Ashley Covelli, of Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen, is the hostess with the most-ess at our monthly Virtual Potluck programs! From cookbook discussions to live cooking classes, Ashley is passionate about all things foodie. For National Cookbook Month, we asked her which of the cookbooks she’s discussed in our program have made their way into her regular repertoire.
5 Favorite Cookbook Selections from Our 2021 Virtual Potluck Program
We kicked off Virtual Potluck back in January of 2021 as a way to bring people together over food and cookbooks. It’s been such a fun and delicious way to immerse ourselves in inspiring culinary themes.
If you haven’t joined us before, the way it works is that each month we have 2 Tuesday evening virtual programs. Every month has a theme, and we discuss cookbooks, kitchen tips, and restaurant recommendations around that theme for the first meeting. For the second, we have a virtual cooking class where people are welcome to join in and cook along with me or just hang out, ask questions, and chat.
I put together PDFs for each session that include handy resources, cookbook recommendations, and recipe cards. It’s been a lot of fun, and we’re still going strong.
Since National Cookbook Month is winding down, I thought it would be fun to share 5 of my very favorite cookbooks that I discovered because of this Virtual Potluck.
So here they are, in no particular order:
1. Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour
Our first Virtual Potluck theme was Middle Eastern Cuisine. I’m half Persian, so this is a theme I feel very passionate about. I hadn’t heard of the book Persiana before, but when I saw it on the shelf at OPL, I was excited to dig into it.
Persiana was awarded “Best New Cookbook” at the Observer Food Monthly awards back in 2014 and “Book of the Year” at the 2015 Food & Travel Awards. And it’s for good reason – the book contains over 100 recipes for modern and accessible Middle Eastern dishes.
Ghayour puts modern twists on classic recipes, and the recipes in Persiana are great for both family meals and entertaining. The photography is beautiful and it will leave you hungry for more!
2. The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem by Marcus Samuelsson
This was the cookbook that made me realize that cookbooks can have so much to offer beyond just recipes. Sure, I had read the headnotes at the beginning of recipes in the past, but this book has an amazing narrative that weaves throughout and the storytelling really ties the recipes.
Samuelsson wrote this book as his love letter to Harlem. He dedicates it, “To the people of Harlem, especially the generation before mine who cared, restored and fought for uptown, to make sure Harlem would be a special neighbourhood in the greatest city – a place I am lucky to call home.”.
This book is full of beautiful soul food recipes and stories of his Ethiopian and Swedish upbringing and how his life changed when he moved to New York.
3. Dehydrating at Home: Getting the Best From Your Dehydrator, From Fruit Leathers to Meat Jerkies by Michelle Keogh
I picked this book up for our Appetizers theme. The cover showed some fun dried food items, and they reminded me of the things I like to add to cheeseboards (and BOY do I love cheeseboards!).
This book absolutely blew my mind when it came to the types of things you can make using a dehydrator. It inspired me to use the dehydrate function on my air fryer, and I eventually ended up buying a larger dehydrator so I could make alllll of the fun things because of it.
From treats for your pets to dried herbs and desserts, this book has everything. After checking it out from the library, I put it on my wishlist and got it for Christmas last year.
I love that the library lets me give books a “test run” like this to see if they’re worth taking up space on my bookshelves at home.
4. Around the World in 80 Food Trucks: Easy & Tasty Recipes from Chefs on the Road by Lonely Planet Food
This book was such a fun way to experience different cuisines through food! It focuses on food trucks in various locations around the world. You get to meet the people behind each food truck and learn how their businesses came to be.
Each food truck also shares a recipe for one of their most popular dishes, so you can try making it for yourself in your own kitchen.
There’s a lot of variety in this book, and each spread gives you that food truck’s social media information so you can follow their travels virtually until you get the chance to visit them in person.
5. Procrastibaking: 100 Recipes for Getting Nothing Done in the Most Delicious Way Possible by Erin Gardner
This cookbook was one of my selections for this month’s Dessert themed Virtual Potluck. I don’t know that a cookbook has ever made me laugh as much as this one did. It’s witty, thoughtful, and really well designed.
Procrastibaking has adorable pink icons that make appearances throughout the book that take you off onto other ways of procrastinating. For example, the little rabbit ears mean, “Rabbit Hole: We’ve all been there, You come to at 3 a.m. while watching an instructional candlemaking video and wonder to yourself, ‘What did I go online for in the first place? How did I get here? Where are my pants?!’ Buckle up, because I’m sending you down the rabbit hole for more baking-related information.”
Each chapter starts out with something to get your mind going, like “If you were a doughnut, what kind of doughnut would you be?”. It includes games such as ingredient word searches and other ways to kill time in the kitchen.
The candid and occasionally self-deprecating nature of Gardner’s writing had me thoroughly entertained from cover to cover.
Virtual Potluck has been such a fun way to connect with others, virtually, from home to theirs. We’ve had a lot of fun and made some delicious dishes! You can check out all of our past program materials by heading to the Virtual Potluck Lib Guide right here on the OPL website. And I hope to see you join us for an upcoming session!