The Fresh Loaf

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I'm looking for a good cookbook

carrtje's picture

I'm looking for a good cookbook

Every year I choose a new cooking method/topic to work on.  I've done braising, barbecue, soups, breads (three years in a row!), and now I'm having a hard time deciding on what to do next year in 2010.

I would LOVE to hear your suggestions for a topic and a great cookbook to go with it.  In the past i've found a good book and worked my way through it.  So...what are your ideas?

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, carrtje.

I suppose the "best" suggestion depends on what kind of food you and your family like. Also, there are lots of ways of "slicing" the culinary world. Here are some thoughts with some personal favorites:

A regional cuisine: Mediterranean

"A Mediterranean Feast," by Clifford A Wright. This is an encyclopedic history of the region, its agriculture and its cuisine. It also has a few hundred recipes. Not for those who just want a good recipe for lasagna or taboule, or for those with a short attention span. It's over 800 pages. Wonderful book!

Diet Type: Vegetarian

"The Greens Cookbook," by Deborah Madison and "Fields of Greens," by Anne Somerville. You don't have to be a vegetarian to love these two wonderful cookbooks from Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. 

A specific country's approach to a food category

"Cucina del Mare: Fish and seafood Italian style," by Evan Kleiman. A very good collection of classic Italian fish and seafood recipes.

A specific ingredient and specific course

"Lucious Lemon Desserts," by Lori Longbotham. The title says it all.

Personally, I'm partial to French Bistrot, and French-Provencal cuisine. I really like all of Patricia Wells' books but especially "Bistro Cooking" and "At Home in Provence." 

If you seek maximal focus, you could easily spend a year finding the perfect Tarte au Citron recipe, but that would involve multiple books. (BTW, if this is your choice, I volunteer for jury duty.)

Let us know what you settle on.


cmkrause's picture

"A Mediterranean Feast" has been my go-to cookbook for years for when I am cooking for special occasions.  The recipes are not standard by any means.  But everything I have ever cooked from this book has received kudos from friends and family.  If you love to cook, you definitely want to add this to your collection.

Feelin Crumby's picture
Feelin Crumby

Rick Bayless has excellent cookbooks for Mexican food. After seeing him in food competitions (Top Chef, etc.) I have a great respect for his cooking.


proth5's picture

I am away from home right now, so I can't look up the title of the cookbook that I have (in French) for macarons.

I'd love to take a year and explore tha making of macarons.  I am told that it is harder than one might think and it employs two techniques - the making of the cookie itself and the making of the ganache.

There is a book "I Love Macarons"  by Hisako Ogita on Amazon that is highly rated.

If you are looking to jams and jellies, the Ball Blue Book is one place to start, but I will recommend "Preserving" by Oded Schwartz.  It has a lot of sections that are not jams/jellies but the instructions are detailed and the formulas a bit more creative than the Blue Book.  Some of my most popular jams find their inspiration there.  Be aware that preserving can become specialized equipment heavy (apologies to Alton Brown, but I find that investing in some of the unitaskers makes my heavy preserving load go a lot better) and may require the outlay of cash. (A good copper preserving pan is worth its weight in gold and with today's copper prices costs it...) I find it rewarding, though. 

Good luck with your choice!

vince hav's picture
vince hav

the popular cookbook around these southern parts is Bell's Best Cookbook. i think you can find it on the web im sure. iv seen it in a lot of homes around here. havent gotten one of my own yet. just getting started with all this.

carrtje's picture

I took one year on food preservation, so I covered jams/jellies/pickles/jerking etc. I learned enough to know there is a lifetime ahead of me in that field!

I think I'm going to go with Tapas. Anyone have a good resource?

JoMama's picture

'The Pioneer Woman Cooks - Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl'

Author:  Ree Drummond

Available via

F A N T A S T I C !

Franko's picture

 An interesting take on tapas is Asian Tapas by Christophe Megel and Anton Kilayko. Great photos and well written recipes.

davidg618's picture

I haven't purchased a cookbook in more than a decade. Before that, I'd buy two or three every year. Why? The Internet.

