I am very excited* to announce the opening day of what we call slaw season at the Smitten Kitchen. There is nothing better than a crunchy, lettuce-free, wilt-resistant salad in the summer, and I don’t just mean cabbage swimming in mayo. It could be broccoli or cauliflower, vegetables fine and pickled on sandwiches and tacos, and honestly, if it’s a vegetable, I feel confident I could slaw it, despite absolutely nobody requesting that I do.
Something I joke about when introducing a new muffin recipe (not this one!) in my new cookbook out this fall is the gap between the muffins we gaze at in a coffee shop case and those we make at home. Why is one towering, glossy and plush and the ones I make for breakfast so… beige? I mean, I do know. When I’m the one baking the muffins, I balk at all of the refined sugar, flour, and oil needed to make them that pretty. So I stuff them with oats and dried fruit and whole-grain everything and then yes, they’re heavy and beige. But as I was staring at these beauties at my local bagel shop the other morning, I decided: enough.
In early March 2020, I signed a contract to write my third cookbook because it felt like just the right moment: calm, unfrenzied, kids happy settled in school and activities… stop laughing. My timing is impeccable. But, there’s nothing like a tremendous amount of time at home with an almost boundless need for homecooked meals to get me asking the big, important questions about my own repertoire: Where is my forever pound cake? What would the perfect quiche look like? Why does roasting chicken this way change everything? I realized how much I wanted this book to be a collection of recipes specifically written with making them forever in mind. Two years later, I finally get to show you what I’ve been up to.
Lately I’ve been trying to take as many stupid walks for my stupid mental health (a funny/wonderful TikTok trend from over the winter) as possible because if the last two years have taught me anything, it is that outside time is a very key ingredient in me being a warm, upbeat, charming person, the kind of person who never hits her snooze alarm four times and then wonders why she’s always in a rush. Okay, fine, it’s not an exorcism, but it does feel surprisingly close. More often than not, I end up swinging through the Greenmarket, which leads to me bringing home whatever looked good that day — most recently, spicy arugula, pinto potatoes, fresh flowers, and a bag of fresh cremini mushrooms. A few days after that, almost without fail, I realize I have mushrooms to use and I’ve landed on a wildly simple pasta preparation that, in a rare moment of mealtime harmony, everyone eats willingly. Honestly, I should have led with this mic drop.
You are fully invited to roll your eyes at the simplicity of this recipe. It’s not even a recipe. It’s more like a plating, a way of getting asparagus from market to table that I’ve been hooked on for over a year.
I started hosting Passover seder four years ago. My dad had just passed away and my mother, who usually hosts, appreciated the relief. I don’t usually host holidays — well, they let me have Hanukkah — because our space is so small and the traffic, so terrible, but I must have done too good of a job because I haven’t stopped since. This means I have a secret archive of Passover recipes I’ve been keeping from you, and it’s rather rude. Here is one.
I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like lemon curd. You, in turn, might choose not to trust anyone who makes bold, sweeping, and questionably necessary proclamations, but if I were to pick a completely superfluous soapbox to stand on, it’s currently this. Everyone loves lemon curd. The only thing better than lemon curd is lemon curd against a pillowy meringue and a plume of softly whipped cream. These three flavors together are the basis of so many desserts, including a chaotic one I call a Lemon Meringue Pie Smash in my second cookbook. It was while working on this recipe that I got my go-to lemon curd down to a simple formula that never fails, and also came to appreciate the culinary harmony of a dessert that doesn’t leave us with leftover stray egg whites or yolks.
Many Sundays, I share on my Instagram feed a little rundown of what we ate for dinner the week before. I call these Real Life Menus, as there’s nothing aspirational about them. There’s takeout; there’s burnout; there have been quick bean quesadillas almost once a week recently simply because they’re low-effort and they work. There’s there’s jetlag, flops, and frozen pelmeni, and there are some ambitious meals I bring to the table while telling my family how grateful they should be for me (they laugh, which is deserved).
As a lifelong picky person who has brought another picky person into the world, my single biggest hope is that she’s as burdened by the things she doesn’t like as I am, and as eager to shed them. Like this. Although I like bananas, cream, pie, and also custard, I’ve never been really into banana cream pie because something about it all together always seemed so one-note, soft, and sweet. I wanted to shake it up with dark toffee sauce or bittersweet chocolate shavings, brown butter, or flaky sea salt, but having to change something to get yourself to like it isn’t really the same thing as truly liking it. And I wanted to truly like it because I hate it when I don’t get a meme, a joke, or find the charm in something [well, a food; I’m okay never taking up spelunking] beloved by millions of people.
Every Saturday morning, which is blissfully later each year that my children have grown old enough to fend for themselves for a couple hours, we stumble out of bed and do these exact things in this exact order: Make Americanos in the Moka pot. Hard-boil several eggs and plunge them in very ice water so they’re not warm-centered (shudder) by the time we sit down. And then I mix up a simple wholegrain soda bread but bake it as scones, so it can be done in 15 minutes. We use these minutes to pull out all the fruit left in the fridge and cut it up; fanning it out on a platter makes us feel fancy, and not like it’s the dregs that were left at the bottom of the produce drawer. If we’re feeling ambitious, we juice a couple oranges. If we have grapefruits, I loosen the sections of a few (I’m team grapefruit knife, not spoon, not that you asked) halves. I’ve been known to slice up pears and blue cheese with walnuts when the craving hits in the winter, and or apples with sharp cheddar in the fall. In the summer, it’s an abundance of berries or stone fruit or melon, sometimes with homemade ricotta if I have it. If we have avocados, I like to slice them.* Then we nudge the kids to set the table, which always includes salted butter and apricot jam (my favorite), and, because I do not have any argument left in me by Saturday, Nutella and raspberry jam (everyone else’s).