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Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook: A Cookbook

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A modern approach to cooking at home, with more than 70 innately flexible recipes. The indispensable recipes and streamlined cooking techniques in Where Cooking Begins are an open invitation to dive into Carla Lalli Music's laid-back cooking style. The food director at Bon Appetit, her intuitive recipes are inspired by the meals she makes at home for her family and friends A modern approach to cooking at home, with more than 70 innately flexible recipes. The indispensable recipes and streamlined cooking techniques in Where Cooking Begins are an open invitation to dive into Carla Lalli Music's laid-back cooking style. The food director at Bon Appetit, her intuitive recipes are inspired by the meals she makes at home for her family and friends and the joy she takes in feeding them. Here, too, is her guide to the six essential cooking methods that will show you how to make everything without over-complicating anything--and every recipe includes suggestions for swaps and substitutions, so you'll never feel stuck or stymied. Where Cooking Begins is also the first recent cookbook to connect the way we shop to the way we cook. Music's modern approach--pick up your fresh ingredients a few times a week, and fill your pantry with staples bought online--will make you want to click on a burner and slide out a cutting board the minute you get home. The no-fail techniques, textured recipes, and strategies in Where Cooking Begins will make you a great cook.


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A modern approach to cooking at home, with more than 70 innately flexible recipes. The indispensable recipes and streamlined cooking techniques in Where Cooking Begins are an open invitation to dive into Carla Lalli Music's laid-back cooking style. The food director at Bon Appetit, her intuitive recipes are inspired by the meals she makes at home for her family and friends A modern approach to cooking at home, with more than 70 innately flexible recipes. The indispensable recipes and streamlined cooking techniques in Where Cooking Begins are an open invitation to dive into Carla Lalli Music's laid-back cooking style. The food director at Bon Appetit, her intuitive recipes are inspired by the meals she makes at home for her family and friends and the joy she takes in feeding them. Here, too, is her guide to the six essential cooking methods that will show you how to make everything without over-complicating anything--and every recipe includes suggestions for swaps and substitutions, so you'll never feel stuck or stymied. Where Cooking Begins is also the first recent cookbook to connect the way we shop to the way we cook. Music's modern approach--pick up your fresh ingredients a few times a week, and fill your pantry with staples bought online--will make you want to click on a burner and slide out a cutting board the minute you get home. The no-fail techniques, textured recipes, and strategies in Where Cooking Begins will make you a great cook.

30 review for Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook: A Cookbook

  1. 4 out of 5

    Célèste

    I’m not sure I’ve ever given a cookbook five stars before because I reserve five stars for books that leave me in awe, and that’s exactly what this book did. When I first heard Carla Lalli Music describing the concept of it on the Bon Appétit Fooodcast, I thought, “This book will be life-changing if it’s really that good, but how could it be?” Well, it is. This is the perfect resource I have always wanted for cooking the way that I cook. I want to give this book to everyone I know and make them I’m not sure I’ve ever given a cookbook five stars before because I reserve five stars for books that leave me in awe, and that’s exactly what this book did. When I first heard Carla Lalli Music describing the concept of it on the Bon Appétit Fooodcast, I thought, “This book will be life-changing if it’s really that good, but how could it be?” Well, it is. This is the perfect resource I have always wanted for cooking the way that I cook. I want to give this book to everyone I know and make them read it. What I Learned: Morton kosher salt is “saltier” than Diamond. You can confit veggies, too, and it’s a great way to preserve them for a few weeks. You can make corn stock with a corn cob. The answer of what to do with a chicken breast is, steam it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen Alice

    I adore Carla and I want to make a majority of these recipes. Her casual, wry attitude comes across in the text, as does her love of super fresh ingredients. I can't wait to try these out. (Sidebar: I do feel weird about her idea of buying most of your dry ingredients online. It makes sense from a New York or other high-density city perspective, but in Texas, I think it makes more sense / is better for the environment overall to buy in bulk from stores and save on the packaging and shipping I adore Carla and I want to make a majority of these recipes. Her casual, wry attitude comes across in the text, as does her love of super fresh ingredients. I can't wait to try these out. (Sidebar: I do feel weird about her idea of buying most of your dry ingredients online. It makes sense from a New York or other high-density city perspective, but in Texas, I think it makes more sense / is better for the environment overall to buy in bulk from stores and save on the packaging and shipping footprint.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cami Fussey

