Books & Cookbooks

6 Tips to Make the Most of Your Cookbook Collection

Notice how English titles are printed in reverse direction from French titles. It's good for stretching your neck when browsing.

I’m sure your cookbook shelves are groaning as heavily as mine, and if I were to ask you how often you cook from them you might look away, embarrassed, and try to change the subject. Especially if your spouse, who regularly comments on the extent of your collection, is within earshot.

It’s not that you don’t want to cook from all these books; you do. It’s just that it’s impossible to remember what’s in them. And however well built their indexes (or indices), it would be pretty cumbersome to open every single one of them to look up, say, “Brussels sprouts” when you come home from the greenmarket on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning.

6 Easy tips to make the most of your cookbooks

It does seem a shame to let so much knowledge and inspiration go untapped, and here are six ways to avoid that:

  1. Sticky-tab appealing recipes, and regularly leaf through your collection to refresh your memory.
  2. In each of your cookbooks, list all the recipes you want to try, with page number, on an index card. Place that custom-made index in the front of the book for quick reference. (This also serves as a good decision tool to see whether you should really keep that book.)
  3. Take photos of (or scan) the recipes you want to try, and keep the image files, grouped together by book or dish type as you prefer, in a dedicated folder on your computer. (I use the application Tiny Scanner on my phone, and generate a separate pdf for each book.)
  4. Keep a top 10 list of dishes you want to try right here right now, referencing the cookbook(s) they come from. You could maintain a list without setting any kind of limit, but in my experience, the list grows too long and stops being useful.
  5. Pick a different cookbook every month or so, and challenge yourself to cook X number of recipes from it (make X realistic) before moving on to the next.
  6. Sign up for Eat Your Books, a cookbook recipe database that lists over 125,000 cookbooks, plus food magazines and blogs (you’ll find an index of C&Z recipes in particular). EYB allows you to replicate your cookbook collection online, so you can run searches for recipes, bookmark the ones you want to try, or have already cooked and enjoyed. It’s a brilliant service, and I’m only sorry it doesn’t cover the French half of my cookbook collection.

Join the conversation!

Tell me how you make the most of your cookbook collection: what’s your system? Do you even have a system? If not, what’s your greatest challenge?

Disclosure: The founder of Eat Your Books, Jane Kelly, converted my trial membership to a complimentary lifetime membership back when I first joined in 2010. When this post first appeared, it was a membership giveaway that I had arranged at my initiative. All opinions expressed are my own.

This post was first published in March 2014 and updated in January 2016.

The French Market Cookbook

Well, this is it! The French Market Cookbook, my new book of vegetable recipes, is coming out today.

[Scroll down to see how you can enter to win a copy!]

It is an exciting day for me, one I’ve been looking forward to for three years, ever since the idea for the book first popped into my head. (I know the exact date because I have the email I sent my agent that very day to share!) It has been a pretty smooth ride since then — the planning, the proposal-ing, the writing, the recipe testing, the shooting, the editing, the correcting, the naming, the designing, the waiting — and I am most grateful that I’ve had such a great team at Clarkson Potter on my side all along.

And now the book is finally ready — and dying! — to start its own life in your hands and on your kitchen counter. It is my most ardent hope that you and it enjoy each other’s company, and that perhaps you’ll write and tell me about it from time to time.

The French Market Cookbook is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

The French Market Cookbook

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5 Ingredients 10 Minutes: A Giveaway!

5 Ingredients 10 Minutes

{See below about winning Jules Clancy’s newly released book.}

I’ve been a follower and an admirer of Jules Clancy’s Stonesoup for years. Not only does she provide inspiring minimalist recipes and gorgeous, bathed-in-Australian-light pictures, but she also strives to innovate on the classic food blog format and keeps coming up with great projects and ideas, such as her virtual cookery school, her e-cookbooks (such as 30 Dinners in 30 Days or The Tired and Hungry Cook’s Companion*), or the handy list of variations (hotter! greener! carnivore! dairy-free!) that follows every recipe.

What sets her blog apart from the vast majority of others is that it is genuinely reader-oriented: you can tell she spends time wondering what issues the home cook struggles with, then sets out to devise clever and practical solutions to address them.

Chief among these issues is the lack of time: a lack of time to shop and a lack of time to cook no doubt stand in the way of people eating a home-cooked dinner every weeknight.

And this is where Jules Clancy’s fantastic new cookbook comes in: what if you had a plentiful collection of healthful recipes that required just five ingredients and ten minutes to make? Surely then you could gather enough of those five-ingredient sets during the weekend, and find the energy to spend ten minutes at the stove at the end of your long day?

5 Ingredients 10 Minutes

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An Everlasting Meal: The Onion Tale

An Everlasting Meal

It’s not often that I am as charmed and captivated by a book as I was by Tamar Adler’s Everlasting Meal. Her discourse on “economy and grace” in the kitchen is all about making the most ingenious use of the ingredients you buy, and giving new life to your scraps and leftovers — an approach that resonated with me deeply for it is exactly the way I aspire to cook.

Her beautiful, haunting voice, her wise words, and her sound advice come together into a timeless book you want to read slowly, savoring each chapter and pausing every few pages to try and commit to memory* a gold nugget of an idea that you particularly love.

I requested the publisher’s permission to share with you one of the many passages that delighted me. This one is found at the end of chapter thirteen, “How to Find Fortune:”

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Help Me Name My Book!


As you may or may not know, I have a new cookbook in the works that’s all about French cooking and vegetables, scheduled for publication in the spring of 2013. (You can read more about the project in the posts About my new book, and Shooting photos for my new book.)

I wrapped up the manuscript shortly before I had the baby, and it then went into my editor’s hands for some edits, and in the copyeditor’s for more tiying up of loose ends (copyeditors are my personal eagle-eyed heroes). The designer worked on the layout of the inside of the book, submitting a few different ideas for our consideration before perfecting the one we all felt happiest about (and I am very happy about it).

I should be receiving the first dummy soon, i.e. the complete text integrated into the layout, and there will be a bit of work there to make the copy fit neatly within the boundaries of the pages.

But at the forefront of my mind now is this all-important question: what should we call the book?

Up until now, the book has been referred to as “Untitled French Vegetable Book” (glamorous, no?) and my editor and I have been exchanging title ideas back and forth, but we haven’t yet found the one.

So I thought I would come to you, dear readers who are so good with words, and ask for your help: what would you name a cookbook that celebrates the love story between French cuisine and vegetables, one that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients combined simply but tastefully in vegetarian dishes, one that comes with lots of stories about shopping, cooking, and living in Paris?

Of course, there is a prize! If you’re the first person to suggest the title we end up using, you’ll receive a signed copy of the book when it comes out, and a surprise gift from Paris that I will tailor specifically to you and your tastes*. (I’ll send that out to you at any postal address on the planet, so feel free to participate regardless of your location.)

If you want to play, I’ll be so very grateful for your ideas! We most likely need the words “French” or “Paris”, and “vegetables” or “vegetarian” in there, but don’t let that cramp your style. Please submit your title suggestions — with optional subtitle — by Sunday, September 23 in the comments section below, or send them to me privately, if you prefer, via the contact form. (In both cases, make sure you enter a correct email address, or I won’t be able to contact you if you win.)

Thank you so much!

Edit: The call for submission is now closed. Many, many thanks to all who participated with such enthusiasm. You’ve really outdone yourselves, and I am thrilled with all your ideas! As soon as the definitive title is chosen, I’ll announce it here, along with the name of the winner.

* It is understood that we will then be able to use the title free and clear of any obligations.

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