In cookbooks, recipes are like fully formed ideas. When we prepare these recipes ourselves, it is like we are having a conversation with what’s written on the page. We add our own opinions, riff on ideas, and improvise.

Recipes help teach us the language of cooking. They present to us foods with balanced flavours : the sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy. By emulating these combinations, we can learn to play with combos of our own. They also introduce us to different styles and ingredient repertoire.


Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon

This is currently my favourite cook book, hands down. For one, it is a tome! Weighing in at 1110 pages with a hardcover, I think it will take me a long time to take in what this book has to offer. I love the story too: this is the “coming out” book for Crescent, who was a closeted vegetarian running a (non-vegetarian) restaurant in Arkansas in the 90’s.  So it’s bursting with a creativity that was hidden and finally seeing the light. Crescent is a master soup maker, and the soups in this book are out of this world.

Favourite Recipes

  • Micheal Romano’s Union Square Cafe Indian Borscht (p. 154) — The colour of this soup is stunning!!
  • Groundnut and Greens Palaver with Black-Eyes
  • Summer’s End Potato-Mushroom Chowder with Basil-Tomato Finish (p. 157)
  • Lunar Gazpacho (p. 175) — I made this lots of times this summer. Grapes & mint & yogurt & yum.

The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen

It is difficult to overstate how influential these cookbooks were to me as a teenager learning to cook vegetarian food. The solitary technique of sautéing onions with some ginger and garlic has precluded a massive amount of food that I have done so far in my life. Also, these are the books through which I discovered the joy of looking up whatever ingredient I have on hand in the index to discover what to do with it.

Favourite Recipes:

  • Carrot-Cashew Curry (p. 199) in the Broccoli Forest
  • Corn & Molasses Muffins (p. 92) in the Broccoli Forest — I make these with millet flour instead of wheat flour, and they are very good
  • Tsimmes (p. 194) in the Broccoli Forest — I knew in my soul that there existed a dish of sweet and savory root vegetables, and when I discovered a recipe for it written down, a desire inside me was fulfilled.

GRUB: ideas for an urban organic kitchen by Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry

Culture-wise, this book makes me go all soft inside. The first half of it’s all about the food system in America, and how changing the way we cook can help save the world. But perhaps more poignantly, each themed menu in this book is accompanied by a SOUNDTRACK.  Menus include titles such as Ital Grub, Straight-Edge Punk Brunch Buffet, and Lara’s Cuban Comfort Meal. You can imagine what those sound like…


Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

This cookbook features a handful sublime and simple recipes for each vegetable that it has a chapter on.  It is an excellent book to own if you are eating seasonally from your own garden or a local green market.  What does one do with Cardoons, Garlic Greens, amaranth greens or fresh fava beans?  What else can I make with an over-abundant crop of cabbage or zuchinni?  This book answers these questions.  It also has stunning illustrations.

favourite recipes:

  • long cooked broccoli (pg 54)
  • Braised Chard (pg 93)
  • Kale and Potato Soup (pg 177)
  • Winter Squash, Chanterelle, and Red Wine Panade (pg 278)
  • Chard Stem Gratin (pg 92)
  • Braised Red Cabbage (pg63)
  • Kale and Potato Soup (Caldo Verde) pg 178

The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas

My mother cooked from the original Vegetarian Epicure and I make a few of those ridiculously fattening and delicious dishes…but I do think that the New Vegetarian Epicure is a better book.  This book has the some of the best fancy vegetarian recipes EVER.  It is a very useful book if you are cooking a fancy holiday meal for vegetarians.  It is not a perfect book.  Some of the recipes take much too long and cost much too much to make.  Also, I believe that Ms. Thomas lives in California where the very best and freshest ingredients are more available year round, so this book is a bit frustrating to cook from on the east coast.  That aside this book is the source of some of my most special dishes.

favourite recipes:

  • Raspberry Borscht (pg 20)
  • Wild Mushroom Cobbler (pg 177)
  • Broccoli Soup (pg 233)
  • Cheese Popovers (pg 234)
  • Salas of Bitter Greens with Figs Marinated in Spiced Wine (pg 249)
  • Basic Light Vegetable Stock (412)

