Favorite Cookbooks: Jen Altman Recipe

An inspiring cookbook list by one of my favorite photographers, Jen Altman.

Favorite Cookbooks: Jen Altman

You guys ready for another favorite cookbook list? It's a good one. For those of you who don't already know her, meet Jen Altman. I crossed paths with Jen years ago. She's an amazing photographer and author, talented cook and baker, and the mother of three lovelies. The Polaroid photos Jen would post to Flickr from her old cameras were what initially captured my imagination. I was continually inspired by her spirit of adventure and love of travel. I met up with Jen last year in Marrakesh when she was one of the hosts of this incredible photography workshop/retreat in Morocco. We were roommates, and it was awesome (heads up: they're doing two sessions this coming Feb). Jen kindly agreed to share her favorite cookbooks with us...

Jen Altman

JEN'S COOKING STYLE (in her own words):

I'm sort of all over the place. I spent a lot of time in restaurants growing up (both dining and working) and have developed a fairly adventurous palate. But I also fall into patterns. With three little girls and my husband and I both working and traveling so much, sometimes it's so easy to just fall back to standard favorites. Then I hit a wall and am so bored with everything I'm doing in the kitchen - and for good reason - the creativity has been sapped out of the process. This is when I come back to my collection of cookbooks. I started collecting books in my early twenties when I was working in bakeries and pastry kitchens. I've also been traveling a lot for work lately and that has been incredibly inspirational. After recent trips to Singapore and Morocco my mind and palate alike were full of inspiration. I recreated many of the recipes for my family that I found on those trips and I have this rather magnanimous dream to create a book based on a year traveling with my family, discovering dishes, creating recipes inspired by these travels and our adventures abroad. In the meantime, I have my collection of cookbooks...


- Joy of Cooking has been a staple in our kitchen for about ten years. It's covered in flour and butter smudges, but that's okay. Most weekends my husband will make a batch of waffles or pancakes for breakfast with extras to freeze for our girls for the week ahead. Though he's modified the recipes a bit to create pretty much the perfect slightly-crispy on the outside and soft on the inside waffle - he always comes back to these recipes for portions and basics.

- Susan Branch's Vineyard Seasons was one of the very first cookbooks my mother gave me in my early 20s. At the time I adored the presentation - all the handwritten recipes and kitchen and lifestyle notes - and the beautiful watercolors. The recipes are easy, creative and very east coast - there are several that still enjoy regular rotation on our dining table. When I look at this book now, it reminds me of how passionate I was about food then and I love remembering the early days of ingredient exploration.

- Sweet Myrtle and Bitter Honey by Efisio Farris is my Sardinian bible. My husband and I lived on Sardinia in our mid-twenties - we fell in love there, it holds a pretty special place in our hearts. We were young and without a great deal of financial commitment, so we dined out a LOT. I honestly can't say if it's the sweetness of those memories that makes me love Sardinian food so much, or the flavor profiles that seem so incredibly basic and innovative at the same time. One of our favorites is Seadas - a fried pastry filled with mozzarella then drizzled with bitter honey and topped with a touch of lemon zest.

- Baking With Julia by Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan is another kitchen bible of sorts. While I've held on to a lot of baking recipes from my early days in my father's bakery and working in pastry kitchens, this has filled a lot of holes - I absolutely love the pizza dough recipe in this book.

- To learn those things I wasn't picking up in a pastry kitchen, like boning a fish for example, I bought a copy of The Professional Chef, published by the Culinary Institute of America. It has since become an indispensible reference for both kitchen basics and working with new-to-me ingredients and methods.

- I picked up Jamie Oliver's Happy Day's With the Naked Chef while we were living on the Norfolk/ Suffolk border of East Anglia. We lived in a 500-year-old thatched roof house in a very small village. Cambridge was 40 minutes away. Norfolk was 40 minutes away. Aside from a few local pubs, our dining options were severely lacking. This was the time that I really learned to cook with meat - I made my first roast and Yorkshire pudding and a lot of roast chicken. This book guided me through.

Jen Altman

- A neighbor recently brought over a copy of Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal. It's really changed everything for me - the way we shop, the way we eat. And she is a poet - she makes the experience of not only reading but, the act of carrying out these processes almost spiritual - it's such a beautiful read.

- I recently picked up Sophie Dahl's Very Fond of Food for the photography alone. But we've already made quite a few dishes - it's a gem - it's beautiful, the cooking is simple, her style of writing is fun and quirky - I really love it. I feel like her cooking style is similar to mine and I'm a sucker for cookbooks that are divided by season.

- Another fairly new book for me is the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders. This is a book that also originally pulled me in with its beautiful photography. To me, flipping through this book, it's not just about making jam and preserves - I feel like she's also sort of showing you this lifestyle - of slowing down, savoring and in turn makes the process - or ritual of jam making - that much more intimate. Having recently moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina - where canning is a culture upon itself, I'm really starting to slow down and appreciate these kind of books and recipes so much more than I ever did before.


Thank you for taking time out of your crazy busy day to do this Jen! xoxo -h

For those of you who are interested in keeping up with Jen's life and work, you can keep up with food-related posts and pics at Nectar, her portfolio, and her soon-to-be-open shop, Cisthene.

Lead photo by the lovely and talented Susannah Conway.

