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10 Lessons for Building the Perfect Salad

10 Lessons for Building the Perfect Salad



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A beautiful salad is a master class in contrasts—think tart citrus with earthy-sweet beets, crunchy cucumber with creamy feta, channeling six veggie-loving chefs, food editor Hannah Klinger creates five salads (and provides ten tips) that are balanced, colorful, and brilliantly simple.

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Lesson 1: Stick to the season.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Keep salad combos seasonal by using what naturally grows together so peak produce can shine. "Salads are the perfect way to show off the bounty of the season or celebrate a beloved ingredient." —Suzanne Goin, chef of Lucques and a.o.c. in L.A. She is a disciple of Alice Waters and a champion of sustainable, local food and healthy school lunches.

Lesson 2: Invest in equipment.

Making sure your greens are dry can make or break a salad. Since even pre-washed salad mixes usually could benefit from a quick wash too, it's a good idea to invest in a salad spinner. This handy gadget will speed up your prep while leaving you with clean and crispy greens.

Lesson 3: Keep it simple.

Resist the "kitchen sink" approach unless every item has a purpose. "I never like things to be mushed together. Every ingredient must have its own identity yet still work together as a whole." —Yotam Ottolenghi, author of Plenty and Plenty More about the striking, innovative vegetable recipes from his London restaurants.

Lesson 4: Don't fear the fat.

A little fat goes a long way in salads. While homemade salad dressings may seem like they contain an outrageous measurement of oil, when it comes down to how much everyone consumes per serving it's quite a small amount. If you're worried about drowning your salad, just toss it with a little dressing at a time until well-coated. Any excess dressing/oil will pool at the bottom.

Lesson 5: Seek out crunch.

Just as a salad would be naked without dressing, it would be incomplete without crunch. "Texture plays a big role in creating a memorable salad, especially crunchy textures." —Scott Crawford, chef of Crawford and Son in Raleigh, North Carolina. His West Coast-meets-Southern approach puts fresh, local produce first.

Lesson 6: Include cooked veggies.

While most of us picture a salad containing mostly raw vegetables and fruits, adding in cooked components can truly elevate a salad. A bite into creamy baked sweet potato, a hint of smoke from charred corn, or a dose of sweetness from roasted carrots can be just what your dish needs.

Lesson 7: Choose a theme.

Carefully selected elements make a salad feel like a real dish, not an obligatory vegetable serving. "I have to choose an ethnicity. When flavors complement each other, it's more satisfying." —Jenn Louis, chef of Ray in Portland, Oregon, and author of The Book of Greens. Her plant-forward menus elevate vegetables to main-dish stars.

Lesson 8: Toss, toss, toss.

After going through all the effort to carefully build your perfect salad, don't ruin it by dumping the dressing straight on top. Gently toss your salad components (leaving out any crunchy toppings) with the dressing for an evenly coated dish that packs flavor in each bite.

Lesson 9: Strive for balance.

Round out crunchy with soft, acidic with fatty, spicy with creamy. "It'll soften a hearty or bitter green with avocado, a creamy dressing, or a soft cheese." —Sara Jenkins, chef of Porsena in NYC. While pastas and Italian-style meats are her specialty, she's praised for the bold and unexpected salads on her menus.

Lesson 10: Herb it up.

Forget just putting fresh herbs into the dressing, toss them straight into the salad! Bright and flavorful herbs will blend beautifully with your greens of choice, all while amping up the salad.

How Best To Dress

Play Matchmaker
"Start with an ingredient you want to feature, then think about what it plays well with, such as a particular vinegar." —Scott Crawford

The Taste Test
"Taste your dressings on a vegetable, not your fingers—that's the way you're going to eat it." —Deborah Madison

Just Enough
"It's important to dress your salads gently but well. You want to get the leaves coated, but not overdressed." —Suzanne Goin

Ring Around the Bowl
"Spoon the dressing around the sides of the bowl so it doesn't land on the vegetables. That way you can add more as needed." —Jenn Louis

Prep Now, Toss Later
"Don't assemble or dress until the last minute. Salads rarely benefit from sitting around." —Yotam Ottolenghi

Build Some Body
"I love to make yogurt dressings to add a creamy taste. I also like to add lentils to a vinaigrette for an unexpected texture." —Sara Jenkins


Dear Restaurant Owners: Please Forgive Me

If it were a video, it would start with me, hands clasped, eyes down, in a display of humility and repentance. Throw in the fiery backdrop of a Bible Belt billboard, because sometimes it does seem like the End is Coming. This industry I’ve found myself in is imbued daily with both rapture and peril.

