Arsip Bulanan: Desember 2023
I know what you’re thinking; you don’t even need to say it: It’s time for a fritter intervention. A frittervention? Here, I’ll go first: My name is Deb Perelman and I have a fritter problem. And I really do. I pretty much want to fritter all the things, all the time — broccoli, zucchini, apples, parsnips, an Indian medley, leeks (here), and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, I actually have to hold myself back, and try to evenly space my fritter episodes throughout the year, so not to pique your concern about my fritter consumption. It’s not easy because no matter how many times I talk it out in a circle of understanding peers, I fear I will still think that fritters are the answer to most food dilemmas, most of the time.
They’re the ideal toddler vegetable delivery method. Aside a bowl of lightly dressed mixed greens for the lunch I’m supposed to be having (not, cough, leftover pizza), a couple fritters make it all worthwhile. Alone on a plate, dolloped with a creamy yogurt sauce, they’re a happy afternoon snack. And formed intentionally tiny, they belong at a cocktail party. As do you.
In my defense, I hadn’t frittered in nearly six months before I slipped. The last time, it was broccoli and it was angled specifically towards the toddler set. There was parmesan and only a tiny, non-threatening amount of garlic. The goal was not to ruffle any overtaxed young mealtime feathers. So, of course, you know what happened: my sample population, my toddler, refused to eat them. In response, these fritters don’t care. (Sorry, kid.) There’s more garlic, lemon zest, salty, crumbly feta cheese and they’re flecked with kicky Aleppo pepper. That’s a smoky cumin yogurt on top. They’re dotted with tart pomegranate seeds. Once again, you probably already know what happened: “More please!”
Nevertheless, they want to go to a party with you and I think you should let them. In a December that is to the gills with buttery cookies, decadent cheese plates, stiff drinks and rich roasts, they might even be a little island of moderation, as decked out with tiny red bulbs as the nearest windowsill.
One year ago: Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Two years ago: Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Goat Cheese, Creamed Onions with Bacon and Chives and Sweet Corn Spoonbread
Three years ago: Raisin-Studded Apple Bread Pudding, Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin and Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie
Four years ago: Pepita Brittle, Cottage Cheese Pancakes, How to Max Out Your Tiny Kitchen and Leite’s Connsummate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Five years ago: Black Bean Pumpkin Soup, Apricot and Walnut Vareniki, Chicken with Chanterelles and Pearl Onions and Our Approach To Food Photos
Six years ago: Dreamy Cream Scones and Shrimp Cocktail, Artichoke-Potato Gratin
Cauliflower-Feta Fritters with Smoky Yogurt, Pomegranate
Makes 18 2-inch fritters
I prefer fritters with a lot of vegetable and just the faintest amount of batter, loosely tethering the vegetable chunks to each other. It will seem weird as you put the piles of batter in the pan — “these are going to fall apart!” — but gently nudge any loose pieces back on the pile and I promise, once they’re cooked, they will stay together and their flavor will be crisp and clear, uncluttered by an eggy, soft batter.
1 small head cauliflower (1 pound florets, i.e. stems and leaves removed), cut into generous 1 to 2 inch chunks
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
Few gratings of fresh lemon zest
3 ounces crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes; less if using regular red pepper flakes, which are hotter
3/4 teaspoon table salt or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying
3/4 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful pomegranate arils
Cook cauliflower in simmering salted water, uncovered, until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes, until firm but tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain well. Spread on towels to dry as much as possible.
In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together egg, garlic and lemon zest. Add cauliflower florets and mash with a potato masher until they’re crushed into an average of pea-sized pieces (i.e. some will be bigger, some smaller, but most will be little nubs). Sprinkle in feta and stir to combine egg mixture, cauliflower and feta. In a small dish, whisk flour, salt, pepper and baking powder until evenly combined. Sprinkle over cauliflower batter and stir just until combined.
Heat oven to 200 degrees F and place a tray inside. On the stove, heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add a good slick of oil, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot (you can test it by flicking a droplet of water into it; it should hiss and sputter), scoop a two tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then the tray in the oven to keep them warm until needed. Once all fritters are cooked, mix yogurt with cumin, salt and pepper. Spread fritters on serving platter. Dollop each with cumin yogurt and sprinkle with pomegranate arils.
Do ahead: Fritters both freeze and reheat well. To warm and recrisp them, lay them on a tray and toast them at 400 degrees in the oven until crisp again.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Book Tour ended its 2012 run on Monday evening at the New York Public Library in Midtown, as fine of a place to call a finish line as any, and with great company to boot. I know I should say something here that sums up this sprawling, incredible last couple months in one neat paragraph. There’s so much we haven’t had time to talk about! But, it feels too soon to get my head around all of it and I’d rather talk about this here site because as overwhelmingly grand the last few weeks have been, once I got reunited with my kid/husband/bed, it’s this place I’ve missed the most — fiddling in the kitchen, sharing things we’re excited about and chatting in the comments. So thank you for being part of it. I can’t wait to catch up.
I’d like to tell you that my first foray back into the kitchen was a raging success, alas, this is no time to start teetering on the edge of facts. The second was not much better, and only cemented my hunch that cookbook book tours and cooking are, quite ridiculously, mutually exclusive activities. The third, however, must be shared, despite the fact that the technical errors I encountered were largely avoidable had I, 800-plus site recipes and a cookbook later, yet learned to go with my gut. Why be hasty, right?
You see, a frequently asked question on the tour has been how I go about creating recipes and while the answer is long and
boring winding, I can say in the realm of cookies, it’s a bit more straightforward as most come back to basic formulas that need only a little adjustment for nuance to make them work for a specific flavor profile. Today’s case in point is one of my favorite holiday cookies, the Russian Tea Cake/Mexican Wedding Cakes/Nut Crescents/and sometimes Povlorones. 99 percent of the recipes out there follow a formula that works gorgeously each time — tender, buttery barely-sweet mounds of cookies hot from the oven roll in the powdery sugared deep before cooling into the only cookie I make consistently from year to year. But when I spied one with slightly more nuts and slightly less flour, I was sent into a neurotic typical tailspin over whether I should a) try something new that might be better or b) not fix what is not broken. In the end, I went for the new and potentially different and while these were probably the most fragile and elegant version of the cookie yet, I am only recommending them below as an alternative recipe, as a cookie that cannot handle tumbling through a freshly-sifted mound of featherlight powdered sugar without breaking in half is… probably not a headache anyone needs this weekend.
Really, baking should not cause furrowed brows. It should unwind and make the hallway swoon with the scent of creamed butter, sugar and vanilla toasting against flour. In the background, the Muppets and John Denver should be yukking it up and any adjacent preschoolers should be lightly dusted in powdered sugar as well. Somewhere, someone should be either be mixing you a Perfect Manhattan or plotting your getaway to one.
I typically make this kind of cookie with pecans or walnuts. I’ve sometimes used in macadamias or almonds. I even once tweaked them for chestnuts roasted
on an open fire in a dinky oven. But I’ve never made them or absolutely anything else with cashews because I don’t much care for cashews. If you asked me why, I’d go on about them tasting rather one-dimensional and flatly sweet, almost buttery but in need of more texture, more salt and maybe a little vanilla. You would probably have the common sense to suggest this means that they’re actually calling out to be included in a cookie (buttery? check. crisp? check. vanilla? check.) I, however, took nearly a decade to come to this conclusion and still another year to finally make them.
You were right, by the way, they make an excellent cookie. Everything I find dull about cashews alone is perfect toasted and embedded in these cookies and although this isn’t half as exciting as the other dozen cookies I’d dreamed of sharing this month (next December, friends, I may not leave my apartment at all — for balance and stuff — and you will have all the cookies I owe you) they’re hardly an unwelcome unwelcome addition to any party.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday, friends. I hope somebody bakes you lots of cookies.
For your baking extravaganza: There are 57 cookie recipes in the archives. Where to start? Well, Grasshopper Brownies, of course. Then Spicy Gingerbread Cookies (perfect for houses, squat or tall), Rugelach Pinwheels, Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies, Seven Layer Cookies, ridiculously decadent Chocolate-Toffee Cookies, Toasted Coconut Shortbread, Austrian Raspberry Shortbread, then how about some Pink Lemonade Bars? From the book, I implore you to not skip the Gooey Cinnamon Squares, a mash-up of Snickerdoodles and St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake I became so obsessed with last year, I begged my editor to let me add them, long past the point I was allowed. Need a great cake to top off your meal? You will never be unwelcome with Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread (I make it every year), a Chocolate Stout Cake or even this flourless Ho-Ho of a Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll.
One year ago: Nutmeg-Maple Butter Cookies, Caesar-Salad Deviled Eggs and Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce
Two years ago: Roasted Chestnut Cookies, Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms, Iced Oatmeal Cookies, Broiled Mussels and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies
Three years ago: Creamed Spinach, Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake, Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake, Balsamic-Braised Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Cream Biscuits, Coffee Toffee, Vanilla Roasted Pears and a little guide to Building Your Own Smitten Kitchen
Four years ago: Cauliflower Salad with Green Olives and Capers, Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel, Apple Pancakes, Fennel, Proscuitto and Pomegranate Salad, Meyer Lemon and Fresh Cranberry Scones and Winter Fruit Salad
Five years ago: Pumpkin Waffles, Creamy White Polenta With Mushrooms, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies, Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie, Tiramisu Cake, Fennel Ice Cream and Chicken and Dumplings
Six years ago: Sundried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms, Orangettes, Honey-Hoisin Pork Riblets and Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Cashew Butter Balls
Inspired by the Tasting Table Test Kitchens
It was one of my favorite food newsletters that put the idea of a cashew spin on one of my favorite cookies into my head last winter, however, in the end, I preferred my go-to formula (with slightly less nuts and slightly more flour) to theirs as mine crumbles less. I also nixed the nutmeg, added some vanilla and replaced the granulated sugar with powdered sugar, but kept the name because I love it too much to part with it. I also give a flaky salt option, because I think a faint crunch of salt contrasts wonderfully with sweet cashews.
Oh, and (big and!), I adapted the recipe for a one-bowl assembly in a food processor, yay. If you don’t have one, grind your nuts in whatever you have around (mini-grinder, coffee grinder, etc.) to a powder (I find grinding them with a bit of the flour makes them less prone to turn to a nut butter), then whip the butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the vanilla. Whisk together the ground nuts, flour and salt separately and mix them into the butter mixture until just combined. Chill and scoop as directed below.
If you’d like to make the recipe as TT suggests, use 1/4 cup more cashews and 1/4 cup less flour and only move them from tray to sugar to cooling rack with the gentleness of feathers. Once they cool, they’ll firm up enough that they’re less fragile, although I still wouldn’t recommend them for shipping. Nope, you’ll have to keep them for yourself.
Makes about 40 cookies
1 cup (145 grams) raw cashews
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt, or a heaped 1/4 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 cup (2 sticks or 230 grams) unsalted butter, softened slightly, cut into chunks
2 cups (240 grams) powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350°F and toast cashews in a single layer until a shade darker, about 10 to 12 minutes. About halfway through the toasting time, toss the nuts around to redistribute them for even coloring. Let cool completely. You can hasten this along by transferring them to the freezer for a few minutes.
Place cooled cashews, flour and salt in the workbowl of a food processor. Clear the kitchen of toddlers and others sensitive to loud noises, then grind the mixture to a fine powder. Pour mixture into a bowl and set aside briefly.
Add butter and *only* 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar to the empty food processor and run the machine until the mixture is creamy and combined. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the nut-flour mixture and pulse the machine until it is just combined. Scrape the soft cookie dough back into the bowl that held the nut-flour mixture, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it until firm, about an hour.
[Do ahead: You can chill it in the fridge for up to 2 days, or in the freezer for longer.]
Heat your oven back to 300°F. Place remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar in a wide bowl. Using your hands, scoop tablespoon-sized (about 1-inch round) balls of the chilled cookie dough into your palms and quickly roll them into little balls. Place them evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet an inch apart. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until they feel dry on the outside, but still quite soft. (Don’t fret!)
Let cool on sheets for a few minutes, then gently roll the hot cookies in the powdered sugar before transferring them to racks to cool completely.
Cookies keep in an airtight container for at least a week, probably two, though never at my place. They can be frozen for as long as you trust your freezer. They occasionally benefit from a fresh coating of powdered sugar before serving.
I think we should all go to a party. And we should all eat this. I know, it doesn’t look like much. I am sure you’ve seen cheese spread on a slice of baguette before. It probably looked prettier than this too; less blue, more smooth. But please, lean in anyway, because I have to tell you: this is brilliant. And I can’t believe I’ve gone most of my life without knowing about it. Don’t let it happen to you.
You know that thing that happens when you have friends over? No, I don’t mean the Santa Baby sing-along or red-wine-on-the-white-sofa thing or the ow-my-head-hurts thing the next day, though all of those are grand too. What I mean is, what we usually do is stop by a cheese store or counter and pick up a bunch of wedges of this and that and put them out with wine and bread and at the end of the night, there’s always one sorry little glass left of wine left and a few nubs of cheese. Maybe they end up in the trash. They shouldn’t. And they won’t anymore because let me introduce you to (drumroll, Oprah voice, please)… fromage fort!
Translated as “strong cheese,” it’s a delightfully economical blend of whatever odds and ends of cheese you have around, some wine, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs, if you’re feeling it. Softer cheeses make it creamier. Harder cheeses can benefit from a pat of butter. You can use it right away or “age” it a little more, up to a week is safest. For a treat, you can run your slice of bread spread with the fromage fort under the broiler. If it’s on the softer side, dip things like grissini or other seedy breadsticks in it. But beyond that, there are no rules. There are few recipes, just outlines. But the main thing, the salient bit, is that you just wing it.
Fromage fort is forgiving. It accepts all kinds — your tired old gruyere scraps, your poor white wine choices, your huddled masses of brie, yearning to breathe free (I’m so sorry, America.), and blends them together into something infinitely greater than its parts. Plus, there’s always a little snowflake specialness to it, as no two batches will ever be exactly alike. In a year of carefully arranged, slightly obsessive, many component-ed, over-the-top and personal Mount Everests of recipes, this is the most fitting way to usher the year out.
One year ago: Parsnip Latkes with Horseradish and Dill, Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs and Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Glaze
Two years ago: Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies and Milk Punch (or, my nomination for the ideal cocktail embodiment of the dreaded “wintry mix”)
Three years ago: Creamed Mushrooms on Butter-Chive Toast, Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce, Mushroom Marsala Pasta with Artichokes, How to Host Brunch (and Still Sleep In), Spinach and Cheese Strata, Pear Bread and Parmesan Cheese Crackers
Four years ago: Mushroom and Barley Pie, The Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell, Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart, Mustard Roasted Potatoes, Walnut Tartlets, Cauliflower Gratin, All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough, Pumpkin Cupcakes, Cabbage Apple and Walnut Salad and Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust
Five years ago: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, My Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies, Austrian Raspberry Shortbread, A Slice-and-Bake Cookie Pallette and Robert Linxe’s Chocolate Truffles
Six years ago: Wild Mushroom Pirogis, Blondies, Infinitely Adaptable, Fettucine with Porcini, German Pancakes, Winter Panzanella, Chicken Skewers with Dukkah Crust and Pecan Squares
As I mention above, there are no rules as to how you put this together. Maybe you want more wine, or less. Maybe you want a heavy hand with salt and pepper, or you want the natural flavors of the cheese to shine through. If you’re using a lot of hard cheeses, a pat or two of butter will help smooth things out. Personally, I go easy on the garlic (one tiny clove) because it really blooms as the cheese sits, and I don’t want it to take over, but maybe you would like that. The only thing I think it important to keep in mind is that even a small amount of blue cheese tends to dominate. I used 25% of the weight in blue, and the result was essentially a blue cheese spread. Fortunately, we love them. But if that’s not your thing, limit it to just a small spoonful or a few crumbles.
If you’re curious, my formula this time was one part each of blue, brie, goat cheese and gruyere, a handful of chives and a full cup of wine.
1 pound mix leftover cheese, harder cheeses grated, softer ones cut into chunks
A couple pats of butter, if using mostly firm cheese varieties
1 small clove garlic, minced, or more to taste
1/2 to 1 cup leftover white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary or chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Blend cheese, butter (if using) and garlic in food processer until combined. Drizzle in wine with the motor running until you get your desired consistency — some like it completely smooth, others prefer chunks. Add herbs, pulsing the machine until just combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Fromage fort can be used right away, or kept in the fridge until needed. In the fridge, it will thicken and age a little; the flavors will mingle and deepen.
It’s the first week of January, so I am going to go out on a limb and guess that no fewer than 52 percent of you are gnawing on a carrot stick right now. If you’re not gnawing on a carrot stick right now, you probably have some within reach of you. If they’re not within reach of you, they’re in your fridge, because you, like most of us, are more ambitious when it comes to grocery lists than you might be when it’s time to consume said groceries. And if they’re not in your fridge, you might have them on your mind, nagging at you. Early January is like that. (Late January is all about rich comfort foods. Trust me.)
I set off 2012 on this site with a carrot soup, and it’s not accidental that I’m doing the same in 2013. You see, one of the sadder facts about me is that I’m plagued with indecision about everything, from bangs to coffee tables to soups, and before you ended up reading about Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame and maybe even some pickled scallions, I had at least three ideas for carrot soup spinning in my head and it likely took me a solid week with immeasurable hemming and hawing to even settle on the miso version first. This carrot tahini soup was first runner up last year, but it’s clear to me, eating my first bowl of this right now, this was a mistake. The inspiration is one of my favorite snacks (sadly, not shared by my assistant, yet), carrot sticks dipped in hummus* and here I tried to deconstruct the two things only to reconstruct them better.
Amazingly, both carrot soups originate from the same place, which is that I don’t much care for it. And I know what you’re thinking: “Three carrot soups? When you barely like one? Weirdo!” But, I’d argue, pickiness, namely mine, needn’t be so much a roadblock but a source of inspiration. I enjoy finding ways I can make things I once believed to be not my thing very much my thing. If I find carrot soup is vaguely sweet and flat, how can I make it complex and textured and bright? Last year it was miso, sesame and pickled scallions. This year it is even better: some smoky cumin, coriander and pepper flakes sauteed with the soup vegetables, a swirl of lemon-tahini to finish, loads of crispy chickpeas as croutons. It’s all sorts of January-ness in a bowl — vegetarian, nay, vegan, antioxidants! alpha-carotene! beta-carotene! potassium! Guys, it’s like one spoonful of quinoa short of Food Blog Deity status. But — snore! — really, it’s just good. January or not, that’s the only good reason I can think of to eat something.
* Hummus? I was thinking about doing an updated post on hummus, with a different technique, but only if there’s interest. Update: As you wish, Ethereally Smooth Hummus!
More: Carrots and soups, previously.
One year ago: Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame
Two years ago: Chard and White Bean Stew
Three years ago: Walnut Pesto, Spicy Caramel Popcorn and Southwestern Pulled Brisket
Four years ago: Veselka’s Cabbage Soup, Spelt Everything Crackers, Feta Salsa, Zuni Cafe’s Roast Chicken and Bread Salad, Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake, Sausage Stuffed Potatoes + Green Salad
Five years ago: Caramel Cake, 96 Favorites and Viennese Cucumber Salad
Six years ago: Boozy Baked French Toast, Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti, Coq au Vin
Carrot Soup with Lemon, Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas
My soup vice is because I’ve already confessed to finding it a little dull, that I overcompensate with add-ins. Here, there’s a dollop (lemon-tahini), a crouton (cumin-crisped chickpeas, which might sound familiar as they’re also here), wedges of toasted pitas (brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with za’atar) and a garnish (parsley). If you’re not me, this might seem like overkill, in which case you should definitely just use the ones you find the most interesting.
Serves 4, generously or 6, petitely
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
2 pounds (905 grams) carrots, peeled, diced or thinly sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 regular or 6 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon table salt, plus more if needed
Pinch of Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
4 cups (945 ml) vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 15-ounce (425-gram) can, drained, patted dry on paper towels
1 generous tablespoon (15 ml or so) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons (25 grams) tahini paste
2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
Pinch or two of salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
Pita wedges, garnish
A few large pitas, cut into 8 wedges
Olive oil, to brush pitas
Za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice-herb blend) or sesame seeds and sea salt to sprinkle
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper flakes and sauté until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Toss chickpeas with one tablespoon olive oil, salt and cumin until they’re all coated. Spread them on a baking sheet or pan and roast them in the oven until they’re browned and crisp. This can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and firmness of your chickpeas. Toss them occasionally to make sure they’re toasting evenly.
Once vegetables have begun to brown, add broth, using it to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cover pot with lid and simmer until carrots are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small dish, whisk together tahini, lemon juice, salt and water until smooth with a yogurt-like consistency. If more liquid is needed to thin it, you can add more lemon juice or water, a spoonful at a time, until you get your desired consistency.
Spread pita wedges on a second baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with za’atar or a combination of sea salt and sesame seeds and toast in oven with chickpeas until brown at edges, about 5 minutes.
Puree soup in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Ladle into bowls. Dollop each with lemon-tahini, sprinkle with crisped chickpeas and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with pita wedges. Forget January, you’d eat this anytime. Right?
For as long as I have written this website — yes, even longer than it has been since I told you the wee white lie that Paula Wolfert’s hummus was all I’d ever need — I have known how to make the most ethereally smooth, fluffy, dollop-ing of a hummus and never told you. I have some nerve. But, in my defense, I had my reasons, mostly that I knew if I told you how to make it, I’d be able to hear your eye rolls through the screen, they’d be at once so dramatic and in unison. From there, there would be the loud, synchronized clicks of “Unfollow!” “Unfriend!” “Hide these updates, please!” and the under-breath mutters of “Lady, you have got to be kidding me.” Because, you see, the path between the probably acceptable, vaguely grainy but borderline good-enough hummus you probably have been making and the stuff that I dream about sweeping cold, sweet carrots sticks through — the January version of fresh strawberries and whipped cream — has only one extra stop but most of you will argue that it’s at Cuckoo Farm: you see, you must peel the chickpeas.
Chickpeas, when they’re cooked, have a thin skin that sags a bit, kind of like a Sharpei’s, but less cute. It hangs about them like they’re trying hard to shake it, but just couldn’t. I have found that if you help them — put a single chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers and press gently until it pops out with a rather satisfying soft pop, then plink! into a bowl — it makes all of the difference in the texture of your final hummus. But I theorized that no sane person would ever spend their time ejecting chickpeas from their skins, because it would be such an arduous task, even reorganzing bookcases, which we did last night, would be preferable. Yet when I cautiously asked you last week if you’d want to hear about a new hummus technique, so many of you said “Yes, please!” I figured it was time to make peace with this technique once and for all.
… with a timer. The thing is, I’m a slow, slow cook and even slower at prep. I dilly-dally. I daydream. Yet even at this leisurely, lazy pace of freeing chickpeas from their loosely tethered confines, only nine minutes had passed when I was done. And I got to think of all of the silly things I’ve spent nine minutes each doing. I waited nine irritated minutes for a refund for something I hadn’t actually bought at a store this weekend. I’ve definitely waited nine bemused minutes for my little New Yorker to walk a single block. It took me no less than nine minutes
yesterday eh, most days, to motivate to refill my own water glass. And yet I was convinced that spending nine extra minutes on food prep was madness. Oh, Deb.
What this nine minutes buys you, however, is a world of difference, hummus that is as far from the grainy, beige beleaguered paste a lot of recipes have led me to as it can be — all pillows and plumes of the softest chickpea-tahini-lemon-garlic puree. I hope it makes a convert out of you, too.
One year ago: Apple Sharlotka
Two years ago: Vanilla Bean Pudding
Three years ago: Caramel Pudding and Barley Risotto with Beans and Greens
Four years ago: Grasshopper Brownies, Pecan Sandies, Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts and Fig and Walnut Biscotti
Five years ago: Goulash and Lemon Bars
Six years ago: Balthazar’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
Ethereally Smooth Hummus
Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi’s stunning new dream of a book; technique is my own madness
This is probably where you expect me to give you a soapbox speech about why it is so important that you soak your own chickpeas. And you know, think they taste wonderful, especially if you treat yourself to some of the best. But, I also make it with canned chickpeas quite often (Goya is my favorite, for perfectly cooked, intact canned beans, each time) and it’s perfectly excellent. Below, I’ve included instructions for both.
Updated in 2019 to suggest: If you buy dried chana dal (also sold as split chickpeas or bengal grams) at an Indian and many other intentional grocery stores, or online, surprise! They’re already peeled chickpeas. You’ll want to soak and cook them as you would dried chickpeas (it will take less time because they’re smaller), you can have the same effect as you get here from peeling chickpeas without that extra step. It’s glorious.
Makes 1 3/4 cups hummus
1 3/4 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (from a 15-ounce can) or a little shy of 2/3 cup dried chickpeas (for same yield)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (for dried chickpeas only)
1/2 cup tahini paste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3/4 teaspoon table salt, or more to taste
Approximately 1/4 cup water or reserved chickpea cooking water
Olive oil, paprika or sumac, pita wedges (brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar, or a combination of sesame seeds and sea salt), and/or carrot sticks [optional] to serve
If using dried chickpeas: There are multiple methods to cooking them, and you can use whichever is your favorite, or Ottolenghi’s, or mine. Ottolenghi’s is to put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with at least twice their volume of cold water, leaving them to soak overnight. The next day, drain them, and saute them in a medium saucepan with the baking soda (which many find reduces the gassy effects of fresh beans) for about three minutes. Add 3 1/4 cups water and bring it to a boil. Skim any foam that floats to the surface. They’ll need to cook for 20 to 40 minutes, sometimes even longer, depending on freshness, to become tender. When tender, one will break up easily between your thumb and forefinger. My method is similar, but I often put mine in a slow-cooker on high with the baking soda for approximately three hours, so I don’t have to monitor them as much.
Drain the chickpeas (saving the chickpea broth for soups or to thin the hummus, if desired) and cool enough that you can pick one up without burning your fingers.
Whether fresh or canned chickpeas: Peel your chickpeas. I find this is easiest when you take a chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers, arranging the pointy end in towards your palm, and “pop!” the naked chickpea out. Discard the skin. I get into a rhythm and rather enjoy this, but it’s also already established that I’m a weirdo.
In a food processor, blend the chickpeas until powdery clumps form, a full minute, scraping down the sides. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend until pureed. With the machine running, drizzle in water or reserved chickpea cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get very smooth, light and creamy mixture. I find I need about 4 tablespoons for this volume, but you may need slightly more or less.
Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed. I do recommend that you hold off on adding more garlic just yet, however. I find that it “blooms” as it settles in the fridge overnight, becoming much more garlicky after a rest, so that even if it doesn’t seem like enough at first, it likely will be in the long run.
Transfer the hummus to a bowl and rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can. To serve, drizzle it with a little olive oil, and sprinkle it with paprika. Serve it with pita wedges or carrot sticks.
I realize that when it comes to January Food — carrot sticks, soup, legumes and other things I suspect, what with it being the third week of the month, you are already tiring of — gnocchi, thick dumpling-like pasta made from potatoes, hardly makes the cut. It’s, in fact, not even invited to the party, having no place among the sweatband-ed, pumped up, high-topped aerobicized… okay, maybe my brain went straight past “earnest attempts at resolution-inspired rebalance” to a Richard Simmons video, circa 1982. These things, they happen.
But a kale-apple-ginger smoothie, gnocchi is not. And yet, this dish from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is one of my favorite things to make after a month of holiday gluttony because it is both light and filling, yet warm enough for the coldest day. The thing with gnocchi is that it’s so plagued by a reputation of being bad for you that it’s presumed that if you’re eating it, your arteries/girth/sense of proportion must already be doomed so let’s just ladle on the blue cheese, okay? And, indeed, most restaurants will serve it with butter, cream, cheese and other rich ingredients, such as truffles, probably with more butter. It’s not my thing; I think such preparations wreck the delicacy that’s at the heart of perfect gnocchi, which is featherlight, dumpling-like and best appreciated in a puddle of intensely flavored broth. It’s true: I turned the Italian classic of gnocchi and red sauce into a riff on matzo ball soup, and I’m not even a little sorry.
Of course, waiting until the third paragraph to argue that featherlight homemade gnocchi is both doable and worth it at home is akin to burying the lede, but I insist that it is. I think gnocchi is one of those dishes that has been made needlessly intimidating to make at home by well-intentioned but ultimated head-spinning recipes. In early attempts, I too have been flummoxed by the idea that without a potato ricer or food mill and gnocchi rolling board, I shouldn’t even bother and even when I did, I was still plagued by leaden, gluey globs of pasta that never cooked through. But once I got it right, I realized how easy it was and, being me, immediately had to tell the world. I’m going to argue below that not only none of these things are necessary, that once you have some potatoes baked and ready to use, gnocchi is the kind of dish that’s so easy to pull together, you could even have it for dinner this very evening. I dare you to argue this doesn’t trump the fifth bottle of that juice cleanse you had planned.
Book Tour, Part II When The Smitten Kitchen Book Tour worked its way from Washington to Houston to Los Angeles, Vancouver, Chicago, Toronto and Boston in late 2012, did you feel left out? Did you say something? Because we were listening, and decided at the earliest interval decided it would be fun to get back out there and make things right. This second tour, between mid-February and mid-March, will include eight unintentionally overlooked cities and I hope if we missed you the first time that yours is one of them. I hope we finally get to hang out. [The Smitten Kitchen Book Tour, Part II]
Nevertheless, I realize we’re still missing some great towns, and want to very seriously encourage those of you who live in far-flung ports — say, The Caribbean, Paris, Morocco or Hawaii — to lobby loud and vigorously for additional stops. For
me. Ahem, us.
One year ago… Coming in a bit!
Gnocchi in Tomato Broth
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Yield: 2 1/2 to 3 cups broth and 85 to 100 gnocchi, serving 4
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium stalk celery, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup (120 ml) white wine
One 28-ounce (795 grams) can whole or chopped tomatoes with juices
Small handful fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 cups (475 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds (905 grams) Russet potatoes (3 to 4)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (156 to 190 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
Fresh ricotta or shaved Parmesan, to taste, plus addition slivers of basil leaves (optional)
Bake potatoes: Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size, until a thin knife can easily pierce through them. Meanwhile, prepare the tomato broth.
Make tomato broth: Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. One it’s hot, add the carrot, celery, and onion, and cook together for 5 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if they begin to brown. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute more. Pour in the wine, and use it to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then cook the wine unti it is reduced by half, for several minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, mashing them a bit with a spoon if they’re whole, and the basil and stock, and simmer until the tomato broth thickens slightly, for about 45 minutes. Strain out the vegetables in a fine-mesh colander, and season the broth with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until needed.
Make gnocchi: Let the potatoes cool for 10 minutes after baking, then peel them with a knife or a peeler. Run the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater (grated baked potatoes will fall apart, which is the goal). Cool them to lukewarm, about another 10 minutes. Add the egg and salt, mixing to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour, and mix to combine. Add the next 1/2 cup flour, mixing again. Add 1/4 cup flour, and see if this is enough to form a dough that does not easily stick to your hands. If not, add the last 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft but only a little sticky, and able to hold its shape enough to be rolled into a rope. Knead the dough together briefly, gently, on a counter, just for a minute.
Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch lengths. At this point, you can use a floured fork or a gnocchi board to give each piece the traditional ridges, but I never bother. (The ridges are supposed to help sauce adhere, but here, we’re just floating them in a broth so it’s not a top concern.) Place the gnocchi on a a parchment-lined tray.
[Do ahead: If you’d like to freeze gnocchi for later user, do so on this tray. Once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag until needed. No need to defrost before cooking them; it will just take a minute or two longer.]
Cook gnocchi: Place the gnocchi, a quarter-batch at a time, into a pot of boiling well-salted water. Cook the gnocchi until they float — about 2 minutes — then drain.
Assemble dish: Meanwhile, reheat broth to a simmer. Add drained gnocchi then reheat through. Serve gnocchi and broth together, garnished with a few slivers of basil leaves and/or a dollop of fresh ricotto or some Parmesan shavings, if desired.
Every year around this time — well into the winter season, but long after we found it charmingly brisk, as it is when you do googly-eyed things like ice skating around a sparkling tree at the holidays — we get some sort of brittle cold snap in the weather that catches me by surprise. Even though we live in New York, a place where a cold snap or two a January is as predictable as being hosed by some unspeakably awful puddle of street juice slush by a car spinning through an intersection; even though I’ve lived in this exact climate for every one of my thirty-I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it years; and even though I have the audacity to look forward to winter every sticky concrete-steaming summer, when I walk outside on that first 20-degree day and the wind gusts into my face and renders it hard to exhale, the very first thing I do is audibly holler in rage and disbelief, “WHAT THE WHAT?” I am nothing — as we joke when my sweet little son tries to clomp down the hallway in his dad’s massive boots and immediately falls on his tush — if not Harvard Material.
Weeks like the one we’re having on the East Coast require their own
bourbon cocktail plane tickets to someplace tropical and child-free, uh, family-friendly elixir and although I’ve previously found comfort in such meal intensities as lasagna bolognese, chili and mushroom and noodles, glorified, I think this year’s pick — a hearty Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard and Garlic trumps them all. It hails from the new cookbook from the guy behind one of the first food blogs I ever read, and still do, The Amateur Gourmet. I think you should buy it right this very second. Why? Because in it, Adam Roberts does what he does best — schmooze with great chefs and get them to spill the dirt, all in the name of making us better home cooks.
[He’s also good at this with less famous, non-chefs, such as yours truly, when he got me to confess to a packed room last month my top-secret, totally-un-PC method of getting toddlers to occasionally eat what you’d like them to, not that I’d be crazy enough to let that happen twice.]
To write this book, Adam travelled all over the country to visit chefs in their work or home kitchens with a reporter’s notebook and jotted down everything. He learned all sorts of goodies such as why Sara Moulton says you should steel your knives before starting to chop things and how you can tell without sniffing or tasting (or crossing your fingers) whether your butter is still good. Oh, and he’s just getting started. Reading this on a lazy Saturday afternoon before my son decided to start his still ongoing nap strike [our household internal dialogue is something like this right now: noooooooo], I was enrapt as I learned the secret of Jonathan Waxman’s technique for tossing salad and how Alice Water’s “crown” of fresh herbs can make even the simplest olive oil-fried eggs heavenly, plus a font of tips he picked up through observation, such as how chefs manage to use their produce before it gets forgotten and goes bad to (still shocking to me) how sparingly most of them used freshly ground black pepper.
What none of these tips — delightfully, refreshingly — aim to do is intensify the gap between restaurant chefs and home cooks. There’s nobody on a high horse, rolling their eyes at people who prefer to cook from recipes or who benefit from (gasp!) suggested measurements of seasonings. I had very few opportunities to take part in my own eye-rolling-at-chef-recipes pastime, such as when they expect you to use four skillets and eight prep bowls to make a single soup. No, instead this book’s stated goal would, in an ideal world, be the stated goal of every cookbook on the shelves, to be “a prompt, a catalyst for self-reliance in the kitchen.” That it also yielded one of the most delicious, hearty soups that’s ever graced a frigid January day was just the
cherry sizzling garlic oil on top.
One year ago: Buckwheat Baby with Salted Caramel Syrup
Two years ago: Pizza with Bacon, Onions and Cream and Baked Potato Soup
Three years ago: Poppy Seed Lemon Cake, Black Bean Soup + Toasted Cumin Seed Crema and Cranberry Syrup (+ An Intensely Almond Cake)
Four years ago: Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew, Vanilla Almond Rice Pudding, Light Wheat Bread, Clementine Cake, Mushroom Bourguignon, Sugar Puffs and Smashed Chickpea Salad
Five years ago: Crunchy Baked Pork Chops, Pickled Carrot Sticks and Chicken Caesar Salad
Six years ago: World Peace Cookies, Salade Lyonnaise, Artichoke Ravioli and Leek and Mushroom Quiche
Although I would hardly say that having a kid has made me wiser — there have been just too many incidents like the one this morning, when not a single of the following clues piqued my concern: 3 year-old going into bathroom to bring his step-stool into another room; the sound of a cabinet opening, a fridge opening followed by a banging sound on the counter, until it was too late and a once-clean child in a once-clean kitchen was making “skwambled” eggs — I can’t help but have come to a few salient conclusions about children/life itself over the last few years that I find infinitely applicable. One, there are few things wrong that a good night’s sleep cannot fix. Two, sometimes you really just need to scream and yell and have a great big noisy fuss for a few minutes and get it all out — pounding your tiny, dimpled fists on the carpet is optional, but this is no time to hold back feeling all the feelings, you know? — so that you can resume being sweet and awesome for the remaining minutes of the day. Finally, there’s not a single person in this universe who does not need a cookie at 4 p.m. each day, like clockwork. Nobody. Not even you. Even in the month of Resolutions.
One of my great cookie loves, and the most ideal 4 p.m. mini-escapist treat, is the chocolate sable from Balthazar Bakery. I don’t get it often, because that would be dangerous. I usually indulge when I’ve mentally committed to walking either there or back or both (exercise!) or I’m having the kind of day that only a walk to SoHo would improve (justification!). If you’ve ever been to Balthazar, you’ve probably looked right past it to ogle the pain au chocolate or burnished plum tarts because it looks plain and dull, hardly competitive with its surroundings, and I think you’ve missed out because alone in its 1/4-inch thick fluted round is the intensity of all the chocolate in Paris. Okay, I exaggerate but still, that’s no excuse to miss it. It’s bittersweet, crisp and sandy; it absolutely aches with chocolate impact and it makes me very happy.
My attempts to recreate it at home have been less so. I felt like I’d tried everything in the world — buying the Balthazar cookbook, only to find the recipe absent (cruel!) and then increasing the cocoa-to-flour proportion in my go-to sable recipe more and more in hopes to get that deeply rooted chocolate flavor, and failing — when I one day stumbled on the chocolate sable recipe from Miette cookbook from the darling eponymous bakery in San Francisco. The ingredient list (cocoa, flour, sugar, butter, salt, leavener) was exactly like all the others, save one blessed addition: grated bittersweet chocolate. And it was in this that I unlocked the Spring Street magic that had thus far eluded me.
Well, mostly. The cookie was in fact an utter flop for me; the crumbs never came together into a dough. I spread the rubble on a tray and baked-and-tossed it until it was crisp and we’ve taken to spreading these cookie crumbles on ice cream which is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea if you had “not eat Oreo sundaes” anywhere in your January goals. Back to the drawing board, I made some tweaks — grinding the chocolate (less pesky than grating), an egg yolk to bind the mixture together, slightly less sugar to approximate the bitter-sweetness of the inspiring sable, less baking soda and Dutched cocoa, with it’s nutty, dark properties, really makes a difference here.
They may look a little thin and flimsy, but should not be underestimated. When they come out of the oven, your kitchen will smell like there’s a bubbling cauldron of melted chocolate on the stove and people who walk through your front door and inhale will have an absolutely startled reaction. “Mommy. WHAT YOU MAKE ME?” your kid will demand to know (“broccoli,” is probably not what you’ll reply, because you’re not a smart-ass like his elders). Days later, you will open the container they are stored in and be smacked in the face with the same chocolate intensity, if anything more potent with age. And I know you could bake them up and decorate them all pretty with sprinkles and pink baubles and box them up for any of your loves. But I think you should just make them for you, because those 4 p.m. hankerings will arrive all of the days this week and for the next hereafter, and you might as well be decadently prepared.
One year ago: Buttermilk Roast Chicken
Two years ago: Chocolate Peanut Spread (Peanutella)
Three years ago: Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions and Ricotta Muffins
Four years ago: Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake
Five years ago: Fried Chicken
Six years ago: Grapefruit Yogurt Cake
Intensely Chocolate Sables
Inspired by Balthazar, adapted quite a bit from Miette
I prefer these cookies with Dutched cocoa power, which is darker and little nuttier,
but if you only have natural cocoa, you can use it, although the cookies will puff just a bit more. [Update 1/29: Based on the comments I’m reading, I’m going to red card the use of natural or non-Dutched cocoa for now as the folks using this kind seem to be the ones having the most trouble with their cookies falling apart. So sorry for the trouble; it just seems most reliable to use this recipe with Dutched cocoa. Also, it is tastier.] Technically speaking, baking soda and Dutched cocoa powder don’t react, but I found that it imparted a slight raised texture and better crumb than skipping it or using baking powder, so I kept it there. Besides changing the type of cocoa powder and decreasing the baking soda, I also adjusted the recipe by adding an egg yolk (so it would come together), giving you the option to grind, instead of grating the chocolate (a step I find pesky because my warm hands make a mess of it) and then, because the Balthazar cookie I fell in love with is so bittersweet, giving you a suggested reduced sugar amount. If you’d like a bittersweet chocolate cookie, use the 1/2 cup amount. If you’d like a sweeter (although hardly overly sweet) chocolate cookie, use 2/3 cup. I always sprinkle these with coarse brown sugar, but I’m sure they could be prettied up with sprinkles or the like as well.
Makes 40 to 48 2-inch thin cookies, fewer if thicker
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutched cocoa powder (see Updated Note)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 to 2/3 cup (100 to 135 grams) granulated sugar (less for a more bittersweet cookie)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped until almost powdery in a food processor
Coarse sugar (turbinato/sugar in the raw or decorative) for sprinkling
Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda together onto a piece of waxed paper or into a bowl and set aside. (I almost always skimp on sifting wherever possible, but my cocoa is always lumpy, so this is unavoidable.)
Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beating until combined, then scraping down sides. Add dry ingredients and grated chocolate together and mix until just combined.
Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and chill it in the fridge until just firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. No need to get it fully hard, or it will be harder to roll out. Dough can be refrigerated until needed, up to a two days, or frozen longer, but let it warm up and soften a bit before rolling it out for decreased frustration.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough gently — it will still be on the crumbly side, so only attempt to flatten it slightly with each roll — until it is 1/8-inch thick (for thin cookies, what I used), 1/4-inch thick (for thicker ones) or somewhere in-between (I suspect the Balthazar ones are rolled to 3/8-inch). Cut into desired shapes and space them an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle decoratively with coarse sugar. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (for thinner cookies) or 10 to 12 minutes (for thicker ones). Leave cookies on baking sheets out of the oven for a couple minutes before gently, carefully transferring them to cooling racks, as they’ll be fragile until they cool.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks of 4 p.m. rations.
If you have a thing for chocolate, the world is your oyster. On this very site, 86 of the just over 800 recipes boast a significant chocolate component and entire sections of bookstores will be happy to fill in any cravings I missed. If you have a thing for bacon, the internet would be overjoyed to find you places to put it, zillions, even, although I’d proceed with caution before auditioning a couple. But if you have a thing for something slightly less of a prom king/queen ingredient, say, tiny white beans, well, it can be tough. It’s not there are no uses for them, it’s just that when you’re very much in love, there are never enough ways to be together. And if you’re me — someone who sometimes ups and makes a mega-pot of white beans just because you feel like it, presuming you’ll find things to do with them later — you sometimes end up scrambling, yanking down nearly every cookbook in your collection but still coming up bereft of uses outside the well-trodden soup-and-salad territory.
So tell me: What are you favorite uses for beans outside the ever-popular realm of chili, tacos, soup and salad? Really, I’m hankering for more inspiration. I ended up finding some — but never enough — in this month’s Bon Appetit, in a stack of pasta recipes you will find it impossible to choose among from Sara Jenkins of Porchetta and Porsena (and green bean salad, sigh) fame. I was so charmed by the short tubes of pasta with chickpeas, I made it almost immediately but maybe it was because I’ve overdone it on chickpeas this month, but I kept thinking it would be nice with something… daintier. And considering that it is an established fact (um, in Italy, where I suspect both my white bean and artichoke obsessions could roam free) that white beans, garlic, rosemary and olive oil are a combination sent from above, I had a hunch they’d be happy here too.
The result is a great pasta for this time of year, deeply comforting and hearty but not overly decadent. There’s no heavy cream or cheese, or dairy at all; there’s no bacon (I’m sorry) or even a pinch of meat. And you won’t miss any of these things because, like a certain soup I have missed immensely since last week, it’s the finish that makes the dish — in this case, a sizzling oil with not just garlic but freshly minced rosemary too. If you finish that with a few pinches of sea salt, oh boy. You’ll see. It’ll make a convert out of you too.
One year ago: Potato Chip Cookies
Two years ago: Roast Chicken with Dijon Sauce
Three years ago: Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
Four years ago: Chicken Milanese and an Escarole Salad and Flaky Blood Orange Tart
Five years ago: Leek and Swiss Chard Tart and Key Lime Cheesecake
Six years ago: Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans and Icebox Cake
Book Tour II: Just in case your missed the announcement a couple weeks ago, The Smitten Kitchen Book Tour marches on in February and March, with eight cities (hello, Atlanta/St.Louis/Minneapolis/Salt Lake/Denver/Raleigh/Montreal! plus an additional, awesome event in Brooklyn). I hope this means we finally get to meet.
Pasta and White Beans with Sizzling Garlic-Rosemary Oil
Adapted, barely, from Sara Jenkins via Bon Appetit
For the pasta, I used pennete, because I thought it nicely matched the little white beans (Rancho Gordo’s Alubia Blanca). Sara Jenkins called for ditalini to go with chickpeas. You can use whatever you’d like — short tubes, even elbows, and canned beans are just fine here.
I streamlined the recipe a bit to reduce the number of bowls and pots used,
because I’m having the kind of week where if I see another dirty dish, I’ma run far away ahem, to make things easier.
This makes a lot of pasta, because you’re using a whole pound plus two cans of beans, so it’s a great recipe to consider halving if you wish to finish it before spring comes.
1 medium onion, cut into big chunks
1 medium carrot, in big chunks
1 celery stalk, in big chunks
6 garlic cloves, 4 left whole, 2 finely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
Coarse or kosh salt
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 1/2 cups cooked, drained beans (save cooking liquid for water in recipe, if desired) or 2 15-ounce cans small white beans (such as Great Northern or Cannelini), rinsed
1 pound short tube pasta (see suggestions above)
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
Pulse onion, carrot, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and red pepper flakes (to taste) in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add vegetable mixture to pot. (Quickly rinse, but no need to fully wash, food processor as you’ll use it again shortly.) Season generously with salt. Cook, stirring from time to time, until vegetables take on a bit of color, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste (original recipe calls for 2T but we enjoyed it with 3) and cook it into the vegetables for another minute. Add 1 cup water or bean cooking liquid and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the pot. Let simmer until liquid has almost disappeared, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add beans and 2 more cups of water (or bean cooking liquid) to the pot and simmer until the flavors meld, about another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or still a little firm inside. I know you didn’t ask for one, but can I insert an argument for al dente pasta here? The thing is, you don’t want your pasta to fully cook in the water. If you do, it won’t have any absorbency left to drink up and become with that delicious sauce. I have really found that finishing pasta in its sauce is the single thing that most swiftly improved the quality of my pasta dishes.
Reserve 1 1/2 cups cooking water from your drained pasta.
Transfer one cup of the bean mixture to your rinsed food processor and purée it until smooth, then stir it back into the sauce to thicken it. Add drained pasta and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to bean sauce and cook the mixture together, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until the sauce coats the pasta, about 1 to 2 more minutes.
To serve: Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a tiny saucepan over medium-low heat with garlic and rosemary, until sizzling stops. Divide pasta between serving bowls and drizzle garlic-rosemary oil over each. If you’re us, you’ll finish this with a few flakes of sea salt. Eat at once.
Someone pointed out to me a few weeks ago that this site has not a single recipe in the archives for egg salad. However, unlike the time I realized the broccoli archives boasted but a single recipe (and quickly sought to populate it) or the time I accepted that a quickie from-scratch homemade chicken noodle soup deserves a place in every arsenal, the egg salad-shaped hole in the archives went unnoticed less due to editorial oversight and more because, well, you know: egg salad; it’s pretty dull. Could anything be more uninspired than an amalgamation of smashed-up hard-boiled eggs and the dreaded mayonnaise? I mean, have you seen the yellow, flavorless mounds of dubious origin and assembly date most delis scoop onto a slice of bread and try to pass off as lunch? It would hardly make an enthusiast out of you. Or anyone.
But for those of us who see past the lack of beauty-queen stature and fervor around it, we know egg salad can be rather delicious if made properly, which is to say, at home, with perfectly cooked eggs and just enough dressing to cling, not drown them. At home, I make three small additions that I think transform it from the unglamorous status-quo to something I find crunchy, bright and absolutely perfect on a slice of whole-grain toasted bread in the middle of the day. The first is that I love to use coarse, or whole-grain Dijon mustard. Not only is it the prettiest thing in my fridge, the combination of the faintly crisp/crackly seeds and its milder flavor are heavenly here, adding texture and just enough kick to the eggs. The second is finely minced shallot, just a little. You could use red onion, too, but I think the texture is key. You want it to be noticeable enough that you enjoy it but not so loud that it upstages the star, kind of like surprise guests at a halftime show.
The last thing is the one that will make you say, “Wha? No, no way.” but trust me, a spoonful of lightly pickled celery is wonderful here. I talked about my love of this a bit in the book, where I put it on a fingerling salad with a sharp dressing but I promise, once you make it, it has a habit of showing up everywhere, from chopped to tuna salads. It adds a little accent and crunch, and once you fall in love with it here, it will be impossible to make it any other way, so consider yourself warned.
Events: After a lazy month I affectionately referred to as Sloth January, things are getting fun again. On Friday, I’ll be on WNYC’s Last Chance Foods segment of All Things Considered with Melissa Clark and Amy Eddings discussing the finer points of hummus and pros and cons of chickpea-peeling. (Do I have the best job, or what?). This weekend, I’ll be heading to Montreal for the very first time ever, I can’t wait [even though it is currently one single degree out there; I’m just going to wear all my clothes at once, okay?]. On Saturday, I’ll be at Appetite for Books for a signing at 3 p.m. There is also a smaller reception at 2 p.m. but unfortunately, it already sold out. With or without a ticket, you are welcome at 3 p.m. [Details.] And next Tuesday, rumor has it that a little segment we filmed in my little kitchen last month for The Today Show will air. That evening, 7 p.m., at PowerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, we’re going to have a Valentines Day Cookie Swap and book signing along with the Dawn Casale from One Girl Cookies, Adam Roberts from Amateur Gourmet and author of Secrets of the Best Chefs and Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito of the Baked Bakery and all of its wonderful cookbooks. I set up this event because the lovely store and event space was badly hit by Hurricane Sandy (they lost everything; every book, every register) and they’re the exact kind of place I’d like to see around for a long time. I hope if you’re in the area, you can come by. You’re welcome with or without cookies! [Details.] As always, every event and all of the details we know are listed on the Events & Book Tour Page.
Signed books: If you’d like to order a signed or signed-and-personalized book for your sweetie for Valentine’s Day through McNally-Jackson, the deadline for shipping is this Thursday morning, February 7th. More details here. Order form here.
One year ago: Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread
Two years ago: Mushroom and Farro Soup and Meatballs Subs with Caramelized Onions
Three years ago: New York Deli Rye Bread, Best Cocoa Brownies, Chana Masala and Walnut Jam Cake
Four years ago: Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad, Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes and Crisp Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Slaw
Five years ago: Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree, Candied Grapefruit Peels and Matzo Ball Soup
Six years ago: Asparagus, Artichoke and Shiitake Risotto and Miniature Soft Pretzels
Egg Salad with Pickled Celery and Coarse Dijon
As I learned here, there are about as many ways to hard-boiled eggs as there are people who make them. If you’re looking for a new technique, you will delight in the comments. Here, I use my approach, the one that works for me every time. If you rest the eggs in the fridge for a day or so after cooking them, they’re usually easier to peel while keeping the eggs intact. (Although mine, three days old, still were not. Punks.) If you’re not into mayo (I know you’re not, even if I don’t agree), you can use plain Greek yogurt instead. I have you make more celery than you’ll need because trust me, it will get used, as it’s great in everything from tuna to potato salads.
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (you can go up to 1 tablespoon if using the lighter weight Diamond brand; here’s why)
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 stalks celery, trimmed, diced tiny
4 large eggs
1 heaped teaspoon whole-grain Dijon
2 teaspoons minced shallot or red onion (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise or full-fat plain yogurt
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped flat-leaf parsley or fresh dill (to garnish, optional)
Pickle your celery: Combine vinegar, water, Kosher salt and sugar in a jar and shake it until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add diced celery to jar, cover it and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, ideally one hour and up to one week.
Cook your eggs: Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with an inch of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and set your timer for 10 minutes (for perfectly cooked through eggs), or 9 minutes (if you like them just-barely-set in the center, like mine above). Once the timer rings, drain eggs and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. To quickly chill them so you can use them right away, cover them in ice water for 10 to 15 minutes.
Make your salad: Peel your eggs and chop them, placing them in a medium bowl. Add 1 heaped tablespoon of pickled celery (more to taste), Dijon, shallot, mayo, salt and pepper and mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve on toasted whole grain bread, garnished with fresh herbs.