Favorite Cookbooks: Sara Foster Recipe

Book author and market owner Sara Foster shares her list of favorite cookbooks with us.

Favorite Cookbooks: Sara Foster

Sara Foster is the owner of two bustling markets in North Carolina. Google Maps tells me I'm precisely 2,824 miles from her Durham location, or approximately 42 hours in the car. Which is a shame because I've had Sara's books on my shelves for years, and I'd love the chance to taste her food at Foster's Market first-hand.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Sara's books, or maybe you've seen her on television at one point or another. People. love. Sara. For her fresh, casual, relaxed approach to cooking. For her bright flavors and accessible ingredient lists. I couldn't help but jump at the chance to have her share some of the cookbooks that have inspired her over the years. She has picked some great books for her list, a few that are favorites of mine. But she also has a couple on her list that I've yet to see - time to keep my eyes peeled.

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

My rule of thumb, no matter what I am making, is to always start with a few fresh seasonal ingredients and to keep it as simple as possible. My inspiration for making dinner usually comes from a trip to the farmers market or grocery, or better yet, an outing, such as my recent road trip to the coast where soft shell crabs are just coming into season. I pick up whatever looks and smells the freshest, which has many advantages. First, it means whatever I make is going to taste great. And second, when I start with good ingredients I don't have to do much to them because I want the natural flavors of those foods to shine.

The season and the weather are also factors, not only for the ingredients I use, but also in what I do with those ingredients and how I like to eat. I tend to cook richer, slow-cooked meals in the winter, such as braised chicken and vegetables. In the warmer months, I usually throw together a salad and vegetable side dish to serve piece of grilled fish or chicken (or occasionally a big steak).

Right now, I am working on my fourth cookbook, A Little Slice of Southern, which is my take on southern food. A collection of foods I grew up eating in Tennessee but made to be fresher and lighter - more the way we like to eat today. This means, I have been making a lot of dishes with southern ingredients like peas, collard greens, grits and sweet potatoes - all things I really love. Cooking together and eating together are major parts of the Southern culture. The food doesn't need to be elaborate, just making dinner for the people you care about is really great for everyone, but especially the cook.

Sara Foster's Favorite Cookbooks

FAVORITE COOKBOOKS (the ones Sara turns to most often for recipes and inspiration):

- Appetite, Nigel Slater - I love the boldness of this book and his fearless approach to meat. He really knows how to work a grill pan and "the law of the wok" is a great reminder on how to cook with a wok.

- A Platter of Figs and Other recipes, David Tanis - It was a real toss up between this book and Chez Panisse Menu Book by Alice Waters. I love them both; not only for the simple seasonal recipes but the way they are organized into menus. Books like these never go out of style. I use the David Tanis book more because it is new to me, but I have to say the Chez Panisse book is the most worn book on my shelf.

- Cucina Simpatica, Johanne Killeen and George Germon - I have had this book forever and still make the Oven Cured Tomatoes, they are the best slow cooked tomatoes I have ever eaten. The pastas are incredible and the grilled pizzas, way before their time. The book shows Johanne and George as the true artists they really are.

- Frank Stitt's Southern Table - With sections like the Pea Primer telling you the difference between a zipper pea and a lady pea, this book is as much fun to read as it is to cook from. I made the White Bean and Collard Green Gratin for a dinner party recently and it was everyone's favorite part of the dinner.

- French Regional Cooking, Anne Willan - This is my go to book when I want to make something special and have the time to spend in the kitchen on a cold winter day making classic French dishes like Bouillabaisse, Coq Au Vin or Boeuf Bourguignon.

- Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life - I love the way he mixes and mashes, in your face, get it on the table method of cooking. Creative combinations of ingredients driven by his garden like " Hot and Sour Rhubarb and Crispy Pork with Noodles. There is also great information on gardening and making you realize the importance of where and how our food is being raised and produced.

- Martha Stewart's Cookies - I'm not a baker and usually don't have the patience but I love making cookies because they are so easy and somewhat therapeutic. The table of contents has a photo of every cookie, which I find very helpful, it helps you decide what you want to make in advance. The Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies are my favorite. We sell hundreds of the Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies every day at Foster's.

