Smitten with Smitten Kitchen

It’s been a minute. I recognize this blog may as well be one clever sister. But, alas, I am back!

Many, many months ago I was over at a friend’s house and she was making Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout by Deb Perelman from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Now I love black beans. Love love love. I also love a slow cooker recipe. So I  decided to check it out at the library. So often, I buy a cookbook and only use one or two recipes from it. Checking it out from the library is almost like a screening process. See if I like it and if I even use it before I have to turn it back in.

I loved the cookbook. I found that the ingredients in the cookbook were ingredients I loved to cook with, but there was always a new twist on the recipe. It passed the screening process.  Don’t worry. It’s not overdue at the library. I talked it up so much that my mom bought it for me as a present! Thanks Mom!

I am so overdue for talking about this cookbook that I will just list a couple of the recipes I have tried with a short description of why I love them so.

Honey and Harissa Farro Salad- The best. This salad incorporates farro, carrots, parsnips and feta with a little mint. This is my first tasting of harissa, a Tunisian hot pepper sauce that provides a great kick in a salad. Also, what I love about this recipe is that it makes me eat a vegetable that I hate.  This recipe calls for one pound of parsnips. Yech! But, actually, YUM! It asks that you cut them  into two inch lengths and then roast them at 400 degrees for twenty minutes. The roasting of the parsnips along with the carrots make it just the right amount of crunchy to top the salad. An added bonus is that they are great for my little baby to eat with her hands and she hates spoons!

Emmentaler on Rye with Sweet and Sour Red Onions- Love this fancy, schmancy grilled cheese. I had some friends over a few months ago and I loved serving them these sandwiches. Quick and easy, but the best part of these sandwiches are the caramelized  onions. To make them I just mixed butter, balsamic vinegar, red onions and brown sugar. So delicious.  This part of the recipe really makes you feel like you are eating a sandwich from a restaurant, not a thrown together one from home.

Black Bean Ragout- This is the reason I was interested in the cookbook to start with. I know Deb Perelman is known for lots of interesting vegetarian dishes and I think this is a classic example. As with all her recipes, the steps in this recipe are fairly simple.  This dish is fantastic because you just throw all the ingredients in and let it cook in a slow cooker for about four hours. The black beans, onions and various spices could be enough to satisfy me, but in addition there are all sorts of sides that make this dish just a tad different from your average black bean stew.  Instead of being served in a bowl it’s served on top of  sliced ciabatta bread ( or french bread will do) with garlic that is rubbed on top after it is toasted in the broiler. There is also a crema to put on top which is just cumin and sour cream (or yogurt). Even though it’s just the addition of one spice, it makes the meal.  The other fabulous side dish is the onions which is just sliced red onions with a tablespoon of lime juice. This adds a great balance to the sort of subdued flavors.

IMG_6955

Golden Sheet Cake with Berry Buttercream- I made this cake for my daughter’s 1st birthday. The cake was extremely easy. A sheet pan is all you need for equipment, plus parchment paper to help get it out of pan if you want to put it on a serving plate.  The frosting looks difficult, but really it’s just about getting a variety of berries and splitting the frosting in four batches. The ingredients are simple: 1 cup of confectioners sugar,  4 tablespoons of butter and about a tablespoon of berry puree. I pureed about a cup of each fruit (blueberry, raspberry and blackberries), but I knew I’d have leftover. If you decide to make this, the extra fruit is great in smoothies.

Probably the most annoying thing about making this frosting is that you have to do it in batches so expect a large load of dishes.  It is actually only three batches of frosting because the blueberry batch is doubled.  Once you make the blueberry frosting, you have to split it in half and add just a touch of blue dye to one. This gives you four distinct colors. Oddly enough, Deb Perelman suggests doing this because blueberries pureed actually don’t look blue, but more pinkish. Also, if you let the blueberries sit long enough after being pureed they will turn into a weird gelatin like substance. Very strange.

