plethora of cookbook questions

Joined Apr 14, 2003
I've recently caught the cookbook disease, so I figured I would seek advice from those who have been afflicted much longer than I ;)

-What's a good vegetable-specific cookbook? I've been looking at either James Peterson's "Vegetables" or Cook's Illustrated "Perfect Vegetables". Any opinions on these or another book? My worry about any of the Cook's Illustrated books is that they tend to repeat many of the recipes from their magazines (which I have from 1998-present; thanks, ebay).

-What's a good soup book? Again I've been looking at James Peterson and Cook's Illustrated ("Spledid Soups"; "Soups and Stews"), but I am open to other options.

-Any suggestions for a cast iron cookbook? There's only two that I've really found ("Cast Iron Cooking" by A. D. Livingston and "Cooking in Cast Iron" by Mara Reid Rogers). I only flipped through these, but wasn't sold on either. Any input on these two or any other would be great. Basically, I have a cast iron 12" skillet, 5qt dutch oven, and a griddle anmd want to get the most out them (note: I won't be using these over a fire that often, so I'm not as interested in a camping-type book).

-Anyone try Cook's Illustrated "The Quick Recipe"? Supposedly 85% of the recipes have never been in the magazine, and I'm always interested in being able to put together a real meal quickly. Is there any other book like this out there?

-Has anyone read "The Kitchen Detective" by Christopher Kimball? Would you recomend it? I'm a big fan of Cook's Illustrated and knowing how recipes work, but again, I worry there may be several recylces/ highly similar recipes.

-Is Rick Bayless' "Mexican Kitchen" sufficiently different than "Mexico: One Plate at a Time" to warrant buying? I have the latter and love it, but since I don't use it very often, I'm not sure how many Mexican cookbooks I need.

That's all for now :) Thanks a bunch!
Joined May 26, 2001
In answer to the first Q, re: vegetable books. The one to go with is . . . Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini, by Elizabeth Schneider. I much prefer her organization to Peterson's. For each vegetable she lists (with excellent cross-references to different names), she gives scientific and cultural information, a plethora* of good recipes, and citations of recipes in other cookbooks that lead you to still more help. And the range of vegetables she includes is huge. One of the best cooking books I've ever gotten.

Soups: have you looked at Barbara Kafka's book (something like Soup as a Way of Life?)? I don't have it, but I do enjoy her approach.

Cast iron: I don't think one needs a special book for that. Just remember that they are slow to heat and slow to cool down, and need to be protected from rust. As long as you season and clean your pots properly, you can just COOK!

Kitchen Detective is on order; haven't seen it yet. But for other books of that type, you can't beat Shirley Corriher's CookWise, anything by Harold McGee, How to Read a French Fry by Russ Parsons, Robert Wolke's What Einstein Told His Cook, Howard Hillman's Kitchen Science, and The Inquisitive Cook, put out by the Exploratorium in San Francisco. I left out Alton Brown not because I don't like him, but simply because I'm not at all familiar with his book(s?).

I'll let someone else answer your other questions. ;)

*Thanks for reminding me of that word! :D
Joined Apr 14, 2003
Thanks, Suzanne! I'll definately have to check out Barbara Kafka and Elizabeth Schneider- I actually recall flipping through Schneider's tome and liking it. And I'll probably pick up "The Kitchen Detective" regardless of recipes- I'm a sucker for books like this. I've already read "Cookwise", "The Curious Cook", What Einstein Told His Cook", "I'm Just Here for the Food", and "The New Kitchen Science", though I have to admit I was suspect of some of the information in "The New Kitchen Science". If you get the chance, Alton Brown "I'm just here for the food: Food + Heat = Cooking" is a pretty good read- I'm not sure how many of his recipes I would try, but it the information is great. He basically breaks down each cooking approach (frying, poaching, etc) and explains what it does to your food and how you can manipulate it (usually with a joke or two). My favorite part was when he talked about how he attached a hair dryer to his charcoal grill to create, in essence, a blast furnace.



Joined Apr 4, 2000
The Kitchen Detectives will be a collection of columns, written by C. Kimball, that have appearied in The The Charleston Daily MAil.

For more on kitchen science you might wat to check out How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science, it's coming out soon in paperback.

I have not seen B. Kakfa's Soup: A Way of Life but I do have James Peterson's Splendid Soups and would not hesitate to reccomand it.

Suzanne is right Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider is a fabulous book, not only it is great in the kitchen but it is a joy to read.

This said there are othercookbooks available on vegetables. Depending on what you are looking for, you might want to have a look at the books of Guy Martin,Deborah Madison and the Moosewood books.
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