I have lots of beautiful cookbooks, but I don't use them all on a regular basis. Totally guilty of having many a book that sits forgotten on my shelf after I've gazed at the photos and read through the recipes.
However, not all of my cookbooks are destined collect dust: some I rely on and use time and time again. Books covered in sticky food splatters and little post-it notes with recipe modifications and reminders scribbled on them. I took some time over the last week or so to sort through my most-used books to narrow it down to the top 5 based on how many recipes I've made from them this past year, and how often I use them.
So, without further ado, here they are in decending order of usage:
It's no secret that I eat a lot of baking, so having healthy lunches and dinners helps to balance things out. I've always been a fan of America's Test Kitchen's recipes and this book has come in handy throughout the past year for tasty yet healthy dinners. I've made a number of the recipes, but the ones that we make over and over are the classic comfort food dishes:
- Chicken and Dumplings
- Tex-Mex Chicken and Brown Rice
- Sloppy Joes
The book isn't nearly as pretty nor as packed with photos as many of my other cookbooks, but the recipes work and work well, which is the most important part.
Fourth on the list is another America's Test Kitchen book. Again it's because the book does exactly as it promises: gives you recipes that work. These ones are quick recipes, not necessarily healthy ones, but lots of options for fast weekday meals.
The recipe we probably use the most from this book is the quick Thai curry. In fact, for a while we made it for frequently that I needed to take a break from it for a few months from Thai curry overdose. Other recipes we liked were:
- Skillet Goulash
- Fish Tacos with Avocado
- Salmon with Asparagus and Chive Butter Sauce
I absolutely adore this book. It has that perfect combination of beautiful photos, interesting tips and tricks, and tons of practical recipes. My brother bought it for me a few years ago and it's the book that taught me the basics of canning. At this point, I feel comfortable enough to use the recipes as guidelines and play around with ingredients, but I've also followed the majority of the recipes to the letter and have always been happy with the results.
Liana Krissoff's recipes use less sugar and apple cores for extra pectin instead of packages of pectin which results in a softer set jam that is intensely fruit flavored.
My copy is very sticky.. the sign of a well-used canning book.
It's hard to pick favorite recipes from this one, because I enjoy them all so much. But if I must narrow it down then I'll go with:
- Apricot and Vanilla Bean Preserves
- Brandied Sweet Cherries with Red Wine
- Strawberry Jam
- Classic Peach Jam
If you're in the market for a new canning book, or are curious to try canning for the first time then I highly recommend this book.
One of my New Year's goals for 2013 was to learn how to make Chinese food. Throughout the year I built a collection of Chinese cookbooks and I'm sad to say that some of them ended up being pretty disappointing. Usually they were filled with recipes that called for a frying pan instead of a wok and used solely pre-made sauces. Basically offering North American food with a slightly Asian twist. So when I stumbled upon books like Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice it was like a breath of fresh air.
The recipes are authentic Chinese home cooking recipes with a tendency towards Szechuan flavors. Vinegary, garlicy, sweet, and spicy notes appear in many of the sauces, and it has an impressive vegetable and tofu recipe selection in addition to the usual meat and seafood dishes.
This book has become my go-to book for side dishes and quick main dishes when we're having a Chinese meal. When I first started making Chinese food I would often have to pick up a bottle of a sauce or spice I didn't have. But after trying 4 - 5 recipes, my Chinese cooking pantry was complete and making a dish was as simple as picking up the meat or vegetable because everything else was on hand.
- Everyday Stir-Fried Chicken
- Stir-Fried Egg with Tomatoes
- Spinach in Ginger Sauce
- Silken Tofu with Avocado
- Fish-Fragrant Eggplant
The number one, most used cookbook on my shelf this year was Grace Young's amazing collection of stir-fry recipes. My boyfriend bought it for me for Christmas last year and after making the majority of the recipes from it, I have yet to find one that we didn't enjoy. That James Beard Award is on there for a reason people, this book has some seriously good stuff inside.
This was my first introduction to stir-frying so the tips and instructions on how to do it properly were much appreciated.
We've tried a number of cashew chicken recipes from various blogs and books, but the one in her book is our favorite by far. The only note I would make (and I've seen it mentioned on other reviews of this book) is that the salt in pretty much all of the recipes can be reduced by almost half. It's a minor, easy change to make and the book is worth it for all the deliciousness tucked away inside.
We also love:
- Stir-Fried Chicken with Pineapple and Peppers
- Stir-Fried Ginger tomato Beef
- Vinegar Glazed Chicken
- Stir-Fried Lettuce with Garlic Chili
- Stir-Friend Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms
The reason that this books sliiiightly edges out Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice for the number one spot on my illustrious list is that I got it much earlier in the year and had more time to work my way through the recipes. It focuses soley on stir-frying which was great for helping my technique, but left a gap when it came to meals in terms of cold dishes, steamed dishes, or braised dishes. Dunlop's book fills those gaps nicely and adds an interesting Szchuan kick to our dinners.
So if you're looking to add to your recipe repotoire, or need a gift for a food loving friend, consider grabbing one (or all) of these books. I know we've certainly gotten our money's worth from them!
I'm always on the hunt for a new collection of recipes, what cookbooks would make your list? Let me know so I can try them out too!