple preparations, and an insistence on doing things right. As well, in their restaurants, the Frankies emphasize dishes that fill you up but don't leave you full. Olive oil instead of butter. Plenty of great vegetables. You won't find any recipes for ooey-gooey lasagna here.

I still haven't found the time to make their Sunday sauce, a process that takes three full days. (I don't feel like we've been home for three consecutive days this fall!) However, I certainly will soon. I love that the Frankies embrace time in front of the stove. Instead of emphasizing shortcuts and pre-cooked ingredients, the Frankies want you to spend more time in the kitchen. That's where the magic happens.

Listen, if I had a hard time writing in any way objectively about Melissa Clark's book? I throw up my hands and let go when it comes to Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

I adore Dorie Greenspan. I've written about her so many times on this site that she might as well be a shadow contributor. Before this fall, my adoration came through reading her recipes, making her baked goods, hearing her kind, gentle voice in my mind when I shaped dough and made my way through World Peace cookie disasters. Dorie not only writes recipes that yield meals full of flavor and comfort, but she also writes them so well that you are bound to succeed.

In fact, there's a passage in her new book that made Danny and I both want to stand up and cheer after reading it:

"Just about every time you cook or bake, you've got to make a judgment call — it's the nature of the craft. I tested these recipes over and over and wrote them as carefully and precisely as I could, but there's no way I could take into account all the individual variables that will turn up in your kitchen. I couldn't know exactly how powerful 'medium heat' is, how cool your steak is when you slide it into the pan, how full your skillet is when you're sautéing, and a million other little things that affect the outcome of what you're making. And so, I've given you as many clues as I can for you to decide when something is done, and I've often given you a range of cooking or baking times, but the success of any cooking — whether from this book or any other — depends on using your judgment. Don't cook something for 15 minutes just because I tell you to — check it a little before the 15-minutes mark, and then keep checking until it's just right. I always feel that when I send a recipe out into the world, I'm asking you to be my partner in making it, and I love this about cookbookery. I trust your judgment, and you should too."

You see what I mean about her? Anyone who pushes you to use your senses and learn to trust yourself? That's who you want in your kitchen.

I have to tell you, I am hopelessly biased about Dorie Greenspan now, even more, after I met her in San Francisco this fall. The fact that I spoke on a panel about writing cookbooks with Dorie at BlogHerFood blew me away. What could I possibly say in the face of her knowledge? (True to form, I found something to say and probably talked too much.) She and I had a few brief, wonderful connections that will stay with me for years.

But here's the moment that stays with me most.

Aran and Danny and I were walking around the Ferry Terminal building, looking at great food and running after the kids. Danny came back from swooping up a fast-running Lu and told me, "Dorie Greenspan's at Blue Bottle coffee right now!"

Now, I have to tell you, I'm not big on celebrity. I lived with a movie star in London once (and I'm contractually obligated to not tell you anything about that). I grew up in LA, where "celebrities" thronged at every coffee shop. I was an actor when I was a kid. Someone famous? Whatever. It's talent that impresses me.

So I sort of stood there and hyperventilated for a moment. Should I even say hello? Dorie and I had written back and forth on Twitter for a bit, and she seemed to know who I was, which astounded me. Finally, I strode forward to find her.

All shy and not wanting to bother her, as she was preparing to leave with a friend, I said, "Um, hi, I'm Shauna."
At that, Dorie opened her arms with a giant smile. She went to hug me, and then she pulled back. In her right hand she held half a bread roll. She ran over to the trash can, threw out the roll, and then wiped her hand on her pants before she came over to give me the warmest, loveliest hug.

I wonder if she felt my tears on the back of her jacket.

Now, you might be thinking, what does this have to do with her new book? Everything. Wouldn't you want to cook next to someone this thoughtful and kind, this open and embracing? Dorie's new book is her most personal, a collection of recipes from her life in Paris, a city she loves ardently, more every year. Each recipe is imbued with the gracious passion that seems to fuel her. Whether it's roasted salmon and lentils, beef cheek daube with carrots and elbow macaroni, cinnamon crunch chicken, or Breton fish soup, every recipe inspires me to move into the kitchen.

Start cooking from Dorie's cookbook and you will soon adore her too.

I'm a little in awe of Amanda Hesser.

Seriously, not only is she one of the most accomplished and talented food writers in the world, but she's lovely and composed, even with 4-year-old twins. The woman knows how to string sentences together better than almost anyone else I read, no matter what the genre.

I remember reading Cooking for Mr. Latte to Danny in our first apartment together, laughing and wondering at the stories, then moving to the stove.

(Sense a theme here? We really do love the books that insist we put them down.)

Of course, I have been reading her in The New York Times since long before I lived in New York, well over a decade.

When Danny, Lucy, and I had breakfast with Amanda in New York, therefore, I was intimidated. In fact, I was a little tongue tied. (Afterward, Danny said to me, "Wow, I've never heard you at a loss for words before. You didn't sound like yourself." Great, I thought. I sounded like a blathering idiot in front of Amanda Hesser.) She could not have been lovelier. Eventually, I relaxed and sounded less like a spazz.

(Last month, Amanda came to Seattle for her book, and I had the chance to have dinner with her at Delancey, along with my friends Rebekah Denn and Nancy Leson. I was far less intimidated and talked like a (sort of) normal person, while also eating a gluten-free pizza made for me by Brandon. Once again, Amanda could not have been lovelier, more full of interesting food conversation, and gracious.)

I have to tell you, if I had owned a copy of The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century before I met Amanda Hesser, I would never have agreed to meet Amanda Hesser. I would have sat there, struck dumb.

This is truly one of the most astonishing cookbooks ever published.

Imagining and sifting and crafting for six years, reading thousands of emails and letters from New York Times readers with their favorite recipes from the newspaper attached, spending too much time in the archives section of the NYT's building, translating cooking terms from the 1800s, making meal after meal after meal late at night, laughing and stumbling and cataloging more than 1200 recipes with her business partner, Merrill — Amanda Hesser took on a Herculean task.

What's unimaginable is how easily the book reads after all that effort.

This is my new Joy of Cooking. Whenever I need a base recipe from which to start, like pasta with vodka, I can open this book and find a recipe from Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey, from 1982. I know that it not only made the initial cut of the New York Times editors, but it also was a favorite of at least three readers. Then, it was tested by Amanda and Merrill and made cleaner in the editing. This is a recipe that works.

Also, have I mentioned that the headnotes are hilarious? I kept Danny up late one night, reading one headnote after another to him.

Chickpeas in ginger sauce, spicy orange salad Moroccan style, short ribs with coffee and chiles, Maida Heatter's popovers, or just a perfect batch of rice — every single one of the 1108 recipes appeals to me.

This one will always be in our kitchen.

Thank you, Amanda Hesser. I may have been too stumbly to tell you this in person: this book is genius.

If you have been reading this website for longer than half a minute, you know how much I love David Lebovitz.

(Let me pause here and say how astonished I am that Danny and I some kind of personal connection with quite a few of the cookbook authors on this list. I never, ever expected this. Any of this. My life the last five years has been nothing but astonishment. I was a high school English teacher when I started this. You never could have told me that I would write a cookbook! Or that I would meet and become friends with some of the most respected cookbook authors in this country. I am constantly amazed. So I want you to know that this is the place from which I am writing these little recommendations, not from "Look who I know!" Some of you might read it that way. I can't control that. But seriously, I'm like a kid in a candy store here.)

I wrote an entire post about how much we love Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes There's no point in my repeating myself.

I will just say that this book, like David, is meticulous and hilarious, full of important knowledge, and leading toward the delicious.

You're missing too much if you don't own it.

Guess what? We don't know the author of this book at all. No connection!

That doesn't make us love this book any less.

Danny is a pretty entrenched omnivore. Before he met me, he could not consider a day without meat. It's what he loves to cook and to eat. Me? I was a vegetarian for 10 years, which changed long before he met me. However, those sensibilities are still in me.

Slowly, over time, we have eaten more and more vegetarian meals. Sometimes, Danny winced, wishing for meat. However, when he started working at the restaurant on the island where he works now, he began shifting his thinking about vegetarian dishes.

You see, he has to come up with a vegetarian special for every Tuesday.

When Danny decided to make his restaurant in Seattle gluten-free, he did it for me. He didn't realize how many people would flock to the place, grateful. And he certainly didn't know how much it would improve his cooking.

A little deprivation breeds creativity. And so again, making vegetarian specials for people that are also gluten-free and dairy-free. Specials like roasted butternut squash and turnips, with wild rice and lentils, grilled tofu, and a parsley-sherry vinaigrette.

Now, Danny truly loves making great vegetarian food. He's a much better chef now too.

One of his biggest inspirations for creating these dishes? Plenty.

This is a beautiful book. No one eating the dishes out of this book could feel deprived.

Ottelenghi taught me to build a depth of flavor in vegetarian dishes by roasting or smoking or pickling some parts of the dish. This changes everything. When I was a vegetarian, I ate a lot of rice and beans, and then I piled on the salsa. If I had eaten burnt aubergine with tahini and pomegranate seeds, or fried butterbeans with feta, sorrel, and sumac, or Castellucio lentils with tomatoes and Gorgonzola back then? I might never have stopped being a vegetarian.

Good food is good food. Labels sometimes stop us from trying meals that could change our lives. Gluten-free? Most of the world's great food is naturally gluten-free. Vegetarian? It can just be great food.

Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen might surprise you. It's so unassuming looking in comparison to these other, sumptuous cookbooks. For awhile, I thought it was a pleasant try and put it aside.

But this book by Amy Pennington just keeps drawing me in.

Amy teaches people how to set up a well-stocked pantry, and then how to cook from that pantry. Pretty simple, right? That's the point, something Danny and I are realizing more and more clearly. Instead of going out and buying the ingredients we fancy that day, or buying ingredients for a specific recipe, we shop each week for what is missing from our pantry. It might seem more plodding at first, but it actually breeds creativity. If we have good whole grains, gluten-free flours, lentils and beans, oils and fats, vinegars, nuts, dried fruits, and some foods that always live in our refrigerator, we can make anything. Amy's book really helped us to change the way we organize our food lives.

