• Big Rick Stuart

Cookbooks For Father's Day (or for anyone anyday)

These are not the latest and greatest cookbooks. Some are pretty old. These are cookbooks I use a lot. I am a casual home cook. I like to do a lot of different things but I don't bake. I guess I should work on that...


These books are all pretty straightforward and even the bigger and fancier ones have a lot of things to make that use common ingredients and taste great without being complicated or requiring special skills or tools. In other words you can do this!


A common thread in these books is that I find the food interesting, I want to try it out, it is explained in a way that a regular guy like me can understand and I have had pretty good results.


I have way too many cookbooks but these are among the top ones I have sticky notes in and reach for when looking for inspiration or that favorite recipe I want to make again.


In no particular order with a link in the bold title to buy at Amazon. Buy/order at your local bookstore might be a better idea. It's your call on that.



Silver Oak Cookbook: Life in a Cabernet Kitchen - Seasonal Recipes from California's Celebrated Winery

This is a beautiful big fancy cookbook from Silver Oak Winery in Napa Valley. I love the stories inside and the photos are great. The really cool thing about the cookbook is that it is packed with info and has recipes that a regular guy like me can make. There is a lot of variety as well. I have used this to make great tomato sauces when the tomatoes in the garden are ready to go. I love Dominic's grilled meats recipes, there are a lot of vegetable ideas, and this cookbook helped me perfect making rice paper wrapped spring rolls. Now that is a lot of variety!


Amazon review

We buy cookbooks from memorable places we visit, and Silver Oak is certainly one of those. This book FAR exceeded my expectations. The photography is breathtaking. Most of the recipes appear to be within our culinary ability - which is not the case with a lot of cookbooks of this nature. I am truly ecstatic with the purchase and am quite anxious to put it to use in the kitchen. It is not just a pretty book with recipes, although it is beautiful.


Amazon link Silver Oak Cookbook: Life in a Cabernet Kitchen - Seasonal Recipes from California's Celebrated Winery



Slow Fire: The Beginner's Guide to Barbecue

Ok don't get caught up in the "Beginner" in the title!

This is a great book for beginners as it explains a lot of things you wouldn't know unless you were told or read about it somewhere. I think it is pretty easy to make ok BBQ but it is all the little things that take it to the next level. This book provides a lot of information and has great recipes and sides to make. I think just about anyone would enjoy it and you might find yourself in a BBQ Competition.


Ray Lampe, a.k.a. Dr. BBQ has a lot of good books. Buy this one, buy another one, buy them all! He has been on TV shows, and has a lot of YouTube videos to check out. He recently opened a restaurant in Florida.


His bio

I was a truck driver in Chicago for 25 years and cooking in BBQ contests was a hobby that started back in 1982. When the trucking business had run it's course and was done I moved to Florida to sell BBQ in a parking lot. I taught a few cooking classes and wrote a few articles and the next thing I knew I was writing my "Big Time Barbecue Cookbook". Since then writing cookbooks and traveling to promote them has become my full time passion and I'm loving every minute of it. I still cook contests when I can and do some cooking classes. My schedule is usually up to date at drbbq.com


Amazon review

I ordered this book back in June of 2016 and I have been using it since. after three and half years, I thought I should try different books from different chefs, so I did get few books from well known chefs like Backyard BBQ by Richard McPeake, Smoke & Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison and A Meat-Smoking Manifesto [A Cookbook] by Aaron Franklin. after reading those books I felt obligated to write a review for Slow Fire by Dr. BBQ. let me tell you they can not even come close to Slow Fire by Dr. BBQ. The recipes and rubs in this book are easy to assemble, the ingredient are easy to find and the instructions from measuring the ingredients to cooking time and temperatures are so accurate that every time I cook, the results are the same. This book has recipes for every meat and vegetable that we consume on daily bases. he has broken the process to the simplest and easiest way that it is almost impossible to make a mistake. There are many grate chefs that are master in cooking but not necessarily are good authors, but Dr. BBQ is both.

Give this book a try, you would not be disappointed.


Amazon link Slow Fire: The Beginner's Guide to Barbecue



Weber's Art of the Grill: Recipes for Outdoor Living

Probably a gazillion people have Weber kettle grills and grills that look and function like them. I don't really know how many gazillions there are but I think that is a pretty good estimate.


There is a good reason why they are so popular. They work great and are really versatile. It does take some setup knowledge about how much air, heat, smoke, temp and time things take. This book covers that as well as giving you some great flavoring ideas and recipes for things you may have never thought of cooking on that Weber in the backyard.


from Amazon

Ever grill a banana? Want to grill a peach, but not sure what to do next? You need Weber's Art of the Grill from those nice people at Weber who brought us the covered kettle charcoal grill and, now, a full array of gas-fired outdoor grills. It's not just about grilling hamburgers anymore, and this lush book is here to prove how wide a range of cooking opportunities exist under the cover of your grill.


