Saturday, April 14, 2012

Off my shelf: My 3 Favorite Cookbooks

My clients and I are always looking for new amazing, delicious inspiring recipes to help build our cooking repertoire and expand our ideas about what to eat. My home eating is very much based on fresh, simple ingredients. I often tell people: I don't get fancy. I get real.

I'm no cookbook connoisseur, but I've looked at my fair share of recipes both online and in books and have found that there are some sources that are just reliably better than others. What I generally value in a recipe or cookbook is simplicity, taste (deliciousness), time (quick), and use of ingredients that I have on hand or can easily get and continue to use.

Here are my top 3 cookbooks from my own shelf at home:

Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source (with more than 200 recipes for a health and sustainable you) by Terry Walters. Why I love it: the layout follows the seasons, the flavors are simple and beautiful (think fresh modern California mingles with some Asian), she's got kids to please and still features tons of veggies! The cuisine is definitely Asian-influenced - though don't be afraid that you don't have all the ingredients, most are easily substituted with others that you already have (ie. rice or white wine vinegar in place of mirin) without . Plus there are some great staple recipes in here that I go to all the time: Baked Maple Mustard Tempeh, Savory "Unbaked" Beans, and Maple Nut Granola (the foundation for my Christmas gifts one year). Make sure to try the Mochi Dumplings (especially if you love dumplings and want a healthy make-at-home version as much as I do) and the Warm Greens with Citrus Dressing and Pomegranate. All recipes are vegan and gluten-free but can easily be adapted if you'd prefer or are used to having other ingredients on hand. Her follow-up book, Clean Start is supposed to be just as amazing...

Complete Vegetarian Kitchen: Where Good Flavors and Good Health Meet by Lorna Sass. This is a book I sometimes gift to my clients because it is so accessible and appeals to almost everyone. Why I love it: the clean and healthy but familiar melting pot spread of American recipes always turn out great, the recipes are simple (it has lots of "basics" recipes that are sooo handy to have around for reference when cooking almost anything) and use ingredients I know and often already have on hand. Most of her recipes offer standard stovetop and pressure cooker directions and cook times. I don't own a pressure cooker (yet!) but have to say that every time I look at the difference in cook times, I feel like I'm missing out. If your kitchen already sports one, don't wait another moment to get this book! It's been in print for a while (some editions have different covers) and is one I can often find at second-hand book stores.

D.I.Y Delicious: Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food from Scratch by Vanessa Barrington. If you love sumptuous food pictures, this one's for you (also check out her website and blog - she's a SF Bay Area local!). Why I love it: thanks to this book, I now make my own kickin' grainy mustard (sooo easy!), I've made my own cultured butter, yogurt, and creme fraiche (also way easier than you might think and such an incredible treat - and savings - to have home-made). It's been a seriously simple education as to how to make all kinds of simple food pleasures and staples a part of my life: butter, yogurt, crackers, granola, mustard, ketchup, sourdough starter, sauerkraut and red wine vinegar. AND then she gives tantalizing follow-up recipes to show you how to make the most out of the basics. Fantastic book for anyone who loves to say "I made that!" and know that it tastes 100 times better and more authentic because of it. If you want to slow down and get in touch with the simple pleasure of food and cooking, this is the one.

I get stuck sometimes looking for new recipes and inspiration too, though! What are your favorite cookbooks? What do you love about them?

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