You can't help but like Amy. She's funny and expansive, casual and passionate. She just wants you to cook.

More than any other book on this list, Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen will help a beginning cook to start making great meals. If you have never really cooked much before, and you don't know where to start, this is a good one.

What I love is that the recipes from Amy's pantry are never boring. Most books enticing to beginners teach you how to make plain, simple food. With recipes like walnut and garlic chicken, gremolata, cumin black pot with cabbage, and Indian pickled carrots, this book will help you make interesting meals full of flavor. You just won't have to go out shopping every day for new ingredients if you pay attention to what Amy is saying.

One of Danny's favorite foods in the world is the artichoke. When he saw the cover of this book, he wanted it. Of course, it didn't hurt that the author is David Tanis, head chef at Chez Panisse half the year, host of a private dining club in Paris the other half a year. Really, this was a no brainer. We bought this book immediately. You want Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys too.

I love how spare and beautiful this book is. (Having photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer makes any book breathtaking.) Some of the books we love best this year (including ours) are full of narrative, winding stories and hilarious turns. Tanis is laconic, saying only what is necessary. For example, I love that the first section of the book is called Kitchen Rituals, simple acts of being in the kitchen, like how to peel an apple with a knife in one long peel. Or the joys of Ziploc bags, taking harissa with you as you travel to spice up your life, and eating raw artichokes for lunch. This may sound like too little for a cookbook. It's not. Each ritual taught us something about food that we didn't know before. (I'm making bags of freezer tomatoes in Ziplocs next summer.)

This is really a book about being in the kitchen all the time. It's not flashy. it's not trying to reinvent cuisine, it's not going to shout at you. Instead, Tanis suggests a life of cooking every day, without the idea that dinner has to be on the table, quickly. It's about living a life of food, graciously.

On top of that, the man really knows his food. I want to make his tea-smoked chicken salad with ginger vinaigrette immediately.

Also, the book is arranged by a series of seasonal menus: spring, summer, fall, and winter. This helps me enormously when I'm trying to find something to cook for the evening. We could be having duck confit with crisp panfried potatoes alongside celery, radish, and watercress salad with walnut oil soon. Dessert will be spiced pears in red wine.

Truly, I want to make everything in this book. Everything.

We happily recommended Plenty, a vegetarian book full of complex recipes that will make you love your vegetables and grains. Because life is not simple, we're also enthusiastically recommending Pig: King of the Southern Table.

This is one of the kinds of cookbooks I love most: specific and focused. Villas, a respected food writer who has written more than ten cookbooks, turns his attention to the role pork plays in the South. Guess what? It's a big role. There's plenty to read and to cook here.

How about Carolina pork and sweet potato pie with biscuit batter crust? Or Maw Maw's mustard pork chops and dumplings in cider? Or sherried ham and squash casserole? I'm hungry again.

The book is filled with stories of the people who make and cook pork in the South, as well as little facts along the way. As you know, we love pork in this house. If you do too, you will absolutely love this book.

When we told friends of ours that we were planning to do this (epic-long) post, some of them said, "What are you doing? Why are you promoting other people's cookbooks when you are trying to sell yours?"

Well, I have to tell you, that's how we are. We love to give. We've been blessed enough to have these books in our home this year, and our bellies have been happy for the cracked-open books on our kitchen counter.

Also, we cannot say, "Hey, in the top 10 cookbooks of the year? Our book, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef!" Even though some people have been suggesting our book should be in that list, we can't say that.

But we'd like you to consider buying it. We think you'll like it.

Here's Where You Come In

Because we have loved these 12 cookbooks so much, we want you to have the chance to cook from them too. So we are giving away a copy of every one of these books, including ours. 13 of you will have a new cookbook soon.

Simply tell us what makes a great cookbook for you. We'll see if we can match the winners to the right book.

(Also, if you are thinking about buying any of these cookbooks, would you consider going through our site? If you buy anything on Amazon through these links, we receive a small amount of money for each purchase. This keeps us going in gluten-free flours for all the baking experiments!)

And, believe it or not, we had a heck of a time narrowing this down to 12 books. If you are interested, here are the other books we considered:

Cookbooks That Almost Made the Cut

Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy Delicious Meals

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily

Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home

The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009

The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together

Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home

Food Books (not quite cookbooks but still amazing)

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

Food Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition

Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes

Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life

Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More

Cookbooks We Don't Own Yet But Hope To Soon

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips

Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes

One Big Table: 600 recipes from the nation's best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters, and chefs

In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart

Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine

The Sunset Cookbook: Over 1,000 Fresh, Flavorful Recipes for the Way You Cook Today

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

What makes a cookbook great so it stays in your kitchen?


At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree! Print is very much alive, and always will be in my home. Nothing is better than a collection of good books. - Camellia

At 1:23 PM, Blogger miss tejota said...

I need a cookbook that can dumb down some of the explanations for non-cookers. A cookbook with a glossary is always nice.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger wellunderstood said...

A good cookbook is like a good novel. I have trouble putting it down. I read it in bed with a booklight. I fall in love with the author.

Functionality, though, is something good cookbooks have that novels lack. I like accessible but exciting recipes--things that I wouldn't necessarily have come up with on my own.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Lara said...

When we moved into our home, and I set up my new kitchen, I left a whole double wide cupboard for cookbooks. I love having them right there in the kitchen. For me a good cook book has great photos (but there are some great ones with none) and recipes that are innovative but understandable.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger Anna said...

So many great options! I'm getting some good ideas for Xmas gifts. Shhh...don't tell my husband. I'm hoping to get your new cookbook under the tree too! A great cookbook for me has gluten-free options (of course), but I do best when photos are involved. When it comes to food, I'm a visual learner. It gets me salivating to start a recipe!

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Tricia said...

Oh goodness - I have been DYING to look at and try Dorie Greenspan's book. I hear so many good things about it all the time and our library doesn't have it (and the book store so far). I can't wait to look at it...someday.

My perfect cookbook is fabulous recipes with accessible ingredients, beautiful photos, and a lot of personality tastefully thrown in - be in the handwritten notes a la Jamie Oliver or something more eclectic like music suggestions. I love added help like conversion charts and cheat sheets as well - that's what makes it invaluable to me.

Thank you for your continued generosity!

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

A great cookbook, to me, has thoughtful stories, gorgeous photography, style, and recipes that work every time... on every level. From breakfast to dessert. I want to get to know the cook through the book, feel the energy of their kitchen, and eat a little bit of homemade love, thanks to their hard work and years of testing.

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i adore books...i never want to read anything on a screen...print is the best!

At 1:33 PM, Blogger The Chatty Housewife said...

In no particular order:
beautiful photos
easy to find ingredients
gluten free or easily converted
hard cover

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Debra said...

My favorite cookbooks are ones that have not just recipes but also teach you little things that make cooking easier or more fun. I am often short on time (and pantry space) so prefer simpler recipes with few but tasty ingredients. So far my current favorites are Asian cuisine. Yum!

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear that print isn't dead in your house! I still love curling up with a good book and I adore cookbooks and cooking magazines. And my children love love love books too. They even like paging through my old Martha Stewart cooking magazines, even though they are too young to read them! I also like to print pictures and frame them and hang them on my wall. Too many digital pictures get lost on the computer never to be seen again. Keep print alive! There are some things worth it. :) (I hope there aren't any environmentalists reading my comment.) :)

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

These cookbooks are awesome! I would love to add them to my collection!

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

I love a cookbook that uses 'real' everyday ingredients, has great photos and kid friendly too :) I cook only gluten free, but find it's fairly easy to modify a recipe to do so! Thanks for sharing!

At 1:34 PM, Blogger InvisiGyrl said...

oh wow, I buy most of my cookbooks at 2nd-hand charity shops. Back when I was able to work, I bough cookbooks. I have quite a few but now, this gluten-free thing has me all confused, and I could REALLY TRULY use some help.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Eating for England said...

I love this list! Several of these books are on my "want" list...most notably Ottolenghi's since I pour over his Guardian column all the time!

A great cookbook to me is one that I know I can turn to because it delivers the goods it promises. For me, Mark Bittman's 'How to Cook Everything' falls into this category. It really does have everything I want in it! I know that I'll always find something great when I'm at a loss - and that to me is what makes it a winner.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger carri z. said...

i love to read cookbooks! and one day i will cook from them. YAYAY!!

At 1:36 PM, Blogger hangupyourcoat said...

I love the idea of experimentation. Which is why I just recently started following your blog religiously. I had never been gluten free before meeting my husband a couple of years ago and now the baking/cooking bug has certainly bitten me. I've even decided that instead of getting my masters now, I want to go to culinary school. Most of this is because my 5 month old daughter has a very high chance of having Celiac's disease like my husband and I never want her to miss out on amazing foods because she can't eat gluten. I've been taking a clue from you and using different gluten free flours in my recipes to see how I can change the tastes and textures of our favorite goodies. I asked for your book for Christmas (nudge nudge mom make sure you pick it up lol) but my main issue with "gluten free" books so far has been how to make "normal" things gluten free, like breads or pastas. I want a recipe book you know, something to inspire me to cook something out of the norm, so I'm excited to get yours and expand our pallets that much more. Thank you for all you guys do, it has certainly helped me make the transition to a completely gluten free household much easier!

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Thankful Momma said...

What makes a great cookbook for me (and my family): Good, delicious, tried and tested food that my family will actually eat!

My husband is quite the foodie, and the kids - one will eat ANYTHING and the other, well, let's just say PICKY. So, for me, a great cookbook is something that has good "real" food, little indulgences and a cookbook I can open and use every single day if necessary, whether feeding my family or hosting guests.

Pictures are great, but not required if it's great food. (My MIL has the old NYT cookbook which my husband grew up on and LOVES, but is no longer published, so I'd love to try out the new NYT cookbook! :))

Thanks for this awesome giveaway!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Farmgirl Gourmet said...

A great cookbook for me is one that is adventurous and full of diversity. One of those books that you know you can pull off the shelf and find a great recipe no matter what style of cooking you want to do. With well over 200 cookbooks (everyone gives them to me as gifts) I have only a handful that I use on a regular basis and the pages are well tattered AND splattered - always a good sign that it was a well liked recipe. :)

Thank you for doing this giveaway and book review.

