Grossy's Guide to The Cookbook Rainbow
While my family spent most of their time cooking family recipes, my mother still had a pretty significant collection of cookbooks that I dove into regularly. Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens, and plenty of those amazing church fundraiser cookbooks. All of these books remain a huge inspiration to me.
I have been collecting my own cookbooks ever since my teenage years when my dad would take me to Costco with him. I spent the whole time eating the free snacks and perusing the massive pile of cookbooks while he stocked up on bulk toilet paper and bulk salami. It was heaven.
Some of those books are still with me today, along with PLENTY more I have picked up in the 30 years since my teens. In every apartment I have lived in I have always treated my cook books as decor, proudly arranging them by color in a rainbow on a prominent shelf. This rainbow has always been a conversation piece as well as a physical monument to a collection that brings me joy.
People have been asking me to do a tour of my cookbook rainbow for a while now. I am excited to say that the time has finally come! I am going to take you through my rainbow cookbook collection color-by-color. Each week I will add a new color of the rainbow and the books that make it up.
I will be highlighting each book and sharing a few of my favorite recipes along the way! I will also include the full name of each book, the author(s) and a link to find out more about each book along with reviews. Hopefully this will inspire you to add a few new books to your own collection! If you do, here are some of my favorite places to by books:
Your local small business book store. I love to be able to hold the book, browse through it, and then decide if I want to buy it. They can often order you any book that you would like to buy if they do not have it in stock.
Thrift shops! I love a used cookbook because they always contain turned page corners, notes and ... stains!
https://bookshop.org/ is a website that directly contributes their online sales to small business book shops. You can even find your local book shop and buy from them via this website.
Let's get started!
The rainbow starts with Red, and that is where we will start as well. As I look at this red section of books, it really is a solid reflection of all my great cooking influences. It's heavily weighted in Italian-America cooking with a solid dose of Ina Garten and a bit of Northern California cooking. We love to see it!
Sam Kass is the most attractive man on the planet, spent years as the Obama's Chef at the White House, and loves escarole as much as I do. Marry me Sam. I am all yours. I love this book because it embraces the idea that we can all eat a little better, and that a little goes a long way.
Cooking through Ina Garten's books (mostly bought at Costco!!!) was really the first time I understood how to cook comfort food beyond the Italian-American comfort food I grew up eating. Ina just knows how to take all the classics and make them even more desirable, adorable, and easy to make. She sets the standard for what I strive to do with all of my recipes. You will see all of her published books in my cookbook rainbow as we go through each color, of course.
3. Cherry Corn Scones from The Cheese Board Collective Works: Bread, Pastry, Cheese, Pizza A Baking Book by Cheese Board Collective Staff
I spent my 20s living in San Francisco, and would more often than not ride my bike over to Berkeley for the incredible food. The Cheeseboard Collective is a worker-owned bakery co-op that is legendary in the Bay Area. Their daily pizza selection is incredible and their assortment of baked goods will change your life. I can remember the first time I ate a scone at the bakery. It was unlike any scone I have ever eaten, and the cherry corn scone was the best of them all. This book has an assortment of scone recipes and beyond, all of them approachable and doable at home.
The Silver Spoon (Traditional Italian Home Cooking Recipes) by The Silver Spoon Kitchen
The Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally, Riad Nasr, Lee Hanson
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Lidia's Celebrate Like An Italian by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Tanya Bastianich Manuali
A Baking Book by Cheese Board Collective Staff
Italian American: Red Sauce Classics and New Essentials: A Cookbook by Angie Rito, Scott Tacinelli, Jamie Feldmar
Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy : A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes: A Cookbook by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Tanya Bastianich Manuali
Lidia's Favorite Recipes: 100 Foolproof Italian Dishes, from Basic Sauces to Irresistible Entrees: A Cookbook by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Tanya Bastianich Manuali
The orange section of cookbooks brings us recipes from Britain, Africa, Thailand and Columbia. Of course, there are also a few Inas. I always spend the most time sitting with cookbooks that are focused on cultures and cuisines that are not my own. They tell stories and share recipes that differ from the food I typically eat and cook in my home kitchen daily, which is much needed as I tend to be a creature of habit when I cook. When I decide I need a break from cooking my own recipes I find it is these books that I turn to to reenergize my time in the kitchen and learn new flavors, ingredients and techniques. I know this seems obvious, but I am always in awe of how far beyond the recipes a cookbook can take you.
