Getting couples cooking together certainly gets the Nibbles seal of approval, and as a soon-to-be newlywed myself I was happy to tuck into The Newlywed Cookbook by Robin Miller.
Written with those just setting up house in mind, Miller designed these recipes to make use of some of the most common staples of gift registries and makes it easy for the new cook to plan by listing not only the ingredients, but the equipment needed as well. She’s also included glossaries of Herbs & Spices, Cooking Terms, and Equipment in the back of the book to demystify all this new information for the beginning cook. (And since I did much of the same in my own book, I’m totally on board with all of the above–kindred cooking spirits are a good thing!) She also includes 10 menus for special occasional cooking from holidays to the in-laws coming to dinner–an old idea but I suppose today’s new brides are still just as eager to please and impress, right?
As far as the usability of the book is concerned, Miller includes estimated preparation and cooking times at the bottom of each recipe (great for busy cooks) and a little bit of information about each recipe as well. I always appreciate tips and anecdotes in cookbooks, it makes them that much more fun to read through start to finish for those of us who read cookbooks like novels. There are many recipes that serve only 2, but others that go up to 6-8 servings, so a good mix, but still with that just-starting-out couple in mind.
What I would have liked to see is the aforementioned equipment needs listed a little bit apart from the ingredients–in the copy I have (which, admittedly, is an advance copy and not the final edit) they are all listed together and it makes the “Needed Items” for some recipes longer than need be, and could dissuade less-experienced cooks on a quick glance. Also, some recipes features wasteful steps–like the one Todd made where the instructions were to marinate the meat in a shallow baking dish, then transfer the marinated items to a prepared baking dish and top with the marinade before baking. That’s just an unnecessary step and means an additional dish to wash. Hopefully someone will catch that, too, on the final edit.
Of course, the real test of any cook book is how the recipes turn out, and we tried out several over a couple of weeks, both Todd and I taking turns in the true spirit of the cookbook.
- Linguine with White Clam Sauce
It’s tough to go wrong with a good Linguine with White Clam Sauce in your pocket, and Miller’s is a lightened version of this classic in her Pasta and Risotto chapter. I especially liked the tough of using vermouth for the white wine (an option that uses up a rather perishable bar staple quite nicely). Of course, how much Parmesan you add on top is entirely up to you.
- Jamaican Jerk Chicken with mashed potatoes
The Jamaican Jerk Chicken was the culprit of the aforementioned hokey-pokey-chicken instructions, but the end result was still quite tasty, if a little heavy on the cloves and allspice. To tone that chicken down serve it with creamy mashed potatoes!
While the Moroccan Turkey Salad was more gently seasoned and a step outside what you’d normally think of as a turkey salad.
- Peking Duck and Oven-Roasted Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and Two Cheeses
Todd was even brave enough to try her (much simplified) version of Peking Duck! Even though it’s not the full-on traditional multi-day preparation, it’s still best for a weekend where you’ve got plenty of time. And since it was the weekend, he broke one of my “rules” and paired it with Oven-Roasted Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and Two Cheeses. (It was a delicious combo, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re making one show-stopper element, I believe in keeping the other items simply to save you time in the kitchen.)
- Spicy Shrimp Scampi over rice
Another lightened up classic is Miller’s Spicy Shrimp Scampi. Jalapeno pepper is not the usual seasoning for scampi, but it certainly didn’t hurt! While it might sound like gilding the lily a bit, we like to pair dishes like this with basmati rice instead of the usual long-grain white rice.
- Sloppy Joes served with sweet potato puffs
For a simple, yet tasty, weeknight supper with the flavor of a childhood throw-back, give her Sloppy Joes a try–in addition to the usual suspects these Joes are studded with bell peppers, celery, and corn to get the veggies in. While I’d planned a different side for that night, I fully admit to giving into ease and pairing the Sloppy Joes with another updated childhood favorite: frozen sweet potato puffs.
Hey, not every dinner can be Peking Duck, you know.
- Lemon Cornmeal Bars
And for a treat one night I made the Lemon Cornmeal Bars from the desserts chapter. I had high hopes for these bars, Todd too, but they were a little lackluster in the end. They weren’t overly lemony, though the texture was nice and moist. Instead of a dessert, I ended up using them in place of the cornbread I’d usually make to go with chili later in the week.
Overall we enjoyed the recipes and I do think this could be a useful guide to a now-on-their-own newlywed. Pair it with a basket of kitchen tools for a lovely shower gift and look forward to a lovely thank-you note. And maybe even a dinner invitation!
I received a copy of The Newlywed Cookbook by Robin Miller for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.