(Farmgirl Gourmet)

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh wow.. what a list.. want to delve into these all a little more. Thanks so much for the links!

I love a cookbook with pictures... hehe.. a picture can sell me even on the weirdest sounding dish! Also love a good variety of foods, different ethnic origins, healthy... or just scrumptious!

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Dee said...

To me a great cookbook has recipes that 1) I can make without buying an entire spice rack or expensive ingredients, 2) won't kill me (or my loved ones) as they're filled with sticks of butter or cream--I always look for heart-healthy recipes, 3) are clearly written.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Lisa Cohen said...

The New York Times cookbook is great! Haven't seen any of the others personally, so thanks for the reviews!

At 1:40 PM, Blogger April said...

Thank you for such a complete resource of good cookbooks!

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just got your book from our local library--love it! You can "feel" the love you two share, the pictures are gorgeous, and the recipes sound a) simple and b) delicious! Those last three are some things I look for in a cookbook or one I would consider buying. ;p Also, it looks like you've made these recipes plenty of times, not once for the picture, and that gives us non-pros something to hold on to. ;p

At 1:41 PM, Blogger txterryo said...

What makes a cookbook kitchen-shelf worthy for me is a book that has loads of photos, talks through the recipe *and* doesn't have 239847523987 ingredients to make it work.

There's a time and a place for a dish/creation that has 18 steps and 36 ingredients, but for a blossoming cook/baker who hasn't learned to sub out things and/or improvise at all (really, I'm at a place where the recipe is gospel), there's only so much I can handle before I throw my hands up and make a sandwich.

Also, if it's not a special occasion, it's hard to see the merits of buying all those ingredients for one dish, when the end price of that dish is quadruple the cost of buying it ready-made at Whole Foods and double the cost of eating out at a restaurant. Not to mention the time and dishes (I'm a messy cook.)

Whew! To re-read this sounds like I don't enjoy cooking. I DO. I SWEAR. I like things simple. Simple-r. At least until I have the training wheels fully off.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Sarah Thurman said...

A great cookbook is one you can't wait to read the next page and are excited to share with friends and family!

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you for taking the time to compile such a list. I can't wait to get started!

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Healthy recipes! So often, cookbooks only include things that I can only make for special occasions or when I'm willing to splurge. I need cookbooks that I can use on a daily basis, with healthy, delicious recipes (with lots of veggies!)

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love cookbooks that have recipes that are easy to follow, full of flavor, open to experimenting with and are solid vs just trendy.
Great list!

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Accessible yet encourages you to step outside your comfort zone.
2. Reasonably priced
3. Reads like a novel
4. Good illustrations
5. Comprehensive index
6. Encourages creativity
7. Diverse recipes for different occasions
8. Bestows the authors love for food on the reader and refutes the notion of mediocrity in the everyday meal.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Two months ago our lives were changed by a diagnosis that makes gluten free cooking a necessity for our teenage boy. Learning how to cook appetizing gluten free foods is a challenge. I am hoping these cookbooks create delicious foods that will entice him to make wise choices in his eating. Which one would you recommend to start with? Thank you.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Penny said...

I like beautiful photos. And I like some "how to". I've gotten a few cookbooks recently that spotlight a technique or challenge for me ahead of time, a "watch out for this" kind of thing that has helped me make a recipe right the first time.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Sarah "Gluten Girl" said...

Married white female seeks cookbook with gluten free and low sugar recipes to share with her diabetic husband. Healthy meals are a must for us, but so are quick but flavorful meals as we both work full time but love big bold & spicy flavors. I'm looking for my perfect cookbook match. :)

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Reema said...

A good cookbook is one that has be going back to it, inspiring me to cook and try new things. Pretty pictures are always a plus, pulling me in with foods I wish I could eat them right off the pages, but aren't needed if the descriptions are compelling. I tend to get stuck in food ruts, making foods I am familiar with over and over again so I rely on good cookbooks to inspire me to try something new.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Erin said...

A good cook book is one that I keep going back to again and again, so much that the pages are stained or stuck together from using it so much.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

My kitchen would not function without a whole library of cook books. Every cookbook has a unique way to approach a dish...even if I don't follow it. I am the type that will turn to the same (or similar type) of dish in multiple books and choose my own mix that suites my tastes and pantry.
There is something special about having a cook book on the counter(covered in flour and other messy stuff). Hopefully, my sagging shelf of books will be larger after the holidays!

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Magpie Ima said...

Most of these books (with the exception of Pig--I'm Jewish after all) are on my hold list at the library and I can't wait to explore them.

My cookbook reading is done late at night, in bed, after everything settles down around here. The best cookbooks will have me frantically placing sticky notes so I don't forget to try intriguing recipes in the morning. And sometimes, not too often, the best cookbooks will become part of my dreams.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Sarah "Gluten Girl" said...

Married white female seeks gluten free friendly cookbook filled with recipes for healthy, flavorful yet simple meals. My husband is a diabetic & I am gluten intolerant. We have to watch sugar intake along with whole grain gluten free carbs, but we love bold & spicy dishes. We'd love to be matched up with one of your lovely suitors...i mean cookbooks! :)

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Grace Boyle said...

I will never forget print. I also don't want a Kindle. The written word is so special and so are the bound books in which authors have them displayed. It's so nostalgic for me. Cook books are one of my favorite forms of books that I still collect.

I love a cook book that is personal, that shares story about where they come from, what the recipe means and of course, visual. I'm a visual learner and although a photo isn't how it always looks, I like having an image in mind while I'm cooking, especially if it's a new experiment :)

At 1:50 PM, Blogger April said...

A good cookbook is one that keeps everyday life in mind. I am a mom with two kids and so I need recipes that I can make in an hour or less for main dishes, and treats my kids will enjoy. That said, hospitality is something I truly love and I need recipes that take ordinary concepts and add a little bit of "WOW!" for my guests. A good cookbook will have pictures that show what the finished product can truly look like so that I can picture the finished item on my table. :)

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Bibberche said...

Thank you so much for such a comprehensive review on all these books! I really appreciate the time, effort, and passion you put into this article. During the holidays, when everybody is running around breathless, chasing every minute of the precious day, you have shared with us so much of your time and insight.
The only cookbook n your list that I own was Dorie's (and I just plainly adore her!), a surprise present from my husband, who knows me so well. But there are several on my wish list (we are firm believers in print, and our bookshelves hold witness to that).
Our youngest daughter has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago, and it has been a fierce nutritional battle to keep her blood sugar under control. Due to her diabetes, we live in anxiety of her becoming gluten-intolerant (chances are augmented tremendously).
Therefore, I was excited and relieved to see that your book has finally appeared in press. What a relief:)
What do I look for in a cookbook? Just like any other form of writing, it has to have a particular style, it has to be technically well written, and I have to be able to feel the passion that the author has put into the recipes. I love when I can transport myself from reality and get into somebody else's kitchen (Madhur Jaffrey and Ruth Reichl come to mind immediately:) I admire the creativity and yearn to learn something new every time I pick a book.
Sorry for the long rant:) Wish you the best for the holidays!

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Angela said...

Pictures and passion. I love beautiful pictures to show me what my taste buds might get to enjoy. The passion of the writing needs to flow from the page and make you feel enthused to try even the most difficult recipe. Jamie Oliver and Cranks are two of my kitchen favourites. Their love for food and flavours is tangible.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Kay said...

I love this post! For me, a good cookbook is one with recipes that are clear, concise and adaptable (I have vegetarian, Vegan & GF friends) with lovely pictures of the finished product. I consider a cookbook to be great when it also has witty & engaging dialogue to tell the story behind the recipe. Bonus points for a few complicated recipes that have step-by-step photos (not for each recipe, though). When I find the truly great cookbooks, I don't just read them, I devour them. And inspired, will be off to whip up a recipe for others to savor as well.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger zonecoach said...

A great cookbook has their stories and information about the author's life. It also shows an author's creativity and love of food and of life. The author should show that they understand the ingredients in their dish; why the ingredient is there; what it does for the dish.
Last of all, it needs to have sumptutious photographs. Pictures that make me salivate. Once I read the recipe and the story and look at the picture(s), I want to get those ingredients and make that dish!!

I love good cookbooks!

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Kay said...

I love this post! For me, a good cookbook is one with recipes that are clear, concise and adaptable (I have vegetarian, Vegan & GF friends) with lovely pictures of the finished product. I consider a cookbook to be great when it also has witty & engaging dialogue to tell the story behind the recipe. Bonus points for a few complicated recipes that have step-by-step photos (not for each recipe, though). When I find the truly great cookbooks, I don't just read them, I devour them. And inspired, will be off to whip up a recipe for others to savor as well.

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

I love cookbooks that are simple, but challenge me just enough with new flavors and ideas.

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

A good cookbook has beautiful pictures, inspiring recipes that help me knock dishes out of the park, and is easy to read. No yellow titles like are found in Gourmet's cookbook.

At 1:56 PM, Blogger Catie said...

A good cookbook, for me, has clear instructions - I'm not at the point where I can easily improvise in cooking and being a busy graduate student (as if there is another kind) means that I don't have time for recipes that don't work. If I make a recipe from a cookbook and it works - I'm more likely to make another recipe from the book - and the more recipes that work, the more I turn to that cookbook. Photos help. And I'll devote time to some recipes, particularly if I think they are worth it, but those recipes are reserved for special occasions or weekends at the very least. So simple recipes work best for me.

I need to build a collection of cookbooks and purge the ones that don't work for me. I'll be using this list of books to choose one for my brother-in-law. He loves cookbooks more than anyone else I've ever met.

At 1:57 PM, Blogger Tania said...

For me, a cookbook needs to live in my kitchen for a long time, move from spot to spot but not too far out of reach...and has turned corners, and pages stuck together.

And one that has good stories in it to accompany the recipes....

At 1:58 PM, Blogger kickpleat said...

This is such a fantastic list, Shauna! Not only do I think you've made some great choices (I don't own any of the books mentioned, but want several), I love your descriptions of what drew you to them. For myself, I love a cookbook with accessible recipes without complicated steps or fancy ingredients. I love cooking out of my pantry and I appreciate cookbooks that can teach me something new.

