Despite the 30+ cookbooks on my shelf, five get regular workouts because of their focus on real, fresh, tasty dishes that come together quickly. A little grocery planning and a well-stocked larder means I can wander into the kitchen after a full day of researching, writing and doing the author promo thang and still make a fast, healthy meal.
Eight Items or Less: Fine Food in a Hurry by Ann Lovejoy. This was first published in 1988 when the express checkout lane was limited to eight items (never mind the grammatical error this engendered in grocery stores everywhere). Lovejoy is an avid and expert Northwest gardener, and has several books out on gardening, cooking, and healthy living. Her writing style is accessible and conversational, and her recipes are innovative, simple and fresh. She provides suggestions for companion dishes and what to drink with most dishes, as well.
Gourmet’s in Short Order: Recipes in 45 Minutes or Less and Easy Menus from Conde Nast Books. Designed for cooking for two without compromising either quality or time, this cookbook features elegant menus and recipes for many classics. Forty-five minutes might not seem like fast food, and it’s not, but these are quick enough to put together after an active day when you still want a good meal.
Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less by Mark Bittman. I’ve mentioned this one before: simple, fresh, fast, seasonal, varied, and tasty. What else could you want? It’s the one I reach for when I really have no idea what to cook.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Another one I’ve mentioned for the simple fact that so many different kinds of homemade, artisan breads can literally take mere minutes of actual hands-on time, and the dough is ready whenever you want it. Really fabulous.
200 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes by Cinda Chavich. This is a recent acquisition after borrowing it from the library. It’s specific to the pressure cooker, yes, but covers everything from tandoori chicken to risotto to desserts. I only use the pressure cooker a few times a month, but I do love the slow food fast results.