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Cookbooks I Love

When we moved from Virginia to Atlanta this summer, we left a lot of our books behind in Virginia. I could not bear to part with my beloved cookbooks though. My cookbooks fill up the kitchen and pantry in our very tiny apartment. My friend, Mary Stuart, couldn’t believe how many I own as she helped me unpack boxes from our move this summer.

I’ve learned so much from the pages of my cookbooks. I feel like I know some of the authors personally, as I’ve made so many of their recipes and read their thoughts on cooking. I even refer to them by their first names (especially Ina and Heidi) as I pull these old friends off the shelf.

Are you looking for a gift for a friend? I think cookbooks make great gifts, as they are useful, and can reflect your interests. I love how cookbooks have identities of their own, based on the writing, photographs, and personalities of the authors. I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite cookbooks that I love using in my kitchen. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be asking you to buy my own cookbook!

The New Best Recipe: Made by the folks at Cooks Illustrated, the authors of this cookbook experiment in their test kitchen to find the best recipe for many traditional favorites. I’ve used the “thick and chewy” chocolate chip cookie recipe as a guide to creating my own and I love their “oven fries.” While there aren’t beautiful photographs in this cookbook, there are great illustrations for “how tos.” The explanations are very clearly written and I love their discussion of why certain procedures and ingredients work better than others. They explain everything from ‘shaping burgers the right way’ to ‘cleaning your food processor.’ I pull this cookbook off the shelf whenever I have questions about how to make something. It’s a great guide in the kitchen. The authors actually just came out with More Best Recipes this fall. I haven’t checked that one out yet.

Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking: This vegetarian cookbook has provided me with many delicious meals and ideas for vegetarian cooking. Swanson also writes the blog 101 Cookbooks, which also offers great ideas in the kitchen. I’m not a vegetarian, but this is one of my most used cookbooks. I love her chapter titles, including, “Cook by Color” and “Know your Superfoods,” as opposed to the typical cookbook structure. Swanson writes a lot about using different grains, which is great for us gluten-free folks. (I usually still have to make some substitutions but she has great explanations of different grains.) Heidi’s Chunky Lentil Soup is one of my favorite winter dishes. After the holidays, I’m going to make her “Do it Yourself Power Bars.”

Sara Foster’s Fresh Every Day: If you’ve been following Gluten Freedom, you know that this is one of my favorites and go-to cookbooks. Founder and owner of Foster’s Market in Durham, NC, Sara Foster makes beautiful food with fresh ingredients. Foster’s recipes are all ‘doable’ and cooks of all levels can find delicious things to make here. She also gives tips on how to use leftovers to ‘reinvent’ new meals and provides ideas for which side dishes go well with her entrée recipes. Some of my favorites include Foster’s “Red Wine Braised Chicken with Onions and Thyme” and “pumpkin white chocolate chip cookies.”

Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Frank Stitt owns three restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama. His cookbook is beautiful and has many unique recipes. His recipes tend to involve a lot of ingredients, so I might purchase Stitt’s cookbook for one of my more culinarily ambitious friends. If you like southern food, this is a great choice. I only wish I used this cookbook more, so hopefully you’ll see some of his meals on Gluten Freedom in 2010.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Last but not least, is Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Besides Joy of Cooking, this was the first cookbook that I owned. I love all of Barefoot’s cookbooks, and yes, I own them all, but this one is my personal favorite, maybe just for old time’s sake. My sister-in-law, Heidi, introduced me to Barefoot Contessa through her Perfect Roast Chicken and it is truly perfect. David and I have been referring to Barefoot for recipe ideas throughout the last five years. I love pulling this book off the shelf because it’s stained with red wine and bits of food and reminds me of many fun and delicious meals created with Ina’s help. Definitely a well used cookbook!

Even though I have celiac disease and eat a strictly gluten-free diet, you might have noticed that none of these cookbooks are specifically gluten-free. These chefs use many recipes that are naturally gluten-free and I’m yet to find a recipe that I can’t modify some in order to make it gluten-free and still delicious. Tweaking recipes just makes the kitchen that much more of an adventure!

What are your favorite cookbooks? I’m always looking for new ideas and recipes so please share your top choices with me.