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

This author is really good at teaching people how to cook.  I highly recommend the chapter on stews in which she explains how you can make any stew into a fabulous pot pie or cobbler (Pg 243).  Also look at the chapter on how to make gratins and casseroles (pg 275).  Also look at the chapter on Turnovers and Empanadas (Pg 501).  Her specific recipes are excellent and well worth following to  the letter.  However, it is her directions for how to improvise and make something truly fancy and special out of whatever you happen to have around that make this cookbook so great.  It was the last vegetarian cookbook I ever purchased.

The Silver Palate Cookbook and The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook

The Silver Palate was famous catering business on the upper west side of Manhattan.  I house sat for one of my professors right above their store front my freshman year of college.  I could not afford to buy anything there but it all looked and smelled amazing.  This is expensive food.  The silver palate is iconic of 1980’s new york excess so some of it is bit over the top and silly…there are lots of recipes for fondue and souffles and pates.  The meat recipes are  just plain amazing though and not too ridiculously expensive to make at home for a special occasion.  It is also an excellent resource for  cocktail party appetizers.

favourite recipes SIlver Palate Good Times:

  • Rabbit with Pine Nuts and Currants (pg 56 )
  • Roat Duck Breasts with Cranberry Glaze (pg 260)
  • Baked Goose with Port and Vegetables (pg 261)

favourite recipes The SIlver Palate  Cookbook:

  • Phyllo Triangles (pg 8 )
  • Chicken Marbella (pg 86)
  • Navarin of Lamb (pg 136)
  • Pate Brisee and instructions for making Quiche (pg 335)

The New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny

This cookbook is excellent.  I should cook more recipes from it.  The recipes are consistantly simple and good.  I just keep making the few I know over and over.

favourite recipes:

  • Hashed Chicken with Dried Cranberries (pg 176)
  • Ski Day Chicken Stew with Herb Dumplings (pg 315)
  • Richard Sax’s Best Ever Pumpkin Pie (Pg 607)

The Little Pie Company Of The Big Apple- Pies and Other Desert Favorites

The Little Pie Company rocks!  It is located on West 43rd street in Manhattan and they also have an outpost in Grand Central Station.  You have to order your holiday pies from them weeks in advance and stand in line to pick them up….or you can buy their cookbook and make pie at home.  When I worked at a designer clothing store on Madison Avenue I had a very clever manager who figured out that I could be strongly motivated as a worker through gourmet food.  The other girls wanted cloths….I wanted pastries. This manager introduced me to the Little Pie Company…in particular their sour creme apple pie.    Sadly, they do not include a recipe for the sour creme apple pie in this cookbook, but they have LOTS of other amazing recipes.  This cookbook validated my desire to cut butter in to flour using my fingers instead pastry knives.  If the amazing pastry chefs at the Little Pie Company do it with their fingers so shall I!!!!!!!

favourite recipes:

  • McIntosh Apple Pie with Raisins and Rum  (pg 34)
  • Pears with Sambuca Pie (pg 60)
  • Cranberry Raisin Pie (Pg 63)

Sheila Lukins USA Cookbook

This author was one of the ladies who ran the Silver Palate…so I guess I am a fan of hers.  She travelled around the USA collecting regional recipes for this cookbook.  These recipes are not as fancy as the Silver Palate ones.  They are more the kinds of special recipes that ladies bring to the annual church potluck picnic.  They are terrific recipes that I make over and over again.  This book also has a great chapter on American Cocktails.

favourite recipes:

  • Vegetable Jambalaya (pg 312)
  • American Macaroni and Cheese (Pg 314)
  • Shaker Cranberry Brisket (Pg 346)
  • Savory Chicken Pot Pie (Pg 408)
  • “Ya Ya” Gumbo (pg 413)
  • Turkey Curry Pot Pie (pg 426)

