I don’t stock a large library of cookbooks. I learned several years ago that I was more intrigued by recipes from varied sources such as the Food Network, food blogs, Los Angeles Times’ Food Section, Bon Appetit, Cuisine At Home, or Sur la Table cooking classes. I’ve even clipped recipes from food ads.
I file them in 15 separate folders with labels such as Fish/Seafood, Lamb/Pork/Veal, Pasta/Rice, Sauces/Seasonings/Stock, and other staples like Chicken, Beef, Soups, Salads/Dressings, and Vegetables. I also have a Miscellaneous file for, well, miscellaneous. Every year I survey the folders; circular-filing those recipes I haven’t used in some time, no longer inspire, or are so food-stained they are illegible. (A well-seasoned recipe is almost edible.)
Using a few recipes from a $30.00 cookbook is not a great ROI (return on investment).
The one cookbook I reference most often is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Mark, know as The Minimalist, is a guy’s cook. He, reputedly, does most of his work out of his Manhattan apartment’s minimalist kitchen. His recipes are quite accessible, and you don’t need to drive 50 miles to a specialty store or have something shipped from Sri Lanka.
I have several Emeril Lagasse recipes but he could be called a Maximumist. The man uses LOTS of ingredients, and equipment. I often need a nap in-between preparation steps.
When you do come across an ingredient, either foreign to you or requiring you to pay for foreign shipping, I have two suggestions. First, buy a book such as Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon and Ron Herbst. I find it indispensable. It lists more than 6,700 foodie terms, describing cooking techniques, herbs, spices, ingredients, etc.
Another option is switcheroo.com, The Cook’s Thesaurus. Type in the unfamiliar term and the site gives you options without requiring you to learn several other languages.
Mark, a frequent guest on The Today Show, writes a blog for the New York Times – bitten.blogs.nytimes.com. I recommend it. You will find it linked on the right side of this blog’s opening page under About Me.
But even Bitten is smitten by the cookbook bug; touting 50 cookbooks he cannot live without. Trust me, you can live without them.
I wonder where he keeps them in his minimalist kitchen.