Today my third cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, comes out and thank goodness, because it’s been impossibly hard to keep it from you this long.
It feels downright unfair that I figured out how to make the best molasses cookie — thick, tender, but also one-bowl, no hand-mixer required, the kind that makes your whole home smell like the holidays — and you’re only finding out about it today. My favorite pot roast is in there; sometimes I add rice shortly before it’s done for a truly one-pot meal-of-a-braise that feels perfect for this cold week. There’s a warm hoagie that’s practically a vegetarian cheesesteak. The most perfect chocolate chip cookie I could possibly dream up is there (it has salted walnut brittle inside). A deep dish, actual doorstop of a broccoli cheddar quiche that serves a crowd and an egg salad, just for us. The easiest three-layer chocolate party cake that could ever exist is filled with a salt-flecked milk chocolate buttercream and it’s designed to fit in the bottom of a shopping bag so you can take it everywhere with you. The actual craziest thing I’ve suggested you do with cabbage (salt, vinegar, and char it), might lead to the craziest thing you do with cabbage (eat it from the pan, standing up). There are cream cheese and jam challah buns that make me think of my dad and there’s a pound cake that I hope could be worth the cover price alone.
They’re all, to me, keepers — the kind of recipes that you make and know instantly that you’ll want them to be part of your repertoires forever. For 17 years on this site, I’ve paid close attention to what happens when we are in kitchen and I try to apply everything I’ve learned about how to make shopping easier, cooking more doable and enjoyable, and the outcomes more reliably delicious. Because if you hate making the recipe — if the process was persnickety and you dirtied every bowl in your kitchen — it barely matters if the result was otherworldly, you’re going to avoid it. And I want these to be recipes you, above all, love to make.
This is an apple and cheddar salad and I would humbly argue an excellent one, the best I’ve ever made, but this recipe is also an excuse for me to share a few of the best tricks I keep up my sleeve (I always wanted to be a cook who said things like that, when what you might actually find is a lost piece of popcorn) to make the kinds of complex salads I can never resist on a cafe menu at home as simply as possible. Because we deserve to have fancy, cool, crunchy, dynamic, and gorgeous salads at home, even if we do not live a life that allows us to afford fancy salads made by others on a regular basis.
Welcome to the cutting room floor. Whenever I finish a cookbook, there are recipes that didn’t make the final book not because they’re flawed in any way, but because they weren’t necessary. Smitten Kitchen Keepers already has a couple great savory breads and sufficient caramelized onion magnificence, so I pulled this recipe out because I knew it would be perfect for the site, right now. Why? This week is the most significant Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur, a day of atonement. It is traditional fast for the day, and the fast is traditionally broken with a dairy meal, quite often a giant spread of bagels and fixings. But that wasn’t the first time I made this. In March 2020, when the whole world shut down, so of course did all of the bagel shops in my neighborhood. I started making easy bagel-y breads so we could still enjoy our cream cheese and lox weekend fix. This one has a cool history, too.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, my first cookbook, turns 10 years old in a few weeks, and inside it is what I call one of the best summer desserts I’ve ever made, peach dumplings with bourbon hard sauce. These were a whim that occured to me one morning before dawn when my then-baby (and, as of 11 days ago, a Bar Mitzvah) woke up early and lacked interest in going back to sleep and my mind drifted, as it does, to things I’d like to cook.
As long as we are a full six days before fall begins, I am allowed to sneak in one more zucchini recipe. It would be right there in my contract, had I one, above the expectation of ironed shoelaces and below that of a daily slice of chocolate biscuit cake. I’d actually intended this recipe for July (and the eggplant involtini for August). But July was so hot, and August wasn’t much better; I couldn’t bring myself to publish recipes that require oven time, so I waited for a better moment to arrive. Our patience has been rewarded; this brothy, late summer-y bowl of pasta and meatballs is absolutely perfect for right now, with the kind of sunny warm days that require a morning and evening cardigan — i.e. the very best weather on this earth, full stop.
It makes no sense at all, but for most of this past winter, I craved eggplant parmesan. I tried to tell myself that we were half a year to eggplant season and would I prefer some… cabbage or turnip parmesan instead? (I would not.) I made it a few times. I ordered it in a few others. I finally got it out of my system and then in the past month I’ve seen Reel after TikTok for eggplant involtini and the magical combination of silky eggplant, tomato sauce, and sharp, melty cheese’s hold over me has returned. At least this time my craving has seasonal compliance.
A logical progression after making zucchini butter spaghetti a few times — provided you’re a person who likes zucchini, butter, and spaghetti, or what happens when the first two melt silkily against the third — is to ask yourself, what can I butter next? What vegetable wants to be cooked down until it’s tender, concentrated, and almost buttery and then fused with actual butter to make something better than both things? My friend Alissa and I debated this a couple months ago, cycling through carrots, peas, and tomatoes* before landing on corn. Except it was more like oh my god: CORN!
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.
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?