I really like Mark Bittman’s approach to cooking–simple and not worried about perfection. If you’re looking for a good all-purpose cookbook, Bittman has two that I really enjoy–How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Each has hundreds of recipes for all types of dishes and occasions. If you’ve never checked it out, Bittman’s Bitten blog on the NY Times website is a good read: http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/?ref=dining
One of the keys to learning to cook and then actually doing it on a regular basis is not being afraid to fail. Inevitably you will screw up, but that’s ok, because you can cook again tomorrow. This is what Mark Bittman says on the matter:
Question: “What would you say is the most important skill to develop in the kitchen?
Answer: “The ability to go in there and start. I am the least impressive cook you will ever see. I am completely without knife skills, I screw things up all the time. When I’m in the kitchen I’m not obsessively trying to create the perfect dish; I’m trying to put dinner on the table. Comparing yourself to the people who cook on television is like comparing yourself to Andre Agassi. If you can drive you can cook.”
Yes! My philosophy exactly. People I talk to about cooking get really hung up on being exact in measuring ingredients and fear that straying at all from a recipe will result in disaster. Not so….I do it all the time. And most of the time, I end up with a great meal.