So I am home sick today which is a rare occurrence. I’ve been battling a cold and while normally my butt is kicked in the beginning of the cold, this time it caught up with me and I cannot speak today. So I’m going to take today, let my vocal chords rest, drink some tea and watch a ton of course videos (I’m taking my final 2 classes to get my BCBA certification, don’t know if I’ve mentioned that at all). But I’ve also been meaning to do this and because I have super multi-tasking powers and am able to watch an instructional video about one thing and type about another, I will accomplish both today. I’m hoping this doesn’t have the negative effect of pairing blogging with standard celeration charting and turning it into a punisher…
The topic of this post is the beauty that is Deb Pearlman and Smitten Kitchen. She came to Santa Cruz on her book tour and gave a talk and did a book signing. At the time I didn’t have enough money to buy the book, but loved the talk. During a meeting at work with one of the instructors in my classroom, we of course got off topic and began talking about food, and the Smitten Kitchen blog/cookbook came up. We both love the blog, and commented on how cool the cookbook would be to have. A few weeks later come to find out, this instructor happened to be my “Secret Santa” at work and the amazing woman she is, gave me the cookbook. Since then it has been obsession.
So this post is a dedication and documentation of what has happened in my kitchen since. I/my camera cannot compare to Deb’s kitchen talents, so the pictures are not as beautiful, but that’s why you go buy the book, it’s full of the beautiful pictures she takes of her food in her kitchen. Because I got so excited about cooking so many things, it escaped me to photograph them all, but I will try to write them down and my thoughts/reviews/tweaks I made. Let’s start with the ones I have pictures of.
1. Apple Cider Caramels with Sea Salt (Page 277)
These are the most tasty, yummy, mouth flavor explosion things I’ve ever eaten. And pretty much everyone who eats them has an instant facial expression change that makes me smile/laugh. A woman at work actually called my office phone on her way home to tell me she just ate one in the car and that it was the most delicious thing and she needed the recipe. Now that’s appreciation. So I made tons of these things for Christmas and my only note of warning are that these things are extremely difficult to cut. They are soft and gooey, even if you put them in the freezer for hours, they melt very quickly. So cut these in a very cold place. Or just have a lot of patience. The end result is worth it.
2. Butternut Squash Galette with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese (page 99)
So this was another mind blowing experience. The crust was amazing. Flaky, tender and very similar to another recipe that I had used for pies, but somehow this was better. The recipe calls for Fontina cheese, but I didn’t have any and the combination of goat cheese and butternut squash is so beautiful that I figured that was just fine as a substitute. So I used 4 ounces of goat chevre and just mixed it into the squash/onion mixture. I also used fresh sage from the garden. This made one big galette and 3 small ones. There’s lots of butter in the crust, so beware, not a low-fat food, but worth it.
3. Corn Risotto Stuffed Poblanos (page 134)
So this is a recipe that I did have to tweak a bit, mostly the peppers are not poblanos – they are these sweet Italian peppers that for some reason the farmer’s market has this time of year. I also used one bell pepper to add in the mix (that was great, it held lots of risotto and was a 2 serving pepper. I used feta instead of the queso fresco (which was a good call, mostly because I had feta, and no queso fresco). The topping was also Greek yogurt, not sour cream. These were super tasty and very peppery (probably used too much ground pepper, if there is such a thing).
4. Big Breakfast Latkes (Page 31)
So I made this with the fried egg as suggested and it was great. I also used a cream topping from the leek fritters, which is described below – this was also a good addition. I felt like I needed to add more flour and an extra egg, but at the end it was kind of thick in the middle, so maybe I didn’t need to. They were super tasty nonetheless and I was happy to eat this for a Sunday breakfast.
This is the end of the pictures I have. And I am not in agreement with any of the “advantages” of the standard celeration charts. They are hard to read and don’t make sense – I can’t believe I actually used these for several years. Anyway. Let’s continue with the other recipes I’ve made and make some notes.
5. Leek Fritters with Garlic and Lemon (page 129)
These were VERY tasty – they reminded me of one of my favorite childhood dishes: baked catfish with asparagus with squeezed lemon on top (didn’t I eat healthy? Thanks mom). This is a weird association, but I think it was the leeks that reminded me of the asparagus, the lemon in the cream sauce reminding me of the lemon squeezed on top, and the texture of the fritters that reminded me of the catfish. I also put a fried egg on top of these which made it a nice protein filled dinner, it would have needed something more if it was a dinner dish without it.
6. Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto (page 123)
I first had this at a friend’s house. My husband invaded my house with vampire role-playing game friends, so I decided I needed to be elsewhere. These kind friends invited me over for dinner and this is what they made. Now here’s another example of me liking something prepared properly. I do not like cauliflower. Crazy thing is, this is raw cauliflower. Maybe I just don’t like it cooked. This was very tasty especially with some extra shaved cheese on top. I’ve made this several times since.
7. Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Baby Swiss (page 149)
Main substitution was using cheddar rather than baby swiss and I used about half chard half kale. This was very yummy as well, but I think that I didn’t let the rice cook long enough. I’m not used to wild rice. I went to buy some more so I could make this again and didn’t realize until I got home and looked at my receipt that this stuff is EXPENSIVE! So while this is a fun dish to make and very yummy, probably not a weekly adventure.
I plan on making my way through the rest, some as ingredients become seasonally available, some as I find the desire to make them. I do a lot of substitutions with recipes, mostly based on what I happen to have in my fridge – I’m not a big “go out and buy spices because you need it for 1 recipe” kind of gal. This I think comes with lots of experience cooking and knowing what flavors will go well together. And that’s a cool feeling to have.
So I am off to drink more tea, try to clean up the house and finish learning about charting behavior (thank you so much to my current director for insisting that we stop using standard celeration charts and move towards an easier, more user-friendly charting method. This stuff is rather unnecessary). I might also go out and figure out how to prevent my dog from getting over fences to dig up my strawberry patch. This is one determined dog. Cheers to good food and a healthy body.