Heirloom Tomatoes for Dinner

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There’s salad. There’s pasta sauce. Those are things you can do with heirloom tomatoes in the summertime to make dinner.

But try this: get a loaf of really good bread. Slice the bread thickly and set it aside. Now take an eggplant (preferably purchased from the farmer’s market) and cut it into rings; cut a red heirloom tomato into rings too. Place those rings on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper…

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Smothered Pork Roast Over Rice

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Have you ever made a roux? Like: really made a roux?

I’ve made a roux in quotes–a “roux”–whenever I’ve taken a roasted chicken out of its cast iron skillet, added some flour to the pan, cooked it for a minute or two and finished it up with a big glass of white wine. That makes for a thick, chickeny, winey sauce that’s very tasty. But after visiting New Orleans last year, and purchasing Donald Link’s indispensible cookbook “Real Cajun,” I’d been meaning to make a real Cajun roux. The kind that you have to develop for a while at the stove, the kind that you have to watch carefully, the kind that goes from a toast stage to a cardboard stage based on the smells its giving off. Which is why, last week, I made Donald Link’s Smothered Pork Roast Over Rice, a recipe he learned from his grandmother, and one that involves the creation of a peanut butter-colored roux.

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Birthday Lasagna

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For Craig’s birthday this year, I didn’t take him to a fancy dinner as I’ve done in years past (see here, here and here). This year his birthday had two components: (1) a dinner at home with his favorite foods; and (2) a weekend trip to Palm Springs. You’ll hear about Palm Springs later this week, but this post concerns that dinner at home. When I asked what he wanted for his entree, Craig, a little like Garfield, had one word in his speech balloon: “Lasagna.”

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Stuffed Cabbage

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At that same Jewish dinner where I made the chopped liver, I decided to try my hand at stuffed cabbage. Over Thanksgiving, my brother’s wife’s sister’s boyfriend’s grandmother (did you follow all that?), a Holocaust survivor named Anka, told me her recipe for stuffed cabbage. “The secret,” she let me know, “is raisins in the tomato sauce.” After that, stuffed cabbage was on my mind and when I started planning this dinner of Judaism I knew it would be my entree.

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Feasting Before The Feast (Or: Another Sunday Gravy)

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Our old friend and neighbor Rob was in town last week and, craving an Amateur Gourmet-cooked meal, swung on over with our friend Luke (am I allowed to say “our Oscar-winning friend” Luke?) on Sunday night. Like a good Italian grandmother, I had a pot simmering on the stove all afternoon and by the time everyone was assembled at the table, my plan to kill everyone with meat was in full effect.

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Lisa Fain’s Seven Chile Chili

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There are two chili recipes in Lisa Fain’s incredible and indispensable new “Homesick Texan Cookbook.” The first is, according to Fain, “an all-day affair,” a real-deal Texas chili (that means no beans) that requires careful shopping (seven different chiles–anhcho, pasilla, guajillo, chipotle, chiles de arbol, cayenne, and pequin–are employed) and five hours of simmering on the stove. The second chili is a one-hour chili for those who “don’t have the time or the patience to wait for a hearty bowl of red.”

As I considered these two chilis last Friday I had to ask myself some tough questions. Was I going to take the wimpy way out and do the one-hour chili? Or would I man up and face the challenge and make the intimidating, time-consuming, costly, and dirty-dish causing Seven Chile Chili? Two chilis diverged before me and readers, I’m proud to say, I chose the chili less traveled by. Here’s how it all went down.

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Peppadewed Pork Chops with Cauliflower

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One of the best things that I made before I packed up my New York kitchen and moved to California is the dish you see above. I’m calling it Peppadewed Pork Chops with Cauliflower, but the truth is I didn’t use Peppadews; I used pickled red jalapenos I’d been testing for my cookbook. However, the next time I make this–and there will be a next time it was so good (more on that in a bit)–I plan to use Peppadews, which are those sweet, spicy, red, pickled peppers you can buy in a jar. You work them into the dish twice: you chop them up and add them to a pan of caramelized cauliflower; then you use the Peppadew liquid to deglaze the pork chop pan to make a sauce with butter.

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Yucatan-Style Slow-Roasted Pork Tacos

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When the James Beard award-winning editor of The Washington Post food section writes a cookbook, you know you better buy it. In my case, I blurbed it–(look for me on the back cover!)–because the book in question, Joe Yonan’s “Serve Yourself,” is truly excellent. It’s not one of those cookbooks full of familiar recipes that have been tweaked in such minor ways you wonder why you bought it; here everything is fresh, smart and mouth-watering. Especially the recipe on pg. 66: “Yucatan-Style Slow Roasted Pork.”

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