We start with the essentials, the differences between direct and indirect cooking, and move right into those basic sauces that give grilled foods the piquancy we so adore: Honey-Ginger Peach Sauce, Dijon Wine Sauce, Hot Pepper Vinegar Sauce, Weber's Tangy Barbecue Sauce. Then there's a menu planner. The Wine Country Lunch, for example, includes Grilled Tuna Niçoise, Butterflied Chicken Under Bricks, and Grilled Peaches with Fresh Cherry Sauce. Business Casual includes Caponata Bruschetta, Smoky Lobster Tails and Corn on the Cob, and S'Mores All Grown Up.


The chapters break out as Starters, Meats, Chicken and Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Vegetable Main Dishes, Sides and Salads, and Desserts--all of it based on grilled foods of one kind (the grilled bread of Bruschetta) or another (the grilled butternut squash of Grilled Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup with Spiced Peanuts). This is not a snooty, party-food book loaded with recipes you'll never want to try...


P.S. not covered in the book: The Snake Method of Smoked BBQ on a Weber


Amazon link Weber's Art of the Grill: Recipes for Outdoor Living



Great Food Fast : Bob Warden's Ultimate Pressure Cooker Recipes

2 words: Instant Pot. Like many of you I have one. Actually I've bought a few over the years. Yes I love it, yes it can do a lot of things, no it isn't "instant" but it is a pot and it is pretty fast.


The Instant Pot is a really smart pressure cooker with none of the dangers of the old not smart pressure cookers. It does take a little guidance on making things and getting the flavors and timing correct otherwise you can end up with mush.


This book is one of the first cookbooks I bought to use with my Instant Pot. I had instant happiness when I made the recipes inside. The chili, chicken and dumplings, hot and sour soup, ribs, and even the desserts have all come out great.


I like this book so much I have bought it many times and given it as a gift to fellow first time Instant Pot users. If you have a modern smart pressure cooker, get this. You will love the food you make from it!


Amazon review

If you *only* try the pot roast recipe, it's worth the price of admission. We haven't found anything we didn't like yet, but the pot roast is a recurring favorite, even while on the road in the RV! I do add the cabernet wine (as recommended) for its flavor, and I use unsalted beef broth since most fresh beef these days already has plenty...


The "Perfected Pulled Pork" was made for our family beach house vacation this summer, and family members were literally calling dibs on any leftovers to have for the following day's lunch, while we were still eating dinner! (But I got back from the beach before they did.... Dibs!!!)


Amazon link Great Food Fast : Bob Warden's Ultimate Pressure Cooker Recipes



Indian Instant Pot® Cookbook: Traditional Indian Dishes Made Easy and Fast

A variation on a theme. Urvashi has a great resource for recipes called Two Sleevers with lots of very good and well tested recipes. She does a great job guiding you to make foods you might have never thought you could make and maybe never heard of. Her flavors are outstanding as is her creativity.


This book is pretty specific and if you have an Instant Pot and like Indian food (or think you might) this is for you. I happen to check both of these boxes and often cook for people that really know their Indian foods and I never have leftovers. Urvashi got pretty "foodie famous" on the internet for her butter chicken recipe. OMG it is good AF as the kids would say. (Would the kids say that?)


Amazon review

This is a wonderful cookbook, full of interesting yet simple to make Indian Food for your Instant Pot. Urvashi simplifies Indian Cooking and makes it easy. So far I have made her Butter Chicken, Basmati Pilau, Chicken Briyani, Punjabi Lobia Black-Eyed Peas with Spinach, garlic and ginger paste and ghee. Instructions are clear and concise and the results were all delicious.


Amazon link Indian Instant Pot® Cookbook: Traditional Indian Dishes Made Easy and Fast



Ten Dollar Dinners: 140 Recipes & Tips to Elevate Simple, Fresh Meals Any Night of the Week

Amazon review

“I am a father and husband before I am a chef, so when it comes to mealtime I want to use simple recipes that utilize the freshest foods possible. That’s what Ten Dollar Dinners is all about. I also like to cook with my family, which means that Melissa’s recipes are perfect for us to create together.”

—ANDREW ZIMMERN


How about a cookbook that is packed with great family (kid) friendly recipes, shopping tips, and is the kind of cookbook you will open when you want quick, tasty, family meals that won't break the budget?


Here it is! Melissa has a lot of great ideas inside that will help you save money but make great meals. These are the kinds of recipes kids can join in and help with.


