September, 2012 Archive

Friday, September 28, 2012

crackly banana bread

crackly multigrain banana bread

There are a lot of good reasons to make banana bread: You have a pile of sad bananas on top of your fridge that have reached their life’s expectancy. You like things that are unquestionably delicious. It’s raining and you need something toasty and cake-like to go with your coffee. You’re into recipes you can make with one bowl, and feed a dozen. You’re going to be wildly busy this fall and are hoping to pack your freezer with all sorts of wonders that that can be warmed up whenever the craving strikes, even if you’re not around to enjoy them.

soft focus bananas so to revolt you less
mashy mashy

There are very few reasons, however, to reinvent banana bread, even when one’s original recipe is just shy of six years old, an eternity in blog years. I mean, is there anything new to add to banana bread? Even if there were, should banana bread be mussed with? The answers are, of course, no but due to a confluence of events — and yes, 24-hours-from-fruit-flies bananas were one of them; freezer-packing was another — I found myself making an updated banana bread last week and it was so lovely that it deserves a new mention.

ready to go

Continued after the jump »

Monday, September 24, 2012

homemade wheat thins

homemade wheat thins

So, the problem, if there could be one, with having a slight obsession with making homemade version of snack-aisle favorites — goldfish crackers, oreos, graham crackers, pop-tarts, ice-cream sandwiches and the like — is that people quite often think you’re crazy. And if you’re me, someone who already delights in things that most people find awful — dicing vegetables, fitting every dish in the dishwasher (triumphantly humming the Tetris music) and, apparently, dotting the eyes of cheddar goldfish with the pointy end of a meat thermometer — you probably don’t need any help convincing people that you’re nuts. Sadly, when people don’t think you’re crazy, they might be suspicious you have some sort of Sanctimommy/Down With Cheetos-type agenda, but I no more fuss in the kitchen to make others feel bad if they lack the time or inclination to than the woman walking down my street right now with flawless, flowing locks and $300 skinny jeans is there to make me feel bad that I am currently in possession of neither, sigh.

a blessedly simple cracker dough
thin, but not thin enough, wheat thins

Nevertheless, because of these two things, I tend to be overly cautious before sharing recipes like the one I am today for Wheat Thin-like crackers at home. Let’s put one thing out here before I tell you about them: Do we eat exclusively homemade foods and snacks 24/7? Bwah! Even 12/7? Maybe. On good days. But, the thing is, I really love projects like this because, the fact is, we all need a snack from time to time and while the packaged options are hardly universally evil, there’s a lot of things in there you’d never put in your food at home. It’s liberating to be able to make the foods you love in your own kitchen, and it’s a great idea to tuck away for a rainy day afternoon project when your kid is spinning off their axis again or, you know, when you get a little carried away in advance of your toddler’s birthday party.

they look thin, but they're too thick!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

roasted apple spice sheet cake

roasted apple spice subway cake

Yesterday, our little bear turned three which, you know, is impossible since we are unequivocally certain that we just brought him home from the hospital yesterday. Seriously, right here, through the door to my right and we put the carrier that he was sleeping deeply within on the table. It looked strange there [Also, we were hungry and unsure of the logistics -- is it rude to eat lunch while your newborn is on the table? Isn't it worse to place him on the floor?] Sure, there were one or two hundred fewer fire engine parts, stuffed hedgehogs and train tracks scattered across the living room carpet, and maybe we looked a little younger and better-rested; I probably didn’t have my iPhone wedged between sofa cushions the way I do right now so that my talking-walking-doing things mini-human couldn’t co-opt it to watch Elmo videos again (how does he find them?), but otherwise, nothing has changed. Nothing! Don’t say it. Didn’t your mother teach you to never argue with crazy people?

