For an aspiring cook there are hundred of resources, both in print and on the internet, to learn new cooking techniques, experiment with new recipes, and experience new ingredients. When I look for inspiration, I prefer books and websites that focus more on techniques, ingredients, flavor combinations, and cuisines of different cultures; not necessarily a book of recipes that are to be followed like the gospel. That said, a book or website of various, easy recipes is always a great resource to have, though I urge you not to be shy about adding your own flare to any recipe you may find.
Having a good recipe doesn’t always guarantee good results. Cooking, first and foremost, is about using your senses. Sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing are all important factors in producing great food. If your meal appears to be ready, but the recipe calls for five more minutes, don’t be afraid to use your judgement.
MY FAVORITE ONLINE RESOURCES
epicurious.com A website full of recipes, sample menus, food articles,instructional videos, and public forums
markbittman.com Mark Bittman is a New York Times food writer. His website is full of articles and opinion pieces about food and public health, as well as recipes, food galleries, and videos.
saveur.com A classy website for a famous food magazine. Great photos, well-tested recipes, and new ideas for good food and drink. The website features recipe collections, techniques, and articles on new culinary trends.
foodandwine.com One of the most established food publications. Food and Wine offers great, well-tested recipes, beautiful photos, articles on techniques, trends, and culinary equipment, as well as a wealth of information on wine pairings.
CIANetwork A collection of detailed instructional videos on recipes and cooking techniques geared towards the public, produced by the Culinary Institute of America.
kitchendaily.com A collection of how-to videos on culinary basics.
MY FAVORITE COOKBOOKS
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
These two books by Mark Bittman are large, very extensive volumes on how to properly handle (purchase, clean, prepare, etc…) almost any food product you may come across (fruits, meats, vegetables, and grains). He includes various ideas on what to do with all of these items, as well as recipes and detailed drawings. A great resources to have!
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
A famous, well loved book by generations of American households! This book has detailed instructions, drawings, and recipes that teach you how to perform basic and advanced cooking techniques in a very approachable way! (It was the source for the movie Julie and Julia.)
The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Ever wonder what flavors go particularly well with lamb? Well, look up Lamb in the Flavor Bible and you will find a list of classic pairings, as well as flavor combinations that should be avoided. This books helps you understanding how to use and combine possible unfamiliar ingredients to great harmonious flavors.
The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones
A great resource on cooking small amount of food, freeing yourself from the fear of failure (when cooking for one, there is no one but you to impress), and utilizing leftovers in interesting ways to avoid waste.
And, of course,
The Professional Chef 9th edition published by The Culinary Institute of America
Our “bible” at the Culinary Institute of America. A new edition was just released this past fall and is extremely in-depth, full of recipes, step-by-step, picture guides to a wide array of cooking techniques. Chapters on classic and modern cuisines, chapters on international cuisines (ingredient identification, history, and flavor profiles), a glossary of culinary terms, and much more. For a college text book, this is a steal at at less than $50!