If my family is any indication, this coronavirus pandemic has elevated home cooking to an all-time high. I’m pretty sure my twin brother made his first real meal last week (not counting cereal or Pillsbury cinnamon rolls), and my older sister and I have started synching up for a couple of dinners a week—the closest we can get to cooking together while separated by 800 miles. Even my big brother is sending me bread recipes and asking for my mother-in-law’s meatball secrets.
My siblings’ peak (and hopefully lasting!) interest has given me an excuse to organize my beloved cookbook collection, which is now about a decade in the making. If, whether by necessity or choice, you too find yourself spending a little more time in your kitchen these days, I encourage you to invest in a cookbook or three to get the inspiration flowing. Food blogs are great too, but there’s something about following a recipe from a physical book with glossy pages and mouth-watering pictures that a web browser just can’t compete with.
Here are the 10 cookbooks that I find myself returning to again and again, plus two favorite recipes from each:
Smitten Kitchen // This is the first cookbook I fell in love with, and mostly cooked my way through. Deb Perleman, an “obsessive home cook,” has a magical way with food and words, and it shines through in her regular blog posts and kid-focused Bon Appétit column. Two favorites: Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatballs and Smashed Chickpea Salad (166), Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies (202)
Half Baked Harvest // In the last couple of years, Tieghan Gerard of the Half Baked Harvest blog (and fellow Coloradan) has become a go-to for meal inspiration. Her taste in food and preference for seasonal ingredients is right up my alley, and her original cookbook features more of my repeat recipes than any other. Two favorites: Healthier Slow-Cooker Butter Chicken (132), Al Pastor-Style Beef Enchiladas (202)
Tartine Bread // If Chad Robertson is a sourdough god, his Tartine Bread is the “bread bible for the home bread-maker.” I’ll warn that this book is pretty intense, and not something I’d recommend to someone who’s mildly interested in bread or thinking about dabbling in sourdough. Each recipe spans several pages and takes the better part of a day or two (with frequent breaks), but Robertson’s method consistently yields the best bread I’ve ever made. Two favorites: Basic Country Bread (45), Pain au Gruyere (117)
Everything I Want to Eat // When I realized that the Airbnb my friends and I had rented for our friends’ wedding in LA a couple of years ago was within walking distance to Sqirl, I literally squealed. The hip café, first famous for its house-made jam and then for its “health-conscious but delicious dishes,” lived up to the hype so much that Will and I went there twice in less than 48 hours. A signed cookbook and Sqirl tote bag found their way into my luggage too. Two favorites: Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl (62), Chickpea Stew with Chard, Poached Eggs, and Smoked Chile (68)
Seriously Delish // I’m a little bit obsessed with Jessica Merchant of How Sweet Eats. She’s super creative with flavors and ingredients, is an expert food stylist, and strikes a great balance between nutritious and indulgent. Her first cookbook will always be one of my best-loved. Two favorites: Sweet Potato, Egg, & Herb Goat Cheese Breakfast Burritos (46), Mushroom, Leek & Brussels Pizza (178)
Ovenly // Named after a famous bakery in Brooklyn, Ovenly is the resource I turn to when I want to do desserts right. The book is full of step-by-step photographs to supplement the instructions, and features thoughtful classics plus surprising twists (like the savory scones Will and I can’t get enough of). Two favorites: Apricot-Thyme Scones (23), Peanut Butter Cookies (78)
Molly on the Range // Even before Molly Yeh nabbed her own Food Network show (Girl Meets Farm), I was a faithful follower of her blog and, as of the last two years, her first of hopefully many cookbooks. With her Jewish and Chinese heritage, plus a beet farmer for a husband, Molly brings a colorful multicultural perspective to her cooking that I absolutely love. Two favorites: Crispy Oven Fries with Feta Muhammara (170), Chicken Potstickers (193)
Jerusalem // Though he can now fill a whole shelf with his cookbooks, Yotam Ottolenghi did something special with Jerusalem, co-written by Sami Tamimi. Rooted in the city where they both grew up, it’s more than a book of recipes; it’s full of history tidbits, personal anecdotes, and introductions to unfamiliar (to me) flavors and techniques. More than any other cookbook I own, this one has inspired me to seek out ingredients I’d otherwise pass by. Two favorites: Sabih (90), Tomato & Sourdough Soup (142)
Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. // I almost never like an author’s second cookbook as much as his or her first, but Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky forced me to make an exception. The duo cooks with ordinary ingredients, doesn’t skimp on the good stuff, and offers running-specific fueling tips throughout. Like their first, it’s great resource for runners—especially impressionable females navigating their way through a kitchen for the first time. Two favorites: Sweet Potato Waffles (82), Thai Quinoa Salad (90)
The Defined Dish // The newest in my collection, this one has gotten a lot of use since my book club chose it for our February read (or in this case, cook). I love that Alex Snodgrass is a Dallas gal and, as a mom of two little girls, offers mostly unfussy but delicious recipes. Don’t let the Whole30 endorsement turn you away if you aren’t part of the club; like me, you can simply swap the substitution ingredients (like cassava flour) for the real deal (all-purpose flour) and carry on without issue. Two favorites: Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai (82), Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala (188)
And an extra…
The Food Lab // I’m not counting this in my Top 10 since it’s technically not a cookbook. It’s worth including though, because J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is an authority figure in our kitchen, and Will and I call upon his methods every single day. The Food Lab is full of helpful charts, striking photographs, and thorough explanations—not a light read at 900 pages, but worth checking out if you want to know why certain techniques work and how to approach the basics masterfully. Two favorite techniques: Light and Fluffy Scrambled Eggs (121), Sous Vide Everything (384)