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Friday, March 8, 2013

The Smitten Kitchen Has My Number

The Smitten Kitchen Has My Number

When I leafed through The Smitten Kitchen cookbook at the Library, I knew that I had to start cooking from it - immediately.

Written by Deb Perelman, a home cook and blogger, The Smitten Kitchen presents each recipe with an alluring photograph and a chatty introduction.  The recipes ranged from renditions of the familiar and comforting to explorations of the sophisticated and unusual - .

Not only was Deb Perelman cooking all this great stuff, but she had a toddler at home too?  I thought, why aren’t I making these recipes?  It seemed like all the fun foods I had toyed with making, she not only had made, but perfected. 

Man, I was behind!  I had to get cooking.  So I did.  And once I tried one recipe, I couldn’t stop – I was obsessed with this cookbook.
Take out the center green part of the garlic clove to prevent bitterness in the final dish.
Beautiful Swiss chard.

The first thing I made from what I had on hand was individual Pancetta, White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies.  Since I was bringing this over to a friend’s, and wouldn't have use of an oven, I only made the “stew” inside.  Quite delicious, a good start, Deb, but the pastry crust was really the showstopper here, and I’d seen individual pot pies like this before.  What else ya got?
(Sorry - did not have fresh parsley, should I photoshop it in...?)

The next day I queued up a promising recipe for Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto.  Although basil pesto is old hat, and it seems like cauliflower is ubiquitous, showing up roasted in recipes and restaurants, this recipe was unusual – the cauliflower is uncooked, whirled up in a food processor together with sundried tomatoes, capers, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  Served over imported Italian pasta cooked al dente, it was without question a weeknight winner.  Bright flavors, easy to make, healthful, and quick:  great job, Deb – points for originality, too. 
Roasted butternut squash
This galette was great looking and tasting.

The next days brought forecasts of a snowstorm, so I stocked up on ingredients and made several Smitten recipes.  First up was the Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette.  This recipe had a lot going for it:  healthful roasted veggies, a  fun technique (free form pastry shell!),  easy prep, impressive enough for guests,  and a generous quantity (two large tarts!) for serving and leftovers.

The result –a home run. Perelman really knows her pastry, this dough was easy to work, and was flaky and sturdy enough to stand up to the veggies, and made a beautiful presentation..  Bravo! This recipe, (see below), though not difficult, does require some time in the kitchen.
Mushroom tart:  hearty and delicate at the same time.

That same day, I prebaked the crust for the Wild Mushroom Tart.  The next day I made the filling, adding reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms from the Griggstown Farm Market for a flavor boost (ok, true confession - I didn’t buy enough fresh mushrooms).  The sturdy cornmeal crust was a good foil for the deep flavors of the mushrooms and gruyere– yet another winner.

That night I had a full house coming home from snowboarding, so I up baked up the Mushroom Tart, reheated the second Butternut Squash Tart, and cooked up some of the Mustard Milanese with an Arugula Fennel Salad

The Mustard Milanese was a riff on good old homemade breaded chicken, with mustard, garlic, oregano and lemon zest added to the egg mixture to jazz it up, and topped with a flounce of bitter greens dressed with a mustard vinaigrette.  This dish was a pleasing foil for the richness of the tarts. I would definitely make this again, and you wouldn't even need a recipe - just add those extras to your basic breading routine.
Prepping raspberry rugelach - oddly, looks like pizza!
Finished product - not looking, or tasting, at all like pizza!

For dessert, I served coffee and  Deb’s Chocolate Raspberry Rugelach that I had baked in the afternoon (it was a really snowy day!).  I wanted to love these:  cream cheese pastries filled with all things good - raspberry jam, chocolate chips, walnuts and cinnamon. Just for comparison purposes, I filled half of the dough with the mix from Ina Garten’s Rugelach from the Barefoot Contessa’s Parties cookbook, which is apricot jam, raisins, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon, and I'm sorry, Deb, but I like Ina's mixture better.  The doughs are nearly identical, (and in fact Perelman credits Garten in her intro), but I do prefer the smaller rugelach as instructed from Deb's recipe.

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette 
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup ice water

Whirl together the flour and salt in a food processor.  Add the butter and process until crumbs form.  Mix the liquid ingredients together in a bowl.  With the machine running, add the liquids to the processor until a ball of dough forms.  Cut in half.  Pat into two balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

2 small or 1 large butternut squash ( about 2 1/2 pounds)
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt, divided
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large sweet onions, Spanish or Vidalia, halved, sliced thinly in half circles
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups (6.5 oz.) fontina cheese, grated 
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped OR 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water for glaze

Preheat oven to 400.  Peel the squash, halve and discard seeds.  Cut into 1/2 dice.  Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss the squash cubes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and some fresh ground pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes.

 Melt the butter in a large heavy frying pan together with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onions,  sprinkle with the sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and cook over medium low heat for 25 minutes, or until soft and tender.  Sprinkle with the cayenne.

Toss the caramelized onions, cheese and thyme over the squash cubes and mix.

On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll out one dough into an 11-inch round.  Top with half the squash mixture.  Fold up 2 inches of the dough and pleat to form a 9 inch circle.  Carefully place on baking sheet. Brush with the egg wash.  Repeat with second dough ball and the rest of the filling.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until beautifully golden brown.  Let stand for 5 minutes, and serve hot, warm or at room temp.

I have to admit, I made a bunch more recipes from the Smitten Kitchen:  like I said, this book really honed in on my cooking style, will report back on more recipes from Deb Perelman next time on this blog!

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian
Smitten with Cooking and Books

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great cooking! Everything sounds and looks really good!