Gorgeous Spring Cookbooks, Part I

favorite cookbooks spring 2011

You many not realize it (I didn’t know it until I started writing about food), but the arrival of new cookbooks is a seasonal event. They tend to come out in large clusters in the early spring (in time for the peak summer season) and in the fall (so that you have new ones to choose from for holiday giving). So far, this season’s crop of books is just gorgeous. In fact, so many lovely ones have crossed my path recently that I’m splitting them up into two posts, so that this doesn’t turn into an epic.

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

Having grown up in Southern California and Portland, OR, I partial to that variety of sandwich that is hard to find off the west coast. I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about. It is made on either sourdough or whole grain bread and includes very thinly sliced red onion, sprouts, cucumbers, avocado, lettuce, shredded carrots, a smear of mustard, a bit of cheese and, if you’re me, a few slices of turkey breast.

Though we don’t lack for sandwiches in Philadelphia (it’s the homeland of the cheesesteak, after all), it’s hard to find ones made in that hippie, crunchy west coast style. However, with the help of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches I’m working to broaden my sandwich horizons. Written by Susan Russo and photographed by Matt Armendariz, this book is gorgeous and is sure to induce hunger pangs. I think someone should do a cook-through blog of this book (and invite me to share in some of the sandwich bounty. *I do realize that sandwiches don’t have a whole lot to do with canning, but the book is just so pretty that I couldn’t resist including it in this stack.

How to Cook Indian

A few weeks ago, someone asked a question on the Food in Jars Facebook page, wondering if there was a good source for ethnic canning recipes. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer for her. That was before How to Cook Indian showed up on my doorstep. If you’re in search of recipes that can guide you through a world of Indian recipes, including wide assortment of chutneys and pickles, this is a fantastic book. I will warn you that not many of these recipes can be water bath canned, but many will keep in the fridge for a nice, long time. For more on Indian pickles, I also recommend checking out some of the posts that the Tigress has written on the subject.

Tart and Sweet

Hooray! A new canning book! Tart and Sweet is a lovely book written by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler and I’m so delighted to add it to my preserving library. I think one of the things that you guys are going to love about this book is that when a recipe needs pectin, it calls for Pomona’s Pectin. I don’t know of any other book that references that particular pectin and so will be a great confidence boost for those of you who are just starting out using it (oops, I’m hearing in the comments that Put ’em Up also includes instructions for Pomona’s Pectin. I had forgotten that). But don’t think that this is just a jam book, it also includes a variety of pickles, preserved fruits and other amazing sounding compotes. I’m really looking forward to making a few of the recipes from this volume.


Have you ever found yourself tempted to buy a jug of goat milk in a natural foods store? If the thing holding you back is a fear that you wouldn’t know how to best use it, then Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese is for you. Written by prolific cookbook duo Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, this is a beautifully photographed and appealingly penned volume. It has me itching to leap up from my chair and make the cajeta on page 148.

Super Natural Every Day

I have been reading Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks for more than six years now. It was one of the first blogs I followed and has always been a source of great inspiration for me. When Super Natural Cooking came out, I wasted no time in ordering a copy. It has been a beloved volume in my kitchen and when I heard she was she was working on a new book, I had no doubt that it wouldn’t be similarly wonderful. Having now had my hands on a copy for a couple of weeks, my hunch has been born out. Super Natural Every Day, is a fantastic book. It is bursting with bright, healthy, accessible food that I can’t wait to eat. With Easter coming up, I’m definitely going to make the Hard-Cooked Eggs with Dukkah on page 106 very, very soon.

One-Block Feast

As a native west coaster, I am ordained by birth to love Sunset Magazine. My mom subscribed to it when I was a kid and over the years, I’ve build up quite an archive of vintage cookbooks published by the Sunset empire (Cooking Bold and Fearless, for instances). The One-Block Feast is the latest volume to issue forth from Sunset and is dedicated to food editor Margo True’s project – to produce delicious meals only using the foods grown in the yard at Sunset HQ. I followed much of the project last year via their blog and loved both the concept and the execution.

What makes this book so fabulous is that it isn’t just documenting the process. It gets into the nitty gritty and gives readers the tools to tackle all the same projects as the One-Block team took on. And while I don’t have the space for chickens, I plan on using the guidelines offered here to finally turn some of the crappy wine I have squirreled away into useful vinegar.

River Cottage Every Day

There are some cookbooks that are clearly designed to be used regularly and there are some that are more aspirational in natural. While I am totally smitten by River Cottage Every Day, I’m a bit afraid that it falls more into the aspirational category than the regular utility one for me (remember, this is just my opinion. Cooking styles vary widely, so it might work differently in your life). That’s not to say that there aren’t a few recipes I will try (hello Cauliflower Cheese on page 322), but many of the recipes are too far outside of my culinary dialect for daily use.

