Sweet Summer Corn with Bacon and Balsamic Onions

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Becoming a good cook is a little bit like becoming a good musician: at a certain point, you can glance at a recipe–the way a pianist might glance at a piece of sheet music–and know what it’s going to taste like, just like the pianist knows what it’s going to sound like. That’s a real skill to have, especially when planning a dinner and searching through cookbooks for something to dazzle. On the morning our story begins, I was flipping through a Food52 Cookbook that I was sent long ago, and this recipe–which is also live on the Food52 site–sang out to me like a Mozart concerto. Turns out, not only did it taste as good as it did in my head; it tasted even better.

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Easy Weeknight String Beans

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The name of the game on a weeknight, as far as I’m concerned, is “big results, minimum effort.” Recipes that meet that criteria are few and far between, but when you hit on one (like the roasted broccoli, for example) you’ll never forget it.

Meet your new string bean side. You won’t need your old recipes anymore, because all you have to do is memorize this one. It’s pretty flawless.

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Cranberry Sauce 101

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Today’s lesson in Thanksgiving prep (are you sick of Thanksgiving yet? Tough!) concerns what is, in my opinion, the best part of the Thanksgiving table. No, I’m not talking about the napkin rings shaped like little turkeys, I’m talking about that glistening bowl of ruby red cranberry sauce. Its combination of tongue-tickling tartness and mouth-warming sweetness makes even the dullest bird sing. Sure, you could get it out of a can, but I won’t be coming back to your Thanksgiving table if you do that. My kind of cranberry sauce is the kind you make yourself and, frankly, it couldn’t be easier.

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Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers

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There are many things in this world worth pickling–cucumbers, carrots, pig’s feet (if you happen to have a few lying around)–but my favorite thing to pickle? It’s peppers, just like that tongue-twister about Peter Piper. (How do you pick a peck of pickled peppers, anyway? If they’re pickled, aren’t they in jars? I guess you can pick from jars. I wonder if he had tongs?) This is a recipe I learned from Brandon Pettit (aka Mr. Orangette) while writing my cookbook. It’s hidden in a sidebar, next to a pizza recipe, but it remains one of my favorite recipes that I learned how to make writing the book.

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Diana’s Butter-Roasted Potatoes

Now we all know the concept of the student beating the master and I don’t want to imply that my friend Diana was ever my student or that I was ever her master (though I was her roommate, which is kind of the same thing with me); what I’d like to imply, however, is that Diana–who was a timid cook when I lived with her–is now giving me a run for my money. I remember her not wanting to make a salad in front of me, back then, because she thought I’d be judgmental. Since then, and since moving in with her husband, she’s had a chance to hone her chops and by all accounts her chops are very good. Case in point: check out her potatoes.

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Toasted Garlic Couscous with Preserved Lemon

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There’s something thrilling about inventing a recipe. And though I’m not 100% sure that I invented this (it may very well have existed, somewhere, before me) let’s pretend that I am to this recipe what Isaac Newton is to gravity. No apple fell on my head, but garlic toasted in my head as I tried to figure out something new and different to do with couscous. Here’s how it all works.

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Cauliflower Gratin with Gruyère and Goat Cheese

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Call me a freak, but I get excited about cauliflower. It’s got great texture and, when cooked properly, can yield lots of big flavor. Most often I roast it in the oven or I caramelize it in a pan; not very often do I boil it, but even boiled cauliflower can hold its own.

On Sunday, I was asked to bring a “vegetable side” to Craig’s aunt and uncle’s Easter brunch. I imagine most people, when presented with this request, would make a crowd-pleaser like mashed potatoes or roasted carrots or mashed potatoes with roasted carrots mashed up in there too which actually sounds kind of good but no one really makes that. Me? I went for a cauliflower gratin.

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Yes, I Fried Leftover Cornbread in Bacon Fat

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Ok, so you read the last post, you read to yourself “vegetarian chili, sweet corn bread” and thought “eh, I’m not that impressed, I’m moving on with my day, I’m going to read about Anderson Cooper’s gayness and Katie Holmes protecting her kids from Tom Cruise’s Scientology.” That’s your prerogative. I won’t judge.

But you won’t be clicking away so fast when I tell you what I did with that leftover cornbread the next morning. It’s almost pornographic, what happened, so parents, please shield your children’s eyes.

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