Arsip Tag: toast

creamed mushrooms on chive butter toast – smitten kitchen

My husband’s people — that would be The Russians, if you’ve been following along at home — really like their caviar. It’s rare that a signature spread of zakuski doesn’t include at least one form of gem-colored eggs by the thousands, usually served with sour cream and small crepes. Me, I’m a troglodyte; I’m unable to appreciate such fine things in life, and generally breeze right past the caviar to spear a potato with my fork.

creminis and shiitakes

But it doesn’t mean I don’t like a little fancy something-something now and then; I just want it to suggest caviar but not actually being it (or, ahem, costing it). So when Melissa Clark called this mushroom preparation giving them “the caviar treatment” in an article eons ago, I was both excited, because I do love me some mushrooms, and dubious — dubious enough that it took me over two years to make it. And that, my friends, was a terrible waste of time.


creamed mushrooms

You have got to love a relatively simple preparation — shallots sauteed in butter, a splash of wine, a glug of cream and butter-chives-butter-bread — of pretty simple foods — onions and mushrooms — that ends up this obscenely prosh. It’s not caviar, but it may as well be to people like me. And it’s the perfect thing to put out at a party this time of year, you know, if you’re going to a lot of parties, or maybe even set out at home for whichever folks have stopped by to coo over the resident baby fish mouth this time.

creamed mushrooms on chive butter toasts

We really like our mushrooms: Cabbage and Mushroom Galette, Wild Mushroom and Stilton Galette, Leek and Mushroom Quiche, Mushrooms Stuffed with Feta and Bacon, Mushroom Bourguignon, Mushroom and Barley Pie, Sundried Tomato Stuffed Mushrooms, Alex’s Chicken and Mushroom Marsala, Wild Mushroom Pirogis and Mushroom Strudel

One year ago: Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken + Bread Salad and Cranberry-Vanilla Coffee Cake
Two years ago: Chicken and Dumplings
Three years ago: Boozy Baked French Toast and Onion Soup

Creamed Mushrooms on Chive Butter Toast
Adapted from Melissa Clark, New York Times, 5/16/07

Clark originally crafted this recipe for morels, but the fact that they’re out of season now was really a boon as I realized, not even for the first time, that when you cook mushrooms well, even simple brown ones will taste like luxury. I used a mix of shiitakes and creminis, but you could easily just use creminis. They’ll still taste like they should be served from an ornate glass bowl with a delicate silver spoon.

1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, or a mix of wild mushrooms such as morels, shiitakes, oysters or chanterellas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for toast
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons dry white wine or white vermouth
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slices brioche or good white bread, crusts cut off if desired
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
Coarse sea salt such as fleur de sel or Maldon, for garnish

Clean excess dirt from mushrooms. Slice mushrooms in half lengthwise and brush away any grit; chop into 1/4-inch pieces.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until very limp, about three minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for about five minutes. Add wine, reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for about five minutes more. (There are a lot of “abouts” on the cooking times because I found that mine took less time at each step; however, I also may have chopped my mushrooms and shallots smaller than the recommended size.)

Uncover pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about two minutes. Stir in cream; simmer until slightly thickened, two minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toast bread and spread with butter. (Clark recommended four slices of brioche, to make eight toasts, but I had enough mushrooms for almost triple that.) Cut each slice in half diagonally and sprinkle lightly with chives. Top each toast triangle with some mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with additional chives, garnish with sea salt, and serve.

Other uses for these mushrooms: I’d imagine they’d make a wonderful simple pasta sauce or, of course, something delicious to prop a poached egg upon, toast and all.

[Update: Thanks to the six (!) people who have noted that the theory that mushrooms absorb too much water to be washed has been rejected over time. They do absorb water, but not enough that they should throw off a dish. Wash away!]