    Perfection. I’ve long been a viewer of Carla’s on YouTube, and, more than the mountain of delicious recipes she offers in this book, I was inspired by the premise that cooking begins when you shop. This cookbook is unlike any other, combining cooking, shopping, and pantry-maintaining techniques that teach you to use what you have, what you know, and what looks fresh and good at the market to cook daily for those you love. Or yourself. And, as per a note from her editor at Bon Appetit, Carla Perfection. I’ve long been a viewer of Carla’s on YouTube, and, more than the mountain of delicious recipes she offers in this book, I was inspired by the premise that cooking begins when you shop. This cookbook is unlike any other, combining cooking, shopping, and pantry-maintaining techniques that teach you to use what you have, what you know, and what looks fresh and good at the market to cook daily for those you love. Or yourself. And, as per a note from her editor at Bon Appetit, Carla writes how she talks, which makes for entertaining, charming, and honest instruction. Bonus points for her regular eat-with-your-hands advocacy. If you want to be a better cook, get this book and read it from beginning to end.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I love "remix" cookbooks. If there's a sub-genre I'm a sucker for, that's it. I love Music's "a dozen to [cooking method]" concept, where she explains a common cooking method, loosely, and then shows 12 ingredients that benefit from that treatment. It's simple, the photos are inviting, and it encourages experimentation and educated guesses. In the same vein, her "spin it" concept (when she offers substitutions right off the bat, as a means of cooking to the produce that looks good that week) is I love "remix" cookbooks. If there's a sub-genre I'm a sucker for, that's it. I love Music's "a dozen to [cooking method]" concept, where she explains a common cooking method, loosely, and then shows 12 ingredients that benefit from that treatment. It's simple, the photos are inviting, and it encourages experimentation and educated guesses. In the same vein, her "spin it" concept (when she offers substitutions right off the bat, as a means of cooking to the produce that looks good that week) is a good one, and the two or three recipes I've made so far have all been with substitutions (kale instead of collards, e.g.). My only gripe is that while I am a foodie and will totally spend my extra money on the nice anchovies, this shit gets to be a little bit wealthy and brooklyn-y and doesn't so much raise my hackles as it makes me long for class revolution. lol. Using fucking instacart for your pantry staples is mayyyybe logistically sensible in nyc, but it's underpaid gig labor that shifts risk to contractors, and I'm ashamed that a hippie/boho cookbook made it from draft to publish with that still in as time-saving advice. We can do better, world.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Starting a cookbook shelf to track all the cookbooks that I flip through, admire, and never cook a single recipe from!!! I'm an ENORMOUS fan of the Bon Appetit test kitchen's Youtube channel and a subscriber to the print magazine, so any cookbook from that crew is one I have to check out. This one is very beautiful - Carla rules. Recipes tried: 0

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karie

    Usually I can find one or two recipes in any cookbook that spark my interest, but not this one. I'm honestly surprised because I love Carla's YouTube videos for Bon Appetite. I'm also not a fan of the recipe layout.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    I liked Carla's writing more than the recipes probably. Will need to read again to try more of the food ;)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    While I wanted to love and champion this book, Lalli Music and I take the opposite view on how to approach cooking. I'm a fastidious planner, she prefers being inspired at the farmers market and letting what appeals dictate what she cooks. I'd much rather sit down and browse my (many) cookbooks, plan the weeks meals and write up my grocery list (which is kept on the fridge, easily accessible should I use something up during the week). In fact it's one of my favourite things to do each week, and While I wanted to love and champion this book, Lalli Music and I take the opposite view on how to approach cooking. I'm a fastidious planner, she prefers being inspired at the farmers market and letting what appeals dictate what she cooks. I'd much rather sit down and browse my (many) cookbooks, plan the weeks meals and write up my grocery list (which is kept on the fridge, easily accessible should I use something up during the week). In fact it's one of my favourite things to do each week, and I always feel more inspired by that than I ever have wandering around an overcrowded farmer's market. She also says "shop small, waste less" but I've always found the opposite to be true. I've chosen to learn about seasonality - to be honest unless you have a very good market there's a fair chance that produce isn't as fresh as you think, and realistically most people shop in supermarkets which are largely devoid of the seasonal approach. I buy only what I need when I need it, and check the fridge, freezer and pantry before planning the week. Each to their own, but if you lean towards a more prepared approach to cooking this book won't be for you. I did like the focus on prep, basic skills and technique. This book doesn't assume prior cooking knowledge, but it doesn't treat you as incompetent either. I also loved the 'spin it' note attached to each recipe that offers up easy ingredient substitutes. I'd describe this as less cookbook more cooking manual with recipes as case studies. Its certainly a fresh approach.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gillian

