All the Recipes You Need


By Jessica Battilana

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Simple, stunning recipes for home cooks, from the writer of the Repertoire column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Home cooks don’t need dozens of cookbooks or hundreds of recipes. They just need one good book, with about 75 trustworthy, versatile, and above all, delicious recipes that can stand alone or be mixed-and-matched into extraordinary meals.

That’s what Repertoire is: Real recipes, from real life, that really work.

After nearly two decades in the kitchen and writing about food, this is the way San Francisco Chronicle writer Jessica Battilana really cooks at home. These are her best recipes, the ones she relies on the most — for a quick weeknight supper, a special dinner party, when a friend drops by for a drink and a snack, for the chocolate cake that never fails. The knowledge, freedom, and flexibility that comes from cooking these recipes is all you really need in the kitchen.

With a salad for every season, pantry pastas, many meatballs, chewy cookies, and more, Repertoire puts the perfect dish for every occasion within reach.




It makes you a promise and keeps it.

And when you cook a good recipe, you learn from it—and add it to your repertoire. It’s like a musician learning a new favorite tune: a favorite recipe becomes a part of you.

I’ve cooked my entire life to develop this repertoire, and I’m giving it to you: rock-solid, never-fail recipes that are more rewarding than demanding. These are recipes you can trust and use and reuse, recipes with a wide range of flavors and lots of ways to shake them up.

The food here is what I’d serve if you walked in the door tonight. It isn’t fancy, but it is special.

So go ahead, riff a little. Turn my repertoire into your own.

Building a Repertoire

There’s a three-hour stretch between picking up our two young boys from school and settling them into their beds for the night that my wife and I call running the gauntlet.

We’re all tired, Sarah and me and the kids, who, having shed shoes and clothing in a trail from the front door to the kitchen, are agitating for attention and dinner. In the old days, before the kids, I might have leisurely pulled a cookbook from the shelf, browsed through for inspiration, and hit the store for ingredients. I’d try a new recipe, tweaking it until it was just right; Sarah and I would eat long after dark. But it’s different now. Kids, work, life… I just don’t have the time I used to spend dreaming up dinner. No one does.

So what’s the solution? Friends who’d had children before me promised a future of takeout and cereal for dinner. But I’m stubborn. Instead of giving up on cooking at home, I doubled down on it. I discovered that the trick—if you can call it that—was to develop and cook from my own repertoire, my set of durable, flexible recipes that now form the backbone of my cooking life.

Musicians have their own repertoires—the pieces they’ll always know how to play, from wedding marches to funeral dirges, without looking at sheet music. It’s the same for a cook. Repertoire recipes are what I serve for both weeknight suppers and dinner parties, the meals that I feed to my sons, the familiar favorites I reach for when it’s time to celebrate.

They are real recipes from real life, and they really work.

The truth is that home cooks don’t need hundreds of recipes in their arsenals. A few dozen good ones and the knowledge and freedom that cooking them frequently gives you are all you really need.

A good recipe behaves; it makes you a promise and keeps it. It turns you into a magician capable of transforming ingredients into a meal that has you doing one of those little kitchen dances between stove and sink. A good recipe never grows old—it changes with you.

I’ve cooked my entire life to develop this repertoire, and it’s damn good. I’m giving them to you, these rock-solid, never-fail recipes, ones that are more rewarding than demanding. These are recipes you can trust and use and reuse, recipes with a wide range of flavors and lots of ways to shake them up. They range from curried noodles to a maple-blueberry cornmeal cake to flank steak with salsa verde and bucatini all’Amatriciana. They may not appear to have much in common, but a repertoire should be diverse, because that’s how all of us want to cook and eat, choosing our dinner based on what sounds good to us and what we’ve got time to make. It should have keepers you can cook for the rest of your life.

The recipes in this book are meant to last, which means they also invite adaptation. The more you cook these recipes, the more they become yours. You’ll get better at making them, and faster, too, and the recipes will transform into something highly personal. They taste great, but they will also give you something more than a simple meal.

When nothing else is turning out the way you’d hoped, it can be reassuring to know that your pot of tortilla soup will. I’ve experienced this myself. When my first son was born and then again when our second arrived, when everything felt upside down and I was sleeping in forty-five-minute increments, the kitchen was a refuge. I may not have known how to calm an inconsolable baby at four a.m., but I knew that with a couple of cans of tomatoes, some olive oil, garlic, and time, I could make a marinara to toss on spaghetti that my wife and I could eat from the pot, happy, baby on the hip.

