I get quite a few review copies of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks in the mail. I only review and keep the cookbooks that I like, but still my kitchen bookshelf is groaning under the weight of cookbooks.
I thought it might be interesting to look and see which cookbooks I actually use on a daily basis. As I selected my favorites, I realized that the way I use cookbooks has changed significantly over the years.
When I first learned to cook I followed the recipes in cookbooks to the letter. As I became more comfortable with cooking I made cooking substitutions like using pecans instead of walnuts in chocolate chip cookies, or changing the spices in a soup.
These days I tend to think of recipes as a starting point. When I use a recipe I most often just take certain elements like proportions, spicing or cooking methods and then make my own version.
I used to faithfully turn to the stuffed zucchini recipe in one cookbook whenever I wanted to make stuffed summer squash. Finally I realized that the only things the recipe in the book and the recipe I was making had in common were the name of the dish and the use of zucchini.
Because the way I cook has changed, so have the cookbooks that I use. My favorite cookbooks are those that educate and inspire me to create my own unique dishes. I'm happy to share the following list of a few of my favorite cookbooks - the ones I use the most:
The first two cookbooks are my go-to sources for cooking methods and basics. Recently when I wanted to develop a recipe for an ovo-lacto Potato Leek Quiche I consulted these two books for quiche-making basics.
This is not a vegetarian cookbook, but it is my favorite source of knowledge about baking. If I want to know about baking a fruit pie, Joy of Cooking will give me not just a recipe but also all the cooking tips I could want about working with different kinds of fruits, frozen versus fresh, thickeners, and much, much more.
If I want to understand how cornstarch works in a recipe, or the best way to beat egg whites and why, or if I run out of baking powder mid-recipe and need a cooking substitute, I grab Joy of Cooking.
Mark Bittman gives cooking tips for the basic building blocks of vegetarian cooking: How to cook grains, beans, and any vegetable you can think of. How to make vegetarian or vegan sauces and condiments. How to make bread and then how to make your vegetarian sandwich. How to make the tofu and then how to make a tofu scramble.
Bittman demystified bread baking for me and though I tend to turn to other cookbooks these days for most of my bread baking, I still use his pizza dough recipe on a regular basis.Read the Review: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
While I generally improvise my fruit pies and crisps, I still use a recipe when I make cream pies. And I haven't been making them very often because I could never find any really good recipes for vegan cream pies. Not until I got Vegan Pie in the Sky.
This cookbook has all kinds of pies, not just cream pies, but I love it especially because Moskowitz and Romero have developed a method for making the creamiest, most delicious vegan pies ever. As I get more familiar and comfortable with their techniques, I will probably experiment more with making up my own vegan cream pie recipes.Read the Review: Vegan Pie in the Sky
I wasn't over the moon about this cookbook at first. While the texture of Sadowski's breads is generally similar to gluten bread, the flours she uses have a strong and unfamiliar taste for someone used to wheat flour. I initially wanted to do all my gluten-free baking with more neutral tasting flours like sweet rice flour, but found I missed eating mostly whole grains and soon picked up this cookbook again.
I came to love The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread because Sadowski has the most comprehensive list of gluten-free flours of any cookbook I've seen. She explains what flours work best in what bread and how to achieve the desired texture.
Sadowski's cookbook has helped me to develop my own recipes for gluten-free baked goods using the whole-grain flours I prefer. I used this cookbook when I developed my Gluten-free Cornmeal Pancakes. Read the Review: The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread
I'm out of space and time, but not out of my favorite cookbooks. Other cookbooks I can't live without include:
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Wanda's Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver
Heaven's Banquet by Miriam Kasin Hospodar