Bondi Beach with a dose of LA. This book is a guide to the wonders of nature, sun-filled days, good friends and the delicious meals to accompany it all. With ingredient-forward recipes and a modern (and moderate) take on health, this book includes everything from perfectly cooked eggs and meat to plum-spiked porridges, kombucha frappe and grain-free chocolate raspberry muffins. The salads are beyond beautiful too. Everything in this book makes me want to share a perfect meal with friends then hit the beach.
The Silver Palate Cookbook This book, and frankly everything about The Silver Palate, was an awakening, a feminist force and the seed for our current food-obsessed culture. The Silver Palate, a tiny and stylish take-out shop on the Upper West Side, was consummately New York, a gift to working women and the families they fed. But, thanks largely to this book, their influences reached far beyond the city, to the suburbs and to stay-at-home moms like my own, whose horizons were expanded (hello, pesto!) and whose domestic skills were somehow made modern and culturally relevant by the powerhouse duo behind The Silver Palate. Their Chicken Marbella just might be the official dinner party entree of the 1980s. I love the Tapenade Dip and the Orange and Onion Salad. I inherited my copy from my mother, Weezie. I’ll keep it forever.
For a great read on the history of The Silver Palate, check out this NY Times story by our friend, the brilliant Christine Muhlke.
It’s All Good This is, hands down, the most used cookbook on my shelf. Like me, Gwyneth is a busy working mom, interested in feeding herself and her family fresh, healthful and simple food. Co-author Julia Turshen is a brilliant cook and recipe writer and the collaboration is perfect. The vegan and gluten free muffins are a daily addition to Louis and Sally’s lunch boxes. (I make them mini and store them in the freezer.) The lentil salad is a weekly staple and the roasted cauliflower with chickpeas is a perfect winter dinner. I love the kids’ chapter too.
Breakfast Lunch Tea This stylish book from the British-owned Rose Bakery in Paris is a beautifully designed guide to daytime entertaining. And while health food isn’t high on their agenda (the book is loaded with recipes for tarts and baked goods), their Salad Counter section is perfect. The Carrot Seed salad, dressed with lemon and oil and finished with chives and sea salt, is a staple in our house. Great on its own with a side of olives or added to any dragon bowl. This book is a sweet reminder to invite our friends for breakfast. Or lunch. Or tea.
New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant When it launched in 1977, The Moosewood Cookbook was like a gateway drug for many. The first vegetarian book to widely be embraced by non-vegetarians, it invited so many to experiment with meatless meals. In truth, Moosewood relied heartily on cheese, butter and cream, but this book presents their lighter side, with a heavy lean on both Japanese and African flavors. It also covers hippie classics like steamed brown bread and perfect Cuban or Creole style rice and beans. There are recipes for fish here as well, and if memory serves me, by the late eighties Moosewood restaurant did serve some fish. I love the Miso-Ginger Dressing and the simple vegetable curry.
Clean Start Fully gluten-free and vegan and organized by season, this pretty book serves the way I like to cook at home. Terry Walters’ recipes are simple, modern and super-flavorful, leaning heavily on fresh herbs and pungent, often Asian, flavors like sesame, miso and ginger. I can’t wait to try the Polenta Pizza. Her desserts are gorgeous too, especially the Blueberry Tart. A perfect guide for healthful cooking whether you’re feeding yourself or your family and friends.
Chez Panisse Vegetables From the queen of California cooking, this book is Alice Water’s guide to plants. Organized alphabetically, with each vegetable, or family of vegetables, its own chapter, it’s a perfect companion for those days you leave the farmer’s market with whatever looks great. The recipes range from the simple to the slightly more complex and some are even written in prose. No strict measurements here. Just a guide to cooking vegetables perfectly. The Eggplant Caviar is shockingly good and my cocktail party staple. The Napa Cabbage Slaw with a shallot laced vinaigrette goes from picnic to taco night and beyond. The recipes are trend-proof and always delicious.
Crazy Water Pickled Lemons When I was in my 20s I was obsessed with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. Paula Wolfert’s bible The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean introduced me to pomegranate, Aleppo Pepper and sumac and informed many ambitious dinner parties in my tiny West Village apartment. I discovered Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons a few years later, Diana Henry’s stylish and edited down guide to this beautiful and aromatic food. I use it now to inspire flavors in my own more plant-based recipes. Rose, quince, pistachios, dates, cardamom, chili and of course, preserved lemons run the show. Get to know these gorgeous ingredients. Your guests will thank you.
Tender, Volume 1 The great Nigel Slater’s guide to cooking from the garden, Tender is another volume organized by vegetable. You’ll not only learn some great recipes but also learn the basics of how to treat each plant, what seasonings pair well with each and the basics for cooking them. This is an omnivore’s book but serves the vegetable-lover equally well.
The Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook I went to college in Ithaca, New York, home to the well-loved Moosewood. But just up the hill, Cabbagetown Cafe was the “other” vegetarian spot, my favorite, a high hippie outpost and always delicious. The Wings of Life Salad converted me to a lifetime of eating from a bowl. A big satisfying salad can take you anywhere. The restaurant is closed now and the book is out of print, but track it down and make a batch of their otherworldly Lemon Sesame Dressing, also known as LSD. You’ll think you’re tripping.