Our Favorite Things

Over many, many years of home cooking, I have come to love certain cookbooks, blogs, cookware, products and purveyors. And while Frances hasn’t been cooking as long as I have, she has developed some of her own favorites as well. We share these with one another and now we will share them with our readers. There is no particular rhyme or reason to the choices – I am just not that well organized. However, hopefully this will help you find sources and resources that will keep you from wasting your time on some of the mistakes that I have made over the years.

As much as I love to cook, I have never had a great or large kitchen. It’s just one of life’s many ironies. However, it has never stopped from doing sit-down dinners for 20 or buffets for even more. And while I don’t have a wonderful kitchen, there are a few things that I have insisted on. I have a double electric oven and a gas stove.  I have good knives, a food processor, blender and standing mixer and above all, I have quality cookware. Over the years, new products have come on the market and occasionally I am seduced into buying them, but if you buy quality cookware to begin with and you treat it well, it will last until you have grandchildren or beyond. Since we don’t receive any endorsements, these suggestions are made free and clear and are based on our personal opinions only. We will not recommend anything unless we have personally used it and we believe that it is a good value – and customer service has to be good too. Some of these places may sell products in your area depending on where you live. Shipping can be costly, especially if you are buying perishable items, so I either wait until I need a LOT of stuff or for the occasional “free shipping” promotions. Other times, it is just plain worth it because their prices are so reasonable and it makes sense if you factor in the wear and tear on your car and yourself and the price of gas to drive somewhere to go shopping. Only you can make that choice.

These lists are clearly not exhaustive and it is a section that we will update as we make new discoveries. I have been collecting cookbooks and cookware for over 30 years of marriage and discovering online gourmet food purveyors for the past decade. This section will take time to develop, therefore, so be patient and bear with us. If there is something in particular that you are looking for, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section.

Online Purveyors

Nuts.com is a wonderful site for nuts, dried fruits, sugars, flour, spices, ethnic snack foods and much, much more. This is a 3rd generation family company and customer service is great and they do everything with a sense of whimsy and humor. You’ll see what I mean if you order from them.

Rancho Gordo bills itself as a purveyor of “New World” Specialty Food. This is a great place to buy heirloom dried beans, chili powder and more. They are out of Napa, CA and it is also a good site for bean recipes.

D’Artagnan Foods is part of the farm-to-table movement and they are purveyors of fine meats, game and charcuterie. The site also has terrific recipes. The meats are grass-fed and pasture-raised. They also have some wonderful pantry items. They always have “specials” and usually do free shopping once a year.

Kol Foods is a Glatt Kosher meat purveyor that believes in ethically-raised, sustainable meat from farms, not factories. The meat is VERY expensive, but it is also VERY good. They, too have “specials” and if you keep Kosher and have a large freezer (which I don’t) you can buy in bulk and the price of shipping and per pound becomes more reasonable. It is a quality product and when you have a question, you are dealing with a real person who is knowledgeable about cooking.

Sciabica’s is a family-owned, California purveyor of fine olive oils and vinegars – both flavored and plain. Frances introduced me to them and they also have nice recipes and gift sets availble on the website.

Sunnyland Farms is a family-owned business that has simply the best pecans, mixed nuts and glaceed apricots. They have some baked goods and gift sets too and great customer service.

Kelley’s Katch is a CAVIAR purveor. It is caviar produced from the roe of paddlefish found in rivers of Tennessee and other American States. It is a pearl gray in color and has a firm texture that is lightly salted (MALOSSOL). The appearance and size are very comparable to Sevruga caviar. I first read about in the Wall Street Journal and decided to try it. Now it is the only caviar I ever buy.

Stonewall Kitchen is an award winning creator of preserves and specialty foods. We fell in love first with their Roasted Garlic Onion Jam and have since tried their Maple Bacon Aioli and Wild Maine Blueberry Syrup. Many of these fine preserves can be found in better grocery stores, but it is also easy to order from their full line on the web.

Favorite Cookbooks

I (Lisa) have been collecting cookbooks for about 4 decades (yikes!) and read them the way other people read novels. I also have about a decade of bound copies of Gourmet Magazine that I inherited from my mother (Frances’ Nana) and Bon Apetit Magazines. I love to go back to all of these again and again; it’s like visiting old friends. It’s also fun to see how tastes and food trends have changed and how some things never went out of style and other trends recycled after so many years.

I will try to note which cookbooks are fun to read, but whose recipes aren’t great unless you really know how to cook and which are totally reliable and a great source even for beginners.

For an eye towards healthy eating and a good basic cookbook: Jane Brody’s Good Food Cookbook and Burt Wolf’s Eating Well

For Vegetarian Cooking: Martha Rose Shulman’s The Vegetarian Feast. It doesn’t appear to be in print anymore, but she has a host of other cookbooks that are probably good as well. And maybe you can pick up a used copy. Sundays at Moosewood Restauranta classic. Flavors of India, Recipes from the Vegetarian Hindu Cuisine. The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two by Anna Thomas.

For Kosher cooking: Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan. Joan Nathan is always a fun “read” but if you don’t know how to cook already, her recipes can be unreliable. Sephardic Cooking by Copeland Marks. The table of contents isn’t the easiest to navigate but the recipes are terrific. The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene. In my opinion, this is one of the single best Kosher cookbooks out there. Greene’s recipes always work and her knowledge and stories of the origins of the food and holidays makes reading her cookbook a joy. The Book of Jewish Food, An Odyssey from Smarkand to New York by Claudia Roden. Jewish Holiday Cooking by Jayne Cohen. The Book of New Israeli Food, A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur – a fabulous book by Israel’s leading food editor. Jewish Soul Food from Minsk to Marrakesh by Janna Gur.

At Home With Michael Chiarello is one of many wonderful cookbooks by Michael Chiarello. Not only is he a great cook but he is a wonderful teacher.

Twenty Dinners is a new find and something I (Frances) have started cooking quite a bit from.  They are non-fussy recipes that give you entire dinner party menus, which is extremely helpful when you’re hosting a crowd and want to set a good table.

Favorite Food Blogs

Without a doubt, Food52 is my current favorite food blog – aside from ours, of course! It’s a mix of recipes, a portal to other food sites and trendy kitchen stuff. The sometimes multiple emails a day can be a bit much, but all in all a very fun site. And I have now made several recipes I have found there and they have all worked out quite well.

Smitten Kitchen is admittedly more of a favorite of Frances’ than mine. I enjoy reading the blog, but the recipes just haven’t really sent me into raptures yet.

I have been following a few new food blogs and these have risen to the “favorite” category. A colleague turned me on to The Splendid Table, hosted by Lynne Kasper who has won numerous prestigious awards and has a show on Public Radio. I also like Tasting Table, The Kitchn and Apt. 2B Baking Company and David Lebovitz, Living the Sweet Life in Paris. These are not too cutesy, and have decent photos, interesting recipes and decent writing.

And while it is not a blog, I love to read the Wall Street Journal Weekend Food and Wine sections in Off Duty. You do have to have a paid subscription, which I do, and it is so worth it. I also enjoy WSJ’s now monthly Weekend WSJ Magazine, a big, glossy magazine that stays in my house for months. When it comes, I grab it and curl up on the couch with my coffee to pore over the gorgeous photos and fun stories – that is, if my husband hasn’t grabbed it first!

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