pumpkin + halloween treats
plus: an interview with a cool cookbook author
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Friends, it’s been quiet around here. Like a lot of us, I’ve been pulled under by the news and it’s put a damper on both my cooking and my enthusiasm online, where messages of compassion are often met with rage. I took a bit of time to refocus then pivoted and looked for the helpers. World Central Kitchen, is one of my favorite charities because their entire mission is simply to feed people who have been displaced by humanitarian or environmental crises. Feeding people is at the very center of my heart and my chosen profession. That they're able to do on a world scale wherever people are displaced, hungry, and scared speaks directly to everything that I think matters. They’re currently on the ground in both Gaza and Israel (as well as Maui, Ukraine, Afghanistan and so many other places that have been in harm’s way). If your heart is heavy but your plate is full, as I am so privileged to be, know that no donation is too small to support their work. If you donate through the link on the Smitten Kitchen Instagram page (this will only work on mobile, not desktop), Instagram covers all transaction fees. If you’re not on Instagram or the link doesn’t work in your country, you can donate directly through their site. We’ve raised $187K (!) since Sunday and I’m in awe of the big hearts and generosity of this community. Thank you for helping me keep my eyes on the good here.
This newsletter is, in my humble opinion, brimming with good stuff. First, I’ve got all the details of my Smitten Kitchen x Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Book Tour, which kicks off next Thursday in Atlanta. I’ve got a stack of savory winter squash and pumpkin recipes for you to cook, plus homemade candy too. And, in a new weekly feature, an interview with a cool cookbook author — kicking off the series with Sohla El-Waylly.
I’ve written three cookbooks and I’m a tiny bit biased, but I think you’d love them all. I’m excited that this weather means you might be able to cook some of my early fall favorites from my most recent cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, such as the endive salad with apple matchsticks, double shallot egg salad, winter squash soup with red onion crisp, creamy tomato and chickpea masala, charred brussels sprout toast with ricotta, portobello hoagie, and the turkey meatloaf for skeptics with crushed ranch-y potatoes, and please don’t forget the carrot cake with brown butter and no clutter, butterscotch apple crisp, and apple cider old-fashioned. Were you looking for a list of all the recipes in each of my cookbooks? I’ve added these in a separate page and hope it makes it easier for you to find everything you want to cook.
It’s here! The Smitten Kitchen x Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Tour kicks off next week in Atlanta and continues onto Nashville TN, Scottsdale AZ, Dallas TX, Palm Beach Gardens FL, before wrapping up back home in New York City on the Friday before Thanksgiving. I can’t wait to show you how to make some of my favorite recipes in my Thanksgiving arsenal. A copy of Smitten Kitchen Keepers, my most recent cookbook, is included in each ticket price and I’ll be signing books after. Get all of the details and reserve your space right here.
pumpkin and winter squash
Pancakes for dinner, please! These pancakes use mashed winter squash but skip the pumpkin spice, instead enlisting salt, pepper and a finishing scatter of crispy sage leaves sizzled in brown butter and you should just go ahead and double the recipe because the leftovers are fantastic.
A salty-spicy-acidic-sweet tray of winter squash and crispy tofu from Diana Henry that always hits the spot.
If having a bowl of spiced vegetable soup for dinner sounds too austere, may I recommend sinking a buttery, herbed broiled gruyere mega-crouton in it? It works every time, around here at least.
Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list length -- this vegetarian, vegetable-full, complexly flavored stew comes together quickly and is fantastic over couscous, with or without a dollop of yogurt to finish it. Leftovers reheat well, so it's a meal prep dream too.
Pumpkin-spiced out already? Untethered from cinnamon's grasp, pumpkin gives one of our favorite fall soups a hearty body, with additional depth from all sorts of unexpected places -- sherry, cumin, shallots and a meaty broth. It's requested every October around here.
Sure, this is crazy delicious way to make squash just as written, but do you know what else you can do with it? Tacos! Add some black beans, a quick slaw, some crumbled salty cheese. Handheld warmth > fork-speared warmth.