Melissa d’Arabian, host of Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners and season 5 winner of The Next Food Network Star, makes good on the $10 promise of dinner for four in her debut cookbook. This is a cookbook I keep in the kitchen.


Amazon review

While prices may fluctuate and the $10 dinner may or may not be, using recipes from Ten Dollar Dinners by Melissa d'Arabian will help trim expenses while eating well. d'Arabian's recipes not the usual pasta, rice and beans meals, but meals creatively using all kinds of varied ingredients making mealtime a delight; and not boring. Some of the recipes you will find in her cookbook include:


Creamy Cheese and Basil Crostini

Crispy Kale Chips

Pork Loin Milanese with Arugula Salad

Bacon Deviled Eggs with Tuna Tartare

Potato-Bacon Torte

Barbecue Meatballs

Parmesan Breadsticks

Pot Roast Carbonade

Cinnamon Buns

Buttery Shortbread


Amazon link Ten Dollar Dinners: 140 Recipes & Tips to Elevate Simple, Fresh Meals Any Night of the Week




Northern Italian Cooking

This IS the real deal. Biba Caggiano was a Sacramento legend. Her family restaurant Biba's was around for 33 years before closing in 2020. It's location near where the wheelers and dealers in state politics would gather probably made it a prime spot for deal making. It wouldn't have lasted that long if people didn't like it!


Biba also did a lot of TV on local stations and even with people like Martha Stewart.



She wrote a lot of cookbooks over the years and I would guess they are all good. The one I have is used a lot for a lot of dishes I am familiar with and some things that go way beyond the menu of most Italian restaurants.


This cookbook has some interesting stories and background on what makes northern Italian food unique. This is another cookbook that stays in the kitchen.


Amazon review

I received this cookbook back in 1992 from my (now) ex, who is from Verona, Italy. He called it "the Italian bible", and I have to admit, even though I have collected dozens of Italian cookbooks over the years, I always come back to this one, It has all of the basics, and given that I learned to cook in Italy, I can say it is truly authentic. When my younger brother went to college, I bought him this book and told him that if he wanted to impress a date, he should start with Spaghetti con il Tonno (Spaghetti with Tuna Sauce), cause it is super easy. He did. And he did again. And again. My brother is now married with 2 kids, and he is a fantastic cook. I like to think this helped him get started. I recently bought this book for my nephew in college (I guess this is becoming a tradition), and he is super excited to try the recipes. Alas, my copy is falling apart, but I will never give it up!


Amazon link Northern Italian Cooking



French Cooking at Home

From Northern Italy to France...

Bookstores will often have a discounted rack of books on the sidewalk. I always look.


When I saw this I thought it looked interesting but as with most French food cookbooks it probably had pretty pictures but it would be full of recipes I couldn't make.


I was half right. It has really good photos and illustrations and I have actually made a lot of things from this book and they have all been great. I love that it very clearly guides you on techniques you might have to learn, including things to buy at the kitchen supply store, then how you apply that to a recipe. The actual recipes refer back to the page with the techniques so you can get it all done the right way. It has a lot of variety and this book really expanded the food and sauces and techniques I cook with. It is the kind of cookbook that is fun to just read sitting on the couch.


It has a lot of variety of recipes so you can make something that you are comfortable with or get adventurous.


Amazon reviews

Beautiful presentation and photography, without the jam-packed walls of text of other, more-popular cookbooks. I would not recommend this as a reference text, but for younger or intermediate home chefs, it will give a base of French techniques that will suit most needs. The scientific explanations are par for the course in modern cooking texts, but they are not cumbersome and always have a root in application, not esoteric knowledge.


This book is filled with wonderful information about how to prepare the dish as well as why you should prepare it the way the book tells you to. The photos are a great referral and confidence booster.


I own dozens of French cookbooks, some in French. This is probably one of the most incredible, artistic, and amazing French cookbooks I’ve seen. The recipes are advanced and exciting, the food photography is artistic and beautiful, and the illustrations are fun and creative. These pages should be framed they are so beautiful.


Amazon link French Cooking at Home



Made in Marseille: Food and Flavors from France's Mediterranean Seaport

I bought this used after a trip to France a few years ago. Marseille seemed like a pretty wild place away from the central area at the marina. I wish I had read this cookbook before my trip as it would have given me some good ideas on the history and cultural mix of the port city in the south of France.


Once again this cookbook is a favorite because it has interesting recipes that a regular guy like me can make. The food from the area is of course influenced by the cultural background of the region. This means a lot of French influence mixed with the flavors of Tunisia, Senegal, Vietnam, Italy, Morocco, and more.


