winter squash pancakes with crispy sage and brown butter

There comes times in every cookbook author’s life that they have a very specific kind of gift to bestow on unsuspecting others — tasty, deeply loved dishes that were dismissed/ejected/left homeless in the editorial process because they didn’t make the cut. The reasons may be myriad; the ingredient, format or flavor felt redundant with another dish or, as happened here, something else about it gnawed at me until I decided it was best to move on without it.

first butternut of the season

I believe we call these rejects. I, however, prefer to call them displacements, and I’m not even sad because this means I get to share it with you sooner. These are my most favorite dinner pancake to date and I loved them as endlessly when I made them for the first time two years ago (it’s true, I am this slow at book-ing) as I did when I revisited them last weekend. Here you use any roasted, mashed winter squash — I’ve made this with both kabocha and butternut but you can use whatever you have or can get — and you whisk it into a quick, thick batter with sour cream or buttermilk, flour, eggs and then, instead of the predictable sugar and pumpkin spice, we add salt, pepper and gruyere or parmesan, if you’re feeling it (no surprise here: we always are) and spoon them into a frying pan just like you were making pancakes on a Saturday morning, if you are the sort of person who does such things.

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pumpkin bread

One of the terrible things that well-intentioned food people do all of the time is get bored with things that everyone loves. Because there’s a there’s a near-constant stream of food media coming in, with time the “hot takes” on apple pie begin to feel monotonous, the “cool new thing to do with sweet potatoes” can cause inward groans and pumpkin/pumpkin-spiced things? I’ll let them tell you: “Pumpkin spice has ruined pumpkins,” says Alton Brown. “America has gone entirely too far in its pumpkin spice devotion,” says Eater, with a fair amount of evidence backing it up. The Washington Post likened pumpkin spice lattes to “liquefied fall-scented potpourri.”

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russian honey cake

From time to time when someone learns that I’m married to a Russian, they’ll ask me if I can come up with a recipe for a Russian dish they’ve had, which is hilarious because I have never been to Russia, have probably only picked up 20 words (by generous estimation) in the 13 years we’ve been together and of the maybe five Russian dishes I’ve made, I’ve simply done them my mother in-law’s way. It’s almost like people might know that I have a tendency to get really obsessive when I decide I want to crack the code of a recipe and they’re hoping I’ll apply it to a long-lost loved dish they want to make a regular part of their lives again? Nah, that would be ridiculous.

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skillet-baked pasta with five cheeses

September is like gateway or fake fall, appropriate considering that the season exists officially for only one-third of it. But October — and especially so this year, ushered in with a week of gray rainy (which I just typed as grainy, also somehow fitting) weather — almost without fail sets off the following things in the following order:

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baked-alaskaAnnouncements, Recipes

baked alaska + smitten kitchen turns 10!

Over the summer, my husband and I took turns taking our son out for dinner one a week night to give him a break from (I mean, not to point fingers or anything) the occasional yelling/food-flinging dinnertime antics of The Interloper, a.k.a. his younger sister. On one of my evenings, he pointed to the top of one of the many mirror-covered walls at the restaurant with the menu scrawled over it and said “What’s a Baked Alaska?”

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garlic wine and butter steamed clams

One of my favorite things — although, honestly, it’s not easy to choose — we ate in Portugal was small clams cooked in a garlic wine sauce, usually with cilantro and always only eaten with bread, which I learned when we went to one of those* restaurants on the beach one night where you pick your dinner from what’s been caught that day and everyone is a little vague about preparations because they assume you already know. “How are the clams prepared?” “What do you mean? Steamed!” “And they’re served with…?” “Well, in Portugal, we eat clams with bread, only bread. Would you like something else?” And so it was.

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magic apple plum cobbler

September is my favorite in food, weather and outlook. The number of days above 90 degrees finally peters off. I live for cardigan weather. I love that it goes in with a beach weekend and goes out with cinnamon sticks and warm cider. The markets are still teeming with peaches and plum, zucchini and eggplant, but you can also go apple picking and find some fancy new squash to cook. But my cooking always feels like it’s on one team or another — we’re either making caprese or we’re baking ziti, little for the in-between days. Where are the intersections of summer and winter squash? Where’s the peach and grape pie? Let’s fix this.

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homemade merguez with herby yogurt

I had lunch with Julia Turshen a couple months ago (mostly so I could fangirl out and try to sponge up some curl tips for my moppet) and one of my favorite things she told me was that when she moved from Brooklyn to upstate with her wife her cooking changed because all of a sudden she was doing it everyday. She felt she got better at cooking from her gut, throwing meals together with whatever they had — it’s simply not an option to eat out or order in every night the way she could before so not every meal could be a performance piece. Sometimes it’s just chicken on the grill with a good sauce and salad on the side.

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chocolate pavlova

Look, no one is ever going to marry me for my pavlova. (I mean, talking about dodging a bullet…) This one was particularly underachieving. First, I thought I’d be clever and try to add the cocoa at the start, mixed with the sugar, so that it would mix the best. Nope! It never fully whipped. With this in the trash, I began my next one, breaking an egg yolk right into the white. I can usually get it all out (tip! use the empty shell as a scooper/skimmer) but not this time. I started a new bowl and, yup, did it again. Finally, with six uncompromised egg whites and cocoa stirred in only at the very end, ensuring a respectably thick, shiny plume of meringue, I began piling my chocolate plumes on a 9-inch round parchment circle, only to realize this wasn’t very bright, as the meringue would spread. I cut a new, larger square of parchment and used the old one as a sling/tube-of-a-pastry bag to land the new one in a great, elegant swirl and then fell over laughing (and texting everyone I know with the picture because: all grownup here!) because it looked precisely like everyone’s favorite emoji. Smoothed into more of a mound, I baked it at the wrong temperature and it got too crispy and riddled with cracks. Anyone left reading from New Zealand just is doing this right now. (Don’t worry, I retested it — woe is me — to confirm that the correct temperature and times are indeed correct.)

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