Best Cookbooks for Beginners




In honor of tonight’s Opening Ceremony, I’d love your help declaring gold medalists in the cookbooks for amateurs category.  Here’s what I want to know- what book was most helpful when you were just getting started?

For me, it was the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, which had me hunting down quark (an oddly-named member of the farmer’s cheese family) and stirring curry-laden yogurt into sweet potatoes for an unexpectedly spicy and sweet one-dish dinner.  Sounds healthy and hippy-ish, right? It was yummy too and it got the job done.  Every recipe was a success (or a near-success.  Okra stew?  Not so much.) which gave me the confidence to start experimenting.

For easy entertaining, any Ina book will leave its competitors in the dust.  Don’t you agree?

What book first made you feel like a kitchen superstar?

xx Sarah


7 Comments on Best Cookbooks for Beginners

  1. Joanna
    July 27, 2012 at 6:59 am (11 years ago)

    Ina! Ina taught me how to cook how my mom had been cooking my whole life — just with a great array of recipes. Yes, she goes very heavy on the butter/oil/cream, but that’s easy to customize. Her books are getting a little repetitive (Srsly Ina, you didn’t think we’d notice your lemon pound cake is the exact same as the orange pound cake, except you switched the juice/zest?), but I’ll still buy every one. Also, the pictures are incredibly helpful to get an idea of what you’re undertaking and how it should look at the end.

  2. Vanessa
    July 27, 2012 at 8:33 am (11 years ago)

    Quark is the best! Grew up with it in Germany. Am in fact planning to make a German quark dessert this weekend for brunch. My favorite first eureka-moment cookbook was the River Cafe (Italian) Easy Cookbook, from the River Cafe in London. The first pages on tasty variations of bruschetta saved me so many times with drop-in guests!

  3. emily @ the happy home
    July 27, 2012 at 9:31 am (11 years ago)

    my first “major” cookbook was moosewood, too! but i will say that the one i cooked the most out of when i first started living alone was just a book of budget vegetarian recipes… college life, ftw.

  4. Jessi
    July 28, 2012 at 5:29 am (11 years ago)

    When I became a Nanny and had to start cooking meals for the family I cared for my GoTo cookbook was the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It helped me learn how to prepare classic American standards. I still refer to it for ratios and technique tips.

    We’re all singing Ina’s praises though! Her recipes are tried and true. For the beginner she’s great because she applies many if the same techniques to different recipes, resulting in dishes that turn out perfect every time.

    Great blog post! Thanks!
    Jessi North Florida

  5. Sarah
    July 30, 2012 at 12:27 am (11 years ago)

    You guys, these are so great! @Vanessa- the River Cafe book is so gorgeous. I remember borrowing it from a friend and making the olive oil cake. There’s a big spread in this month’s Bon App about Judy Rodgers in Tuscany.
    @Emily- vegetarian definitely takes the cake when first learning!
    @ Jessi, is the Better Homes and Garden Book have the red gingham cover? My college roommate cooked from it constantly and we had the best meals!
    @Jo, November 11th, my friend, November 11th. Babies like Ina too.

    Another suggestion from my mom- Giuliano Hazan’s The Classic Pasta Cookbook. He has amazing photos that show all the prepped ingredients laid out in a circle so you see everything that goes in to each dish. It’s such an easy way to absorb a recipe.

  6. silver price
    August 22, 2012 at 10:25 am (11 years ago)

    This book delivers exactly what its title promises: River Cafe food that’s much quicker and easier to prepare than in their previous books. I love all the River Cafe books but it has to be said that, especially during the working week, I’m not always up to the lengthy preparation and constant involvement with the cooking that they so often require. So, for me, this is the perfect mid-week cookbook and it has quickly won a place on the kitchen bookshelf chez-moi. The recipes are significantly simpler than in the other books: they have shorter, less exotic ingredients lists and the methods are less involved and require less preparation. What’s not compromised is the success of the dishes: perfectly judged flavours and endlessly fascinating combinations. So the end result is an excellent River Cafe style meal that takes far less time and effort to prepare than you’d believe from the taste. This book should be on every food lover’s shelf, when it’s not open on the kitchen counter that is!

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