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scrambled egg toast – smitten kitchen

Let me get this out of the way from the get-go: I cannot believe I’m discussing scrambled eggs today. I like to think of myself as somewhat particular in vetting out what I think is worthy or not worthy of your humble click over here, and I can’t say that scrambled eggs would normally make the cut. In fact, if you are happy with your scrambles, if you’re pretty sure you’ve got that whole moving the egg around the pan thing down pat, I won’t even be offended if you come back next time, when I figure out what to do with the four pounds of strawberries in my fridge. Or last time, when we made rhubarb tarts.

egg pretties

But this is for the rest of us, myself even, who do not let anyone else, not restaurant, not short-order griddle guy at the bodega, nobody, make our scrambled eggs. Because they are, almost without fail, terrible: dry, stiff and overcooked with a telltale brown spot where they stuck to the pan, forgotten. Shudder. Scrambled eggs are best made at home, and where their path from frying pan to plate to fork to your belly is as short as possible. Scrambled eggs should have a short lifespan.

fork beaten

That’s my first tip. The next one is that they should always be taken out of the pan before they are done — I look for about 85 to 90 percent doneness, they should look a bit wet, enough to make you a little nervous. Don’t be. These blazing hot eggs continue cooking on the plate and I guarantee that by the time you get them from counter to table, fork to belly, they’ll be dreamy: cooked but not overcooked. Not even a little, thank goodness.

start with butternudgepullpushchoppy choppybreaking up the big bits

Last, and look, I’m sure this isn’t Proper Egg Scrambling Technique or anything, but to make them the way I like them, I go easy on the scrambling. I do a pour-pause-nudge-pause-push-pause-pull thing, lots of letting them set for a second or 10 before moving them again. I get them in a ribbony pile in the middle of the pan, break it up a little with my spoon or spatula, and eat them quickly. I guess I like a few pieces to bite into, to feel like I’m consuming something more than coddled mush.

softly scrambled egg, toast, chives

And with that, that “coddled mush” remark, I think my real secret is out: you see, I am not a scrambled egg person which means I’ve got some gall advising you on yours. But when I started making them this way — plus a thick piece of toast, smear of goat cheese and sprinkle of garlic chives — I became one. I started making up for lost time; they have been breakfast, lunch and dinner in the last week; even my Sunday bagel was no longer deemed acceptable. Don’t you hate it when that happens?


One year ago: Tartar Slaw
Two years ago: 30 Ways to Be a Good Guest [This could easily be 60 now, but 30 isn’t a bad place to start, right?]
Three years ago: Cellophane Noodle Salad with Roast Pork

Scrambled Egg Toast

For 1; scale as needed

2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk, half-and-half or cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
Few grinds black pepper
2 teaspoons butter or olive oil
A 1-inch thick piece of bread
1 tablespoon goat cheese, softened a bit (though cream cheese is a great swap here)
1 teaspoon chives or scallion greens, thinly sliced

Set your table and pour your coffee. I am an absolutely nut about eating my eggs the second they come out of the pan, and to do this, your table needs to be ready for you; your troops should be gathered. Toast your bread, then smear it with the goat cheese and sprinkle it with half the chives. Set it aside. (P.S. If you decide to butter it before adding the goat cheese, I will not tell anyone.)

Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper in a small bowl, with a fork, until combined, with a few big bubbles. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat; once hot, add butter. Once butter is melted and foamy, add eggs and pause; count to 20 if you must, but let those eggs begin to set up before you start nudging away at them. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, begin push your eggs once from the outside to the center of the pan and pause again; count to 5 if you must, before continuing with another push. Continue in this manner around the pan as if you were trying draw spokes of a wheel through your eggs with your spatula, pausing for 5 seconds after each push. Go around the pan as many times as needed, until your eggs in the center are ribbony damp pile — it should look only 75 percent cooked. Use your spoon or spatula to break up this pile into smaller chunks — to taste. Your eggs should now look almost 90 percent cooked.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pile the scrambled eggs bits high on your goat cheese toast. Sprinkle with an additional grind of black pepper and remaining chives. Eat immediately.

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cinnamon toast french toast + book preview – smitten kitchen

Guys, I wrote a cookbook.

When I was 32 weeks pregnant in the summer of 2009 (in fact, this was overflowing on my kitchen counter during my first meeting across town) and should have been doing normal third trimester things like eating jars of Peanutella by the spoonful and repainting the baseboard trim (which still looks awful, not that this will surprise you), I instead decided that I really wanted to write a cookbook. Because new mothers are swimming in free time (“new babies are always sleeping!”), I thought I would finish the book in six months; nine, tops. Stop laughing. Quit it.