That marinara is in this book. The food here is what we really eat at home, what I’d serve you if you walk in the door tonight. It isn’t fancy, but it is special.

I organized it as simply as I could, the way we actually think about what to eat: starters for a meal or a party, then main courses, and finally desserts. You could take a recipe from each chapter and string them together into a three-course meal, or you might find that a wedge of Cheater’s Tortilla Española (here) and a salad are all you want. Or, after a bad day, maybe a Negroni and a bowl of Potato Chips (here) on the couch will do the trick. Can you eat Apricot-Nectarine Crisp (here) for breakfast? Oh yeah. Does leftover Lamb Ragù with Creamy Polenta (here) or a reheated Broccoli Rabe and Mozzarella Calzone (here) make a killer lunch the next day? Yes, and yes.

I’m a recipe writer, but I’m not much for rules. I’ve designed this book to be flexible, and within each recipe, I’ve tried to answer the questions I know my friends would ask if they were making something for the first time, things like Can you substitute this for that? Can you make it ahead? Can you freeze it? What should I serve it with? After cooking a recipe as written, you’ll probably have your own ideas too.

Go ahead, riff a little. Turn my repertoire into your own.

Cooking by Heart

(Or, A Little About Me)

When I was a kid, I would often imagine that I’d been asked to participate in a talent show. As I considered my hypothetical performance, I’d review my “talents”: I was wildly uncoordinated, a terrible dancer, and had a mediocre voice.

But I could cook. In the talent show of my dreams, I took the stage and, modeling my act after videos of Julia Child stooping next to Jacques Pépin, demonstrated how to make perfect scrambled eggs. I’d practice, using the window behind the stove in our kitchen as my mirror. After dark I’d watch my reflection as I stirred and sautéed, explaining every step as I went.

My mother was a devoted home cook. After her children were grown, she took a course at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa and returned to Vermont ready for a second act. She started working in the kitchen at a specialty food market in my hometown; twenty years later, she retired as its co-owner. But before she became a professional, she cooked every night, pulling from a repertoire so deep, I don’t recall her ever cracking a cookbook.

Birthdays meant cake; holidays meant standing rib roasts and bacon-draped turkeys. We’d look forward to the late-summer day when we’d buy ears of freshly picked corn to boil and butter. When we finished stacking wood for the winter, we’d celebrate with popcorn balls and hot apple cider. In spring, after we braved the muddy back roads of Vermont in an old station wagon, we’d earn a trip to the sugar shack to sip from enamel mugs of golden maple syrup. Food provided the rhythm and ritual by which we lived our lives.

I went to college and got a history degree. But like Mom, I couldn’t stop cooking. I worked as a cashier at a renowned specialty grocer in Cambridge. Then I earned a summer internship at La Varenne, a cooking school in the French countryside run by Anne Willan, a contemporary of Julia Child. There I cooked daily, testing recipes, making giant meals for visitors, and, under Willan’s exacting tutelage, learning how to make French classics, from babas au rhum to delicate fish mousse.

Back home, I worked as a private chef, writing a bit on the side, before moving to California. There I found a job at Chez Panisse, not as a cook but as a reservationist. Lunch was the perk I stuck around for: giant green salads, the tender lettuces the stuff of food-writer dreams; squares of chocolate pavé, a flourless cake with a crackling top; slices of leftover lamb anointed in grass-green aioli or salsa verde that I adored so much, I added them to my burgeoning repertoire.

Those staff meals—and watching the chefs prepare the food for service each night—influenced how I cooked at home. Inspired by what I saw at the restaurant, I’d shop at the farmers’ market, and suddenly I was part of a community of young people who put food front and center, like my family always had.

I still had the ambition to write, though, and left Chez Panisse for a job at Sunset magazine’s test kitchen. From Sunset, I took a job at a San Francisco–based city magazine, working the food and restaurant beat. For four years I immersed myself in restaurant culture, dining at every new restaurant, meeting nearly every chef in town. Another similar job followed, and I continued to write stories about restaurants and chefs.

When the opportunity arose to work with Charles Phan, chef-owner of the Slanted Door, on his first cookbook, Vietnamese Home Cooking, I jumped at the chance. More cookbook collaborations followed, and my role was always clear: it was my job to be the voice of the home cook, reminding the professionals that the average person has neither a grain mill nor a chinois nor a reliable source of vadouvan or black garlic. And along the way I picked up tips, tricks, ideas, and recipes that further refined my own repertoire.

