Gorgeous Spring Cookbooks, Part I

April 9, 2011(updated on October 3, 2018)

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.

Goat

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.

Heartland

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 thoughts on "Gorgeous Spring Cookbooks, Part I"

  • My current favorite cookbook is one by Marion Harland — I can’t remember off the top of my head if it’s “Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery (1871)” or “Marion Harland’s Complete Cookbook: A Practical and Exhaustive Manual of Cookery and Housekeeping (1903)”. It’s an amazing cookbook in that it also has instructions for cleaning lace, old sinks and how to deal with the help. 😛

    The cooking is not stupendous, but hearty, wholesome, and down-to-earth. Whenever I go “I really have no idea how to make (fill-in your choice of basic food)” I pull out this book.

  • Also, how is that kind of sandwich hard to find? Sounds like a basic sandwich to me living in Cambridge OR from north of Albany, NY!

  • I’ve been working my way through The Essential New York Times Cookbook for the last few weeks. I love that it is as much a history book as a cookbook.

  • Currently, my favorite cookbook is the Ithaca Farmer’s Market cookbook. I got it for Christmas and promptly read it cover to cover, but have only made a few recipes out of it so far. I love seeing the familiar faces inside and I’m looking forward to recreating some of my favorite purchases.

  • I have a soft spot for all things river cottage, but now I’m enjoying Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking. I have to say, I love the Farm House Cookbooks by Susan Hermann Loomis. For everyday cooking, those are my go-to books….

  • Right now my favorite cookbook is Canning for a New Generation. Liana Krissoff keeps it simple and delicious. The food I’ve canned using her recipes are everyone’s favorites.

  • My current favorite is At Home With Madhur Jaffrey. Simple Indian dishes w/ few ingredients that pack a real punch! Love the fish curries she has in there.

  • ooh, I love cookbooks…will definitely see if our library carries any of these. many thanks for the recommends, F.I.J.!

  • My favorite cookbook currently is from the Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant in Bridgeport, CT. My boyfriend went to Bridgeport to visit his grandmother, stopped at the restaurant for a meal, and left with both of their cookbooks. They are delightful, simple, accessible, and deliciously vegetarian.

  • My favorite for the moment is Seven Fires by Francis Mallman. It is not just a cookbook but a journey through Argentine cooking. Absolutely the best!

  • For cooking, for drooling over, or for sitting down and reading? 🙂 It’s so hard to say; lately I’ve just been winging it, but I think the last one I used was one of my older editions of Joy of Cooking. Good old Irma!

  • I’ve been cooking out of River Cottage Family Cookbook. I love their style and the kids love to help me.

  • Old, old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I hack a little bit, but several old favorites are in this book.

  • I’m having a great time and getting great results with the Grand Central Bakery Book. From kick-ass chocolate chip oatmeal cookies to their unmatched jammers, this book as inspired me to fire up the ovens and fatten up my family and friends. All the more reason to consider planting plenty of greens for salads this spring and summer.

  • My new favorite cookbook is Greens by Deborah Madison. Lovely classic vegetable dishes.

    I also love Veganomicon.

  • This whole stack you reviewed looks fabulous! I can’t wait until my library gets copies so I can browse through them. I think my current favorite cookbook is “Those wonderful grains II” by chef Brad Petersen. So many yummy yummy recipes!

  • My favorite right now would be a collection of family recipes that I was given recently. Homemade book = LOVE!

  • The one I use most often right now is the Moosewood Cookbook by Molie Katzen, though I have a special place in my heart for Jamie Oliver too.

  • What a great giveaway! I’m so excited – we just moved into our first apartment that has a yard, and I’ve been researching what I’ll need for my first kitchen garden.

    In a similar vein, my very favorite cookbook is Simply in Season. I just sit down and read it sometimes. I also use the inspiring stories inside to lead a discussion or even devotion from time to time!

