Thursday, September 11, 2014

herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart

herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart

I had a friend in town this week and just when we were at the point in the conversation when we’d usually pick a place to meet for lunch, something terrible happened. Caught up in a moment where I forgot that I am me and not, say, Ina Garten, I suggested he come over and I’d make lunch for us instead. I realized I’d lost my ever-loving mind. Sure, I’d like to be the kind of person who makes “just lunch, nothing fancy!” for friends on a whim but I am not. I don’t really do “whim” cooking, as a website with nearly 918 intricately detailed recipes in its archives might evidence. Plus, I had so many recipes I was overdue to test out — a lemonade, a salad, a tart and I’d been promising my son I’d make chocolate pudding for weeks, not to mention the daily grind of breakfast, lunchbox and dinner — that I felt like I had no time to cook anything extra.

1.5 pounds of tiny tomatoes
baked with weights

And then, thank goodness, I realized how ridiculous that was. What could be more delicious for lunch than a salad, a tart, lemonade and chocolate pudding that I’d made enough of to ensure the kid wouldn’t be left out? What, you say? It might be a flop? My friend might push his food around his plate, hoping I wouldn’t notice or, worse, eat something he hated so not to hurt my feelings? Guys, I am 38 years old, by any standards (unfortunately, most days) a grown-up, and I decided that it was time, once and for all, to boldly embrace Julia Child’s best cooking rule: never apologize.

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make… Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes. (My Life in France)

roasted garlic + parmesan

Continued after the jump »

Friday, September 5, 2014

chocolate and toasted hazelnut milk

chocolate and toasted hazelnut milk

Like most people with at least a passing interest in foods made from recognizable ingredients, I’ve heard a lot about almond milk in the last decade. But my love of all things milk, cream, crème fraîche, sour cream, double-cream, triple-creme, dulce de leche, sweetened condensed milk and milk fudge (you know, just to get started) was such that I had little interest in making it a regular part of my life.

well-toasted hazelnuts
soaking in water overnight or longer

Plus, there was so much that I didn’t understand. First, most recipes call for raw almonds. Have you ever tasted a raw almond before? They taste, to me, terrible, like waxy nothingness. Why stretch this waxy nothingness into a glass of liquid? However, you know that flavor you get when you deeply toast almonds to a nice milky coffee (mm, milky coffee) shade, that incredible flavor which is amazing in pastries as it is on salads and even for a plain snack? Why weren’t we making almond milk out of toasted almonds — was it just the shade? Does beige “milk” unnerve people?

looking real murky the next day

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

corn, cheddar and scallion strata

corn, cheddar and scallion strata

I have a lot of feelings about lunch boxes, none of them especially genial. But as this teeny tiny person that I only just recently brought home from the hospital, barely able to utter a “beh” and now able to fill a 2-hour car ride back from a beach house with all the words every uttered (hm, wonder where he gets it) begins kindergarten this week, and will do so with a lunchbox in hand, I’ve realized that the only way to move forward with my grouchy feelings about lunch boxes is to air them here, in this town’s square, and then move on.

what you'll need, plus a lunchbox
three cobs because summer isn't over yet

And so here goes: I, Deb Perelman, resent lunch boxes. I resent that my friend Valerie can send her children to a French summer camp where they are served hot lunches (just the basics, like blanquette de veau, omelette aux champginons and, oh, a galette du rois) on real plates daily and the best my child can hope for is stuff like this. I resent that we don’t prioritize filling our children’s bellies with nutritional, balanced meals that will fuel them their growing bodies and brains through long school days, and that only parents with the means to (time or financially) can provide wholesome alternatives. I resent that I’m looking down the barrel of a decade or more of this, every single school day. And I resent that, on top of all this, if our summer months of packing lunch boxes for camp were any indication, at least half of the food will come back uneaten because a whole lot of places that ostensibly have children’s best interests in mind feed them cookies or crackers with ingredient lists as long as this blog post and juice in the middle of the morning as a snack, sometimes just an hour before lunchtime.

a good hearty miche

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Friday, August 22, 2014

strawberries and cream with graham crumbles

strawberries and cream with graham crumbles

To unforgivably botch something great, if all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone, I’m starting to believe that all of Smitten Kitchen’s problems stem from my inability to leave exquisitely simple things like berries and cream alone. Or maybe it’s about me being unable to sit in a room alone with strawberries and cream and not eat them? One thing is clear; I think we know better than to entrust me with the work of great philosophers ever again. I’m sorry, Pascal.

ingredients trying to catch the new light
what you'll need

Let me rewind. Because my son has been going to a day camp across town this summer, I’ve had a lot more excuses to swing by the big Union Square Greenmarket on my way back to poke around for inspiration, which is about as close as I’m probably going to get in Manhattan to a summer on the farm. I’ve learned a lot. As I gasped a couple weeks ago, I didn’t even realize the New York grew such great apricots, or that their season is so long. I’d always associated prune plums with late August and early September, but they’ve been out for weeks now. And, most excitingly for me, I always thought of strawberries as a June thing — they come early, leave quickly, and are often good but rarely transcendent. So, it’s been a treat to learn that the best strawberries, the tiny wild ones, show up later in the summer and are, as far as I’m concerned, the platonic ideal of what a strawberry should be — sweet, delicate and fragrant, with no two exactly alike.

tiny wild strawberries

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

smoky eggplant dip

smoky eggplant sesame spread

The first weeks in a new apartment are always about comparisons: The living room is smaller; the kid’s room is a little bigger. Our room is narrower and contains only one closet that we must share (uh-oh) but also maybe six inches longer, and in those inches, we no longer routinely stub our toes on our dressers while fumbling around in the morning like the old people we’ve unfairly become. The living room gets less natural light, but for the strangest reason: a massive leafy oak tree outside, something I’ve walked by at the sidewalk level for over five years and never noticed. What is this, Brooklyn or something?

eggplants, getting artsy
putting the fifth burner to use

The kitchen differences are, predictably, the most obsessively analyzed. For example, can we talk about the stove? It has not four but five burners and when I saw them for the first time, I nearly wept. Five burners! This is the small kitchen equivalent of the real estate fantasy of every New Yorker, which is to discover that their apartment contains a whole extra secret room, one that would make their sardine can conditions livable. Do you know what I can do with five burners instead of four? No seriously, do you? Because about five minutes after declaring that it completed me, I realized I had no idea what the purpose of the middle burner is, only that I welcomed it.

charred well

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