Rick Bayless-Style Instant Pot Chili

I am a terrible procrastinator, but this winter I found my salvation: the Instant Pot! Here’s  a typical scenario: I am expecting 6 people for dinner in less than 24 hours and decide to make chili. Then I forget to soak the beans overnight, and I also have lunch plans the next day. I’d rather go to lunch. No problem! I made this chili in fits and starts with about 1 hour of effort spread out over the whole day. By 6pm the chili had already been warming for hours and tasted like many days of effort had gone into it. This is why I too am an Instant Pot convert.  (more…)

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Weekend Cocktail: Vodka Watermelon Cooler

I will be forever indebted to Layla Pujol of Laylita for her vodka mint limeade recipe, which has been the drink of choice at more than one gathering this summer. It’s great to throw a minimum amount of ingredients in a blender to make a big pitcher of drinks for a crowd. Moreover, it’s a lot cheaper than buying enough Whispering Angel to serve 20 people for an afternoon – at least if those people are my friends.

This drink has proved so popular, though, that I found myself running out of ingredients on more than one occasion and had to make substitutions. When I was trying to get rid of a lot of leftover watermelon I threw in some watermelon chunks. The result that time was a winner, so here’s the recipe, as perfected by me and Jeff Nesmith of the new vegan lifestyle blog Java Street Project. (Much tasting was involved.)

Vodka Watermelon Cooler

1/4 of an average-size (about 10-lb.) watermelon
2 limes, plus more for garnish
1/2 c. mint leaves, plus more for garnish
2 handfuls ice
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. vodka
2 1/2 c. seltzer

Cut the rind of the watermelon and cut the flesh into large chunks. You should have about 1 1/2 lb. watermelon without the rind. Quarter the limes. Add limes, mint, ice, sugar and watermelon to a large high-speed blender (the Ninja one is awesome) or Vitamix. You may have to pulse the mixture a couple of times to get all the watermelon to fit in.

Blend on high speed for a full 3 minutes. Strain the watermelon mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, stirring with a spoon to push the liquid through. Discard the solids.

Pour the watermelon juice into a large pitcher and stir in vodka and seltzer. (Leave out the vodka for a virgin cocktail.) Chill for 15 minutes to let the mint settle. Serve over ice, garnished with lime wheels and mint leaves.

Makes 8-10 cocktails.

Variations: swap out the watermelon, mint and lime for:
– 4 limes, 1/2 c. mint and 2 c. water
– 4 lemons, 1/2 c. basil and 2 c. water

You can also add gin instead of vodka, or add a combination of vodka and limoncello. Try it with all sorts of different fruit and herbs – your guests will not complain.

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Recipe: Blistered Shishito Peppers

Blistered shishito peppers, which seem to be on every menu these days, are really easy to make on the grill. All you need is a grill basket – and the actual peppers, usually available in farmer’s markets by August. They’re a great way to distract guests as they wait for dinner – and keep them from hovering over the grill while you make the rest of the meal.

Blistered Shishito Peppers

1 pint shishito peppers
olive oil
nonstick cooking spray
wedge of lemon
Maldon sea salt flakes

Toss the peppers with a little olive oil, just enough to make them slippery. Coat the inside of a grilling basket with nonstick cooking spray and place it on a very hot grill (400+ degrees), cover it, and wait a couple minutes for it to preheat. Pour the peppers in the basket and stir fry them with tongs, letting them rest occasionally until they blister. When blistered on all sides, carefully remove the grill basket and pour the peppers onto a platter.

Squeeze the lemon over the peppers and sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt flakes. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 – 4

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Recipe: Pasta with Prosciutto and Peas

You know you’re old when you’ve been making a recipe for literally 20 years, but that’s when this recipe dates from – the ’90s heyday of the Silver Palate cookbooks. It’s so simple, so fast and so good, and I always return to it in spring. As with all Italian recipes, the quality of the ingredients is key. It’s important to get the best quality prosciutto you can find, prosciutto di Parma or prosciutto San Daniele. Same with the cream, butter and pasta. The original recipe calls for capellini (or “angel hair pasta” in ’90s speak), but I found that pasta to be too fine for the rich sauce, so I use spaghetti. Other variations from the original Silver Palate recipe: I leave out the flour, which can make the sauce gummy, and sneak in a smashed garlic clove for extra depth. (more…)

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Recipe: Gram’s Ginger Cookies

One from the archives – something I make nearly every year at this time.  

For the holidays, an old recipe – my grandmother’s. Not quite gingerbread, not quite ginger snaps, these cookies are ultra thin, crisp and addictive. She used to make them out of the bridge-party heart, club, diamond, and spade cookie cutters even at Christmas, but if this mystifies you as it does me, use a traditional gingerbread man cookie cutter.

The molasses give these an especially old-fashioned taste. I’ve seen no evidence of Brer Rabbit molasses around NYC, but other brands will do just as well.  (more…)

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Cocktail Recipe: Tequila ‘n’ Tears

Tequila n Tears Cocktail, Gastro Chic

wise man once said that we are only allowed to mope about the election until Thanksgiving. So make the most of the last few hours of moping – or steel yourself for right wing encounters – with this cocktail, which I originally developed as an election night “mazel tov cocktail” but have since renamed “tequila ‘n’ tears.” It involves a hefty amount of Mexican-made tequila, tropical fruit juices, lime for sourness, plenty of bitters, a salty rim and an edge of fiery spice.  (more…)

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Recipe: Orange Bread

My aunt recently gave me a whole trove of recipes from my late grandmother. Hand-written on index cards, they contain some midcentury curiosities we would probably never want to eat again (deviled egg casserole, anyone?), but also a few gems that might otherwise be forgotten.

