People who love to eat are always the best people.Julia Child
Cookbooks are recipe suggestions and authentic is just an interpretation. My favorite recipes are listed below each cookbook and it just means that, MY FAVORITE and the ones I go back to time and time again. I’m still working my way through these cookbooks myself. Poke around, have fun, and hope you end up adding some of these delicious recipes to your menu. Here are the cookbooks that scratched my travel itch during quarantine.
101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die: Discover a New World of Flavors in Authentic Recipes by Jet Tila (Apple Books)
Never order takeout again!
I may be late to the party, but I’m hooked on Jet Tila YouTube videos! I’ve meaning to add more Asian cuisine to my repertoire, and this cookbook showed up in my feed just in time for it. In this cookbook, you get an excellent melange of recipes: Thai, Indonesian, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. I love curries! There are some Americanized recipes like Crab Rangoons, too. Jet gives you the tools you need to feel confident in the kitchen. The core pantry lists for each cooking style covers the basics. Once you get those down, you’ll wonder why you kept wasting money on takeout. Put those coins into your travel fund!
Favorite Recipes from 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die
Beef and Broccoli (p.65)
The first time I made it I was mad at myself for not learning how to cook it sooner. I substituted the oyster sauce with hoisin and used apple cider vinegar instead of the recommended rice vinegar.
The Last Pad Thai Recipe You’ll Ever Need (p.141)
Yes, it is. I was using a Pinterest recipe for a while, but this one just blew it out of the water. If you can make spaghetti, you can make Pad Thai.
Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Sweet Potato (p.209)
You can easily swap this for yellow curry, too. It’s hearty, and this recipe is forgiving to the novice.
Spicy Tuna Roll (p.254)
My favorite basic roll.
The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook: 500 Vibrant, Kitchen-Tested Recipes for Living and Eating Well Every Day by America’s Test Kitchen (Spiral Notebook)
Get Ya Fitness Life, Right!
This one is a two-for. If you’re trying to find a healthier alternative to the crap you’ve probably been eating during quarantine (and let’s be honest, you were probably eating like shit before the Rona), then this is your book. It includes healthy and tasty recipes; it also gives you everything you need to set yourself up for success. Typical of America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, and if you’ve ever watched their show on PBS, you’d know they get deep into gear and ingredients. It is a must-have for anyone who is still a little clumsy around the kitchen *raises hand* and wants to get the basics down AND churn out some great eats. Trust, you need some harissa in your life!
Favorite Recipes from The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook
Chili-Marinated Calamari with Oranges (p.38)
According to this cookbook, the secret to cooking squid is to blanch it in boiling water, but not before you brine it in a mixture of baking soda and salt. It makes it less rubbery, and it does work. Makes a great lunch or light dinner meal. Just fair warning, harissa is HOT.
Grilled Paella (p.114)
Paella has everything I like: chicken, chorizo, and C-food (seafood). Can’t find Valencia rice? Use Arborio. Do you need a special pan for this? Hell no.
Spanish-Style Braised Chicken and Almonds (Pollo en pepitoria) (p.295)
I can’t even begin to tell you how fucking delicious this dish is. You have to make it and find out for yourself. Double the recipe; it tastes better the next day.
The only way to poach eggs is by adding onion, spiced tomato, peppers, and then toping them with cilantro and feta cheese. Look, I don’t make the rules.
Everyday Cook by Alton Brown (Hardcover)
Alton Explains It All, Again
Ok, ok. Hear me out. This cookbook is well rounded. While it has a rustic Americana feel to it, Alton gives us a little bit of everything. You can feel like you’re on a cross country road trip or going on an adventure overseas. You get your classics, remixed Alton Brown style, of course, and a few worldly delights. Perfect for anyone who is just trying to get something on the table without too much fuss. And who doesn’t love Alton’s wit and charm?
Favorite Recipes from Everyday Cook
Grits with Shrimp (p.18)
Don’t skimp on the shrimp! Quality shrimp is what will make this recipe great. Other than that, I mean it’s just grits with shrimp. Don’t forget the Old Bay seasoning.
I didn’t think I’d find a better chilaquiles recipe in this type of cookbook, but I did. This chilaquiles recipe is my go-to recipe now and should be yours, too. Just don’t tell your madre.
Cold Brew (p.39)
So many people mess this up. Thank you, Alton, for giving us a solid recipe that even a caveman could do it.
Chewy Peanut Butter Cookie (p.97)
Gluten-free, chewy, AND you don’t need a mixer? SOLD.
Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food (Hardcover)
Pépin Takes You to the French Countryside
Undoubtedly, one of my favorite chefs! I got this book a few years ago and have been making my way through it. If you’re looking for French country-style cooking, Pépin is your man! The recipes are straightforward for cuisine that most of us are afraid to touch. Easy enough for a beginner, but it is also sufficient to keep the kitchen vets busy. It’s a great cookbook to grow and learn. The chicken in vinegar with rice with onions is on heavy rotation in my household. It is comfort food at its finest, both in quality and taste.
Favorite Recipes from Essential Pépin
Rice with Onions (p.103)
Pretty simple and straight forward. I sometimes substitute rice with quinoa.
Halibut Antibes Style (p.207)
This is probably one of the better fish recipes I’ve encountered. Perfect for a light dinner.
Chicken in Vinegar (p.261)
Sounds like this would be super disgusting, no? But you’d be wrong. Vinegar in everything!
Asparagus in Mustard Sauce (p.411)
I love mustard and wanted other cooking asparagus methods. Pépin comes through!
