I love to cook. Making tasty, healthy food is both my favorite hobby and the best, daily medicine that I can give myself and my husband. Chinese medicine understands that food is medicine, not just something to temporarily amuse your tastebuds. What you put in has a dramatic affect on your well-being. Eating a healthy diet is the very best thing you can do for yourself, both to keep your body well and to recover from illness.
I’ve always enjoyed reading cookbooks. When I get a new one I tend to read it like a novel and plan future menus. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a collection. There are some that I go back to week after week and others that gradually end up at our neighborhood Goodwill. The following is a list of my current top ten cookbooks.
With Christmas rapidly approaching, I would recommend any of these books as a gift for your friends who love to cook. They also make a great gift for yourself!
1. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison. I received this book last Christmas and have been cooking from it almost weekly ever since. It’s a huge book with recipes for every occasion. Madison’s recipes are often fairly simple and rely on simple, good-quality ingredients to create delicious results. This book gives you options to make each thing as complicated or as simple as you like. After a year of cooking from this book, I still feel like there are a lot of recipes left to explore.
2. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food, Mark Bittman. Another gift from ’09. I love this cookbook! Bittman gives several variations for almost every recipe giving you flavor options no matter what you prefer to eat. This cookbook gives you the blueprint on how to make a variety of different types of foods. After a year of working with this book (and the next one on the list), I feel more comfortable stepping away from my cookbooks to create my own dishes.
3. How to Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, Mark Bittman. Similar to his vegetarian book, but with some meat dishes. Bittman’s books feel like modern Betty Crocker cookbooks. His recipes are healthy and delicious and represent how we eat now.
4. Passionate Vegetarian, Cresent Dragonwagon. The name of this book says it all–it’s passionate food for passionate eaters. The recipes in this book tend to have long ingredient lists and can be more complicated than some of the other books on this list, but don’t let that put you off. Everything I’ve made from this book has been delicious. I especially appreciate how much garlic she uses! I love garlic almost as much as she does, but I do find myself cutting back a bit from her exuberant quantities just so I know I won’t chase everyone out of the room with my garlic breath.
5. The New Moosewood Cookbook (Mollie Katzen’s Classic Cooking), Mollie Katzen. This was my first vegetarian cookbook. It’s a cross between old-school ’60s vegetarian and a more modern and healthy approach (which seems to mean less cheese and butter. . .).
6.Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, Moosewood Collective. What, another cookbook called “Moosewood?” The Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY. I believe Mollie Katzen got her start there, hence the name of her book in #5. This cookbook is put out by the current collective of chefs running the restaurant. The recipes are simple, delicious and healthy.
7. Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant, Moosewood Collective. Yes, another Moosewood book. I think this was my second or third vegetarian cookbook. This is a book for fans of ethnic foods. It’s divided into sections based on region–i.e. North Africa, or British Isles. I can’t say how authentic the flavors are, but they’ve done a good job presenting some exotic recipes that can be made with items purchased in the average American grocery store (well, mostly).
8. Vegetarian Planet, Didi Emmons. Local Boston chef and owner of Veggie Planet restaurant in Harvard Square, Emmons recipes are fairly simple, tasty and healthy. I’ve made her “Homestyle Brown Rice Pilaf” recipe so many times that I’ve worn it out (very sad!).
9. Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes From The Celebrated Greens Restaurant, Annie Somerville. Another chef that relies on simple, fresh ingredients to create clean flavors. Her pasta recipes are especially nice–quick to pull together, delicious and often impressive enough to serve to guests.
10. Tom Fitzmorris’s New Orleans Food: More than 225 of the City’s Best Recipes to Cook at Home. Fitzmorris is a well-respected, long-time food critic in New Orleans. This cookbook contains most of the city’s most famous dishes. I’ve listed it as #10 on this list because while New Orleans cuisine is delicious, it’s not terribly healthy. I heard a joke once that New Orleans natives look suspiciously on a recipe doesn’t contain at least a stick of butter and some cream. I tend to stay away from the rich, creamy dishes, and have been making my roux with olive oil instead of butter with good results. This is a book to cook from when you’re o.k. with splurging.
These are some of the books that keep my kitchen humming. I hope one of them will seem just right for the chef on your shopping list.