April, 2012 Archive

Monday, April 30, 2012

cinnamon toast french toast + book preview

cinnamon toast french toast, a smitten kitchen cookbook preview

Guys, I wrote a cookbook.

When I was 32 weeks pregnant in the summer of 2009 (in fact, this was overflowing on my kitchen counter during my first meeting across town) and should have been doing normal third trimester things like eating jars of Peanutella by the spoonful and repainting the baseboard trim (which still looks awful, not that this will surprise you), I instead decided that I really wanted to write a cookbook. Because new mothers are swimming in free time (“new babies are always sleeping!”), I thought I would finish the book in six months; nine, tops. Stop laughing. Quit it.

Two and three-quarter years later, the “baby” is 2 1/2, I am the proud owner of 2 1/2 gray hairs and, oh, right: The book is done. Even though these have been the busiest and most overwhelming years of my entire life, they’ve also been the most exciting and inspiring. I am so proud of this book. I can’t wait to show it to you. I wish it were out tomorrow. But today, I have a few things to hold us over.

the cover of the smitten kitchen cookbook

First, this above? That’s the cover. What’s that, you ask? It for a tiny recipe called tomato shortcakes. They’re savory. Those are biscuits with green onions. It’s a salad. There’s whipped goat cheese. My editor was visiting that day, and I was just fiddling around, trying to make us a little lunch. My favorite dishes happen this way.

buttered popcorn cookie from the smitten kitchen cookbook

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

classic ice cream sandwiches

definitely homemade ice cream sandwiches

Look, guys, you’re never going to see my living room on a design blog. As lovely as the walls in landlord-chosen sallow yellow-beige are, as handsome as this coffee table once was (before the finish chipped off the top and we decided to ignore it until it fixed itself), and as charming as the explosion of half-deflated balloons, overturned fire trucks and other toys (some not even wooden, organic, or in sync with our decorating scheme, which, by the way, doesn’t exist) might be, this is hardly the stuff of Pinners’ Envy. Our parties are equally uncoordinated. There are no Mason jar cocktails with homemade bitters, flour sack table runners, or dishes sprinkled with fresh herbs from our window box garden (which also, uh, doesn’t exist, although if you saw the grime that accumulates on our windowsills from the avenue below, you might thank us). We’ve never sent guests home with a party favor aside from a hangover and we usually forget to make coffee at brunch. Our poor toddler has been deprived of organized birthday parties thus far, as I secretly hoped to stick with family brunches and homemade cakes (of course) until he was capable of expressing even the slightest interest in a more elaborate affair. (Although this year, he’s already made his intentions clear: “Jacob turn three. With cake. And guitar. And cake.” Noted!)

what you'll need, plus ice cream
let the mess begin!

But, I do have my moments of high obsessiveness, such as my longstanding affair with creating homemade versions of things you normally buy at the grocery store, be they Oreos, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, fudge popsicles, pop tarts or marshmallows. I can’t help it; the homemade versions always taste a zillion times better and contain no mystery ingredients. So, when I spied a recipe for ice cream sandwiches in a new book about parties, even I knew I’d probably never make the gold luster cookie Oscar statuettes, Walk of Fame brownie stars or glitzy gold curtains in the chapter that focuses on creating an old-fashioned Hollywood-style movie night party, there wasn’t a chance they wouldn’t be in my freezer by that very weekend.

big, chunky cookie dough

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, April 19, 2012

pasta with garlicky broccoli rabe

easiest garlicky broccoli rabe pasta

In my humble opinion, there’s cooking and there’s cooking. (I know, I’ll just give you a minute for the staggering profundity of that sentence to kick in.) What I mean is, it’s one thing to turn banana bread into a crepe, that crepe into a cake, that cake into a vehicle for walnut butterscotch, drooling, diet-postponing, and seconds, and it’s an entirely other thing to find yourself at the playground at 5:15 p.m. and realize a) you don’t actually have anything in the fridge that you can turn into dinner, b) you, in fact, barely feel like cooking, in fact, your interest in cooking is only a single degree stronger than your desire to order in, so this better be easy, and c) the adjacent farmers market which you have heard from others boasts ramps and asparagus and spinach and other new! spring! delights! in fact, at the tail end of the day, boasts few things aside from a straggler of a single bundle of broccoli rabe. And you like broccoli rabe, you’ve warmed to it quite a bit since you’ve accepted it into your life, but you hardly excel in turning it into a lightning-quick, lazy, and completely satisfying dinner (or LQLACSD for short).