Creole Gumbo and All That Jazz- A New Orleans Seafood Cookbook by Howard Mitcham

When I was in my early twenties some friends of mine offered me an airline voucher that was about to expire.  It would fly me anywhere in the country for free!  At the time I was obsessed with Saveur Magazine and I had just read about the beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.  So I booked a flight to go to New Orleans to try their coffee and donuts.  My mother had a colleague who had moved to Hawaii from New Orleans.  He was a big foody and was kind enough to send me a HUGE list of restaurants to visit in New Orleans.  It was a gorgeous list spanning from the most famous and fancy establishments to a dive bar that served a fabulous rabbit gumbo.  I spent four days in New Orleans eating like a piglet and making friends with the city’s abundant population of beautiful and friendly cats.  I love New Orleans.  I’ve been back twice since then and plan to return many times.  ANYWAY one of the restaurants that my mother’s friend recommended was called Upperline (in the neighborhood of the same name).  It was a terrific restaurant which included cookbook recommendations in its menu!  I took notes and bought this cookbook before I left town.  One of the best things about this cookbook is that it is written by such a passionate eater, cook and lover of New Orleans.  I do not get the impression that this man is a professional cook.  He has just thrown a lot of dinner parties, eaten at a lot of restaurants and has a lot of stories.  The book is full of personal anecdotes, food history, jazz trivia and really good recipes.   Beware that all of these recipes serve at least 10 people (even when it says serves 6)

favourite recipes:

  • Shrimp and Beef Jambalaya (pg 53)
  • Swamp Catfish Courtbouillon (pg 56)
  • Shrimp Remoulade Galatoire (pg 73)

Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

Madhur Jaffrey is a famous Bollywood actress.  In North America however, she is more famous as a restauranteur and cookbook author.  This is not the most traditional Indian cookbook.  Indian cooking is, in my opinion, neither inherently quick nor easy.  Cooking Indian food is usually quite complicated and time consuming, but VERY satisfying.  However, this cookbook is full of quick and easy recipes from a glamourous, cosmopolitan, Indian career woman.  You can pick up the ingredients on your way home from work and carry them in one bag.  You can have the food cooked a half  an hour.  It is not exactly typical Indian food but it is totally delicious.  Also, this cookbook was my favourite when I was trying not eat anything that might make me stomach sick.  I was only eating fish, rice and vegetables for a few months.  This cookbook prevented me from dying of boredom.

favourite recipes:

  • Ground Chicken or Turkey with Peas (pg 48)
  • Fish in a Green Sauce (pg 69)
  • Stir-Fried Shrimp in an Aromatic Tomato-Cream Sauce
  • Cauliflower with Ginger, Garlic and Green Chilies
  • Stir Fried Green Cabbage with Fennel Seeds
  • Spinach with Ginger and Green Chilies

Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni

I already wrote about this cookbook in my post about spicy chick-pea pancakes….but I have more to say about it.  I cooked from this book obsessively for about a year.  I would make weekly trips to Jackson Heights in Queens to buy all of the authentic ingredients.  I cannot claim that everything that I made from this book was worth the trouble BUT cooking from it was an excellent education in Indian cuisine and I can strongly recommend the recipes below.

favourite recipes:

  • Curry Powder master recipe (pg 92)
  • Punjabi Garam Masala (pg 96)
  • Bengal Paunch Phoron Mix (pg 99)
  • Cauliflower and split pea dumpling cake in tangy tomato sauce (pg142)
  • Chick-pea pancakes with ginger and hot chilies (pg 162)
  • Fried mung beans (pg 209)
  • Tomato Rasam (pg 215)
  • Tangore Broccoli and Mung Bean Stew with Coconut (pg 240  Silvi likes this more than I do)
  • Pumpkin and split peas with Camphor Basil (pg 253
  • Saag Paneer (pg 263)
  • Sweet Peppers stuffed with Cheese and Scallions in Sauce Afgan (pg 266)
  • Rice and Mung Bean Casserole with Cumin and Black Pepper (pg 275)
  • Spicy Mushrooms in Ginger and Chilies (pg 302)
  • Fragrant Butter-laced pureed Mustard Greens (pg 304)
  • Spicy curried potaotes (pg 310)
  • Tiny New Potatoes Smothered in Fenugreek Leaves (pg 311)
  • Braised Butternut Squash with Jaggery (pg 312)
  • Bengal Red Lentils with Spices (pg 329)
  • Corn Bread with Radish (pg 404)
  • Dill and Garlic Barley Bread with Shredded Green Chilies (pg 406)

Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Laurie Colwin was a really good writer who happened to love home cooking.  She wrote these two amazing books, each containing about 40 short essays on real life cooking and eating.  Forget about cookbooks, these are two of my favourite books.   I love these essays.  I cannot possibly narrow them down to favourites.  I love them all.  As far as recipes go….the important thing to know is that somewhere in these two books the worlds best biscuit dough recipe is hidden.  You will have to read all of the essays to find it.  Here is a hint…it is NOT the biscuit recipe found in the essay titled “about biscuits”.

Babycakes by Erin McKenna

This cookbook is from my favourite wheat-free bakery of the same name.  It is so good.  Everrything there is wheat and dairy free and much of it is gluten free.  These baked goods are delicious, not just pretty good for being gluten-free……really, really delicious.  Also the bakery and the cookbook are both adorable.  My former neighbor (quiet sob) Mya works in the publishing world and she obtained a copy of this cookbook for me.   It has changed my gluten-free life.

favourite recipes:

  • Apple Cinnamon Toastie (pg58)
  • chocolate chip cookies (pg68)
  • Brownies (pg 77)
  • Double chocolate crumb cake (pg110)
  • chocolate cupcakes (pg 87)
Rick Bayless’s Mexcian Kitchen- Capturng the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine
This cookbook is so well written.  I don’t think I have ever made something from this book that wasn’t successful.  Its also wonderful to read.  Rick Bayless is so passionate about Mexican Cooking it really makes you appreciate what an amazing cuisine it really is.  If you do not live somewhere (like Texas) that has great Mexican food this is a great cookbook to have.
favourite recipes:
  • Essential Roasted Tomato-Jalepeno Salsa (pg 21)
  • Essential Simmered Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce (pg 38)
  • Essential Roasted Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa (pg 42)
  • Essential Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa (pg 45)
  • Essential sweet and smokey chipotle seasoning salsa (pg 52)
  • Essential Simmered Gaujillo Sauce (pg 57)
  • Classic Seviche Tostadas (pg 84)
  • Tacos of Tomatillo Chicken with Wilted Greens and Fresh Cheese (Pg 146)
  • Crispy Black Bean and Bacon Tacos with Tangy Romaine Salad (pg 168)
  • Simple Red Mole Enchilada with Shredded Chicken (pg 178)
  • Black Bean Chilaquiles with smokey Chipotle (pg 206)
  • Roasted Mexican Vegetables in Green Sesame Pipian (pg 221)
  • Classic Mexican Fried Beans (pg 237)
  • Classic Red Tomato Rice (pg 250)
  • Smokey Peanut Mole (pg 287)
  • Broiled Chipotle Chicken with Creamy Spinach
  • Chipotle Shrimp (pg 334)
  • Hearty Seven Seas Soup (pg 341)
  • Pan Roasted Salmon in Aromatic Green Pipian (pg 351)
  • Grilled Steak with Spicy Guajillo Sauce (pg 364)
  • Chile-Glazed Country Ribs (pg 380)
  • Mango- Lime Ice (pg 393)


18 Comments Add yours

  1. Alex Endy says:

    Love the Silvi/Erin combo here. This might be my favorite post to date, from a purely culinary perspective. Within the vegetarian/sustainable agriculture/slow food (read “Cooking Like An Urban Hippie”) subgenre is such a diverse array of cooking adventures, and a number of books my wife (the cook) and I (the dilettante) have destroyed with love! Looking forward to tackling the unfamiliar ones, esp. “Grub”. (Actually, looking forward to tackling the “Straight-Edge Punk Brunch” soundtrack!)