Two and three-quarter years later, the “baby” is 2 1/2, I am the proud owner of 2 1/2 gray hairs and, oh, right: The book is done. Even though these have been the busiest and most overwhelming years of my entire life, they’ve also been the most exciting and inspiring. I am so proud of this book. I can’t wait to show it to you. I wish it were out tomorrow. But today, I have a few things to hold us over.

the cover of the smitten kitchen cookbook

First, this above? That’s the cover. What’s that, you ask? It for a tiny recipe called tomato shortcakes. They’re savory. Those are biscuits with green onions. It’s a salad. There’s whipped goat cheese. My editor was visiting that day, and I was just fiddling around, trying to make us a little lunch. My favorite dishes happen this way.

buttered popcorn cookie from the smitten kitchen cookbook

The book has a back cover too. Those are called buttered popcorn cookies. They’re sweet and a touch salty, there’s vanilla and dark brown sugar and when they bake together, terrible things happen, such as the fact that they disappear quickly, and you have to make more.

There’s so much more. The book has 105-plus recipes, with chapters devoted to Breakfasts, Salads, Sandwiches, Tarts and Pizzas, Meatless Main Courses, Main Courses with Meat or Fish, and oh yes, a whole lot of Sweets, from Cookies to Pies to Tarts to Cakes and Candies and Puddings. And then, at the end, there are a couple drinks and a handful of party snacks. I encourage all cookbook authors, present and future, to include a cocktail recipe so that you’ll always have something that urgently needs “retesting” after an exhausting day.

you get to make lots of cinnamon toast

The recipes are overwhelmingly completely and totally new — I was a little obsessed with making sure this book had value to everyone, even if you’ve never missed a site update, so only about 15 favorites were plucked from this url, essentially things that no book bearing the name The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook would be complete without. There are a ton of photos (at least one for each recipe), stories, and every single recipe includes ingredients in both cups-and-spoons and metric weights. When you open the book on your kitchen counter, it should stay open (it’s called lay-flat binding, and I specifically requested, nay, begged for it). And I really hope you love it.

And as of today, the book is officially available for preorder from just about every online seller:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Powell’s
Other U.S. Retailers | Amazon Canada | Indigo Canada

(I know some of you smarties already found it and I love you for it. I just wanted to wait until the cover was ready to make a great big noisy fuss about it.) And I know what you’re thinking: why would I buy a book today that won’t be out until the fall? You could do it to secure any low price running right now, you could do it so you’ll get yours first (it will ship the second it’s released), or to buy gifts for any friends/mamas/brides who you think would be into this kind of thing. Oh, and if you do, we’ve created some downloadable certificates that you can slip in a card or envelope to let them know they’ve, obviously, got the awesomest friend/family member one could have. [Here’s one with the front cover on it; here’s one with the back, both are PDFs.]

getting ready to assemble

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook will ship on October 30th, its release date, which I know seems like an eternity from now but it will hopefully give us a moment to take a big family nap (and of course, spend a lot of time right here) before we begin the Smitten Out Of The Kitchen Book Tour. The Canadian edition will be published by Appetite, Random House Canada’s awesome new food imprint, on the same date. A UK/Australian edition that will be sold throughout Europe will be published February 7, 2013 by Square Peg, an imprint of Random House UK. I will be touring the U.S. (and possibly Canada) this fall and I cannot wait to finally meet all of you. We’re still confirming dates and cities, so stay tuned to the Book page for any and all updates.

adding the custard

Finally, the book includes one of my favorite breakfast recipes, the kind of dish you can assemble the night before a big brunch, or just a lazy Saturday with your family, the kind of dish that it’s been killing me not to tell you about since I came up with it early in the writing process. I actually discovered baked French toast a long time ago, after a catastrophic brunch that involved me standing over a skillet, dipping and flipping slices of bread for an hour while my friends had fun without me. (Given, I was 24 at the time and my definition of “catastrophic” has changed, thank goodness. Now it involves the DVR not recording Mad Men.) Since then, I have baked French toast in a casserole dish and never looked back. This version, specifically, however, is my favorite. Piles of buttery, cinnamon and caramelized sugar-crusted toast fan out in a pan before absorbing a simple vanilla custard and baking into puffed, layered breakfast perfection.

custard-soaked, then baked

For something that sounds so utterly decadent, it’s surprisingly humble when you slice it — the only sweetness clings to the cinnamon-sugar crusts and the custard is just milk and eggs — you know, until you douse it with a raft of maple syrup. Not that we know any people who would do a thing like that.

cinnamon toast french toast

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
16 slices (from a 1-pound or 450 gram loaf) white sandwich bread
1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups (710 ml) whole milk
6 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish. Line two large baking sheets with foil. Place the bread slices on the baking sheets in one layer. Spread each slice of bread with 1 teaspoon of butter, then sprinkle each slice with one teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Toast the trays of bread in the oven until the bread is golden, and until the cinnamon-sugar makes a caramelized crunch on top, for about 7 to10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and let the toast cool slightly.

