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Lauren Shockey's 5 Cookbooks Every Chef Needs
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
Hazan's one of the cookbooks I grew up with--my parents cooked from it--and it's a really good overview of Italian cooking, by region. The recipes are fairly simple, and Hazan uses ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. My favorite pasta sauce of all time is her tomato sauce with butter and onion. It's just canned tomatoes, butter and onion.
The Fanny Farmer Cookbook by Fanny Farmer and Marion Cunningham
It's a good overall reference book, like The Joy of Cooking. It answers any questions you might have, like how do I make a Caesar salad dressing, how do I make a pie crust, and what's a quick recipe for mayonnaise?
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
This book makes you want to eat vegetables. It's gorgeously photographed and so vibrantly colored. The caramelized garlic tart--you use a puff pastry dough--is awesome. I'm sure it has a thousand calories, but it's delicious. The green couscous is healthy, though, and includes lots of herbs. The recipes can be a little tricky since Ottolenghi uses some Middle Eastern ingredients that could be hard for some people to find. But with its unique flavors and rainbow colors, this book has made vegetarian cooking cool again.
The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco
DeMasco gives you a recipe and then explains how you can expand upon it once you've mastered it. I made a bacon caramel popcorn, brought it into work and it was gone in two seconds! For the cashew brittle, she tells you how to make it with pink peppercorns, pumpkin seeds and other additions. So it's like you're getting five recipes in one.
The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
I don't cook from this a ton, but I love reading it. The recipes are long and intense: Rodgers' instructions on how to make an omelet are three pages, which is both awesome and somewhat scary--but she tells you how to make sure the pan is hot enough, how to turn the pan to ensure it cooks evenly, and so on. Cooking from this book does take some time, but the results are delicious.
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5 terrific guides to Italian cuisine