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What makes a cookbook a keeper for me is appealing photos and simple recipes. I like looking at all the delicious things and feeling reasonably confident that I could make it (successfully!).

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Ronik said...

As much as I enjoy my Kindle, I do hope that print never dies. There are some books - like cookbooks - that just aren't the same on an e-reader.

You need to be able to go in, look at the pictures, read the stories, make notes in the margins to truly appreciate a cookbook

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

A good cookbook for me has colorful pictures, vegetarian options, and ingredient lists that don't overwhelm me.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Fiona said...

I like different things about different cookbooks, but the one constant is great photography. I find it hard to imagine the end result without a photo. Great photos make me hungry .. and make me want to cook something!

Secondly I love books that help me to understand new cuisines and make them accessible for me. I'm not a natural cook, so I need the cookbook to guide me, to explain any exotic ingredients and possible substitutes.... preferably all in simple English!

At 2:04 PM, Blogger N said...

i love cookbooks that have a lot of pretty pictures & healthy recipes; that focus a lot on spices, vegetables, and fresh seasonal ingredients! love it when anecdotes + lovely writing is tossed in as well

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Delicious Dishings said...

I have Tanis' first cookbook and I, too, love have sparse or minimal it is. He says only what needs to be said... the pages are clean. The illustrations are beautiful. And the recipes embrace the seasons and fresh produce. I absolutely love that.

I enjoyed reading your whole post about everything you love about these books. I just met Amanda Hesser and have plans to spend many winter nights poring over the NY Times Cookbook.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger The Urban Baker said...

what a great post, Shauna! I have several of the books mentioned, a few are on my wish list and the balance are ones that I need to educate myself with.

A good cookbook, for me, inspires, teaches me something new, is visually fabulous to look at, and the recipes use less than 10 ingredients-preferably ones that I already have.

p.s. I still get excited when Saveur, Bon Appetit and Cooks Illustrated arrive at my doorstep!

At 2:06 PM, Blogger imannie said...

I love a cookbook with beautiful, glossy photographs that make it clear what you're looking at is art.

But what I most cherish in a cookbook, so much so that its pages are quickly dirtied with smudges and spills from use, is when it's filled with food that's meant to be shared.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger susan said...

I've been cooking for a long time and read about food a lot. I like a cookbook that teaches me something i don't know, helps me to "taste" the food as I read the recipe, and that inspires me to get into the kitchen and try out new ideas.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger christine said...

What makes a cookbook great for me? First and foremost, the recipes must work. If I follow a recipe and it fails, I have a hard time coming back. Also, the use of fresh ingredients is a must! I also love a cookbook that focuses on techniques that can be applied to more than one situation, not just on individual recipes. And, I must say, I'm a sucker for gorgeous photos :)

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I have spent the better portion of my cooking years consistently turning to Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for basics. While I love my specialty cookbooks, especially now that I'm gluten free, BH&G will always be my standby.

thanks for suggesting some new ones to try!

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Susan said...

Thank you for such a thoughtful discussion of these books. Several are on my 'wish list' and this is great insight.

The cookbook that draws me may not have to read exactly like a novel, but I need to feel the heart, or sense the care that went into it. I love the books that spend a week on my nightstand before they make it to the kitchen (Like 'A Good Appetite, which currently moves back and forth between kitchen and nightstand.)

It needs to be more than a list of recipes. I like to try new (but not exceedingly complex) techniques & flavors. These should be clearly described, both in steps and the senses (what should you see, smell, etc.)

Vive les livres!

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Paulissa Kipp Visual Arts said...

I like a conversationational tone, different flavor combinations that are achieved with ingredients that aren't hard to find, gorgeous photos of every recipe, an easy to use index that has the recipes listed by ingredient, not just the recipe name and page number.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger jess said...

I'm still figuring out gluten-free baking. I needs something to share with my white-flour loving husband!

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a magnificent list! Thank you for posting it. Now I know what to put on my Christmas list. :)

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Jen said...

A good cookbook is both familiar and yet full of possibility... could I cook this dish? Could I try something new? Could I change the way I eat and view food? A good cookbook both comforts me and challenges me to be more fully in the world.I have carried my good cookbooks with me from north to south, east to west, and I still pull them off the shelf for inspiration, comforting recipes, and fresh ideas (yours is in this trusty category now, joining Friendly Foods, Moosewood Daily Special, and a few select others...).

At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cookbooks that stay in my kitchen are ones that spark ideas and inspire me to want to eat. Nigella Lawson's books have so many easy quick GF or easily modifiable recipes that make me want to throw things in a pan or pot or oven. I always have one on the counter. Old church and charity cookbooks with irreplaceable tips and tricks and long forgotten dishes are always around, too.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Kathy M said...

A great cookbook has an intimate connection to the author(s), you feel the passion, smell the food in your mind and the Pavlovian dog response starts as soon as you read the first ingredient of the recipe. Excellent pictures are also a plus!

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love a cookbook that inspires me to cook. I have many on my shelf & a few that are my go-to books. Since I'm just learning to cook, books that discuss & define techniques are the most helpful for me... So that I'm not stuck with just that one recipe or two... The recipes are more like jumping off points.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger FTC Photography & Courtney Allison Studios said...

Print will NEVER die in this house either! Love the feel and smell of them way too much! Thanks for sharing, these all look fabulous!

At 2:29 PM, Blogger havenmaven said...

Ok, so I know I've posted about this before, but because Holland is a world contender in pork export, I'm now literally SURROUNDED BY PIG. Which means I'm vying for the cookbook named after the savory beast. Did I mention my 10-year-old son is adamant about roasting wild boar for Christmas dinner? Seriously, surrounded. Need recipes. Please help!

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good cookbook for me has not only good recipes, but also info on technique... As someone teaching myself to cook, I don't want to be stuck with a good recipe or two, I want the recipes to be my starting off points, they inspire me to create...

At 2:31 PM, Blogger sam said...

My favorite cookbooks have clear directions and recipes that work, let me see something of where the recipes come from (why do these things taste good together? what's the history?), give guidance but don't make me feel as if I'm breaking sacred rules if I adjust something, and stretch boundaries a bit by adding a new flavor or combining things in a way I hadn't thought of. And great photos are a bonus.

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Wendy K said...

A good cookbook to me has to have recipes that 1) come at least close to working the first time 2) have unique but not expensive ingredients 3) have accompanying pictures, though I don't want more pictures than words and 4) are printed on paper that feels good to the touch. That last item is superficial I know, but touch is one of the pleasures of books to me, and I still use it as a guage.

I look forward to trying some of the books on your list, but I have to admit that I'm confused by one of your selection. I have been cooking out of Good to the Grain for several weeks now wanting badly to use more wholegrains in my baking, but have had failure after failure with the recipes. It has gotten such good reviews by so many people yet everything I make from it, with the exception of the buttermilk pancakes, has been exceedingly dry and tasting sadly like sawdust. I must be doing something horribly wrong!

Thank you again for your blog - I enjoy it very much.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger White Toast with Butter said...

I so agree with every word. I love the feel of a book - I love seeing all my books piled on the shelves. Andrew just turned six - he is reading at a 4th grade level. We started reading to him at birth -- reading is so important. So what makes a good cookbook - beautiful pictures help, beautiful words, stories and simple directions....a new cookbook to me is a yet to be adventure. I can travel and explore different places all with a new recipe.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger micaela said...

a cookbook stays in my rotation if I find myself as compelled to sit on the couch and read through it as I am compelled to get in the kitchen and cook from its recipes. In a perfect world, I'd be a food anthropologist, so I'm attracted to stories and histories and traditions. I loved what you said the other day (I think on the homemade oreos post?) about the internet being a virtual recipe box, with each writer putting their own little touch in a recipe. A great food writer understands that process and even encourages it by outlining how you can take a technique or a recipe and adapt it to other ingredients.

I put about half the books on your list (including yours) on my Amazon wish list last week, LOL! Now I want them ALL -- I hadn't seen the Indian one before, so that one's going on the list as well, YUM! Oh and yes, print is NOT dead as far as I'm concerned, I like to annotate my books, especially my cookbooks. It's fun to go back later and read what I wrote!

At 2:35 PM, Blogger Denise M said...

A great cookbook is gluten free, lower in total grains and sugar and has pictures. :)

At 2:36 PM, Blogger VanC said...

Sometimes I think I love reading the recipes even more than making them. I have a coverless cookbook that has B&B recipes from all around the US, that I found at a thrift store. Poor thing has amazing brunch recipes plus stories about the inn it came from. I take trips in my head every time I read it.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Anne B. said...

Beautiful inspiring pictures
In-depth explanations and directions
stories about the recipes or cultural references
Thanks for a chance to win!!!

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Denise M said...

A great cookbook is gluten free or easy to convert, lower in refined sugar, and has beautiful pictures :)

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Humor. The mundane step by step recipe is essential but a little humor goes a long way. Interesting flavors that blows the mind but aren't difficult to find. Beautiful pictures that makes you want to go nom nom nom even while making it. Finally, creative techniques we all can learn from. Many are professional chefs thus, putting some thought into a "house kitchen" would be so lovely!

Recently became gluten/wheat intolerant. Goodbye baguette and wraps, hello chili with rice!

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Magistra said...

So, not a general comment about what makes a cookbook, but rather my long-time favorite and why:
Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone." I love the section arranged by vegetable and have often used it to find a new recipe for the veggies we have on hand or to remember basic information--like baking potatoes.

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great cookbook...

One of my favorite cookbooks has a picture on the right side of the page, a cute quote and the recipe on the other side. But then again, the book is all about breakfast and that's my favorite meal!

I like to display books, so I appreciate hardcover. Other than that, I adore all cookbooks.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Alison said...

A great cookbook for us has plenty of recipes that appeal to both vegetarians and meat eaters. When Jim went vegetarian, I refused to make separate dishes each night, so I had to find really interesting vegetarian recipes to keep my palate entertained and not feel like I was getting gypped with poor substitutes for meat.

As a result, we started cooking a lots of ethnic/foreign food and were well-rewarded for our efforts. Since then, many vegan and gluten-free folks have come into our lives and it's nice to have options for all of us. We love trying new things and don't mind (actually enjoy) hunting down unusual ingredients.

