Cookbook Confidential

Find out which cookbooks have earned a spot on Dining Editor Donna Covrett’s shelf.

The French Laundry Cookbook

By Thomas Keller, with Susie Heller and Michael Ruhlman
It’s been hailed as one of America’s greatest restaurants by everyone who has dined there, and Keller is renowned for his extraordinary detail. But his methods are simpler than you might expect, and many of his techniques are innovative (ex: how to squeegee the moisture from the skin of a fish for perfect sautéing). The essays and profiles are great reading, the photography (by Deborah Jones) stunning, and the results are as exciting as if he was in your kitchen himself.

Forever Summer

By Nigella Lawson
Italian, Spanish, and Mediterranean dishes done with simplicity and freshness and written in Nigella’s passionate, personal style. The chicken with lemon and rosemary and the watermelon, feta, and olive salad are two of my go-to dishes for Sunday suppers.

Simple Italian Food: Recipes From My Two Villages

By Mario Batali
A fun read, full of Mario’s unaffected character, explosive flavors, and truly simple recipes that work every time.

The Classic Italian Cookbook

By Marcella Hazan
Possibly the best Italian cookbook ever written, Hazan’s style is a bit militaristic, but for good reason: Anytime I’ve veered from her exact recipe I was disappointed with the results. Her Tomato Sauce III is, quite simply, unsurpassed, and her Bolognese divine. For an extraordinary and quick dessert, try the spazzacamino. Three ingredients: vanilla gelato, instant espresso, and scotch. Fantastic.

How To Cook Everything

By Mark Bittman
The name says it all. The contemporary Joy of Cooking—every kitchen should have a copy.

The Union Square Café Cookbook: 160 Favorite Recipes from New York’s Acclaimed Restaurant

By Danny Meyer and Michael Romano

Second Helpings from Union Square Café: 140 New Recipes from New York’s Acclaimed Restaurant

By Danny Meyer and Michael Romano
For no other reason than I respect and admire restaurateur Danny Meyer, and every meal I’ve had from Michael Romano’s kitchen has been unforgettable.

The Cuisines of Mexico

By Diana Kennedy
What Julia Child was to French cuisine, Diana Kennedy is to Mexican. Try looking for this book, published in 1972, on a vintage book site. ( carries the revised 1989 edition.)

Stars Desserts

By Emily Luchetti
At the time, Luchetti was the gifted pastry chef of Stars (she is now at Farrallon), a San Francisco brasserie that—along with Spago and Chez Panisse—was considered one of the landmark restaurants of California cuisine (it closed in 1999). Her desserts are simple, luscious contemporary versions of classics written in clear, concise recipes. In the 20 years I’ve owned this book, I’ve made every single one of them.

How America Eats

By Clementine Paddleford
Is there a better name than Clementine Paddleford? Considered by many America’s version of English writer Elizabeth David, Paddleford was a food editor and writer ahead of her time, spending 12 years (from 1948 to 1960) crisscrossing the country—sometimes piloting her own plane—chronicling regional cuisines from home and restaurant kitchens, including several in Cincinnati. For 1960, the writing is lusty and humorous, and the recipes a slice of culinary history.

The Pooh Cookbook

By Virginia H. Ellison
As a long-time Winnie-the-Pooh (and A.A. Milne) fan, I often choose a recipe from this 1969 book strictly on Ernest Shepard’s illustration and the quote that accompanies it. Not surprisingly, honey is the main ingredient in many of them.

“Let’s go and see everybody,” said Pooh. “Because when you have been walking in the wind for miles, and you suddenly go into somebody’s house, and he says, ‘Hallo Pooh, you’re just in time for a little smackerel of something,’ and you are, then it’s what I call a Friendly Day.” —from The House at Pooh Corner


Honey Milk Punch for a Friendly Day

6 eggs
1/4 cup honey (wild rose honey recommended)
1 quart milk
1 whole nutmeg, grated (or 1/4 tsp. ground)

Beat the eggs until foamy and add the honey gradually. Stir nutmeg into milk and heat until scalding. Remove from heat. Pour a bit of hot milk into eggs to temper, then the rest. Stir and serve.

(Recipe adapted from The Pooh Cookbook)

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