  • I was lucky enough to see an advance copy of Saveur’s New American Comfort Food cookbook! The photos are gorgeous (as expected) and the range of difficulty of the recipes has a lot of variety. I think it will be an instant classic.

  • My current fave is the Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.

    How on earth do you get all of these cookbooks? Sign me up for that!

  • Of all these cookbooks, the gardening one is the one I’m most likely to actually use. Yay for cookbooks! I absolutely adore Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Suppers.” We’re not actually vegetarian (which is probably for the best, as many of these recipes use eggs), but everything I’ve made out of it has been over-the-top delicious.

  • I’m interested in checking out the goat book because my mom is planning on getting goats soon on her farm.

    As for my favorite, I don’t have one, but I do like my Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook, since it has some simple tasty recipes I fall back on. There are many more I could list, I think you need a bunch to have a well rounded resource base. I also have a fat 3-ring binder where I store all of the loose recipes I come across or get from my grandmother!

  • I am enjoying the Blue Chair Jam cookbook… mainly for inspiration, since a lot of the recipes aren’t very Midwest-friendly… but the photography and overall idea are fantastic!

  • I’m a newbie at collecting cookbooks, due to a minimalistic streak (which doesn’t apply to my jar fetish, unfortunately!), but have a few favorite standbys. At the moment, my go-to cookbook is Cybelle Pascal’s Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook. Healthy, and already tailored for feeding my dairy-allergic kids, not to mention a very attainable level of gourmet. I’m looking forward to delving into my new Ball Home Preserving book too though- I’d never seen so many canning recipes in one place! Can’t wait to dig in this summer (the seedlings are started on the windowsill)!

  • I have a ton of cookbooks but rarely use any. The one that gets the biggest workout is my written recipe book (aka the keeper pile!). Second place goes to a little booklet I received as a gift called “Tapas.” And, third? lots of contenders but maybe a slight nod to Molly Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven. Cookbooks are so seductive — I always love them and promise to use them, then let things slide but can’t bear to get rid of them…

  • My favorite cookbook right now is Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. A year ago I would have thought the idea of fresh home baked bread a few times each week was completely ludicrous, but it’s not!

  • I am so jealous of your wonderful collection of cookbooks! I have only a measly few, but my favorite (always has, probably always will be) is my checkered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I got it as a gift from my aunt when I moved out on my own, and so many of the recipes in there are my comfort food. I can’t help but turn to it every time I need to know how to cook anything.

  • I wonder if cookbook storage in your house is as complicated as it is in mine? I’m seriously running out of room– but it’s a lovely problem to have!

  • My go-to cookbook is a reprint of the 1957 Betty Crocker cookbook. Some of the recipes I’ll probably never try (aspics *cough* *cough*), but it’s got all the basics that I can use as jumping-off points to experiment.

  • It’s really not a cookbook, but I’m getting fat with Foodgawker.com food blog. Another staple on my counter is The Baby Bistro, but mainly because I’ve got 3 kiddos under 4 1/2!

    So excited to follow this!
    Thanks!

  • Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express is my new favorite! Easy throw it together recipes using seasonal foods. Love it!

  • Very cool give away. And it looks like a great cook book.

    My current favorite cook book is “Bakin’ Without Eggs” By Rosemarie Emro. My son has a sever egg allergy. I also found out I have a mild egg allergy that has become worse since removing all eggs and egg products from our house to make it safe for our son. This cook book has given us back many recipes that we love but has to do without because they contained eggs. I have yet to try recipe we did not like. I have made about 1/2 the recipes in the book.

  • I know it’s a strange time to be really into soup, but I’ve been paging through Recipes From the Night Kitchen a lot lately.

    I’ve also been waiting and waiting for a few dry, warm, days in a row so I can get some planting done!

  • Wow! Thank you so much for the chance to win this book. I am a new gardener and can use all the help I can get.

    My current favorite cookbook is Put ‘Em Up, and I’m pretty sure I got the recommendation from you!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

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

  • 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.

  • 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).

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

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

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

  • 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!!

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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.

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