Listen, I don’t make the rules. These things aren’t rational. But at some point over our vacation in Scotland — a time when we mostly consumed fish and chips, more chips, steak pie, also with chips, a detail that I’m sure is unrelated — I began intensely craving the combination of peaches and blue cheese even though I can’t think of a time when they’ve crossed paths in my kitchen. Once we got home, I beelined for Salad Freak by Jess Damuck [Amazon, Bookshop, More Indies], a cookbook that came out this spring, because I had a hunch she’d put the idea in my head and sure enough, she had a combination of stone fruit and blue cheese waiting to fulfill my wayward vacation craving.
If you are thinking you don’t need a cookbook for salads, as I might have in the past, I’m here to tell you how wrong we are. We do, if not for exact measurements then for inspiration. For more creative ways to throw together what’s left in your fridge so nothing goes to waste. And to figure out what to eat when you’re in the third heat wave [fourth? fifth? heat waves are just a continuum now, aren’t they?] of the summer and everything you thought you’d want to cook in August no longer makes sense because it’s too hot to cook. Damuck’s book has us covered. There’s a breakfast salad with yogurt, cucumbers, eggs, and toasted seeds. There are soba salads and shredded kale salads and tortellini salads dressings with miso-mayo and horseradish goat cheese and a BBQ chicken cobb beloved by Snoop Dogg and every single thing is just a little bit unexpected and delivering the freshness I need right now.
For the last four weeks my son, the child who actually likes and encourages my cooking, has been at sleepaway camp, leaving us home alone with the one I affectionately call Buttered Noodles for Frances. Have you read the book? [Amazon, Bookshop, more indies] In it, a very picky badger named Frances doesn’t want to eat any of the food her mother makes, she only wants bread and jam. Her parents decide to give her exactly what she wants while the rest of the family eats poached eggs, green beans, and breaded veal cutlets. It does the trick — she tires of it and begins to embrace what the rest of the family is eating. Well la-de-da, good for them. Our badger is cut from more stubborn cloth. After the first week of trying to serve regular meals — food with variety and interest, the kind of stuff you might find on any page of the site but this one — I gave up and made buttered noodles every night. I want you to know that on what might be the sixth or sixteenth day, I’ve stopped counting, she has yet to request anything else. Read more »
Were you new to cooking or eating and came to Smitten Kitchen for a reasonable understanding of what a cobbler is and is not, well, you would find neither reason nor understanding — about cobblers or, let’s be realistic, many other things. There were, before today, four cobbler recipes in the archives and all of them represent different interpretations of what Wikipedia calls “a dessert consisting of a fruit filling poured into a large baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or dumpling before being baked.” Is this a good time to mention that Smitten Kitchen Keepers, which will be out in a mere but-who’s-counting 129 days, has two additional cobbler recipes in it, one I make for breakfast and a savory one for an incredible summer dinner?
Is July the most lethargic cooking month? I don’t mean this in a bad way. I know in our productivity-fixated culture (“so busy, crazy busy”) we balk at praising apathy but what if we leaned into it instead? It’s hot. The days are long. If midsummer demands some laziness, some loosened grip on to-do lists, if de-participation beckons and we can pull it off, I’d like to try it. I could even schedule it one day next week if I move some things around.
Letter of recommendation: Make ricotta this summer. I was originally going to write “Ditch the burrata and make some ricotta this summer,” but neither wish to besmirch burrata nor do I plan to go tomato season without it. Should a burrata tree (it grows on trees, or must based on the frequency in which it appears) spontaneously appear on my terrace, I will be the happiest and most popular girl in all of the Lower East Side this summer. But since like most of us, I’m still buying it at stores where it’s quite expensive, spoils quickly, and is only sometimes spectacular, I’m here to make the argument that homemade ricotta is not only rich, delicious, and a cinch to make, but that in almost all of the places we’re serving burrata, ricotta* would be deliciously welcome too.
I first read about brita, pardon me, Brita-Kakku, cakes — described as a typical Finnish summer cake with a based of a butter cake with a meringue baked onto it, whipped cream, and fresh berries — a few years ago and was instantly mesmerized by not just by the delicious promise of these ingredients but because, forgive me, the mess of it. In image search after image search, I drooled over charmingly lopsided cakes with raw edges, whipped cream with no regard for boundaries, meringues that wobbled and crumbled as they pleased, berries tumbling free, and I wanted it. I realize that there are more practical ways to approach it, such as a single-layer cake, but I didn’t want practical, I wanted berry cake chaos.
I am very excited* to announce the opening day of what we call slaw season at the Smitten Kitchen. There is nothing better than a crunchy, lettuce-free, wilt-resistant salad in the summer, and I don’t just mean cabbage swimming in mayo. It could be broccoli or cauliflower, vegetables fine and pickled on sandwiches and tacos, and honestly, if it’s a vegetable, I feel confident I could slaw it, despite absolutely nobody requesting that I do.
Something I joke about when introducing a new muffin recipe (not this one!) in my new cookbook out this fall is the gap between the muffins we gaze at in a coffee shop case and those we make at home. Why is one towering, glossy and plush and the ones I make for breakfast so… beige? I mean, I do know. When I’m the one baking the muffins, I balk at all of the refined sugar, flour, and oil needed to make them that pretty. So I stuff them with oats and dried fruit and whole-grain everything and then yes, they’re heavy and beige. But as I was staring at these beauties at my local bagel shop the other morning, I decided: enough.
In early March 2020, I signed a contract to write my third cookbook because it felt like just the right moment: calm, unfrenzied, kids happy settled in school and activities… stop laughing. My timing is impeccable. But, there’s nothing like a tremendous amount of time at home with an almost boundless need for homecooked meals to get me asking the big, important questions about my own repertoire: Where is my forever pound cake? What would the perfect quiche look like? Why does roasting chicken this way change everything? I realized how much I wanted this book to be a collection of recipes specifically written with making them forever in mind. Two years later, I finally get to show you what I’ve been up to.
Lately I’ve been trying to take as many stupid walks for my stupid mental health (a funny/wonderful TikTok trend from over the winter) as possible because if the last two years have taught me anything, it is that outside time is a very key ingredient in me being a warm, upbeat, charming person, the kind of person who never hits her snooze alarm four times and then wonders why she’s always in a rush. Okay, fine, it’s not an exorcism, but it does feel surprisingly close. More often than not, I end up swinging through the Greenmarket, which leads to me bringing home whatever looked good that day — most recently, spicy arugula, pinto potatoes, fresh flowers, and a bag of fresh cremini mushrooms. A few days after that, almost without fail, I realize I have mushrooms to use and I’ve landed on a wildly simple pasta preparation that, in a rare moment of mealtime harmony, everyone eats willingly. Honestly, I should have led with this mic drop.