After I got four batches of frosting ready go to (and several, several taste tests– raspberry is by far the tastiest), then I prepared my frosting bag with a 1/4 inch frosting tip. To do all one color at once, I followed the instructions in the recipe of applying one line, and then counting over three more lines with my tip at the top of the cake. This worked fairly well, but as you can see in the picture below I sometimes allowed for too much room and sometimes didn’t allow enough. This, I am sure gets easier the more times you do it. After all the lines are done, I simply took a butter knife every inch and dragged it slightly over the top of the frosting. And that’s it! Everyone was very impressed with the cake and many people thought it was store bought, custom made! The hardest part of the entire process? Cleaning out the frosting bag after each of the four batches of frosting. However, if you are thinking of making this frosting and contemplating just using a plastic bag, I would strongly urge you to just go out and buy a nice frosting bag. The frosting in the plastic bag has a tendency of getting stuck which prompts you to push the frosting out harder and then you have a mess when it comes out in a blob on your cake. I know this because I tried doing one color of this cake with the plastic bag out of pure laziness of not wanting to wash out my bag. Now I know.

cake

I have been told that Deb’s website is really fantastic and has tons of great recipes that aren’t in her cookbook. So, if you are inspired, check it out!

http://smittenkitchen.com

Sfoglini’s Zucchini Radiatore Pasta and a visit to Wedge Brooklyn

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For all you Brooklynites or vistors to the area, I have found a nice little gem in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  It’s a new little cheese shop called Wedge and it’s a great new store to the area.

There are many little items to browse through in the store, but their big ticket item is the cheese. There are all sorts of other products to buy like jam, condiments and different beverages. They even have picnic baskets to buy to take to the park!

Now, I should be writing about all the cheeses I’ve tried, but, well… I haven’t tried them yet. I’m really quite disappointed in myself. Please don’t stop reading. There is more to this blog.

Even though it is in many ways not as exciting as cheese,  I have been trying a pasta they sell called Sfoglini!  It’s a great organic pasta that is made with semolina flour.  I know that “it’s just pasta.” So, why not get the cheaper kind at the grocery store? But I have to say I’m hooked. I’m not sure what exactly makes it taste so good (probably the semolina flour), but the pastas has a very hearty taste to them and they taste far more filling than normal pasta I have cooked in the past.

When I went to their website at sfoglini.com, I also read they use bronze dies which adds to the texture of the pasta. Also, they air dry the pasta which adds to the flavor. Clearly, I’m not making pasta at home so I think for 10 dollars this is a great find.

The nice thing is they make a variety of pastas that I think are fairly unique. They have a great pasta called Mint Radiator. It’s made with pureed fresh mint and it’s divine. I’ve also bought a pasta that is called “trumpets” which basically are shaped like a “flower or horn.”

Mint Radiators

I’ve made two pasta dishes so far but my favorite of the two is “Mint Radiators with Yellow Zucchini”

This dish can be made on any weeknight. It’s very filling and the zucchini makes me feel like I don’t have to made a side salad or cook another vegetable. (I’m a big fan of the one dish dinner).

Mint Radiators with Yellow Zucchini
Recipe Type: Vegetarian/Main Dish
Author: Sfoglini.com
Ingredients
  • 6 oz Sfoglini Mint Radiators
  • 2 1/2 oz yellow zucchini (cut in moons)
  • 1 oz diced red onion
  • 1 oz chopped kalamata olives
  • 6 chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat 3 quarts of salted water in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add pasta and cook for 5-8 minutes.
  3. While pasta is cooking, saute the zucchini and onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium to high heat.
  4. After about 1 minute, add the olives and a pinch of salt and 1-2 tbsp of the pasta water so the onions don’t caramelize.
  5. Cook for another 2 minutes making sure the zucchini stays firm.
  6. Add the pasta, 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of cheese and a splash of pasta water to saute pan and stir together.
  7. Toss in mint leaves and a pinch of red chili flakes.
  8. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste and top off with grated cheese.

If you are interested in going to Wedge yourself click below for hours and address.

Wedge

7288 Franklin Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

https://www.facebook.com/wedgeonfranklin

http://www.yelp.com/biz/wedge-brooklyn

To learn more about Sfolgini, here’s the link below:

http://sfoglini.com

Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

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I was so excited to finally get The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook from my library after being on the waiting list for over a month! My sister, of course, has it as well as many friends who all highly recommend it.  It’s a great book for small kitchens, and for people that love vegetarian options for dinner (with a lot of cheese).

It’s a hit for me because I (1) have a tiny kitchen, (2) love cheese and don’t always need to eat meat and (3) have a little baby just like the author of the book had when she wrote it. There are many dishes I’m going to be trying over the next month (if I can keep the book out that long) and the first one I tried was Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto.

The author, Deb Perelman, was inspired by a dish at Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan.  I have never been to this restaurant, but have always wanted to go as it’s one of those “must-go-to” places in the city.

This is also a good recipe to make in stages. With a little one around, it was easy to stop and start. I was able to make the pesto in the afternoon and then not make the pasta until about a half hour before I had dinner. In Deb’s book, she even talks about how she made this dish especially when she had a newborn. I thought it quite suitable to start out with this recipe first.