All that said, I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with an aspirational book. This volume has rapidly become my go-to escapist fare, the thing I turn to when the pressures of my regular life get a bit intense and I just want to imagine a life lived in the English countryside, where gooseberries grow like weeds and there’s always time for a four hour braise. But it’s not going to be as useful as the Every Day title implies.


You don’t have to be a country girl (or boy) to want to crawl right inside the pages of Heartland. Written by Judith Fertig, this huge book is appropriate for both coffee table displaying and trips to the kitchen. It offers good reminders that the artisanal food revolution isn’t just happening along the coasts. I am desperate to make the Popcorn with Smoked Gouda on page 120.

The Complete Kitchen Garden

The Complete Kitchen Garden is a book that does just what it says it’s going to do. It walks you through the steps necessary to plant and maintain a thriving garden and then shows you what to do with your bounty. However, if you’re like me and don’t have any outdoor space, don’t write this one off. It also contains 100 recipes that are the perfect thing for those heady days of mid-summer and early fall. I am already looking forward to making the Roasted Fall Vegetable Tart on page 118.

Now, because no cookbook post would be complete without a giveaway, here’s the deal. I have one copy of the The Complete Kitchen Garden to give away to a lucky reader. Leave a comment and tell me what your current favorite cookbook is by Monday, April 11 at 11:59 p.m. I’ll close the comments at that time and use random.org to select a winner.

And now, the disclaimers. All books included in this post were sent to me as free review copies. However, I chose which books to include in this round-up and all opinions expressed herein are mine. The links embedded in this post are Amazon affiliate links. I earn a few pennies each time you click, which occasionally adds up to enough money to buy a few new jars. If you click through and buy something, I earn a tiny bit more, which gets invested in produce, vinegar and sugar (we’re living high around here!) If clicking these links makes you feel squidgy, feel free to skip ’em and find the books another way. Thanks!

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295 Responses to Gorgeous Spring Cookbooks, Part I

  1. 251
    Sherry says:

    We worked in our garden getting it prepped this weekend, and have baby plants under the lights. I would love this cookbook! My favorite currently is You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free! since I’m starting the gluten free cooking and baking journey.

  2. 252
    Megan says:

    Ooohhh, The Complete Kitchen Garden sounds wonderful. Thomas Keller’s Ad hoc at Home is always on my counter but I’ve been going through Put ‘Em Up getting myself pumped up.

  3. 253
    Matt says:

    My favorite cookbook at the moment is most likely the Zuni Cafe Cookbook; we’ve been cooking their roast chicken recipe for a couple years now, but since we got the book at Christmas we’ve tried a lot of new things that have all been fantastic, from brined pork chops to a grapefruit risotto (who’d’ve thunk it?)

    Now that we’re starting our own gardening adventure – with our first spinach babies poking their heads up outside and lots of things under lights inside getting ready to go out in the next month – that last book sounds fantastic! Fingers crossed!

  4. 254
    Nancy from Mass says:

    Ooo, a chance to win a book! Thanks!

  5. 255
    jennifer says:

    i’d love that book!
    I’m loving CLEAN START right now.

  6. 256
    Megan P. says:

    I’m still in love with my Ball Complete Guide to Home Preserving… my canning buddy and I refer to it at “The Bible”.

  7. 257
    Jane says:

    I will say, I have a lot of favs right now. But I will say, my newest one right now….MS Pies book.

  8. 258
    Mindy says:

    My most recent favorite is Good to the Grain. My longtime favorite is Barefoot in Paris.

  9. 259
    Miranda says:

    I still love my “How To Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman. It’s such a wonderful resource with seemingly limitless ways to prepare beans and veggies.

  10. 260
    Jonna says:

    Yummy! They all look lovely. My favorite cookbook is probably “Cooking in Provence” by Antoine Bouterin. All the recipes are so delicious, and full of creative ways of highlighting vegetables (although the book isn’t even close to vegetarian).

  11. 261

    Lately I have been craving comfort foods and finding the Cook’s Magazine cookbook the best source for updated comfort food!!

  12. 262
    Elysse says:

    My favorite is Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already! It is the fermentation bible 🙂

  13. 263
    Deborah says:

    I still love “How to Cook Everything”, and lately I’ve been trying some dishes from “The Art of French Cooking”. Maybe not the most exciting, but the food is wonderful!

  14. 264
    Gwyn says:

    The Moosewood Collective Daily Special is my year-round go to favorite, but as we head into wramer weather, I tend to pick up the Santa Fe School of Cooking book a little more frequently. The white sangria is a.w.e.s.o.m.e.

  15. 265
    Kristi says:

    currently, it’s How to Cook Meat by Christopher Schlesinger and John Willoughby. because i can cook chicken like nobody’s business, but don’t have enough practice with other meat (usually because i always feel it’s too expensive to waste by me cooking it dry… haha)

    AND, i JUST started my first garden, in a tiny space!

