Ratio by Michael Ruhlman

The more that I study why and how people cook at home, the more that I understand the importance of a book such as Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking (Scribner, 2009). Noted food writer Michael Ruhlman lays out a simple premise: If you understand the fundamental ratios for some basic culinary tasks ranging from biscuits to stock to vinaigrette, the less a cook has to rely on recipes. After all, … [Read more...]

How to Cook Without a Book

Along the same lines of Ratio, there’s How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart (Broadway, 2000) by Pam Anderson, author of The Perfect Recipe series. Each chapter focuses on a classic technique. Each includes a step-by-step narrative on the method, offers a recipe to demonstrate the technique and then provides multiple, yet simple variations. An unusual twist is that each chapter … [Read more...]

The Flavor Bible

The final entry is The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Andrew Dornenberg and Karen Page. In interviews with home cooks, one thing became a common refrain when it came to that moment of standing in front of the fridge, trying to figure out dinner, or the farmer’s market shopper who purchases beautiful golden beets without a vague idea on … [Read more...]

Kitchen Shelf: No Knead Bread Books

We rarely buy bread anymore. As I write this, a vat of whole wheat bread dough languishes in our fridge. Mike made the dough over the weekend and has since fashioned four loaves for various holiday eating events. All of this is possible due to the no knead artisan bread phenomenon. Most people credit the whole thing to Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. Food writer Mark Bittman documented Lahey's method … [Read more...]

The End of the Line

What would the world be like if there were no more fish? It’s a possibility based on current fishing practices laid out in the excellent, if devastating book The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat by British journalist Charles Clover (University of California Press, 2008). The book is the foundation of an utterly depressing documentary The End of the Line that debuted at the Sundance … [Read more...]


More-with-Less (Herald Press, 1976, 2000) is a simple classic cookbook that you may never heard of, but if you’re concerned about making wholesome food economically, it’s one to check out. First written in 1976 by Doris Janzen Longacre in association with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as a response to the odd, yet continuing quandary of how to nourish oneself when much of the world starves, yet North Americans … [Read more...]

Something From the Oven

A blend of culinary history and pop culture, Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in the 1950s America (Penguin, 2004) by Laura Shapiro tells the starling, yet fascinating history of many foods that now line the center aisles of super markets. With great research and quiet humor, she tracks how the food manufacturing world slowly seduced housewives in yielding long-held eating habits to the lure of “convenience” … [Read more...]

The Daily Soup Cookbook, 500 Soups

Soup is arguably one of the oldest foods. It’s comforting, easy to digest and straightforward to make. My mother makes soup once a week to use up leftovers, a habit that she developed 40-something years ago. But the open canvas that soup can be anything can be incredibly daunting at times. That’s why having a good soup cookbook is one of the best things to keep at hand in the kitchen when staring down the remnants of food … [Read more...]