cook it now.

Summer is an easy beast.

Who doesn’t love the riot of ripe tomatoes, the flesh of figs, the thwack of a watermelon being opened with a knife? It’s life, unbound, summer is. It’s heat and leaning into it, it’s grapes and lemonade, hikes to clear-blue lakes, picnics on the beach, and staying up late on the porch, talking, until the light leaves the sky at nearly 10. It’s everything we hope for, all year long.

It’s also exhausting. Summer is utterly exhausting.

Autumn? The first chill. Darkness at 6:30 in the evening and fading faster every day. Hot soups seem appealing again. And squashes. So many squashes.

The autumn inspires me to cook, to play with my food, to settle in.

And this season, I’m so excited to be cooking out of Melissa Clark’s terrific new book, Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make.

Cook This Now is a kitchen diary of sorts, one compiled by one of the smartest minds in food today. Melissa Clark? She knows food. She knows how to make homey food with sophisticated flavors. Shaved fennel salad with parmesan and orange zest. Cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes and garlic. Baked stuffed potatoes with corned beef and dill butter. I want to make everything in this book.

If you don’t know Melissa’s work, you should. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times called A Good Appetite, which inspires me to move into the kitchen every week. In fact, I happened to read her first column there in early 2007, with a recipe for buttery polenta with olive-oil fried eggs, the day it came out. That night, I made it for dinner with Danny. It was the first time I cooked for him that I felt entirely confident in the kitchen.

We’ve made many of Melissa’s recipes in this house and all of them with great success. We’ve adapted some of them on this site, as well. Asparagus salad with walnuts and mizithra, the raw brussels sprouts salad,  and spicy gingerbread men not only worked well but have stayed in our rotation. Melissa knows what she is doing.

One taste of this roasted cauliflower with salted yogurt and pomegranate seeds confirmed that for me.

These are whole-grain peanut butter cookies. Melissa learned the recipe for whole-wheat peanut butter cookies from her friend, Anna Painter, the former pastry chef of A Li Da in Brooklyn. Now, I knew I couldn’t have the whole wheat, but I’m pretty crazy about whole-grain baking these days. So, I used the original recipe and played with oat, teff, and quinoa.

Eureka. Best peanut butter cookies I’ve ever made. Such a complexity of flavor.

These are keepers.

(I might have to write these up as a recipe for you soon. I want you to have them too.)

The beauty of this book of Melissa’s is that she created these dishes for her family. Her NY Times column recipes are approachable but push you a little. These recipes are determined only by you getting your butt to the farmers’ market for fresh vegetables and fruits. And paying attention to what the season wants you to eat.

This dish above was lunch for us last week. Pork confit (Danny was playing with a recipe), sauteed red cabbage with shallots and carraway, roasted squash, and sauteed apples. It was one of the best lunches we’ve eaten in awhile. And it came from the produce sitting on our kitchen counter, threatening to turn.

It’s the kind of dish Melissa would have made too.

I know darn well that when next summer comes around I’ll be excited for the riot. And with recipes like cantaloupe and yogurt soup with toasted cumin salt, cucumber and almond salad with shiso, and fresh peach buttermilk ice cream, Cook This Now will still be open on our kitchen counter.

SHREDDED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH PANCETTA AND CARAWAY

This is Melissa’s recipe, straight from her book. I don’t ever do that anymore. (Oh, the first few months of this blog, when I thought it was okay to just write up someone’s recipe in this space. But no one was reading then.) However, a number of us who keep blogs are highlighting some of the November recipes from Cook This Now, as a way of making sure people hear about this book. It’s that good.

This dish is simple to make — less than 10 minutes — but it’s a lovely layering of tastes to honor autumn. There’s something very green and cabbagey about brussels sprouts, but with a faint sweetness. The slight sternness of the caraway seeds cuts through those tastes. And pancetta? Please. 

I have a feeling this one is going to end up on our Thanksgiving table this year.

