skillet-baked-pasta-with-five-cheesesRecipes

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-clamsRecipes

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-cobblerRecipes

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-yogurtRecipes

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-pavlovaRecipes

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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piri-piri-chickenRecipes

piri piri chicken

My favorite part of our trip to Portugal is that it was almost accidental. Like we have done almost every summer, in the spring we began looking for a house to rent on one fork or another of Long Island because it us. Frustrated by prices and lack of appealing inventory (“which kid should stay in the dark basement bedroom where we won’t hear their screams?” is definitely the conversation every parent wants to have before forking over more than a month’s rent for the honor) our friends confessed that they couldn’t stop thinking about going somewhere like Spain and Portugal, where we could rent a villa for significantly less money and, you know, go see another part of the world. I said yes. My husband said “but 8 hours on a plane with a baby!” and “she’s going to burst into flames on a beach!” (referring to me passing on my unfortunate pallor to our youngest) and then I starting getting all insufferably philosophical about how this is our life and we have two kids and we either learn how to take big vacations with them or we’re never going to see all the places we want to see in our lifetime … and then I said “you can totally blame me if this is terrible.” And somehow that did the trick. Let me know when you want me to write that marital advice book, okay?

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plum squares with marzipan crumbleRecipes

plum squares with marzipan crumble

We are still in Portugal, which means, look away now. We are total blissed-out bores. The ridiculous truth of this vacation is that all the planning of it went down with the other family we are with when I was neck-deep in a book deadline and my husband had a bit of extra free time earlier this summer so I outsourced 100% of the decisions to them. Thus, I knew extremely little about Portugal upon arriving here and now every turn is a surprise and I don’t want to leave. This place is stunning. The architecture is unbelievable. The people are so nice, and so kind to our rugrats. The beaches… don’t even get me started. I feel like it will take another three vacations to even see half of what we should. I want you to know that I’m up for the job.

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how to julienneTips

how to julienne

I enjoy chopping things but have no notable knife skills, no tuck, no game, but no shame either. I’ve always found julienning fruits and vegetables to be difficult, just a lot of very precise cutting that’s not going to come easily to someone who didn’t mince their way through hours of knife skills class in cooking school. When a recipe wants me to julienne something, I sign, inwardly groan and usually take out either this slicer and then spend 32 minutes looking for the julienne blade or I use this peeler, which is fantastic but limited to long skinny strands.

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