As I approach the 11 year (!) mark for this site, I decided it was time to branch out a bit from sharing recipe after recipe. Over the years, I’ve amassed notes, ideas, methods, and books that rarely get shared (unless you happen to hold a conversation with me). And so, I thought it time to share some of my favorites from over the years.
I could have started with a different list because I realize this post isn’t going to be for everyone, but I wanted to share books that were my go-to. I have a huge cookbook collection but to be truthful, it’s rare I crack one open. Instead, I reach for the books that give me a bit of education.
These are the compendium cookbooks that have information I’d normally have to scour the library/internet for and spend time searching site to site or book to book. These compendium cookbooks that made me fall in love with vegetables more than I thought possible (and that’s a statement!)
Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison
In my collection, this is the mother of all compendiums. I adore Deborah’s writing and the warmth that radiates from the pages engulfs me in wanting to know more about the different plants. The book is split into different plant families and I think what I like most is her connection from the garden to cooking. If you only buy one book on this list, I’d highly recommend it be this one. Buy the book.
Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini
The Essential Reference by Elizabeth Schneider
My first foray into the CSA world left me a bit overwhelmed. Whether it was a new variety or a vegetable I’d never tried, it was exciting but always left me searching for information. This book came in handy. It’s really a solid reference book and one I like to keep on my tablet for quick checks. Buy the book.
The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan
If you want to eat more vegetables, I recommend this and the following two books as solid reads. There’s so much more to grocery-store produce and these books prove it. In roots, you explore the well-known varieties (like potatoes) to the lesser-known varieties (like galangal). Is extremely informative and well worth a spot on your shelf. Buy the book.
Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura B. Russell
As with the book above, Brassicas explores one of my favorite categories. I found this book as I was researching more into kale but fell in love with the approach of root to leaf cooking. Many of these vegetables are great to grow at home and this book is the perfect companion to harvest and cook. Buy the book.
The Book of Greens
A Cook’s Compendium of 40 Varieties, from Arugula to Watercress by Jenn Louis
When I started the CSA, I was overwhelmed by the amount of greens. Every week, without fail, I’d bring home chard, kale, and arugula. While I got creative, I could have used this book. Best of all, Jenn covers varieties you might pass over because you’re not sure how to use them. If you find yourself with greens, all the time: get this book. Buy the book.
The following books are books I don’t quite put in the compendium category but are good, solid books for primers on legumes, grains, and general advice for food pairing.
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible
The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based on the Wisdom of Leading American Chefs by Karen Page
I get asked quite frequently how I come up with the recipes I share on the site. While some inspiration comes from cookbooks, restaurants, and other sites; the majority comes from this book. More often than not I head to the market with a baseline idea, see what’s in season, and use this book to brainstorm solid pairings. If you’re looking for a cookbook, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for lists of flavor pairings: this book is for you! Buy the book.
Ancient Grains for Modern Meals
Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck
No one has yet to write an solid compendium for grains (I’m sure it’s coming- I have a book proposal for that’s a story for another time). However, Maria’s book on these core ancient grains is a good start. In fact, it’s one of the first books that really got me into exploring a wide-range of grains. Best of all, Maria’s recipes are always wonderful. Buy the book.
Bean By Bean: A Cookbook
More than 175 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans, Even Sweet Beans by Crescent Dragonwagon
Along the lines of grains, I’ve yet to see an all-encompassing book about legumes. This book is a start and I’d recommend seeing if your local library carries it before you buy it. You can also always peruse Rancho Gordo’s site for lovely bean inspiration. Buy the book.