Generally, I prefer a cookbook where the recipes take centerstage and aren't as much about the author. A bit of context for the origin of dishes is nice, but I don't want to read a novel when I'm prepping a meal.

Thanks for yet another great giveaway!

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Jen Maraia said...

I'm a fairly inexperienced cook/baker as I'm 19 and only recently starting working in the kitchen by myself. I'm in college and a cookbook that's simpler, both in number of ingredients and types of kitchen items you need, is just what I need in a cookbook! I also LOVE delectable photos that make me say, "I NEED to make that; it looks so good!!" Thanks for being so generous :)

At 2:45 PM, Blogger katharinesalas said...

I love that you love all things in print. I love cookbooks too and am always looking for suggestions. Thank you for breaking down your criteria and for also a brief intro and background on each. I am dying to get my hands on the Indian food cookbook. That is one cuisine that I want to understand better and get an idea for the technique and flavors.

Thanks again!

At 2:46 PM, Blogger katharinesalas said...

I love that you love all things in print. I love cookbooks too and am always looking for suggestions. Thank you for breaking down your criteria and for also a brief intro and background on each. I am dying to get my hands on the Indian food cookbook. That is one cuisine that I want to understand better and get an idea for the technique and flavors.

Thanks again!

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Brianne said...

I adore cookbooks like Dorie Greenspan's, the ones that give you a gentle encouragement and tell you "It's ok if the buttercream looks like hell right now, don't freak out. Just keep beating it." Cooking from one of Dorie's cookbooks is like cooking with my mom beside me showing me the way.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger marcella said...

For me, it's not that cookbooks are so good they stay in the kitchen but rather that they are so good they are found all around the house. In the kitchen when I'm cooking with it, in the bedroom or on the couch when I'm reading it.

I love to read cookbooks; not just skim the recipe to see if it sounds good but read every last word. Books with stories about the recipes win bonus points from me. I love to read that a recipe is Great Aunt Mabels and she won ribbons at the county fair every year cooking that dish.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Exposing Grief said...

I love to cook and cookbooks, I just recently moved and got rid of many of my cookbooks, it was very hard to part with them. I'd love to add one of these to my remaining collection, particularly, "Good to the Grain." Thanks for the chance and look forward to the upcoming cookies.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Sheena said...

Despite how much I love beautiful photographs it's the writing that makes it for me. A short anecdote from the author, little hints and notes always make me go back. And of course, good recipes that might have a little twist are always appreciated!

And thank you for all the give aways, you're too kind! :)

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

The best cookbooks are the ones you feel the passion in. The passion for the food, the passion for sharing, and the passion for living life! I love when a cookbook explains an obscure spice or technique and coaches you though :)

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

simple, basic recipes that I will use over and over.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Lyndsey said...

I love a cookbook that tells me a story about the author or transports me to another time or culture. Soup, A way of life by Barbara Kafka is an excellent example of this. I love a cookbook who's recipes always turn out as they should. I have never had a failed recipe from the Barefoot Contessa books. I love an instructive cookbook that teaches me how to be a better cook the way Mark Bittman's books do. Thanks for all you do!

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Dee said...

Hi Shauna!
I love your Blog! Thank you for sharing these selections with us!

I Love real-live-actual printed books as well! The computer is cool, but if you fall asleep reading your laptop and it slides off the bed - you might be in trouble!
I will definitely be checking some of these out (if I don't win one!) ;)

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Rebecca F said...

A good cookbook is like your oldest friend and meeting a new person at the same time. It will wow you with new flavors but comfort you when you need that certain fix. A good cookbook doesn't just tell a story or share a recipe, it takes you on the journey with the author.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Toby said...

I still prefer real, paper books too. A good cookbook to me needs to have photos to show me how mouthwatering the dish looks and it needs to have flavorful recipes. I love all foods with Indian, Thai, or Asian flavors.

More and more these days I'm making substitutions too - gluten isn't bothering me, but dairy, eggs, and corn have been cut out of my diet.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Dylana Suarez said...

These all sound really great!


At 3:00 PM, Blogger autumn said...

PICTURES! Well curated and cleverly organized. Not pretentious.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Ronni said...

My definition of a good cookbook has changed mostly thanks to your book and Molly's book. I was all about photos photos photos! Now, I love when the author tells a personal story about the recipe. It's perfect to read while in bed. Then, I can dream about all the wonderful food that I can make during the week.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Laurie said...

you are truly amazing. i love reading your posts and love your story.
i've been gluten-free for nearly 18 months and love experimenting but cookbooks are helpful.

the best ones, first of all, make you want to rush into the kitchen and cook! not because of the photos or the descriptions, because you're not exactly sure if the magic will really happen. but if you trust the writer, and trust your own instincts and creativity, it all turns out well. (less like a novel, more like a romance!) thanks for all you do, keep cooking!

At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What makes a cookbook great, for me? Good photos, cleverness or inventiveness in the recipes, and accessibility.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger emily said...

Wow, it's hard to narrow down when you stop and think about it. I guess for me, I love pictures (naturally), but really I love when the author is passionate and yet accessible.

I love the feeling of love and home through cooking and especially love the use of whole, real ingredients. I don't mind whether the recipes are long or short as long as they make sense and feel like home.

At 3:08 PM, Blogger mrscamacho said...

I love a cookbook that has a picture for every recipe. I don't like fussy food; simple ingredients and presentation are my style. I'm cooking with a crawler biting my ankles, after all!

One of my favorite cookbooks was GRUB. Concept Cookbooks are a fun way to look at food, when you are an experienced chef.

I really want yours, though! ;)

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

A good cookbook tells me a story about a place or a time. It teaches me something new - a brand new technique or a new way of looking at something I'm already very familiar with.

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me, a great cookbook is one that makes me leap off the sofa and rush into the kitchen to make something within the first few minutes of reading it - those that do this seem to share a few characteristics: great photography, simple but inspirational recipes and a glimpse at the heart and soul of the writer. I made Dorie Greenspan's apple cake four times in one week so she is my #1 this year!

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Diane-The WHOLE Gang said...

That is a great list of books! I love cookbooks with lots of photos, mostly because I admit I'll get inspiration and go from there. I'm better at writing recipes than I am at following them.

I also love the feel of the cookbook. I love the pages of your book. That just reminded me, it's time for more meatloaf to get me through these holidays!

Every year I have cookbooks on my wish list. This year I have from your list Ratio, Heart of an Artichoke, and NYT cookbook. I've not had a chance to even peak at these at the book store but I do love the people behind the books.

We LOVE books here at our house too. Hubby who has his book published, reads books on his ipad and in hardback. I think both worlds can live together. I think especially for cookbooks!

At 3:22 PM, Blogger sg said...

I love many different types of cookbooks. I love the feel that the author is the expert and that there is no other version for a dish except the one that they've written; a confidence in their writing complete with menu plans and wine pairings. However, I also love a romance cookbook. Not necessarily about the life and mate of the author, but about their romance with food. The type of books that draw you in with the eloquence in the headnotes. I also love humor. Wow, I'm all over the place. I guess I appreciate any well researched, well tested cookbook where I can sense the author's passion. I love your list and have most on my Christmas wish list already!

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Serene @ MomFood said...

A computer screen will never replace a cookbook in my hands. Never. Thank you for this amazing resource, full of love.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Serene @ MomFood said...

(I bought your book for myself for Giftmas, and Dorie's for my birthday -- two brand-new books in one year is WAY out of my usual budget, but it's going to take me a long time to work my way through them, so please don't enter me in the contest; let someone else get the joy.)

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Nadine said...

I love cookbooks with recipes that aren't too complicated and have pictures. I love seeing pictures of the food!

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I've been told I have a cookbook problem, I find them very hard to pass up. I have weeded out many that I never actually used, but have kept some that were my mother's and grandmother's. I also still have the first Betty Crocker cookbook that my mother gave me over 35 years ago. I have used almost all of the cookbooks I now have, but have started collecting gluten & dairy free ones now with having food issues.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

What generosity you have!

I love the book arts - books and paper will ALWAYS be a part of my life!

What makes a good cookbook?
1) Not too hard to convert (e.g., I don't spend a lot of time with non-GF recipes that have dumplings and things - I don't want to use two recipes to make one meal and I'm not skilled / intuitive enough to convert a dumpling recipe on my own ... yet).

2) Recipes where I can work around dairy (substitute or eliminate), as I'm GF/CF.

3) Recipes with some personality - unexpected pairings of ingredients or preparations

4) Cookbooks where the personality of the chef comes through (that might be in narrative, in the photos chosen, in the notes ...)

5) Cookbooks that teach me more about the art of cooking, rather than just recipes. I am endlessly fascinated by what flavors "go" together, and how and why different cooking methods work.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger michelle w said...

I love cookbooks with pictures that make my mouth water and also that encourage me to try cooking with new ingredients. Good cookbooks also provide recipes that become family classics :)

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Eileen said...

I like cookbooks that take me places.
I used to be confused when I heard a cook talk about keeping cookbooks on her bedtable for nighttime reading. What? No. You read novels and edifying stuff at night.
Then I was given "How to Eat Supper" and, love the book or hate it, I finally GOT why someone would read a cookbook before bed.
I like knowing where a recipe came from, or the history of the main ingredient, or about the dinner party that totally flopped because everyone there was lactose intolerant. It brings me closer to a happy, warm, fallible, interested community.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Cookin' Canuck said...

To me, the act of fingering a well-word page, splattered in tomato sauce and batter or marked with crayon, will never go out of style. My husband and I also spend hours reading to our two boys and we hope that grow up to appreciate the engrossment a good book can bring.

I have a couple of these cookbooks - PamSharonMaggy's (cute!) is one of my favorites, but there are a few that are still on my wish list, including Dorie's and Anjum's. Their voices and simple, but innovative, recipes are right up my alley.

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Amy said...

As newly gluten-free a cookbook is now more important than ever. It means I can eat more than the 4 gluten-free options in the grocery store that I ate for the first 2 weeks after being diagnosed. This has changed not only the way I cook, but how I view food. Having a good cookbook gives me the ability to cook food that I actually like and makes me feel somewhat normal, at least for one meal :) So for me a good cookbook is a like a guide to eating.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Amy said...

