I have a problem; I like to eat at a different restaurant in my own home ever night. I go through recipes and cookbooks like it’s my job. Oh, wait, it is kind of my job. Usually I am the internet recipe guru, but lately I have been liking the feel of real pages and hardcovers as I cook.
The best meals I have ever eaten have been in people’s homes. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating out, especially when it means that I don’t have to cook. But there is something about a table in someone’s home that sets the stage for conversation and depth that the table in a restaurant can’t provide as easily. The love and time put into making a meal, the vulnerability of opening a home, and the warmth found in setting a hot pot of soup on your table for friends to dig into are the ingredients for a great meal.
But sometimes we just need a little inspiration to get in the kitchen after a long day. Here are the cookbooks and guides inspiring me to find my way to the kitchen every day, multiple times a day, to create and spread my table with sweet and savory goodness.
It’s All Easy. Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook.
by Gwyneth Paltrow with Thea Baumann.
Literally this cookbook has changed my life. I have made over 25 recipes from it in the last three weeks. I mean who doesn’t want easy, healthy, and delicious? I get lost if there are lots of ingredients and pages of instructions. Almost all the recipes in this book are 30 minutes of prep time or less, under 10 ingredients, and will make your family never want to eat out again. Some of my favorite recipes include the Acai bowls, the almond orange overnight oats, noodle pots (great for lunch on the go), the carbonara, the roasted tikka masala chicken served with the curried cauliflower, the tabbouleh, falafel, zucchini and leek soup, crispy potatoes with lemon and parsley (I add parmesan to mine), and the best recipe is the Zuni sheet pan chicken (I leave out the anchovies). This cookbook is great for gluten-free as well as dairy-free families.
“A roadmap, perhaps, for a way back to something. That warm dish of simplicity. It takes effort to carve out those moments, and increasingly we need a framework from which we can hang them. Good food at a table can provide that framework.” -Gwyneth Paltrow
The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Food from my Frontier.
by Ree Drummond.
This cookbook is a little less healthy, but so good and still easy. The style is family-oriented with recipes for larger groups. I know this book has been around for a long time, but what cook has pictures to accompany every step in the recipe? For a visual learner like myself this cookbook welcomes me with open arms. Ree’s recipes have opened my mind to food I can prepare in my own kitchen that I may not have considered before, like donuts, pie crust, pizza dough, gazpacho, salsa, hummus, hot wings, chicken parmesan, and strawberry shortcake. Nothing in this book is real fancy or complicated and most of the ingredients you would have on hand.
“Living in the country for more than fifteen years has taught me a handful of eternal truths: every day is a blessing, every drop of rain is a gift….and nothing tastes more delicious than food you cook yourself.” -Ree Drummond
Bread & Wine. A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes.
by Shauna Niequist.
Another book that isn’t new, but I found so much inspiration for the kitchen in Shauna’s writings. Her recipes are mixed in with stories from Shauna’s life about finding community and communion around the table. The recipes are simple; a mix of healthy comfort recipes. The book to me is a simple remind of why the table is important. Each story closes with a recipe that makes you want to go prepare a meal immediately or invite a few friends around for a glass of wine and cheese. Bacon wrapped dates. Goat cheese scrambled eggs. Bread. White bean soup. The recipes are great for a gluten-free family, but more than that the stories will call you back to the table again and again.
“…Many of us, men and woman alike, at a certain point, are wandering back to the kitchen and fumbling and learning and trying to feed ourselves and the people we love, because we sense that it’s important and that we may have missed something fundamental along the way. Especially for those of us who make our livings largely in front of computer screens, there’s something extraordinary about getting up from the keyboard and using our hands for something besides typing—for chopping and dicing and coaxing scents and flavors from the raw materials in front of us.” -Shauna Niequist
Come on. Doesn’t that make you want to jump up right now and start dicing?
by Sally Fallon
This book a little more like a reference book that you keep on referencing for specific techniques. It’s not the book you flip through when you are trying to figure out what to make for dinner. There are no pictures, few words, just a guide back to the traditions of cultured and fermented foods that are essential to our diet. Plus the basics of sauces, soups and sprouting from scratch. There is a great section on baking with alternative grains that is awesome for gluten-free families as well as a desserts section that uses alternative sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and date sugar. I love how the yogurt recipe starts: “Yogurt is easy to make— neither a yogurt-maker nor a special culture is necessary.” Amen to that.
“In no period of our history as a nation have Americans been so concerned about the subject of diet and nutrition. Yet if we accept the premises that what we eat determines out health, then we must add the observation the in no period of our history as a nation have Americans eaten so poorly. Although heart disease and cancer were rare at the turn of the century, today these two diseases strike with increasing frequency.” -Sally Fallon
by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg
This book is a creative guide, not a cookbook. I don’t think there are actually any recipes in this book, which at first was a little disappointing to me. But then I realized it was the essential book to helping me create and experiment on my own in the kitchen. The first 40 pages of the book are an inspiration for flavor from some of America’s top chefs. The next 300 pages are literally a library of what food, in alphabetical order, goes with what flavors. For example, I was making zucchini soup the other night and I wanted to add more flavor. I looked up zucchini: Season: Spring - Summer. Taste: sweet, astringent. Function: cooling. Then there was a list of everything, spice, cheese, vegetable, and meat that pair well with zucchini. I was looking for a spice. I scanned the list for what my soup needed: chives, cilantro, coriander, curry leaf, dill. Dill. Dill was what my soup needed.
“The preparation, cooking, and eating of food is a sacrament. Treating it as such has the potential to elevate the quality of our daily lives like nothing else.”-The Flavor Bible
That’s my list. It’s 6pm and I haven’t made dinner. I just called the Chinese restaurant for take away and they are closed. Sometimes we head to the kitchen out of inspiration and sometimes out of need. I am heading to kitchen now because I need to feed my family, but I will let one of these cookbooks lead the way tonight.