I’m the type of person who loves tools. Sometimes, I sit and think about my future garage, full of all the finest gadgets for and solutions to all the problems I face. Well, I really don’t have too many problems, but I still love garages. Even if I didn’t ever use the tools I would collect, I would still cherish them and “know they’re there.” That’s what really matters.
Since I don’t yet own this garage, I’ve turned my little obsession for “things” toward the kitchen. I’ve begun acquiring a different type of tools to assist me with a problem I do have – eating.
A while back, I made a decision. I decided that since both Laura and I eat every day and since we both have an insatiable appetite for learning, why not delve into the world of food? And since I’m an extraordinarily prolific blogger, why not share what I learn and eat for dinner online? It wasn’t too far after these types of thoughts traversed my mind that IndustryEats was born. And here we are today, 13 months later and 141 recipes shared. I’m feeling pretty good about things.
I’ve amassed a multitude of kitchen tools. I have a homemade pasta maker, recently acquired stainless steel cooking racks, an incredibly strong colander, a professional chef knife set, cutting boards, skillets and so on. Everything I now own is right up there in regards to quality. I’ve gone down the road of kitchen junk for years and years and realized that if I had just spent a bit of extra money at the outset instead of cheaping out the way I did, I would have actually saved money in the long run. Today, it’s all about stainless steel and cast iron. Real wood and legitimate recipe sources. I don’t skimp these days and I think it’s showing. As a matter of fact, I just mentioned the 141 different meals Laura and I have enjoyed over the past year to someone last night and I mentioned it with pride. The dishes I’ve prepared, in my opinion, have been very good.
I owe much of this “goodness” to my collection of cookbooks. Without them and their shared wisdom, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am. For that, I thank the authors. I have no qualms about mentioning their names in my posts and trying to promote their books. They wrote them and put everything together, so they definitely deserve more credit than I can ever give them.
In today’s post, I thought I’d talk about the cookbooks I’ve picked up over the past year. Laura had one or two of them from before this blog ever arrived, but most of what I work with is new. I know this type of thing is of interest to a lot of people, so I hope you enjoy what I have to say below.
In the sections below, I’m going to give you my thoughts on the cookbooks I use on a daily basis. If you have resources that you feel I, or my readers, can benefit from, please add them in the comment section at the bottom of this post.
What’s For Dinner by Curtis Stone
This cookbook was a steal. I found it down in town at a used bookstore for $7. It was the only cookbook among hundreds that had pictures in it. I guess the older models didn’t believe in this type of thing. Since I’m mega visually oriented, I truly enjoy looking at the photography that accompanies the recipes. They also help tremendously with my own photography. They show where things are supposed to go and how they should be arranged.
Curtis Stone is one of my favorite chefs. He actually wasn’t until I began reading through this book, but after learning about him, I was shown the light. Curtis puts together some very elegant dishes and has an obvious flair for style and taste. He uses his climate (southern California) and interests as inspiration for his dishes. It’s an awesome combination from someone I have very little trouble relating to.
Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone
I just received this book in the mail yesterday. Since then, I’ve been devouring it. I already have the first dish in mind that I’ll most likely put up on this blog next week sometime. It’s called “Roasted Beet and Quinoa Salad with Goat Cheese, Fennel and Pecans.” I mean really? Doesn’t that sound divine?
There’s a unique combination of rustic and bold, yet easygoing simplicity to many of Curtis’ recipes. I think that’s what I like about them so much. Instead of iceberg salad wedges with ranch dressing poured over them, he tends to gravitate towards smaller and more tender types of greens and less used types of seafoods and grains. Lots of quinoa, lots of baby spinach and herbs and lots of salmon. I can totally get into it.
The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Ellen Brown
I’ve already pulled two recipes from this cookbook. They can be found here and here. They were both incredibly incredible. Ellen Brown is a genius in her own right and should be taken seriously in the culinary world.
There’s a funny thing about “cast iron” cookbooks. The funny thing is that every single recipe doesn’t need to be prepared using cast iron. For both of the recipes I took from her book, I could have easily use stainless steel. Of course, using cast iron is a whole lot more fun because you can pretend that you’re living in the 1800s but in all honesty, a variety of skillets will do. They need to be oven safe though. No plastic, that’s for sure.
The recipes in Ellen’s book need to be reviewed before any attempt is made at preparation. You can sort of wing it with some of the resources I’ll share after this one, but here, that’s not the case. You want to be prepared because she injects small fragments of wisdom and technique into every dish. For instance, yesterday’s recipe use meringue as a very large part of what the final result would look like. Have I ever made meringue? No, of course not. Before moving forward with the recipe, I had to study up on exactly what meringue was and how to achieve the best results with it. These are the activities I was looking forward to when I made the decision to learn how to cook.
By the way, when making meringue, the egg whites need to be room temperature. Keep that in mind.
Bread Illustrated by America’s Test Kitchen
This is a relatively new cookbook as well. America’s Test Kitchen just released it a month or two ago and I’m confident that I was one of the first people in the world to by it. At the time of purchase, there were no reviews on Amazon and I had very little idea of what I was getting myself into. The thing is, I’ve already had experience with the Test Kitchen. I took their online “cooking school” course and had already gobbled up many of their recipes. Through much of my learning, I only found one mistake on their part. They suggest that you hard boil eggs starting out with cold water. Don’t ever do that. If you want to learn why, please read this post. I hope they correct his soon so others don’t suffer the same fate as I did.