    This book completely changed the way I think about cooking for myself, and I could not be happier. As a single person who almost always cooks only for herself the concept of shopping small and often is almost too obvious. And now I love cooking veggies that look good to me and deciding how to cook them later. I feel like I’m a better cook because of it plus I am enjoying more fresh produce! I already loved Carla and this book only deepens the love.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Despite the name, this book does not seem to be a beginners cookbook. Recipes are long with lots of ingredients (mostly common though some may throw readers like nutritional yeast, for example) though they are not complicated. The philosophy is more of a hook, I think, than necessarily anything new, but this doesn’t detract from the recipes. This hook, if you will, is the prepping for cooking that emphasizes shopping twice a week at least for fresh foods, buying dry ingredients online and Despite the name, this book does not seem to be a beginners cookbook. Recipes are long with lots of ingredients (mostly common though some may throw readers like nutritional yeast, for example) though they are not complicated. The philosophy is more of a hook, I think, than necessarily anything new, but this doesn’t detract from the recipes. This hook, if you will, is the prepping for cooking that emphasizes shopping twice a week at least for fresh foods, buying dry ingredients online and switching out flavors you don’t like for substitutes. None of this is really necessary to enjoy the cookbook, though perhaps for some these ideas are helpful. The book starts with introductory step-by-step techniques, each followed by a page of a dozen alternatives to the original technique. This section seemed to be missing quantities and times that might vary across these ingredients. For example, the roasting section features butternut squash and then the dozen alternatives include salmon, scallops, chicken. These are all roasted differently and for different times. Does not seem like a beginner can just dive in here. After this section the book focuses on fully developed recipes and this is where the book shines. These are good, flavor forward recipes with clear instructions and full page pictures. If I had to locate the flavors I’d say Mediterranean though the sub suggestions encourage diversity.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I don't consider myself a professional chef, but I guess I'm not quite a beginner either because this book was a little too basic for me. The first section is about planning and preparing for cooking, the second section illustrates various cooking techniques like steaming, pan-roasting, making pastry dough, etc. The third section is the actual recipes using the techniques described earlier. One thing I did like is that each recipe has "spin it" options that give other ways to use that recipes I don't consider myself a professional chef, but I guess I'm not quite a beginner either because this book was a little too basic for me. The first section is about planning and preparing for cooking, the second section illustrates various cooking techniques like steaming, pan-roasting, making pastry dough, etc. The third section is the actual recipes using the techniques described earlier. One thing I did like is that each recipe has "spin it" options that give other ways to use that recipes either with different ingredients or ways to use ingredients you already might have on hand. There just weren't any recipes that jumped out at me that I really wanted to try. I do think this would be good for someone who is a VERY beginner because the photos of the cooking techniques would be very helpful.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Fohl

