Cookbook Extravaganza

There are three things in life that I consider essential. The first, a dog (or a cat, if you’re a cat person). The second, a good cup of coffee. And the third, a collection of cookbooks to get you through any season, holiday, event, or craving. I am more of a sweets person myself, but since a lot of people favor savory, I have a variety of cookbooks. I have also been through most diet trends (i.e., vegeterian, pescaterian, and paleo), except gluten-free because what’s the point of living if you take gluten out of your food? Whenever I cook, I always struggle with what side dish I’m going to eat my fish or chicken with. I grow tired of the same flavors quickly, so I find it helpful to buy cookbooks that aren’t saturated with complicated entrees, and instead include more side dishes. As a college student, it’s often hard to say no to anything fried or processed, so I forced myself to buy Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi in order to eat my veggies in a way that isn’t frozen or steamed. I especially like Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook because before each recipe there’s a short note about what inspired it. Also, the way he explains the steps is simple enough for an amateur chef to follow. On a separate note, it has a whole chapter on eggplants (yum!).

The Classic Cookbook by Christopher Kimball is probably the cookbook to have if you’re not too experienced in the kitchen, but still want to make delicious homemade American food; it’s like your own personal cooking seminar. The best thing about Kimball’s cookbook is that it has two books in one—the first focuses on savory cooking essentials and the second is all about desserts! So, this is an new adult’s best bet when it comes to impressing family and friends, or simply satisfying a craving without having to go out.

You didn’t think I’d end without a few mentions of pastry cookbooks… did you? And because I am biassed and could not make my mind up about which is most important or my favorite, I decided to include two pastry cookbooks. If you haven’t guessed already, I love baking and eating pastries, but it is really hard to find a good cookbook with all the essentials. So, when I stumbled across Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine I saw the pastry-rich gates of heaven open up. This cookbook has it all, but it mostly focuses on French baking. The first fifty pages or so are just about why she uses the ingredients she uses and what the best way of using them are. Then she explains the process of making different kinds of doughs (i.e., croissant dough, pie dough, puff pastry, and so on). After that, it’s organized into categories like morning pastries, cakes, pies, breads, ice cream, jam, and so many other special desserts.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with Levine’s tips and methods, turn to Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar. If something can ruin a pastry, it’s too much sweetness. Joanne Chang offers alternative sweeteners and even no sweetener at all to make pastries just sweet enough. Don’t be fooled into thinking that less or no sugar means that everything will be bland and “healthy”; there’s a recipe for Cinnamon Sugar Monkey Bread and let me tell you, like everything Chang bakes, it will blow your mind.

Other specialty essentials include: Cooking Light’s How to Cook Vegetarian; Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great by Danielle Walker

Art by: Taylor Roberts

LivingEsther Blanco