30 Days of Wow

The Best Cookbooks

We picked 30 of our favorite cookbooks, read them cover to cover and pulled the one tip you need to know from each. Your kitchen will love you.

Photographs Sarah Stone

1. The Easiest Dip

This vegetable-walnut pâté blends onion, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, toasted walnuts, lemon juice, mayonnaise and parsley into a smooth, creamy spread. It’s easier to make than any other pâté recipe out there, and it’s a total crowd-pleaser--even for those who don’t fancy liver.
from The New Moosewood Cookbook

2. No More Pigs in the Blanket

Fry leftover quinoa into tasty patties that are crisp on the outside and can be flavored any way you like ’em (try slathered in ripe avocado and sprinkled with a pinch of sea salt).
from Super Natural Everyday

3. Get the Best Avocado

Buy avocados unripened. If they’re still hard, they likely haven’t been bruised or mishandled. Let the avocado ripen slowly at room temperature on your counter. When the skin turns darker and the flesh yields slightly at the top, refrigerate it until ready to use.
from Fresh and Easy: What to Cook and How to Cook It

4. Save Your Olive Oil

Fats and oils can become rancid quickly. Exposure to light, heat, even air causes them to develop a stale aroma and taste. Store oil in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place (read: nowhere near your stove!).
from Keys to Good Cooking

5. Sweet Potato Puree

Make sweet potatoes even more versatile by turning them into a puree. It’s as simple as steaming the potatoes and blending until smooth. The finished puree can be spread on toast, tossed with pasta or added to baked goods like waffles or biscuits.
from Roots

6. Stale Bread’s Second Life

Slice stale bread super thin to make melba toasts, which can be stored for weeks in sealed plastic bags.
from How to Cook Everything

One Bowl, 236 Chickpeas

Tribe hummus might be the fastest appetizer to serve...ever. Available in a wide array of flavors (they even introduce a limited batch one every few months), these bowls aren’t your everyday supermarket dip (their new “Everything” flavor tastes like an everything bagel, we kid you not). To fancify it for the holidays, serve the hummus in a crystal bowl--or in one of those martini glasses you haven’t touched since 1986.

7. Swizzle Your Drinks

Shaken or stirred? How about “swizzled,” which not only mixes the ingredients but also leaves the glass perfectly frosted? To swizzle like a pro, fill a tall glass with ice, add the drink ingredients and place a bar spoon into the glass. Place both palms around the handle of the bar spoon and move them back and forth and up and down quickly to rotate and lift the spoon.
from Mr. Boston: Official Bartender’s Guide

8. Pasta the Italian Way

Both pasta and sauce should be warm when combined. Spoon thicker sauces, like ragů, over the surface of the noodles, but toss creamy sauces, like carbonara, with warm pasta to coat it completely.
from Pasta

9. Chef’s Secret Sauce

Béchamel, the classic white sauce, is the key to making incredible mac and cheese, crazy-good lasagna and that potato gratin everyone raves about. Most recipes require the milk to be warmed before it’s mixed in, but you can save a step (and an extra dirty pot) by adding it straight from the fridge. Just be sure to pour it slowly and mix vigorously with a whisk to prevent lumps.
from Sauces

10. Be a Little Scrappy

Have you noticed your quinoa tastes a little quin-bla? Swap homemade stock for the water. Just cover any vegetable trimmings you have on hand (onion, celery, carrots) with water and boil for 30 minutes.
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Flatbread Pizza

Want to throw them for a loop? A delicious, can’t-stop-eating-this loop? Serve ’em pizza as a side dish. Tribe’s Grilled Flatbread Pizza is topped with roasted-garlic hummus, feta, olives and fennel fronds.

11. The Fluffiest Rice, Ever

For the lightest, fluffiest steamed rice you’ve ever had, follow this method:

Recipe

Rinse 1 ¼ cups rice, then transfer it to a bowl. Cover the rice with 3 cups water. Add 1 teaspoon salt, stir, and soak for 1 to 2 hours. Pour the rice and the soaking liquid into a large pot and add another 3 cups water. Bring it to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, and let sit, covered, for another 20 minutes.
from Plenty

12. Go Halfsies on Veggies

Pick up some half-sheet pans for making quick batches of chocolate-chip cookies, roasting vegetables or corralling things in the refrigerator.
from Keepers

13. Homemade Bread, Simplified

How do you get a crispy, crunchy crust? Add steam! Place a casserole dish filled with cool water on the lower shelf of your oven and put the bread dough on the center shelf. The hot water will quickly turn to steam, setting a crispy outer layer on your homemade loaf.
from Artisan Breads Everyday

