Inspiring Cookbooks

While I work on setting up a new system to keep track of what inspires me in the kitchen, I’ve been drawn back to flipping through the original way of finding recipes–cookbooks! Cookbooks are probably my favorite gifts to receive. I always get a few every year, whether for a birthday or for Christmas, and I’m building up a little collection of my own! Even though I love the ease of browsing through the New York Times Cooking section, or visiting some of my favorite food blogs, there is nothing like a beautifully put together cookbook to really inspire. While some of my favorite cookbooks for everyday meals or simple parties are those published by various Junior Leagues (I particularly love It’s Our Serve! by the Junior League of Long Island and Bermudian Cookery by the Bermuda Junior Service League), I really love to find cookbooks that provide me with that little extra bit of inspiration to elevate cooking from something that is an enjoyable task to something that is a little bit magical. Below are five of the cookbooks that have most inspired me.

Buvette, Jody Williams
Although I had been coveting this cookbook for ages, it took until my fantastically wonderful friends bought it for us as a wedding present to actually delve into it! I adore French food and the recipes in Buvette are so mouthwatering I can’t read it while hungry. The recipes are very clear and easy to follow, and the photography is beautiful. I have tried a dozen or so recipes so far and every one has been absolutely perfect. If you are in the city, be sure to check out Buvette on Grove Street in the Village. Both the cookbook and the restaurant make sure that every detail is perfect and it truly elevates the cooking and dining experience.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck’s masterpiece is a classic, and for good reason. Mastering the Art of French Cooking is the first definitive work of French cooking in English and covers every imaginable recipe. This is the place to go to learn all the staples of French cooking, from sauces to desserts.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perelman
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (and Deb’s blog) taught me so many cooking staples, from how to poach an egg to making my own tomato sauce. I love her writing and all the stories she shares with her readers. The recipes are very clear and she often givens directions if substitutions are desired. I can’t wait to check out her newest cookbook and add it to my collection.

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve, Cathal Armstrong
Restaurant Eve is one of my all-time favorite restaurants in the DC area, and Cathal Armstrong is one of my favorite chefs. The restaurant is located in Old Town Alexandria, the space is perfect, and the tasting menu is to die for (especially with the wine pairing!) While the tasting menu is definitely best saved for a special occasion, and an evening where you can spend about four hours over your dinner, they also offer a la carte lunches and, if you know where to go, a three-course prix fixe dinner menu. This cookbook features delicious recipes and wonderful stories about Armstrong’s life and about the role of ingredients in traditional Irish food.

French Provincial Cooking, Elizabeth David
I mentioned Elizabeth David’s famous cookbook French Provincial Cooking in this post about being an armchair traveler, and linked to several recipes I’m eager to try here. This cookbook is not only a classic, it also feels like speaking to a friend. It is a crucial addition to any kitchen!

What cookbooks most inspire you?

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