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Really Cool Cookbooks: Our Favorite Things

Cooking is as much an art as it is a science. And while some of us are good at science, and some good at drawing, some are lousy at both. That’s why we turn to cookbooks to help us craft cakes, synthesize soufflés, and experiment with edibles. And that’s why these books top our list.

Allison Ford, Staff Writer
As part of my ongoing quest to be a domestic goddess, I love baking from scratch and thumbing through the Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook for inspiration. It’s a great resource for classic recipes as well as original confections from Buttercup’s Manhattan stores. Some recipes do require advanced techniques (boiling your own caramel, for example), but the results are worth the effort. The caramel cake with brown sugar frosting is out of this world, although my personal favorite is the original red velvet cake. There are recipes for pies, bars, cookies, pastries and anything else you can imagine creating with butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.

Jennifer Hastings, Partner Coordinator
I don’t think the phrase “Yay, Jennifer’s throwing a dinner party!” has ever crossed one of my friend’s lips. I am not that kind of girl. I’m the girl who brings the bottle of wine or wedge of cheese to the dinner party—I don’t do the dinner party. So when left to fend for myself, I rely on Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen. For us late kitchen bloomers, this recipe/guidebook walks you through unknown recipe language like “al dente” (sorry, I don’t speak Italian) or “bake blind” (seems a little dangerous). Even if you’re a cooking pro, you’ll love the humorous intros to over one hundred recipes, as well as the “Mom Tips” and “Mom Warnings” that make your meals foolproof. It’s for anyone who wants to laugh and needs a quick answer to the ever-annoying question—what should I make for dinner?

Caitlin Goebel, Community Development Manager
Cooking is a way for me to relax after a long day at work. I don’t like complex recipes that include ingredients you won’t normally find in your pantry. When I came across The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, it was love at first sight. Every recipe in the book worked for my lifestyle. I have stains all over the pages of my favorite recipes, minestrone soup and apple crisp. Once you try one recipe, you’ll never let this cookbook leave your countertop.

Rebecca Brown, Editor-in-Chief
I have tons of cookbooks I leaf through for ideas, but my current favorite isn’t a traditional cookbook; it’s more of a memoir with recipes. Written by Amanda Hesser, a chef and New York Times food editor, Cooking for Mr. Latte outlines her courtship period with a non-foodie and takes us through each date with multiple delicious recipes. This book reminds me that you don’t need a lot to create something delicious, just a few of the freshest and highest quality ingredients. Case in point: the truffled egg toast (page 290) and toasts with chocolate and fleur de sel (page 213). Yum.

Ashley Nelson, Editorial Assistant
I’ll just come right out and say it—I’m as far from Martha Stewart Living as any woman could ever be. No tomatoes in the garden, no crafting in a big house, and not the first hint of what to do in the kitchen. However, for women like me who have mastered the art of making reservations, there is help: The Girl Can’t Cook: 275 Fabulous No-Fail Recipes a Girl Can’t Be Without. This helpful cookbook offers doable solutions to fondue parties, southern barbeques, Jewish holiday dinners, feeding football fans … you name it. Other helpful pointers include mix-and-match menus and must-have materials for your everyday pantry. I may never be Martha, but I can at least bring a mean matzah ball soup to my next Passover party.

Veronica Kavanagh, Corporate Manager
I love to cook, but the one thing that regularly bedevils me is—what do I cook for dinner? Trying to figure out a fast, nutritious weekday meal can be a trial. My go-to cookbook for this dilemma has been The Big Book of Easy Suppers by Maryana Vollstedt. It has recipes for everything from soup to dessert, and unlike many “fast” recipes, there are no cans or mixes, just fresh, easy-to-find ingredients. Each recipe is contained on one or facing pages, with plenty of white space around the recipe so you can write notes, nutritional information, or your additions to the recipe. An absolute gem and a decent price, too.

Brie Cadman, Editor
I’m a dork for farmer’s markets and seasonal vegetables, but sometimes I pick up a piece of radicchio and wonder: what the hell do I do with this? That’s why the pages of my San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market Cookbook are well-tattered and stained. Not only does it give a nice description of funky greens and juicy fruits, it is rife with savory, sweet, and easy recipes, organized by what’s in season and when. And don’t think you have to be Bay Area folk to enjoy it; anyone who likes apples, pork, or herbs (possibly in that combination) can use and abuse a copy.