14. 90-Second Fish Sauce

Fancy up your poisson with a brown butter sauce. When you remove the cooked fish from the pan, toss in 5 tablespoons butter (gulp) and let it cook until it turns lightly brown and nutty in flavor. Drizzle it over the fish and dig in.
from The Joy of Cooking

15. The Freshest Catch

Want to find the best fish near you? Look for Japanese fish stores in your city. Due to the prevalence of fish in their diet, the Japanese tend to have very high standards of quality.
from Fish & Shellfish

16. Make Better Beans

Soaking beans helps them cook faster (meaning they won’t turn into paste), but the process usually takes a day. To speed things up, bring the beans and salted water to a quick boil, cover and let the beans soak for an hour. Drain and rinse the beans to remove any excess salt.
from Soups, Stews & Chilis

17. The Last Word on Turkey Stuffing

Stuffing should be cool or at room temperature when you put it into your bird. Don’t stuff until just before you’re ready to roast or you’ll get a soggy consistency (and annoyed in-laws).
from The New Basics Cookbook

18. Shh...It’s a $10 Bottle

Um, did you know you should decant those cheap bottles of wine too? Decanting has traditionally been reserved for removing sediment from older wines, but when performed on a young buck it can open up the wine and improve its potential.
from WineWise

19. Give Meat Room to Cook

Most pan sets include a nine- or ten-inch sauté pan. But you should consider springing for an extra-large 13-inch pan, which is ideal for searing large cuts of meat and for cooking up a batch of meatballs (heavens to Betsy if you let those babies touch).
from Good Meat

20. Steak ‘n Grapes

Throughout the history of food and cooking, meat has been paired with fruit to produce mouthwatering yin-and-yang results. Think lamb with apricots, steak with green grapes or bacon with plums.
from Ripe

22. Food-Processor Crust

Not all crusts have to be slaved over by hand. A food-processor crust means no more sifting dry ingredients, no more melting butter in your hands and a perfect crust each time.
from Great Pies & Tarts

23. Plan-Ahead Pie

When planning a menu, think of yourself first: Choose one or two things that can be done almost completely in advance--a braised meat for the main course or a fruit pie that just needs a scoop of ice cream. It will give you time to focus on each dish without having to spend the entire time in the kitchen and miss the party.
from The Art of Simple Food

24. Three-Ingredient Custard

What do you get when you combine 2 cups cream, 23 cup sugar and 5 tablespoons lemon juice? A deliciously silky custard called posset that tastes as if it took hours (and many more ingredients) to make.
from The Food52 Cookbook

25. Is Your Cake Done (or Overdone)?

There are a million methods for testing if a cake is done, but if you want to play it safe, use an instant-read thermometer. (A butter-based cake should read between 190° and 203° Fahrenheit.)
from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

26. Simple Jam

If canning makes you nervous (we don’t have a science degree either), try making freezer jam. All you need is a special freezer-jam pectin (available at grocery stores) to create terrific preserves--no cooking or medical gloves required.
from Ball Blue Book of Canning

27. Popovers (They’re as Easy as Pancakes)

Julia Child’s recipe for popovers is as easy as whipping up pancake batter--but the result is ten times more impressive (not to mention a perfect vessel for butter and jam).
from Baking with Julia

28. How 'Bout Them Apples

Store apples in the refrigerator (the crisper drawer is best) and they will often last several months…but keep them away from kale or other leafy greens. The ethylene gas from the apples will turn the veggies yellow.
from The Organic Cook’s Bible

29. Salmon to Serve a Crowd

Marinated salmon is a great dish to serve to the masses--there’s no cooking involved!

Recipe

Just soak the salmon in a mixture of 1¾ cups anise-flavored Pernod, 1½ cups sugar, 1 cup salt, ¾ cup fennel seeds and 1 bunch dill for 1 to 2 days. When guests arrive, remove the fish from the marinade and thinly slice.
from Home Made

30. The Perfectly Poached Egg

Without further ado, the best way to poach an egg:

Recipe

Use a deep pot (if the water isn’t deep enough, the eggs won’t coagulate properly), fill it with 4 cups water, ½ cup distilled white vinegar and ½ teaspoon salt, and bring to a simmer. Swirl the water into a whirlpool using a wooden spoon, then drop the eggs into the center of the pot. Poach until just firm, about 2 to 3 minutes.
from Saveur: The New Comfort Food