Every summer, I choose 2 or 3 recipe goals for myself–usually, they’re recipes that are great for gatherings, and by the end of summer I’ve perfected them. Last summer, it was my grilled pizza and Amy Chaplin’s Black Sesame Bread–I made them so frequently that I didn’t even need to consult a recipe anymore. By August, they’d become my new signature dishes. This year, my summer mood board is all about long, lazy lunches on the coast of Spain, so my cooking plans follow suit: whole branzino stuffed with lemons and herbs, and linguine with fresh tomatoes and clams are my “dishes of summer 2022.”
For me, any new recipe goal always begins with a Sunday afternoon spent on the couch with a good playlist and stack of my go-to, ride-or-die best cookbooks ever–these are the ear-marked, marinara splattered, lovingly worn books I reach for over and over–the ones that have inspired and guided my own approach to cooking, exposing me to new flavor combinations, kitchen shortcuts, and ways to make even cabbage really freaking delicious (lookin’ at you, Joshua McFadden.) Since you guys actually voted for me to write about this topic on IG, it’s time to share the cookbooks that I actually cook out of all the time. But only on one condition: leave a comment and let me know yours!
Editor’s note: This list originally ran in my Breathing Space newsletter, where I share what’s currently on my mind, in my cart, on my plate, and more, like this best cookbooks list. I wanted to share a little sample of what you’ll get if you subscribe, so if you’re into this kind of thing, why not sign up here?
Oh Gjelina, your dining room has been the scene of more unforgettable dinners than anywhere else for me, and your cookbook has inspired my own recipe creation to no end. I could devote an entire newsletter to my love for Gjelina, but let’s just say that this is one of the best cookbooks I turn to when I don’t know what to make. A few minutes spent flipping through her pages has me exclaiming, “How about a Little Gem Salad with Persimmons… and maybe I’ll finally make Cioppino!” or excitedly grabbing the flour for pizza dough.
Most-loved recipe: Pizza with Spinach, Feta, & Garlic Confit–it actually inspired my own version here: Spinach and Ricotta Pizza with Garlicky Olive Oil.
Every Day is Saturday
Like the name suggests, this book makes me want to live every day like it’s the weekend. And really, what more could you ask for from a cookbook? Sarah Copeland has created that rare book where I want to make literally every single recipe within its pages, from the Chocolate Snacking Loaf to the Moroccan Tomato Toast to the Braised Short Rib Supper. It’s all divine and made for sharing with the people you love.
Most-loved recipe: Easier-Than-Pie Warm Apple Tart is beautiful and simple and sooo satisfying to pull out of the oven.
Joshua McFadden, chef of beloved Portland restaurants Ava Gene’s, Cicoria, and Tusk, came to visit our studio when his cookbook dropped a few years ago, and I’ll never forget the “Chinese” Beef and Broccoli he whipped up for us that convinced me with one bite: this guy knows his way around a veg. For me, his cookbook sparked a pickling obsession as well as an excitement to try humble vegetables I might once have overlooked: turnips, cabbage, and kohlrabi get their own chapters brimming with delectable ideas for using them. My CSA box has never been the same.
Most-loved recipe: Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes, Torn Croutons, and Lots of Herbs
If you caught our interview with author Mariana Velásquez, this should come as no surprise: her cookbook is as exuberant as she is–it makes me want to crank up her playlist, swipe on a red lip, and get cooking. This is one of the best cookbooks for when I’m craving flavors and cultural traditions in a way that makes me feel a sense of adventure, just by cooking my way through it. If you’re feeling bored in life, I’ve got the antidote: buy this cookbook, open up to a random page, and dive in.
Most-loved recipe: Bogotánian Ajiáco: Potato Soup With Corn, Chicken & Capers
My mom gave me this cookbook in 2017 (I know, because she always writes a note with date on the inside cover, a tradition I adore)–and I’ve been cooking my way through it ever since. This is a cookbook I tend to pull out on special occasions–not because it’s complicated (it’s not) but because Alison manages to create flavor combinations that are unexpected and just feel special. She’s also not afraid of butter and cream–and let’s be honest, sometimes a date night in just needs a pot of bucatini with tomatoes that have been roasted in 1 1/2 cups of olive oil (really.) But really, Alison’s recipes strike the perfect balance between interesting and just really freaking delicious.
Most-loved recipe: Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread — they’re legendary. I once had drinks with Alison in New York and no joke, she sent me home with a bag that she’d baked earlier that day. Of course, I devoured them all in the taxi ride home and still dream about it to this day.
Whole Food Cooking Every Day
If your body is craving a reset, this is one of the best cookbooks to turn to. It never fails to inspire a Saturday morning spent soaking beans, pickling carrots, and making the aforementioned Black Sesame Bread to have on hand for a week of clean eating. This is the healthy meal prep bible, y’all. I interviewed Amy when this book came out, and ever since, she’s been my unknowing mentor when it comes to wholesome, vegetarian recipes that always make you feel amazing.
Most-loved recipe: Rosemary Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Hazelnut Milk (scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe)
Cannelle et Vanille
Everything about this book makes me swoon, from the stunning photography (by the multitalented author, Aran Goyoaga) to the descriptions of vanilla and cinnamon-scented arroz con leche from her childhood in the Basque country. Everything in this book feels both simple yet incredibly thoughtful–with each ingredient serving its purpose and allowed to shine in all its beauty. It’s the way I’d like to cook every day, and serves as a reminder to slow down and savor the process. Our team recently travelled to Seattle to photograph Aran in her kitchen for our How I Gather series, and magic was every bit as palpable in person. PS—This is definitely one of the best cookbooks for dietary restrictions, since everything is gluten-free and many are dairy-free as well.
Most-loved recipe: Chocolate, Olive Oil, and Citrus Cake.
A few other best cookbooks of all time…
Okay, this email is getting loooong, but these are other much-loved cookbooks that literally must make their way onto your shelves: