- Sunken Apple and Honey Cake (Smitten Kitchen). When I find a really simple, delicious, visually-amazing dessert that comes out perfectly, I immediately begin to fantasize about making it for company. Deb Perelman's Sunken Apple and Honey Cake is company cake. (Or, it could be company breakfast cake, served with brunch.) The crumb is somehow dense and light at the same time, while the apples and honey syrup give it a beautiful moistness. I found some tiny Lady apples at the Whole Foods, and these were ideal to quarter (the apples were too small to core whole and then halve, as per the recipe instructions) and slice thin into the decorative apple fans you see in the photos. They also had great flavor. We ate two slices of cake each upon its debut, leaving only a quarter of the cake for lunchboxes the next day. It was so, so good. If you want to dress it up for company, I bet a bit of whipped cream wouldn't go amiss.
- Classic Potato Gratin (Nov. 2015). This was a time-consuming recipe-- between making the garlicky sauce, slicing 4 lbs. of potatoes very thinly, and a long baking time-- that was not really worth the result. (I did not use a mandolin to slice the potatoes, as history suggests I will merely slice the end of my finger off and any time "saved" will be squandered in bandaging.) The flavor of the potatoes was good-- garlic, butter, thyme, cream, cheese!-- but, even with a longer browning time than called for, they were only barely crispy on top, and quite mushy on the inside. I could make creamy garlic potatoes a lot more easily by, say, mashing them. If you do make this recipe, I would recommend removing the foil from the pan earlier in the baking process, in order to let the potatoes dry out and crisp better. We ate them with brussels sprouts and salmon filet (my kid) or sausages (my husband) or both (me).
- Fried Okra with Fresh Curry or Basil Leaves, served on the side with slices of parmesan-covered toast, pears and raspberries. A strange recipe: the okra (I bought fresh this time) was sliced very thin, fried without breading in a lot of oil along with basil leaves, and then blotted, spiced and salted. It did not become crunchy, although it seemed to me that would have been the only point of such a procedure. Instead, the okra darkened, shrunk to a tiny wizened size, and tasted salty/spicy. Once it had shrunk, there was not a lot of it left, rather like cooking a bunch of spinach. It was not bad, neither was it good. As a treatment of okra, it left me somewhat mystified.
- Okra with Tomatoes, served over toast with scrambled eggs on top (my kid had cooked mustard and turnip greens in place of okra). This was basically cooked okra with some tomatoes, garlic and spices added. A good shot of lime juice gave it a pleasant bite as well. While not earth-shattering, this was a more logical way to serve okra than the above method. I would skip the eggs and toast next time and simply serve it as a regular vegetable side dish.
- Chicken Saag, served with packaged naan and topped with plain yogurt and chili powder. A mixed review for the Chicken Saag. It tasted wonderful and my husband loved it. But, as may be seen from the photos, my sauce ended up as thin as a soup, not the thick spinachy paste pictured in the cookbook or familiar from Indian restaurants. Now, in retrospect, this is not surprising, since 8 oz. of spinach, 4 tomatoes, and 1 cup of water (plus seasonings and chicken), cooked with the cover on as directed for about 30 minutes, are unlikely to produce a thick sauce. Why all that water? Is that an error? But we ate it anyway, enthusiastically, with spoons to consume all the tasty broth and naan for dipping. The leftovers were even better the next day. Even now that all the chicken is gone, I still have about 2 cups of leftover sauce in the refrigerator. I guess we'll just have it as a soup.