The French food here is very different from what you might have at a French restaurant in the Napa Valley or I would guess pretty much anywhere else. This cookbook explains the background on thes culture and food that make Marseille unique.


I make a chicken with licorice sauce dish from this cookbook and there is a big part of the book all about the background and recipes for different versions of bouillabaisse.


Amazon review

The first 50 pages of this "cookbook" is a wonderfully romantic but not romanticized portrait of Marseille and that historic Mediterranean port of call's long history, native customs, literary inspirations, immigrant influences, notorious mischiefs, and recent cultural revival. Recalling the movie "The French Connection," it's hard to think of Marseille as being trendy, yet Daniel Young makes a convincing case, especially through his side-by-side presentation of the local Provence-based cooking and emigre flavors that gives the food its contemporary appeal.

The recipes I have attempted so far have been delicious and very doable (so far I've preferred to try the straightforward, home-style dishes from home cooks (many from grandmothers, others from fishermen) rather than the more elaborate ones from Marseille's restaurant chefs). I can see myself making the Parmesan and black olive biscuits all the time. The Provencal-style eggs in cocotte are terrific and also simple to prepare. My friends loved the basil potato chips and the Moroccan crepes. The soupe au chocolat -- that's right, chocolate soup -- is to die for!


Amazon link Made in Marseille: Food and Flavors from France's Mediterranean Seaport



Air Fryer Perfection: From Crispy Fries and Juicy Steaks to Perfect Vegetables, What to Cook & How to Get the Best Results

When I recently bought an air fryer I saw a lot of cookbooks out there to choose from. This one from America's Test Kitchen is the one I bought and so far it is the only one I have.


If you watch the TV show you know they explain things very clearly, why something doesn't work, and why it does. This book is just like that. I use it as a recipe guide following it step by step and I also use it as a reference for cook times and temps. Air fryers cook very fast and it can be really easy to burn and overcook your food. I know from experience...


The book also has guides on buying an air fryer and what is good and bad about different models. I would recommend it even before you buy your air fryer. It is a really good information resource.


Yes this cookbook lives in my kitchen next to my Instant Pot Vortex Plus


Amazon review

This book is awesome. My husband received an air fryer for Christmas so we pre-ordered this book, hoping ATK could teach us how to use it for more than just reheating frozen snacks. We have trusted ATK for many years- we own multiple cookbooks and subscribe to their magazines. This book continues ATK’s tradition of teaching you the science behind the product/food as well as a variety of delicious recipes. It contains a large variety of main dishes and side dishes as well as snacks. Our air fryer is not one of the recommended models, yet each recipe has come out perfect (even with small changes to ingredients). If you are a loyal fan of ATK’s style and brand and are curious about using an air fryer, this book will not disappoint!


Amazon link Air Fryer Perfection: From Crispy Fries and Juicy Steaks to Perfect Vegetables, What to Cook & How to Get the Best Results



The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2021: Every Recipe from the HIt TV Show Along with Product Ratings Includes the 2021 Season (Complete ATK TV Show Cookbook)

1160 pages.

I'm just going to copy/paste from Amazon to give you an idea of how much info is here.

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Find every recipe prepared on 21 seasons of public television's top-rated cooking show all in a single compendium, including the new season that debuts in January 2021. You'll also get the latest equipment and ingredient ratings drawn from the show's equipment testing and taste testing segments.


The 60-page shopping guide at the back of the book contains all of the buying recommendations from ATK’s tasting and testing experts so that readers will have our winning ingredients and kitchen equipment at their fingertips.


America's Test Kitchen publishes award-winning cookbooks along with Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines and produces public television's top-rated shows, America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country. It is a very real 15,000 square-foot kitchen located in Boston's Seaport district and is home to more than 60 test cooks, editors, and tasting and testing experts.

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It's huge. It's got a lot of information. It is very well indexed so recipes and ideas are easy to find. I make the pan seared scallops pretty frequently.


Umm I don't really know what else to say. If you cook or know someone that does and you want to get a cookbook that covers just about everything, get this. Drill down with others books that specialize in BBQ, French, Italian, Indian food etc.


Amazon review

This is one of the best cookbooks I have ever purchased. Not only is very heavy but it has hundreds of recipes that are easy to follow, with easy to find ingredients. I collect cookbooks but this one is the one I will use the most. It also has recommendations on tools to purchase in the kitchen and handy tips for each recipe that will help you recreate the recipes as written. There are also many variations on recipes so you can wing it in your own kitchen while staying true to the original recipe. I would highly recommend this cookbook for purchase. In fact, I will be ordering another for a Christmas gift.


Amazon link The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2021: Every Recipe from the HIt TV Show Along with Product Ratings Includes the 2021 Season (Complete ATK TV Show Cookbook)

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