Let me introduce myself: I am a recovering San Francisco–based food writer who entered the world of restaurants in 2010 by way of marriage to my restaurateur husband. (Yes, I met him while on assignment.) Since then, despite having good sense, we have opened five outposts of Tacolicious in the Bay Area, arguably the toughest market in the country.

During my 15 years as a magazine editor for San Francisco magazine, I wrote trend pieces and annually selected the city’s Best New Restaurants. I was never a star-slinging restaurant critic per se. But there’s no denying the power of any kind of press—demonstrated by the fact that people pony up $5,000 a month to keep a publicist on retainer. It can make a writer a little delusional. After 20 years of covering what seemed like every nook and cranny of the restaurant industry, I passed judgment blithely. I thought I knew what I was talking about.

If this were a video, there would now be a dramatic pause. Then I would laugh hysterically. It turns out that there are some things you just can’t know until a restaurant is your livelihood and your life. Here are my top ten lessons learned.

1. Openings are like birth. Your taco/omakase/Macanese/farm-to-table fantasy, which started as a twinkle in your eye, begins with drumming up names and envisioning how you’re going to dress it up and quickly dissolves into a gestation period of permits and health inspections. On the heels of writing a business plan and wining and dining investors to raise (beg) for the million-plus to open a restaurant, you juggle architects, contractors, electricians, plumbers, and crazy landlords. Things for which you’ve had no training. In San Francisco you shell out around $300,000 for a liquor license and negotiate with NIMBYs who fight you as if you’re building a nuclear power plant instead of a restaurant patio. It’s like having a baby: You carry that thing for nine months and then defy all pain thresholds to push it out into the public. Hopefully on the day its born you have an epidural or a few shots of tequila.

2. Practicing is not an option. Most restaurants don’t have enough money to do mock service for more than a few nights. Which means on opening day, your staff—from cooks to servers—are just getting to know the recipes, the table numbers, each other’s names. They’re actors performing a play when they’ve just received the script. Chaos is inevitable. It’s also inevitable that Yelpers/critics/bloggers/my former self are all in a mad dash to report on the latest opening. They will come in to dine and feel it is their duty to their fellow foodie citizens to write something that will live forever on the internet about the fact that your two-week-old baby restaurant was misbehaving and screaming its head off. One star.

3. Stars matter. Particularly on Yelp. Studies show that sales can increase by 5-9 percent with an additional star. You start to regard Yelp like a horror show, hands over the eyes, never knowing where a killer is lurking. Also, influencers—those impossibly dewy, calorie-impervious smiling girls wrapping their mouths around a triple doughnut burger—with their 2 million Instagram followers matter too. They come with promises that their emoji-blinking boomarang of your margarita will garner your restaurant more followers and more fame. Every other day you will get an email from one asking to “collaborate” with you. For free food and a sum of money.

4. Making great food isn’t the half of it. If your favorite art-project of a restaurant closes, be sad but don’t be surprised. Unless it’s funded by a billionaire, a restaurant’s longevity has little to do with ’grammable cement tiles, gold die-cut pasta, or a live-fire menu. Nor can it be measured by a line out the door or a feature in a glossy food mag. It’s a business equation. Restaurants run on wafer-thin profit margins—the national average is 3 to 5 percent—and the key to keeping the doors open means maintaining an iron grip on overhead and costs. Monitoring staffing, taking a monthly inventory of your bar, budgeting for equipment repairs, and negotiating the price of your janitorial crew—all things invisible to the diner—are the kinds of things that keep the bills paid. It’s not sexy stuff, which is why it’s not part of the restaurant-dream narrative ratings would not go up if Top Chef contestants were challenged to find the best deal on toilet paper.

