I grew up with Susan Branch’s “Heart of the Home” on our coffee table. It was one of my favorite books as a child, filled with whimsical illustrations and clever tips for hosting house guests. I first read MFK Fisher’s “The Art of Eating” in high school and it still sits on my bedside table for light reading. My most recent addition to my cookbook collection is “Coming Home to Sicily” by Fabrizia Lanza, a gift from a grad school friend who I attended Fabrizia’s cooking school with.
My favorite cookbooks tell a story; they are something to read rather than flip through. They occupy most of the space on my bookshelf and run the gamut from heavy hitters like Escoffier, James Beard, Jacques Pepin, and Julia Child to community cookbooks such as a 1924 benefit cookbook for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. There are those I’ve been given over the years by friends and family and those that I have picked up from my travels around the world. Some are dated, filled with recipes of yore like cocktail cheese rounds and Jell-O salads. Others, stained and dog eared, are more frequently revisited.
Here are some favorite cookbooks and recipes of Island cooks:
Gail Shufrin, Speech/Language Therapist
Favorite type of food to cook: Fresh and delicious.
Favorite cookbook: Impossible to choose just one. “Moosewood Cookbook” and “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” because they have some old standby, go-to recipes. Also, Mark Bittman books and blog. I love his creative approach to food. There are no rules and endless possibilities. For example, when he writes about beets, he doesn’t begin and end with beet and goat cheese salad. He’ll give you a dozen different ways to prepare them.
Favorite recipe: Curried butternut squash and mushroom soup and Brazilian black bean soup from “Moosewood Cookbook.” Brownies and orange poppy seed bundt cake from Silver Palate Cookbook.
Neil Hellström, server at The Plane View
Favorite type of food to cook: Ethnic foods, like curries, authentic Italian dishes that take hours to make, and Asian foods, but I also like grandmother-type roasts with fixings.
Favorite cookbook: Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef.” It was the first cookbook my parents bought me when I was a teenager. It’s simple, easy to follow, and it is a cookbook that any beginner can learn a lot from.
Favorite recipe: Jamie Oliver’s meatball casserole, although I’ve spruced it up over the years. It’s just a hearty meal that anyone would enjoy and all the ingredients are easy to find in stores.
Sharon Coogan, Administrative Assistant
Favorite type of food to cook: Quick and healthy choices for busy lives.
Favorite cookbook: It is no longer one favorite cookbook. I have a subscription to Cooking Light and Bon Appetit. I also love The Boston Globe for their seasonal recipes and love to watch America’s Test Kitchen on TV. My old time favorite is “Moosewood Cookbook” My pages are worn, I’ve used it so much over the years. But the best recipes are ones I’ve gotten from friends. I love to share and receive recipes that work. I also love to see local cookbooks like Vineyard Harvest.
Favorite recipe: Pasta al cavolfiore from “Moosewood Cookbook.” Alfredo from “The New York Times Cookbook.” Oatmeal cookies from “The Joy of Cooking.”
Pearl Vercruysse, freshman at M.V. Regional High School
Favorite type of food to cook: Right now I’m into French food.
Favorite cookbook: Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
Favorite recipe: French bread from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” It takes all day, you need to do three risings, so I usually make it on the weekend.
Robin Forte, chef
Favorite type of food to cook: Usually seasonally dependent, soups, stews, and braises in cooler weather, fresh crisp salads when it’s warm, but I really love Italian food.
Favorite cookbook: That is a tough question to answer. I have a good collection of cookbooks, so it’s difficult to pick just one. I love my signed copy of Marco Pierre White’s cookbook, but I rarely cook from it. I hate to pick a favorite, but a book I use often is “Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. It is a wonderful book filled with food I love to prepare and eat.
Favorite Recipe: Potato gnocchi from Lidia Bastianich.
Wendy Jacobs, personal style consultant for House of Colour
Favorite type of food to cook: I love to cook all types of food. American, Thai, French, Peruvian, vegetarian, really anything that tastes good.
Favorite cookbook: I have so many favorites, so choosing just one is tough. One that stands out is “Kinkead’s.” It’s also one of my favorite restaurants in Washington, D.C. They have a “sister” restaurant in Boston called Sibling Rivalry, the two chefs are brothers. I love the cookbook because I’ve been able to eat several of the recipes from the cookbook while dining at Kinkead’s restaurant, and the recipes are perfect. I can recreate these amazing dishes at home.
Favorite recipe: Sweet potato gnocchi with pancetta, chanterelles, walnuts, and sage from Kinkead’s. It is heaven on earth. I’ve made it for several dinner parties and it steals the show and it’s just a side dish.