Is it time to eat again yet?
This is the question I most often ask myself these quarantine days. As if my life didn’t already revolve around food before we shut ourselves inside, I’m now menu planning, brainstorming how best to repurpose my leftovers and making grocery lists of things I DON’T EVEN NEED. Some of my most recent nonessential purchases are celery salt and mirin, and I think I’ve accumulated about 17 different types of grains in my pantry. Am I off the deep end yet? Just keep swimming… Just keep swimming…
With my heightened obsession with food and all the time in the world on my hands, I’ve turned to my cookbook library for some extra inspiration. Let me start by saying, I am not a recipe-driven cook. I write and test recipes to share them, but cooking for myself tends to be a very “little of this, little of that” process. That said, I do read cookbooks – literally cover to cover – for several reasons: (1) Inspiration. While I might not follow a recipe step by step, I will read through the ingredients and try to recreate something similar. (2) Knowledge. I often learn new techniques and incorporate them into my repertoire. And (3) Pleasure. Quite simply, I love food, and the personal anecdotes that proceed recipes just make me happy.
Should you find yourself with a little more time on your hands, or in need of a culinary pick-me-up, I wanted to share some of my favorite cookbooks. This list is constantly growing and changing, but here’s a current snapshot! What are some of your favorites? Comment below, and we can all grow our collections!
The Dude Diet Dinnertime*, by Serena Wolf
This is the second book in the Dude Diet series, a brilliant concept dubbed “clean(ish) food for people who like to eat dirty.” Think of your favorite game-day, street food or steakhouse classics, revamped with healthy twists, without sacrificing taste. I also have her original book*, which includes my go-to taco meat recipe.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes*, by Jamie Oliver
An oldie, but a goodie, and a great way to dip your toe into international cooking. It’s also a solid bang for your buck, as it highlights several different cuisines in one book. I often refer back to it for classic recipes from Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece and France. French Roast Lamb and the Moroccan Beef Tagine are both on my list to revisit in the #quarantinekitchen.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner… Life*, by Missy Robbins
If you haven’t been to Lilia and Misi, add them both to your New York restaurant hit list right now. Missy Robbins is the chef behind these two wonderful Brooklyn eateries, known for simple Italian food. I’m talking about the most delicious vegetables and pastas made with just a few ingredients. It’s mind blowing. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner… Life is a collection of recipes from Robbins’ home kitchen, and you’ll see some restaurant favorites (like the House Vinaigrette I am addicted to) in there too!
Cook Beautiful*, by Athena Calderone
Athena Calderone is the creative genius behind Eyeswoon, which is all about food, design and entertaining, and I pretty much want to be her when I grow up. Cook Beautiful celebrates seasonal ingredients and, you guessed it, beautiful plates. I love that it’s actually organized by season and highlights each one’s peak produce, serving as a bit of a shopping guide too. Sugar Snap Pea and Fava salad with Buffalo Mozzarella is on my list of things to make!
Sababa*, by Adeena Sussman
This is the first of two Israeli cookbooks on this list, because I’ve really fallen in love with the cuisine. “Sababa” is a Hebrew word that loosely translates to “everything is awesome.” Sign me up. The Schug-Marinated Baby Lamb Chops and Rice and Beef-Stuffed Tomatoes are a couple of standouts for me, but what I love most about this book is that Sussman sets you up for success right from the start, with a section on spice blends and condiments that you’ll find in the recipes to follow. Za’atar, Dukkah, Schug (which is now my preferred hot sauce) and Preserved Lemons have become staples in my kitchen.
Ikaria*, by Diane Kochilas
You might have noticed that Greece is a common theme on my Instagram feed. Last summer, I traveled solo to the Greek Islands. My first stop was Andros, where I participated in a culinary workshop at a property called Mèlisses. Before I left, I wanted to get to know Greek food a little better, and get myself even more excited for what was to be the best trip of my life. After a little bit of research, I settled on Ikaria, and I’m so glad I did. This book is truly special. Ikaria is another Greek Island that holds a record in longevity, with its inhabitants living well into their nineties. The book is a collection of their stories and recipes, highlighting healthy Mediterranean ingredients like beans, legumes and fresh vegetables. The Chicken Stifado, with loads of fresh herbs and allspice berries, has become a regular in my rotation.
Zahav*, by Michael Solomonov
Another one for your dining out hit list when this quarantine is all over: Zahav, in Philadelphia. Zahav is an Iraeli restaurant serving up small plates, items from the grill and salatim, the latter comprising my most favorite section of Solomonov’s cookbook. “Salatim” refers to a spread of vegetable salads that is typically served at the beginning of the meal, though I could easily make a meal out of salatim alone. Pickled everything, Tabbouleh, Potato Salad, and a favorite of mine – Beets with Tehina. The list goes on and on. You’ll also find warm, savory dishes like Kebabs and Persian Rice.
Have something to add to the list? I would love to know which cookbooks you love. Comment below!
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