In our last post, we promised to list some of our personal favorite cookbooks from 2010. To start, we should note that what constitutes a personal favorite for us is, well, personal. As stated in our About section, we’re not food experts or trained chefs. We have busy lives, with full-time jobs and family commitments, and we do not have nearly as much time as we’d like for cooking.
What do we love in a cookbook?
- Gorgeous photos. They attract us to the dish and make us want to try the recipe and taste the result.
- Simple yet distinctive recipes. There are plenty of recipes for strawberry pie. What makes this one unique, giving it that unusual, gourmet twist that we (and our guests) haven’t tasted or seen before? Just as important (for us): how long is it going to take us to make that pie? Do we need 20 ingredients we likely don’t have on hand?
- Recipe notes. We like to be a part of the cookbook authors experiences. How did they come up with this recipe? Did they adapt it from a dish that they first tried when traveling or from a recipe that they learned from a relative? When do they serve the dish, and with what accompaniments? Are there substitutions that work for some of the ingredients?
- Additional sections/sidebars with extra tidbits and info on cooking and/or ingredients. How do you make a great vinaigrette? How should Swiss chard, or clams, be prepared for cooking? What kind of pork product, exactly, is pancetta? Where did cinnamon originate?
Not every cookbook needs to have all of these elements. A cookbook that is brimming with personal stories about the recipes but that is lacking in food photos can still be a winner for us likewise for one that is full of gotta-taste-that photos but short on extra cooking hints.
With that introduction, here are five of our favorite cookbooks from 2010. We know we’ll be cooking from these for many years to come.
Amy McCoy, Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget (Andrews McMeel Publishing)
We also loved: Southwestern-Style Cobb Salad; Butternut Squash Risotto
On our must-try-next list: Beef Short Ribs in Mushroom Gravy
Extra touches: Estimated cost breakdowns for each recipe; Section on value wines; Complete menu suggestions (also with cost totals)
Abigail Johnson Dodge, Desserts 4 Today: Flavorful Desserts with Just Four Ingredients (Taunton Press)
We also loved: Orange-Scented White Chocolate Blackberry Mousse; Fresh Strawberry Pie
On our must-try-next list: Basil Ice Cream
Extra touches: Switch-Ins; Gussy It Up
Cat Cora, with Ann Krueger Spivack, Cat Cora’s Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
We also loved: Grilled-Cheese Croutons: Fresh Lime Tortilla Chips
On our must-try-next list: Cat and Mo’s Enchilada Pie
Extra touches: Twist It and Chef’s Notes for many recipes
Sur La Table, Simple Comforts: 50 Heartwarming Recipes (Andrews McMeel Publishing)
Highlighted on C&B&R: Deconstructed Bacon and Egg Breakfast Sandwiches
We also loved: Crispy Roasted Potato Wedges with Parsley, Rosemary, and Lemon; Chard, Mushroom, and Swiss Cheese Frittata
On our must-try-next list: Banana Chocolate Chip Bread with Chocolate Icing
Extra touches: Clean and consistent layout, with ingredient lists for each recipe placed in color boxes in the outside margins of the pages; Book size that is small and very easy to use
Belinda Hulin, Roux Memories: A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes (Lyons Press)**
Highlighted on C&B&R: Crab and Shrimp Burgers
We also loved: Shrimp Stew; Corn Maque Choux
On our must-try-next list: Sweet Potato Pie
Extra touches: Recipe notes that provide historical backgrounds, food origins, and personal contexts; Bring-back-memories family photos
**With our Louisiana background, this was our most personal personal favorite.