As soon as I came across this recipe for orange bread, I remembered eating it as a child in her kitchen, though that was a long time ago now. My grandmother had a meat grinder bolted to the kitchen table for grinding her own hamburger meat. This recipe used that grinder on orange rind to mince it into small pieces. (Now everyone would freak out about E. coli before doing that.) You can do the same with a food processor. Whether or not you want to “test for doneness with broom straw,” as her original recipe suggests, is up to you. (more…)

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Recipe: Chicken Fricassee with Mushrooms and Leeks

One blustery day in Paris I was craving French comfort food – not so much a specific thing, but the idea of it. There would be chicken and leeks and mushrooms and a very French sauce.

We were renting an apartment with a kitchen, but I didn’t want to buy a bunch of groceries we’d just have to throw away later, so the recipe would have to be simple. So this is a chicken fricassee-slash-coq au vin blanc, made without chicken broth or lots of extraneous ingredients. Instead, white wine, butter and cream do all the work. Serve with rice for a comforting meal with a French accent.  (more…)

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The Copycat Chef: Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

This weekend, the Mignorelli stall at the Union Square Greenmarket featured a sign that read:

Winter Over
Broccoli Rabe $3.50

I don’t know if that’s really the particular variety of broccoli rabe, but thank God this long New York winter is over. It’s time to get cooking with one of the first non-root-vegetable vegetables to finally make an appearance at the markets. One dish we’ve seen at a lot of NYC restaurants recently is the Apuglia standard of orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage. Though it is often priced at $12 and up on menus, it’s ridiculously easy and inexpensive to make at home. (more…)

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The Copycat Chef: Slow Cooker Green Turkey Chili

It’s not always a restaurant I’m copying as the Copycat Chef – sometimes it’s a friend. One Sunday afternoon over a Ravens game, fellow Baltimoron Twann described a delicious green chicken chili he was going to make later that day. I immediately thought of it on the day after Thanksgiving when faced with pounds and pounds of leftover turkey. The recipe, adapted here for a slow cooker from Spark Recipes, works well with many types of leftover roasts, so keep it in mind when faced with your own holiday leftovers. They can be transformed into a spicy tomatillo chili and frozen for dinner throughout the winter.  (more…)

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The Copycat Chef: Toffee Macadamia Nut Cookies

This recipe came about after I ate a particularly memorable cookie made with toffee chips and macadamia nuts a long time ago at City Bakery, where they have the most amazing chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is easy – it’s basically a riff on the classic Nestle Tollhouse recipe, which you can alter to include all kinds of things instead of just chocolate chips. The hardest part is finding the key ingredient, Skor bars, crazy popular in the ’80s but now limited to just a few drugstores. I found some at CVS. (more…)

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Recipe: DIY Maryland Crab Feast

For some non-Marylanders, the task of opening and eating a hardshell crab can be daunting. But for the truly obsessed, eating them is just the beginning. What if you didn’t just steam and eat the crabs yourself, but caught them from the Chesapeake Bay for a DIY crab feast? This weekend we took the boat out with my brother and his wife, an experienced crabbing team, and learned how to catch them.  (more…)

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Recipe: How to Roast a Pig

How to Roast a Pig

Last Saturday we had the pleasure of heading out to Brooklyn for my friend Matt Gross‘s annual pig roast. As you might imagine, roasting a pig is no small endeavor. But if you have the right equipment, it can be done – and chances are you will have many friends willing to help you cook it and eat it.  (more…)

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Recipe: Mom's Pie Crust, Food Processor Version

I gave my mom a food processor for Christmas last year, but I couldn’t really sell her on the whole food processor idea until I showed her how to use it to make pie crust. This time consuming mother-daughter holiday project, which usually involves two blunt dinner knives, a can of Crisco, billowing clouds of flour, and a generous pinch of cursing, could be much easier if we just made the dough in the food processor.

Fast forward to this summer, when the beloved writer Nora Ephron died and her NYT obit listed the things she once wrote that she would miss most out of life:

“Taking a bath

Coming over the bridge to Manhattan



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Recipe: Strawberry White Wine Punch

One of my favorite offerings at the Swedish midsummer festival is the delicious, refreshing and affecting strawberry wine punch served at Gigino. But because of our lamentably retro liquor laws, it can only be enjoyed on the restaurant patio, not in the park, even though the two are part of the same property.

This year I took matters into my own hands and made my own strawberry white wine punch, based on this recipe from Epicurious, to serve at a picnic in the park. I tweaked it by adding sparkling white wine and an interesting liqueur I had lying around the house, Marie-Framboise raspberry cognac. You can buy it online or substitute kirsch, another Scandinavian staple. Adding flavored cognac or brandy nudges the drink closer to sangria, but it still tastes predominantly of berries. There is no need to use expensive wine or champagne, since you’re just adding sugar to it. Put it in an unmarked container, serve in opaque cups, and if anyone asks, it’s lemonade with strawberries in it.  (more…)

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