I’m sure you are all thinking that I have forgotten my blog members but I haven’t! For one thing, my granddaughter was seriously, seriously sick for several weeks; she was in the hospital for 12 days and had major surgery. She is now recuperating at home. That was one thing.
Another was – my curiosity was piqued with the discovery of so many brides’ cookbooks—so much so that I ordered several of them to take a closer look. (yes, I am some kind of book buying fool at times—there isn’t ANY shelf space left either inside the house or out in the garage library that Bob built for me…and still I go around buying more cookbooks). PLUS have a girlfriend in Michigan sending boxes of cookbooks faster than I can read them (but don’t stop, Betsy! Don’t stop!) I’m a firm believer that you can’t be too rich or too thin or have too many cookbooks. Ok, its not an exact quote but close enough.
And then when the brides cookbooks arrived in the mail, I had to READ them before I could WRITE about them, didn’t I? And, if you are thinking of buying a bride a book – either for a bridal shower or a wedding gift, – the three I am going to tell you about are all excellent choices. (if you don’t think one of these books is quite enough of a wedding present, I think a gift card for something like Williams-Sonoma or Kohls or Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond…would be a great thing to tuck inside one of the books. Isn’t June the month when most people get married? You can get started now and be ahead of the game.
So, my first choice is the Williams-Sonoma BRIDE & GROOM COOKBOOK/RECIPES FOR COOKING TOGETHER BY Gayle Pirie & John Clark. What a dandy wedding present this would make! Not only is it packed with recipes, it’s packed with photographs too. And not only is it filled with recipes—there are chapters on organizing your kitchen, outfitting the kitchen, keeping a well-stocked pantry, and information about wines and cheeses. (No one published anything like this when I got married in 1958 – it was hit or miss and trial and error learning things like outfitting the kitchen and stocking a pantry).
There are lots of recipes for breakfast and brunch, ranging from Vanilla-Pear Muffins to Classic French Omelet..as well as Huevos Rancheros, Eggs Benedict and Breakfast Hash. (I didn’t know a thing about Huevos Rancheros until I had been living in California about a decade).
There is a chapter on appetizers, or “Starters”—mostly simple recipes for a new bride and groom to try (I noted that the recipe for guacamole is similar to my own, except this one uses finely chopped white onion while I use some green onions, tops and about half of the green stems). There is also an easy recipe for Artichoke Dip that can be made with one jar of water packed or marinated artichoke hearts—SURE to please any new bride and groom!
A chapter on soups and salads is also sure to please…and don’t be afraid to serve soup and a salad as a company meal. Both can usually be made in advance.
I fell in love with the chapter titled Meat, Poultry and Seafood—the recipe for Rib-Eye Steak with Pan Jus is accompanied by a photograph and won me over! Grilled T-Bone with Garlic Butter is also sure to please (the grilling part is something that the groom can get used to doing!) Other recipes the bride & groom will surely want to try and present to dinner guests – recipes like Goat5 Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Grandmother’s Oven-fried Chicken, Roast Pork Loin with Apricots and Brined Pork Chops.
There are also chapters dedicated to Pasta, Pizza and Risotto, Vegetable dishes, Sides, and Desserts. Desserts! Think Blueberry Fool or Marscapone-stuffed figs (be still my heart; we used to have two big fig trees in our front yard). There is Nectarine and Blackberry Crisp, Ginger Cake with Hard Sauce and Raspberry-Lemon Tart (and most of these recipes are accompanied by full-page illustrations. (I like to know what something is supposed to look like even if mine doesn’t come out exactly right). The Bride and Groom will find so many recipes to try…you might want to try a recipe for just the two of you first, before you make it for company—it could be a good ongoing project for the newlyweds – to try one new recipe a week…maybe you could take turns being the chef while the other person is the sous chef. Doesn’t that sound like fun!