This grain salad is a balancing act of cubes of roasted squash, salty crumbled cheese, crunchy pepitas and lightly pickled red onion with a sherry vinaigrette and it's my favorite because it's also flexible -- use whatever roasted vegetable, cheese, or crunch you've got around. Plus, the leftovers are fantastic.
A forever site favorite in which two minor-seeming things -- flaky sea salt and brown butter -- transform crispy treats from a "kid thing" to a thing-that's-hard-to-share-with-a-kid (or anyone). No matter where I take them, they never last 30 minutes.
Buttery, golden, sea salt-flecked homemade caramel popcorn with peanuts and a little bit of heat is the best idea right now, trust me.
This is my favorite brittle and it's absolutely cluttered with roasted peanuts and salted pretzels before being coated with dark chocolate. It's crunchy, caramelized, buttery, and salty and absolutely memorable.
Buckeyes are basically bite-sized marble-shaped peanut butter cup truffles and if the thought of this doesn't make you spring forth from wherever you are into the nearest kitchen to make them right now, perhaps this photo will?
This is my favorite candy I've *ever* made. It compacts a whole bottle of fresh apple cider into a salt-flecked, cinnamon-y, buttery caramel that is so loud with everything awesome about fall, no October is complete without it.
AN INTERVIEW WITH SOHLA EL-WAYLLY
New feature alert! My shelves are full of wonderful cookbooks I don’t get to talk about enough and I’m adding this weekly section so you can get to know the cool people behind them. Today we're chatting with Sohla El-Waylly (who you might know from The New York Times, Bon Appétit, HBO Max’s The Big Brunch and The History Channel’s Ancient Recipes with Sohla, but who I’m lucky enough to see around my neighborhood) whose first cookbook, Start Here: Instructions for Becoming a Better Cook, comes out next week.
1. What inspired your cookbook?
I'm a big nerd and love knowing the ins and outs of everything. Most recipes tell you to chill your cookie dough overnight or pat a steak dry before searing it, but I'm a pain and won't follow directions until you tell me why. In this cookbook, I aim to tell you why. There are lots of deep dives and TMI about butter, gluten, the Maillard reaction, and more. I believe that food science and technical knowledge is the key to cooking confidently and honing your kitchen intuition.
2. What recipe are you the most proud of in the book, or felt the most triumphant when you got it right?
Tahdig is a dish I've struggled with for years. When made right, this Persian dish (which translates to bottom of the pot) consists of long fluffy grains of basmati rice with a crispy cake underneath. The crispy part can be made of different things, from potato to lettuce, but my favorite version is when the cake underneath is made from rice. I've messed it up loads of times, so I hope to teach you from my pitfalls with a "What the Hell Happened?" section at the end of the recipe.
3. What recipe is so low-effort, high-reward that it's worth cooking for dinner tonight, even if we're tired and don't want to cook?
Go make the Crispy-Skinned Salmon with Radishes and Nuoc Cham! Instead of small fillets, you roast a big slab of salmon in the oven. The large portion can handle more heat, allowing the skin to get super crispy. Next to the fish, you roast radishes with their tops. The tops turn into crunchy chips while the bulbs get tender and mild. While it all cooks you mix together a super simple tart, spicy, sweet nuoc cham to go with it all. Eat it with a pot of steamed rice.
4. What's something you wish more people knew about your book?
It's half savory and half pastry! There's always been this binary in the kitchen: you're either a savory cook or a dessert person. I want everyone to learn both. On the savory side of the book, I teach you how to play things loose and follow your gut, while on the sweet side, we get precise and bust out a scale. It's a right-brain, left-brain vibe. Put the two halves together and I promise you'll be more creative and daring in the kitchen.
Thank you, Sohla! You can preorder Start Here right here.
Ever wonder where I get my cutting boards, paring knives, offset spatulas and more than you see when I cook? I've created a page on Smitten Kitchen with links to some of my favorite kitchen items, the ones I'm asked about the most. I recently added several new favorites I’ve bought in the last year. For each item, I've attempted to provide a range of shopping links so we're not just focusing on one giant retailer.
See you next week!