Are you still shopping? I sure am! In fact, I've only just begun. Gift guides can be a big help when you're busy and looking for new and creative gift ideas. I love getting and giving cookbooks! I think they make great host/hostess gifts instead of the standard bottle of wine, especially if you know the hosts enjoy cooking or would like to learn more about cooking.
Click these links to read the previous guides if you missed them or want to revisit them: 14 Favorite Kitchen Essentials That Make Great Gifts, Nutrition and Body Books for Parents and Kids and 7 Nutrition and Body Books for Adults. We hope these guides help you find some great gifts for loved ones or for YOURSELF! (Who doesn't buy themselves a few gifts while shopping for others?!)
Anyone who's been to my house has seen my shelves of cookbooks (and there are even more on shelves in the basement). I absolutely love cookbooks! I've been know to read them like novels. There’s always a stack next to my bed sitting amidst the other books I’m reading. A babysitter gave me my first cookbook when I was 9 or 10. I still have it! You can always learn something new when you open up a cookbook. A great cookbook will teach you to cook with easy to follow instructions and a reasonable number of easy to find ingredients. (There are great cookbooks that teach challenging techniques that include recipes with lots of ingredients, but that’s not what this guide is about). A cookbook can also offer a trip to new parts of the world, history lessons, and even some science. Cookbooks offer opportunities for creativity - combining taste, texture, and colors in new or different ways. In great cookbooks, each author’s writing style and the photography or drawings also pull you in. Wonderful cookbooks will make you feel inspired and empowered to cook.
Our Current Favorite Cookbooks
This year I've added a couple of new favorites! And I've left the standard favorites - cookbooks that make cooking accessible and a few that delve more deeply into cooking and food.
What are your favorite cookbooks?
Cookbooks for the New or Experienced Cook
Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat
This book is the first on the list because it’s still one of my current favorites. I love everything about this book! The first half of the book is divided into 4 sections that correspond to the 4 words of the title. You’ll learn how each element works and how to use them in your cooking. The illustrations are more intricate than those you find in most cookbooks. In "How to Use This Book," Nosrat writes that the choice to use illustrations instead of photos is to prevent you from feeling like there's only one way for a dish to look. If you’re interested in food and the science of cooking and want to learn the essential elements, get this book! Most of the recipes are easy to follow with just a few ingredients.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch the Netflix episodes, (you can watch the trailer here) make sure you put this at the top of your list. This 4 part series warms my heart. I know that might seem hard to believe, but it’s such a pleasure to watch.
Melissa Clark is a cookbook author and food writer. This book came out in 2017. It's filled with accessible recipes and international flavors. I especially love the section on eggs. I've made the Za'atar Chicken with Lemon Yogurt a number of times and it's a winner! (Where do you get the middle easter spice mixture called Za'atar if your niece doesn't bring it to you from a trip to Lebanon? You can buy it here.) I leave out the ingredients that are optional and I double the Za'atar chicken recipe so there are plenty of leftovers for lunches for me and Chad. My children aren't fans of this particular dish, but I'll keep making this because they might change their minds eventually. Tonight I'm actually making the Brussels Sprouts and Penne with Bacon and Pecorino (or parmesan in my case because I don't have any pecorino cheese).
Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman
After we posted this guide last year, a number of people told me how much they love the Smitten Kitchen cookbooks. I follow her on social media and love her recipes (especially her Apple Cider Caramels! They're incredible!) so decided to go ahead and get her more recent book. I haven't made anything in it yet because I only recently purchased it. I felt comfortable recommending it here since I've made quite a few of the recipes from her blog and been happy with them. I'm looking forward to trying out the Crispy Tofu and Broccoli and the Wild Mushroom Shepherds Pie. I'll let you know how they turn out when I make them.
What are your favorite recipes from Smitten Kitchen Every Day?
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
This is one of Anna and her husband, Dan's, go-to cookbooks. Anna loves the book because everything is explained in a straightforward way. The recipes are simple and have just a few ingredients. Dan likes the book because the recipes don’t require buying unusual ingredients that are only used once and then end up sitting in the refrigerator for ages.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
I love this book because it’s filled with easy to follow techniques and a ton of ideas for vegetarian meals. Throughout the book, Bittman provides lists like "39 Vegetable and Legume Dishes That Can be Tossed with Pasta" and "39 Dishes That Can Be Stir-Fried with Asian Noodles" and the page numbers where you can find these easy recipes. These are just 2 of the many useful lists that direct you to recipes throughout the book. If you want to own only one cookbook about basic vegetarian cooking you can’t go wrong with this one.
Cookbooks for your friend or family member who wants to dig deeper into cooking
Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Alice Waters started the farm to table movement with her restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. This cookbook is a great gift for someone who wants to learn some simple cooking techniques using seasonal ingredients. It goes a few steps beyond teaching the basics.
Sunday Suppers at Lucques - by Suzanne Goin
There are some incredible recipes in this book. I love the way it’s organized too; by season with different menus for each season. Goin shares her love of food and cooking with the seasons. The recipe for sweet corn, green cabbage, and bacon is a favorite with my family. So is the herb roast pork Loin with mustard breadcrumbs.
At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells
All of her cookbooks are wonderful, but this one is a particular favorite. The recipe intros are lovely to read and leave you feeling like you’re right there in Provence. The recipes are seasonal and simple for the most part. The Provencal carrots are a big hit - even with the cooked carrot naysayers. (I use tarragon instead of olives in the recipe).
Ottolenghi Simple - Yotam Ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi is the Israeli-born British chef of the famed Ottolenghi delis and NOPI restaurant in London. Some of the recipes call for ingredients you might not happen to have around like sumac and pomegranate molasses, to name a few. But once you have these special ingredients, you'll find other recipes in Simple that call for them. I’m super excited to dive into this book and get cooking. I’ve looked through it and there are SO many recipes I want to try. If you have this book already, what recipes have you tried?
What are your favorite cookbooks? We love hearing from our readers!
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