- The Greens Cookbook, Deborah Madison - I used this book for several years before I realized it was a vegetarian cookbook. I still make the Chinese Noodle Salad with Roasted Eggplant. The Blackberry Crisp topping is my base recipe for all crisps. I mix up the fruit and sometimes add oats or nuts to the topping.

- The Heritage of Southern Cooking, Camille Glenn - This book was given to me by a friend and mentor in the late 80's when I had my catering business in CT. Clients were always asking us for southern dinners with sweet tea and biscuits. Bruce gave me this to refresh my southern roots and recipes. I love the pickles and preserves chapter, especially the chutneys and chow chows.

- The Zuni Café Cookbook, Judy Rodgers - I still have to eat at this restaurant every time I go to San Francisco because it is always the best, the cookbook is the same. The chicken and duck recipes are my favorite. Duck Braised with Red Wine and Prunes. Chicken with Figs, Honey and Vinegar and the Roast Chicken with Bread Salad is a great crowd pleaser.

Photo credits: photo of Sara is by Diane Cu, and detail shots were taken by Quentin Bacon.

Related links:

- Sara's blog
- Foster's Market website
- Foster's Market on Twitter

- Foster's Market recipes
- Book: Sara Foster's Casual Cooking
- Book: Fresh Every Day
- Book: The Foster's Market Cookbook

101 Cookbooks Membership

Premium Ad-Free membership includes:
-Ad-free content
-Print-friendly recipes
-Spice / Herb / Flower / Zest recipe collection PDF
-Weeknight Express recipe collection PDF
-Surprise bonuses throughout the year

spice herb flower zest
weeknight express
weeknight express
101cookbooks social icon
Join my newsletter!
Weekly recipes and inspirations.

Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.


So excited to see Sara mentioned on here. I'm also a UNC alumn and LOVED Foster's. BEST. SANDWICHES. EVER. Great to see so many Tar Heels coming out of the woodwork to comment!


Foster's is definitely open!!! We just celebrated our 19th Anniversary. Thanks for your wonderful comments and feature. Come visit, Sara

Sara Foster

Great post - I am so inspired by this list! I do own the Camille Glenn Heritage of Southern Cooking book and have really cooked up some duds with that one. Maybe it's just me - but I find the recipes fussy and the results "off." So consider yourself warned!

Julie B

I HEART Foster's Market in Durham! I stop in whenever I'm in the area. Luckily I'm only 70 miles away. =D I bought a reusable shopping tote there and people recognize the Foster's Logo wherever I go.


I also went to Duke and loved Foster's Market. I am so glad you are featuring her cookbook. She is one talented lady!


I went to UNC, so I lived in Chapel Hill for several years and loved Foster's Market. I never got Sara's cookbook, though! All her suggestions look great, but I think hers will be the next book I pick up!


Like many of the other readers here, I too have fantastic and delicious memories of Foster's Market. I was there all the time throughout my 4 years at Duke. My mother still talks about the scones she had there, every time she visited ! ;) Great post ! Can't wait for that 4th cookbook of Sara's...

Kerrin - MyKugelhopf

I went to college around the corner from her restaurant. Let's just say it was a wonderful experience. I've moved away since, and still it's only 2 hours away. I hope you get the chance to travel to our beautiful state and dine in this restaurant...on the patio!


I ALWAYS love to see what cookbooks great cooks choose to cook from. I enjoyed this post thoroughly, especially since I now live in Tennessee and need to be encouraged that there are folks out there who also want to lighten it up.

I loved Foster's Market when I was an undergrad at Chapel Hill! I'll need to make some New York Style Crumb Cake and some Herb Cheddar Biscuits now to reminisce...


Sara Foster...on Heidi Swanson's web site...my two fave cookbook authors all on one page...who would have guessed?!!! Speaking of Cucina Simpatica, does anyone have that oven-cured tomato recipe mentioned above? Also, when will Sara's new cookbook be out? I'll be eagerly awaiting its arrival!