5. A lot is out of your control. Particularly the weather, which you monitor obsessively. Restaurant owners pray for sun because people go out for margaritas when it’s 80 degrees. When it’s cold and rainy, they stay home and make pot roast. And since 28 percent of our seating is on our patios, the weather can determine a night’s profits. On a sunny day, or during the horrendous 2016 drought, diners flock to the outdoor tables. In contrast, this August was one of the foggiest in San Francisco’s history and our sales dipped by 20 percent. Other outside factors that impact our business: national holidays, Warriors games, and Burning Man.

Kitchen staff making tacos at Tacolicious's Chestnut location.

6. A labor shortage + millennials = the perfect storm. Restaurants across the nation are experiencing a labor crisis, making retention a challenge. In San Francisco a server or cook can quit one job and get another in a hot second. Add to this the fact that 20-somethings, who make up a lot of our workforce, are part of a generation that wants “work-life balance.” It doesn’t seem to matter that servers at our restaurants can make $15 an hour plus $200 a night in tips. Last minute, dog-ate-my-homework call-outs are typical and result in operational chaos. And if Iyengar calls a server to go do yoga instructor training at an ashram in India, he knows he can have his job back the minute the soul searching is done because the labor pool is a mirage and we are thirsty.

7. Delivery is a blessing and a curse. According to a National Restaurant Association study, by 2020, 70 percent of customers will be ordering food off of restaurant premises. The likes of Caviar and DoorDash can be a financial boon despite the fact that their service charges to restaurants start at 30 percent. They can also cause drama: An unwitting diner walks in the door to a quiet dining room, which gives the impression we’re twiddling our thumbs in back. In truth, the kitchen staff is madly assembling a 100-taco delivery, the order received 20 minutes earlier. Meanwhile, a pissed-off Caviar driver is standing in the doorway, his car is double-parked in our pissed-off neighbor’s driveway. The diner’s salad takes forever, and now he’s pissed off enough to go home and post something poetic on Yelp like “Service so slow and inattentive I entered as a young man and left as a weathered, sad old soul.” Two stars. (Yes, this is a real quote.)

8. Booze will spice things up. Restaurants might be one of the few jobs that include an unlimited supply of alcohol. Thus, no matter how strict your policies, you will look on your security camera at some point to see your staff after hours dancing on the bar. A lot of things will happen while people, diners included, are drunk. Let’s not talk about the state of the bathrooms.

9. Your food will never be perfect. Consistency is everything, but it’s purely aspirational. You can have all the recipe bibles, how-to pictures, and in-depth training, but your food quality will ebb and flow. Because cooks have arguments with their loved ones and accidentally over- and under-salt. They have days when they’re on and when they’re off. Unlike servers who are tipped to work better and more quickly, a cook’s main motivation is pride. They are human and not robots.

10. On the good nights you will totally forget the first nine things on this list. The nights when your restaurant is in the zone—when everything is whirring and humming like you envisioned when you wrote that business plan. The swinging kitchen door opens and the cheery sound of banda and the patter of knives on a chopping board intermingle with the murmur of happy diners ordering a second round of cocktails. They are celebrating birthdays and friendships. It feels like you’re throwing the most epic party in your own house, that you are contributing to the joy of life. On those nights, owning a restaurant might just be the best thing on earth. In fact, it’s often enough to make you and your husband forget the pain of birth enough to look at each other lovingly and say, “Hey babe, let’s have another one.”

San Francisco–based food writer Sara Deseran started Tacolicious with her husband Joe Hargrave in 2009. Today they have five locations in the Bay Area. And yes, they're planning to have another.


What People are Saying

It's the whole process and presentation. As he said, “it is not about recipes it is about food”. He transmits more than just facts, information and recipes.

Great quality and learnt about a fantastic chef.

It changed the way I think about and approach cooking any dish.

Signed up for the course today - loving it so far.

How long before the Heston class is out? Loving Marcos.

It's a fab cookery course - highly recommended x

This is a guy with a philosophy toward food and it's natural taste and beauty.

