Our Staff’s Favorite Cookbooks

Looking for a great cookbook? Our staff weighs in on their all-time faves.

A person cooks while consulting a recipe book.

The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

I don’t follow any particular diet these days, but for a brief time in graduate school, I made a shoddy attempt at veganism. I was the sort of vegan who ate a lot of French fries, if you know what I mean. That same year, my mother gifted me this tome by Deborah Madison, and even as I’ve brought eggs and meat back to my plate in the intervening years, this cookbook has remained my favorite reference for basic veggie things. It’s so thorough it’s practically encyclopedic. On those weekends when I just wander to the farmers’ market and pick out whatever looks good, I can rely on this book to offer me at least a handful of great ideas for how to use it. Kaelyn Riley, Senior Editor 

Against All Grain Celebrationsby Danielle Walker

There’s nothing more fulfilling to me than clearing a few hours to plan and prepare a “fun” dish — usually for a special occasion. Blogger and paleo-chef Danielle Walker has tried-and-true classics for every holiday and event throughout the year. Her approach is always grain-free, and mainly dairy-free, and pretty uncomplicated. Mini corndogs for a kids’ party — no problem. Legume-free baked beans — check. Chocolate pecan tart no one in my family knows is free of refined sugar — nailed it. Laura Fogelberg, Audience Development Manager­–Marketing

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan and Mediterranean Cookery, by Claudia Roden

Most Italians (and even some French) maintain that the true glories of French cuisine came from Italy, as French royalty often hired Italian chefs way back when. Jump forward several centuries and Marcella Hazan became the Italian ambassador of the kitchen to Americans. Her various collections were akin to Julia Child’s masterpiece, filled with charming commentary and staunchly held opinions, yet with vastly simpler recipes (and without the tipsy asides). Around our home, the go-to Hazan cookbook is a well-traveled, spine-broken, ingredient-stained copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Hazan came from the Adriatic coastal city of Cesenatico, and so was a great proponent of the heavier pork- and dairy-based foods of Emilia-Romagna, helping champion that region as the capitol of Italian cuisine. But, don’t forget the other regions — especially the soul of the “boot” of Italy, including Sicily. For recipes from these regions, Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean Cookery is our fave — and without doubt our kitchen’s most-used cookbook all around. It’s a slim guide, yet the dishes are well chosen and wonderfully flavorful, taking you beyond Italy and around the Mediterranean as far as Spain, Morocco, and the Middle East. Michael Dregni, Deputy Editor

How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman

“Cooking isn’t magic, and it shouldn’t be difficult either.” This is the opening line of the first chapter of How to Cook Everything, and hands down my favorite thing I’ve ever read from any cookbook. Bittman makes it all seem easy and eminently doable — whenever I have a yen for, say, mixing up my own pizza dough, or making tortellini from scratch, or cooking a whole fish, I turn to this book. Kaelyn Riley, Senior Editor

Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, by Najmieh Batmanglij

When I think back on my childhood, it smells like onions frying on the stove with turmeric. It looks like kebabs, marinated in pomegranate and parsley, skewered and waiting for a hot grill. It sounds like saffron-stained tahdig — the quintessential “crispy rice” of Persian cooking — crackling between my teeth. It tastes like khorest, stews filled with veggies and braised meat, bursting with the tangy flavor of dried limes, limu, that have exploded in the thick broth.

These sense memories of growing up in a Persian household are visceral, but completely unhelpful when I left home and wanted to cook on my own. Calls to my mom and dad, the latter of whom owned a restaurant serving Iranian cuisine in New York City, ended in frustration when “recipes” turned out to be incomplete grocery lists, imprecise measurements, and barely approximate cooking times.

My parents cooked based on feel, and I ate based on feel. Cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij helped me bridge the gap and bring the foods I loved into my own kitchen.

Her book, Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, is the cookbook I reach for most often. The title is English for noosh-e jan, which translates loosely as “food of life” or “soul food” and is our equivalent of bon appetit. It’s a blessing of nourishment with which Iranians begin each meal. New Food of Life has hundreds of recipes, including those for my favorite dishes as well as many I’ve never heard of. They hail from regions across Iran and are accompanied by stories of heritage and holiday.

Food of Life is a gem in my collection.

I’ve used Batmanglij’s recipes for the better part of a decade. Whereas I once cooked them verbatim, I now consider the collection a reference. “That’s not how Momo makes it,” became my refrain. I’ve grown accustomed to cooking outside the lines and adapting recipes to my memories.