Generously butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. (You might have a little butter leftover but I wanted to build in some leeway in case, understandably, you weren’t buttering your bread with precise teaspoon measurements!) Cut two slices of the cinnamon toast in half horizontally. Arrange the cinnamon toast down in two rows along the width of the pan. Begin with the bottom half of one slice of toast, then fan 7 more slices in a row, finishing with the top half of the slice. This ensures that those served the end pieces of the baked French toast are not stiffed with thin slices! Repeat with another 7 full slices and 1 halved slice of cinnamon toast in the second row. Whisk the milk, eggs, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl and pour evenly over cinnamon toast in baking dish. Let sit for 15 minutes (or overnight, if you’re preparing this ahead of time) so that the custard absorbs a bit.

Before baking, if you’ve got any extra cinnamon-sugar (you’ll likely have a tablespoon or two), sprinkle it over the French toast. Bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden and until no liquid seeps out of the toasts when they are nudged about in the pan. Cut into squares and serve plain, or with a dollop of plain yogurt and fresh berries, or maple syrup.…

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spinach and smashed egg toast – smitten kitchen

What do you make yourself for lunch, if nobody else is around? I bet you’re hoping I’m going to say something ambitious, like “a gently poached chicken breast, cooled and sliced across a vegetable salad with a hand-whisked vinaigrette,” because that happens, ever. Or maybe you’re hoping that this is where I tell you about my secret peanut butter fluff with crumbled potato chip sandwich habit, alas, I’m not even interesting enough at lunchtime to be scandalous. The sad truth is, if I’ve by some miracle found a couple hours to get work done in relative peace, I’m ecstatic, and I find hunger an inconvenience. If I must succumb, whatever I make for lunch must be quick, and tends to fall into the Stuff On Bread category: avocado, olive oil, lemon and sea salt, peanut butter (always low-brow) and jam (always fancy), or, smashed soft egg.

bread, spinach, dijon, shallot, goat cheese, eggs
minced shallot

I made a big fuss about poaching eggs a few years ago because I loved them but had a hard time getting them right at home. Once I did, I was triumphant, but nevertheless, have probably not made one in over a year, or not since I discovered that there’s an even simpler route to that cooked-white-loose-yolk-soft-edge nirvana. Soft-boiled eggs require no vinegar, no teeming water and no whirlpools, but they peel like a dream. My favorite way to eat them is broken open on toasted and buttered whole-grain bread, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

two ounces of baby spinach

baby spinach, barely wilted
simmered with a spoonful of cream
a little slick of dijon makes a difference
a small heap of spinach
a five- to six-minute egg
soft-boiled eggs, surprisingly easy to peel
ready for smashing, my favorite part

But sometimes, sometimes I make an effort. And when I do, it looks like this — the same smashed egg but wedged between it and the toast is a bed of spinach (a handful leftover from last night’s salad greens is perfect), gently wilted with minced shallots, a smidge of cream, a few cheese crumbles and a near-invisible slick of Dijon mustard that makes all the difference. It sounds fancy and it might feel a tiny bit fussy the first time you make it. (I have not forgotten that the cardinal rule of quick meals is that they must only require the use of one pot and here, but since you’re alone in the kitchen, I think that a pot only used to boil an egg is, pffft, still totally clean, right?) But if you’re anything like me, you’re going to make a habit out of it and by the second time you make it, you’ll have it down. You might even plan ahead, keeping a container of minced onion in the fridge, making sure you hold back a bowlful of spinach at dinner, etc. But beyond the fact that it’s nutritious (a whole bowl of spinach), indulgent (toast! butter! cheese!) and crazy delicious (toast! butter! cheese!), I think you’re going to make it again and again for the same reason I do, which is that smashing an soft-centered egg on toast with a big fork — essentially, the kitchen equivalent of popping bubble wrap — is about the most fun one can have on a quick workday break. And with that, I’m off to do it again.

spinach and smashed egg toast
spinach and smashed egg toast

Previous Egg Toasts and Sandwiches, which I apparently have a thing for: Scrambled Egg Toast, Soft Eggs with Buttery Herb-Gruyere Toasts, Egg Salad with Pickled Celery and Coarse Dijon, Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Blue Cheese and, on Cup of Jo, my crazy-lazy-quick riff on a deli Egg and Cheese Sandwich.

