The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins is probably one of my favorite Christmas presents ever. My parents got it for me, after I had seen my mom using it for years. It really meant a lot and it has been such a great resource for me as I learn more about cooking.
Difficulty--There is recipes that are remarkably easy to recipes that are fairly hard. I like it for this reason. It has been both accessible and challenging, which keeps it interesting for me.
Ingredients--You should not have any trouble finding the ingredients in this cookbook in your local grocery store. Every now and then, I come across something that requires a trip to a specialty grocery store, but rarely. It does not have a lot of suggestions for ingredients that are lighter or low fat, but you can replace things if you choose to do so.
Presentation--This cookbook does not have a lot of pictures. I struggled with this at first, but at least I do not feel bad if it does not look exactly like the picture. I like the way the cookbook is divided into chapters starting with appetizers and ending with desserts. My favorite thing about the cookbook is the special sections which includes things like a spice chart which lets you know which spices go with what foods. There is a similar section for wine, a conversation table, a table describing different cuts of meats, and a table for salad greens which makes it an incredible resource in the kitchen.
Taste--I have found a ton of recipes in this book I will make over and over again. I admit there has been a few failures (usually relating to something not setting right or failing to thicken), but I blame them on myself and not on the cookbook. My favorite recipes from this book are Beef Bourginon (better than Julia Child's, sorry Julia!), Marno's Chicken Noodle Soup (I have adapted this quite a bit to make it my own), and the Beef Vegetable Medley.
Overall--I think this cookbook is essential to any modern kitchen. Whatever your culinary need--this cookbook will not fail you. I have opened it up in a panic, needing a salad for a dinner party. I have turned to it when I wanted to make something basic like deviled eggs. It has been a guide for me as I try to perfect my chili and my marinara sauce.
You can buy this cookbook inexpensively on Amazon