Well worth the price. Valuable insight into processes. Made me look at my subject from a different angle and has given me new inspiration.

Great to see the master back in the saddle. He's a majesty to behold, especially when he's dialled in meaningfully towards refinement. He know's what he's doing. By being an eternal student of the craft. It's frightening.

Great. Brilliant. Marco's insights have produced positive feedback from neighbours and family members. I'm not technical. Marco's methods are very helpful.


5 Genius Ways to Totally Overhaul Your Salad Game

, rewrites the rules for a modern, inventive upgrade to our favorite healthy meal.

First up, the greens. All leaves are not the same. Experiment with these six lesser-known options. (Hint: here's your guide for how to use them in smoothies and juices too.) Keep reading for recipes that pair them with the perfect toppings.

Sorrel: It has a lemon flavor that adds tang, and it's full of vitamin C. Use the smaller leaves, which are best for eating raw.

Mizuna: This bright and earthy mustard green has a slightly spicy taste and is packed with vitamin C and iron.

Radicchio: Rich in bone-building vitamin K, it adds a hit of sharpness. Toss radicchio with a balsamic vinaigrette to balance its slightly bitter taste.

Dandelion Greens: Their strong flavor pairs well with rich ingredients like cheese and bacon, as well as with fruit. Dandelion greens are high in calcium and iron.

Baby Swiss Chard: Delicate and sweet, these leaves are loaded with antioxidants. Unlike the larger varieties, baby Swiss chard can be tossed whole in your salad.

Frisée: Bitter curly, and crunchy, frisée is the perfect backdrop to the strong flavors of meat and fruit and to creamy dressings. It's also an excellent source of folic acid.


The First 10 Recipes to Teach Your Kid to Cook

Helping your kids develop cooking skills is a great way to boost their confidence and, over time, empower them to be self-sufficient in the family kitchen and beyond. We've gathered recipes that cover a range of skills that can serve as the building blocks for getting them comfortable in the kitchen — from learning how to pour, measure, and stir, to more complicated skills like working with a stove or oven.

The first few recipes start with very simple skills, then increase slightly in difficulty as you progress. That said, every child works at their own pace — and you know your child best — so just use your best judgement for when you believe your child is ready to take on each recipe.


Go for the Gold with White Russian Cake Pops

Starting your own business can feel isolating without a network of women to bounce off ideas, ask questions, and cheer you on along the way. Enter Selfmade, Brit + Co's 10-week highly-interactive virtual course that brings together top female entrepreneurs to teach you how to build a new business — from business plan to promotion — or grow your existing one.

The best part? Selfmade now provides one-on-one mentoring with successful entrepreneurs who've been where you are right now and who care about making a difference for women in business. They include business owners, founders, VCs, and subject-matter experts in industries such as finance, advertising, marketing, licensing, fashion, and media.

Our summer mentorship program will feature a host of new mentors we're excited to connect you with, including:

Linda Xu, Entrepreneur and E-Commerce Expert

Linda is the co-founder and chief growth officer at Cart.com, a Series-A e-commerce technology platform that partners with brands to help them grow. Linda served as head of growth at Sitari Ventures where she oversaw strategy and operations. She has acquired and advised tech and consumer companies as a private equity investor at global firms including The Riverside Company and Lazard. Additionally, Linda spent a brief stint on the team launching Uber Freight. She loves all things food and plants.

Stephanie Cartin, Social Media Expert + Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur at heart, Stephanie walked away from her corporate career in 2012 to follow her passion to launch Socialfly, a leading social-first digital and influencer marketing agency based in New York City. Socialfly has since blossomed to over 30 full-time employees and has been named to Inc. 5000's fastest growing private companies two years in a row. The agency has worked with over 200 well-known brands including Girl Scouts, WeTV, Conair, Nest Fragrances, 20th Century Fox and Univision. Stephanie is the co-host of the Entreprenista Podcast and co-author of Like, Love, Follow: The Entreprenista's Guide to Using Social Media To Grow Your Business. She is also a recent recipient of the SmartCEO Brava award, which recognizes the top female CEOs in New York and a Stevie Award for Women Run Workplace of the Year.