    Lots of great info! The theory of how to shop and the technique sections are very helpful. I think my food is going to get yummier and there will be less food waste. I enjoyed her conversational writing, and most of the photos were good. I really loved the “spin it” innovation with the recipes, it makes the recipes more accessible, especially if you hate fennel like I do. What I learned: How to get out those pomegranate seeds. What a confit is, preserving in oil. So canned sardines are a confit? Lots of great info! The theory of how to shop and the technique sections are very helpful. I think my food is going to get yummier and there will be less food waste. I enjoyed her conversational writing, and most of the photos were good. I really loved the “spin it” innovation with the recipes, it makes the recipes more accessible, especially if you hate fennel like I do. What I learned: How to get out those pomegranate seeds. What a confit is, preserving in oil. So canned sardines are a confit? Why does she store nuts in the fridge? Some new yummy ideas for radishes, cucumbers, and chickpeas. Get a nice nozzle for your olive oil. Always have lots of lemons! The Swedes have pancake parties.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    I love Bon Appétit and Carla’s email and video dispatches (if you haven’t seen her cooking with drag queens, you’re missing out), so I’ve been so excited to check this out. It’s great – conversational and user-friendly. Her premise is one that all cooks know: Cooking starts when you’re shopping for food, when you find an ingredient that revs you up and makes you impatient to get back home to cook it. I liked a lot of her ideas, tips, and tricks, and I learned a few new things I’m excited to try I love Bon Appétit and Carla’s email and video dispatches (if you haven’t seen her cooking with drag queens, you’re missing out), so I’ve been so excited to check this out. It’s great – conversational and user-friendly. Her premise is one that all cooks know: Cooking starts when you’re shopping for food, when you find an ingredient that revs you up and makes you impatient to get back home to cook it. I liked a lot of her ideas, tips, and tricks, and I learned a few new things I’m excited to try out (like confiting vegetables!). I was chuffed to find that I already do a lot of the things she recommends, so 😏. I’d recommend this book if you want to get a handle on the basics in a low-pressure way, or if you’re an experienced cook looking for fun recipe inspiration.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lucinda

    The one recipe I tried (Steamed Sweet Potatoes) took much longer than described and the sauce was awful (but fixable), so I'm not sure I can recommend this cookbook even if on the surface the basic techniques seem sound. I do like the idea of "start simple, add sauces and extras" (her basic techniques all involve only salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice with other flavorings being add-ons). I also like that she provides alternative "spins" for when you don't have the specific ingredients The one recipe I tried (Steamed Sweet Potatoes) took much longer than described and the sauce was awful (but fixable), so I'm not sure I can recommend this cookbook even if on the surface the basic techniques seem sound. I do like the idea of "start simple, add sauces and extras" (her basic techniques all involve only salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice with other flavorings being add-ons). I also like that she provides alternative "spins" for when you don't have the specific ingredients listed. If you're not familiar with the basics of Sauté, Pan-Roast, Steam, Boil/Simmer, Confit, Slow Roast you can read about them here, but it's unclear how many of the recipes are going to work out.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Hendricks

    Maybe it’s crazy to give a cookbook five stars but I don’t care. I already have a strong girl crush going from the BA podcasts and videos, and in this lovely book Carla just continues to be her funny and smart self while educating people about food and providing good shopping and cooking advice. The technique part at the front especially instills confidence, like “whoa, I might actually be able to do this.” And not like “do a recipe,” but “transfer the understanding of cooking one thing to Maybe it’s crazy to give a cookbook five stars but I don’t care. I already have a strong girl crush going from the BA podcasts and videos, and in this lovely book Carla just continues to be her funny and smart self while educating people about food and providing good shopping and cooking advice. The technique part at the front especially instills confidence, like “whoa, I might actually be able to do this.” And not like “do a recipe,” but “transfer the understanding of cooking one thing to cooking some other thing.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex Can Read

    I love Carla Lalli Music on the Bon Appetit channel on youtube. She can convince you to try and love almost anything. She has this amazing, bright, supportive and encouraging presence about her (which you can see in back to back kitchen episodes) and that same personality comes through in her book. All of the recipes seem both doable and delicious - and in many cases, endlessly riffable. I had initially checked this out from the library, but after paging through I immediately put in an order for I love Carla Lalli Music on the Bon Appetit channel on youtube. She can convince you to try and love almost anything. She has this amazing, bright, supportive and encouraging presence about her (which you can see in back to back kitchen episodes) and that same personality comes through in her book. All of the recipes seem both doable and delicious - and in many cases, endlessly riffable. I had initially checked this out from the library, but after paging through I immediately put in an order for my own copy. I can't wait to get started cooking my way through every recipe in the book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carolyne Gibson