This “bread bible” offers a full overview of how to cook bread. It talks about what the different ingredients do and how the various techniques assist in making the perfect loaf. I’ve long wanted to make good bread, but one thing was missing – knowledge. With this book, I think I’m on the path of what I was put on this planet for, to bake good bread.
Bread Illustrated offers 100 bread recipes with over 1000 photos and full instructions for how to bake bread like a pro. I’ve been moving through this book, one recipe at a time, starting at the beginning, and I think I’m getting a handle on things. If you’d like to look at the bread I’ve already made, you can find the recipes here, here and here.
Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger
For a very long time, Laura and I have been trying to make veggie burgers that both taste good and hold together. Our road has been rocky, to say the least. No matter how good someone’s recipe sounds, we’ll generally had trouble in the “holding together” area. That is, until Lukas Volger came onto the scene.
The world of veggie burgers is huge. I’m not sure what you think of when you hear that term, but I used to have images of mashed beans and vegetables crammed into some sort of patty. That’s really not the case. The imagination you can put into the preparation of veggie burgers is equivalent to the imagination you can put into any other recipe. Take the Armenian Lentil & Clove Veggie Burger recipe I put together a what ago as an example. It was awesome. Perhaps even the best veggie burger I’ve ever eaten.
In Lukas’ cookbook, there are dozens of burger recipes that range from white bean burgers to falafel burgers to burgers that take advantage of tofu, carrots and celery root. If you’d like to add to your creative burger repertoire, I encourage you to take a look at this cookbook.
The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook by Lodge
Purchasing this cookbook is sort of a rite of passage upon buying a cast iron skillet. You don’t just pick up a skillet and merely begin cooking with it. You first grab the most popular cast iron related cookbook on the market – and then start using your skillet. It’s just what you do.
Cast iron is a rugged material to work with in the kitchen, but also one that needs to be used to its fullest advantage. It’s the sort of material you can immerse fully into a wood burning stove or place entirely in the oven. Precautions do have to be taken though because if heated or cleaned incorrectly, you can warp the pan and remove the protective non-stick coating that develops over time.
The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook shares all types of information with the reader, including things like what I just mentioned. And on top of that, it shares some pretty great recipes. I’ve used this book extensively in the past for recipes, with some of my favorites being cornbread with shrimp, cauliflower and feta pizza and roasted red potatoes with sweet onion and rosemary.
This cookbook is bold. It’s not for the faint of heart. The recipes, while sometimes slightly complex, require big cuts through big vegetables with big knives. If you’re into smaller, more nuanced types of dishes, you might want to avoid this one. However, if you’re into taking the food and flavor quantity up a notch and already own a cast iron skillet, this book is for you.
Vegetarian Sandwiches by Paulette Mitchell
This one is Laura’s. She’s owned it for a while and I’ll admit, I never gave it much thought. It was only after I launched this site did the marvel of sandwiches affect my life. And marvelous sandwiches they are. I’ve actually made some of my favorite sandwiches ever by using the recipes offered in this book. Would you like to see what I’m referring to? Check out my Italian omelet with roasted peppers recipe. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
Paulette’s sandwich cookbook doesn’t actually only include recipes for what you and I would consider traditional sandwiches. She’s got wraps, quesadillas, hogies, wedges and anything else that can be placed on something that was created from cooked wheat. To see all of her recipes that I’ve prepared so far, just follow this link. I simply did a search for “Paulette Mitchell” at the top of this blog.
Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green
I’ll admit, I haven’t made anything that’s included in this book yet. It does show promise though and that’s why I bought it. My goal is to build up my recipe library to such an extent that I’ll never need to buy anything again. Yeah right. Like that’s going to happen.
I have a pasta maker and I have already made fresh pasta. I found both the searching for a really great pasta machine and the making of the first few rounds of pasta invigorating enough that I decided to venture forward in the world of fresh pasta. That’s why I began the hunt for a resource that could teach me much of what I needed to know as well as offer a whole bunch of what appear to be incredible recipes.
There’s everything in this book. What I am truly interested in is making colored pasta, such as the green that includes spinach and the orange that includes squash. This book also shares recipes for pasta that integrate a wide variety of ingredients, such as beets, red wine, porcini mushroom and squid ink. After reading through a bit of this book, I knew I couldn’t go wrong. I mean, I already had all the tools I’d need to get things done.
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen
This is the one. If I had to give up all my cookbooks except for one, I’d keep this one. It includes over 250 vegan and 500 glutin-free recipes. I’ve pulled many a recipe from this book and I have to say, I’ve enjoyed them all. There’s a certain confidence that comes with purchasing a resources that comes from the Test Kitchen and that confidence stems from the fact that their recipes are tested for many things before they’re included in any resources they offer.
If you’ve browsed this blog at all, you’ve surely seen some of the recipes from this book. Think about the vegetarian Philly style sandwich, the black bean and pepper enchilada and the risotto with Parmesan cheese recipes. This truly is an all around perfect book for anybody. Really. With the variety of recipes these people create, it’s no wonder they’re so popular.
Well, there you have it. My growing collection of awesome cookbooks. Again, if you have something to add or if you can suggest something that I haven’t even thought about, I’d be so grateful. Just write your thoughts down in the comment section. Thanks for reading!