Kristina Ross, Content Creator + Social Media Whiz

Kristina Makes #Content is a social media ✨funtrepreneur✨, creative strategist, and public speaker for all things Internet related. Four years as a magazine editor and producer/copywriter in the world of advertising (Mercedes, Cancer Research, French Kiss Records), Kristina packed her bags and decided to go remote with social media as she saw a booming industry. Since then, she built @thefabstory from 10k to 1m followers in just 18 months and now specializes in creative strategies behind social media advertising and user acquisition. Her campaigns have levelled apps from the top 50 into #1 in their app store categories overnight. Kristina's work and experiences have been featured in Forbes, Thrive Global and has given several talks at Harvard Business School on the big bad world of #content.

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A.V. is a DIY expert and creator of Avdoeswhat.com. What began as a traditional Do-It-Yourself blog has grown into a lifestyle platform that includes crafts, upcycled furniture and pop culture. As a digital host for HGTV Handmade, along with appearances in Bustle, The Pioneer Woman, and BuzzFeed, A.V. is determined to help thrifty millennials realize "Life is better when you Do-It-Yourself!" A.V. is also the co-creator of University of Dope, an exciting thought-provoking card game that celebrates Hip Hop culture.The first of its kind.

David Mesfin, Creative Director + Brand Expert

David is a multi-disciplinary designer and creative director with award-winning integrated campaign background, including the Super Bowl, FIFA, NFL, and global launch campaign. He has created global partnerships to increase brand awareness through traditional, digital, social, and experimental marketing campaigns, collaborating with C-suite leaders from Genesis, Hyundai, Honda, Sony, Adidas, Oakley, Toyota, Neutrogena, Land more to communicate their company's vision through creative and marketing. He has earned awards from Cannes, One Show, Clio, Webby, EFFIE, Communication Arts, Google Creative Sandbox, OC and LA ADDY, DIGIDAY, TED | Ads Worth Spreading, American Advertising Federation, FWA, The A-List Hollywood Awards, IAB Mixx, and Graphis.

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Jasmin is a brand strategist/graphic designer who helps female entrepreneurs attract their dream customers by sharing their story and taking their branding and graphic design to a whole new level.

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This summer, Selfmade coaches include Niki Shamdasani, co-founder and CEO of Sani, a South Asian-inspired fashion brand Emily Merrell, founder and chief networking officer of female-focused networking organization Six Degrees Society Dr. Annie Vovan, whose career spans the corporate world, non-profit space, and service-based and e-commerce businesses and Cachet Prescott, a business mindset coach and strategist.

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The Six Best Kid-Friendly Meal Kits for 2020

With these kits your children can learn about international cuisines, gain new culinary skills, and get some cool kitchen tools in the process.

“Orange blossom tea cakes!” my 10-year-old exclaims from the kitchen. “Mom, come see!” Our Raddish kit has arrived. This month’s theme is “Made in Morocco” and my daughter is in heaven. She squeals with each recipe booklet she opens. “Kefta rolls!” she yells to me. 𠇊nd look! Have you ever heard of a tagine?”

When I first saw the small Raddish (as in “Rad Dish”) box on my doorstep, I admit that I had concerns about what might be inside. There were clearly no ingredients included in this kit – and what was the point of a meal kit without ingredients? But what I found instead was pretty remarkable: a box of history, lessons, and charming little gifts. This wasn’t just a “make this for dinner” type of kit. It was a treasure chest of recipes, activities, and encouragement!

Raddish is a monthly membership service and you can pay by the month for $24 per kit, every 6 months for $22 per kit, or 12 months for $20 per kit. Each kit comes with a new patch for your child’s apron, as well a cool cooking tool. This month’s tool is a set of silicone teacake molds, beautifully shaped like small roses — which my daughter immediately lines up on the counter.

In addition to the high-quality swag, each monthly box also includes detailed ingredient lists (which also gets emailed to you a week ahead of time) and shopping tips, games, and activities related to the cooking topic or country. Plus there are sturdy “Table Talk Cards” for dinner discussion. And all three of my kids love taking turns with the cards that ask questions like "If you could time travel, where would you go?" "Name as many African countries as you can," and "Explore your spice cabinet. Which one smells best?"

