Welcome to the reporting thread for April’s Cookbook of the Month, SMITTEN KITCHEN KEEPERS.
If you are the first to report on a recipe, please post as a reply to this topic. If someone else has already reported on the recipe, post a reply to that person’s post. Please put recipe titles in all caps, and include the page number if you are working from a hard copy of the book (if using an ebook, don’t worry about it). Pictures are highly encouraged, but by no means necessary. Please avoid posting a recipe verbatim, out of respect for the author’s intellectual property. Posting a summary of the ingredients and technique is fine, and please let us know of any changes you made to the original. And most important, did you like it?
Remember, all our past COTM threads remain open for business. You can find the full list at the COTM archive.
This dish is on the cover of the book so I had high hopes. It is easy enough to make. First you roast garlic in butter for like 45 minutes until browned and soft. You cook the pasta (I used spaghetti) and save a cup of the pasta water before draining. Then you blend a small bag of fresh baby spinach with the garlic butter, salt/pepper and some red pepper flakes. Combine the spinach mixture with drained pasta and some pasta water to create a sauce. Cook for a minute or two and adjust seasonings as needed.
The idea of this recipe ticked off many things for me: pasta, garlic, butter, baby spinach. It looked great on the cover and sounded great. It was very MEH. I live alone and ate 1 or 2 portions of it before just throwing the rest of it away. I wouldn’t make it again.
You bake tomato slices with corn, cheddar cheese, mayo, lemon juice, scallions, and fresh basil in 2 layers. While you bake that mixture you whip up biscuits that include flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, butter, mayo, buttermilk, and more scallions. Work it all together, cut out biscuits, top the mixture, and bake the dish for a further 15-17 minutes.
This was easy enough to make but I simply didn’t like it. I reeeeeeeeeeally wanted to but I wound up with 2 massive cases of heartburn and then I just gave up and threw away the rest of it. It sounds great in my mind but my body wasn’t having it.
I used more carrots than she called for (7, not 3), skipped the peas because I hate them, and used b/s breasts rather than bone-in. It was delicious! The only thing I’d change next time is splitting the batch in half before making the dumplings, and freezing half - dumplings don’t always reheat well.
FETTUCINE WITH WHITE RAGU (pg 203): this was really tasty, and really beige as the headnote says!
I made the following notes and changes:
chopped all the vegs (together) in the Cuisinart. The weights roughly correspond to 1 medium carrot and 2 stalks of celery.
used 2% milk for the milk as well as the heavy cream at the end. I almost never use cream and it seemed silly to buy it for such a small amount. No issues with that substitution.
a 9-oz package of fresh fettuccine - this was the right ratio of pasta to meat for us; I think more pasta would have been wrong (to our tastes). However, I might try a shorter pasta next time - like gemelli - as I threw in the last handful of a box and preferred that texture/size with the ragu.
when browning the pork, make sure you break it up as small as possible. Big chunks don’t work well in the sauce.
I added about 6oz water while the sauce was simmering, and then about 6-8oz starchy pasta water at the end. (I made this a few months ago, before going gluten- free, so I’m not sure how I’d do it with GF pasta.)
It sounds like it would be good but maybe with a different cheese, like goat. Are corn and tomatoes in season where you are at? I would think that could make a big difference. I hope I remember to try it when they are both in season for me.
The carrot tarte tatin is definitely something I want to make. I volunteered to bring roasted carrots to my family’s Easter dinner but I may just bet it all on that recipe. I also want to do the coconut rice with chili-lime vegetables, pea fritters, and zucchini cornbread with tomato butter. I had planned to do the clam chowder with bacon croutons but the price of clams alone to make the recipe was over $50. Oh the crispy Bo Saam inspired pork is on the agenda as well.
My first recipe from this book was chosen for no other reason than that I had all the ingredients on hand. But who would complain about potato salad? I used larger red potatoes than called for, and cut mine up into quarters, sixths, or eighths, depending upon the potato size. I found her cooking time to be a bit longer than needed. She doesn’t call for any acid in the cooking water, which I would add if left to my own devices, as it helps the potatoes retain a firmer texture. She has you cool the potatoes in a bowl of ice water… I did this, but I’m not a fan. What was the point of salting the cooking water if I’m going to let them soak in unsalted ice water. Plus, it results in a watery potato. There are cooks who swear that this type of potato salad should be dressed, or at least partially dressed, while the potatoes are still warm. I think they are right. The dressing is a mix of sliced onions, pickle brine, mustard, olive oil, nigella seeds, and black pepper. You add the cooked potatoes to this along with slices of pickle (I used a homemade caraway pickle here instead of dill pickles) and fresh dill.
