The internet has become a good source for recipes and cooking instructions. In fact, some of my very favorite recipes are from the ‘net, but the web will never fully replace my cookbooks.

I love cookbooks. Even before I liked to cook, I liked to look through cookbooks. A good cookbook is a necessity in any kitchen, and yet it can be surprisingly hard to find to find a cookbook that you can turn to with almost any question or any ingredient. I feel lucky to have three such cookbooks.

The Zuni Café Cookbook – This cookbook garnered a lot of attention and from my experience, it deserves it all. The recipes are decidedly not 30 minute meals. This is a cookbook where the recipe for hamburgers starts with instructions for grinding your own meat. It’s exceedingly comprehensive and a great resource. I haven’t tried to make my own duck confit, but I know where I could find detailed instructions.

These are some of our very favorite meals.

Favorite Recipes –

  • Pasta alla Carbonara – God damn it, this is good. Eggs, fresh ricotta, favas (such a brilliant replacement for peas!), and bacon. My kind of meal.
  • Artichokes with Mint and Olives – This dish usually takes me to the end of my cooking rope. It takes longer than I ever expect and with more irritating steps than you can imagine, but the end result is so worth it. We make it every artichoke season.
  • Chicken Bouillabase – Mr. WholeHog isn’t the biggest fan of chicken but this rich onion-y chicken soup won him over.
  • The Famous Roast Chicken.

Gourmet – The giant yellow Gourmet cookbook has been criticized for not having any pictures, but what it lacks in pictures, it makes up for in its sheer number of recipes. Gourmet covers every meal from breakfast through dessert. This is my go-to when I have an ingredient I’m not sure what to do with or if I need some new ideas for pancakes or cookies.

Favorite Recipes

The Cheese Board Collective Works – I had to actually look up the official name of this cookbook since to me, it’s just the Arizmendi cookbook. (A quick history: The Cheeseboard in Berkeley begat Arizmendi Bakery, once my cherished neighborhood bakery and now one of the two best bakeries in SF.)

Arizmendi makes a terrific pizza, rustic scones (their corn-cherry is a classic) and I can’t explain what makes their brioche knots so addictive, you’ll just have to try them yourself. The recipes for all of these treats are found in this cookbook, as well as recipes for bread dought and pizza dough, cookies and, randomly, two salsa recipes. You’ll also find information on cooperatives and on cheese here.

I’ve mainly stuck with the scone and muffin recipes. I particularly like that they give instructions for both mixing by hand and with a mixer, since I avoid using machines whenever possible.

Favorite Recipes

  • Maple Pecan Scones – The scones are glazed in a mixture of maple syrup and powdered sugar, so you know they’re delicious. Don’t sub in even a little whole wheat flour as we did once. Baking is no time for nutrition!
  • Pear Pecan Muffins

All images from Powells, the best online source for books. These books can be purchased via, of course, or from your local, independent bookstore.


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