After a delicious dinner of crunchy kefta rolls and Moroccan chicken tagine, I was a happy mom. Raddish had given my kids an afternoon of activities that felt like school, only more fun – they𠆝 practiced following directions and problem-solving. They𠆝 measured and planned. They𠆝 found Morocco on the map and counted all the countries in Africa.

And they did more than 75% of this without my help. I’ll say that again for all the exhausted parents out there: Raddish gives such specific, illustrated, step-by-step instructions that my 10-year-old could handle almost all of the chopping, measuring, and cooking on her own. This subscription service that would work for a wide variety of ages, depending on the amount of adult supervision provided. From around 4-5 years up through the early teens.

After such a great experience, I found myself curious about what other kits were out there. A little digging on social media led me to discover that tons of my friends and work colleagues use a variety of family-friendly, monthly meal kits. Raddish was a favorite of many families, particularly those with kids who already loved to cook, but there was a whole world of monthly services out there!

Here are some of the other meal kits they use and love:

Kidstir

Kidstir is a popular monthly subscription. The yearly subscribers get an organized binder to add the monthly recipes to, and the parents I spoke with LOVE that component. This is a similar kit to Raddish, with an ingredient list mailed to parents ahead of time and themed, detailed recipes with cooking tools in the kit itself. Both Raddish and Kidstir are comparable in price, and some parents feel that Kidstir is better for younger kids (ages 4-8) and Raddish for older (8-14). One mom mentioned that she loved the achievement stickers, but thought the child-sized cooking tools didn’t work for her tween kiddo.

Buy It: Kidstir meal kits, $20-$24 monthly, kidstir.com

Harlow's Harvest

Harlow’s Harvest is another lesson-themed monthly subscription service. And, like most of the child-centric cooking kits, ingredients are not included. Harlow’s Harvest is unique in that you choose baking or cooking as your focus, so if your child loves to make desserts but isn’t all that into making the family dinner (or vice versa), this is the monthly subscription for you! These kits also make STEM a priority, adding in little activities and facts to help keep parents happy about the secret learning their child is doing. The price and age range are similar to Kidstir and Raddish, with one friend of mine saying that her 13-year-old really enjoyed this one, even with the younger illustrations.

Buy It: Harlow&aposs Harvest meal kits, $19-$23 monthly, harlowsharvest.com

Baketivity

Baketivity is a baking-themed company that offers both subscriptions and individual kits. Aimed at younger bakers, ages 4-10, these kits include pre-measured ingredients and minimal swag. Several of my friends really enjoyed these boxes because they were quick, required almost no prep on the parent’s part, and their young kids felt so successful after using it. This subscription service is less about learning or lessons, and is more about developing a love of baking in littles.

Buy It: Baketivity meal kits, $26-$33 monthly, baketivity.com

Eat 2 Explore

Eat 2 Explore is a monthly subscription services that focuses on parents and kids exploring new types of cuisines together. A good friend of mine chose this as a way of connecting with her 12-year-old son amidst the chaos of busy schedules during the week. The two of them spent one weekend evening each month making a meal together, trying recipes from different countries around the world. These kits are not for younger kids to use on their own, and the recipe cards are written for teens and adult readers. But there are lessons included for younger kids, and this offers a great incentive for young chefs to try new flavors and styles of cooking with a parent. Sauces and spices are included in the kits, but fresh ingredients are provided by you.

Buy It: Eat 2 Explore meal kits, $22-$25 monthly, eat2explore.com

Blue Apron

Wait, Blue Apron isn’t a kid’s subscription service! It’s true, and yet a ton of parents I know have subscribed to Blue Apron over the past few months and put their teenagers in charge of dinner. And guess what? It worked! During this difficult time, parents with teens have struggled with so many different aspects of parenting — and the family dinner is often an area of contention. All of my friends who have chosen to do a meal kit for older teens, specifically, have found that their kids don’t want any of the swag or activities. Plus, parents often don’t want to worry about shopping for ingredients or potentially discouraging their reluctant 16-year-old chefs with recipes that may or may not work. Blue Apron includes all the ingredients and directions, in a straightforward, no-frills-attached package. Perfect for teens. Plus many of my friends have found that their teens are proud of the dinners they make and like how they feel when everyone eats their food. A kit like Blue Apron allows for consistent success and culinary skill-building all over family dinner.