You may know Nadiya from winning the Great British Bake-off or from several of her television appearances and even her own shows, which are completely soothing and delightful. Her recipes are all delightful, but this Honey Cake represents the kind of baking recipe I like to tackle just to see how much I can fuck up the construction of it. It's a beautiful exercise in layering and (sour cream!!) frosting, making it particularly challenging for me and my bear paws. The good news is that no matter what the end result looks like, I can confirm it will taste amazing.
2. Seasonal Creamy Yellow Vegetable Curry from In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean by Hawa Hassan, Julia Turshen
This recipe is exactly the kind of "grandma" recipe I am familiar with, despite its African roots differing from my own Italian-American roots. The recipe gives you a solid foundation for making a warm and nourishing meal that is easy to make. It embraces seasonality of vegetables and using whatever store-bought or homemade ingredients you have on-hand to make it your own. This is the kind of cooking that happens in home kitchens, where feeding your friends and family something they will ask for time and time again is the goal.
3. Tempura-fried Squash Blossoms with Eggplant-Almond Stuffing from Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry
You all know I love squash blossoms by now! I grew up picking them from Bimpy's garden, which is actually something he still asks me to do when I visit. He has his own way of making them, and so do I. That said, I am endlessly obsessed with how others prepare them. This recipe by Bryant Terry is vegan, as are all recipes in this book, which already takes me out of my own kitchen. And then it uses a complex blend of ingredients that go far beyond my regular home-cook pantry. Lastly, it lays the squash blossoms in a beautiful bed of vegetables and corn puree. Summer can't get here fast enough!
See You on Sunday: A Cookbook for Family and Friends by Sam Sifton
Canal House Cooking: 1 (Volume 1) by Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton
In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean by Hawa Hassan, Julia Turshen
Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongst Friends A Cookbook by Kris Yenbamroon, Garret Snyder
Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Vegetable Kingdom by Bryant Terry
Colombiana: A Rediscovery of Recipes and Rituals from the Soul of Colombia by Mariana Velasquez
I Know How to Cook by Genette Mathiot
Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain
Not surprisingly, this section of yellow books are a ray of sunshine. Each book shines light on recipes rooted in culture, health, and comfort. Priya Krishna, Adeena Sussman and David Chang take us into their cultures and cuisines. Mollie Katzen and Sally Fallon teach us what it means to nourish our bodies, minds and beyond. Matty Matheson, Carla Lalli Music and Ina serve their signature brands of comfort food. These are the kinds of books I love to bask in.
This salad speaks to me on such a deep level, as does all of Matty's cooking. It's rooted in comfort food and nostalgia...and fun. This salad truly has everything plus the kitchen sink. As Matty says, it's "like a submarine sandwich in a salad". I have never seen a better concept for a salad, honestly.
2. Labaneh from Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen: A Cookbook by Adeena Sussman
Adeena Sussman, a legend in the food world, DM'ed me out of the blue one day and asked if I would be interested in adding her book to the yellow section of my cookbook rainbow. After screaming for a solid minute, I said it would an absolute honor. Along with a new yellow book, I got an amazing collection of Israeli recipes, including this one for my favorite kitchen hero: labaneh. I could (and have) put labaneh on everything, and Adeena's recipe makes it extremely easy.
I spent my twenties in San Francisco cooking from the Moosewood Cookbook and feeling nourished in a way I never had before. Mollie Katzen hand wrote this famous book, and illustrated the entire thing. You can feel the love and energy in every page and every recipe. Her banana bread recipe is the first banana bread recipe I ever made from scratch, and it uses ingredients that I would have never thought to use in a banana bread. Also, it's a variation on her carrot cake recipe, which is very Grossy if I do say so myself. I love making 30 recipe variations from one great recipe. Mollie had my heart from the beginning, but when I moved to NYC I met a boy named Sam, who one day casually mentioned his mother wrote cookbooks. Turns out, it was Mollie!! I demanded an intro and now I am lucky to say I count Mollie (and Sam) a dear friend and mentor.
Falastin: A Cookbook by Sammi Tamimi, Tara Wigley
Canal House Cooking Volume No. 2: Fall & Holiday (Volume 2) by Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamitlon
Momofuku: A Cookbook by David Chang, Peter Meehan
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon, Mary G. Enig
Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen: A Cookbook by Adeena Sussman
Indian-Ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna
That Sounds So Good: 100 Real-Life Recipes for Every Day of the Week: A Cookbook by Carla Lalli Music
Matty Matheson: Home Style Cookery by Matty Matheson
The New McCall's CookBook by Mary Eckley
The Cafe Cookbook: Italian Recipes from London's River Cafe by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray
From The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan through the Jack's Wife Freda Cookbook, these books feel like home. Marcella is an icon of Italian cooking, and as you probably know by now her Tomato Butter Sauce is one of my absolute favorite recipes ever - it's pure comfort. Speaking of comfort, the food at Jack's Wife Freda has gotten me through endless bad dates, lonely nights in NYC, or stressful conversations with friends. Is swear their matzoh ball soup is magic. It has, of course, been there for me in the best of times, too. Other old standbys that are here in this section are Ina, The River Cafe and Canal House. Hello, old friends!
