Vera Newman’s The Marblespoon Cookbook: A Collection of Colors, Flavors and Family-Friendly Recipes embodies art through food: “Life is an explosion of color, texture, and so much joy,” she says.
Marblespoon author Vera Newman grew up in Panama City, Panama, with both Sephardic and Ashkenazic roots, so family meals were a rich melting pot of Syrian, Moroccan, Ashkenazic and Panamanian influences.
While attending seminary in Israel in 2011, Vera was introduced to a wide range of cultures and Ashkenazic cuisine. She met and married her husband Jacob and moved to Oak Park, Detroit, where she was warmly embraced by the local frum community.
Not having cooked much growing up, Vera gained confidence in the kitchen by experimenting with new flavors, looking to Pinterest for inspiration, and expressing her artistic side through food and table settings. Vera’s cooking style reflects the fact that she’s a busy mom of three, but she also loves planning lavish birthday parties for her kids and started her private catering company in 2016 (“Marblespoon” is a nod to her love for marble accents during a recent home renovation). Her husband encouraged her to write a cookbook, and Vera wrote the text and did her own food photography last year during the pandemic.
The resulting 160 mouthwatering recipes in Marblespoon are a nod to Vera’s rich multicultural heritage, featuring Syrian, Moroccan, and Israeli dishes nestled cozily alongside international influences (including Pasta Bolognese, Pulled Beef Eggrolls, Crispy Mongolian Beef, Thai Coconut Fish Soup, Poke Bowls, and Beef Gyozas), complete with suggested menus for Shabbat, holidays, and festive occasions. Vera offers home cooks advice on creating a menu, composing a shopping list, time-saving tricks, suggested pantry staples, and useful tips with every recipe. Recipes suitable for Pesach are also labeled.
Many of the recipes are family favorites, including her aunt Ety’s Marak Katom, mom’s Wine-Walnut Chicken and Apricot Chicken, Sweet Mini Meatballs from her mother-in-law (“the only meatball recipe you’ll ever need, and I don’t say that lightly”), sister Esther’s Yellow Split Pea Soup, Savta Vera’s Beef and Vegetable Stew, and friend and neighbor Naomi Cohen’s Salt and Pepper Noodle Kugel.
“Each recipe was better than the next! The book is easy to follow, simple instructions and the pictures are beautiful. I love how the recipes are so unique bringing in different culinary styles and cuisines.” — Amazon reviewer YN
As I sat down to review Vera’s cookbook, I was immediately impressed by the appetizers. Marblespoon offers a great variety of laid-back, informal dishes like nachos, tacos, dips and spreads alongside elegant starters like Trio of Potato Nests, Vera’s favorite easy appetizer of Sautéed Mushroom Crostini and Hummus Bassar in Puff Pastry Shells. As more of a nosher than a fresser, I appreciated the wide range of dips and small bites.
For main dishes, familiar favorites like brisket are elevated to elegant new heights with dishes like Sherry Wine Brisket with Chestnuts, Braised Maple Lamb Shoulder Chops, or the Potato Chip-Crusted Sea Bass with Garlic Dipping Sauce, with international versions of other classics like a rich Panamanian chicken soup.
Syrian cuisine features prominently, with several dishes including hashu (ground beef and rice stuffing), koftes, lachmajeen, m’jadra, and m’shakeleh. “It doesn’t matter how many new recipes I try, how many new cuisines I incorporate into my repertoire — I always go back to Syrian food. It’s comfort food for me, reminding me of home and being at my mother’s table,” Vera explains.
You’ll find lower-carb and gluten-free options, kid-friendly, and vegetarian dishes too. Fresh veggies are given fun, delicious makeovers that even fussy eaters will enjoy, with choices like Zucchini Feta Fritters, Sweet and Sour Broccoli Poppers, and Caramelized Petite Carrots.
As I have a sweet tooth, I absolutely loved the wide range of desserts and baked goods, from kid-approved favorites like White Chocolate-Dipped Rice Krispie Squares to Decadent Dark Chocolate Mousse, Cheesecake Lotus Cups, playful new fusions like Sweet Blintz Wontons with Strawberry Sauce, and dainty portion-controlled Knafe Bites (because honestly, who HASN’T been tempted to eat the whole delicious tray in one go?). Vera’s Silky Cheesecake with Honey Drizzle is a foolproof take with a surprising secret ingredient.
The gorgeous styling and food photography will entice you to cook your way through Marblespoon cover to cover, with plenty of variety (Sephardic, Ashkenazic and international) along with Vera’s foolproof guide to running a kitchen and presentation guides for many of today’s trending foods. The easy-to-use index is arranged alphabetically by ingredient. For all of these reasons, it was an absolute pleasure to review Vera’s cookbook and I look forward to cooking my way through it in the new year!
Whether you’re new to the kitchen or simply looking for fresh ideas for Shabbat or weeknight dinners, The Marblespoon Cookbook is sure to inspire! You can get a taste of the delicious dishes in Marblespoon over at Vera’s Instagram page while you’re waiting for your copy to arrive.
Don’t just take my review for it. Look at each Amazon review and you’ll quickly see how amazing all the feedback is.
As one reviewer puts it:
“This cookbook is amazing!! I’m not one to use cookbooks but this one is incredible, with easy to follow recipes with a variety of different foods to fit everybody’s taste. Gorgeous pictures and superb quality!” – Amazon reviewer EH