Within the first two weeks of knowing each other, Danny and I were in a kitchen together, standing side by side, chopping and talking about what we were going to eat. He was sort of horrified by how badly I mangled the onions when I cut them up into giant hacking pieces, but he refrained from saying anything. I was sort of in awe of how quickly he moved, a dancer on his toes in front of the stove. We laughed, a lot.
We haven’t stopped since.
Danny and I both believe there must be dozens of places for couples to work together and talk, dance and laugh. The garden. Cleaning out the shed. Picking up the clutter from the living room floor. Running a business together. Going for long walks. Raising a child. Not everyone loves to be in the kitchen we know that.
However, we both wish that more people would walk into the kitchen on a daily basis and chop up the fresh rosemary from the garden, sauté up the ground beef, and kiss while waiting for the water to boil. After all that work, you get to eat together.
This week, we’ve been cooking from a cookbook that celebrates the couples who cook together, who have made a life of food and eating well, who stand side by side at the stove. The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together has been a joy this week.
Now I should say, right away, that I’m bound to be biased about this book. Lorna, one of the authors, is a good friend of mine. Over the past year, we have traded descriptions of meals, stories about our husbands, Twitter quips, and deep conversations about the process of writing a book. Her blog, The Cookbook Chronicles, began as a record of her cooking and testing and re-tweaking the recipes that would end up in The Newlywed Kitchen. As Danny and I have become better friends with Lorna and her husband, Henry, we have been mentioned in that blog more and more. Clearly, we cannot be entirely clear-eyed about this book.
Also, Danny and I are in the book. Lorna’s co-author, Ali Basye, wrote a series of deftly drawn portraits of couples who make their lives in food, which are interspersed among the recipes. I loved reading about the weekend food-gathering-on-bicycles life of Kimberly and Vitaly Paley, the first taste of porchetta that Ryan Hardy and his wife Cathy Rusnak shared together in Italy, and the kind jesting tone of Armandino and Marilyn Batali talking back and forth in their kitchen. These pithy essays are little glimpses into the lives of people who cook food for a living and still play together in the kitchen. Still, Danny and I are one of the many featured couples, so you could say we are biased here too.
In the end, here’s why Danny and I decided we could recommend this book with a clear heart, in spite of our bias. That Lorna, kind-hearted, sharp-tongued woman that she is? My god, that woman knows good food. And she eats it all, with delight.
Here are some of her recent updates on meals:
“lunch today: udon with pork belly and shiso in dashi/sour plum broth, goma-dofu with wasabi and soy sauce, spinach with bonito and sweet sherry vinaigrette.”
“Derby day! Making biscuits, Henry’s spicy chicken wings, and having mint juleps.”
“Roasted smoked marrow bones with lemon, capers, and parsley to spread on toast, and then roast pork sandwiches with tomatoes and basil as the main event.”
You think Danny and I eat well? It’s like we’re living on mac and cheese out of a box compared to the way Lorna eats. She writes about restaurants in Seattle, among other things. Lorna consistently eats memorable meals.
(Plus, she looks like this. How does she maintain her loveliness? Genetics. A running habit. And more than that, she knows how to live in food without indulging too much.)
Along with all this, Lorna is picky. She thinks about every bite of food she takes, compares it against her platonic ideal of what it could be, and often finds it falls short of her hopes. She’s not a snob. Lorna is one of the sweetest people I know. She also loves good, simple comfort foods and homey baked goods. She just has very high standards.
This is why the recipes in The Newlywed Kitchen are so good.
We ate well this week.
This is a homey lovely breakfast: a savory egg bake with bread cubes, chicken sausage, and artichoke hearts. Danny loves artichoke hearts. When I put this in front of him, he sighed.
After we ate, we all sighed. Lu finished her entire bowl.
And these? Oh my, these. These are the softest-tasting meatballs I have ever eaten. With pork, veal, and beef, plus bread cubes soaked in milk, fresh oregano, and red pepper flakes, these meatballs were bursting with taste.
My friend Gabe came over yesterday afternoon, unexpectedly. We sat and talked as Lu enjoyed her dinner. I pointed toward the noodles and meatballs. He took a bite, kept talking, took another bite, kept talking, and then stopped. “Man, I am really digging on these meatballs.”
We think you will too.
Lorna makes great comfort food. Her award-winning mac and cheese has bacon, butter, mozzarella, blue cheese, Parmigiano, and Gruyere. We thought about making that this week, but I knew that if we made a pot, I’d want to eat another pot. I’ll throw it together for a party when I have to divvy it out to friends and take only three bites for myself.
The book has a great recipe for slow-cooked lamb ragu, a red wine and mushroom risotto, a creamy kale gratin (inspired by the one Lorna ate at Boat Street Cafe), smoky-sweet corn pudding, cheddar cheese grits with bacon gravy, ultra-crispy fried chicken, a grilled porterhouse steak with blue cheese butter, classic lasagna, and chicken potpie with cheddar thyme crusts. Wow. Just flipping through, Danny and I wanted to make everything.
But I tried to stick with the lighter dishes this week, to go with my new running habit and newfound resolve to be fit. Here is a sign of a good cook: Lorna made broccoli taste decadent by roasting it with a bit of parmesan and hot pepper flakes. I loved the maple-roasted root vegetables with sherry vinegar. I can’t wait for summer to make zucchini fritters with tangy yogurt sauce. And while I would probably cut down on the amount of red peppers in the mix, I’m keeping the turkey meatloaf with the balsamic glaze.
This was one of the lunches we ate this week: warm mushroom and bacon salad with spinach, and a curried goat cheese salad with chickpeas. Yes, please.
The recipes in this book are not intended for beginner cooks. If you know someone who doesn’t know how to scramble an egg well, I’d probably find a more basic book as a wedding present. But if you love food, or know a couple just starting their married life who like to laugh in the kitchen together, you should buy this book.
Danny and I danced in the kitchen this week. We think you will too.
We’re giving away a copy of The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together. Tell us a story about cooking with someone you love.
Buttermilk Onion Rings, Gluten-Free, adapted from The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together
Let me make this clear: Lorna’s book is not gluten-free. However, as is true of all recipes that are well made, these are easy recipes to adapt. Because of this, I came to have my first onion rings in over five years.
Oh my goodness. Need I say more? No. Look at the photograph, then make these. (You should probably only eat them once in a while, as a great treat. They taste better that way.)
1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons hot sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
4 ounces potato starch
4 ounces sweet rice flour
2 ounces cornstarch
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 quart canola oil for frying (you could use any vegetable oil you wanted here)
Combine the sliced red onions, hot sauce, 1 teaspoon of the garlic salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper in a large bowl. Pour the buttermilk over it all, pushing down on the onions to submerge them, and let this sit for 2 hours.
Combine the potato starch, sweet rice flour, cornstarch, and xanthan gum. Stir well. Mix in the remaining garlic salt and smoked paprika.
Dredge the buttermilk-soaked onions in the flour, flipping them over and over to make sure that everything is coated. Shake off the excess and lay these on a plate.
Set a large pot on medium-high heat. Make sure it is deep. Pour in the canola oil, then watch the temperature carefully. (Keep the kids away, playing in another room if possible.) When the temperature of the oil has reached 360°, drop the first few onions into the oil.
(Now there’s a rule. The first batch is always just okay. Throw in a few to sacrifice to the onion ring gods, and move on.)
When the onion rings have turned golden brown all around, about 3 minutes, take them out with tongs and lay them on paper towels. Finish with each successive batch, making sure the oil comes up to heat again, until you are done. Shake a little salt over them and eat. Now.
Serves 2 (or 3 in this case, because Lu loved them too)