I love your posts like this! As if over 100 cookbooks isn't enough - I'm always interested in hearing about other great ones that great cooks love.


To Anne re: vegetarian cookbook. Her comment actually reminded me of the first few months that I was reading this site without realizing it was vegetarian either. Often, it seems that vegetarian or vegan recipes consist of "traditional" dishes with substitutions to make them veg-friendly. Of course it won't taste like the original, and it's usually obvious something is missing. However, the delicious recipes on this site are developed around being vegetarian or vegan, rather than simply getting rid of the non-veg-friendly ingredients, if that makes sense. As Heidi said above, good food appeals to everyone. I just wanted to add this insight because it actually came from my very meat-loving husband who nonetheless loves the dishes I make from here. This was the reason he gave when I expressed surprise that he liked so many of the non-meat containing dishes.


I was inspired to check out The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison today at the library after reading this post. Thank you!

Seaweed Snacks

Thanks for letting me know about a cooking resource right in my own backyard!!

Deborah Dowd

This is so funny: I got the email about this posting, glanced at it and thought, "Interesting - Durham. I went to school at Duke" and that was it. I don't usually read the posts on cookbooks, more interested in recipes. Then just now I logged into Facebook and saw the posting again - and it clicked. I just went back to Durham for my reunion two weeks ago. My friend took me to Foster's for brunch Saturday morning and I loved it so much I insisted we go there again Sunday morning - and I then came back again later on Sunday before I left for the airport. I LOVED that place! I actually found myself thinking "you know, with a place like this, I think maybe I could live in Durham." They have exactly the kind of cooking I love, and everything was delicious.


This is off-topic, I know, but can anyone identify the colorful flatware pictured in this post? Don't get me wrong...I loved the profile and am looking up some of the books on Amazon, but oh, those knives!!


I am so excited because I am moving back to Durham next week! For the past month I have been thinking of all my favorite food places there! Thanks for this post. The South is a wonderful place.


Heidi, You should make the trip sometime. I moved to Durham for grad school and love it! Foster's is a gem. Durham and Chapel Hill are definitely vegetarian friendly for the South. The local food movement is growing here.


Just curious, but what does 'I used this book for several years before I realized it was a vegetarian cookbook' mean? HS: Hi Anne, I think it means exactly that. I'd add - this is one of the great things about the Greens cookbooks (and the restaurant/cafe). The food appeals to so many people - vegetarian or not. It is good food, good ideas, good flavors and ingredients first.


I live in Chapel Hill and work in Durham, so I'm never too far away from a Foster's Market! They have an amazing fresh mozzarella sandwich to which I've recently become addicted.


As a UNC alum and Chapel Hill native, I've really enjoyed reading these comments (although they make me a little homesick now that I live in LA). My boyfriend and I had brunch there literally every weekend for over a year, I don't think we ever had a bad meal. I hope you get to experience it for yourself in the near future!


I HIGHLY recommend Sara Foster's Casual Cooking it is excellent. Lots of easy to do recipes that are really delicious, I use it all the time.

Amy Sherman

I have always loved George and Johanne's cooking - and could go to Al Forno every night of the week - but their cooking and their cook book involves huge amounts of butter. I wish there was a way to get all that flavor with less animal fat.


I lived in NC for 20 years and now my 2 sons are students at UNC. They eat at Foster's Market all the time and a visit to Chapel Hill is not complete without lunch or breakfast there. Of course, I have all 3 of Sarah Foster's cookbooks and must say they are my favorites!


I'm not familiar with Sara so thank you for the introduction -- and I love her cookbook list especially The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. When I lived in San Francisco, and worked in the restaurant business, in the 80s-90s I ate at Zuni all the time...

Charles Thompson

We just moved away from the Triangle & greatly miss Sara's market in Durham. It is our one definite stop every time we visit. Thank you for speaking with her & sharing her cookbooks.


This takes me back to when I lived in Durham years ago and used to go to Foster's Market. I've had the Foster's Market cookbook for years and it's one of my favorites. I'm so happy to see you highlighting Sara!