As newly gluten-free, a good cookbook is more important than ever. It allows me to eat more than the 4 frozen meals I ate the first few weeks of being diagnosed. It means that I can eat food I actually like, and feel normal- even if for only one meal :) A good cookbook for me is a now a guide to eating.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Lisa Ro said...

A good cookbook looks great on your coffee table, even though it may not stay there long; its sheer presence makes you anxious to get up off the couch and take it for a spin. It should be beautiful but not too presumptuous as it's likely to get a few smudges here and there -- just a sign it's being loved. Recipes should be well explained, with ingredients that aren't too unusual for easy experimentation. Not to mention easy conversion to a gluten free recipe never hurt for us celiacs!

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Janet Archibald said...

My perfect cook book would be easy, but fun to read, has beautiful pictures, and has easy to find ingredients. Any of these cookbooks would be great to own!!!

At 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love cookbooks. The glossy photo's..the food porn....I eat , breathe, watch and read food! What better to read than a cookbook. All of these sound amazing. I would love to add any of them to my ever growing collection. Plenty is being bought as a gift for my vegetarian niece.

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I can't agree with you more about The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. Not only does it have the feel of a well-loved, old kitchen companion, but the recipes and ingredient explanations are poetry to someone who cooks as much Italian fare as myself.

As for what makes a great cookbook - while I love my Joy of Cooking and New York Times compendiums, I love when I learn something about the rest of the world through a cookbook. When I travel somewhere, I never turn down a meal, because I believe that food is the purest, most honest expression of a person's soul and hospitality. I know that if I have a guest over for Chanukkah, my mother's pot roast (modified from the Jewish Holiday Cookbook) will tell my visitor that she is among friends and warmth.
My girlfriend is from Arkansas, and has cooked me some of the best collard greens I've ever had the pleasure of sucking down my gullet. When she came back to San Francisco from a trip to South Carolina, she gave me a copy of the Charleston Receipts (the oldest Junior League Cookbook in the country). While there is a old-fashioned hokiness and a touch of some, frankly, racist elements to it, I've been poring over the recipes because they are not only delicious, but an incredible bit of anthropology. I love Southern food, particularly everything involving pig, but have neither cooked it nor ventured into the region. As much fun as I have with the ridiculous elements of the book, and names like "Cooter Pie," I can't wait to try to make my first Southern pig dish! I'll probably fail miserably, but I'll be damned if I won't enjoy trying.
So that's what makes a great cookbook for me - pure expression of the cook through the food, a little exploration, do-able recipes, and ideas that keep me both salivating, and reading the book like it's Harry Potter!

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Summer said...

The cookbook has to have beautiful inviting pictures that aren't so styled that they discourage me. The ingredient lists have to be one column only and the lists of instructions had better not creep onto the next page either. Finally, there needs to be ingredients that I can afford even when I'm broke.
Oh, and one more thing, I love then the paper on the cover makes my fingers feel happy.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Nes said...

There is nothing quite like good old fashioned print. Thank you for this wonderful review of top notch cookbooks!

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

oh I do hope that print does not die. There is nothing better than the smell of books. And magazines, don't even get me started. The glossy pages are no match for a glowing tiny phone. VIVA LA PRINT!

I love cookbooks. I devour them like novels and I love reading peoples personal stories that connects them to the recipes. I'm also a sucker for good photography and even though I know there are some exceptional cookbooks without photos, I just don't gravitate to those.

Yours was a perfect mix!

At 4:03 PM, Blogger brooke said...

Prior to May of this year, I would have said that a cook book just had to pull me in whether it be by cover art, title or a great concept. Then my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, and things changed a lot. I used to be known for my baking, and now I feel as if I don't know how to put things together or trust my own intuition in cooking.

So now what I am looking for in a cook book is one that will help me develop an understanding of how all these new ingredients go together. It doesn't hurt if the book has great photos or a great concept, but really all I want is simple, basic ideas to feed my child.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Nes said...

There is nothing quite like good old fashioned print. Thank you for this wonderful review of top notch cookbooks!

At 4:07 PM, Blogger brooke said...

Follow up comment: I have a the Cooking for Isaiah and Doughnuts on my amazon list due to recommends from you on the latter and several people on the former. About to add a third one now. :)

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Kate @ Savour Fare said...

I love cookbooks that inspire, that challenge, that make me droll or expand my ways of thinking about things. But the cookbooks that keep drawing me back are the ones that have food I actually want to cook, regularly. The ingredients aren't obscure or difficult to source, the recipes aren't fiddly or unrealistic for the working mom of a toddler. The food is straightforward, but surprising - something I haven't thought of.

And of course, the ones I love the best are the ones I can read. Like a novel. There are always stacks of cookbooks all over my house because I've been reading them.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Jesse Kreun said...

A cookbook needs to have a good picture of the final product. I am sure many of the recipes are good in cookbooks, but I want to be able to see them finished to see if I want to try them! I love food!!!

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Cookbooks, for me to love them, need to be Bittman-esque. I want to be inspired and unlimited. To bake, though, I feel most safe with specifics, and love that others have the experimenting for me. Good to the grain looks to be a great guide!

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

We actually find that we can bake with only whole gluten-free grains. We use only sorghum, millet, and rice and find little difference in the texture. The whole grains also provide a nice well rounded flavor. Rice alone will certainly make a not-so-great treat, but we have a plethora of gluten-free grains that are often untouched. Our favorite is millet!

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good cookbook for me is one that inspires me to make the recipes within it. Even better, one that helps me to start making my own creative leaps in the kitchen. Bonus points for well-written stories. I love a cookbook that reads like an autobiography of someone's cooking life. I also posted something about cookbooks a few days ago:

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I like cookbooks to be Bittman-esque, i.e., guides that inspire without limitations, except for baking. For baking recipes, I want someone to do the experimentation for me. Good to the Grain looks like just the thing. Thanks for your reviews!

At 4:23 PM, Blogger mommio said...

Two things are really important to me in a cookbook: clarity of instruction and photos. I wish I didn't care about the photos, but I totally do.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

I'm a sucker for a cookbook and find them irresistible. I love a well produced book that gives me a bit more than just a recipe, but one that inspires me as well. I have spent many happy times thumbing through my copies of "Plenty" and "ready for Dessert" - time spent in either book sends me heading for the kitchen. Dorrie Greenspan's book is high on my list - I can't wait to get it!

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Roberta said...

A good cookbook, one that will be pulled out often, has to be a starting point, not the finish line. It should tell me what to do and more importantly, why, use real food, and help me make recipes my own.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger emily said...

Wow, so many great options. I have recently gone vegan so I am most interested in your recommendation of "Plenty." Super excited to check it out.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Ryah said...

For me, I like a cookbook that gives me an outline, a template, inspiration for my own creativity in the kitchen. I love cookbooks, but don't much care to follow recipes exactly. I prefer to be inspired by what I have in my kitchen or garden.

At 4:33 PM, Blogger Allison said...

What makes a good cookbook for me? Like anyone, I love a cookbook that makes me want to cook from it ASAP. But I also really love cookbooks that tell the story behind the food. That's why I'm such a fan of the Momofuku cookbook - for nearly every recipe in there, they tell its story - why they make it how they do, how it came to be, what they use it for... I love good explanations of food. (Not to mention, when I first read the book, every other minute I was exclaiming, "Ohmygosh, they have a recipe for [insert a dish I've always wanted to learn how to make]!!!")

Also important - clear recipes that explain the directions well, and also explain (either in the recipe or in a glossary) any ingredients or techniques that aren't common knowledge.

And I do like pictures that give me a pretty good idea of what I'm supposed to get out of the recipe, too. ^_^

At 4:34 PM, Blogger MerryJennifer said...

I love cookbooks, and I think I have a serious problem. I can't stop buying them. I don't think print is dead at all.

For me, a great cookbook is one that I can sit on the couch with and read while snuggling with my kids. It inspires me to bookmark pages, scribble notes on Post-Its, and make me antsy to get OFF that couch and back in the kitchen. I love recipes that are made with seasonal ingredients I have on hand, or are easily obtainable in my local grocery store. I just love to read them.

Wonderful collection of amazing books - including yours!

At 4:39 PM, Blogger chicky73 said...

Love books too much to ever stop turning pages. To have a cookbook without food splotches and spice rubbed into the paper when I try to rub it off - well that wouldn't be worth cooking from.

I love cookbooks with photos - books with recipes that I dogear from the minute I see the pictures and start imagining the smells and tastes. I love sweets - CHOCOLATE, good bread (thank you GFG & Chef) and most of all making an awesome meal for just my little family or for entertaining friends. Easy is preferable, but I'm always open to new ingredients & like to grow in technique and flavors. Life used to be Italian or Mexican, now it has expanded. Still in love with one dish wonders and oh, french cooking...

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Annah said...

I love cookbooks that tell me WHY something works. That said, Cook's Illustrated is one of my faves. Bittman's are good for that too.

Love to read about food; cookbooks are treated like novels in this house!

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Gaile said...

What a gorgeous assortment of cookbooks you've mentioned here. What makes a good cookbook for me is one where the recipes are accessible. I have an overly well-stocked kitchen, albeit pork-free, but if it calls for duck confit or a tablespoon of marmite, its not going to get made here. Ume plum vinegar, tamarind, and any spice from India, we have aplenty. I adore ethnic cuisines for their assertive spices, as much as I love the piquancy of mediterranean food. Recipes that are heavy on dairy or animal fat get passed over here in favor of olive oil and vegetable dishes, or chicken and fish dishes. I love a cookbook that puts flavors together that I haven't tried. I use Culinary Artistry a lot, but still find that a good cookbook will take me to a place even that book won't. I don't mind long process cooking, but only if the end result is restaurant worthy. I love a cookbook that has surprises in the recipes, rather than one that recommends different ways to prepare something I already know how to make.

And I LOVE your books. For all of those reasons and more.

At 4:46 PM, Blogger Lonna said...

