A few weeks ago, life brought me a little gift when Caroline Wright showed up in my station in the Food Network Test Kitchens. She was there to contribute her talents and expertise to our ever growing repertoire of recipes, and brought along with her the joy and enthusiasm we share for all things food. Over a few days in the kitchen, Caroline and I became fast friends and quickly learned that we share a love of France, where we both lived at different times during our culinary lifetimes, and books, which we value as inspirations and guideposts along our journey to write our own one day.
Caroline’s eyes and laugh are generous, as are her recipes which she shares with the world each day on her blog so that anyone can learn to cook and eat as well as her. But when it comes to rules, she’s strict. She told me I could bring only eight books to this desert island. I considered telling Caroline that my suitcase has one of those expandable zippers and I’m sure it could hold at least 12, but she’s too kind, so I had to leave four books behind. You can see the eight books I wouldn’t want to live without on her site here; and below, here are four more books I’d sneak along when she wasn’t looking.
Sometimes even ambitious cooks need to return to the classics. When I do, I turn to the 75th Anniversary Edition of Joy of Cooking. I worked on this edition long enough to appreciate the rigorous recipe testing each and every recipe goes through (including a simple hard boiled egg, which I tested 8 times). The recipes are trustworthy, delicious and a perfect starting point from which to experiment once you’ve gained a little confidence.
Lucques is an acclaimed LA restaurant that’s famous for it’s Sunday Suppers. Whether you’ve heard of Lucques or not, or like me have never been, consider yourself lucky that Lucques’ chef Suzanne Goin was generous enough to share her secrets with the rest of us. I love the way this book is arranged by season, and it’s so easy to navigate and keep on hand for inspiration before you head out to your local market or garden.
This is the kind of intuitive cooking I wish Americans were cooking at home almost every night, and certainly when they entertain. It’s seasonality and simplicity at its absolute best in the hands of David Tanis, the part-time head chef at Chez Panisse. Gather your friends or your family—if they are anything like me, they won’t want to miss a single meal from this book.
The Balthazar cookbook is the essence of New York and Paris rolled into one. If I were on a desert island (or if I ever moved away from New York), I could count on this book to feel my soul and my senses with the classic bistro food that I’ve come to count on for simple suppers and celebrations alike—French onion soup, steak au poivre, and the always perfect pavlova I order every time I tuck into a table at Balthazar. For their remarkable bread basket though, you’ll have to make an actual trip to New York, to the petit Balthazar boulangerie next door to the restaurant.