1 pound Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons caraway seeds
4 ounces pancetta, diced small (about ½ cup)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Use a paring knife to trim the bottoms of the sprouts; peel away any browned leaves (or fibrous dark green leaves). In a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, shred the Brussels sprouts. Toss the sprouts with 2 tablespoons oil, the garlic, and the caraway seeds.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts mixture and cook, tossing, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.

16 comments on “cook it now.

  1. Catherine

    The cookies sound amazing, please do write them up. The cookbook also sounds amazing, and is definitely going on my list. A question about the recipe: I react (very) badly to caraway. I remember the taste fairly clearly, although I haven’t touched it since the last incident, and can’t think of a similar flavor profile to substitute. It doesn’t sound as though I can just leave it out and get the full effect of the dish. Suggestions, please?

    1. shauna

      Oh goodness, you don’t need caraway if you react like that! I’d try fennel seeds or cumin. It won’t be the same taste but it will still work!

  2. Shauna

    My goodness. My husband is not going to be happy with you for introducing me to yet another cookbook (he just told me again last night that I really need to get rid of the ones I rarely use). Don’t worry, I won’t tell him where I found it. ;)

  3. Courtney @ Sunday Soup

    Hi Sauna! I just ordered this cookbook a few days ago. I can’t wait to get it and start cooking. I have just recently started my blog and have a question for you. You mention that you rarely put someone else’s recipes on your blog. I was just wondering why that is not ok? I do have many recipes I have created on my own but I do often get inspiration from others and love to share those with my readers on occasion. Is it not ok to include their recipe even if I mention the source? I am not trying to sound naive. I really want to understand the etiquette around this. Any information you can provide would be awesome. I LOVE reading your stories. Every one brings food to life and makes me feel as if I am sitting right in your kitchen with you. Thank you!

    1. shauna

      Courtney, our blogs are our places to share our inspirations. However, it is a form of publishing. One cookbook author cannot just use the recipe from another cookbook in hers! If you feel inspired by someone’s recipe to change it, pretty significantly, then you can say “Adapted from…” However, to just put cookbook authors’ (or blog authors’) recipes up without asking permission is a from of plagiarism. You may not intend it, but that’s what it is. If you love a recipe and don’t want to change it, just do a link to the original source!

  4. Brenda

    Thank you so much for posting about the IgE, IgG test you had done. I looked into it and ended up just having the food allergy test done at the Allergist so far where they prick you for allergies to foods and ended up: EGG allergy! I knew something was still wrong, but didn’t know where to go next and your blog helped tremendously. Just a few days into eating egg free and will see how I feel soon! Thanks for your blogs always!

    Brenda

  5. gluten free gift

    A chef friend of ours converted my fella (who hates Brussels sprouts) with a recipe very similar to this… and fennel seeds were what he used. We’ve whipped this up with plain old bacon chopped into little chunks if pancetta isn’t readily available too (make it crispy). A winner. I never would have thought of pomegranates with cauliflower in a million years. Festive looking :) Grazie!

  6. Pat

    Oh. My. Goodness. I need that cauliflower and pmegranates (have the former, must go to the store for the latter) and the brussel sprouts, I’m drooling looking at them. Thank you so much Melissa and Shauna! The book is on my Christmas list.

  7. Robin

    I love brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, I’m the only one in the family who does. I’m thinking of trying this recipe and not telling anyone what’s in it. It looks sooooo good. Perfect for Thanksgiving.

  8. Melanie

    This looks divine. I will be trying it this weekend. I have to tell you, I’m a total gluten eater. However, you share recipes that make me want to drop everything to cook. You inspire me.

  9. Sharon Bowler

    This looks incredible. I might add some nuts of some kind. Maybe pecans or almonds.

    I will definitely be making this soon.

    Peace,
    Sharon

  10. Cooks_Books

    Both your roasted cauliflower and shredded Brussels sprouts dishes are simply gorgeous! I can’t wait to try making them — and the peanut butter cookies too, of course.

  11. I want PB cookies

    Please post the peanut butter cookie recipe soon! I have never craved something so much in my life. They look delicious!