WILLIAMS-SONOMA’S BRIDE & GROOM COOKBOOK by Gayle Pirie and John Clark would make an outstanding bridal shower wedding gift—maybe with a gift card from Williams-Sonoma to make it complete. Can I just say I was married over 50 years ago and I know from hard experience that it takes a very long time to collect all the kitchen tools and cutlery that you will need in the kitchen.
WILLIAMS-SONOMA’S BRIDE & GROOM COOKBOOK is available on Amazon.com with 37 new copies from $18.21, new $23.07. or 62 pre-owned copies starting at $1.25. I’m quite sure the one I bought was from the low end, starting at $1.25. It has a dust jacket and is in pristine condition, aside from a “To” dedication and a “from” message on the inside cover. It’s dated 2007 and appears to have been a wedding gift. I think the bride and groom missed the boat letting this one slip through their fingers.
My next selection is the BRIDE & GROOM FIRST AND FOREVER COOKBOOK by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford with photography by Susie Cushner. Chronicle Books is the publisher and you know, over the years of my writing cookbook reviews, Chronicle Books is a name that I have learned to respect.
This is a big thick cookbook that deserves careful attention. Before you start reading the recipes, there is a chapter on kitchen basics and the authors explain in careful detail why it’s important to have good kitchen tools to work with. They provide a list of essential cutlery, a list of essential pots and pans and a list of basic baking equipment. There is a list of baking cooking essentials plus a list of Basic Appliances. This is followed by a list of Kitchen Extras (not essentials but great-add-ons).
Chapter two is titled The Global Pantry and the authors state that their “pantry mantra is use, rotate, and replace” and this is followed by a long list of the items the authors consider absolutely essential to your pantry. (it came as a shock to me to discover that I have on hand almost everything on their list—but then I have had many years to build up my pantry. Our pantry in our former home was large and remained cool all through the years –Bob had put up shelves on both sides of the walls and across the back—everything was in order. My pantry today is most of my laundry room—a double-wide cupboard that I have converted into pantry products such as flour, sugar, oatmeal, etc, kept in Tupperware containers, while other items such as canned goods are stored in a kitchen cupboard. Bob converted a broom closet into a storage area for all of our wine glasses and a set of plastic-covered wire shelves hold products such as popcorn packages and barbecue sauce. But I digress! – sorry! The main point I wanted to get across is that a good solid pantry is really essential.
Chapter 4 is dedicated to appetizers, finger foods and snacks. You will be in bliss reading recipes such as Artichoke and Green Onion Dip (and so will your guests when you present this to them). For guests who are watching their weight you might want to present them with Crudités with Green Onion-Mint Dip. The only ingredients to be careful is the mayonnaise – and the authors don’t SAY so but you can get the very best Best Foods (Hellman’s east of the Mississippi) that comes in light or fat free versions.
There are also recipes for Guacamole (a very nice one, in fact, although I would leave out the tomato), another for Mexican Dip and one for Goat Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Torta (the first time I ever tasted a Mexican Torta it was prepared for us by three young women from Mexico City who were in the USA visiting their aunt and uncle, friends of mine and came to our annual Christmas open house. They also taught all our guests how to dance the salsa! These and other tantalizing recipes are just waiting for a bride to try them out!
Under the chapter titled soups and salads the bride will find such goodies as Creamy Mushroom Soup with Brie Crostini, Gazpacho (which would be a good accompaniment to the Torta,) Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Crème Heart Swirls, or perhaps our bride will want to try Thai-Style Corn Soup with Shrimp and Green Curry. I like the recipe for Sherry-Spiked French Onion Soup and Mrs. Birdsong’s Cabbage Soup which, trust me, is a lot more than just a cabbage soup.
The authors provide a chart of Top-10 Tips for Terrific Salads as well as an “OFF THE CHART” SALAD COMBINATIONS that will help the bride understand what goes with what. This is followed with a dazzling array of salads that make my mouth water just typing up their names – Red Leaf Lettuce with Grapes, Blue Cheese, Pecans and Balsamic Vinaigrette! Arugula with Cranberries, Cambozola, Walnuts and Raspberry Vinaigrette! Asian Spinach Salad with Hoisin-Glazed Salmon! Mexican Chicken Salad with Taco-Ranch Dressing (a salad recipe that can easily double for an entrée on a hot summer night) as would Caesar Salad with Lemon Pepper Shrimp.
