If you ever ask me to list my favourite food blogs, I will mention ‘Smitten Kitchen’ without even thinking about it. Written by the wonderful Deb Perelman, it is a lexicon of deliciousness – full of brilliant, innovative recipes that she throws together in her tiny New York apartment kitchen. My kitchen is also somewhat compact and bijou, so I’m frequently in awe of the amazing things she manages to create with such little workspace at her disposal.
There are so many things to love about Smitten Kitchen. Deb insists on using simple ingredients you can purchase easily in any supermarket (making her recipes accessible to us unfortunate schlubs who don’t have a Waitrose on our doorstep). Her recipes work (I’ve yet to make something from Smitten Kitchen that hasn’t resulted in utter deliciousness). There’s also the fact that she is the proud mother of what might very well be the cutest toddler ever (which is really saying something coming from someone who isn’t the biggest fan of children). Every time I absorb a new post from Deb via my Google Reader, it’s like hearing the voice of an old friend – a friend who frequently spends her spare time up to her armpits in bread dough.
I’d been trying to get my hands on the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for ages; I even contemplated buying a copy when I was in the USA recently. So, when I was offered a UK version (it has recipe ingredients given in grams rather than pesky cups) I jumped at the chance. And, I’m pleased to say, it’s an absolute gem – the kind of cookbook destined to be plastered in notes, picking up dogeared pages and mysterious stains from overuse.
The book is divided into nine sections; Breakfast, Salads, Sandwiches Tarts & Pizzas, Vegetarian main courses, Seafood Poultry & Meat main courses, ‘Sweet Things’, Cakes (my personal favourite), Puddings & Sweets and Party Snacks & Drinks. That’s over 100 recipes and they all look absolutely sublime. As someone currently trying to reduce their meat consumption, I particularly liked the section on vegetarian main courses. Deb is a former vegetarian and really knows how to make these recipes shine. Not once do you notice the absence of meat in any of the dishes and her Mushroom Bourguignon has already become a firm favourite in my house.
I’ve spent the last fortnight cooking my way through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and have yet to find a dud recipe in there. The Avocado Tartine with Cucumber and Sesame Seeds has become a firm post-run snack and I found myself scoffing an entire tub of buttermilk-and-toasted-almond-laden Broccoli Slaw in one guilty gulp as soon as I made it. The Potato Frittata with Feta and Spring Onion makes a great weekend brunch (and will win over even the most ardent of egg haters), while the Flat Roasted Chicken with tiny Potatoes was the perfect thing to throw together after a long Monday in the office. And then there’s the Tomato-glazed Meatloaves with Mashed Potatoes – a Sunday lunch assembled in an hour after a post-football cleaning binge – which will be raved about in our house for a long, long time. If there’s one complaint I could make, it’s that you’ll find quite a few of the recipes online, in the Smitten Kitchen blog archives. However, this is a minor gripe, and considering there are oodles of amazing, well-tested and beautifully photographed recipes in there, who could blame Deb for choosing creations that taste good, look great and which she knows will work time and time again?
I’ve decided to showcase her Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats on Little Red Courgette as I made these for mine and Mr McMc’s offices and have never seen a sweet treat I’ve made be snapped up so quickly or receive so many rave reviews (indeed, I know one of Mr McMc’s colleagues is continually pressing F5 on this blog so he can get the recipe for these bad boys – Hiya Terry!) Best of all, these take a mere 20 minutes to make and you don’t even need to switch the oven on. Delicious, sweet-salty complex-tasting crispy treats in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Coronation Street? I told you the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook was something special.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook can be purchased from all good bookshops. I was fortunate enough to receive mine as a review copy from the publisher.
SALTED BROWN BUTTER CRISPY TREATS (Makes 16 5cm squares – more than enough to feed an office full of hungry people)
You will need:
- 115g unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
- ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 285g marshmallows (I used the small pink & white ones that you find in the baking aisle of most supermarkets)
- 170g puffed-rice cereal
- Butter (or coat) a 20cm square baking tin.
- Brown the Butter: In a large pot, melt butter over a medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden, and finally turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot: you may be impatient for it to start browning, but the period between the time the butter begins to take on colour and point where it burns is often less than a minute.
- Make the crispy treats: As soon as the butter takes on a nutty colour, turn the heat off, sprinkle salt over the butter and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it isn’t, turn it back on over low heat until the marshmallows are smooth. Be careful not to cook the marshmallows, which will destroy their stretchy softness. You’re looking for just enough heat so that they melt and smooth out.
- Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the cereal, folding it gently with the marshmallow mixture until the cereal is evenly coated. Quickly spread into a prepared pan. A good way to do this is to use a piece of waxed or parchment paper sprayed with oil – press it firmly and evenly into the edges and corners and smooth the top. Using a silicon spatula to do this works equally well.
- Allow to cool, then cut into squares and get ready to make new friends.