This article originally appeared on Grub Street.
Whether you’ve always cooked at home or you live by Seamless, we’re all home cooks now. And we understand it can be hard to find inspiration amid the endless possibilities of internet cooking sites. Right now, we need cookbooks that we can turn to over and over again or that can teach us the basics of cooking for those who weren’t exactly wizards in the kitchen before all this. Grub reached out to 14 cooking experts — recipe developers, cookbook authors, food editors, and more — to find out what cookbooks they’re turning to now more than ever for all of the above. Here’s what they had to say.
Co-author, Appetites: A Cookbook
“I know I’m not alone in missing Tony Bourdain’s sharp, smart voice even more than usual. I imagine he would be advocating for restaurant workers, millions of who are now out of work, while others risk their own health to keep cooking and serving take-out and delivery, doing their best to stanch the financial bleeding as the world economy grinds to a halt. Also, unlike many of our so-called elected officials, Tony knew a thing or two about deadly contagion, having written a very good, but little-discussed book called Typhoid Mary, in which he explores “the story of a proud cook — a reasonably capable one by all accounts — who at the outset, at least, found herself utterly screwed by forces she neither understood nor had the ability to control.”
In the sad absence of Actual Tony, I’m rereading Typhoid Mary, and have been cooking the comforting basics from his first cookbook, Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook, most notably the roast chicken, the onion and mushroom soups, the mashed potatoes, and the blueberries with lime sugar.”
“I’ve also been making chicken and tofu variations on the coconut fish curry from Munchies Guide to Dinner, which is both a solid resource for people who are just starting to cook for themselves, and just a generally smart and fun book, full of good ideas like saucing charred broccoli with a tahini mustard sauce, and using a fast, durable calzone dough to make grandma-style pizza.”
Author, Piatti: Plates and Platters for Sharing, Inspired by Italy
“Although I keep thinking that I should use this extra time at home to take on a complex project like sourdough bread baking or perfecting pizza dough from scratch, when my husband and I left Brooklyn two weeks ago to head to our Catskills place, the one cookbook I grabbed was all about the easy, fresh cooking I already know and love: Susan Spungen’s new book Open Kitchen. Susan is a food stylist who’s worked on magazine and film sets for decades, so I knew that her recipes would actually work! She also has an eye for color in her cooking, and for health, two things we all need as much of as we can get right now. And I love that so many of her dishes include both warm and cool elements for contrast. The other night I made her cover recipe of roasted radishes with radish green pesto. I happen to have almost all the ingredients for a small batch of her smoky eggplant dip, and for her za’atar tofu bowls, so I think those are probably next. Yep, we’re getting down to the tofu.”
Michael W. Twitty
Author, The Cooking Gene
“My cookbook refuge right now is A Taste of Africa by Rosamund Grant, the kind of cookbook you kinda have to dig about to find. Her work is an excellent introduction to West and East African foodways for Western kitchens. My favorite recipes include jollof rice, kachumbari, Ethiopian collard greens, suya, Nigerian meat stew, and tamale. The recipes lend themselves beautifully to Instapot, Crockpot, and stew pot, and fit the bill for stretching for a budget and feeding a small crowd.”
Freelance journalist and recipe developer
“Tu Casa Mi Casa: Mexican Recipes for the Home Cook came out in March 2019. Within days, it became my most sauce-splattered, dog-eared cookbook. It’s full of deeply comforting recipes like Chicken Tinga and Crispy Potato and Quesillo Flautas, which are so soothing to eat that they’re like having Jim Dale whisper-read Harry Potter directly into your ear. In the book’s introduction, Enrique Olvera writes that “cooking at home … is a therapy of reconnecting and reconstructing the relationship with yourself.” That feels especially poignant now that many of us are confined to our spaces, and also makes me feel better about the amount of time I’ve been spending eating bites of things straight from pots while wearing oversize sweatpants.
Managing partner, Kitchen Arts & Letters
“The great thing about Diana Henry’s From the Oven to the Table is you don’t have to fuss around. Ten minutes worth of kitchen work and then everything goes into a Dutch oven or onto a sheet pan. Half an hour, dinner’s ready. Henry loves flavor, too, and she’s got a gift for contrasts that always wakes me up. Chicken with feta cheese, dill, lemon, and harissa yogurt. Pork chops with beets and apples. Baked beans with bacon and pork belly and a hint of molasses. Plus, she’s a beautiful writer and there’s something incredibly calming about reading her. That’s an extra bounty these days.”
Food editor, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Meals, Music, and Muses by Alexander Smalls is giving me so much life. I was classically-trained violinist, so, I connect with Chef Smalls background as an opera singer. I love the way he has curated these recipes like a set list, and discusses the ways that food and music are inextricably linked. He pays homage to Leontyne Price, Kathleen Battle, Tina Turner and Diana Ross, as well as dishes like Pepper Pot, also known as Philadelphia Gumbo. I’m going to be trying all the fish and seafood recipes in the opera section.”
Author, Season and food columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle
“The book that I often turn to is Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat because of the ease with which she communicates her instructions, but also because the recipes are categorized in a very practical way like “Cooking in Advance” or “Weekend Lunch”. There’s even a section on feeding babies and small children that I presume a lot of families will find helpful. In addition, the book is replete with cooking tips and I find that very useful when adapting her recipes to what I have at home in the kitchen.”
Author, One Good Dish
“Right now I want to eat a lot of vegetables. And since I love to play with spices, I have been spending time with Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian India. Like all her books, it is incredibly well-researched, with 200 recipes from all over India. There is not one recipe I don’t want to make. Many are quite simple, like the highly seasoned raw Cucumber Spears or the Stir-Fried Carrots with ginger and coconut; the Roasted Cauliflower with Punjabi spices; and Banarasi Potatoes with turmeric and garam masala. I love the selection of dal preparations, made with dried beans, lentils, chickpeas and even mung bean sprouts. Red Lentils with cumin and fried shallots Black-Eyed Peas with cilantro and green chilies are at the top of my list of favorites. And there is an extensive array of rice and grain dishes, as well as recipes for flatbreads, parathas and mouthwatering savory pancakes. All this and more — a collection of chutneys and pickles, along with drinks and a few sweets — makes this book a valuable, informative resource.”
Senior editor, Food52
“These days, in self-quarantine, I find myself returning to Anna Del Conte’s Risotto with Nettles, for the recipes, to be sure, but especially for the stories of wartime Italy, and how she and her family had to bolt themselves in from the outside world. This is a book for anyone who loves long headnotes and reading about the context behind food: whether that be national and cultural history or personal narrative. I’ve read this book from cover to cover a few times in my life, but right now I enjoy flipping to certain chapters based on what I want to eat and how I’m feeling. The other day I was writing about carbonara and comfort food, so I opened the chapter called “Carbonara