For instance, I leave out garlic, because my mom is allergic and I never grew used to the flavor. I double or triple the amount of acid in the form of lemon juice and dried limes. I use a combination of butter and oil in my rice, but never make tahdig with yogurt, potato, or bread. And like my parents before me, I don’t measure anything.

Batmanglij knows the value of not only region, but family — and more specifically, family member — in creating our food of life. She encourages adaptation, as that is how the foods developed in the first place.

Noosh-e jan. Maggie Fazeli Fard, Senior Editor

Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

Joy of Cooking is my very favorite cookbook. In an age where we can look up any recipe in seconds, this is still a cookbook that I refer to frequently. I use it as a foundation or a jumping-off point when I want to riff on a recipe that I have found elsewhere. Joy of Cooking is very-well categorized, relatable, and tried and true — all the recipes are tested by the authors and the editions that have come before. I also have an old version of Joy of Cooking from the 1960s that belonged to my grandfather. He was a professional restaurateur and used Joy of Cooking for many of his daily specials and for his salad-dressing recipes. My copy has scores of dog-eared pages and drips and stains on it, which I love. My own copy of Joy of Cooking, which I have been using for almost 25 years, is also showing its age — it pretty much opens instinctively to my favorite recipe, Gorgonzola Stuffed Chicken Breasts. My second favorite is Roasted Turkey with Gravy. (I refer to the Joy of Cooking’s method of preparing turkey every year at Thanksgiving.) Oh, and in the potatoes section the recipe for Gratin Dauphinois . . . delicious! Ann Gabrielli, Business Specialist/Office Manager

My New Rootsby Sarah Britton

This is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks because it’s organized exactly how I grocery shop — seasonally! The author is a plant-based holistic nutritionist, and while, yes, the recipes are healthy, food simply tastes better when it’s grown and picked exactly how nature intended. The beauty of cooking this way extends beyond produce proximity and fresher flavors — it’s what I’m actually craving during any given season. Everything is vegetarian and mostly vegan and gluten-free — roasted pumpkin with tangerine-tahini sauce anyone? — and very adaptable for meat eaters. Laura Fogelberg, Audience Development Manager–Marketing

The Oh She Glows Cookbookby Angela Liddon

This cookbook, named after Liddon’s eponymous vegan food blog, is the only cookbook I own that’s actually falling apart from use. I love the front matter — I feel like I could spend an entire weekend just reading lists of various home chefs’ favorite cooking tools and pantry ingredients — but, more importantly, there’s not a bad recipe in the bunch. Lots of these are on heavy rotation in my kitchen during the wintertime, including the Immunity-Boosting Tomato Sauce with Mushrooms, the Quick & Easy Chana Masala, and the Soul-Soothing African Peanut Stew. Kaelyn Riley, Senior Editor

Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey

This slim, inauspicious paperback was one of Madhur Jaffrey’s first cookbooks. While Jaffrey’s since authored larger, grander, and more gloriously illustrated collections, she covers many fundamentals here. Jaffrey came from the Delhi area, and this cookbook is mostly focused on northern Indian cooking styles. One of our favorites for southern Indian cooking is Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine From South Indiaby Chandra Padmanabhan. Michael Dregni, Deputy Editor 

Love Real Food, by Kathryne Taylor

I’ve long loved Taylor’s blog, Cookie and Kate, where she shares fresh vegetarian recipes and cute snaps of Cookie, her rescue dog and sous chef. I especially love this book for its front matter: a treatise on the value of whole foods, a handful of tips and techniques to boost the flavor in your veggies, and (especially unique) a list of foods that are toxic to dogs. I’ve made quite a few recipes from this cookbook (and many more from the blog), and I’ve truly never been disappointed. Kaelyn Riley, Senior Editor

Magazine recipes!

I don’t have a favorite cookbook, actually. My husband and I simply tear out delicious-sounding recipes from magazines like Eating Well, Bon Appetit, and Experience Life (of course). We found a couple of binders, bought some dividers and page protectors, and added the recipes. We organize our binders in multiple categories, such as “Breakfast,” “Salads,” “Soups,” and various meat sections. When we want to make a recipe, we just pop it out of the binder. I highly recommend it! Carrie Stafford, Audience Development Manager–Circulation


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