Saturday, April 21, 2012

7 Cookbooks For The Cost Conscious

1. Polish Cookery : Poland’s Bestselling Cookbook Adapted for American Kitchens

We tend to think about French cuisine as the ‘best’ in Europe and Italians traditionally get a lot of praise for their amazing pizzas and pastas. But if you’ve ever been to Chicago, you know them Polacks can cook too. Not only zurek, pierogy and kielbasa are amazingly delicious, Polish people never use expensive ingredients and I guarantee that all the spices you’ll need, you already have in your kitchen. Once you go Polish, there is no turning back.

2. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking

The “five minutes” in the title and “discovery” sounds a lot like marketing schmuckery but the secret is simple - you just make the no knead dough in just a few minutes and keep it in your fridge for use over the next 2 weeks. You can make a loaf when you get home from work and serve it for dinner - hot, crispy and smelling like the streets of Paris. There are many recipes included, but it gives you more relaxed attitude toward the bread. I showed the book to a friend and rather than copy a few of the recipes, she decided to order the book herself because she said that everything looked good and it looked like stuff she would really make. Not many cookbooks earn that comment.

3. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

I bet you’ll read this one from cover to cover. Because this is a kind of cookbook that walks with you on your culinary endevors like your mom or grandma would, telling you stories along the way. ‘Nothing goes to waste’ is the frugal cook rule number one and the author doesn’t just tell us, he shows us, how to be self-sufficient about making and storing food (even if you don’t have a stove or refrigerator): from fermenting classics like sauerkraut to making sourdough, cheese, miso, tempeh, wine, homebrewed beer and, it seems, almost every other fermented food made the world over.

4. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Personally, I love meat. But (unless you live in Alaska or like exotic imported produce) generally speaking vegetarian dishes are a lot cheaper than carnivorous ones. If only they did not taste like … well, vegetarian cooking. Deborah Madison, who is known as ‘our Julia Childs’ in vegan circles, succesfully solves the problem. Warning: this book is thick and heavy.

5. Once-A-Month Cooking: A Proven System for Spending Less Time in the Kitchen and Enjoying Delicious, Homemade Meals Everyday.

Once again, the long title is probably the fruit of the labor of publisher’s marketing department. But when the book has been in print since mid 80s, you know it’s good. Since I love cooking, spending time in the kitchen is not problem for me. But what’s great about this book is a systematic approach - you are given ready shopping lists, cooking lists and menu cycles. All you have to do is follow directions. If you have a large family, this one is a gift from culinary gods.

6. Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making

Though this book is pricey, great sauce or marinade can make the simplest foods taste amazing. What’s pasta without sauce? Would you eat your tortilla chips without salsa or nacho cheese? Or think how ranch dressing transforms regular salad. With 661 pages this book can transform pretty much any dish into something as spicy, as exotic or as traditional as you’d like. Oh, and you also absolutely must have The Flavor Bible.

7. Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One

Most cookbooks assume that you are cooking for a family. But oftentimes it’s the singles who need the most ‘help’ with home cooking, because they think it’s not worth it, when you can stop by the Burger King or order pizza and have ‘cold breakfast’ as well in the morning (you know who you are). While this cookbook can be used if you are married and have big family (most recipes are gourmeish with southwest slant), you are sure to appreciate that someone did all the calculations for you and even told you what you have to do with leftovers.


Sean Becks works for, where frugality is religion.

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