Smitten Kitchen cookbook adventures (1)

I just got the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and have been drooling over the recipes. I decided to make a few this week and see how it went.

#1: Fingerlings vinaigrette with sieved eggs and pickled celery

ZOMG, if you’ve never put eggs through a sieve (and really, who has?) you are missing out. This salad is awesome. I was skeptical about the pickled celery, but it does a great job of adding crunch while reinforcing the vinegary taste — there isn’t a ton of dressing for the amount of potato, so this works well. The sieved eggs merge a little with the dressing and get smeary on the potatoes. It’s good.

Variations: True to spirit — Deb’s recipes often come from pantry constraints and previous experience — I used the yellow potatoes from my CSA instead of fingerlings and just cooked them cut in half and then cut them into quarters on the plate to get similar sizing. My celery was smaller so I used 3 stalks (a measurement of quantity here would be great, but you can estimate by pouring the pickling mixture into a bowl and cutting about enough to fit in with it) and I used a small red onion (again from my CSA) rather than buying shallots (which are hard to find and more expensive). I chose savory and parsley for my herbs (optional), but I think chives and parsley would actually be ideal because I love chive with potato and the parsley is nice and fresh.

#2: Wild rice gratin with kale, caramelized onions, and baby swiss

I wasn’t as enchanted by this one, which surprised me because it’s full of things I love. I’m going to blame it on my execution, since even more than the other one, my pantry / shopping forgetfulness and some sloppy construction (lack of sufficient bowls) meant that I didn’t quite execute on this as intended. It was just a little thin and too oily and crunchy for me, although the flavor is good. I think just didn’t hit tonight’s cravings, too. I really wanted something hearty and thick, and without a sauce and spread across a too-large baking dish, this just wasn’t going to be it.

Variations/execution failures: I halved the recipe and used barley to make up the amount of rice I was missing (reasoning that it’s also nutty and chewy; this actually worked well and I’d probably do it again). I used more oil than called for with the onions, more kale, less broth, more cheese, and cornmeal instead of breadcrumbs (I just forgot to buy them, oops). I don’t have a smaller baking dish, so everything was spread out a little too much, and I didn’t pre-mix the gratin filling before putting it in the dish and carefully salt/pepper it so it would be evenly flavored, so I ended up with under- and over-seasoned spots. It’s easy to see how it ended up too oily and crunchy — although surprisingly, I really wanted MORE kale. Kale cooks down like whoa, so it almost disappeared into the onions and rice. If you don’t really like kale, you can go for the amount in the recipe, but if you like it, I suggest more. I think this would be great with some cooked butternut squash, too, either in chunks or as a sauce. That would add some smoothness and heartiness, and I think when I try again (which I will) it will be with that addition.

Also, I have no idea what the heck baby swiss is. I wonder if this is a misprint and it should be baby kale, caramelized onions, and swiss?

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