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Great Cookbooks for Families: Tomes

Reviewed by Katy Killilea

htce-originalhtce-vegWhen is a thousand-page cookbook more than an emergency booster seat? Most kitchens contain at least one trusty book a cook can turn to when faced with a mystery. Home cooks are very loyal to their preferred reference sources-I have purchased the same volume three times. And when I consider others, they seem not just foreign but almost impenetrable.

I’m solidly for Mark Bittman‘s How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. True, that’s two books, but they have the same modus operandi. Here’s the M.O.: you’ve got some idea of what you want to make, look it up, read a basic recipe, read Bittman’s ideas for flavor combinations and spin-off ideas, and off you go. I should mention that each of these books contains over 2,000 recipes.

The original How to Cook Everything is what I turn to whenever I forget the temperature for roasting a chicken or how many eggs go in popovers. I am utterly unable to store this kind of information in my brain, so the book functions as an external hard drive. Since we mostly eat like vegetarians, Bittman’s new vegetarian version is hugely useful for its generous sections on things like tempeh and bean fritters and luscious vegetable stews.

What’s your go-to reference book? The Best Recipe? Joy of Cooking?  Silver Palate?

The details:
How to Cook Everything Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition
By Mark Bittman
$35.00 Wiley

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
By Mark Bittman
$35.00 Wiley

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  • I love the Mollie Katzen books, but found the later Moosewood books kind of patchy–as if some recipes weren’t really ever tested–and so I gave all of my non-Katzen Moosewoods to a book sale…now I’m in the process of re-acquiring all of them because I’ve had so many delicious things friends have made from them.