(Broadway Books, $40)
I'm not a vegetarian, but this is still the most-used cookbook in my kitchen. Deborah Madison writes from a perspective of abundance; she clearly loves the world of food (especially vegetables) and cooking, and her prose is so beautiful it's a joy to read. Plus, there truly are tons of recipes in here, ranging from the very simple to more complex and unusual dishes; you could cook from this book for years and not get tired of it.
Love Soup by Anna Thomas (Norton, $22.95)
The title really says it all! Like Deborah Madison, Anna Thomas is passionate about vegetarian fare, specifically soups. And she also writes beautifully and engagingly, interspersing her recipes with brief stories from her life. I like the way the book also includes chapters about breads and side dishes, so it's easy to plan bigger, more substantial meals around the soups. And I also like the fact that the book is organized by season, making it easy to use if you're trying (as I am) to cook and eat locally.
Bread Alone by Daniel Leader (William Morrow, $32.50)
I learned how to bake bread using this book; it is wonderful. Daniel Leader really demystifies the process, making his book easy for a beginner to follow, though I think more experienced bakers would still love it and find a lot to discover and explore inside. His process of baking is really a sort of mindfulness practice as well as a way to make amazing bread.
Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros (Andrews McMeel, $29.95)
This gorgeous cookbook is organized by color, and is full of photographs interspersed with children's drawings. The recipes are eclectic; to create them, Tessa Kiros drew on her own culinary heritage, which includes Scandinavian and Greek, as well as that of her adopted home, Italy. Definitely the most fun, and one of the most inspiring and happy-making, cookbooks I own.
Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings by Ed Espe Brown
Part memoir and part cookbook; it is equally rewarding to read and to cook from. Ed Brown writes about early food memories and the time he spent working as a cook at a Buddhist retreat center; he is funny and down-to-earth and joyful about food. Cooking is a sort of spiritual practice for him, as well, and the recipes are unfussy and uncomplicated--the ones I have tried are also really good.
May 2010, Kasey Jueds