The 10 best cookbooks of all time, according to Amazon

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These days, you can get as many recipes, cooking tips and kitchen hacks on the internet as you want. It’s not hard to scroll through pages on Pinterest of “healthy lunch recipes” or find a hack on TikTok for making carrot bacon.

That being said, there’s nothing quite like flipping through the pages of a cookbook, learning the basic techniques and folding the corners of your favorite recipes.

The best cookbooks of all time, according to Amazon, not only provide you with dishes you’ll want to make again and again, but include some insight into the craft that is cooking. These cookbooks all feature at least a 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, and have the positive reviews to back up the rating. Not to mention most have also won a few culinary awards.

If you want to learn from the best — or just like cooking and eating really good food — there’s a cookbook here for you.

1. “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science” by J. Kenji López-Alt, $30.99 (Orig. $49.95)

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

“The Food Lab” provides instructions for basic cooking skills along with the “why” or the science behind the craft. For example, if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and a perfectly medium-rare center from edge to edge, you’ll find that here. The New York Times book review deemed it, “the one book you must have, no matter what you’re planning to cook or where your skill level falls.”

“In short, this is a good book for you if you want to learn the basic skills and science of cooking and have some fun doing it,” – Adam, Amazon reviewer

2. “Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat” by Chrissy Teigen, $16.87 (Orig. $29.99)

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

Chrissy Teigen’s first cookbook is filled with cheesy, comforting recipes that the whole family will love, along with a few “things that seem hard but aren’t” (the name of one section for cooking a whole Branzino and risotto).

“Obsessed. Most of the recipes are super easy and use ingredients I already have. Chrissy’s voice makes it more fun and the photos are great. Of course, they’re not really healthy, but you can always substitute ingredients. Either way, everything is delicious and truly is what people want to eat,” – Samanthann92, Amazon reviewer

3. “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime” by Ree Drummond, $14.80 (Orig. $29.99)

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman makes country cooking easy with step-by-step instructions and accompanying photos. In her fourth cookbook, she puts a twist on her classic southern comfort dishes. It packs in over 125 recipes that combine pantry staples and fresh produce, including chicken taco salad, freezer meatballs and more.

“Fantastic! If you love Ree’s show, you’ll love the book! This one is comfort food with a twist. I love ‘The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl’ for straight comfort food. Ree’s books have photos of both the finished dish and photos of the process making the dish. Totally recommend!” – Jennifer Guerrero, Amazon reviewer

4. “The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen, $25.42 (Orig. $40)

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

This cookbook doesn’t only scale back complicated recipes, but provides recommendations for cuts of meat that are smaller by nature and perfect for two. It’s a great gift for newlyweds, college students, empty nesters and more.

“I have a feeling this book is going to become my newest obsession for inspiration. There aren’t pictures for every single recipe, but that would make this a very big book — there are over 650 recipes! There are plenty of mouthwatering photos, so I am not disappointed at all. There are also great ‘how to’ tips that any cook would find helpful,” – Foodiewife, Amazon reviewer

5. “Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook” by Kristen Miglore, $24.49 (Orig. $35)

Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

Food52 Executive Editor Kristen Miglore transformed her James Beard Award-nominated Genius Recipes column into a cookbook. The recipes are curated from cookbook authors, chefs and bloggers and all deemed “genius” and include recipes like Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread and Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake.

“I’ve been cooking from this at least twice a week. So far all the recipes have been BIG hits with the whole family. I even got sworn cauliflower-haters to admit to enjoying the roasted cauliflower with whipped goat cheese. Nobu’s asparagus recipe is a real winner. As is Suzanne Goin’s pork burger. None of the recipes have been difficult or too time-consuming so far.” – Kijang, Amazon reviewer

6. “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking” by Samin Nosrat, $20.98 (Orig. $37.50)

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

You may recognize author Samin Nosrat from her Netflix show of the same title. Nosrat’s cooking philosophy is simple: Master the use of four elements — salt, fat, acid and heat — and whatever you make will taste delicious. The book features roasted vegetables, braised meats, flaky pastry doughs and more essential dishes.