    Yeah, OK, it’s a cookbook. But if you have even the most ephemeral interest in feeding yourself well from the abundance of excellent foodstuffs that surrounds us, it’s a worthy read. In her highly approachable style, Lalli Music distills cooking into six basic techniques using a small repertoire of tools and a straightforward inventory of ingredients. Casual cooks, experienced cooks, reluctant cooks, adventurous cooks, exhausted cooks all will find new ways of focusing their efforts on Yeah, OK, it’s a cookbook. But if you have even the most ephemeral interest in feeding yourself well from the abundance of excellent foodstuffs that surrounds us, it’s a worthy read. In her highly approachable style, Lalli Music distills cooking into six basic techniques using a small repertoire of tools and a straightforward inventory of ingredients. Casual cooks, experienced cooks, reluctant cooks, adventurous cooks, exhausted cooks all will find new ways of focusing their efforts on delicious, satisfying meals without unreasonable effort or wasteful over-shopping.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I was not initially impressed with this one, but it grew on me as I read it. I'm not a novice cook, so most of the intro did not apply. Then I was thrown off by a lot of odd "high end" that few novices would likely start with. But at some point the simpler recipes won me over--Cosmo's Power Pancakes, Rack-Roasted Chicken, Caprese Mac and Cheese--and I love the author's voice, lively and conversational.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    I really like this cookbook. (But I’m stingy with my 5 star reviews!) I love how it encourages the reader to consider many different options when cooking. I think Lalli Music’s method of beginning cooking at the store, and making multiple trips to the store each week for the freshest ingredients, is a great idea. However, as someone who lives in a very rural area, that is less relevant to me. Even so, there are many recipes that I can’t wait to try, especially when it’s CSA time again!!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    The value in this book is the "spin it" concept where you can sub certain types of similar ingredients in for others in the recipes provided. She also has great sections on the basics behind sautéing, pan roasting, making comfit, etc. where she explains how each technique works and then provides 12 items to make with each technique. Great book, great narrative voice, and interesting recipes in the second half of the book with strong vegetarian and dessert sections.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie Shields

    A lot of people rave about this cookbook. But I have a feeling that most who raved, did not cook from it. More like they raved about it because they've been told that it's good. I believe it's for a very specific audience. It was too basic for me, but I also think it would be too advanced for the beginner.

  22. 4 out of 5

    LAUREN K JONES

    I love her way showing g you how to shop (the way she does it) and give you the best suggestions in a real way not just from a chef's perspective.. this book is filled will normal and extravagant meals. Broken up by dish types. Beautiful photography.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    3.5. Wish there were more techniques/tips. One strength of the book for certain is the “spin it” portions of the recipes where Music tells you how you can sub different elements, which is a great way to cook more intuitively rather than strictly based on a recipe.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    I rarely read all the words in a cookbook, but I binge read this one in one sitting. The actual recipes are a bit intimidating right now, but her system for suggesting improvizations was genius. I would have given it 5 stars for the pantry and techniques section alone.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Beautifully shot, but still overwhelming even though the point is to simplify. Also lots and lots of olive oil up in here so I’m sure everything is delicious Love the substitute suggestions but nothing jumped as something I wanted to make right away. Beautifully shot, but still overwhelming even though the point is to simplify. Also lots and lots of olive oil up in here so I’m sure everything is delicious 😋 Love the substitute suggestions but nothing jumped as something I wanted to make right away.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Viriam

    I like the basic approach of focusing on different ways of applying heat (cooking methods) and then showing the variety of applications to different food stuffs. The recipes are better than anticipated in that they have novel ingredients and stretch the imagination (a little). Worth reading.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jane Dugger

    Nice layout but the recipes didn't enthuse me.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cynde

    Very interesting and helpful recipes and information.Found some keepers.

  29. 4 out of 5

    M. Nicole Lane

    Buying this one for my kitchen library !

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Blue

    It's rare to truly read a cookbook cover to cover and then spend a weekend playing with the recipes. Thank you Carla for starting me on a journey to be a better and more instinctive cook.

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