Do you, like me, savor a new cookbook like the first sip of a creamy and decadent lobster bisque? Do any of you actually READ cookbooks? Or are you drawn to them because of the aesthetically pleasing pictures of divine food creations? Do you simply dream about the food in the pictures or do you dive in and attempt a new epicurean delight? What is it that draws us to the cookbook section in a bookstore? The recipes themselves are just simple outlines to make a meal that provides nourishment, but a cookbook has the ability to influence and inspire each and every one of our creative faculties.
I myself am a LOVER of ALL cookbooks. I have way too many for my shelves and yet each one has a special meaning or purpose. They have made it through 11 moves and 14+ years of marriage. The collection just continues to grow and grow like a wellspring of life for me! Some are used every week and are very well loved (worn and taped together with notes popping out from the tattered pages) while others collect a little dust, are in pristine condition, and are pulled out for only the most special occasions. Some were given as gifts that carry a sentimental value. Others are so beautifully stunning that they have to be on display year-round. A select few are used as my reference tools for when I’m trying my hand at a new technique or ingredient. And some are my own personal collection of recipe favorites passed down from my family; little slips of paper pressed in between cellophane pages carefully organized into not one, or two, but four binders!!!!
But then, oh the excitement of a NEW cookbook!!! My hand cascades over the smooth, hard surface, getting a feel for its weight and admiring the beauty of the cover, anticipation growing for what I might find inside! Who created this masterpiece? I must find out if it’s worthy of my hard-earned dollars and whether it will inspire my future kitchen adventures! I begin with a quick flip through the pages to see if any pictures or recipes will jump off the page and tantalize my senses that I stop everything to read and admire the culinary creation. And then, after the initial perusal and letting its beauty simmer within me for a few minutes, I start the methodical approach of “reading” the cookbook. Yes, you heard that correctly. A cookbook to me is not just a reference book. It’s like a novel that has a story line throughout. It tells of the author’s style, knowledge, joy, and passion for their food and creations. I want to know and feel what has inspired them and take that into account as I recreate any of their recipes.
So which cookbooks do I currently LOVE?
Of course, I’ll start with the Ski Town Cookbooks! Being that I did not author these books, I can honestly say that I adore these books because they capture the essence of each mountain chef’s inspiration from so many different ski resorts. The nostalgia of having spent time at many of these restaurants and enjoying their cuisine, brings back fond memories of our own personal ski town adventures. Our senses have a unique ability to flood us with memories, the sense of smell and taste being the strongest. So, when a simple soup or après bite can transport me back to an amazing vacation spent with my family... I’m in!
Beyond the Ski Town cookbooks, here’s what I’m obsessed with right now:
The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt - OMG so much amazingness in this one cookbook!!!! I have stared at this book since it came out in 2015. It’s weighty both in size and price, so I admired it for far too long before I finally received this as a gift for my birthday this year! Yippee!!! And my, oh my, do I have so much to glean from this cookbook! This is my new go-to reference cookbook that I’m utilizing for both new techniques and helping me fine tune my old techniques. I am beyond overwhelmed at its thoroughness and have only just touched the surface of what’s in store in this one!
The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini by Cara Mangini - This is an A-Z walk through all things vegetable. With variations on how to skillfully prep each vegetable to a few key recipes for each, I’m blown away with the creativity that comes from this veggie guide. From new tips on how to hone my knives to sanitizing my wood cutting boards, Cara covers all the bases for veggie prep work and delivers amazingly delicious recipes. My artichokes will never be bland again after following Cara’s recipe for grilled and smothered artichokes!
The Forest Feast and The Forest Gatherings by Erin Gleeson - These whimsical and wonderfully creative cookbooks are all vegetarian dishes with simple preparations. Every summer, I’m drawn to these cookbooks for inspiration after being at the local farms and coming home with a bountiful harvest of fruits and veggies. I love Erin’s personal watercolors throughout and her delightfully refreshing cocktails section!
***Disclaimer: By the above recommendations, it makes it sound like I love veggies. Let’s be honest, veggies are at the bottom of the food love chain for me. I eat them because “they are good for me”, (I hear my mom’s voice in my head as I write this) and I have found ways to prepare them that I enjoy. But I’m also a total veggie snob. If I’m going to eat them, I want them to be bursting with flavor, in season, and vine ripened! This is hard to come by in a ski town when more than half the year we’re covered in snow. And it’s really hard to appreciate a starchy, out of season vegetable from a large chain grocery store when I grew up in an agricultural haven where we had fresh fruits and vegetables at our fingertips year-round. So, summertime is when I indulge in veggies and bask in their beautifully delicious and sumptuous flavors. And in winter... I find ways to use my frozen veggies from our summer harvest or eat root vegetables that sustain for longer periods. And yes, I do buy non-local produce mid-winter when I just can’t take it anymore and need to change it up a bit. But one thing I can assure you of, is that you will not catch me heating up veggies out of a can. This, my friends, is the ultimate veggie sin that one could commit. I do recognize the necessity of canned vegetables in certain circumstances, maybe even one day I’ll learn how to can my own veggies; but for now, I’d rather go without than succumb to the convenience of a canned vegetable! And so, after that tirade about my love/ hate relationship with veggies, I am forever grateful to these cookbooks that have shared their affinity for vegetables and are providing me with an appreciation for them which I never had in the past.***
Fine Cooking Magazine - And lastly, my go-to resource for new and seasonal inspiration, usually comes from the bi-monthly magazine, Fine Cooking. This food magazine is so approachable; unlike many which I find to have too lofty of the expectations for the at-home cook. There are two sections that I absolutely adore in each issue. The “Make it Tonight” meals are quick and easy, 30-minute meals which have become some of our family staples! And the second is the “Create Your Own Recipes!” I love these because they give an outline to follow, but lots of room for creativity and personalizing it to your own tastes. I’m emulating this concept right now and building out a few of my own family recipes that I hope to share with you all soon! Get excited....
So now we want to know...
What are your go-to inspiration cookbooks, magazines, blogs? What cookbook has rocked your culinary world? Please share with us so we too can be continually inspired to create!