Staff Picks: Cookbooks for Quarantine

Our dining experience looks a little different these days. No longer able to dine out at our favorite restaurants or find exactly the ingredients we need at the store, we’ve become increasingly dependent upon ourselves to cook at home using what we have. For some, this has been an opportunity to perfect culinary skills and try out those hours-long cooking projects that you never usually have the time to complete. For others, this has been a crash-course in using pantry staples and becoming acquainted with their kitchens. 

But no matter your skill level or appetite, we’ve got your cookbook needs covered to add some flavor and spice to your home-cooking journey, all free with your Abbot Public Library card. There are over 1,000 titles available in our digital collections, from regional cuisine (Tex-Mex, Korean, French, Palestinian, Oaxacan), to diet-specific (Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Whole30), to pop culture-inspired (Anne of Green Gables? Literary wizards? Questlove?), and everything in between! If hundreds of cookbooks seems like a little much to swallow, these five highly-recommended cookbooks are a great place to start:

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat & Wendy MacNaughton

If you take only one title away from this list, let this be the one. Part textbook, part cookbook, and highly enjoyable (think on-the-nightstand, bedtime-read enjoyable) Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is like getting a cooking lesson from your very kind, very knowledgeable best friend who only wants you to succeed at cooking and life. Certified Good Human™ Samin Nosrat doesn’t just want you to cook her recipes — she wants you to have enough confidence in the kitchen to go off-book and use its namesake elements to make great food every time. Complete with Wendy MacNaughton’s delightfully informative illustrations — no staged food photography here — this is a guide you’ll turn to time and time again.

Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs by Julia Turshen

Julia Turshen wants you to relax. And if cooking isn’t your idea of relaxing, well then, she wants to change that for you, too. In the same philosophical vein of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Turshen posits that, in having the necessary know-how to create the daily ritual we call mealtime, we can feel grounded and find joy. She urges us to celebrate our cooking triumphs, and gives you all of the tools and tricks to make simple substitutions with unpretentious ingredients for wholesome, tasty meals. For anyone in need of a small victory (see what we did there?), this one’s for you.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Never have vegetables looked better than between the pages of London-based Ottolenghi’s stunning vegetarian classic. Never fear carnivores: Ottolenghi infuses his vegetable recipes with such vibrant and bold Eastern Mediterranean flavors, you won’t even miss the meat. A great source for homecooks looking to toss a little more tasty veggie power into their meals, and for vegetarian experts to up their plant-based game. 

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt

The Food Lab, based on López-Alt’s popular Serious Eats column of the same name, is for the Good Eats-style food science types out there. From mac and cheese to turkey, Lopéz-Alt gives you foolproof recipes for all of your favorite American classics, and the solid science behind making them perfectly. This is an awesome resource for people who don’t just love to cook and eat, but are curious about hows and whys of what’s on their plate, too.

Pastry Love: A Baker’s Journal of Favorite Recipes by Joanne Chang

You didn’t think we’d leave out dessert, did you? Joanne Chang, James Beard award-winning baker and owner of Boston’s famed Flour bakeries, presents 125 of her favorite pastries and desserts in this comprehensive guide. From lemon sugar cookies to passion fruit crepe cake, there is a recipe to suit every sweet craving and skill level. Replete with pro tips, tricks, and techniques, this will quickly become a staple of your baking book collection. 

For more cooking guidance, you can also stream video lectures through Abbot Public Library’s Indieflix service, which has a section on Food & Wine.

Stream Video Lectures for Free with The Great Courses!

So…you’ve caught up with all your chores, binged on Netflix, baked too many cookies, and played endless board games but are still–well, bored? Maybe it’s time to challenge the little gray cells with some adult education courses from a renowned company: The Great Courses! In case you haven’t heard, hundreds of video lectures by professors eminent in their fields, some from Ivy League universities, are available to stream through the Abbot Public Library for free. If you were to buy the DVD versions of these courses, you would be paying up to $50 for just one course! There are a multitude of diverse lectures to choose from; you can browse them here.

From cooking tutorials via the Culinary Institute of America, to expert discussion of how stress can work for you, to the history of India, to dog training tips, to music appreciation—there are offerings for everyone. Tune out the news for a while and tune in to Great Courses–who knows where your curiosity might lead you?

Great Courses videos are available via one of our streaming services, RBDigital. If you’ve never logged on before, please visit our FAQ page for instructions. You can stream on your laptop, desktop, most mobile devices, and even on your TV (instructions for streaming to your Smart TV are also in our FAQs). Here’s to new voyages of discovery!