    1. Alex Endy, you bring an enormous grin to my face!

  2. Glenda says:

    Wow! Great and varied list of cooking possibilities ladies! I am inspired to try the Quick and Easy Indian Cooking book, because, of course I only make things that are quick and easy and I love Indian food.

  3. Katherine says:

    I met Erin for the first time when she was eating only fish, rice and vegetables. I had been dating Alex for only a little while when Erin invited us over to her cozy little Park Slope apartment for dinner so she could have a look at Alex’s girlfriend. I remember there was a comfy arm chair in the kitchen (because the kitchen was the only living area) – perfect for sitting and chatting with the cook. Alex told me Erin was only eating fish, rice and vegetables and I was prepared for a pretty bland meal. I was blown away by how delicious – and spicy! – the meal was!!

    The other thing I remember about that night is that I had just come back from a trip to Maine where, like all good Sarah Lawrence Girls (EXCEPT Erin!) I had gotten my formerly long, straight black hair cut very short…by the same woman who cut my hair when I was a child. Needless to say, this was not the “right” short haircut (in part because it was not nearly short enough) and I was so embarrassed meeting the highly-acclaimed, fashionable Erin with such an abominable haircut!! Fortunately, this did not stop what was to become a very sweet and treasured friendship. (I later had a fellow SLC girl, Sarah Noble, cut my hair to a proper pixie-short.)

  4. Kayeon says:

    Hey! The Gluten Free Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe looks SOOooooo dang good! I’ll definitely give it a go sometime! Perhaps I’ll even publish it on le blog and link yours as a reference!

    I’m so glad you asked me about corn meal in Famous Foods, Silvi! I hope ou guys have a great holiday and happy new year! I look forward to seeing more recipes from you two!


    1. I’m so happy that you are excited about the gluten free sticky toffee pudding recipe! It is good if I do say so myself. Publish and link away!


  5. Avi Mosher says:

    Hi Erin,
    I’m a huge addict of the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake from The Little Pie Company, and I thought I’d try to make it this weekend, but the cookbook turns out to be somewhat elusive. Do you happen to know whether it even contains their chocolate cake recipe?


    1. Hi Avi,

      No. The cookbook does not have that recipe. It also does not have the sour cream and apple pie (my favourite). Even though the cookbook does not share the recipes for Little Pie Company’s most loved treats, it is still worth getting if you can track it down! I would recommend Maida Heatter’s cookbook called Cakes if you are a cake lover. She is known as the Queen of Cakes and she deserves the title!


  6. Avi Mosher says:

    Oh no! Thank you for letting me know, Erin – I will investigate Maida Heatter’s cookbook.


  7. Hi Erin and Silvi!

    I just wanted to say I LOVE your blog! It is amazing! Definitely a favorite way to take a break from work, and as most of my writing is on diabetes, it is a great veggie+ break too!

    Silvi, I have to recommend the Tasajara Bread Book as an amazing whole grain baking book. So great to read just due tot the amazing tone, and I think you’d really like the taste he goes for.

    Erin, I saw your Silver Palate cookbooks and I have to recommend everything written by Sarah Leah Chase (actually an early co-author of those books, wonder what the story was there). Another example of high-80’s decadence, but her 2 nantucket cookbooks are seasonal and some of my most devastating desserts and appetizers come from there (red pepper scallop puffs! chocolate bourbon date pecan pie!). She also did 2 French cookbooks that are chatty and delightful. Anywho, off to braise some pork and write more about the ‘betes.



  8. Sabrina!
    Chris and I were just talking about you! That proves that you are the devil! I will buy these Sarah Leah CHase cookbooks that you recommend. I just looked at them on Amazon and the customer reviews were EFFUSIVE. Stuff like…”I lost my cookbook collection to Hurricane Katrina and this Nantucket cookbook was the first one that I replaced.” I hope to see you sometime soon!


  9. Maile says:

    I have to agree that Madhur Jaffries Quick and Easy is one of my very favorite cookbooks. I’ll have to try some others on the list now!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s