While the novel coronavirus has many of us working from home, we’ve had more time than usual for getting busy in the kitchen. Why not use this time to learn how to properly chop vegetables, make that cake recipe that you’ve never had the time for, or get just the right al dente pasta (it’s hard!). Cooking can also provide an escape — while you can’t travel at the moment, why not try your hand at making cuisine from different countries? Preparing a baklava or enchiladas through a step-by-step basis can be an incredibly meditative experience. If you have access to fresh ingredients, cooking can be a great source of comfort.
The Cut staff has compiled a list of some of our go-to cookbooks. If you can order them from your local bookstore, even better! Channel your inner Ina Garten.
Learn to Be a Better Vegetarian Cook!
Yotam Ottolenghi has long been one of my favorite cookbook authors, but most of his recipes require so many ingredients, which doesn’t make sense when you’re trying to ration or worrying about groceries. His newest book, however, does: Simple. My favorite recipe is the tofu and green beans with chraimeh sauce, but I’m also a huge fan of his lentil recipes (both in this book and ones you can find online). —Amanda Arnold, writer
Bond With Chrissy Teigen!
I’ve poured my quarantine solace into cooking and baking so far, and while I’ve been leaning heavily on Bon Appétit for ideas and recipes, I’ve also been leaning on my girl Chrissy Teigen, who really knows her shit. I adore her two cookbooks, Cravings, because they incorporate her sense of humor and matter-of-fact attitude into cooking. You get simple, easy recipes that don’t need a ton of fancy ingredients — and above all are beyond delicious. May I recommend the seared steak with spicy garlic-miso butter with asparagus? It’s incredible, and you’ll want to eat the miso butter on absolutely everything possible. —Kerensa Cadenas, senior editor
Perfect Your Roasted Chicken!
I’ve made two roast chickens in the last week. One was Susie Theodorou’s Mediterranean cookbook. She has an insanely easy slow-roasted lemon-and-garlic chicken that is super-delicious. It’s basic, clean, and it’ll last you two to three days if you are self-isolating. And if you are feeling more experimental, try making Carla Lalli Music’s rack-roasted chicken with gravy potatoes. The chicken sits on the rack roasting while the potatoes are under the rack roasting in the juices. You’ll cook it almost twice as long as Theodorou’s recipe, but it’s super-comforting and you’ll have leftovers for days. Plus, you’ll feel like a cooking master afterward. —Liane Radel, senior photo editor
Embrace the Carbs!
When you’re quarantining in a tiny New York apartment, comfort food feels like a beacon of normality, so I’m taking a break from my usual desk salads and healthy boring stuff and really leaning into carbs, stews, and baking. I’m really into Alison Roman’s squash recipe and pork soup, because it’s easy to whip up largely with ingredients you already have. Plus, they’re easily adaptable to your individual tastes and are small-kitchen friendly. My boyfriend is Russian, so I figured I might as well try to master a few recipes to impress him. I like that it’s sort of a challenge, since Eastern European cuisine is uncharted territory for me. Olia Hercules’s Mamushka has been my go-to because it puts a contemporary spin on Eastern European classics, and it feels very approachable for beginners. —Indya Brown, fashion-partnerships editor
Go Ahead: Do the Alison Roman Thing!
Like every good millennial, I’ve been making a lot of Alison Roman recipes. I made the focaccia pizza a few nights ago, which was delicious, and the scallion salmon is the first thing I’m making when I have access to salmon again. She also just has great ideas that aren’t really recipes but suggestions, like: Steam your broccoli and dress it with so much lemon it’s almost inedible, but edible enough to be irresistible. Or eat baked potatoes for a group dinner. It will also get you to like anchovies, or at least appreciate the depth of flavor they lend to that sauce. —Sarah Spellings, fashion writer
Indulge Your Inner Baking Queen!
I’ve been relying a lot on the baked recipes in Susan Spungen’s new cookbook, Open Kitchen. Its tagline reads, “Inspired food for casual gatherings,” and what’s more casual than isolation? Jokes aside, whether it’s a squash-and-squash-blossom frittata, a vegetable galette, or even a risotto of butternut squash and sage that’s baked in a pan, the mere act of taking these dishes out of the oven, along with their intoxicating aromas, has felt very comforting. —Jane Larkworthy, columnist
To me, pasta is not only the most comforting food to eat, but also the most comforting food to cook. It’s easy and unfussy and usually just involves letting a pot of sauce simmer on the stove for a while. My favorite pasta cookbook is Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Her recipe for tomato sauce, which calls for a can of tomatoes, half a stick of butter, and an onion, is, in my opinion, the perfect quarantine meal. If you’re in the mood for something more ambitious, I recommend her Bolognese. It requires three hours of simmering, but it’s worth it. —Erica Schwiegershausen, editor
Even the Basics Can Be Better!
One of my most-used cookbooks of all time is Food52’s Genius Recipes, which has truly changed how I cook. Many of the recipes read as classics — biscuits, tomato soup, ratatouille — but feature an unexpected technique that revives a dish that can easily feel tired. (It features a recipe for steel-cut oatmeal — I know, I know — that tastes unlike any bowl of mush I’ve ever made, thanks to more than a generous pinch of salt.) While I consider many recipes in it standbys, right now I’d recommend the warm squash and chickpea salad with tahini, the olive-oil granola, and the spicy tomato soup, all of which only call for a handful of recognizable, shelf-stable ingredients. —Amanda Arnold, writer
If you’ve never cooked anything before, may I recommend Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything? It combines the ease and “you can do it” attitude of an Alison Roman recipe with the comprehensiveness of an encyclopedia. There’s also How to Cook Everything Vegetarian if you need more advice on legumes and less on chicken thighs. Start with the fried rice, which is easier than a newbie cook might think. —Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor
Feed Your Mind, Too
Yes, Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking is more an essay collection with recipes than an actual cookbook, but it is so intensely nice and soothing that it would be editorial malpractice not to include it here. A college mentor introduced me to Colwin right after graduation, and I’ve relied on her work as literary lorazepam ever since. The essay “Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant” — about being in your 20s in New York and figuring out how to cook — is a classic. “For eight years I lived in a one-room apartment a little larger than the Columbia Encyclopedia,” it begins. Colwin goes on to describe weird solo snacks, dinner parties cooked on a hot plate, dishes done in the bathtub, and hangovers spent lying in bed wondering what to make next … before emerging to wander the neighborhood in search of ingredients. —Molly Fischer, features writer
If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.