LUCY BURDETTE: The other day I realized how much my search for recipes for favorite or new foods has changed. These days I almost always find them online-either I run across recipes on the web that sound yummy, like those from my pals on Mystery Lovers Kitchen, or I search sites like Epicurious. Of course I often look up basic stuff in the JOY OF COOKING. And I know plenty of folks rely on TV cooking shows and celebrity recipes.
And that made me nostalgic for the old days, when my first go-to cooking bible was THE MOOSEWOOD COOKBOOK. My first copy is dog-eared and stained; I remember eating tons of food like mushroom strudel (1/2 pound butter plus cream cheese plus sour cream), Vericheesy Casserole (soybeans and brown rice), and Sour Cream-Orange Cake (soaked in Grand Marnier, which I served to my dissertation committee after they'd accepted my opus--the cake, not the booze). Molly Katzen came out with sequels and the new, improved lower-fat version, but I loved the first one the best.
Do you have an old favorite cookbook that's fallen out of favor? Where do you go when you need guidance these days?
HALLIE EPHRON: Here are my two favorite cookbooks: "The Joy of Cooking" and "Michael Fields Cooking School." Both belonged to my mother. "Joy" taught me the basics. But the most recipes that I still make regularly for very special company are from Michael Fields. His curried chicken (made with an apple) and his broiled butterflied boneless leg of lamb with egg lemon sauce are sublime.
These days I go to Epicurious for recipes. It's not just the recipes but the reader comments that give you a real sense of whether the recipes work (or don't).
RHYS BOWEN: Oh my goodness, I grew up with Mrs. Beaton--you know, recipe for oxtail soup is "first take your ox." Everything has at least half a pound of butter and is made in about ten stages. But it was what my mother used. I also had a binder of recipes my mother-in-law sent me. And these were mostly from the war--terribly economical. As I learned to cook I branched out to Julia Child (I even served souffles as a starter once. I was so ambitious in those days). But when I married John I had to learn to cook curries and Asian food as he'd spent so much time in Asia and then became sales manager of Air India.
More recently I buy cook books for the pretty pictures and for nostalgia. One day I'll go through the wad of magazine clippings in my kitchen drawer.
LUCY: I love that Rhys--first take your ox! And I have a drawer stuffed with clippings too...
JAN BROGAN - Lucy, I have the Moosewood Cookbook, too, although I have to confess I haven't used it as much as you did. I love the Joy of Cooking, the Silver Palette, The New York Time's Sixty Minute Gourmet, and I still use Giada de Laurentiis's Giada's Family dinners.
But you a right Roberta, they get a lot less use these days. I love calling up five different recipes for the same thing online and patching them together for my own version.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: I did a serious cookbook purge a few years ago. My husband used to work for Random House (think Clarkson Potter)and then Workman Publishing so I had tons of cookbooks - many of them beautiful but never used. I grew to love SOAR (Searchable Online Access to Recipes), but I think that morphed into something else, so I just google whatever I want and voila, it pops up. Usually it's on the Food Channel or All Recipes site
Some of the books I had to keep, even if I only love one recipe from the book and by rights, should know it by heart by now. Joy of Cooking - eggnog recipe, Cooking from Quilt Country - Onion pie, the charmingly named Desperate Measures, 90 Unintimidating Recipes for the Domestically Inept - Patsy Cline's chili and gorognzola scallion cornbread
The one I still use most often, drum roll... Martha Stewart's Entertaining. I'm on my third copy, but have kept the first. Old, sticky, and has my handwritten notes "like use the dark, brown sugar."
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Lucy, I still have my Moosewood books, but I've kept them for the illustrations. I don't think I ever actually made a single recipe from either of them!
The books I loved, and still use, are Laurel's Kitchen, Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (second or third copies of both, as they wore out), The Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread Book by my friend and past JR guest Crescent Dragonwagon, and Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. My mother was a big Adele Davis fan, so many of my basic cooking techniques came from that.
Current faves? Lots of Jamie Oliver. I adore Jamie, and have never made a recipe I didn't like. Some Gordon Ramsay, the simple stuff. And my very latest, Robin Ellis's Delicious Dishes for Diabetics. I'm not diabetic, but from the previous list you can see I'm a life-long whole foods nut, and love Mediterranean-style food, so I'm really enjoying this book. (And besides, Robin is adorable.
And, I use the online recipes, too, but am not giving up my cookbooks.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, I have a lot of cookbooks, too. And I actually used to cook. :-) You know what was the absolutely pivotal transcendent constantly useful and still-relevant one? The Blue Strawberry Cookbook, by James Haller. I'm telling you--it--taught me how to cook. It doesn't have reciptes. It just has--chemistry. WHY things work. That for a roux, you need an oily thing, and an oniony thing, and a thickener, and a liquid. (It could be water, or wine, or chicken broth.) That for pesto, you need a oily thing, and a cheese, and a nut, and a green thing. (But it could be basil or arugula or spinach.) Because--when you know WHY it works, you can make dinner out of anything.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Still have, and use, THE JOY OF COOKING. I think my mother gave that and the mid-eighties BETTY CROCKER COOKBOOK to me when I got married. I went through a big foodie period with THE SILVER PALATE COOKBOOK and THE SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES cookbook. Then I went to law school, and the kids started arriving, and for a few years, my idea of cooking consisted of Kraft Mac n Cheese and take out pizza. Like Ro, I also purged a lot of cookbooks a few years ago: I decided even though there were some great, great recipes, it didn't make sense for me to keep my shelf loaded up with books I didn't use.
My current every night fave is DESPERATION DINNERS by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. The best book for cooking fast, without relying on lots of processed foods. For fancier fare, I like RECIPES FROM A VERY SMALL ISLAND by Martha Greenlaw. The recipes rely heavily on Maine foods; it has the most amazing blueberry section. Also? Gingerbread to die for.
LUCY: Oh Julia, we must have a gingerbread bake-off. The recipe in the Moosewood Enchanted Broccoli Forest is killer too--lots of fresh ginger! Now your turn: cookbooks you love? where do your recipes come from?