apples
lightly roasting the apples

I know a lot of people who have had babies lately and I feel like I should say something wise here because I understand how utterly hectic the first few months can be, not because newborns are particularly difficult but because you’re terrified you’re going to break them, or maybe just a little shell-shocked in general. One minute they’re slumped over your shoulder snoring the tiniest snore ever emitted and you feel utterly centered, a sense of all the generations that came before this one gathered invisibly around their squished faces in beaming admiration, and the next they’re red-faced and full of rage, their squawking mouths in a perfect open circle, and you and your significant other are frantically running through the checklist you keep in your heads (hungry? cold? tired? wet?) which grows more complicated every few months (is your swaddle loose? did you roll over in the night again and can’t get yourself back? so help us, did we put you to bed with the little George and you wanted the big one?) and more complicated still (“Mommy, we have to take Ernie, Bert and Twacktor back to the park.” “Jacob, it’s 2 a.m. Please go back to sleep.”). I also have a bunch of friends who are quite close to deciding to have babies but they’re so understandably freaked out by everything they read about the crying and the not sleeping and the life will never be the same ever ever again that they’re terrified to move forward. But I can’t. I have no wisdom to impart, no pithy catchphrases that will cause it all to make sense. I can only say LOOK AT THIS. I can no longer imagine life any other way.

cake delight

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

fig, olive oil and sea salt challah + book tour!

fig, olive oil and sea salt challah

Last week, this little url turned six years old, though I am absolutely, unequivocally certain that the day I started typo-ing typing away here was a lifetime ago. I’d been married for almost a year. I was terrified to cook most things without a recipe. I kind of hated my day job (but loved my coworkers — still!). And this little guy — more on him next week — well, he wasn’t even a glimmer in our (still well-rested) eyes yet. While some things haven’t changed (for example, I have no idea what the buttons on my camera do, still), 801 recipes and over 151,000 comments later, I am fairly certain that what comes next is the last place I’d imagined this conversation going back then. And yet:

eggs, olive oil, honey, sea salt, yeast

Over the years, I have occasionally written about cooking too much of something and have invited you to come over and help us with the feast, because wouldn’t it be fun if we could all cram in my tiny kitchen together and hang out? I realize you’ve probably thought I was joking. Obviously, throwing a huge party in a kitchen that barely fits me and the toddler-mounted trike that’s always in there anyway would be a disaster. But the thing is, I wasn’t. I just didn’t let the logistical implausibility in any way diminish my insistence that, given the chance, I think we’d all get along famously.

dough hook, kneading away

Which brings me to The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Book Tour: As it turns out, we can hang out and cook and chat, even if we can’t do it in my pathetically tiny kitchen. I am so excited about this part; I have joked more than once that it’s the entire reason I wrote a book. Plus, it’s important that you see before your own eyes what a complete and total normal person super-professional grown-up dork I am.

So, without further ado, let me direct you over to the Events & Book Tour Page, and then, I do hope you’ll hurry right back because this bread, it’s kind of a big deal.

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, September 6, 2012

baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella

baked orzo with eggplant and mozzarella

Okay, I know that despite everyone being back to school, people actually showing up to the office again, like, to work, again and Labor Day being but a blip in the rearview mirror that summer isn’t really over yet — it’s hot, the days are still relatively long and, no, I will not put my sandals away. But I can’t help it. As soon as the first day of September, one of my favorite months, arrives, my brain becomes fiercely rooted in all things fall. I grab cardigans on the way out the door. I crave soup. I walk right past the peaches at the market so I can get to the new apples instead. And I turn on the oven again to make deep, bubbly, and more filling meals.

sliced, then diced eggplant
salting and draining the eggplant

I have mixed feelings about traditional baked pasta dishes. I mean, if you show up to my place with a foil casserole dish of your grandma’s baked ziti, I will probably leap in your arms with relief because I don’t, in fact, always feel like making dinner. We will devour it; everyone will go to bed happy and my son will probably wonder why his mama can’t just cook like that. But I would probably never mix a pound of cheese or tub of ricotta into a casserole dish — it’s all too much, too heavy. And so, when I spied a baked orzo dish, with eggplant and just a modicum of mozzarella from Yotam Ottolenghi (sadly, not from his new cookbook out next month, because I am totally out of order), I knew it was everything I’d ever hoped and dreamed for in baked pasta — balance (there’s are pillows of eggplant throughout), comfort (there are decadent cheese pulls stretching from every forkful, a delightful term I learned from this article) and ease (like the easiest macaroni-and-cheese I know how to make, you don’t even need to pre-boil the pasta).

fresh oregano, I like you

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