The Italian Dish

My husband and I used to have a weekly ritual of going to Foster's when we were in Durham. The whole 'Triangle' area (Durham-Chapel Hill-Raleigh) is a lovely, naturally beautiful place with amazing diversity. Fosters always evoke memories of the lovely time we had there.

Monica L

Huge fan of Sara Foster's here, so loved this list, of course. The Platter of Figs book has been on my Amazon wishlist for quite awhile, so maybe it's time to take the plunge.


I was recently fortunate enough to attend a demo by Frank Stitt. It was truly inspiring. We are so proud to have him here in Birmingham!


I love getting suggestions of cook books. I am a recipe follower mostly, and I love reading cook books. If I could do that for a living I would be rich! I can't wait to check out her recipes! Thanks for posting that.


Oh...Fosters! What a treat to open up one of my favorite blogs and see one of my favorite old Chapel Hill haunts mentioned! So many memories of the perfect fruit flecked scone with a cup of coffee while studying for many a mid-term. Seems so long ago, but this post really brought me back. Anytime I'm in the area (I live in DC now) I try to make it there for a sandwich, snack, or one of their great pizza's. Many a delicious meal with wonderful friends was had here. And I agree with Louise, Heidi you should make it do NC sometime soon..I think you'd be pleasantly surprised what our little state has to offer. :)


I had the privilege and honor of working for Sara years ago in CT. The knowledge, creativity and inspiration I had learning under her has been a life long gift. Not to mention, it was a complete blast!! I have all of her cookbooks and honestly - they're now the only ones I go to. The biggest treat I have each summer is visiting with her at her summer place and having the opportunity to show her how my passion for cooking has evolved since our days in CT. I truly treasure her as a friend, mentor and cohort in crime. ;o)) (double chin included)


You had me at "A Little Slice of Southern". Thanks for the introduction to Sara! I am off to go check out her books!


I, too, love Foster's Market. My daughter, who lives in the area, used to work in the catering department there. And yes, both the Durham and Chapel Hill Markets are still open, and serving wonderful, fresh food. I have all Sara's cookbooks, and use them regularly. You MUST make a trip there!


I LOVE your fave cookbooks series! So many good ideas here. Can't wait to see who's next!


I absolutely LOVED Foster's Market when I lived in Chapel Hill. So fresh and delicious! Now I'm thinking I should have bought that cookbook when I had the chance!


I am lucky enough to live about 10 minutes away from both the Chapel Hill and Durham Foster's Markets. I love sitting on the back patio at the Durham location.


Heidi, This is such a fabulous pick. I went to UNC in Chapel Hill (back in the day) and there was (and I think still is) a Foster's outpost there, in addition to the Durham location. I will tell you I just LOVED going there as a student. It was affordable for a student and it was by far the freshest, most appealing food you could get in town. I think between Foster's, Lantern, and Durham's Magnolia and Another Thyme (lesser known and wonderful), you definitely should make a trip to the Triangle area!


Liz: I love that 7-pepper jelly! I eat it with EVERYTHING! Thanks for sharing all the excellent resources. I have a lot of work to do!


According to Google Maps, I live 0.3 miles from the Foster's Market in Chapel Hill. Hands down the best brunch in town. Walking up the hill in summer for a breakfast burrito is a weekend ritual for me.


So many books to try! I'm going on Amazon right now. Thankful that these are tax-writeoffs... :-)

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

"I pick up whatever looks and smells the freshest" that is the way to do it. The farmer's market here is selling greenhouse greens right now. They smell and taste wonderful. Can't wait for our gardens to start growing. It's a bit cold yet.

Marissa Makes

As an undergrad at UNC-Chapel Hill, I spent many a day hanging out at Foster's Market and everytime a friend goes back to Chapel Hill I make sure they pick me up a jar of Sara's mind blowing seven peper jelly. You could slather that stuff on tree bark and I'd eat it up!

¡Yo Soy Liz!

Oops! I didn't mean to be anonymous... If you do decide to plan a trip, and would like some great hiking/veggie food recommendations, feel free to shoot me a line!

