As winter weather drags on, finding inspiration in the kitchen can get a little harder.
On one hand, in my kitchen is often where I most want to be, next to the heat of the stove and a ready pot of tea. I’m the hunkering-down sort. I tend to bake too much, drink too much hot chocolate, and make endless variations on roast chicken and risotto.
On the other hand, winter in colder climates is one of the most discouraging times for produce. By March, I am tired of winter squash and potatoes. I have no more ideas for kale. I want something new.
That is where these food blogs come in. Visit any of these websites and let Deb Perelman, Heidi Swanson and Joy Wilson inspire and engage you with their vivid photographs and active imaginations.
I became a fan of Smitten Kitchen in a backwards way. I had heard of Deb Perelman, the New York-based author of the popular tiny kitchen blog, in passing via recipes from friends. But it wasn’t until I read about (and subsequently cooked) her lasagna bolognese in “Best Food Writing 2012” and then impulsively bought her gorgeous new cookbook that I became a true SK convert.
A great blog is a combination of look and voice. Perelman takes all her own photos, and they’re beautiful, from a colorful mixed citrus salad with feta and mint to the French onion tart posted just this month. Her tone is self-deprecating and funny.
Her husband is “such a tidy eater … I comparatively eat with the grace of a Hoover.” She has a category on the blog called “disasters,” and writes about one set of them, “They’re not inedible. … They’re just not wonderful or magical or seriously, why have you not dropped everything yet and run to your kitchen to get this started?”
Smitten Kitchen is organized for maximum ease — recipes are grouped by season, as well as by type (pancakes, dumplings), ingredient (eggs, apples) and cuisine (Indian, Italian). Now is the perfect time to try pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies, or “hibernation fare,” pasta with sausage, tomatoes and mushrooms.
For healthier, I’m-sticking-to-my-New-Year’s-resolutions dishes, my absolute favorite blog is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. Swanson is the essence of inspirational, raving about her farmer’s market finds and offering simple substitutions for almost everything she makes.
Because of Swanson’s blog (and her two cookbooks, “Super Natural Cooking” and “Super Natural Every Day”), orzo has become a pantry staple, for potluck salads and easy weeknight dinners. I am no longer afraid of tofu, and I am shamelessly addicted to kale.
Following 101 Cookbooks is a great way to incorporate more grains into your diet in interesting, easy ways, from scones to warm noodle bowls. Start reading before spring, and you’ll be ready for every peapod and asparagus spear that crosses your path.
On the opposite end of the “virtuous” spectrum is Joy the Baker, a delightfully hedonistic blog full of cupcakes, cookies and lots of dark chocolate. Ina Garten is her kindred. (And yes, Joy has a cookbook too. It’s lovely.)
The site’s author, Joy Wilson, is perhaps best known for her sweets, but the first thing I made from her website was savory: this creme fraiche/bacon/gruyere quiche with a puff pastry crust, which simultaneously satisfied my craving for creme fraiche (like a mild sour cream) and something different to make with eggs.
I am intrigued by Wilson’s dark chocolate, pistachio and smoked sea salt cookies, the oatmeal sandwich cookies with creamy peanut butter filling and her roasted strawberry buttermilk cake, which transforms strawberries “from summer fruit to warm, soft candy.”
Maybe strawberries aren’t quite in season yet, but that sounds like the perfect cake to snap me out of my winter funk.
A few other food blogs to try and enjoy:
Wishing you spring weather soon!
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