Cauliflower Pesto Pasta
Recipe Type: Vegetarian/Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Deb Perelman
Ingredients
  • salt
  • 1 small head of cauliflower (trimmed, cored, and cut into large chunks)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts (or almonds)
  • 2 oz chunk romano or parmesan
  • 4 sun dried tomatoes (dry variety; if oil-packed, be sure to drain and mince them by hand before putting them in the food processor)
  • 1 tbsp drained capers
  • few tbsp of parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sherry vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 lb of linguine
Instructions
  1. Set a large of salted water to boil.
  2. Prepare pesto: Pulse half the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like mixed sizes of couscous. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl, and repeat with the second batch, adding it to the same bowl when you are finished.
  3. Pulse the garlic, pepper flakes, almonds (or pine nuts), cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and parsley in a food processor.
  4. Transfer to the bowl with cauliflower and add the olive oil, the smaller amount of vinegar, and some salt and stir until completely combined. (If you do this step in the food processor, it becomes an unseemly paste. Best to do it by hand.)
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed–either by adding salt, pepper or remainder of vinegar. (start out with about 1/2 tsp of salt but go up to nearly a full tsp)
  6. Assemble Dish: Once water is boiling, add the linguine and cook until al dente.
  7. Reserve a cup of the cooking water then drain rest.
  8. Immediately toss the hot pasta with the cauliflower pesto and half of your reserved cooking water, until everything is nicely dispersed.

In her cookbook she recommends cutting up the cauliflower chunks by hand that don’t easily cut in the food processor, but I found no problem with this.  You will know the pesto is ready when it looks like “course breadcrumbs.”  The recipe can be modified to fit your tastes and if I make this again I will probably add more pine nuts (only because I love them) and maybe a couple more splashes of sherry vinegar which adds a nice bite.

The recipe does request you mix the pesto immediately with the pasta and water, but I had to refrigerate mine (not sure this was necessary) for a couple of hours before I served it, and I think it tasted just fine. I did have to work harder to make sure the ingredients were dispersed evenly, but other than that I was satisfied and so was my husband who can sometimes picky! It was fabulous for leftovers.

Pesto Cauliflower

Chopped Winter Salad with butternut squash, apple and feta (even though it’s spring!)

Well the title says it all. I wanted to post this salad because even though it’s spring (with some days feeling closer to early summer), I love this salad. It calls for really easy ingredients that are some of my all time favorite. I get pretty bored with my salads because I tend to stick to the same ingredients so this was a pleasant surprise to find. I also like that it calls for radicchio which I rarely use, but really like when it’s cooked or used the right way.

I got this recipe from a friend who is a fabulous cook. I figured that it was a more time intensive salad than I wanted to deal with because my friend is always creating such great dishes that take some time. But I was wrong! Total time is 40 minute and half of this is time allotted to cook the squash. This recipe was taken straight from Real Simple.com

The recipe calls for great ingredients such as butternut squash, apples, feta and chickpeas. However, I think you can mix in different ingredients or replace many items for similar ones. I think gorgonzola would work great with the apples or maybe switch out the apples for pears if have them. I think adding some avocado to this could be a nice treat and maybe adding some corn if you don’t have any chickpeas. Either way, it’s a great salad. Try it!

 

(Oh and the good thing about this evening for me was that my little newborn Mattie let me get all the ingredients at the grocery store and prepare this meal with minimal interruptions! She’s the best. We are quite smitten.)

 

 

Beef (?) Osso Bucco

The question mark in the title is not a mistake.  I decided to continue trying to cook from a list of recipes I received from a great braising class I took a while back at the Brooklyn Kitchen. This recipe was Pork Osso Bucco.  The pros are that braising is quite simple!  Another pro of this recipe is that once you get the meat and a few other key ingredients then you are pretty much done. There is not a list of obscure things to buy that you will never use again.  Beef stock, onions, carrots, a little thyme.  All of these ingredients are items I have and if I don’t have them, it’s because I just finished using them up in another dish.  As my sisters will attest to after just seeing my apt, my kitchen is at full capacity with just a few ingredients in the cabinets. We have limited space and with a baby coming any day there is even less space!

This entry is a little abnormal because it’s more of a warning of what NOT to do.  The recipe, as I have stated earlier is simple along with the ingredients– when you can find them.  My husband and I started our journey on a cold Saturday morning in Park Slope at a nicer grocery store that we thought would serve all our needs.  It didn’t.

The first grocery store didn’t carry the meat we wanted so it was off to the next. We thought we would just walk further down into the neighborhood to our favorite butcher shop thinking “They have to have pork shanks!”