I just love Chapter 6 – titled CLASSICS of ALL-TIME FAVORITES. The authors write, in part, “There is a reason why foods like meat loaf, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and chicken pot pie are fondly referred to as comfort foods…” (This reference to chicken pot pie reminded me of a trip my sister and I took around Lake Michigan one year; she fell in love with the chicken pot pies we found in diners and small restaurants throughout Michigan, and which she ordered repeatedly–while I ordered fried fish—cod, I think—to satisfy my hunger for THAT dish.)
They also write “If you close your eyes and imagine your favorite childhood dish bubbling on the stovetop or warming in the oven, you can practically smell it cooking. There’s a reason why foods like meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and chicken pot pie are fondly referred to as comfort foods….”
“…During our first few months of marriage” they write, “we were both homesick for the flavors of our childhood, so we fed our nostalgia by cooking our favorite comfort foods. As newlyweds, we incorporated our family recipes into our new lives as classics. These standbys have since evolved becoming more modern versions of our can’t-live-without-‘em favorites.
And so, it is here that you will find recipes such as Brie and Champagne Fondue. Four-Cheese Pizzas, Classic Lasagna, Roast Chicken and Vegetables for Two, Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Glazed Apples, Personalized Chicken Potpies and one of my long-time favorites, Beef Burgundy, as well as Macaroni and Cheese and Better than Grandma’s Meat Loaf, along with some other comfort food favorites.
The next chapter is devoted to Entrees with lots to choose from—recipes ranging from Wild Mushroom Risotto to Linguine with Scallops, Spinach, and Bacon in Champagne-Cream Sauce. I am looking forward to trying a recipe titled Pasta with Pesto, Shrimp and Sweet 100s – Sweet 100s being one of my favorite summertime tomatoes, tiny tomatoes that burst with sweetness and juice. There is Salmon with Honey-Mustard Glaze as well as more ambitious recipes for Holiday Turkey and Prime Rib with Red Wine Gravy—these are other recipes are just awaiting the attention of the newlyweds.
There is a generous helping of “sides” ranging from Roasted Asparagus (that I just began cooking this way a few years ago) to Maple-Glazed Spiced Carrots, from the more exotic Chipotle Black Beans to Creamy-Dreamy Mashed Potatoes or Killer Roasted Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes with Praline Topping or, if the bride really wants to impress, Wild Rice and Dried Cranberries, Green Onions and Pecans.
A chapter devoted to Breakfast & Brunch recipes offers Sausage and Cheddar Cheese Strata, or French Toast with Hot Rum-Maple Syrup, among other recipes. And, under sweets you will find a heavenly-looking Spiced Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake, Peanut Butter Pie and Silken Chocolate Tart. There is also a Nectarine Tart and a recipe for Apple Crisp (always an easy favorite) as well as recipes for making oatmeal cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Caramel Candy Brownies. These and other recipes, plus suggestions and recipes for holidays complete the package.
BRIDE & GROOM, FIRST AND FOREVER COOKBOOK is a winner for any bride—and any groom (we know that more men are venturing into the kitchen and that’s a good thing. This cookbook is available on Amazon.com with 38 new copies starting at .98 – and pre owned copies available at 48c and up. I’m not sure what it sold for initially, but at 48c you can’t beat the price – with the shipping and handling charges from private vendors, you can still order this book for less than $5.00 including the standard shipping charge of $3.99. My copy is missing the dust jacket but otherwise is in fine condition.
These are just two of the cookbooks I bought though Amazon.com or Alibris.com when I realized how many cookbooks are “out there” aimed directly at newlyweds. I still like Betty Wason’s cookbook the most but I have to confess I am so partial to cookbook authors of the 30s, 40s ad 50s.
Happy cooking and Happy cookbook collecting!