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Friday, April 12, 2013

Back to The Smitten Kitchen

Last time I blogged about how I could not stop cooking from Deb Perelman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook  from our Library.  Here are more musings on my semi-maniacal recipe testing:

Love my cast iron skillet!
The other night as I was wondering what I could possibly make for dinner, I found some Yukon Gold potatoes and had the makings for Deb's Potato Frittatta with Feta and Scallions.  (See adapted recipe below.)  Together with the Iceberg Stack with Blue Cheese and Radishes, this made the perfect dinner before going out to watch some college hoops.  

My visiting daughter proclaimed it, "Everything delicious about a breakfast sandwich".  She then proceeded to make the exact same thing for her family the next night.  This recipe is definitely a keeper - tasty, easy, and economical. The salad is all that's good about an iceberg wedge salad, but instead Deb Perelman inventively cuts the head of lettuce into1 inch thick slices. The result:  a better distribution of the topping ingredients as well as a fun, lopsided look (like the stacking game 'Blockhead'?).

Not so photogenic, but tasty.
The next recipe that caught my eye was for a Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart, swirled prettily and baked in a gingersnap crust.  This recipe totally delivered the goods as far as taste goes, but I found that the pumpkin and cheesecake did not swirl together easily.  The relative weights of the two mixtures were too different to blend well. Nevertheless, the flavor combination of the pumpkin/cheesecake/gingersnaps was so enticing, and the preparation so easy, that I will definitely make this again.

Picture perfect.

And just because my son Andy loves them, I had to make the so-called Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats, aka Rice Krispies Treats.  (OK, and also because I had a lot of leftover marshmallows from fall's bonfires.)  These Treats looked better than average as Deb advises using a smaller pan so each square is twice as thick as normal. She also doubles the (unsalted) butter, which she browns first, and adds sea salt, which translates into a nuttier, fresher, brighter flavor profile.  Nice.

Better with more lemon.
On a baking binge,  I saw the recipes for and knew I had to make the following :   Whole Lemon Bars - because it uses one lemon, including the skin!;  and  Gooey Cinnamon Bars - because I'd read other  recipes for "gooey" cakes but only wanted to try one from a trusted source.

No improvement necessary:  great recipe.

Verdict:  the Whole Lemon Bars:  very good, but not stop-you-in-your-tracks great. I made them again because I wanted a quick and easy lemon dessert, and liked them better with double the lemon and 1/3 the amount of butter.  On the other hand, the Gooey Cinnamon Bars  were terrific:  people's comments ranged from "these are soooo good" to "you could sell these!".  Loved them, and was really glad I took them to work.  Otherwise, I easily could have eaten a quarter of this cake myself!

Potato Frittata with Feta and Scallions adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
Salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon for the egg mixture
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
3 or 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced thinly
2/3 cup crumbled feta
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons whole milk or cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil (no pan to wash!).  Peel potatoes, halve lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Pile on sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with  salt and pepper, and mix well.  Spread out on sheet and roast for 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

Cook bacon until crispy in a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet or other oven proof skillet.  Scoop out the bacon. Add the cooked potatoes and oil to the bacon drippings in the skillet, and spread them out evenly.  Scatter the bacon, then scallions, then feta over the potatoes.

Whisk the eggs and milk together with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Carefully pour over the potato mixture in the skillet.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake for an additional 10 or 15 minutes, or until the eggs are set in the middle.

Serves about 6.

What can I say?  I love this cookbook, and have joined the legions of  The Smitten Kitchen's blog followers, who can't resist Deb Perelman's spot-on, inventive recipes.

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian,
Compulsive Cook

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