HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Cookbook ideas for Newlyweds

Some dear friends of mine are getting married, and I want to give them a couple of wonderful cookbooks as a present. I am in love with Nigel Slater, so I was thinking about something of his, but his recipes either seem to stodgy (British) or too adventurous for this particular couple. The couple is quite different, so it is a bit of a challenge. The Mr. is from a hungry farm family, and the Mrs. is from a family of health conscious females. So, I am looking for a beginner cookbook, with healthy but filling and relatively simple fare; but, ideally something more exciting than The Joy of Cooking. Thanks, Hounds!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Your post actually got me out of my chair and into my kitchen to look through cookbooks. Given the couple you've described, I'd recommend "Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham," and "The Way To Cook" by Julia Child. Both provide really interesting, varied recipes, but in language even a cooking novice can understand (Cunningham's book was actually inspired by a friend of hers who loved to cook, but didn't understand terms like "quenelle"). But while they're simple to understand, they're not boring or "how to boil water" type primers.

    1. I've found that the Gourmet cookbook (from Gourmet Magazine) to be an excellent general cookbook. It covers just about everything, and it's a little more up-to-date and modern than the Betty Crocker cookbook that was my old standby.

      1. I second Bostonbob3's recommendation of "The Way to Cook." Would also suggest "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan.

        1. I'm a fan of the "The Best....." series from Cooks Illustrated. If your friend is health concious, I'd try "The Best Light Recipe" book. I have to watch my weight and use it a fair bit. It's got good recipes and explains the process used to create the recipe. For that matter, you could always get them a subscription for CI. We got one at our wedding.
          Also, check out the books by Alton Brown.
          My basic point here is go for books that aren't just full of recipes (and pretty pictures) but tell you why food does what it does. From there they can learn to branch out on their own.


          1. Guess I disagree w poster and replies.... I have hundreds and hundreds of cookbooks and I think Joy of Cooking is an excellent base and reference, then anyone can go further with imagination, creativity and whatever might be in the fridge.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Elsie

              I agree. I use mine at least once every 6 weeks.

            2. I like Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything: The Basics. But I learned to cook with a 1979 copy of the Bettty Crocker Cookbook, and still refer back to it now and then for really basic stuff. The good thing about the Betty Crocker book is that the recipes have been tested, and re-tested, even deliberately doing just about everything an absent-minded or beginning cook might do to mess up a recipe, and so the recipes in there, in addition to being basic, are pretty much foolproof.

              That said, my favorite cookbook anyone ever gave me is the one my mom made for me 20 years ago. She solicited favorite recipes from various friends and relatives, and put them together in one book. I have duplicated the effort for wedding gifts a number of times, and my mom's doing a new one for my cousin who's getting married this month.

              1 Reply
              1. re: revsharkie

                I second the recommendation for Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything." It's a great general reference for everything from how to cook a steak to how to prepare all kinds of vegetables, with both basic and more exciting recipes. Everything I've made from this book comes out great, and I MUCH prefer it to The Joy of Cooking as a general cookbook.

                I also have "The New Basics" by Lukins and Rosso, and would recommend Mark Bittman's book over it. While "The New Basics" a fun read and has some inspirational recipes, I think the recipes can be unreliable for a novice cook.

              2. I'm still fond of The New Basics for a shower gift. I don't know if people here may consider it outdated or simply too run-of-the-mill, but I've found that brides who aren't seasoned cooks enjoy the book's language and recipes.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Kater

                  I'd second the vote for The New Basics. I'm fairly newly married and learned to cook working through The New Basics, some of it may be a little dated, but its all wonderful, recipes work, and the side bars, tables, and text sections are also helpful and fun to read. I have many more cook books now but its still the best.

                2. Find out where they are going for their honeymoon (or someplace that was particularly special to them: place of proposal, where they met, etc.) and find them a beautifully illustrated/photographed cookbook of that place (It might be a region, a city, a country, or even a specific restaurant or hotel). You might want to combine that with some food products from that area. It will be more personal than just a basic cookbook.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Pupster

                    What a good idea -- they got engaged in Paris!

                    1. re: Alicia

                      Great! I'm glad you like the idea. Some friends of mine love the island of Anguilla, and particularly the restaurant Blanchard's. I found out that the husband and wife owners put out a cookbook, so I got it for my friends. They were so appreciative! The book was not just about the recipes; the dishes brought back memories of their romantic vacation as much as photos or postcards would have.

                      Engaged in Paris? They might enjoy the hardback copy of Patricia Wells's Paris Cookbook. She is not only a great cookbook writer and an authority on France, but the book has a stunning photo of the Eiffel Tower on the front.
                      Pair it with some French wine to be served with one of the recipes and you're set.

                      Or perhaps you can find out if they found a special restaurant while they were there? You can probably find a cookbook that includes that restaurant.

                      Good luck.

                      1. re: Pupster

                        I think it's a wonderfully thoughtful idea, too. But I'd also include a cookbook that offers recipes a little simpler/less complex than what you're likely to find in one that focuses on fine French cuisine.

                        1. re: Bostonbob3

                          As Wells's fans know, her recipes aren't too difficult -- some of them can be, but on the whole very doable for a home cook. My attitude towards cookbook giving is better to be aspirational (something the recipient can work up to) rather to get something remedial (too basic for the person using it). It subtly compliments the chef.

