In Praise of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

16 Feb

In Praise of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook | Tea Time & Tulle

I don’t think I can praise the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook enough. Obviously I have an unhealthy obsession with food blogs, but Smitten Kitchen has been one of my very favorites for a long time. When I saw she had a cookbook coming out, I bought it as soon as I could. I’ve tried a few recipes from it already — the Ratatouille Sub earning some high praise — and the recipes are everything I want from a cookbook. They’re relatively easy, fun to make, and the cookbook is full of beautiful pictures. If you don’t own this cookbook already, I suggest you buy it. Last week I decided to try a couple more recipes from her book, and they were both absolutely delicious. I made Gnocchi in Tomato Broth (with slight adjustments) and her Blue Cheese Iceberg Salad.

In Praise of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook | Tea Time & Tulle

The greatest thing about this recipe is that it encourages drinking wine while cooking. Including wine in the recipe means it’s encouraged to drink while cooking, right? And most amazing of all: There were hardly any complaints from the more difficult members of my family — I’m looking at you, dad and brother — aside from the usual question of, “Where’s the meat?” But those of us who aren’t cavemen didn’t miss the meat one bit. The gnocchi is pretty easy and really filling, and lucky for you, both of these recipes are available online. You can find the gnocchi recipe here and the iceberg salad recipe here. However, the iceberg salad recipe differs slightly in the cookbook, and I did make a couple changes of my own, so read on to find out about that.

In Praise of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook | Tea Time & Tulle

While the potatoes are baking in the oven, you start to make the broth. The base of the broth includes all these delicious vegetables — celery, carrots, onion, garlic. It smells amazing almost immediately.

In Praise of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook | Tea Time & Tulle

Then you add wine, whole tomatoes, basil and vegetable (or chicken) stock, and keep on cooking until it’s reduced by half. Getting the broth to this point took as much time as the potatoes needed to cook, so right after this I was able to start making the gnocchi. The timing was quite perfect.

In Praise of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook | Tea Time & Tulle

I got to use a potato ricer for the first time! The cookbook notes that you can also grate the baked potatoes on the coarse edge of a grater, but I imagine the potato ricer makes this process a lot easier. Plus it’s kind of fun.

In Praise of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook | Tea Time & Tulle

The most surprising part about gnocchi is that it’s almost entirely potato. You add just a little bit of egg, salt and flour, and that’s it. The resulting mixture is sticky, but it’s not unbearable. I think it helps to just mix it with your (clean!) hands rather than bother with any sort of utensils. To shape the gnocchi, you just roll it out into coils and cut it into one-inch pieces. It sort of reminded me of elementary school art class when we worked with clay. But this tastes way better. Then you put the gnocchi in boiling water, and cook them only a few minutes until they start to float. Put the cooked gnocchi in your now-reduced-by-half broth, and you’re done! Now this is where I differ from the recipe. The recipe says to strain out all the vegetables from the broth, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I left the vegetables in because I thought it’d make a more hearty dish, and I didn’t want to waste them. There were no complaints.

Side note: If you have too much gnocchi (if there is such a thing), just put them on a tray in the freezer for 24 hours, then put the frozen gnocchi in a bag to keep in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.

In Praise of the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook | Tea Time & Tulle

For the iceberg  salad, the recipe in the book calls for cutting the iceberg into thick slices rather than wedges, and the blue cheese dressing is made without blue cheese mixed in. Instead, you sprinkle blue cheese on top of the salad. Additionally, this salad calls for the inclusion of cubed celery and radishes, which gives it a little more dimension.

Deb Perelman also gave instructions on how to make the most amazing bacon substitute I’ve ever had. I don’t eat pork, so bacon was out of the question for this salad. Instead, she suggests slicing scallions thinly and frying them in a layer of hot oil. Once they turn brown, remove them from the oil and salt them immediately. The result tastes so close to bacon that my dad thought we were actually eating bacon — and then made the faux bacon bits for an asparagus recipe a few days later. If you knew my dad, you’d know what a landmark this is.

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