In the past decade I've learned to cook Russian celebratory dinners, barbeque authentically--"low and slow"; bake better breads with sourdough, poolish, biga, and plain old yeast; manage Mexican, Jamaican, and Peurto Rican specalities; and improve my skill, and more importantly my cooking's flavor on countless other foods I thought I already knew. All through the Internet, and Google searches--all for nearly free, (entirely free if i discount the web access fee)

In contrast, because I've always relied on books as my primary information resource, peer pressure--the TFL, and an overwhelming obsession with improving my bread baking skills I've purchased five bread baking books in the past year. I'm disappointed with two of them.

David G.

copyu's picture

"The Complete Asian Cookbook" is probably in the top 3 cookbooks I've ever seen. I have tried dozens of the recipes in her book and they are absolutely authentic and always turn out perfectly.

I've lived in Asia for 15 years now, and lived and travelled extensively in Asia decades ago, when I was young. Her Singaporean ('Nonya'), Chinese, Indian, Malay, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Thai, Japanese and other recipes are always 'spot-on'. I'm assuming, therefore, that her other cuisines (15 in total) are just as accurate.

The greatest strength of the book is that she makes allowances for the western kitchen and suggests alternatives, both to the methods/equipment and to the traditional seasonings that might be (or used to be) difficult or impossible to obtain outside of the recipe's 'home country'. The glossary, alone, with its alternate namings and spice descriptions is worth the price of the book, in my opinion. 

NOW, the apology...I'm not sure if this book is still in print! I haven't needed to replace my huge, very solid, paperback copy in the past 30 years or so... It's worth looking for, though, if you like Asian food.



gary.turner's picture

It' available at Amazon, The Complete Asian Cookbook [Paperback] by Charmaine Solomon. Seems to come highly recommended in spite of its hefty price tag.

n.b. The spam filter seems not to like a link to the Amazon page. :shrug:



davidg618's picture

The internet has given me access to the world. Want a Russian recipe? Swahili? Just Google it. I haven't bought a cookbook in over a decade. The culinary world is at our fingertips (i.e., keyboard).

David G


davidg618's picture



berryblondeboys's picture

Yes, the internet is great and I love the ease of using it too. MANY a recipe I have found. But there's something to be said for a good cookbook - with PICTURES.

I have several favorites - Rick Bayless (his first book is great).My new love is this one "Taming the Flame" as I tackle the grill now that we have a nice deck for easy to do outdoor cooking. My husband is from Croatia, so I look for baltic cookbooks at used bookstores all the time.


Skies the limit. Check them out at libraries first and enjoy. As much as I love the internet "at the fingertip" ease of finding the right recipe, I love discovering new things or rediscovering a forgotten favorite while thumbing through a cookbook.


Tell us what you decide to get! I might check it out (as I will check out some of these others at the library).

Urchina's picture

One of my favorite cookbooks is called "Extending the Table... a world community cookbook" by Joetta Handrich Schlabach and published by the Mennonite Central Committee. It's the sequel to "More With Less" by Doris Janzen Longacre, and has recipes from all over the world, brought back by Mennonite missionaries, peace workers and aid workers. 


It's got a lot of great recipes in it, both celebratory dishes and the simple everyday, plain fare that is dinner in much of the world. It also has a spiritual and culturally aware slant that discusses food, meals, and celebration in the context of human rights, dignity, nutrition, and politics. This makes it sound heavier than it is. I find it an uplifting read with recipes that bring us in closer contact with others in the world. Highly recommend. 

steelchef's picture

You've received lots of advice from several people.  We have about 120 cookbooks but  always go to the 'net for up-to-date versions.  Many of our old time favourites have updated versions which are much better.

belle's picture

Someone on this blog recommended

If you have not checked it out, please do.  I now visit every day and it has never failed to offer some new inspiration.

Props to the Internet!



amauer's picture

"Ready For Dessert". Super great dessert book and he is funny too!

I go with Rick Bayless too...

Bouchon by Chef Keller is a very nice book for several areas.

I learned to can with the Blue Ball Book. It is also very pretty sitting next to your canned goods.LOL! My Salsa is prize winning!

Dim Sum and curries are great fun, but I would google those too.... Andrea

amauer's picture

Ball Blue Book. It really is the "Ball Book of Canning and Preserves."