                        2. re: Pupster

                          I agree. But the OP asked for something that a novice can use. So one aspirational (and very romantic I might add) book from where they were engaged, and one(like "The Way To Cook" by Julia) for the here and now would be a fantastic gift.

                        3. re: Alicia

                          We got a book for our wedding called _Not on Love Alone_ The recipes are easy. The author is a francophile. Some of the ingredients are a bit esoteric, but it would be a nice gift book. Not a good reference cookbook, but kind of event-appropriate.

                          1. re: Alicia

                            Barefoot In Paris by Ina Garten "easy French food you can make at home"

                        4. Here in Portland there's a restaurant called Caprial's, whose owner/chef is Caprial Pence. She also has a cooking school and a show on public broadcasting with her husband, John Pence, who is also a chef. They have a cookbook called something along the lines of Caprial and John: Cooking Together. Might be nice to get a cookbook with the theme of cooking as a couple.

                          1. I think if they're beyond the absolute beginner stage, and are ready to spread their wings, but are still a little new to the kitchen "How to Cook Everything" is a good book to have. That was my situation as a newlywed, and a good friend gave this to me, and I love it. Others have said that the recipes are too basic, but when you're just starting out I think it's the right difficulty level. Now that I'm more confident in the kitchen I freely change the recipes up.

                            What I really like about this book is it has recipes for things that most accomplised cooks just know how to do. Like a simple sugar syrup, I had no idea how to make that. Or roast chicken from absolute scratch. Or blanching veggies. It also has cocktail recipes which is cool.

                              1. It occurs to me that going to a place that has really good/great bar food is better than going to a place with a fancier menu that they can't quite achieve. Carrying that thought over, it may be that a cookbook that has basic recipes that are do-able and make great basic meals may be preferable to a glossy cookbook with recipes that are difficult to do well.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: yayadave

                                  I agree.
                                  I find that the more complicated a recipe, the less I enjoy it. The simpler the food the better. There's too much fusion/eclectic/blah, blah, blah food around these days.
                                  Besides, you can't learn to run before you walk.


                                2. "how to think like a chef" by tom colicchio...my favorite cookbook from when I first started exploritory cooking. he focuses on fresh ingredients & how to build a dish. there are a few recipies but not a ton. the photos & personal stories on how he is/was inspired are great. I would suggest for any cooking level.

                                  buy it on amazon for $25. now.

                                  1. How about Every Night Italian by Giuliano Hazan? 120 easy delicious recipes.

                                    1. I'd go with three:

                                      Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything - it has real basic information about technique and ingredients, and adventurous foods from different cultures in recipes which are very approachable for beginning and intermediate cooks.

                                      The New Best Recipe - Cook's Illustrated can be kind of pedantic and the litany of problems with the usual version of whatever they're preparing is annoying. But it gives good solid info, reasons for why food acts as it does, and good recipes which almost always turn out well. Not adventurous, but a good base.

                                      And Julia Child's The Way To Cook, which I appreciate more every time I go through it.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: sheiladeedee

                                        I second shieladeedee and davwud's recommendation of The New Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated--foolproof recipes that always turn out delicious, with great explanations. Love their chicken marsala recipe!

                                      2. You hounds are great. Thank you so much for all the thoughtful posts. I'm off to the library to look through a bunch of cookbooks. I think I am going to get something basic (like How to Cook Everything or The Way to Cook) and something fun (maybe a paris cookbook).

                                        1. I have always loved;

                                          The New York Times cookbook- Craig Claiborne

                                          King Arthur baking cookbook

                                          French farmhouse cooking- Susan Houseman

                                          Anything by Julia Child

                                          The Frugal Gourmet, I know he had his problems, but they can be found for pennies at a used book store and my daughter finds them easy to follow, with common ingredients.

                                          Cookwise, Shirley Coorhier. If they have a scientific mind they will understand what is happening on a molecular level. Many people find cooking to be less intimidating when they can understand what is happening, and why. I tend to view recipes as a suggestion, and her information gives me the ability to do that with confidence when I bake.

                                          Rose Levy Biernbaum. I love to bake and her recipes are some of the best.

                                          P.S. Everyone needs a copy of the "Joy of Cooking".

                                          1. I like Bittman too for a good basic compendium. But another one you might consider depending on their tastes is Mastering the Grill. It gives the theory and basics of grilling along with many recipes that look great. Also many great pictures. Take a look at it first. The format may not be the most durable but if they like grilling it would be a good choice.

                                            1. "The Silver Spoon" is a traditional wedding gift in Italy and is in its first English printing, so that might be an appropriate gift. Being the authoritative Bible of Italian cookery, it should cover everything from hearty and filling to fast and simple with more to spare.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                Barefoot Contessa in Paris would be a fun one for the Paris part of your theme. Many of her recipes are very simple but always delicious. Betty Crocker has a really nice Newlywed Basics Cookbook.

                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                  I agree. The Silver Spoon is an exhaustive, wonderful resource and a fantastic gift idea.

                                                  However, The Silver Spoon assumes that the reader has spent at least some time cooking with mom or grandma while growing up. For example: "Prepare and tie the chicken". ?!

                                                  If the reader has never spent any time in the kitchen growing up (a common American phenomena), then a resource with all the fundamental techniques is an essential reference.

                                                  Perhaps you could pair "The Silver Spoon" with "The Joy of Cooking"?

                                                2. We were given a year's subscription to a number of magazine's, among them Gourmet. That was twelve years ago and we still subscribe.