SEASON WITH AUTHORITY: CONFIDENT HOME COOKING BY MARC MURPHY
So, I guess I have to start with a disclaimer: Marc Murphy is my husband. And so yes, this is (obviously) my favorite cookbook in the world. But in all honesty, I love it regardless of my relationship to its author. Marc's cooking is gutsy and authentic, and these recipes are meant to turn everyone and anyone into a confident home cook. I find myself turning to this one on a pretty regular basis for easy weekday meals - don't miss Marc's roast chicken (which may or may not be the reason I married him) or his heirloom tomato salad. And if you have the time, read a bit about his background as well. It's a great lesson in following dreams and overcoming obstacles.
OWN YOUR KITCHEN BY ANNE BURRELL
One of the perks of being married to a chef is getting to meet other chefs, and I am honored to say that I count Anne as a very close friend. I love her sparkly personality and her fierce loyalty, but maybe more than that, I am OBSESSED with her cooking. Watching Anne in the kitchen is inspiring and makes me believe I can do almost anything - she has on many occasion given me impromptu lessons and her patience is incredible. Her recipes, both here and in COOK LIKE A ROCKSTAR, are simple, fresh and original, and her voice is reassuring and familiar. My current faves (keep in mind I am writing this in August, so I'm a little obsessed with salads at the moment) are the marinated white anchovies with cucumbers, ruby red grapefruit and cilantro; and the tomato salad with shrimp and black volcanic rock salt, but every recipe in both books is well worth a try, and all will really make you feel like a rock star in the kitchen!
These five classic cookbooks include The Essential New York Times Cookbook, James Beard's American Cookery, The Jot of Cooking, Gourmet Today and The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, and they not only serve the purpose of completing you cookbook collection, they also look pretty awesome on the shelf in any kitchen. They make a great gift for any foodie or foodie wannabe as well.
OFF THE MENU: STAFF MEALS FROM AMERICA'S TOP RESTAURANTS by Marissa Guggiana
Guggiana spent months on the road traveling to (mostly sustainable) restaurants throughout the country to share in their family meals. The result is this book which, while it includes 100 recipes from more than 50 restaurants, is really more of a look behind the scenes of restaurant kitchens, staff meals and the minds of some of our greatest chefs.
FOOD 52: GENIUS RECIPES: 100 RECIPES THAT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU COOK by Kristen Miglore
I credit Food 52 with changing everything about the way I approach the idea of cooking. The website has enabled me to come at it from a place of necessity to a place of actual enjoyment, and this book is simply a print version of what they do so incredibly well on the Internet. They have a whole series of books, and I would argue that no kitchen collection is complete without all of them.
IT'S ALL GOOD: DELICIOUS, EASY RECIPES THAT WILL MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD AND FEEL GREAT by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen
We all have our opinions about Gwyneth Paltrow, but please leave them aside for a second and hear me out. I bought this book at the very beginning of my cooking journey, and I have to say that it was incredibly helpful in starting me off on the right foot in terms of stocking my pantry with healthy staples and starting out slow. Some of the recipes are inaccessible, and the fact that it's more fashion shoot than food are both annoying components, but I promise that there are really good things here. Every recipe is based in an elimination diet she was put on, which means no alcohol, dairy, eggs, sugar, shellfish, wheat, red meat or soy, and while that type of eating is not something I can realistically maintain, it is great jumping off point for a balanced diet.
SUGAR RUSH: MASTER TIPS, TECHNIQUES AND RECIPES FOR SWEET BAKING by Johnny Iuzzini
Johnny is one of the most interesting chefs I know - biker dude bad boy meets James Beard-award winning pastry chef - and this book is a pretty good representation of what he's all about. Baking is one of those things that separates cooks - it doesn't allow for the same type of spontaneity that a savory recipe affords and it's a finely measured art that takes a lot more patience. What I love about this book (besides the chocolate pudding which is insanely perfect), is that Johnny really breaks everything down and makes baking feel much less daunting.
SURPRISE-INSIDE CAKES: AMAZING CAKES FOR EVERY OCCASION - WITH A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA INSIDE by Amanda Rettke
This is just pure, unadulterated fun for bakers of any level. I bought this one for my daughter, and we have had a blast working our way through it. The outcome of any recipe is pretty impressive, and the cakes are perfect rainy day activities.
THUG KITCHEN: THE OFFICIAL COOKBOOK: EAT LIKE YOU GIVE A F*CK by Thug Kitchen
Thug Kitchen started their insanely-followed website to "inspire people to eat some goddamn vegetables and adopt a healthier lifestyle," and their motto, they say, is simple: Eat like you give a fuck. This cookbook manages to do just that. Tons of great vegan (I know, sounds like an oxymoron) recipes, but the truth is that there's just something totally liberating and exhilarating about reading the word fuck over and over again. So even if you don't have any interest in cooking up what they're putting down, you'll have a really fucking good time reading about it.
HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING FAST: A BETTER WAY TO COOK GREAT FOOD by Mark Bittman
How to Cook Everything Bittman's first book in this series that came out in 1998, was, I think, the first cookbook I ever really used. It was simple to use and had really great recipes. But with two kids, a full-time job and newfound desire to cook, this latest book couldn't have come at a better time. The "fast" thing is key for me these days - 45 minutes or less from start to finish is pretty much all I really have to spare on weekday nights, and these recipes really deliver. I find myself turning to it over and over again and we have yet to be disappointed. It's easy to use, insightful and super informative. A great addition to any kitchen collection.