“This book is worth its weight in gold. The author shares an extraordinary skill set organized in easily understood teaching modules. Mediocre fresh green beans turned into flavorful wonders, buttermilk plus chicken roasted to flavor and tenderness heaven — my guests were in awe and freely praised my cooking. Improve your cooking through easy lessons.” – Reudi, Amazon reviewer

7. “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer, $16.55

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

“The Joy of Cooking” was originally published in 1931 by Irma S. Rombauer, a St. Louis widow who used her life savings and worked with her daughter, Marion, to test recipes, draw illustrations and sell it from their apartment. The New York Public Library calls it one of the 150 most important and influential books of the 20 century, and Julia Child reportedly called it “a fundamental resource for any American cook.”

The book has been revised nine times and for this version marking its 75 anniversary, Marion’s son actually took on the updates that remember the past, but recognizes the way people cook now in the present.

“I love that it provides all these little tips, tricks, and explanations about the different foods and ingredients. It’s actually better than the internet when I’m trying to look up the best way to do something.” – Nissa Mai, Amazon reviewer

8. “How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food” by Mark Bittman, $16.74

Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

You read that right — this cookbook features 2,000 recipes, and each is simple, written with straight-forward instructions and uses basic kitchen equipment. What else could you want? In this special 10 anniversary edition (published in 2008), half of the writing is brand new from the original and updates old favorites.

“This will be the best cook book you’ll buy, ever, and you’ll save by discovering so many things you can cook from what you already have, or common ingredients and spices.” – Ally, Amazon reviewer

9. “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays” by Ree Drummond, $17.19 (Orig. $29.99)

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

There’s a reason Ree Drummond has two cookbooks on this list — they’re really, really good. In this cookbook, she shows how to celebrate holidays year-round with recipes for groups of different sizes — from small dinner parties to larger feasts. Recipes include: Dr. Pepper cupcakes for the Super Bowl, glazed ham for Easter, watermelon sangria for July 4 and caramel apple rolls for Christmas.

“This book is awesome from the photography to the blogs, to the captions and especially the recipes. Makes you feel warm inside, inviting and a pleasure to look at. Easy step by step recipe instructions. I have never quite seen a cookbook that was put together like this one.” – Amazon Customer, Amazon reviewer

10. “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, $23.99 (Orig. $35)

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

This cookbook features 120 recipes from the author’s cross-cultural perspective as men born in the city of Jerusalem — Tamimi on the Arab east side and Ottolenghi in the Jewish west. Inside, you’ll find recipes for vegetable dishes, rich desserts and savory meats.

“It’s become my top cookbook. However, these are not the kind of recipes where you look in the refrigerator, gather whatever you’ve got and you prepare a last minute dish. They take time, have a few ‘moving pieces’, require an artistic moment, and a couple of days of foraging for the ingredients (including going to Amazon to order some of the more exotic ingredients.) But the results are spectacular.” – Aeneas, Amazon reviewer


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The human body can't produce iron, but this mineral helps regulate cell growth and contributes to healthy muscles and immune system&mdashplus, red blood cells rely on iron to carry oxygen throughout the body. So where do we get it? Food!

Foods derived from animals like beef, pork, chicken, fish, and eggs have a type of iron called heme iron, which is more easily absorbed. Foods derived from plant sources like beans, lentils, peas, leafy green vegetables, and some seeds contain non-heme iron, which is more difficult for the body to absorb. Still, it&rsquos possible to get enough iron via plants and iron-enriched foods even if you don&rsquot eat meat.

The recommended daily amount for adults is 18 milligrams&mdashand women tend to need more iron than men (hey thanks, period!). Another problem? Iron is considered the most common deficiency not only in the United States, but also in the world. So don't slack off when it comes to adding this mineral to your diet, even if you're eating a vegetarian diet or following the flexitarian plan. Pack it in with these 9 iron-rich foods.