all you need: oil, pasta, garlic, rabe, pepper
mowing the rabe lawn

Or, I didn’t before last Wednesday afternoon. This thing where you can grab anything at random without a shopping list in hand or recipe in mind and transform it effortlessly into a LQLACSD, this is real cooking. This is what separates those grandmothers that cranked out dinner like clockwork every night for 60 years, that didn’t throw in the towel because they only had canned peas and stale rice in the pantry, from the dilettantes. And people? Over 750 recipes into this site, I’m still getting there. Sometimes a simple recipe, one that you make once and instantly memorize and throw into the dinner rotation, helps.

pretty, pretty pasta ("campanelle")

Continued after the jump »

Monday, April 16, 2012

banana bread crepe cake with butterscotch

banana bread crepe cake

If this site could have a single prologue, it would go like this: It all started out so innocently. Because doesn’t it always? I wanted something simple but got carried away. A search for a lasagna I could love became a Mount Everest of a Lasagna Bolognese; a hankering for a great game-day snack became a mash-up of Welsh rarebit and pull-apart rye bread; and a hunt for a quiche that could serve a crowd became a 4 1/2 year vendetta until I triumphed over those 137 square inches of buttery flaky shell. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. I’m likely scaring away people who just wanted something simple to cook (I promise, the next recipe will be so simple, you might, like me, weep and wonder where it’s been every rushed weekday night of your life thus far.)

speckly bananas are your friend
blending the batter

In this case, I started daydreaming about the place where a simple crepe would intersect banana bread and from there, I couldn’t stop. Well, I had to stop for a week because my book’s first pass pages came back (guys? It looks so pretty, I can’t wait to show you) and when they dragged it from my apartment (I, um, wasn’t done yet), I found that my cooking mojo had left with it. If you’d like a delightful recipe for banana flatcakes (what I affectionately called the first flop), I’ve got one. Then, I was so low on groceries, I had only the exact number of eggs I needed for the recipe, and like something out of a bad comedy skit, I managed to smash the egg on the outside of the mixing bowl, all of my hopes of getting this recipe to you in a reasonable frame of time dribbling down the side and puddling on the counter. (If this ever happens to you, promise me you won’t leave the kitchen in disgust, if only because cleaning up that egg an hour later is only going to double your grump.) Then my son demanded the last speckled banana, the one I’d been saving to try the crepes again (the nerve!), and it was a few days before the next batch were ripe enough to use.

I am, if little else, the queen of excuses right now.

batter thickens overnight

Continued after the jump »

Friday, April 6, 2012

over-the-top mushroom quiche

a tall wedge of mushroom quiche

This one is personal. Four years, five months and 19 days ago, I was bested by this quiche and as noted by the detailed date count, I may not be over it. Worse, it wasn’t even the quiche that bested me, but the crust. A flaky shell with even more fragility-enhancing butter than a standard pie dough, it was twice as big as a regular quiche shell, and then, instead of letting you press it into a shallow tart pan, it was draped inside the towering (okay, three-inch) walls of an open-hinged 9-inch springform ring. Without a base. This crust takes no prisoners and my 2007 take — a slippery, torn-up, leaky shell that only held half the quiche batter and dribbled much of that, too, onto the oven floor — was nothing to write home about. Not that this stopped me; this is, after all, an Internet Weblog.

the chilled buttery shell dougha ruler helps, sometimesto transfer the doughunfolding the dough inside

I finally got back to it last week and here’s the point in the story where I’m supposed to tell you that four years later, I won. In the Smitten Kitchen vs. Thomas Keller’s Buttery Quiche Shell smackdown, Smitten Kitchen prevailed. Take that, commenter who said “you know, this IS a Thomas Keller recipe so it’s not meant for the casual home cook,” and that “some things should be left to the pros.” Alas, I’d totally not seen and patched the tiniest of holes in my shell and a small amount of filling dribbled out. And then a huge chunk fell off the crust as I was trimming it. I did it to keep it real, okay?

draped over, like a blanketall pressed in pie weights and uncooked riceready to remove the weights

Continued after the jump »