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Veggie side dishes to brighten up your Thanksgiving table from Smitten Kitchen : NPR

Deb Perelman in her small "smitten" kitchen in New York City's East Village. "I make it work!" she says. "I like that there's a lot of light coming in." Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

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Melissa Block/NPR

Deb Perelman in her small "smitten" kitchen in New York City's East Village. "I make it work!" she says. "I like that there's a lot of light coming in."

Melissa Block/NPR

NEW YORK, N.Y. — When Deb Perelman started her blog "Smitten," back in 2003, it was really just a lark: a platform where she could mouth off and vent her twentysomething angst.

"I was living in New York, and I was newly single and going on a lot of bad dates," she recalls. "And I just liked to tell stories."

But a month in, she started dating one of her blog readers, Alex Perelman. They got married two years later.

"So I couldn't write about dating anymore," she says with a chuckle. "That would have been very awkward for all of us involved."

From that random beginning, Deb Perelman's food fame was born.

In 2006, as she experimented more and more in the kitchen, the "Smitten" blog evolved into "Smitten Kitchen," a blog (which evolved into a website) all about food. To Perelman's shock, it took off.

"It's just so crazy," she says. "I'm really lucky."

That success led to two best-selling cookbooks (The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Smitten Kitchen Every Day), and Perelman has just published her third: Smitten Kitchen Keepers. As she writes in the introduction, these are 100 time-tested, obsessively-tweaked, fuss-free "recipes I hope you'll keep around for good."

"Smitten Kitchen Keepers" is Deb Perelman's third cookbook: 100 recipes that, she writes, "I hope you'll keep around for good. " Deb Perelman hide caption

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Deb Perelman

With Thanksgiving just ahead, NPR asked Perelman to suggest ideas for veggie-centric side dishes that can feed a crowd and that are budget-conscious, since food prices are high. (You'll find recipes for the two dishes she came up with at the bottom of this page.)

We meet on a brisk, sunny morning at the Union Square greenmarket in Manhattan. Perelman is on the hunt for inspiration in the farm stands.

"Did I make a grocery list?" she asks, rhetorically. "No. I'm going on vibes."

Those vibes prompt her to zero in on baskets of cranberry beans with beautiful, speckled pods — magenta and a pale, creamy green.

She adds a bag of arugula ("should be really nice and spicy") and some heavy, squat kabocha squash ("it's a dark orange and it really roasts up nicely. ")

And then, more inspiration! She spies a mound of purple cauliflower and picks out a petite one.

"This one is so cute!" she exclaims. "Small and, like, low-commitment."

Deb Perelman shops for seasonal veggies at the Union Square greenmarket in Manhattan. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

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Melissa Block/NPR

Back at the East Village apartment that Perelman shares with her husband and their two children, 13-year-old Jacob and 7-year-old Anna, she gets to work in their small, well-organized kitchen. There's minimal counter space; no fancy appliances.

Despite her best-selling cookbooks and her wildly popular website, with its scads of fanatic Deb Perelman disciples, the kitchen is not much of an upgrade from the tiny, humble kitchen she had when she started blogging about food in 2006.

"It's real life here!" she says, as she labors to extract a sheet pan from a low shelf. "Everything's a little crowded in the Smitten Kitchen. Gotta move one thing to move another."

Before turning on the stove, she opens the oven door – a lesson learned from hard experience.

"I always check for toys in the oven, because it's happened," she says. "It's definitely happened before with kids, where they've put a rubber ball in, or whatever. Like, literally the worst thing you could possibly smell."

Today: No toys. All clear.

Vegetables ready for roasting: chopped cauliflower and wedges of kabocha squash. At Thanksgiving, Perelman says, "a recognizable vegetable is like an oasis on a plate." Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

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Melissa Block/NPR

One of the dishes Perelman has decided to make is braised winter squash wedges, a recipe from her new cookbook. She calls it a "fork and knife" vegetable dish, perfect for the Thanksgiving table.

"When you're doing Thanksgiving," she says, "so many things are like stuffings and gratins and shredded with cream and cheese. Sometimes a recognizable vegetable is like an oasis on a plate."

Perelman arranges the kabocha squash, sliced into wedges, on a hot sheet pan sizzling with butter and olive oil. When the squash has a dark, crispy glaze, it'll get a bath of broth and cider vinegar, and be scattered with garlic and herbs. Perelman likes her roasted vegetables with a bit of char.

