By Ezra Klein
I’m all about the holiday buying guides. I just want people to help me consume. And frankly, I want to help you consume, too, because I care very deeply about the economy and we need! to! induce! demand! So. Cookbooks
• How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman: The only cookbook I’d actually term essential. With it sitting heavily in your kitchen, there’ll never be an ingredient you don’t have some information on, or a technique you can’t look up, or a basic recipe you can’t see explained. And Bittman, happily, knows his audience: The writing is clear, the instructions simple, and the food good. I’m actually of the opinion that no kitchen should be without it.
• Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking by Fuschia Dunlop: My favorite type of food to cook is Sichuan food, and this is my bible. Everything I’ve made from here has been fantastic. Worth buying for the Kung Pao, Ma Po tofu, and Sichuan green bean recipes alone. Also for all the other recipes. Particularly good food for winter.
• Molto Italiano by Mario Batali: Extremely solid Italian cookbook. Simple recipes, and the most beautiful food photography I’ve just about ever seen. Batali is considered one of the few celebrity chefs with serious kitchen cred, and this book shows why.
• 100 Ways to Be Pasta by Wanda Tornabene, Giovanna Tornabene, and Carolynn Carreno: This book came into The American Prospect as a random review copy three years ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. Great pasta recipes, and great advice on the basics of cooking pasta. Turned out you need a lot more salt than I thought.
• Think Like a Chef by Tom Collichio: I wasn’t expecting much when a friend gave me this cookbook. It’s slim, and Collichio spends a lot of time on TV. But it’s actually great. What it’s not, however, is a cookbook. It’s more of a primer on recipe construction. There’s a lot of writing, and even a bit of theory. Collichio will start with one ingredient — say, roasted tomatoes, or wild mushrooms — and then build dozens of different dishes around them, ranging from tarts to entrees to desserts. The idea is to get you thinking about how to create your own recipes around whatever sounds good that week. And it works, or at least it did for me.
What’re your essentials?
Image used under a CC license from Patrick Q.