Title: Small Victories
Author: Julia Turshen
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Avocado + Kimchi Toast
Kimchi Fried Rice with Scallion Salad
Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs
Broiled Anything with Garlic + Parsley Butter
Apricot Upside-Down Skillet Cake
Chickpea Curry (from “Seven Things to Do with a Can of Chickpeas”)
Verdict: Worth it.
This was a pleasure to cook with, and it’s an approachable and realistic selection of recipes for newer cooks. One of the hooks of the copy is that Julia Turshen weaves individual nuggets of cooking lessons or simplifying tips (the small victories for which the book is named) into the explanatory text for each recipe. This didn’t resonate well with me, but the quality of the recipes and the interest factor (or how interested I was in cooking the recipes) was impressive.
I liked that we have matching spice drawers:
The far-and-away winning recipe was the turkey + ricotta meatballs. This was an exciting find because the meatballs came out so well; they were flavorful, juicy, and happily held up well for freezing and reheating as leftovers. The ricotta takes the place of the breadcrumbs and egg usually found in classic meatball recipes, which means this is a fantastic resource for people or families with allergies. The ingredients list recommends bringing a few things up to room temperature: this isn’t necessary from a food-science perspective, but it’s more of a comfort tip. I didn’t quite plan ahead enough the first time I made the recipe, and I did notice how chilly it was hand-forming all those meatballs.
The kimchi fried rice with scallion salad was my introduction to kimchi, an ingredient I’ve been interested in but hadn’t actually tried before. It gets a lot of buzz for its properties as a probiotic food (its fermented, so there’s some of that gut-friendly bacteria present). David made a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up the scallions for the salad but accidentally came back with shallots instead, so I topped the fried rice with crispy garlic and ginger bits and a medium-cooked fried egg. We really liked the heat of the kimchi in the rice. Overall, a win.
We also made the broiled anything with garlic + parsley butter on a casual weeknight. I chose to broil cod, and while it was a nice break from our go-to pan-seared cooking method, overall it was just so-so. The recipe recommends lining the baking sheet with parchment paper before broiling… but ours started to smoke and set off the smoke alarm because it was too close to the heat, so that’s not a step I would recommend (and I was watching it so closely the whole time – but we do have a super sensitive smoke alarm). The garlic-parsley butter prep was a bit involved without a lot of payout in terms of flavor. I used the leftovers as a base for a shrimp & pasta recipe later in the week.
The Apricot Upside-Down Skillet Cake was an elegant, tasty dessert I made for a dinner I hosted. It was pretty easy to put together and the prep wasn’t overly involved. I’d make it again and recommend it. I’m looking forward to playing with different stone fruit toppings throughout the summer.
The Chickpea Curry (from “Seven Things to Do with a Can of Chickpeas”) was good, not amazing. There’s more that can be done with these ingredients to put a bit more flavor on the table, but it was an otherwise good, straightforward dinner option.
Recipe Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs
Adapted from Small Victories by Julia Turshen