3 weeknight wins from the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook

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IMG_1505 copy.jpgDeb Perelman, friend of the site, has a new Smitten Kitchen cookbook out now! I was lucky enough to score an early copy and get ahead on some of the recipes.

Now that it's fall and I am embracing cooking more, this cookbook came my way at exactly the right time, especially since one of the words in the title is "unfussy." Deb and I happened to be pregnant with our second kids at the same time and so a lot of her recipes come from a place of loving food, loving cooking, not having unlimited time or brainpower to mess up a ton of pots or go chasing down hard-to-find ingredients or making stuff your kids don't recognize. It's a great way to get excited to cook now that the weather is cold and family dinners are more of a thing.

Here were three things I made this week that I would make again (I did not take pictures because my food pictures are awful):  

Red Lentil Soup, Dal Style

To me this soup is a home-cooked version of that really good lentil soup from the little Lebanese place in the neighborhood. It doesn't take forever to make and is one of those soups that is even better the next day. The next time I make it I'm going to double it so it will last me longer. In my family it only lasted two days--even my picky husband and half my kids liked it. (Oblig subtitution/alteration note: The recipe calls for a half cup of tomatoes, canned or otherwise. I just dumped a regular 15 oz can of diced tomatoes in and I have NO REGRETS.)  

Brussels and Three Cheese Pasta Bake

In the book Deb talks about her love of mac and cheese and how it's tempered with how mac and cheese always makes you feel like you want to take a nap. With this dish, she lightens it with the sprouts but don't be scared--this isn't one of those dishes where a perfectly good mac and cheese is then sullied with some limp and lame vegetables. The vegs are treated with love and cooked with butter and garlic and flour and lemon zest and are delicious alongside the pasta, instead of just something to deal with. I'm not going to lie to you: the men in my life didn't love this. Steve I was prepared for, because he doesn't like lots of melted cheese (he has other good qualities.) Paul was put off by the smell of the melted gruyere and James basically just eats potty training M&M rewards lately. I was pretty mad at them for not eating it and thought, "Is this not that good? Did I just want it to be good because I worked on it?" After putting the kids to bed I went back and ate more and realized, no, the guys are dumb and wrong. (Oblig subtition/alteration note: The recipe calls for vegetable broth. I had chicken broth at home and I used it and I have NO REGRETS.)  

Broccoli Melts

Two things I think are highly underrated: broccolini, which has more flavor and more snap than regular broccoli, and Pecorino Romano, which is so salty and yummy but stands in the shadow of Parmesan. Anyway this dish pretty much combines two things that are great separately: a lemony cheesy pile of diced broccolini and then glues it to some bread with a slice of melted cheese. I made this and served it alongside some turkey chili and it was a hit with the people in my house who are not dumb and wrong. Like the recipe above it takes a traditionally comfort food dish and makes it more appropriate for a weeknight. (Oblig subtitution/alteration note: I had grocery store garlic bread in a silver sleeve at home and used that and NOT ONLY DO I HAVE NO REGRETS I THINK IT WAS MY GREATEST DECISION EVER.)

These are just a few recipes I've tried so far. I am already looking forward to trying the chicken marsala meatballs and "pizza beans," and Paul has his eye on peach melba popsicles. If you're a Smitten Kitchen fan, make sure to pick this new one up.