One year ago: Over-the-Top Mushroom Quiche
Two years ago: Apple Tarte Tatin and French Onion Soup
Three years ago: Tangy Spiced Brisket, Radicchio, Apple and Pear Salad and New York Cheesecake
Four years ago: Artichokes Braised in Lemon and Olive Oil, Chewy Amaretti Cookies and Artichoke-Olive Crostini
Five years ago: Shaker Lemon Pie and Spring Panzanella
Six years ago: Mixed Berry Pavlova, Artichoke, Cranberry Bean and Arugula Salad and Arborio Rice Pudding

Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast

I use this spinach method, scaled up, all the time to make a quick, lazy creamed spinach with dinner. (A more classic one is here. An even more gussied one is here.) Creme fraiche could replace the cream (unlike yogurt or sour cream, it doesn’t curdle when heated).

1 large egg
1 slice of your favorite hearty bread
2 ounces baby spinach
1 pat butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot or white onion
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon crumbled cheese, such as goat cheese or feta

Bring small pot of water to boil. Lower egg into it and boil for five (for a runnier egg, as seen in top photo) to six (for a less-runny but still loose egg, as seen in bottom two photos) minutes.* Rinse egg briefly under cool water and set aside.

Wash your spinach but no need to dry it. Put a small puddle of water in the bottom of a skillet and heat it over medium-high. Once the water is simmering, add the spinach and cook it until it is just wilted, and not a moment longer. Transfer it to a colander and press as much of the excess water out with the back of a fork as possible. No need to wring it out here; we’re hoping to those lovely wilted leaves intact. Keep that fork; you’ll use it again in a moment.

Put your bread in to toast.

Dry your skillet if it is still wet. Heat a pat of butter in it over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook them for a few minutes, until translucent and a little sweet. Return spinach to skillet and add cream. Simmer them together for one minute, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put your toast on your plate and spread it thinly with Dijon mustard. Heap the spinach-and-shallot mixture on top, then add the crumbled cheese. Peel your egg; doing so under running water can make this easier. Once peeled, place it on your spinach toast, smash it open with the back of that fork you used a minute ago, and sprinkle it with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Eat immediately.

* When you’re eating a soft-boiled egg right away, six minutes is the way to go. But here, since we boil the egg and then prepare the rest of the toast, it continues to cook and firm up a bit in its shell, so I’ve found that a 5 to 5 1/2 minute egg will give you the equivalent in the end.

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why you should always toast your nuts – smitten kitchen

If I could spread the gospel of a single, tiny cooking trick that will immensely improve outcomes of an entire category of recipes, I wouldn’t even have to pause for a second before shouting from the highest rooftops: TOAST YOUR NUTS!

Of course, I live with boys, which means that this leads to all sorts of fits of giggling, and of course, I’m just blaming them, it’s mostly me. What? I never promised you maturity.

But once the snickering dies down, do know I am as serious as can be about this. Nuts — almonds, I’m especially looking at you — that have not been toasted taste like waxy nothingness. Those same nuts, spread on a tray and roasted until they’re faintly beige within and a toasty brown on the outside taste heavenly, with a depth of flavor, intensity and nuanced aroma unimaginable 10 minutes earlier. Think of the difference between granulated and caramelized sugar, or between straight-from-the-package and browned butter and you’ll begin to get the idea.

Toasting improves the texture of nuts too, so that they stay crisp whether buried in baked goods or on top of a salad.

And the best part is, it doesn’t cost a thing. You don’t have to buy “the best” or “artisanal” nuts for this to work for you at home; this is about taking a simple, everyday ingredient an amplifying it. You won’t believe the way it can transform the most bland, no-name grocery store pecans until something that reminds you of pie, even before you add the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.

