David Lebovitz is the real deal, so if you’re a real cook you will love this book.  But even if you live on takeout and store your sweaters in your oven, you need this cookbook because it’s going to look amazing on your counter, open to almost any page with a picture on it.

Lebovitz cooked at Chez Panisse during the time I lived in Berkeley and considered its café my second dining room. After thirteen years there he quit cooking professionally and started writing books and a great blog (it’s on my Blogroll).  Then he moved to Paris and, if this book is any indication, took to it like the veritable canard to eau.

I love a cookbook with lots of useful recipes and an author that likes to chat. This one delivers on both counts. That Chicken with Mustard on the cover looked so scrumptious that I decided to make it for dinner.  While it cooked, I read about “Le week-end” and “The Most Special Pastry-Maker in Paris.”  I also salivated over pictures of barges on the Seine, a Croque-Monsieur, and a Salade Lyonnaise.  By the time dinner was on the table, I was in full-on “We need to go to Paris tomorrow” mode as I mopped up the sauce with a baguette.  Yummy!

Lebovitz was the pastry chef for most of his time at Chez Panisse, so it’s not surprising that the Dessert section is rich in every sense of the word.  You will find Crème Brulee, Madeleines, Carrot Cake, Duck Fat Cookies (you read that right), and lots more.  The recipes range from simple to a few that will take some time, but none are especially intimidating.  The sections on Appetizers, First Courses, Main Courses and Sides are no less impressive.

My Paris Kitchen would be a great book for someone who is ready to move those sweaters into a real drawer and start cooking.  You will find excellent sections on basic ingredients and equipment, and recipes in every category that won’t overwhelm a novice.  Just imagine the thrill of not feeling guilty about never reciprocating all those dinner parties.  You can do it and David can help!

Some people are monogamous about cookbooks.  It’s Joy of Cooking or Mastering the Art of French Cooking or nothing.  Personally, I’m a cookbook philanderess, moving from one book to another, getting what I want and moving on.  See this picture?


About a dozen of those cookbooks have splattered, puckered pages and spiral re-binding – they’re reliable partners who have gotten me through big scary dinner parties when I take on way too much, as well as days when I need a some inspiration. The rest just live there, holding up the regulars. My Paris Kitchen has spent very little time on the shelf.  I bought it, I use it, and I LOVE it!

And it’s currently living on my counter, open to the picture of pomegranates, which the French call grenades.  (David taught me that.)

So, what are your favorite cookbooks?