I’m serious! These five cookbooks changed the way I look at ingredients, understand flavors, and how I prepare and cook food. They improved my health and informed my work as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Each one contributed something valuable to my cooking repertoire and I highly, highly encourage you to check them out.
I first got my hands on this cookbook in college. It was gifted to me by a family friend who understood the value and impact of simple cooking (even if I didn’t back then), especially for a young gal living alone and looking to save money. At this point in my life, I had almost exclusively referred to my mother’s large collection of stained and dog-eared Bon Appetit magazines from the 80s and 90s and on Julia Child’s cookbooks. Always Julia!
But, it was How to Cook Everything that taught me the essentials like how to cook whole grains, grill vegetables, and make easy salad dressings. And there was an entire chapter on beans (really, a whole chapter dedicated to beans?!), which made me question my previous notions of these now trendy legumes.
This book came at just the right time in my life and truly opened my eyes to how easy it is to cook good food simply. Today, you can buy a revised and updated 20th anniversary edition, published in 2019–a testament to its popularity and long-lasting value.
Although Alice Waters is a well-known icon, I didn’t know who she was when I first picked up The Art of Simple Food. I was just out of college, living and working for a vegan raw chef in Buenos Aires, Argentina (more on that funny story another time!) and was drawn to the book’s title and Waters’ easy-going tone and wonderful way with words. I was considering applying to graduate school to study nutrition and borrowed a copy of the book from a friend. I was immediately mesmerized and, now, understood why Waters got her reputation as the mother of organic and sustainable food.
This book is simple, straightforward and powerful. Waters’ recipes honor seasonal ingredients and thoughtfully describe flavor combinations and simple, tried-and-true cooking techniques in the most elegant way. She was the first person who taught me how to use my five senses when cooking and eating, and that simple, quality, seasonal foods don’t need much to make them taste sumptuous.
Waters promotes shopping at farmer’s markets, planting a garden, cooking with family and friends, and reminds us that food is precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted. This book offers a collection of recipes for simple, artful, and incredibly delicious foods all centered on Waters’ beautiful philosophy that you should cook with locally grown, seasonal ingredients.
This book is an encyclopedia of sorts and a very interesting one. Deborah organized this book by categories of vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs within the same family that are complementary and can be used interchangeably. For example, carrots and parsley are from the same family which also includes anise, celery, chervil, coriander, caraway, cumin, dill, fennel and of course, parsley. There’s so many interesting things to learn while you cook Madison’s deeply satisfying vegetable-focused dishes.
I first stumbled upon this book in graduate school in a cooking class I was taking (yes, dietitians get graduate credits for cooking classes!). Someone brought it into our class to show us interesting things you can do with vegetables—ways to honor them while making them the centerpiece of your plate instead of just a side dish. It wasn’t a hard sell for me, but since then, I have recommended this cookbook to many of my patients who needed inspiration for cooking and eating more vegetables, and the overwhelming response is “YUM!”.
I was lucky enough to study under Cynthia while attending graduate school at Bastyr University where she founded the Nutrition & Culinary Arts program. She always had a lot to say about nutrition and trending health foods (the use of the term “health foods” here would likely make her cringe!) and she did so in an educated, inspiring and often humorous way. Her classes were always my favorites and when I took her course on Food Writing, I had no idea at the time that it would be so influential in my life—I am about to have my first cookbook published in December 2020. Thanks Cynthia!
I recommend this book to both beginner and advanced cooks looking for wholesome and nourishing recipes that celebrate whole, unprocessed, and unrefined foods. I have gifted it to many friends and family members over the years, especially those with babies and children, and it will be the gift I give for years to come. Her recipe for Szechwan Tempeh could convert any tempeh skeptic and the Winter Fruit Compote with Vanilla Nut Cream will make you swear you just tasted a little piece of fruity, nutty heaven!
I love this cookbook! My dear friend Cecily introduced me to it and I’m so glad she did. Turshen’s recipes and “spin offs” are so innovative and creative (and helpful). It’s like she’s actually there with you in your kitchen, teaching you how to cook. I come back to this cookbook time and again for inspiration.
The recipes are simple, super approachable, and make for really really delicious food. For every recipe she shares, she offers “small victories” or cooking lessons like why you should skewer your shrimp with two skewers instead of one or how to make the perfect chocolate cake in one bowl without having to cream sugar and butter together first. What more could you want?!
My heart skipped a beat the first time I opened one of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks—the pictures! The breathtaking photos of VEGETABLES!! Every one of his recipes (vegetables and otherwise) is vivid, exquisite, and sparkles with colorful ingredients and dazzling flavor combinations. His Burnt Green Onion Dip with Curly Kale. The Beet, Caraway & Goat Cheese Bread. The Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice. All so good. And he may have single-handedly put eggplant on the map. If you’re not one of the millions who’ve tried his gorgeous recipe for Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce, you must make it NOW!
What I love so much about this cookbook is that the food has beautiful complexity, but the dishes are actually super simple to make as it highlights interesting ways to prepare Middle Eastern-inspired dishes in 30 minutes or less, with 10 or fewer ingredients, using pantry staples, and accessible cooking tools and techniques.
My patients tell me all the time that they want easy-to-prepare, flavorful, great-tasting food they can make quickly. This is the book I recommend for just that. And, when they ask for new and interesting ways to prepare vegetables, I recommend the cookbook Plenty, another gem from Ottolenghi aka the flavor maker!