1. Roasted Cauliflower from Jack's Wife Freda: Cooking From New York's West Village by Dean Jankelowitz, Maya Jankelowitz
Jack's Wife Freda has been my second home ever since I moved to the West Village in 2012. I ate there at least 3 times a week, and if I didn't work from home at the moment I likely still would! This cauliflower dish is alway first to arrive at the table, it's the perfect way to start any meal. It has a unique blend of roasted AND raw cauliflower, creating a texture and flavor combo worth obsessing over.
2. Baked Vanilla Cheesecake from What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby
One of the first things I did when I started writing recipes on this website was make sure that every single one had step-by-step photos. I am a visual learner, so I appreciate the value they add to the written directions. I get thanked constantly for the photos, and people say they really make a big difference for them when they are cooking. Well, you can thank Jane Hornby because this book, one of the first I ever owned, has step-by-steps of every single recipe. It's perfect for beginners who want to start cooking but don't have a clue where to start - especially for intimidating recipes like a cheesecake!
3. Pull-Apart Sour Cream and Chive Rolls from Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence by Claire Saffitz
A few Thanksgivings ago this was the only recipe I made on the actual day of Thanksgiving. I had been making Thanksgiving recipes for 4 weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to share here on this very website. I was exhausted and wanted anything but the usuals. I honestly just wanted bread. Enter Claire Saffitz, who made making these most perfect rolls a breeze. I ate the entire pan in one day. It was glorious. Claire has long been the queen of baking, and her book brilliantly has a chart that ranks her recipes from beginner to expert level of baking, so you can start where you are at. What's better than that?
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby
Jack's Wife Freda: Cooking From New York's West Village by Dean Jankelowitz, Maya Jankelowitz
Canal House Cooking Volume No. 6: The Grocery Store by Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa Cook Like A Pro by Ina Garten
Canal House Cooking Vol. 3 by Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton
River Cafe Cookbook Green by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray
Bong Appetit: Mastering the Art of Cooking with Weed by Editors of Munchies
Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence by Claire Saffitz
Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails by Shannon Mustipher
Canal House Cooking: 8 by Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton
It's impossible to feel blue (emotionally) with this section of blue cook books. Spending time in the kitchen with any cookbook is my go-to pick-me-up, in fact. With these books we can escape to the beaches of Mexico, the streets of Rome, France with both Ina AND Julia, and of course bake our way through the American South. I am smiling already!
Not only is Colu Henry a dear friend of mine, but she wrote this brilliant book made up entirely of pasta recipes. Talk about legendary behavior! This escarole and sausage pasta contains so many of my favorite ingredients: escarole, raisins, sausage and orrechiette. I fell in love at first bite, which was no surprise at all.
Joanne Chang is a pastry goddess! If you love baking, get your hands on this book! And if you love chocolate cakes, get started immediately on this recipe! No birthday required, it's that urgent!
Eating at Gjelina in Venice Beach is an experience I have been lucky enough to have several times. Every time I feel I am experiencing the best California produce prepared in the most perfect ways possible. This recipe is just an example of one of their many produce-forward creations. Their sister restaurant Gjusta is equally as perfect. I am simply obsessed with both. If you can't make it to LA any time soon, at least you can have this book.
Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home by Ina Garten
Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery by Jean Charles Carrarini, Rose Carrarini
Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle
The Essential New York Times Cookbook: The Recipes of Record by Amanda Hesser
Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatán by Eric Werner, Mya Henry
My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and Notes on Italian Cooking by Rachel Roddy
Canal House Cooking: 5: The Good Life by Christopher Hirsheimer, Melissa Hamilton
Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California by Travis Lett
Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly by Colu Henry
The Good Book of Southern Baking by Kelly Fields, Kate Heddings
Pastry Love: A Baker's Journal of Favorite Recipes by Joanne Chang
As I look at the books in the Indigo/Violet section of my collection I am just in awe of the powerful women we have present here!!! Every single book is by an iconic female in the food world. I am lucky enough to count many of them as personal friends as well: Molly Baz, Erin McDowell, Heidi Swanson and Carla Lalli Music. Legends like Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray and Gabrielle Hamilton are here too. And while I can't exactly call them personal friends, I am going to pretend we are anyways. Isn't that what makes us want to cook from cookbooks in the first place
I get asked all the time what the perfect make-ahead brunch dish is, and I can think of no better answer than a quiche. The ultimate crowd pleaser, easy to heat up or serve at room temp, perfect with a salad or fresh fruit, and basically a pie! Or in this case, a cake! Vallery's book is full of perfect baking ideas, but this cake pan quiche lorraine is a brilliant take on a classic must-have recipe.
Prune is part of NYC restaurant legend. It closed as a casualty of the pandemic, but remains part of the culture forever. I spent my 20s eating at Prune with close friends after work. It was a modest restaurant with perfect dishes that made you feel like an adult, or at least made ME feel like an adult. Sometimes all you need is the perfect steak dinner to get you through a rough week, a celebration, or a second date.
Erin McDowell is THE queen of pie. If you don't follow her on instagram, I demand you do so now. The amount of wisdom she has to share on baking pies (and baking everything else) is endless. I am in awe of her and I am in awe of this pie crust recipe. Every girl needs a good pie crust recipe, and this one is IT!
Italian Country Cookbook by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray
IKEA's Real Swedish Food Book by IKEA
Entertaining by Martha Stewart
Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies by Erin Jeanne McDowell
Prune: A Cookbook by Gabrielle Hamilton
Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook: A Cookbook by Carla Lalli Music
Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook by Kerry Diamond, Claudia Wu
Life Is What You Bake It by Vallery Lomas
The white section of my cookbook rainbow is by far the largest! Not by design, it's just that most books have a white spine! It's a brave choice, as I think the best way to use a cookbook is to place it directly into all of your ingredients, getting them nice and colorful. These books give me plenty of reason to do that, as some of my most loved books are present: The River Cafe Books, The Alison Roman Books and of course Heidi Swanson's books.
I have a disorder that I do not talk about much, but it essentially renders me unable to resist a ginger cookie when in the presence of one. They are just way too perfect, and for some reason I never thing to make them myself. Until this recipe from the cookie king himself. In a book filled with perfect cookies, this one takes the cake (or cookie) for me.
This cake has such a special place in my heart. It was lovingly made at one of my favorite restaurants to eat at when I lived in San Francisco, Bar Jules. It was also a baking project that me and my good friend Erik would take on together, endlessly trying to perfect the cake and make it flawless. It's not the easiest recipe in the world, but boy is it worth it.
Yossy Arefi wrote a book of perfect snacking cakes that defined the early stages of the pandemic for many of us. We all needed a quick and easy way to make us feel better, and these recipes did just that. Especially this one, for me personally. I love to make the sprinkle cake version. It's next level delicious!
Jubilee (Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking) by Toni Tipton-Martin by Toni Tipton-Martin
Near&Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson
Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City: A Cookbook by Katie Perla, Kristina Gill
Italian Easy: Recipes from the London River Cafe by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray
Franny's: Simple, Seasonal, Italian by Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens, Melissa Clark
Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes: A Cookbook by Alison Roman
Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over by Alison Roman
Cravings: All Together: Recipes to Love: A Cookbook by Chrissy Tiegen
Cookies by Jesse Szewczyk
Snacking Cakes by Yossy Arefi
Today's Special: 20 Leading Chefs Choose 100 Emerging Chefs by Phaidon Editors
Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi
I Am Almost Always Hungry: Seasonal Menus and Memorable Recipes by Lora Zarubin
Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi [A Baking Book] by Yotam Ottolenghi, Helen Goh
The Silver Spoon Pasta by The Silver Spoon Kitchen
Vegetables from an Italian Garden: Season-by-Season Recipes by Phaidon Editors
Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
Boqueria: A Cookbook from Barcelona to New York by Yann de Rochefort, Zack Bezunartea, Marc Vidal
IT'S ALL GOOD: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great by Gwenyth Paltrow, Julia Turshen
Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi
Living and Eating by John Pawson, Annie Bell
River Cafe Two Easy by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray
River Cafe London by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli
1080 Recipes by Simone Ortega, Ines Ortega
Italian Two Easy by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray
Pasta: The Spirit and Craft of Italy's Greatest Food, with Recipes [A Cookbook] by Missy Robbins, Talia Baiocchi