Nope.

Very frustrated, carrying all other ingredients for the meal and a 40 minute walk from home, we try one more spot— Fleishers!  This is a trendy, modern butcher shop that carries grass fed and organic meats.  There are two locations. One is in Brooklyn and one is Kingston, NY. Now, I’d love to say that they carry pork shank, but they don’t.  Turns out no one really carries this meat on a daily basis. You have to special order it.  I was clearly not that prepeared and frankly, I’ll never be.  So we decided to go with beef shanks.

I truly thought that this replacement of meat would make no difference (and the butcher agreed)!  I also want to add that I’m not sure what exactly went wrong, but something wasn’t right. There is really nothing more annoying than traipsing all over Brooklyn on a windy, cold February day only to come home and cook an expensive meal that doesn’t seem to pan out.

There are many plausible mistakes I could have made.

1. Seasoning the meat with salt and pepper is a simple process, but I think I may not have rubbed in enough.

2. You are supposed to season not only at the beginning of the cooking, but throughout.  I forgot to season 1 or 2 times throughout.

3. The recipe called for a complete reduction of wine. I still don’t really know what having all the wine reduced really looks, smells or tastes like. So maybe I did it correctly? Maybe

So, all in all, a lot of potential blunders.  It’s hard to say if I did any of them right or wrong.  I personally think the whole thing went awry with the beef.  Braising-or so I’ve heard-is all about the ingredients and the oven. If you have the right ingredients and you season and cook them long enough then for the most part everything is fine. Now, we ate the beef and it was tasty enough for a Sunday dinner, but disappointing.  It was very fatty tasting and because of  the way the beef fell off the bone it was hard to find good chunky pieces. What was left after four and a half hours in the oven were tiny pieces that I know would have been more tender and juicy had it been pork. There was also this absence of something.  I think it was the salt.  It was there, but I should have been way more aggressive with my sea salt application.

So, lesson to take from all of this? Get the right meat and then season those suckers! When you think you have enough salt, then maybe add just a little more and then maybe a little more after that.

Now Matt Greene over at the Brooklyn Kitchen had a wonderful recipe so as I always say if you want to take a class there, I highly recommend it.  If you are intrigued and inspired to make your own Pork Osso Bucco (not beef!) then the Food Network Pork Osso Bucco  recipe is very similar and it’s less cook time!

 

Baked Pumpkin Bread

While we prepare for Hurricane Sandy here in Brooklyn, I thought it would be good to make a nice autumn quick bread. Pumpkin Bread! I forgot how delicous it was until my husband and I bought some from a little girl on the sidewalk selling some. Think lemonade stand, but replace that image with warm, nutmug bread. Yum.

So since schools have been shut down for tomorrow because of the storm and parts of the neighborhood have been evacuated, I decided what better time to make a loaf? The grocery store trip that was supposed to be just a quick stop, ended up being forty minutes in line because everyone decided to stockpile.  Other customers bought water and crackers and canned soup. I bought sugar for baking. Go figure.

One of my least favorite parts of being pregnant is that I can’t lick the bowl when making chocolate chip cookies. However, with this recipe, I can add all the ingredients, eat as much batter as I please and then add the egg in at the end and not touch a drop of it. It may sound crazy, but it is my favorite part of baking. My sisters have often complained about my fingers getting in the way of their baking.

I took this recipe from allrecipes.com. It was listed under “healthy’ options, but don’t be disappointed. It was really delicious. I think the biggest difference is it cut down the egg and butter ingredients and replaced it with buttermilk. It is no way a low sugar bread.

Pumpkin Bread

Recipe Type: Baked Goods
Cuisine: Dessert/Breakfast
Author: All Recipes
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 60 mins
Total time: 1 hour 10 mins
Serves: 8
An easy 10 minute mix and then an hour in the oven.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup of solid pack pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp of butter, softened
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together and then the pumpkin, brown sugar, buttermilk, egg and butter until well blended. Pour into a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife or toothpick comes out clean from center.

So it’s really sort of amusing.  As my oldest sister works a ton of hours, takes care of two kids and somehow manages to make homemade salsa along with tons of other amazing treats, and my other sister is off scavenging for walnuts (ps, don’t forget to enter her giveaway here!) I find a bit of time to actually make me some quick bread! Well, hopefully I am still living up to my reputation as the sister with the easiest cooking advice.

See Sara’s Super-Moist Sweet Potato Bread and Whole Grain Sweet Potato Muffins for more fall treats.