"Do not skimp," she advises. "Get the color you want."

Later, when she takes the squash wedges from the oven, they've turned a fiery, deep orange.

"I love the way it looks like flames, almost," she says.

She layers the wedges on top of tangy plain yogurt, scattered with arugula.

The finished plating of the warm cauliflower and cranberry bean salad and the braised winter squash. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

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Melissa Block/NPR

Along with the braised kabocha squash, Perelman has decided to improvise a warm salad with that "cute" purple cauliflower. It gets chopped and roasted, then tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette with the boiled cranberry beans and some emerald green arugula.

Both dishes are a vibrant visual treat.

"I mean we eat with our eyes," Perelman says. "Why shouldn't our food look beautiful?"

Ideally, Perelman says, cooking should make you feel triumphant — like you want to do a victory lap.

"You know when you cook something and it's really good, and you're like, 'I did that! I did that!' " she says. "I think you should feel that way about cooking. "

Braised Winter Squash Wedges

This is my favorite way to cook winter squash. It takes a cue from fondant, or melting, potatoes, a technique in which thick slices of potato are roasted on both sides before they finish cooking braised in a puddle of broth. From the oven, they're crisp and somewhat glazed outside, creamy inside, and booming with more flavor than it seems possible to lock inside a potato. Clearly, I'm a fan — but I had no idea that when I applied this technique to big wedges of winter squash I'd never want to cook it another way again.

I add to the pan everything I like with winter squash — thyme, garlic, and cider vinegar, which gets sweet/tangy when cooked and really helps cut through the sweetness of squash — and then I put the whole thing on a plate of tart yogurt and peppery baby arugula. Any slightly syrupy broth left in the pan is poured over everything, and it's all so good together, you might wonder why you'd ever consider squash a side dish again. This is centerpiece squash, and it wants you to know it.

Serves 4

2¼ to 2½ pounds (1 to 1.15 kilograms) winter squash (about ½ kabocha or red kuri squash)

2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons (25 grams) olive oil, divided

Leaves from 6 sprigs fresh thyme

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 garlic cloves, smashed

1 cup (235 grams) vegetable broth

¼ cup (60 grams) apple-cider vinegar

1 cup (230 grams) plain Greek- style yogurt

2 cups (55 grams) baby arugula leaves

Note: If you can find it — you can often buy squash in halves or quarters from a farmers' market, which is great, because it runs large — kabocha is my favorite here, followed by red kuri squash. Butternut and acorn squash work, too. The peel of winter squash is fully edible, so no need to trim it away.

Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp, then slice the halves into 1½-inch wedges. Add butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil to a 10- by- 5-inch baking sheet, and place in the oven until the butter melts, about 2 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven, and roll the butter around so that it evenly coats the pan. Arrange the squash wedges in one layer, and sprinkle with thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, or until deeply browned underneath. Flip the slices, and season the second side on top with another ½ teaspoon salt and more pepper. Scatter the garlic cloves in the pan, and return the pan to the oven to roast for another 12 to 15 minutes, until the wedges are browned on the second side. Don't worry if the squash isn't fully cooked yet. Carefully pour the broth and vinegar into the pan, and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the squash is tender and the liquid is somewhat cooked off.

To serve the squash: Use the back of a spoon to swirl plain yogurt onto a serving platter into a thin layer. Toss the arugula with the remaining tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and scatter over the yogurt. Arrange the squash wedges on top, scrape out every bit of pan juice that's left, and pour it over the squash.

From Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files by Deb Perelman. Copyright © 2022 by Deb Perelman. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Warm Cauliflower and Cranberry Bean Salad

(Note: This was a recipe Perelman improvised on the spot. She used fresh cranberry beans, but says you could use any type of canned beans, instead.)

1 small-medium head cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch chunks

1 cup freshly shelled cranberry beans (from about 8 to 12 ounces in pods)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar and/or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon coarse (whole seed) Dijon mustard

Handful arugula, roughly chopped

Sharp cheese — like cheddar or pecorino — to finish (optional)

Heat oven to 450. Drizzle olive oil on a large baking sheet and add cauliflower to it. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 30 minutes, turning over once for even color.

Meanwhile, cook your cranberry beans in simmering lightly-salted water for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender. Drain, rinsing with water to cool slightly.

Whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, or a combination thereof, with Dijon, until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Scrape cauliflower into a serving bowl and add cranberry beans on top. Pour dressing over to taste and toss lightly to combine. Stir in the arugula. Shave — you can use a peeler — sharp cheese on top, if you wish. Season with additional salt and pepper, as needed.

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rating of the top 10 Russian and foreign brands with reviews according to the KP version

Goods for children are always under special quality control. Including food. After all, food for a baby is not only a way to satisfy hunger, but also acquaintance with different tastes and a guarantee of healthy development (1). Today there are many different brands. Among them, we selected the best manufacturers of baby food, based on the reviews of parents and expert opinions. nine0003

Rating of the top 5 Russian baby food manufacturers according to KP

There are many popular brands among Russian baby food manufacturers. Basically, various purees, juices, cereals and dairy products are presented on the market. There are also formulas for babies, but in smaller quantities. The popularity of food is due to high quality and rather low (in comparison with foreign analogues) price.

1. "Agusha"

"Agusha". Photo:

Agusha is one of the most popular manufacturers of baby food in Russia. The trademark appeared in 1992 and has a wide range of products for children of all ages. Newborns are offered powdered milk formulas, babies from 4 months - a variety of purees, sour-milk products, water, older children - ready-made cereals (both dairy and non-dairy), juices, fruit drinks, compotes and fruit bars for a snack.

Thanks to the availability and variety of products, the manufacturer is confidently holding onto the Russian market. The safety and quality of Agushi is also confirmed by some neutral studies. For example, fruit cottage cheese, as well as kefir from this brand, received the highest rating from Roskachestvo (2, 3). nine0315

There are mixtures in the product line; a wide range of.

High price for some items.

2. "FrutoNyanya"

"FrutoNyanya". Photo:

FrutoNyanya baby food brand products are distinguished by a wide range and wide distribution in stores. Among the products of the brand you can find: a variety of cereals (with additives in the form, for example, pieces of fruit or without them), vegetable, fruit and meat purees, water, dairy products, juices, fruit drinks and nectars, snacks. For children prone to acute reactions to certain products, a special line of hypoallergenic food is offered. nine0003

Some of the brand's products have received high ratings from Roskachestvo, for example, biocurd, buckwheat porridge (4, 5).

Nutrition from this brand is designed for both the first complementary foods and for babies after a year. The composition contains salt and sugar, which are not recommended for children under one year old.

Main characteristics
Manufacturer Progress
Assortment purees, drinks, soups, snacks, cereals, snacks, water
Recommended age from 0 months
Founded 2000
Pros and cons
5 There are hypoallergenic products.

May contain allergenic ingredients (eg sugar).

3. "Grandmother's Lukoshko"

"Grandmother's Lukoshko". Photo:

The manufacturer has been present on the Russian market since 1999. The main product is a variety of purees, which are available in glass jars and soft packs. For example, apple puree from this brand received the highest rating from Roskachestvo in all analysis criteria and was awarded the Quality Mark (6). nine0003

For older children, prepared meals, meatballs, healthy snacks such as fruit lozenges and biscuits are available. Also, "Babushkino Lukoshko" produces children's herbal teas. Salt in some products is not always welcomed by parents.

The main characteristics
Manufacturer "SIVMA"
Assortment puree, Fictions, Drinks, drinks, fruit pastops
recommended age0320 from 4 months
Founded 1999
Pros and cons

Relatively low price in the segment; varied products.

There may be undesirable auxiliary components in the formulation (eg salt).

4. "Subject"

"Subject". Photo:

"Theme" offers products for children from 4 months to 3 years. The assortment includes a variety of meat, fish and vegetable purees, dairy products, ready meals and juices. But fruit purees are not presented. Packaging 一 is one of the distinguishing features of the brand. Thanks to special tin cans, the products are reliably protected from sunlight, which prolongs the shelf life. Also, many products of the brand are available in non-spill packages, so it is convenient to take them with you on the road. According to the results of the research, cottage cheese and juice "Theme" received the highest rating from Roskachestvo (7, 8). nine0306 5. Diaper Diaper. Photo:

All ingredients for production are supplied from our own farm. The manufacturer claims that thanks to this, it is possible to set fairly low prices for products.

