My Favorite Cookbooks


I enjoy cooking quite a lot. Something about the artistry of making food that is both beautiful and delicious appeals to me. Some nights, dinner is simple and no-fuss, but it’s calming nonetheless to get in the kitchen and slide into the rhythm of preparing a meal. I’ll either make something up on the fly, or flip through one of a number of simple, quick-cooking cookbooks and magazines I keep in my pantry. Other times, I have a little more time and energy to create a more purposeful, inspired meal. On these occasions, I turn to one of my favorite cookbooks to come up with something really special. These books all have amazing recipes, but even more, are beautiful to look at, interesting to read, and challenge me to be a better, more patient and skillful home cook. I hope one (or more) of them inspires you, too.

My favorite cookbooks

From bottom to top:

Fire in My Belly is Atlanta chef Kevin Gillespie’s (formerly of the Woodfire Grill and Top Chef) cookbook. It’s a bit all over the map with continental cuisine, fancied up Southern classics, and bad-for-you food that’s been made a little better. It’s written in Kevin’s affable, no-nonsense style, and his stories of family gatherings growing up outside of Atlanta remind me of my own childhood.

Boston Uncommon is published by the Junior League of Boston, and has a distinctly New England feel. Each section provides a photographic tour of one of Boston’s distinctive neighborhoods, and several famous Boston chefs and restaurants – including Ming Tsai and the Parker House Hotel – have contributed recipes. At $14 plus shipping, it’s a steal, and benefits a worthy cause, too.

Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan takes the fear out of canning and preserving with creative, delicious recipes for small batches of jams, jellies, pickles, and more. With CSA season beginning this week, I’m excited to re-open this one to begin planning how to make the most of our produce bounty.

Super Natural Every Day is the second cookbook from food blogger Heidi Swanson. Her recipes focus on whole, simple foods in interesting combinations, and the results are amazing. While this book is vegetarian, those who must have meat with every meal will find the recipes easily adapted to an omnivorous diet.

Poulet by Cree LeFavour is just what it sounds like – an entire book dedicated to chicken. I eat no pork and very little red meat, and so I end up eating a lot of chicken which, let’s admit, can be a bit boring. This book, gifted to me by a dear friend, is divided by type of cuisine (American, continental, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc.) and contains recipes for complete meals that are flavorful and diverse. There is not a dry chicken breast to be found in its pages.

Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon has renewed my focus on the most important meal of the day. Divided into four seasonal chapters, which are then subdivided into weekdays, weekends, and brunch, this little book has tons of recipes, both sweet and savory, that are seasonal and health-conscious, but don’t skimp on the good stuff.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman is full of new twists on traditional fare, without a lot of fuss or expensive ingredients. Nonetheless, the results are amazing (and even more so considering they were created in Deb’s teeny NYC kitchen). I’ve long been a fan of the eponymous blog that preceded it, and this book did not disappoint. I have countless recipes dogeared, and the only problem I’m facing is which one to make first.

Last but not least is my homemade, wrinkled, cobbled together bunch of recipes that I’ve printed and clipped from here and there, and bound together with rings and divider tabs. It’s not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination, but contains some of my tried-and-true favorites that are perfect for weeknights and holidays alike. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour through my favorite cookbooks. Now it’s your turn to tell me: What are your favorite cookbooks? What makes them special?

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This entry was posted by Erin Fortney on Monday, June 2nd, 2014 at 9:35 am and is filed under Cooking & DIY, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Daisy says:

    Smitten Kitchen is up there for me. I also love Ad Hoc a Home for fancy nights, my 1970’s copy of the Joy of Cooking, Art Smith’s “Back to the Table” and Cooking Light’s regular old dinner cookbook- lots of good staples.

    • Erin says:

      Good call on “Joy of Cooking.” I don’t use mine as often as I should; hence, it got overlooked. It’s a great staple for technique, too.

      I’ve been on a books-by-food-bloggers kick lately, in case that wasn’t glaringly obvious. I’m hoping that one day Jen Yu will write a cookbook. and, next on my list to buy is David Lebovitz’ “My Paris Life.”

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