So, here’s how to do it:
Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts or whatever you like to cook or eat) in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes, and up to 12, tossing the nuts around occasionally to ensure even cooking. Nuts are done when they appear a shade darker and smell toasty. Let cool completely before using.

More specific cooking estimates: For pine nuts, you’ll definitely be done at 5 minutes. Thinly sliced or slivered almonds often take just 8 minutes. Whole almonds, walnuts and pecans are usually good at 10. And for hazelnuts, especially if I hope to skin them when I’m done, I find a couple minutes extra, sometimes even as long as 14 minutes, watched carefully, can really make the difference in both flavor and in skin that easily flakes off.

A few more tips:

  • I always toast nuts in the oven. I have had less luck doing so in skillets. I find that toasting nuts on the stove requires a lot of attention, as the nuts often scorch before they develop a good flavor inside. Seeds, however, work well on the stove.
  • I have not tried toasting nuts in the microwave, but I’m very curious to!
  • I toast nuts dry. I don’t find that you need to add any oil to improve texture or flavor when you’re done; in fact, I find that if there is a coat of oil on the outside, I have a harder time keeping the nuts crisp once cool.
  • You can toast nuts in advance. If I’m going to open a one-pound bag of nuts but only need half, I often just toast the whole of it and keep the rest in an airtight container until I use them again — or for snacks. The flavor and texture keeps if they were fully cool before you stored them.
  • That said, if I don’t plan to use nuts within a week or two of buying them, I store them in the freezer. Nuts are very oily, and that oil is eager to go rancid. The freezer will stop this from happening any time soon.

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mushrooms and greens with toast – smitten kitchen

Regarding the ever-present stacks of cookbooks around the apartment, my mother joked to me on Sunday that I should open a library. She’s probably right. I don’t think that a week goes by that I don’t* receive at least one new cookbook and I hardly know where to dive in. And don’t get me wrong, I too swoon over the currently in-demand aesthetic of vertically oriented, dimly lit photos of reclaimed weathered barnwood tables boasting sauce splatters and variations on kale on matte pages bound in jacketless books. It’s just that they’re all starting to jumble together.

right before the sun came back out
cooking the mushrooms

But it makes it that much more exciting when one arrives in which it’s so obvious that every single recipe in it has been so carefully considered and executed in a way that clears its throat and announces Here is something new. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m a neutral observer of Tara O’Brady’s career. I’ve loved her Seven Spoons blog from the beginning, with its unique blend of Canadian, Irish, English, Northern and Southern Indian influences, all modernized with seasonal produce. And I’ve always wondered when she’d write a cookbook, but I’m starting to think that this, too, might be one of the quiet attributes of the best cookbooks: the wait for it felt like forever. The book does not disappoint. Yes, the pages are matte, the backgrounds are concrete and marble slab (but swoonishly so), the food looks farmers market-fresh but you won’t even be two recipes into the Lunch section — Fattoush with Fava Beans and Labneh! Messy Bistro Salad with Spanish-Fried Egg and Crispy Capers! — before realizing that this book is teeming with just the kind of inspiration we all need. What, that didn’t tempt you? How about Baked Eggs, North Indian-Style or Hummus with White Miso? And guys, I haven’t even left the Lunch chapter yet. There are six others.

wilting the greens
just a little cheese on top

The recipes are inspiring in a very specific, homespun way, clearly the product of years of honed repetition at a family table. While it was hard to choose where to begin, we couldn’t resist the idea of Mushrooms and Greens with Toast, which feels like a cross between a rustic casserole and a skillet of torn-up grilled cheese and butter-seared vegetables that could not be easier to make in that tiny margin of time between realizing dinner has yet to make itself and a small exhausted person returning from soccer practice with expectations of sustenance. You get the feeling the author has been there; Tara wants you to tear everything up by hand (she thinks many mushrooms “look best when spared the blade”). She doesn’t expect you to crank up the broiler just to finish the dish with melted cheese (you just put a lid on the pot and let the heat do its thing). Serving instructions? “Hand out forks, then bring the pan to the table.” What she doesn’t say is “Repeat again tomorrow,” but we most certainly will.