The potential buyer is offered fruit and vegetable purees (some with cottage cheese), soups, various juices and fruit drinks, as well as water. Some of the products are hypoallergenic. The composition does not contain unnecessary components: salt, sugar and preservatives. Meat and fish products are not represented in the product line. nine0003

Rating of the top 5 foreign manufacturers of baby food according to KP

There are many foreign companies that produce baby food on the Russian market. A century of history, many years of experience and a good reputation helps to supply the market with quality products, which are preferred by many parents.

1. Gerber

Gerber. Photo:

The assortment of the American manufacturer includes products for children from 4 months. In supermarkets and online sites, you can find vegetable and fruit purees, cereals, healthy snacks, juices, and desserts (cottage cheese treats, smoothies, and others). Hypoallergenic food is also provided. For example, dairy-free buckwheat porridge of this brand is highly appreciated by Roskachestvo experts, who noted the safe composition of the product without dangerous and harmful substances, including no added sugars ( Founded 1927

Pros and cons

Hypoallergenic products; natural composition; high quality.

High price in the baby food segment.

2. HiPP

HiPP. Photo:

German manufacturer's products are suitable for children from birth. Infants are offered hypoallergenic powdered milk formulas enriched with vitamins. For feeding - various purees, cream soups, cereals, and as a snack for older children - snacks and dairy desserts. nine0003

Meals are made exclusively from natural ingredients, without added sugar. The high price, according to the manufacturer, is due to the use of special technologies and high-quality products.

The main characteristics
manufacturer HIPP
Assortment puree, soups, porridges, drinks, dry dairy mixtures
recommended the age recommended for the age recommended0323
Country of origin Germany
Year founded 1957
Pros and cons

Natural composition; There are baby formulas in the assortment.

High price of products.

3. Fleur Alpine

Fleur Alpine. Photo:

Natural baby food of premium quality. The range includes purees, cereals, cookies and juices - both regular and for children prone to allergies or intolerant to gluten. In addition to the usual products, the manufacturer offers olive oil (from 6 months) and sauces (from 3 years). nine0003

From time to time, the products of this brand come under the attention of experts from Roskachestvo and Roskontrol. For example, Three cereals porridge showed excellent results: a good composition with dietary fiber and no foreign impurities, the appropriate taste, color and smell (10), and buckwheat porridge meets the advanced standards of Roskachestvo, except for the increased protein content (11).

Not all products on the official website can be purchased in a regular store. However, they can be purchased on marketplaces. nine0003

High price; Not all brand products are easy to find on offline sites.

4. Semper

Semper. Photo:

The Swedish company offers a wide range of products for children of all ages. Dry milk formulas are suitable for newborns, and there are even specialized ones that are best used for constipation. Some of them are designed for babies older than six months. For crumbs older than 4 months, the manufacturer offers a variety of vegetable, meat, fish and fruit purees, cereals, juices and children's tea with vitamins. In addition to the usual products for children, there are wellings — oatmeal and multi-cereal porridges with natural additives, cookies, and meatballs. nine0323 Country of origin Sweden Founded 1963

Pros and cons

There are blends in the product line interesting combinations of flavors.

High price in the segment; the presence of starch in the puree; the product according to BJU may differ from that stated on the package.

5. Heinz

Heinz. Photo:

American food company offers a wide range of products at affordable prices. There are fruit, vegetable and meat purees, cereals (dairy and non-dairy), soups and drinks. As a healthy snack for babies from 5 months, special cookies are suitable, and fruit and cream puddings will be a great dessert for older children. You can also find a special vermicelli that will suit crumbs from 6 months. The manufacturer's porridges received the highest rating from Roskachestvo (13). However, some products contain sugar and starch, which many parents of babies do not approve of. nine0003

Some products contain sugar and starch.

How to choose the right baby food

A child's menu may differ from another baby's diet, not only because of age, but also due to health conditions (for example, a tendency to constipation or a dairy allergy) and personal preferences. However, the first thing to consider is age. It’s also important to keep in mind that your baby’s diet should be free of added salt and sugar (14). Certain positions deserve some explanation. nine0003

Milk formulas

Designed for feeding babies. In fact, they are designed to become an alternative to mother's milk. For the full development of the crumbs, it is necessary that vitamins and trace elements are present in the composition.

Canned puree

Introduced from 4 months. There are fruit, vegetable, meat and fish options. Combinations are also possible. For the first feeding, it is recommended to choose one-component purees from vegetables or fruits.


