Growing up, I was not the kind of girl who understood the allure of nail polish, wearing dresses, and playing with barbies. I much preferred running around outside, building forts, riding horses and rollerblading with the boys. And when I wasn’t covered in dirt - I was usually tucked away in my room, nose deep in a book. I've always loved getting lost in the world of books, and wandering around the aisles of our neighborhood bookstore are some of my favorite childhood memories. Back then, I was crazy for Harry Potter, Matilda, The Pony Club series, and (my personal favorite) the Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. These days, my bookshelves (and pretty much every spare corner of our home) is stacked high with cookbooks of every shape, color, and size. I can't seem to help myself... as there are dozens of new + inspiring cookbook released every season, not to mention all of the classic tomes that I continually discover and devour. That's the thing I love about cookbooks - whether you're a home cook or a michelin-starred restaurant chef - we're all learning from each other and developing new dishes based on our own unique perspectives, local ingredients, and traditions.
So what are the top five cookbooks that I simply can't live without? It was VERY hard to put this list together, but here (in no particular order) are the cookbooks that I find myself reaching for whenever I'm in need of guidance and inspiration:
Not to go all fan-girl on you guys, but Alice Waters is my kitchen hero. Her world renown Berkeley-based restaurant, Chez Panisse, revolutionized farm to table dining way before #farmtotable was #ontrend. Just like the trailblazer that she is, Alice's The Art of Simple Food is not your average cookbook - you won't find any super trendy cauliflower rice or kale chips in these chapters, but what you will find is an encyclopedia of knowledge built from decades of experience from our dear Alice. Everything from purchasing and storing produce to slicing, dicing, braising, frying, roasting, grilling, preserving, storing, etc etc. So listen close friends - if you could only get your hands on one cookbook on this list, The Art of Simple Food is the one to get.
If there is a Queen of Vegetables, it's Deborah Madison. For over 30 years, Deborah Madison has penned some of the most beloved vegetarian cookbooks, and with Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom she has totally undone herself. The chapters are divided by botanical family, as Madison demonstrates throughout the book that vegetables within the same botanical families share common taste profiles, pairings, and preferred cooking methods. This cookbook will totally revolutionize the way you think about fresh produce, and as you learn about the distinct personalities of each type of vegetable or herb, you will gain the confidence to cook with your instinct, imagination and improvisation! To get those creative juices flowing, get your copy here.
Ever wonder what the heck to do with a rutabaga? How in the world to chop and cook an artichoke? Want a better way to cook beets than boiling them to death? Then this cookbook is for you. The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichoke to Zucchini is a newer addition to my collection, and it might just be my spirit animal. Totally unlike any cookbook I've seen, it's full of clear and easy to follow instructions and photos for learning to purchase, prep and cook with just about any vegetable under the sun. Perfect for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members who may receive weekly boxes of less familiar produce, and for all of you adventurous cooks out there looking to expand your vegetable repertoire. Ready, set, get your copy now!
Am I allowed to have TWO kitchen heros? If so, Darina Allen is the Irish counterpart to my American heroine, Alice Waters. Darina is the heart and soul behind the Ballymaloe Cooking School, where I earned my culinary school stripes. While there's nothing like learning from Darina in person, the next best thing is the Ballymaloe Cookery Course cookbook. With 1,175 recipes, 370 variations and more than 100 basic skills - from pastry to pasta making, butter churning to butterflying a leg of lamb - the straightforward instructions and helpful photographs will help you gain the confidence to tackle just about any recipe. I promise, this is cookbook is one worth getting your hands on!
Ever wish you could have one cookbook that amassed some of the most beloved, tried and true recipes from chefs all around the world? Lucky for us, that cookbook already exists - Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook is a collection of foolproof recipes created by the crazy talented team at Food52. The 100 recipes are passed down from celebrity chefs, cookbook authors, food bloggers and home cooks alike - covering everything from favorite breakfast foods, to snacks, soups + salads, entrees, and desserts. In addition to being incredibly useful, this cookbook is visually stunning and makes an awesome gift for all the foodie friends and family in your life. Run, don't walk to get your copy!
Olive Oil & Maple Spiced Granola
Today I'm sharing one of my favorite recipes inspired by Food52's Genius Recipes cookbook: Olive Oil and Maple Granola. The secret to this granola is the olive oil, which adds a touch of savory to the otherwise sweet, salty, crunchy mix. Master this basic granola recipe and feel free to mix it up with other spices, nuts, etc. I've adapted the Food52 version of this recipe slightly, to incorporate some of my favorite flavor combinations - cardamom, cinnamon, and orange - a combo that I picked up during my time in the kitchen at Flagstone Pantry!
- 3 cups oats
- 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup walnuts | coarsely chopped or left whole
- 1 cup pecans | coarsely chopped or left whole
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- Heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil or pan release. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans, and coconut. In a small bowl, whisk to combine olive oil, maple syrup, orange zest, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom.
- Add wet to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Spread granola mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until granola is toasted, about 45 minutes.
- Remove granola from oven and season with more salt to taste. Let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.