And that’s how I got to this point, ready to hand over my best recipes. They’re the ones I trust, the ones I cook by heart. After nearly two decades of cooking and writing about food, I realize that I’m finally in a place to share what I’ve learned. I’m still in the kitchen after all these years, still hungry.

A Word About Ingredients

Unless I say otherwise, in my house and in these recipes, these are the ingredients I use:

The milk is whole (or at least not skim). The butter is unsalted. The yogurt and sour cream are full fat. The salt is Diamond Crystal kosher unless I’m using flaky sea salt for a little crunch on top, and then it’s Maldon. The mayonnaise is Hellmann’s, or Best Foods, as it’s called out west. (You can fight me on this, but I am right!)

For everyday olive oil, I get Tiger brand, an inexpensive Tuscan oil that comes in a three-liter tin, or the good stuff from California Olive Ranch, milled near my home. For salads, I keep a fruity olive oil on hand; taste a few different brands and find your favorite. Once a year, I buy a bottle of olio nuovo; this fiery, freshly pressed green oil is spicy! I drizzle it on chopped raw fennel, on beans, and into soup. And I usually have a nut oil, like walnut, around for salad dressings.

Treat yourself to a big chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano if you’re able. Having it in my cheese drawer is like a security blanket. You can find good-quality Parm in big blocks at Costco; two pounds might seem like a lot, but it keeps well and goes fast.

For feta, use the kind made with sheep’s milk if you can find it. Sheep’s milk has more fat than cow’s or goat’s milk, so the feta made from it is richer and creamier. If you can get it packed in brine, great. Avoid buying those cartons of pre-crumbled feta (or blue cheese). Not only are they more expensive, but the cheese is often drier. Besides, crumbling cheese is not exactly an advanced skill—you can do this.

My favorite dried pasta is Rustichella d’Abruzzo, an Italian brand that is extruded through bronze dies, which gives the pasta a rough texture that helps sauce cling to it. It’s more expensive than most grocery-store brands (and might require a trip to a specialty market), but it’s worth it.

In my kitchen I have both oil- and salt-packed anchovies. The oil-packed anchovies are already filleted, so they’re easy to use straight from the tin. Salt-packed anchovies are the whole fish (minus the heads) packed into coarse salt. Before you use them you have to soak them in water for about thirty minutes, then fillet them with your fingers. Why go through the hassle? Generally, salt-packed anchovies are meatier than the oil-packed fillets, with a more pronounced flavor. I like them both, and they can be used interchangeably in all the recipes in the book. Anchovy paste in a tube is also a great invention, and there’s no waste. A quarter teaspoon of the paste is equal to about one anchovy fillet.

Capers are available packed in either brine or salt. The benefit of the brined ones is that they’re ready to use—just drain and toss them in. The salted capers must be soaked in water to cover for about thirty minutes. I often opt for the convenience of brined, but that convenience comes at a small cost, which is that the vinegar in the brine changes the flavor of the capers somewhat; salted capers, by contrast, have a less piquant (though still very big) flavor. Again, they can be used interchangeably in these recipes.

I use chocolate and cocoa from Guittard, which is produced near my San Francisco home by some really nice folks who let me watch chocolate chips being made. Valrhona chocolate and cocoa are also great.

I have never been a churchgoer, but every Sunday I do go to the farmers’ market, where I get the majority of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts we eat. It makes me feel good—you might even say spiritually enriched—to buy food directly from the people who make it, and it turns something that could be a chore (food shopping) into a social outing. I’ve gotten my kids into it now, too, luring them with the promise of samples and pastries.

I pay attention to how my meat and fish are raised and I have come to terms with paying more for the good stuff. That means we eat less of it or that I use lesser cuts, ground meat, or whole chickens, bones and all. We also eat a lot of beans.

I usually try to plan about three meals at a time. A week’s worth feels like too many (both to plan for and shop for), and I can’t always predict at the start of the week what I’ll feel like eating at the end. Often, I’ll make a big batch of something (meatballs, beans, chile-braised beef, tart dough, salad dressing) and save or freeze a portion of it for a second meal. I’m not talking long storage—I’m frequently ready to revisit it (gratefully) the following week. It helps to always keep basics—potatoes, onions, carrots, dried or canned beans, eggs and cheese, canned tomatoes—on hand. You’ll see that a lot of the recipes in this book call for ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen. And if they’re not in your kitchen, they’re readily available at a regular grocery store.

