I have collected my fair share of cookbooks over the years. It’s always good fun to go back and look at what I have up there on the shelf. Much like pictures, they all tell a story. Take the three cookbooks ALL about grilling meat – clearly from those early courtship days with my steak-loving boyfriend (now near-vegetarian husband). There was also the pre-kids Martha Stewart phase when, like the rest of America, I was striving to be the perfect hostess (wild mushroom crostini, anyone?). Martha started to collect dust once the babies came, pushed to the back of the shelf by all the “How the Feed a Happy, Healthy Child” books. Who knew that there could be so much to learn about sneaking pureed sweet potatoes into otherwise bland food?
Although my collection continues to grow, I have settled on a handful of tried-and-true favorites. They are the select few. The go-to, always-on-the-counter cookbooks that are so dogged eared and ratty at this point, I am surprised that they don’t just get up and walk away. I look to them for inspiration, sometimes following the recipes precisely but, more and more often, using them as a starting point for my own creation. They are each unique, telling a story all their own. They also share many commonalities – beautiful photography, easy to follow recipes, and a commitment to simple whole foods cooking.
I imagine that today’s “favorites” will one day be retired to the shelf, joining Martha et al. But for now, they hold on to that place of honor next to the stove.
Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton
Think Vegetarian 101. This cookbook is perfect for learning more about cooking technique and how best to maximize the natural flavors of fresh veggies.
Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson
Heidi has made whole foods cooking an art. Her recipes are creative, delicious to eat, beautiful to the eye AND simple to make.
Wholesome Kitchen by Ross Dodson
Although not a seasonal cookbook, Wholesome Kitchen tends to get a workout between the months of October to April. Think comfort food – hearty, nourishing, stick-to-your ribs kind of food. Perfect for those colder months.
Tender is a cookbook, for sure. But it is much more than that. It celebrates farm-to-table cooking like no other, beautifully demonstrating how even the simplest ingredients can make for a wonderfully unusual and delicious meal.
Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley
Peter Berley’s book is usually my first stop when doing any dinner party planning. His recipes have a great way of looking and tasting deceptively “fancy” – but the cookbook’s title tells the true story.
I have included a couple recipes from Fresh Food Fast. These two, along with many others from Peter Berley’s collection of simple whole food recipes, make regular appearances in our household in one form or another.
RED LENTIL & SWEET POTATO CURRY
- In a saucepan, bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil.
- Warm the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally until the onion softens. About 3-4 minutes.
- Add the sweet potato, ginger, garlic, curry powder and bay leaf. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the boiling water and stir in the lentils. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer until the lentils break down and the sweet potatoes are tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Season with salt.
- Serve the curry with warm pita bread and Spicy Red Cabbage.
SPICY RED CABBAGE WITH TOMATOES
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 small head of red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes with their juice
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1 lemon
- Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the shallots and red pepper flakes, sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the cabbage, raisins, tomato and their liquid. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the salt, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the cabbage is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice, season with additional salt if needed and serve with the Red Lentil & Sweet Potato Curry.