Your blog really made for a great thanksgiving! My partner is kind of picky and most of the things she likes at thanksgiving usually have all kinds of wheat in them.. she was totally thrilled with everything I made her, it made it really easy. And she is no longer depressed about thanksgiving and having to eat GF :)

At 4:47 PM, Blogger dramatic ballads said...

hmm. connection to the author for sure. pictures are always nice. ingredients that aren't completely out of the ordinary. i read cookbooks like novels so that also is fantastic. :)

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Robin said...

To me a great cookbook excites me to cook the recipe or inspires me to adapt and change it....I love to read cookbooks, I have an entire cabinet of them. I have been known to just sit and read them like a novel. I love to cook and experiment with food. I would love to win any of the offered cookbooks. Thank you Shauna for your cookbook and blog. You and the Chef are favorites of mine!

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Mary | Deep South Dish said...

I love a cookbook that tells me a story. Whether it's in the form of a memory from the recipe itself, or simply a history of how it came about, I want to know how it came to be important enough to be a part of that cookbook.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger GenevaK said...

For me, a good cookbook has simple recipes with good ingredients and techniques and tips to help those who aren't the best in the kitchen. And it doesn't hurt to have beautiful photography either.

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good cookbook to me is easy to follow, has great pictures, and the author has a sense of humor (hence why I love Dorie Greenspan). Cooking should be fun, so I love cookbooks that make it that way :)

At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your choices, and I have a few of them already, including Plenty. The cookbook is British, so some of the names might seem unfamiliar with American readers (e.g. aubergine for eggplant) but his ideas are breathtaking. He also writes a food column in the UK newspaper The Guardian. For those who might want a sample of his recipes without investing in his cookbook, here is the URL:

Thanks for offering such a wonderful array of choices, Shauna!

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Cortney @ said...

Considering my hubs is a graphic designer, print must stay alive ;-)! But all kidding aside, I am a book reader. I don't like reading from a computer screen. And there is just something about feeling the pages between my finger tips!

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I love a cookbook that helps me get dinner on the table quickly on nights I just don't have the energy or the time to make a four-course meal (which seems to be every night these days). Excellent post - thank you!

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a sucker for a cookbook. When we built our new house I included 2 full bookshelves and have long since filled them and have cookbooks occupying other spaces in the kitchen, the bedroom, and the living room.
I will try anthing once, but I love cookbooks that are outside of what I do everyday which is homestyle southern cooking without all the fat. I have Indian, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Southwestern, BBQ and many others among my favorites. I love to hear the voices of the author come through. I don't just want a laundry list of dishes, but a connection to the food. It was one of the main reasons that I loved your book. I ordered it months ahead and looked forward to the day that it was delivered into my hot little hands. I have cooked from it over and over and every time it makes me and my family happy to taste the food and think about you guys and the story behind each dish.

At 5:14 PM, Blogger Stargirl said...

As a beginner, I really love a cookbook that is clear to understand, that uses simple terms, and that uses basics. I have a hard time buying an ingredient that I need for one dish, when I can get something that I use often. With limited kitchen space, it's also hard to have gadgets that you only use once. This can, however, lead to a case of the borings in the kitchen. Occasionally, I will stop and think as I make something for the 8th time, that I should really branch out. But then I go back to making the same boring things.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

What makes a great cookbook...For me what makes a great cookbook is one that contains recipes which inspire me to cook. Whether that means time consuming or quick, familiar food or not, I love experimenting with a recipe. I read cookbooks and try out a few recipes. Most of the time I don't read the directions and it turns out like something else, but mostly always delicious. Sometimes I do read the directions carefully and that is when I take the time to recreate exactly what the recipe wants me to do. Also, living at high altitude means I need to be creative with anything baking or rising to be sure it will turn out.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger RinnieKirk said...

I would love to make every recipe that appeals to me, but it's not always possible due to lack of money or energy. Cooking out of your pantry with a recipe book doesn't come naturally. That's why I've been using a few cook books that are one dish or teaching me how to make do with what's on hand. That ways I can still do the fabulous recipes about once a week!

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite cookbooks are those that read like a book. My favs are Dorie's of course. But, I love those with interesting stories and beautiful photos that I want to page through again and again. My cookbooks get slightly beat-up from in kitchen splattering and thats just how I like them.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Amy said...

A good cookbook to me should be easy to read and with clear step by step instructions. Also, the recipes should work well and with a beautiful pictres.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Rachel P said...

Nothing makes me happier than sitting down and poring over a new cookbook. My favorites are those that usually have a nice intro to the recipe, one which gives a little history, explanation, or just a nice personal commentary from the author.

I also agree with you on a book that introduces you to new flavor combos. LOVE that! :)

It's amazing how many great cookbooks can be turned gluten free!

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Lauren said...

I love a cookbook that feels good in your hands, with beautiful ideas that make you not want to put it down and a comfort to it that makes you feel like you can tackle everything it holds. That, and great recipes. You've got to have reliable recipes :).

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

What makes a cookbook good in my house? Doable with a toddler few make the cut! Thanks for the great gift ideas!! I definitely click through your site to buy!

At 5:28 PM, Blogger Pacina said...

A good cookbook...the ones that have remained in my kitchen through the years are inviting and unpretentious, yet sophisticated enough to make people think I spent all day preparing a dish in the kitchen. I definitely eat with my eyes first, so I love to first look flip through the pages and devour the pictures of the dishes, then delve into the actual recipes. I love cookbooks that take a classic dish and add a new element that takes it to a whole different level. I love to bake and cook for my family and friends so recipes that are not intimidating for others to try and for me to make are ideal.


At 5:29 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

I love a vegetarian (or easily adaptable) cookbook with a good mix of recipes with regular pantry ingredients plus a few new ones that I'll need to seek out.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger E. Westfall said...

I think the best cookbook mixes delicious food with good stories that make you want to jump up and start cooking it right then and there. I hope print isn't dead! I admit to using internet recipes a lot, but the best cooking/baking is done the good old fashioned way: apron on, cookbook in front of me, and (gluten-free) flour all over the place.

At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love cookbooks that inspire me to go beyond it - those rare ones that allow me to cook the recipe the first time and then adapt it endlessly for years to come. Basics, but not basic...

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Erin said...

Your posts are amazing. I was diagnosed with Celiac 4 months ago and am going for the biospy next week. I did not throw away all my cookbooks. I will, instead, make the best of the recipes I know and love and will try hard to TRY NEW THINGS, just as you suggest. I already have started liking olives... because when you ask for gluten free, it is hard to also add, "and hold the olives"... so sure enough I've grown to like them (maybe someday love them). I read your book within a week of my diagnosis. Thank you.
As for cookbooks, I adore those which list foods by the food, because so often I have a lot of something and am wondering what to make with it. I also like cookbooks that are all homemade (ever see those cookbooks that call for mayo or powdered egg... they are getting too far from the source for me.) And a cookbook with a little story along with each recipe is fun.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Gracie said...

A good cookbook should make you want to run to the kitchen and start creating! It should offer advice and make you feel like you’re cooking with an old friend. However, once in a while, it should nudge you out of your comfort zone-encouraging you to experiment and trust your instincts. (And it certainly helps if the pictures are so beautiful they make your mouth water!)
Having been recently diagnosed with celiac, the transition has been a work in progress-trying new products, attempting to bake and the like- only made more difficult by the fact that living in a dorm doesn’t provide much variety in food offered! I felt derailed-especially since I had been in the midst of researching schools for Pastry Arts so I could open my own bakery after college. I’m just thankful for all the wonderful resources available-and thank you for the hope you have given me that I will again find joy in the kitchen!

At 5:41 PM, Blogger amanda said...

I love a cookbook that engrosses me so much I cannot put it down - I have to take it to bed and read with a flashlight - the book that I want to cook from cover to cover yet I am so busy reading and inhaling the words and photos, there is no time to stop and cook. At least for a while. Then eventually I open the book in the kitchen and start to cook each recipe that catches my eye and relive it all over again. I don't collect many things but my books have followed me to the other side of the world because I could not leave them behind. I love to know the author through their recipes and their stories and feel as if I've made a friend who is in the kitchen with me, cooking along and guiding. Amanda

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the cookbook recommendations. I have just added several of them to my christmas wishlist. Its always challenging to cook GF for children. Hoping for some new inspiration.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger mc said...

I love a cookbook that won't let me put it down except to cook from it! I love the ones that aren't too formal - where the author's personality and, especially, sense of humor come through. I love a cookbook that doesn't make me feel guilty for scribbling in its margins. And I love a cookbook that is full of approachable recipes (ie, not 1,000 hard to find ingredients) I can experiment with while my daughter bustles around her play kitchen, stopping from time to time to nibble or opine about what I'm doing.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger FabFrugalFood said...

I look for cookbooks that I can take to bed with me and read almost like a narrative - Nigella has always appealed in that.

I also often think of cookbook authors as being my mentors in the kitchen - actually, Nigella has suited me well in that regard too.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Poppy said...

A good cookbook is one that ends up with salt and sauce and flour all over the pages, where a favorite recipe is lost because the pages stick together but that encourages you to make new favorites, where each recipe is more than just a recipe but a story and an insight in the cook's life. I need to be able to grow with it, to have a few simple recipes to fumble around with in my dorm's kitchen and, as my kitchen grows, the recipes grow in difficulty and intrigue. A good cookbook is one that is formidable but not intimidating! Plus, pictures! Always, pictures!

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Heather said...

A cookbook is a never-ending journey. What begins as a careful step-by-step trip becomes a journey into the unknown as comfort grows and experimentation takes flight!!!

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Anna said...

I tend to use cookbooks more as guidelines and incorporate what I have available into the recipe. My husband doesn't like to cook unless he can follow a recipe exactly. I would really like to try some new recipes and techniques, maybe follow more recipes closely and become a better cook. You reminded me that I would love to get a good indian food cookbook.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Kendra said...