Ways to Start

The Greenest Green Salad

Sam’s Spring Fattoush Salad

Gribiche with Asparagus

Mr. Ellis’s Tomato Tart

Bean Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Aioli


Garlicky Broccoli Rabe and Provolone

Roasted Tomatoes and Ricotta

Pea Smash and Marinated Feta

Sweet Corn Fritters

Roasted Carrots with Burrata and Salsa Rustica

Chicory Salad with Maple-Roasted Squash and Blue Cheese

Avocado and Citrus Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

Creamy Onion Tart with Olives

Seeded Rye Gougères

Pretzel Rolls

Fried Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp

Cheater’s Tortilla Española

Scottish Oatcakes with Butter and Dates

Twice-Baked Magic Soufflés

Duck Rillettes

Ultra-Crispy Potato Pancakes

Negronis and Potato Chips

The Greenest Green Salad

Serves 4 to 6

I AM NOT SURE that I want to live in a world where ranch dressing is more beloved than Green Goddess, which is superior in both name and taste, so I’m doing everything in my power to bring this vibrant, herb-packed green dressing into the limelight.

Green Goddess is a kitchen MVP. It can be used as a salad dressing, yes, but it’s also a dip for crudités, a marinade for grilled chicken, and, if you’re one of the weirdos who like to do this, it’s great on pizza or with French fries too.

For this super-green salad, I combine crunchy romaine, cucumbers, snap peas, green onions, and avocado, then douse it with the irresistible dressing.

2 oil-packed anchovy fillets

½ cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s/Best Foods

⅓ cup full-fat Greek yogurt

½ cup parsley leaves

¼ cup basil leaves

1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus additional for seasoning

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves

2 tablespoons minced chives

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups snap peas

2 hearts of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces

2 Persian or Japanese cucumbers, diced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 avocado, cubed

In a food processor combine the anchovy fillets, mayonnaise, yogurt, parsley, basil, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and process until smooth and brilliant green. Transfer to a lidded jar, stir in the tarragon and chives, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the snap peas and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until the peas are completely cool. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to dry (the dressing won’t stick to a wet snap pea). Cut each pea in half crosswise on the bias.

In a large bowl, combine the snap peas, romaine, cucumbers, and green onions and mix well to combine. Add the avocado and about half the dressing (save the rest for another salad; it will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week). Mix gently with your hands until the salad is well coated with dressing, adding more if necessary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve cold.

Sam’s Spring Fattoush Salad

Serves 4 to 6

A FEW WEEKS after our older son was born, I ran into my friend Sam Mogannam. I was light-headed from exhaustion, teary from lack of sleep. “You want some advice about kids?” asked Sam, who has two daughters. I figured he was going to tell me what I’d already heard—to sleep when the baby was sleeping or purchase a specific brand of pacifier. Instead he grabbed my hand, looked straight into my eyes, and said, simply, “Surrender.”

It remains the best parenting advice I’ve heard, and it’s the only tip I share with new parents.

In addition to being a font of wisdom, Sam’s a great cook; he’s co-owner of Bi-Rite Market, a beloved San Francisco grocery store started by his grandfather, and before taking over the family business, he worked in restaurants. This is an approximation of a simple recipe he served me once. Though it’s simple, the devil is in the details. Thin-skinned Persian, Armenian, or Japanese cucumbers, which have few seeds, a snappy texture, and a distinct sweetness, are what make the salad special. In a pinch, European hothouse cucumbers can be substituted, but avoid the typical grocery-store cukes, which are too seedy and wet for this recipe.

Part of what makes this salad so great is the dynamic textures; the cracker-like baked lavash croutons and the crunchy cucumbers and radishes contrast with the creamy feta and soft herbs. I dress this with an especially tart vinaigrette made from equal parts lemon juice and olive oil and serve it right away, before it gets soggy. It would be a great side dish with all sorts of things, but I particularly like it alongside the Grilled Tahini Chicken here.

2 pieces lavash bread

¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Aleppo pepper (optional)

¼ cup lemon juice

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

5 Persian, Armenian, or Japanese cucumbers, thinly sliced

5 radishes, thinly sliced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 cup dill fronds

1 cup mint leaves

½ cup feta, preferably sheep’s milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the lavash on both sides with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and Aleppo pepper, if using. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. Whisk in the remaining ¼ cup olive oil until combined.