  16. 266
    Marsely Kehoe says:

    I’ve loved Jack Bishop’s “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen” for some time now — it’s seasonal (as the title implies) and full of inspiring and easy to assemble delicious ideas.

  17. 267

    Oooh, that’s a toughie…I guess I’ll say the cookbook I’ve been gravitating toward the most lately is Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking.’ We recently did a complete kitchen purge and deep clean, so all I want to do is be in there cooking and canning and baking!

  18. 268
    Danielle says:

    This book looks great. I’m excited to get a look at it. We are getting ready to start our garden and I would be so interested in tips and recipes to use everything that we want to grow. Thanks.

  19. 269
    Molly says:

    My mother-law-just bought me Savoring Tuscany by Williams Sonoma…very fun to cook out of.

  20. 270
    Stephanie says:

    How about the cookbook I bought yesterday, The Good Heart Cookbook, Recipes from our Retreat Center – Land of Medicine Buddha.

  21. 271
    Chris says:

    Although I won’t get as much use out of it now that the weather is warming up, I’ve enjoyed Cooks Illustrated’s Soups & Stews this past winter.

  22. 272
    Karen says:

    Right now I’m enjoying trying recipes from my first edition Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. Especially the desserts!

  23. 273
    dieselboi says:

    I’m actually reading Jamie Olivers At Home. Love his approach to food and cooking.

  24. 274
    Liza-bean says:

    Last year I traveled to France and stayed at the Hotel Diderot in Chinon, in the Loire Valley. They are famous for their rainbow of homemade jams on the breakfast table, and I bought the lovely cookbook for sale in the lobby! It reminds me of a magical trip and my favorite French meal – a breakfast of fresh baguette, goat cheese with honey and walnuts, and JAM!!

  25. 275
    Kelsey says:

    My current favorite cookbook is Quick and Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott. It was a wedding gift, and I use it every week, at least once!

  26. 276
    KariK says:

    My favorite cookbook at the moment is Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge. I love stir frying!

  27. 277
    Hannah says:

    My current favorite is a cookbook that my mother in law put together for my husband and his sisters that has all their favorite meals from when the grew up and his grandma’s bagel and cookies recipes which are wonderful!

  28. 278
    Carmen says:

    Cookbook? Who uses a cookbook? Based on what happens in my kitchen, I probably should…

  29. 279
    Jessalyn E says:

    Thanks for the great reviews! My current favorite cookbook is Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen who runs a cookery school in Ireland. It’s packed with recipes but is also instructional in the way she talks about foraging, preserving, and using unusual vegetables or parts of meat. Extremely useful and fascinating to learn from.

  30. 280
    Leann says:

    Great site you have here. Favorite go to book – Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. Used for everything from canning pickles to fritattas. By the way – calling it a Hakuna Frittata (in a Lion King voice) made the little kids gobble it up.

  31. 281
    Allison says:

    All of these books sound fantastic! I’m definitely adding “Tart and Sweet” to my Amazon list.

  32. 282
    Evil Tinkerbell says:

    lately I’ve been breaking out the “Bibles” by Rose Beranbaum, bread, cake, and pie! Getting my bake on 😉

  33. 283
    Dawn says:

    At this time of year, Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail

  34. 284
    Kathy says:

    Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax

  35. 285
    daisygeep says:

    Since I am trying to teach myself to bake from scratch more I turn to the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book frequently these days. But for shere sit around and lust at beautiful pics and amazing food I am very enamoured of Thailand the Beautiful these days.

  36. 286
    Amy says:

    Passover is coming, so I’m knee deep in Jewish cookbooks

  37. 287
    Starla says:

    Great review of these new books! RIght now, my favorite book at the moment has to be Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home”. I love the unique earthy and home feeling recipes.

  38. 288
    Kim says:

    Thank you for the reviews! I just ordered a copy of Super Natural Every Day based on your reco. Can’t wait!

  39. 289
    Kim says:

    And to answer the question! I often cook from Krieger’s The Food You Crave, a staple in my library.

  40. 290
    Carrie says:

    Fave: Art Smith Back to the Table. LOVE IT. Best pot roast recipe I’ve had to date. Best Hummingbird Cake recipe. Best salad/dressing ideas, need I continue?

  41. 291
    Lisa May says:

    I’m pretty much in love with the Blue Chair Jam cookbook right now. I would love to get a little more creative with my non-canning projects, so this would be a great start!

  42. 292
    KG says:

    My current favorite is “Good to the Grain” by Kim Boyce. Everything in it has turned out delicious!

  43. 293
    Cheryl says:

    That sounds like the perfect book to take into retirement – we want to live way our and grow most of our food. For years now my favorite cookbook has been Uncommon Gourmet by Ellen Helman – lots of easy good recipes.

  44. 294
    Paula Burleigh says:

    Loving Sally Schneider’s The Improvisational Cook- such fabulous templates for endless variations.