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Thanks for sharing Jen with us! Now I am really craving the Marrakesh experience. Hmmmmm....


just as John replied I am dazzled that any one able to profit $8323 in 4 weeks on the internet. did you see this web page ===>> http://bit.ly/HVtSrx


I love getting new cookbook lists. I'm probably am going to buy each one of these...


I love your idea for a book about your family's travels, and I would absolutely read it. With photos, I hope!


Jen-your best recipes are in raising lovelies. Thank you for inspiring mothers and daughters to cherish the rare shared moments. They wax and wane more often than the moon.


I found a picture on Jen's website...it's biscotti! Ohhhh my goodness.


Andrea, press "control" and then click to get the right click option. Also, that first image, whatever it is, with the messy mixing bowl and mixer attachment...that looks DELICIOUS. I want to know what that IS!


Amazing book list, they are very useful, thank you for sharing!


I love these posts so much, thank you!


hi jen, many thanks for your awnser and the link! sophie


I am going to check out all of these books. Thanks for sharing Jen with us, Heidi.


hi sophie, both the crumble (a rhubarb crisp) and the no-bake - which is actually chocolate biscotti getting ready to go into the oven can be found here on this page: http://nectarandlight.typepad.com/nectar/sweets/ thank you for asking! jen

jen altman

This is a great list! Thank you for sharing it. That dessert looks amazing as well. We would love to try it sometime!


Thank you for all of the cookbook suggestions...They're great!

Sarah @ Fresh Living

Great list!:)....but ehm.. those pictures above, the food looks amazing! some kind of crumble and no bake-brownies?... any chance of sharing the recipes?:)..


Lovely! Writing cookbooks can be so fulfilling, nurturing yourself and your family while letting your imagination fly (creatively making magic for your taste buds). I love it! Beautiful post :) Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

Hello Heidi, I've been following you for some time now. Thank you for all the inspiration. Thought you might like to find your blog getting a shout out in this interview. Enjoy! Lesliexo

HS: Love this Leslie! Thanks for the heads up.


great list, thank you for sharing!

dervla @ The Curator

Love this list, and now I can't wait to check out that Sardinian cookbook! I just picked up "An Everlasting Meal" at the library and look forward to starting it today. A cookbook inspired by Jen's travels with her family sounds like something I'd like to read.


Thanks for sharing this list, I'll look into it!

Sweet Faery

I love the idea of staples you return to, interspersed with novelties, and it really fits with how I cook, too. For mac users with difficulty right clicking, you can also hold down the command key while clicking to get links to open in a new tab, or the shift key while clicking to get links to open in a new window.


What a wonderful list! I'm familiar with some, but not all - something new to explore!

Tracy A.

Andrea - we also use only Macs. If you use 2 fingers to click on the mouse you are essentially right clicking. It should open up a little menu for you. If it doesn't, I think you can set it up to do so in "settings." Hopefully that helps :)


Previous post is from me BTW!


Marina and Auntie Betty--I can't right click. I have a Mac mouse that doesn't allow it. All the other blogs I visit automatically open a new page when you click on a link so it's normally not an issue. Thanks for trying to help though.


You just sold two books- your photography is so wonderful how could I not want to see what inspires you?


Love the list and love the photography.


I am always looking for a great cookbook...I especially love cookbooks with gorgeous pictures and real, healthy recipes. Thanks for the suggestions, I'll check it out!

Julia {The Roasted Root}

@Marina. Thanks so much for that, I've often wondered how to do that! And as always Heidi, great post xx

Emma Galloway

@ Andrea: Are you unable to RIGHT-click on a photo/link? That should open a whole new page or tab...


These images are just stunning - Jen you are so talented! Loved reading more about you and recently moving to western NC? About 10 years ago my hubs and I lived in the Carolinas for a few years, at the beach though, but they are memories we cherish.

Averie @ Averie Cooks

Well Jenn is lovely - thank you for sharing her with us, Heidi. I especially appreciate her comments about Tamar Adler's 'An Everlasting Meal'. Tamar's book has had a similar effect in our house.

Marissa | Pinch and Swirl

TO andrea : Right click on the link you want to open tbe select 'open in new tab'. When you're done viewing the information, close just that tab and you'll be back at the original location. Hope this makes sense.


These look great. I'm gonna head over to the bookstore and check them out. I think I'll also go check out Heidi's website as she sounds very interesting.


You are a very special person Heidi. You share your wonderful web site with so many of your acquaintances. I love many of your very own recipes but I always read about all of your favorites too. Your kindness is wonderful

Beverly Jane

WOW.....I also have all those cookbooks except the Sardenia one, which I ordered ASAP. Also, kow the restaurant very well here in Houston, Texas.


I love your site but have one small complaint: when I click on a link, I'd much prefer another window open. I wanted to check out several of the cookbooks and had to keep going back to the original post after each one. It's the same with your "favorite things" posts. Just something to consider. Thanks!


I have recently started loving cookbooks as BOOKS. I love to read them, think about the food, enjoy the photos... Sometimes I don't cook from the recipes but I am always inspired.

Dawn @cuter than gluten

I'm a huge fan of The Joy of Cooking and Jamie Oliver's book - but I hadn't heard of most of the rest of these! So excited to take a trip to my local bookstore this afternoon and check them out. Thanks so much for this list!

Anjali @ The Picky Eater

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