I love cookbooks. But I'm kind of picky about which ones I will actually buy. I don't have a ton of space to store them, so I cull through them regularly. THe ones I keep? They have to have some pictures--I don't need one of each recipe, although I prefer it. The recipes have to be fairly easy to follow and not require a whole lot of fuss--I'm trying to feed a family of four and time isn't usually a luxury. I like to cook with "real" food and try to stay mostly healthy. I like to be inspired to try something new, as well. My family will almost eat anything, so I love to try several new recipes each week, which is a wonderful "problem" to have! :-) Practically, I love to be able to find a recipe based on a main ingredient, so that I can use up that pork shoulder or chuck roast in the freezer! hee hee. These cookbooks all look great, tnanks for sharing them with us! :-)

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay. Cookbooks. Wow...since my diagnosis of Celiac this past March I've actually been afraid of the kitchen, afriad of food, afraid of cookbooks that showed pictures of foods I would never eat again. But I COOK! Boy do I cook. Nothing is pre-prepared I have made some foods I never thought would go together, go together. I now want to embrace food and share with family. I want big celebrations back in my life--but yes I still wish to be the one to control the flow in the kitchen--cause I am still afraid of gluten.

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I love cookbooks and just bought one today. I need a cookbook with lots of pictures. It helps me so much. And if the author has a personality and throws in some jokes or is snarky I'm hooked.

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Ellen said...

All these books sounds lovely. But to be honest, making vegetables delicious and interesting is kind of my thing. Plenty is definitely going to be added to Christmas list this year!

I have also been wanting Good to the Grain but have hesitated because I wasn't sure how easy it would be to adapt the recipes to GF, but you've put my fears to rest. And, I am a die hard for Italian cuisine in all its glory as Italy holds special significance for me.

Any of these books would be well used! Thanks for the great giveaway.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Dorie said...

Well, now we're even -- I'm hopelessly biased about you, too!

Thank you so very, very much for your deep kindness and generosity ... it's just so like you.


At 5:57 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

Print is not dead to me. I'm a bit old school in that aspect. I have resisted a kindle (so far). I helped transition several people to a gluten free life. I shared my cookbook staples with them. Then they would share any new cookbooks they discovered with me. It was almost like a book club for gluten free cooking. I hope I can find a new group of people when I move to San Diego. Keep up the great work!

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Kirsty said...

For me a good cookbook is not just one that I can cook from but one that I can read. Over and Over.

I can't go past a Jamie Oliver cookbook. It's a cliche, yes (well in Australia it is) but his first two books - The Naked Chef and The Return of the Naked Chef - still get a workout pre-coeliac's and post.

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Drew's Adventures said...

When the nook's and kindle's first came on the market my husband was intrigued by the thought of not having 9 million cookbooks laying around the house(not even kidding. I have an addiction with cookbooks). I can't do it though. For me holding, reading, and absorbing a cookbook is all about holding it. Reading each page, learning from the author gives me peace. I think e-books cheapen the experience and the point of a good cookbook.
I love cookbooks that teach me things I didn't know. The ratio to fat and flour for great cookies. The spices that go with what veggies/meat/fruit. I love cookbook's that tell the history behind recipes. Because that's what cooking is about-telling someone's history with cooking the food.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Lady Plate said...

I'm a meat-loving English teacher, so the writing needs to be poetic and the carnivorous recipes need to be plentiful. I also enjoy more traditional cooking methods that don't require a lot of fancy gadgets. The longer it takes to make the dish, the better!

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Monica's cafe said...

I LOVE to read cookbooks and I read them like novels: cover to cover! My favorite cookbooks are dog-eared and spattered on a few pages that have become my favorite 'go-to' recipes, and even if I alter them I still like to have the book open when I make the recipe. Pictures are great, though stories are better. I like some heft to it, and room for notes in the margins. You can't do that on those electronic reading devices-those are too impersonal and you can't trade them!

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I live in one of the first cities to rid itself of it's newspaper, and I find myself reading less news online because of it. I never thought I'd miss the paper, but I do.

I think a good cookbook should be able to grow in your collection. You should be able to cook something from it once, love it and then morph it into something that your family will love forever, too. I love to hear about what other ways the author has made the food and what does or doesn't work when making certain dishes.

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Zilla said...

I love a cookbook that I can read like a good novel and go back to over and over again. Whether it is for a technique, or an entire recipe. My favorite cookbooks range from ones I picked up at a church bake sale to The New Best Recipe, and Joy of Cooking.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Corinna said...

I have been a big fan of the MCC cookbooks, from More with Less, to Extending the Table and more recently, Simply in Season. I like they're slant on not only good food, but being seasonal and considering how much we have in the West and how we need to be aware of over-consumption. That being said, I also love decadence (I'm such a contradiction!) and having been diagnosed with celiac disease a few years ago, have been looking for good recipes of all kinds. I like chopping tons of vegetables and using lots of garlic and olive oil and whatever else I need to get good, amazing flavours with simple ingredients. My husband and I love food of all different cultures and would travel the world and only eat if we could. I would LOVE to check out your cookbook, and any others you have recommended...they all look great.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Angela said...

I have nearly worn out Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking. No pictures, but there area few illustrations for the more difficult recipes.But,what has made this book so incredible is the first 50 pages of instruction on basics, such as debunking the myth that everything Italian is riddled with garlic, when onion is the everyday must for most Italian food. The recipes work and they are based on a strong view point.

When this book wears out, I'll buy it again.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Steph said...

I need a cookbook where the recipes can be easily adapted to be gluten free but also dairy and egg free because my 2 year old son is allergic to both. I am always looking for more cookbooks that meet this requirement since I have to cook pretty much every meal for our family!

At 6:29 PM, Blogger theater simpleton said...

It's a secret cozy feeling to read other folks comments that mirror my own, regarding my feeling about cookbooks... I too read them in bed (every recipe is a short story! Sometimes inspiring dreams, literal and culinary!)
My grandmother was the town pie and cake baker for the two hotels in her central Ohio town during the Depression, and she cared for me when my mom was at work when I was small, and my first solo sailing was reading the tapioca box, and following the instructions (including learning how to scald milk in the moment) under her eagle eye one day when I was 5. My mom used to get the packets of reader's digest cookbook cards, and I would cruise those as I got a little older, making the piles of cards (often cookies) of what I was going to make the next weekend. Then I discovered the Sunset "Chefs of the West" column, and I'd demand to get to make dinner or snacks from that once a month.
For me, inspiring pictures, delicious notes or stories, and cultural or scientific reference points are what make me sooo happy in my current cookbooks. (Ohhh, yes - totally believer in the power of food porn!) Or understanding how the business of the spice routes developed the world, not to mention entire cultures...
So many of these cookbooks sound fantastic - hoping the library will carry some of them, until I can save up to get them for my own library! Thanks for all the hot tips!

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Robin said...

A great cookbook for me has new information. I have a lot of cookbooks so it has to be completely new recipes or just a better way to cook an old favorite. I also want descriptions that make me run to my stove to start cooking.

My current favorite new cookbook is Deborah Krasner's "Good Meat." My only problem with it is it does not fit in my cookbook holder.


p.s. Interesting that you love the heart of the artichoke, I looked at it and decided there was not enough new material for me.

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Sandy said...

Oh, this is easy! What happens to the food after it's cooked - who eats it, what was the conversation, what was the atmosphere, what music was playing, what were the kids doing/saying ... And tasty recipes, too. (Thus, my book which was released 3 months ago! It has a little meaning and a little soul to it).

Thanks for the chance to win! Sandy @ Reluctant Entertainer

At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love print, and it's not dead in our house. We may have moved in over 2 years ago, and well in the twenty one feet (length) of our living room (o.k. and the stacks are now under the front window too), the books are stacked up against the wall at least three feet high. My husband is "building bookcases" but well, there's been a lot of stuff over the last two years that has kept him from getting them done. It amazes me how many people don't read or exclaim something like "WOW, you must like to read, no wonder you are so smart." when they come into our front door and see the mess of books. I'm now a lending library for a lot of these books because people ask me for recommendations all the time.

Now, I also love food. I'm passionate about delicious foods, and I cook for my friends and family all of the time. I have been cooking and baking even more exciting things since I picked up your book and have been keeping up with your blog, so thank you!

Anyways...I love cookbooks that take you on a journey and can help teach you a lesson. Anything that I can find an even trivial connection to helps hold my interest, and gets me excited. I love anything with passion or personal interest put into it. This list that you have created seems to save me from the boring recipe after recipe with no variations, tips, tidbits, advice or gossip. I love to read just about anything, and I love food, so cookbooks are a perfect match.

At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyways...I love cookbooks that take you on a journey and can help teach you a lesson. Anything that I can find an even trivial connection to helps hold my interest, and gets me excited. I love anything with passion or personal interest put into it. This list that you have created seems to save me from the boring recipe after recipe with no variations, tips, tidbits, advice or gossip. I love to read just about anything, and I love food, so cookbooks are a perfect match.

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading Yotam Ottolenghi's weekly column in the Guardian and I'm completely hooked. I love his whole approach to vegetarian cuisine....thoughtful and yet lavish, not just something you can just add meat to to appease the carnivores in the family. Admittedly, many contain ingredients that are hard to source here in Indonesia, but it never stops me from trying!!

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Wow thanks for posting this list, I'd love to have even one of these great cookbooks. Hope Gluten-Free Girl and everyone had a Blessed Thanksgiving.

I am still learning how to substitute gluten-free products in traditional recipes.

Somehow I think a number of these books may provide such a challenge.

In addition, I am always looking for new and interesting ways to keep the fire going in my Kitchen and my Relationship - Of course, when my cooking is top notch so too my love life!

All the best to all who post - Best of Luck To All On Winning A Cookbook!

Cheers and Much Gluten-Free Love From NorCal!

At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great cookbook for me is one where the recipes are clear and reliable, and one that helps me think about common ingredients in new ways. I also like books that have solid explanations behind their methodology (I'm a Cooks Illustrated fan for this reason) so I feel like I'm learning more about the craft of cooking as I read and explore.

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Allison said...

A good cookbook for me is one that has pictures of all of the dishes (it is so appealing that way!) and uses simple, easy-to-find ingredients!

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What wonderful cookbooks. Thank you for taking the time to review them. Cooking is a right of passage in my family. No one is formally trained, but many have owned restaurants both in the US and in Greece. When I was a toddler I lived with my mom above my grandparents bakery. My point is I have a wealth of experience cooking and baking, but lack in the technical aspects. I look for cookbooks that are precise with science behind them. A book I can learn the mechanics, if you will.


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