Porridges, as well as mashed potatoes, are recommended to be offered to a baby from 4 months. Thanks to the special processing of cereals, baby porridge is easily boiled, which significantly saves cooking time. nine0003

Nectars, juices

You can give your baby juice or nectar from 4 months. As long as it doesn't contain sugar. If available, it is better to wait at least up to 1 year.

Reviews of doctors about manufacturers of baby food

一 Baby food is becoming an object of special attention on the part of the state and parents, 一 says pediatrician Ekaterina Mikhaltsova . - The main advantages of industrial products and dishes are ease of use, balanced composition and minimal cooking time. However, you must strictly follow the age recommendations and cooking rules indicated on the labels. nine0003

- Dairy products and baby food in particular are complex production products where quality control is essential at all stages. Therefore, it is better to trust large manufacturers, - explains sanitary doctor Nikolai Dubinin . - It is important to pay attention to the composition and, before offering the child, taste the food yourself. In general, doctors agree that commercially produced baby food is no worse than home-cooked. And some are even better, due to supplements in the form of vitamins and trace elements. nine0003

Popular questions and answers

We answer the most common questions about baby food together with pediatrician Ekaterina Mikhaltsova and sanitary doctor, epidemiologist Nikolai Dubinin.

How to choose food for the first feeding?

Pediatricians recommend starting the first complementary foods with vegetable puree. Fruits contain a large amount of fructose, which can irritate the lining of the stomach and other organs of the gastrointestinal tract. Of course, the parent himself can boil and grind vegetables to a puree-like consistency, but it is easier to purchase products in the store, since baby food is made in compliance with special technologies, taking into account all the rules and regulations. nine0003

Another question is how to choose a brand among such a variety of baby foods. The best solution is to stick with a well-known brand. Large companies care about their reputation, and therefore strictly follow all established quality standards and do not violate production technology.

The next step is to study the information on the label, make sure the quality, evaluate the following indicators:

Natural composition. Preservatives, salt, sugar and other ingredients must not be present in the composition (at least in products for children under 1 year old). nine0159 • Consistency (grinding quality). A good puree should be smooth and without lumps.
Multi or single ingredient . The first puree should contain only one ingredient. The child should get used to a certain vegetable, after which it will be possible to introduce others, adding each one in turn, so that the baby gets used to everything individually.
Hypoallergenic product. Formula must not contain ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction. nine0159 • Package integrity . It is important to inspect the container in detail for dents, scratches or cracks (chips). Tightness must be observed. Don't forget to check the production date.
Child age appropriate . The age for which this or that product is designed is usually indicated on the packaging in compliance with the recommendations of pediatricians.

When all these factors are taken into account, it can be said that the product is really suitable for the child and will not cause side effects (15). nine0003

Which of the Russian manufacturers should I pay attention to?

Baby food brand Agusha has been producing products for over 30 years. The assortment has everything you need for a complete diet for kids: dairy products, cereals, fruit, vegetable and meat purees, juices and compotes. The company produces safe, hypoallergenic, complete nutrition for children of all ages. High-quality substitutes for breast milk and subsequent complementary foods are also produced. It is also recommended to pay attention to the manufacturers "FrutoNyanya" and "Theme". nine0003

What composition should healthy baby food have?

When choosing puree in jars, pay attention to the composition. The ingredients should be natural, a good option (especially for younger kids) if the puree is a one-component puree - a fruit or vegetable plus water. Please note that the product does not contain salt, flour, starch, dyes and preservatives, and is not too diluted with water. The vegetable itself may contain starch, but its additional additives are very undesirable. nine0003


  1. Once again about baby food. Ladodo K. S. 2003.
  2. Roskachestvo rating. Children's cottage cheese "Agusha". URL:
  3. Roskachestvo rating. Children's kefir "Agusha". URL:
  4. Roskachestvo rating. Biocurd "FrutoNyanya". URL:
  5. Roskachestvo rating. Buckwheat porridge "FrutoNyanya". URL:
  6. Roskachestvo rating. Apple puree "Babushkino Lukoshko" URL:
  7. Roskachestvo rating. Biocurd "Theme". URL:
  8. Roskachestvo rating. Apple juice "Theme". URL:
  9. Roskachestvo rating.

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