mushrooms and greens with toast

* despite repeated pleas to not send me comped stuff, trusting that if I’m excited enough about a cookbook to want it, I don’t mind paying for it, which serves the added bonus of keeping this apartment from the next Hoarders casting call

One year ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars
Two years ago: Japanese Vegetable Pancakes
Three years ago: Warm Crisp and a Little Melty Salad Croutons
Four years ago: Leek Toasts with Blue Cheese
Five years ago: Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash and Pecan Cornmeal Butter Cake
Six years ago: Endive and Celery Salad with Fennel Vinaigrette and Rhubarb Cobbler
Seven years ago: Martha’s Macaroni and Cheese
Eight years ago: Pickled Garlicky Red Peppers and Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Sticky Toffee Pudding and Pickled Cabbage Salad
1.5 Years Ago: Perfect Uncluttered Chicken Stock and Cranberry Orange Breakfast Buns
2.5 Years Ago: Baked Pumpkin and Sour Cream Puddings
3.5 Years Ago: Granola-Crusted Nuts

Mushrooms and Greens with Toast
Adapted just a little from Tara O’Brady’s Seven Spoons Cookbook

I resisted, for once, but I think this would be lovely with some crispy eggs on top. But I’d otherwise consider this a one-pan meal. No, a one-pan miracle. For mushrooms, O’Brady suggests chanterelles, shiitake and oyster mushrooms and I admit I got carried away, buying a few fancy ones (a trumpet mushroom too!) along with creminis, but you could make this entirely with small white or brown mushroom and it would still be delicious. For the greens, kale, chard, spinach or nettles are suggested; I use lancinato kale leaves. And for a cheese, it really doesn’t matter what you use, only that you like it and it likes to melt. Chèvre, mozzarella, burrata, taleggio and fontina are all “fair game,” she writes. I went with a soft, melty fontina and it was perfect here. I used the bread I’m most obsessed with, massive whole wheat sourdough loaves that you can buy in quarters at Balthazar’s bakery on Spring Street or in Englewood, NJ or at any outlet of the Le Pain Quotidien chain, but of course any bread you enjoy eating will work well here too.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and torn into bite size pieces (see suggestions above)
2 thick slices bread from a large, crusty loaf (I’d use 4 from a smaller loaf)
2 cloves garlic or 1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, or more to taste (I used 2)
1 fresh red chile, stemmed, seeded and minced or red pepper flakes, to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces chopped fresh greens (see suggestions above)
8 ounces of a good melting cheese, thickly sliced (suggestions above)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil together in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. One fully hot, add mushrooms to pan and cook, stirring regularly, until they’ve released their water and started to turn golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, grill or toast your bread.

One the mushrooms have a nice color on them, add the garlic or shallots and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Drizzle with vinegar, most of the chile or chile flakes, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the greens; pretty much any kind aside from baby spinach will benefit from about 5 to 8 minutes cooking time, just until collapsed. If you’re me, you’ll add 1 more tablespoon vinegar for brightness at this point. Stir in remaining tablespoon butter and adjust seasonings to taste. Rip bread into irregular croutons and push them into the sauteed vegetables. Lay pieces of cheese atop everything. Turn the heat down to medium low, place a lid on the pan and let the cheese melt, which will take 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the pan and the kind of cheese you used.

Sprinkle with remaining chile, “hand out forks, then bring the the pan to the table.”

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nolita-style avocado toast – smitten kitchen

That sound you hear is the reverberating cacophony of a thousand unfollows. I get it. A great many people rightfully find the avocado toast trend — that is avocado, smashed onto a piece of toasted bread, then discussed as if it were notable — both baffling and exasperating. But I believe there’s a time and place for everything and for me that time (currently a sick no-sleeping baby, thus no-sleeping parents, leading to utter cooking apathy and a near-clinical fixation on avocado toast on my part) and a place (a Nolita cafe that makes it better than anyone else) is right now.

what you'll need, but less bread

Depending on your perspective, Cafe Gitane, a French-Moroccan shoebox on Mott Street, is to be lauded or booed for launching the avocado toast trend in the 90s, but I came to it later, mostly thanks to you because for as long as people have been kind enough to order custom signed copies of the first SK cookbook from McNally Jackson in Soho, I’ve been sneaking around the corner when I’m done for a little toast-shaped luxury.

heap then smash then smooth

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