Michelle @ www.PorktoPurslane.com

I went to college in Chapel Hill, and Foster's Market was definitely a weekly pit-stop. I hope you get to make it out there sometime soon! If you go, you should save time for a hiking trip in North Carolina's BEAUTIFUL mountains!


I have all of Sara Foster's cookbooks, starting from her first TV appearnace on Martha Stewart Living when she demonstrated NY Crumb Cake. Since then, I had purchased every book that came out and love her recipes. Food Network should give her a spot on TV because she is such a good insructor. She explains things so well and so thorough and her recipes turns out great even the first try.


I'm not familiar with Sara but thank you for introducing me. Her books sounds great and her restaurant even better. I'm heading to the library tonight to look for some of what she's written.

Mixing Bowl Mama

Thanks for the great feature. Sara's Fresh Every Day cookbook was a gift from a friend of mine and has become one of my favorite go-to recipe books. I'm excited to check out some of the recommended books on this list!


My college years were spent living right behind Foster's. It is SOOOO GOOD! How interesting I learn more about it's owner a few years later from someone 42 hours away!


I live a couple hundred miles from her restaurant but stop by whenever I am in Durham or Chapel Hill. It is YUMMY!


Happy to see Sara featured! We met her in the Bahamas and she was just the nicest.


Foster's! I ate at Foster's all through seminary at Duke. My friends and I would head over there for a late breakfast--always on a warm herb biscuit--or for lunch jammed in with everyone and debating our lectures. Everything was just perfect! It is also the first place I bought Jila Mints, which are still a favourite find. Food memories are the best! Now I no longer can eat gluten, so I relish that I had such wonderful gluten filled delights there once upon a time. Heidi, thank you for highlighting Sara Foster and her easy relaxed way of preparing Southern food at its best. I gave my mom your cookbook for Mother's Day, which she was so delighted about. She too is on the Kiva team and loves how your passion for food reaches beyond your site to encourage others to share in helping small businesses around the world. How do I know? She waxed poetic about this last night when she got the book for our early celebration!


What a great spotlight on Sara Foster and a fabulous look of her favorite cookbooks. There are several on the list that I'm not familiar with, but will be heading to the library to check them out. Thank you! http://www.cookincanuck.com

Cookin' Canuck

Yes! I love Sara as well too! I went to school in Chapel Hill and loved Foster's Market, as did everyone else I knew that went there. I also love her cookbook (Fresh everyday)-- I just recently pulled it out and used it, it's beautiful as well as down-to-earth...she is also very nice in person. I'm so glad NC got some recognition on what is one of my favorite blogs.


thanks for the introduction to Sara....simple fresh cooking isnt easy to find...everyone wants to be top chef :).


That seems like a great cooking philosophy. Doing simple things to simple fresh ingredients. This preserves not only flavor, but nutrition as well. I like your list of cookbooks and will check out a few at the library. That only I've tried before is Jamie at Home, which definitely fits with this same food philosophy. Great post!

Matt (NoMeatAthlete)

I too wish I could visit her market, but I'd have to fly or come by boat! Love her cooking style - few fresh season ingredients and simple. Looking forward to Sara's Southern cookbook and Zuni is one of my favorite cookbooks and restaurants too. Just had the roast chicken there two weeks ago on a visit back home to SF!


Just one more reason I'm glad I'm on the East coast. :) I'll have to look into this market and check it out as well as the books listed!

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

Hello Heidi, Alas I seem to be about 7,000 miles from the market... :p Thanks as always for the inspiring list... the books sound all interesting (and I do own some of them!) but I would love to visit one of her markets if I ever get a chance (never even been to NC!).


Wait...Foster's in Durham is still open??? I thought it closed a couple years ago?Awesome food. Oh, the memories. HS: Hi Wren I think so it's open, but I'll double check with Sara. You can see the addresses listed on this page.


Fresh, seasonal ingredients make every dish amazing.


Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.

More Recipes

101cookbooks social icon
Join my newsletter!
Weekly recipes and inspirations.

Popular Ingredients

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of its User Agreement and Privacy Policy.

101 Cookbooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Any clickable link to amazon.com on the site is an affiliate link.