Sometimes serendipity brings things together to have both books you wanted on similar topics ready at the library at the same time so it only takes one trip there. So it was for me recently when I reserved both of Deb Perelman’s books at the library the other week to pick up after work Friday. That evening was spent with those two books, sticky page flag things, a space heater, a drink, and a few dogs laying on me.
I haven’t seen a lot of people discussing some of the recipes within and wanted to share some of my thoughts on the ones I tried and why I did or did not like them and what I did as tweaks.
Crispy tofu and broccoli with sesame-peanut pesto, p. 121 Smitten Kitchen Everyday
I had high hopes for this one and it looked and smelled great as I was preparing. The preparation was easy too, each next step could be done while another was happening too. But it fell flat for me. I ate a few bites, and tried to convince my husband to eat it all together, not just the pieces of fried tofu directly from the pan. The pesto just never came together. I tasted it and added a little more soy sauce, and it was still not doing it for me. But I made it exactly to the recipe besides that, so I took it out of the food processor and added it to the tofu and broccoli. It still wasn’t working. So sadly, I tossed the rest – thinking about it as leftovers was dismal, unfortunately. I wanted to like it, but her tofu preparation method is solid, and easy. Do that, just find a different sauce maybe.
Fall-toush salad with delicata squash and brussels sprouts, p. 66, Smitten Kitchen Everyday
I didn’t find a delicata squash at the vegetable stand or the grocery store that day so I subbed in an acorn squash here but still loved this recipe. I even went and bought sumac special to make this because it sounded so appealing. Other than the squash substitute, I made it as-written and thoroughly enjoyed. Tip: Don’t eat anything with sumac while dining with partners, it will get in your teeth. But eat this alone and eat it all. Another tip, keep the ingredients separate if you plan to reheat the leftovers. Add the dressing and the pita chips after heating the squash and sprout mixture.
Potatoes and asparagus gribiche, p. 46, Smitten Kitchen Everyday
This one felt like a deconstructed kinda potato salad minus the mayo and it is, but wow, it’s still good. And for a Southerner to be saying that, well, that’s something. I followed this as is, except I halved it and left out the capers. I did BUY capers for this recipe but upon opening the jar and remembering just how olive-y they smelled, I put the lid right back on. I’m an unapologetic olive hater, so take that as you will. This is a great recipe if you also like potato salad and its many possible iterations. It’s also just as good as cold leftovers!
Artichoke and parmesan galette, p. 97, Smitten Kitchen Everyday
So maybe I don’t like canned artichokes … because I didn’t like this. Every bite tasted like the liquid in the canned artichokes even though I drained and squeezed them well. Maybe if the pieces were a bit more finely chopped as to be evenly distributed? I’m not sure, but I wasn’t a fan of this, though luckily Patrick was.
Corn risotto-stuffed poblanos, p. 135, Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
They use hyphens in really weird places in these recipes. I was going to make this as written but couldn’t find poblanos at the vegetable stand or grocery store but really wanted to make this, so I improvised. Instead of stuffing the peppers with this I just made it as is and put diced jalapenos in the risotto itself. In the future I would 100% try with poblanos as written, but I would halve the recipe for the risotto. Two cups of uncooked Arborio rice yields SO MUCH risotto. I ate on this for most of the week. I think it made about six meals for me.
French onion toasts, p. 297, Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
MAKE THESE, HURRY. These were amazing. I used sliced provolone on top instead of gruyere, which I do when I make French onion soup anyways. These were fantastic. You won’t have leftovers.
Spring fried barley, p. 131, Smitten Kitchen Everyday
My only complaint about this one is that I can’t take it for leftovers to work because I have no way of frying an egg at work. But wow, this one is amazing. I, like Deb, might like it more than regular fried rice now.
Both books were lovely and I enjoy the stories and little bits of wisdom in the notes before the recipe in them, whereas in most cookbooks, it’s just something in the way of the food – much like a speech before dinner at a wedding. These were not like that at all. I flagged less recipes in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook than the Smitten Kitchen Everyday, so the latter is the one I’d add to my heavily laden shelves if I had to choose.
I’ve still got them as apparently no one else in the Lexington County Library system wants them, so now that Christmas cooking is over, I’m going to make more from the ones I’ve flagged. Perhaps there’ll be a part two to this review. Interested in seeing if you like them too? Grab your own copies of Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites and The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook!