Recipes for crisp fruit pies, cookies that involve multiple steps over several days, fresh appetizers and soul-satisfying pasta and pizza can be found in the dog-eared pages of my six favorite cookbooks.
Before you google your next potential dinner recipe, grab a cookbook from your shelf. Let serendipity guide your next meal.
I've always loved to read, especially non-fiction, even as a kid. I love to know how things work. So that's why I have a fondness for cookbooks. I find out by reading them, how a recipe works ingredient by ingredient, step by step.
My Six Favorite Cookbooks
1. Martha Stewart's Appetizers
Confession time: I could live on nothing but appetizers, cocktails and desserts. I like to make an appetizer to start a weekend meal. I don't always have time but when I do, I reach for Martha's book. "Appetizers" has lots of photos to tease the palate and more than 200 recipes. I can always find something to make, whether simple spiced nuts or more substantial sliders and mini chicken flautas. There are also cocktail recipes. Sour cherry mojito anyone?
2. Ratio by Michael Ruhlman
Oh Michael Ruhlman, you are the food writer I aspire to be. Ruhlman has written dozens of books but Ratio is one of my favorites because again, I like to know the formula behind things, including recipes. Ruhlman provides the formulas for all kinds of recipes, including bread dough, cookie dough, pie dough, crepe, vinaigrette, stock and more in Ratio.
3. California Pizza Kitchen by Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield
CPK is one of my favorite chain restaurants and their recipes, while ingredient heavy, result in really delicious meals that taste like they were made in the restaurant instead of your kitchen. Chicken Tequila Fettucini is my hands down favorite.
4. Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott
I'm a pie girl through and through. We don't, except for Mr. 13, eat birthday cakes in our family. We eat birthday pies. Southern Pies has a wide variety of recipes, including the little known Japanese Fruit Pie, one of my favorites. There are four recipes alone for chess pies as well as pie recipes according to season and a section on regional U.S. pies, like Shaker Lemon Pie (New England) and Key Lime Pie (Florida Keys.)
5. Cookie Love by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy
Next to a good pie, I love nothing more than a good cookie. Mindy Segal owns Hot Chocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar in Chicago and loves cookies so much she has sworn to always have a cookie on her dessert menu.
I love Cookie Love because it has recipes I've never seen anywhere else, like peanut butter peanut brittle cookies or Black Sabbath---that's a chocolate sandwich cookie stuffed with peppermint frosting and dipped into chocolate. Segal's passion for cookies and baking seems to seep from the pages.
6. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (1953 edition)
So, I don't cook very often from this one, but it does contain my favorite gingersnap recipe. This book had belonged to my father's mother who died when I was a young girl. It's special to me just because it was hers. I don't have many things of hers other than a photo and her faculty for language.
This vintage BHG is fun to look through because it harkens back to a time in the U.S. post WWII when women were ostensibly planning teas and dinner parties. This edition of BHG has lots of menu ideas. How about whipping up a hamburger pie and "vegetable salad trays" for your next Good-Neighbor Get-together? 🙂
How to Read More
Always, keep a book on your passenger seat.
You never know when you're going to be stuck in a bank line or a car wash line and have five to ten minutes to dive in.
I got through the first chapter of Fahrenheit 451 while waiting for my turn in the car wash today!
Put your car in neutral and put the emergency brake on and read a page or two.
Until the line starts moving, then put the book down of course.