How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, 2nd Edition by Mark Bittman & The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh: 1,100 Quick Dishes for Everynight Cooking by Barbara Fairchild
By Stephanie Dickison
They arrived at my doorstep with a big enough thud that the cat and I both jumped. A big box containing two looming cookbooks meant that I was going to have to rearrange the bookshelves -again. These were the mightiest cookbooks I’d ever seen outside of my lovely food and cooking encyclopedias that I cherish so deeply.
The one good thing about their size and weight is that really, if you are just starting out or are looking for big, basic cookbooks to cover a little bit of everything, these have got it. All of it.
And while I know a lot of you have your own go-to cookbook like The Joy of Cooking, I’m highly recommending these.
They are so vast in knowledge and so easy to use and follow that really, no kitchen should be without them.
Here are my thoughts on each one:
A little while ago, I told you how much I loved Mark Bittman’s Recipe Cards. Well, the book, How to Cook Everything, 2nd Edition, just knocked my socks off. Really. I mean, it’s got everything: illustrations that you can follow along with, like tying meat or preparing tomatoes. Easy-to-make recipes that are neither tired or repetitive (unlike my roster of dishes).
And here’s the best testimonial of all – On Saturday night, I stopped by the grocery store to get meat. I had been to 2 others, but hadn’t seen anything of excitement. However, at my third stop, I came across a fairly good sized beef tenderloin roast for $5.86. Now, I had only ever made 2 roasts before this, so it’s not something I usually get, but it was so inexpensive and beautiful that I couldn’t resist. However, I had no idea how to cook it.
That is, until I got home and turned to page 735, where the Roast Tenderloin with Herbs recipe awaited me. I marinated the meat for only an hour as my Mom had stopped by for a visit. It turns out neither Mom, me or my fella have roast beef outside of weddings and funerals, so I felt a little pressure for it to turn out well.
The recipe was an easy mixture of oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs and the only thing I had to do was check the meat with a thermometer after 20 minutes.
Folks, while it is not the best roast I’ve ever had, it was absolutely wonderful. And I truly couldn’t have possibly done it without this book. Later this week I’m going to tackle 22 Picnic-Perfect Salads and How to Season Simply Cooked Seafood.
This is my new cooking bible and yes, you can borrow it anytime…
The title, The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh: 1,100 Quick Dishes for Everynight Cooking says it all, doesn’t it? It’s from Bon Appetit, so you know it’s trustworthy (and probably anything you make from this will be better than if you’d gone it alone) and it’s all about making quick and easy dinners, which let’s face it, at the end of the workday, can be one of the most challenging meals to make and make well.
I mean, I would never in a million years think to make Crabmeat, Corn and Cumin Salad in Endive Spears, but doesn’t that sound absolutely lovely? And what about Oaxacan Chicken Mole? That sounds much better than the usual roast chicken breasts that I make!
My favourite thing about this cookbook is the recipes never include more than a handful of ingredients and instructions, so I can actually make pretty fancy fare in a short amount of time, which is really what I strive for most every night I cook. And now thanks to this cookbook, I can actually rev up my own standbys. So instead of my usual steamed spinach, I’m going to make Pesto Creamed Spinach and instead of my usual orzo, I’m pumping it up to Carrot Orzo. Sure, they are simple changes, but I find that these suggestions and ideas really get me out of my usual cooking rut and go-to items. It helps keep things exciting in the kitchen and I remain excited about cooking and making dinner every night, which I’m sure you know can be a challenge at times!
I am so excited by all of the new possibilities that I’m off to get some ingredients for dinner tonight!
These are the best books and really, a must have for anyone who spends anytime at all at the stove. And hey, they’ll make the very best presents this holiday season. I mean, there are recipes in each of these to please everyone!