It’s finally autumn in California, and that means it’s time to rotate socks back into my wardrobe and pull out all my favorite soup and “warm food” recipes. I am so excited about this; our summer has been hot hot hot and long long long.
Generally speaking, I gravitate toward meals I can do some prep for and then toss together quickly on the stove. My freezer is full of vegetables for steaming, portioned sauces/stocks, and plastic yogurt containers of slow cooked chicken, barbacoa, and other proteins. My process can always use some spicing up, so let’s get into some suggestions you can peruse while you are in a cozy chair with a warm lap blanket and sipping a hot beverage. I’m starting this list off with a stack of recipe books I already own, and then branching into ones I covet and have added to my holiday gift list. I recommend having your grocery list close by!
Indian Instant Pot Cookbook by Urvashi Pitre
Kicking things off with one of my go-to cookbooks for spicy, cozy food. Pitre walks through the basics of Indian cooking, starting with how to make garam masala and then onion masala—the base for many other masalas and curries. I borrowed this book from the San Francisco Library two days before lockdown was announced, and I’ve used it a ton over the last eight months. It’s also worth noting that I don’t have an Instant Pot; the recipes are fairly easy to convert to stove top-and-slow cooker. My favorite recipe so far is for a simple chana masala, which I tend to make in batches to eat for savory breakfast.
A Taste of Old Cuba by Maria Josefa Lluria de o’Higgins
Another go-to for me; I love Cuban food both for its versatility and its simplicity, as well as for the abundance of plantains. Lluria de O’Higgins adds stories about growing up in Cuba and reminisces about cooking with her family, which makes this cookbook even more interesting. My favorite in this book is also a simple staple: ropa vieja in the slow cooker, spiced up a little with some extra chipotle or whatever chiles I have handy.
The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider
We’re only three cookbooks in but I feel like you, dear reader, may already have a good idea of why I like this one. As a Californian, I have easy access to some truly excellent and inexpensive Mexican food. I confess that I haven’t quite figured out what gives authentic restaurant Mexican food its flavor profile, but with the help of Schneider and some local friends, I’m determined to figure it out. Meanwhile, every time I pull this book out I start drooling a little over the pozole verde on the cover. It’s a soup I make in my cauldron-sized seven-quart Dutch oven and—you guessed it—freeze. This winter I vow to branch out into some puchero de res and sopa Azteca, not to mention the sopa de queso. Cheese soup? GIMME.
The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott
Look, just give me all the stew- and curry-type foods. Anything I can eat over rice is clearly my jam. The Curry Book is an excellent introduction into Thai-style curries, then branches out into curry dishes from around the world and everything that traditionally accompanies them: chutney, raita, lassi…yes please and thank you.
Note: this book appears to be out of print, but a quick search tells me it’s available used from many places.
Spain: The Cookbook by Simone and Ines Ortega
Brace yourself: this is not a stew-style cookbook. It is, however, the Spanish version of The Joy of Cooking for American food, or The Silver Spoon for Italian food. My edition has the original title of 1080 Recetas de Cocina; which is enough mouth-watering recipes to get one through even the longest and dreariest of winters (2020 I’m looking at you). It also includes meal plans, which is helpful because I’ve lost many an hour to the spiral of “get hungry, pull out cookbook, get overwhelmed by choices and low blood sugar, eat chips for dinner.”
The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown
This may be the ur-cookbook for bread, and who doesn’t need that? First published in 1970, The Tassajara Bread Book is a classic, especially on the west coast. It stems from the kitchen of the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, where anyone who attends is required to help cook meals and keep up the space. My mother taught me to bake bread from this cookbook and I admit that I turned my nose up earlier this year during the bread-making trend
10000 years ago this spring. New editions are updated, but I got my own copy from a used bookstore and found invaluable notes inside from a previous owner.
The Silver Spoon by The Silver Spoon Kitchen
This is the last of the cookbooks I own in this list, and I’ve saved my very favorite for last. The Silver Spoon is the bible of Italian cooking and I cannot recommend it enough. Originally published in 1950 by the Italian magazine Domus, it’s been in print ever since. Look, it’s worth the cover price for the description and explanation of how to make the deceptively simple cacio e pepe alone, not to mention the evocative descriptions of traditional Italian meals and the accompanying photographs. My edition is the one pictured, from 2011, but as might be expected there are many out there. Make sure the one you’re buying is roughly the size of an Oxford Dictionary and you’re in business.
Now let’s move on to cookbooks I intend to buy ASAP.
The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry
Ayesha Curry knows what being busy means. She’s put together 100 recipes that can be done in under an hour, with a good mix of sheet pan cooking, dinner salads, and healthy updates to take-out favorites. I will be purchasing this for the Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich recipe, which I will follow up with some Guava Ginger ice cream. If that doesn’t make your mouth water, I recommend getting a test to see if you’re a human.
Cravings and Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen
I’m honestly a little ashamed to admit that I don’t own these yet. Teigen is a perfect person and I will not be accepting other opinions on the matter. These cookbooks are full of recipes, pictures, and—of course—stories to warm the heart and stomach.
Winter Cocktails by Maria del Mar Sacasa
WHEW. After all those stews and pastas and tapas and curries and Teigens (see what I did there? ba-dum-tsch), can I interest you in a cozy cocktail while you wait for your food to be done cooking? Or if you’re already done cooking and eating, a nightcap?
I’ll be honest: I’m your basic “gin soda with extra lime” kind of girl. But when the weather turns, I will take a mulled wine or a warm Irish coffee or, occasionally to the detriment and disgust of FutureTika, both. This year I may branch out with a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, or perhaps a Coquito.
Of note is that this book has a fraternal twin called Summer Cocktails, so you can have basically all your interesting cocktail needs covered!
And there you have it! Thousands of pages and recipes to keep you sated and happy all winter long. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s lunch time and for some reason I am starving.
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