  • One of the Best Books of the Year -Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle
  • One of the 10 Cookbooks Our Readers Couldn't Live WithoutFood52
  • "When I flipped through Jessica's new cookbook, Repertoire, I found the sorts of comforting, intimate recipes I love."New York Times Magazine
  • "Repertoire is about getting into the grove of things and dinner recipes that become members of the family, they show up at the table so often... a collection of real life, instant crowd-pleasers, with some process photos that help see you through."—Bon Appetit
  • "Repertoire is a magical book of insanely delicious keeper recipes you can trust with your life. Guard it like it's made of gold. This is more than a gorgeous cookbook: it's a beeline to a better life, one that's delicious, stylish, and tons of fun. You'll get so much more out of these recipes than you put into them. But Jessica's best trick isn't her stunning apple tart or amazing garlic butter chicken. It's how she helps you make her repertoire your own, turning you into a more confident, improvisational cook along the way."—Samin Nosrat, New York Times bestselling author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
  • "Everyone needs a small cookbook stuffed cover-to-cover with go-to recipes. Repertoire has zero fluff. None. You will open this book and automatically put every single recipe on your to-cook list, including light summer dinners, hearty winter feasts and lazy weekend breakfasts. And bless Battilana for including a recipe for Negronis and Potato Chips (which is exactly what it sounds like). Sometimes, that's just what does the trick."—Houston Chronicle
  • "I'd like to think Jessica Battilana and I are kindred spirits. Neither of us cooks separate meals for our kids, but we both believe in the sanity-saving power of a customizable bowl of noodles. We enjoy Negronis, full-fat dairy, and Sunday worship at the farmer's market. And we strive to write recipes that tell a story while teaching something new. In Repertoire, Jessica does even more than that: she inspires you to cook beyond her recipes, giving you the confidence to build your own repertoire. Her knack for empowering home cooks makes this book sing."—Vivian Howard, New York Times bestselling author of Deep Run Roots
  • "I may have to steal some of Jessica Battilana's clever ideas and add to my own repertoire. Her celebration of ingredients and approachable cooking techniques are what every home cook needs in their box of tricks."—Yotam Ottolenghi, New York Times bestselling author of Jerusalem
  • "A treasure trove of delicious tried-and-true recipes for the home cook--a gift for anyone who wants to add to their own repertoire."—Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer, James Beard Award-winning authors of Canal House Cooks Every Day
  • "Repertoire is a modern-day Joy of Cooking. Every kitchen should have one on the shelf! Jessica's techniques suit our busy lifestyles and please our palates, delivering satisfying results through simple techniques. Use this book when you are planning a party, cooking a weeknight dinner, or hanging with your family. You can't go wrong with Negronis and potato chips or the fancy toasts, and every birthday should feature Jessica's coconut cream cake."—Amanda Freitag, author of The Chef Next Door
  • "Ingredient-based cooking, tinged with global flavors yet not fussy, is my favorite kind of cooking. Jessica Battilana's Repertoire is truly a collection of things that I'd like to make (and eat)... and that are destined to become part of my repertoire. With this book, they'll be part of yours, too!"—David Lebovitz, author of L'Appart and My Paris Kitchen
  • "Like your favorite skillet or the spatula that fits perfectly in your hand, Repertoire is a kitchen staple that you'll always want nearby. It's a delicious collection of greatest hits that are primed to become your new favorite go-tos. (And it's got hot dog fried rice!)"—Molly Yeh, author of Molly on the Range
  • "Repertoire is a treasure trove of realistic recipes for real cooks. Packed with helpful tips and clear instructions, and gloriously illustrated with both how-to photography and finished dishes, it's a comprehensive and inspiring must-have guide for the home cook. To a fellow La Varenne alumna, in the words of our mutual mentor, Anne Willan, I say, 'Well done!'"—Virginia Willis, James Beard Award-winning author of Lighten Up, Y'all
  • "San FranciscoChronicle food columnist Battilana delivers 75 classic recipes in this valuable cookbook, arguing that home cooks don't need a collection of hundreds of recipes to be well-rounded... [Repertoire is] accessible and promises to boost home cooks' confidence."—Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Apr 3, 2018
Page Count
240 pages

Jessica Battilana

About the Author

Jessica Battilana writes the “Repertoire” column for the San Francisco Chronicle and is the author of Corn, from Short Stack Editions. The coauthor of several other cookbooks, her work has appeared in Martha Stewart Living, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Gastronomica, Saveur, Sunset, and multiple editions of The Best Food Writing. A Vermont native, she lives in San Francisco with her wife and children.

Learn more about this author