I'm not really that into recipes.
Go figure, I have a recipe blog, but really, I'm not into recipes. Typically, when I want to make a dish, I search food blogs, get an idea of the proportions and approximate ingredients to make the dish, then get home and maybe (or maybe not) follow one of those recipes. Sometimes these "experiments" turn out, sometimes aren't as stellar, but I pride myself for using what I have on hand to get the meal put together.
Enter my Christmas gift.
As a total afterthought, I put Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything on my Christmas list. Practically the only cookbook I use is Joy of Cooking , since it's more efficient to search the index of one book rather than 10 for a particular dish- the extra-thick cookbooks are more likely to have what I'm looking for primarily because they have more of everything. I'd been following Bittman's blog for a while, and liked the simplicity of the recipes and the explanations.
What I REALLY like about this cookbook however, is that it explains as I cook. I think it will make me a better cook. It does have recipes- and, as I stated, I'm not that into recipes- but the recipes are accompanied by a lengthy explanation of why we're doing it this-way-or-the-other. Also included with most recipes is 5 or more variations. This is what I really prize- ways to use what I have on hand to do something different. If I get an idea of how a recipe is put together- the "formula", the proportions necessary- and get an idea of what sort of things in what proportions can be added, I can fly by the seat of my pants with much more confidence. This cookbook is perfect for me.
Really truly, the reason I love to cook is that I'm a scientist at heart, and all these variations on recipes is just me doing experiments in the kitchen. Now if only I had it together enough to actually record what I'm doing, so I can cook something the same way twice- though, if I write it down, I'd be following a recipe, and I'm not so into that.