Cookbook Club Picks for Beginners

cookbooks for cookbook club

Since I’ve already convinced you that you need to start a cookbook club, you’re going to need some cookbook options. Below are all of the books my cookbook club has used so far. If you’re wondering why there are only six books, it’s because we love to repeat when the book has a large amount of recipes.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

When to pick it:

No matter when you pick it, you’ll find great seasonal recipes. Browse through the book before choosing to make sure you can find enough recipes with in-season vegetables.

What you’ll need:

A well-stocked grocery store. Some uncommon ingredients include: pomegranate molasses, lemongrass, preserved lemon, and a ton of spices you’ll probably think you’ll only use once.

what we made:

Round 1 (Late Winter): Caramelized Garlic Tart, Green Couscous, Burnt Eggplant with Tahini, Tamara’s Ratatouille, Sweet Potato Wedges with Lemongrass Crème Fraîche

Round 2 (Early Summer): Watermelon and Feta, Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad, Green Gazpacho

This was the first book we did as a cookbook club. The choice was kind of selfish for me—it’s all vegetarian recipes, and as I mentioned before, I’m scared of cooking meat. This is a great book for introducing people to non-American home cooking. Many of the favor combinations in the book are Mediterranean or Middle Eastern-inspired. However, because it is vegetarian (in the sense that it’s mostly vegetables) this can be a fairly pricey choice as the recipes use a lot of fresh produce.

Some advice from the first round: if you’re going to burn your eggplant inside, look up how to do it on the internet first and then have someone watch and provide moral support.

Tacos by Alex Stupak

When to pick it:

Any season, but summer may work best so you can do the recipes that require a grill.

What you’ll need:

Ideally, a local Mexican grocery store (the prices of chiles are very reasonable there, not so much at a standard grocery store).

What we made:

Corn Tortillas, Tacos Al Pastor, Chicken Tacos with Kale and Salsa Verde, Pineapple Tacos, Bay Scallop Ceviche Tacos with Cocoa Vinaigrette (Not in the book, but worth mentioning: homemade Choco Tacos and margaritas)

This was a fun pick for our group. It involved a lot of experimentation and lessons learned. I learned that kneading tortilla dough by hand takes a lot more time than you would think, for example. I hadn’t heard of half of the chiles I needed for my picks, so it was a great opportunity to learn.

Made in India by Meera Sodha

When to pick it:

Both of the times we used this book was in warmer months, but in my personal cooking I’ve leaned toward it in the cooler months. Nothing better than the warm comfort of Indian food when it starts to get chilly!

What you’ll need:

The spices for Indian cooking can be a little daunting at first, but it’s definitely an investment worth making. If you don’t want to shell out the cash for full size jars of spices, I recommend the bulk spice section of Whole Foods.

What we made:

Round 1 (Spring): Pan-Fried Okra with Caramelized Onions and Yogurt Sauce, Creamy Chicken and Fig Curry, Cauliflower, Cashew, Pea, and Coconut Curry, Chicken and Coriander Samosas, Bateta Nu Shaak (Gujarati Potato Curry), Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Turmeric, and Lemon, Chai-Spiced Chocolate Puddings

Round 2 (Summer): Dal Makhani, Chana Dal with Golden Garlic Tarka, Worker’s Curry, Baked Masala Fries, Spiced Potato Tikki, Spicy Lamb Burgers, Oven-Roasted Chicken Tikka, Mint and Yogurt Chutney, Aunty Harsha’s Naan

This is a great book for people who are trying Indian cooking for the first time. The directions are very clear and the recipes look achievable. The longer lists of ingredients can be a little scary for the budget-minded. Both times we’ve done this book have made for incredibly satisfying meals. This book is also great if you have a lot of vegetarians in your group (Sodha has an all vegetarian, occasionally vegan, cookbook if you’re looking for vegetarian only options).

Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten

WHEN TO PICK IT:

This is a good book for cooler weather because everything is very hearty. Or when you want to feel like your life is a Nancy Meyers movie.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

A belief that store-bought is fine.

WHAT WE MADE:

Kale Salad with Pancetta & Pecorino, Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad, Butternut Squash Hummus, Spaghetti Squash with Garlic & Parmesan, Sautéed Shredded Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Italian Meatballs, Rigatoni with Sausage & Fennel, Parmesan Roasted Zucchini, Spiced Pecans, French 75, Aperol Spritzer

This is the most Ina of Ina Garten books. So if you’re a fan, I would recommend it. As with most of her recipes, there’s an Italian/French lean to the book. The recipes are also very uncomplicated and the ingredients are easy to find.

I chose this book because of my roommate’s love of Ina’s relationship with Jeffrey. I resisted the urge to seat a framed portrait of Jeffrey at the table. Probably because no one made his chicken.

Small Victories by Julia Turshen

When to pick it:

Since this book doesn’t focus on the produce, it can be used at any time of year. We used this book during the spring time.

What you’ll need:

This book is pretty straight-forward and won’t require too many unusual ingredients. What’s great about this book is that it has a guide to the uncommon ingredients that might be found in the recipes.

What we made:

Kimchi Fried Rice with Scallion Salad, Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage + Parmesan, String Beans​ with Pork, Ginger + Red Chile, Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs, Homemade Merguez with Herby Yogurt, Kinda, Sorta Patatas Bravas, Roasted Radishes with Kalamata Dressing, Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake

This cookbook is based on the way someone might actually cook in their kitchen, with recipes drawing on flavors from all regions of the world and riffs on the recipe at hand. It takes a lot of the guess-work out of cooking. And the recipes really are great for beginner home cooks. For me, the preparation of my recipe choices were the simplest and fastest of any book choice before it. This is probably the best book on the list to start your cookbook club.

Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark

When to pick it:

You’ll find recipes using seasonal ingredients for all seasons in this book.

What you’ll need:

Thankfully, Melissa Clark has your back and provided an excellent resource of ingredients to keep on hand. You may need to go to some specialty stores for some of the Asian ingredients, but you’ll get good use out of them since her recipes repeat a lot of the same ingredients.

What we made:

Ginger Pork Meatballs with Fish Sauce, Red Curry & Coconut Tofu with Green Beans, Korean-Style Stir-Fried Beef (Bulgogi), Creamy Red Lentil Dip with Lemon, Cold Sesame Noodles with Celery Salad, Burrata Caprese with Peaches, Tomato, and Basil

Similar to Small Victories, this book draws on flavors from around the world. For everyday cooking, this is easily my top choice. The recipes are impressive, easy, and flavorful. What’s also great about this book is that every recipe could be a stand-alone dinner. This is another book that can (and should) be repeated.

cookbook club picks
Get cooking!

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