Crêpes Suzette (p.533)
You had me at Grand Marnier. Crêpes aren’t hard to make, but you do have to have the right tools.
The Middle Eastern Kitchen Cookbook: 100 Authentic Dishes from the Middle East by Rukmini Iyer, Pene Parker, Becca Spry (Softcover)
Eat like Royalty
When my favorite Lebanese restaurant shut down, I briefly settled for a chain restaurant and quickly learned that NOTHING BEATS AUTHENTIC. It’s just easier to learn how to cook your favorite meals, which is what I’ve learned during quarantine. The book is gorgeous, too. Even if you don’t think you might like something, the pictures are quite convincing! The recipes borrow from Israeli, North African (Moroccan and Tunisian respectively), Lebanese, and Persian cuisines. You get a little bit of everything. I feel like royalty when I cook any of the dishes in this cookbook. Prepare yourself for plenty of pomegranates, rosewater, pistachios, and spices! I like using Sadaf brand spices.
Favorite Recipes from The Middle Eastern Kitchen Cookbook
Chicken Tagine with Freekeh (p.53)
I couldn’t find freekeh, so I used farro. If you don’t have a tagine, a skillet will do.
Grilled Sardines Stuffed with Feta, Pine Nuts, and Lemon (p.72)
If you don’t like sardines, skip this. I love them and usually have them ‘ceviche-style,’ but this was a pleasant surprise. Feta, raisins, and grilled sardines seem like a nightmare, but I’m telling you the sweet and savory balance is just right. Makes a great snack, too.
Ras el Hanout, Garlic and Thyme Roasted Leg of Lamb (p.82)
Try this with chicken or beef, too. Ras el Hanout is a North African spice blend. It’s pretty easy to make.
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (YOU CAN GET SEEDS AND GRIND THEM YOURSELF, TOO)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add 1/2 teaspoon at a time if you plan on making it spicier)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Persian Jeweled Rice (p.88)
Fancy rice, this is what this is. It looks too pretty to eat. Pretty good, no pun intended.
Freekeh, Fava Bean and Pea Salad with Dill and Pomegranate (p.132)
The perfect side dish. I’ve also used green peas to substitute fava beans. Yeah, it means just adding a bit more peas to the PEA salad. Still yummy AF.
The Taste of Belgium by Ruth van Waerebeek and Maria Robbins (Apple Books)
Go beyond moules frites and waffles.
Just like Essential Pépin, this cookbook takes you to the countryside. I love the author’s stories, which give you an insight into why the authors chose each recipe for the book. You get a bit of a history lesson, too. Psst. There’s a lot of meat, root vegetables, and beer. The recipe titles are written in Dutch, French, and English. Swoon!
Favorite Recipes from The Taste of Belgium
Preisoep / Soupe aux Poireaux / Leek and Potato Soup (p. 225)
Another easy soup. Light, yet flavorful. If you don’t have a food mill or immersion blender, you can use a regular blender.
Vlaams Zwijntje in Een Wilsaus / Marcassin des Flandres / Loin Of Pork Braised In Red Wine (p.502)
My two favorite food groups combined: pork and wine. You’ll want to make the Deep Fried Potato Croquettes on page 800. Then, you should probably cancel everything else for the rest of the evening and possibly the next day.
Vlaamse Stoverij / Les Carbonades Flamandes / Flemish Beef Stew Cooked In Beer (p.539)
Beer and jelly in a stew? Add a slice of pain d’épices for an extra sweet touch.
Varkenskoteletjes Op Z'n Brussels / Côtes de Porc à la Bruxelloise / Pork Chops Brussels Style (p.561)
What makes them Brussels style? The beer. If you don’t care to cook with beer, there’s a herbed pork chop recipe also. Must I say it? Make the frietjes / pommes frites on page 794.
…and just because.
There you have it, the five cookbooks that scratched my travel itch during quarantine. Only five, you might ask? You know I have more up my sleeve! I just wanted to get the juices flowing. Here’s the extended list.
- The World Eats Here: Amazing Food and the Inspiring People Who Make It at New York’s Queens Night Market by John Wang and Storm Garner
- New German Cooking: Recipes for Classics Revisited by Jeremy and Jessica Nolen
- The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History by Ana Sofía Pelaez and Ellen Silverman
- La Buvette: Recipes and Wine Notes from Paris by Camille Fourmont and Kate Leahy
- The Jersey Shore Cookbook: Fresh Summer Flavors from the Boardwalk and Beyond by Deborah Smith and Thomas Robert Clarke
- Dishoom: From Bombay With Love by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar, and Naved Nasir
- El Charro Cafe Cookbook: Flavors of Tucson from America's Oldest Family-Operated Mexican Restaurant by Jane and Michael Stern
- My Lisbon: A Cookbook from Portugal's City of Light by Nuno Mendes
- Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus
- The Mission Chinese Cookbook by Danny Bowien and Chris Ying
- Brazilian Food by Thiago Castanho and Luciana Bianchi
- Provence: The Cookbook: Recipes from the French Mediterranean by Caroline Rimbert Craig and Susan Bell
- Lidia's Celebrate Like an Italian: 220 Foolproof Recipes That Make Every Meal a Party by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
- Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book by Jake Godby and Sean Vahey
- Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream by Laura O'Neill, Benjamin Van Leeuwen, and Peter Van Leeuwen
- Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain
- Le Bernardin Cookbook: Four-Star Simplicity by Eric Ripert and Maguy Le Coze
Not sure you’re ready to invest in any of these cookbooks just yet? I got you! You can find many of these books on my favorite app Scribd.