The potato salad is fine. It doesn’t come close to my favorite versions, so this won’t be a repeater for me, but it was fine. I noticed that in the photo, the salad looks very lightly dressed, when in actuality it is heavily dressed (I used the exact measurements per the recipe). Kind of a reverse Batali problem: instead of there being ingredients in the photo that don’t appear in the recipe, the photo seems to be missing ingredients. I also noticed this in the photo of the sesame asparagus and carrot chop on p. 46. That salad has mayonnaise in the dressing, and there is no way that there is mayonnaise in the salad pictured. I get it, mayo-dressed salads are not photogenic. Still, it irks me.
This salad appealed to me because fennel is involved, and I not only love fennel, but happened to have a bulb sitting in my crisper drawer. Green beans are briefly boiled then drained, and once again, plunged into ice water. At least green beans don’t absorb water the way potatoes do. The salad is composed of drained canned white beans, sliced fennel, the green beans, capers, and some finely chopped parmesan… The dressing is fresh basil, mustard, red or white wine vinegar (I chose white), olive oil, and black pepper. All the ingredients are whizzed in a blender and poured over the salad. The parmesan, which is option, is stirred in last (I see no sign of the parm in the photo, but it does say it’s optional, soooo…).
This is a solid salad. It gets better if it can sit for a while. We liked it quite a bit better than the potato salad, and I would make it again. It is pictured with the controversial green capellini from p. 125.
So I’ll start out by saying that I’m team capellini - I like the stuff, so I used it here. The method in the book has been described, so I’ll just give you my changes. Cooking and draining the pasta before making the sauce is just plain dumb… I don’t know why authors write recipes that way, but I always ignore them when they do. Fortunately the sauce blended just fine without any added water. So I made the sauce, cooked the pasta, drained almost all the water off it, then added the sauce to the hot pasta in its cooking pot. I made a full recipe of sauce, but a little over half the amount of pasta. I used about 3/4 of the sauce, so I definitely sauced my pasta more heavily than the author intended. I also added some fresh basil to the sauce - extra leaves I had from making the two-bean salad. I used red pepper flakes, and enough of them to get a bit of heat of going. Topped with parm instead of pecorino, because there is no vegan pecorino so far, that I know of.
We liked this with my adaptations. I think it’s important to manage expectation here. It looks like it should be a pesto, and it’s definitely not a pesto. The garlic and butter are the predominate flavors. I can certainly see a little hit of acid being a good addition. We had it with the two-bean salad from p. 50, so we got an acidic element that way. Picture is in my report on the two-bean salad.
This is where I need to take my own advice and manage my expectations. It’s hard to know what to say about this dish. I have my own way of cooking chole, and it is absolutely nothing like this. Which is fine, of course. She does say in the headnote that this dish is a blend of several recipes, including a chicken curry and dal makhani. OK. Deep breath.
You start by cooking onion in butter, ghee, or oil. You add ginger and garlic, then ground cumin and coriander seed, salt, turmeric, garam masala, and cayenne (I used Kashmiri chili powder here). In goes tomato paste. After that diced tomatoes, canned or fresh (mine were canned), and more salt. Cook the tomatoes down, then add water and simmer some more. Finally add canned chickpeas and simmer for 10 minutes more. I personally think canned chickpeas need a longer simmering time to be palatable, so I added them with the water to the cooked down tomato mixture. You finally adjust the seasoning (I added more garam masala) and finish the dish with some heavy cream (I made a rich cashew cream for this) and option cilantro (I used it).
So… putting aside my own expectations about what this dish should be, and accepting it for what it is, I have to say it was tasty. It was definitely a simplified, less complex form Indian-ish cooking. As written it’s mild, and the spices are not really balanced the way I would like, but… I did get something that tasted quite good, in its own way. And yes, I’m still a bit bothered by it. Oh, and a note about salt… she uses a lot of it in this dish. She uses Diamond Crystal, which is lighter than most, so if you are using something else, as I was, you might want to reduce a bit. I used a little over 1/2 teaspoon less total salt than called for, and it was plenty salty. Just know your salt and be aware.
Hmm, what am I missing? Her recipe, except for the cream, sounds pretty standard. I do remember skipping over it b/c white woman in Brooklyn, but in comparing it to say, Meera Sodha’s chana masala, the ingredients seem very similar. Maybe SK reduces the spices and aromatics? I don’t have a copy of hers.