Cookbook/supplies rec for absolute beginner- kosher and somewhat picky!
I'm trying to think of a good present for my dear childhood friend's bridal shower. She mentioned that she would like to learn how to cook now that she is getting married. She has boiled pasta, but beyond that has absolutely zero cooking experience.
They do not keep kosher when they eat out, but as far as I know they will be keeping kosher in their new home together. I only have a limited understanding of what that means. In addition to the kosher restriction, they are a bit picky. I managed to extricate the following information from her. They both eat pasta, chicken, and beef. He does not eat fish, though she does. She adores cheese. They enjoy eating Mexican food and Thai food. She loves brisket. He loves cookies. :)
Does anyone have any recommendations for beginner cookbooks that would be kosher-friendly, or ideas about any other gifts for a complete novice in this case?
Years ago my mom bought me Great Food Fast from Everyday Food, which I think is a pretty good basic cookbook, but I'm not sure how many of the recipes would be considered kosher... time to research!
If there are cooking classes in her area, I would recommend that you give her a certificate for "Knife skills". It will serve her well for decades to come and is something fun she can do, before the wedding or take her spouse later and have a date night. If she learns something that saves her 2 minutes, you are literally giving her the gift of time forever.
I think the most important part of learning to cook it too learn basic techniques that could be applied to any type of cooking. Ruhlman's Twenty has basic technique and recipes - he is a good teacher. She will use the book for years to come.
For cookbooks, I would recommend one or more from Susie Fishbein's Kosher by Design series. The recipes are not too complicated, fairly practical, and reasonably appealing.
You might think that you could just buy any reliable cookbook and assume that your friend could just ignore the non-kosher recipes or substitute a kosher ingredient for a non-kosher one. You would think that. I've noticed, though, that oddly enough, many kosher cooks just don't go that route. They'll stick to cookbooks prominently labeled kosher even though much higher quality books are available.
Avoid books by Jaime Geller (Joy of Kosher). The recipes are mostly lame and the books are exercises in advertising and product placement.
I second the non-recommend for Jamie Geller. Her books have recipes for things like "turkey sandwiches" and other non-recipes.
If she is a beginner and not likely to be making big, gourmet meals and dinner parties, I would stick with a basic cookbook by someone like Mark Bittman. Yes, there will be a few seafood recipes she will have to skip, but overall the recipes will be clear and well-tested and help her build skills and confidence. Kosher by Design is good too, but more focused on the fancy dinner party type dishes (except the Short on Time version, which is more practical everyday food.) Other great basic cookbooks are Pioneer Woman and Barefoot Contessa.