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Ileana Morales, Times Correspondent

Ileana Morales

Ileana Morales writes the In Our Kitchen column for the Taste section. She also blogs at alittlesaffron.com.

Email: alittlesaffron@gmail.com

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  1. In Our Kitchen: baked sweet potatoes with cannellini beans, spinach

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    What's for dinner?

    I know. Loaded question! Despite such an interest in home cooking and food, I often find myself asking that question and feeling panicked about having nothing especially exciting to whip up when I get home from work or working out. And by then it's already dark out … and I'm tired … and, Danny, what do you think of wine and popcorn for dinner?

    Not a bad call every now and then, but there are only so many times I can or want to do that. Molly Gilbert, who blogs at DunkandCrumble.com, wrote Sheet Pan Suppers to help us out with this dinner thing. It's a reinvention of the one-pot meal....

    Baked Sweet Potatoes With Cannellini Beans and Baby Spinach taste as good as they look.
  2. In Our Kitchen: Breakfast Galettes for Two recipe

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    I'm a fan of little luxuries and celebrating the everyday. With the holidays coming into full swing, the idea of breakfast in bed came to mind. I wanted the breakfast to be special, and inspiration led me to make a breakfast galette.

    I love galettes, both savory and sweet, and this one calls for my most favorite, versatile dough: pate brisee. It's easy to make and I tend to keep a disc or two in my freezer, ready for any pie or galette craving. What's better than a cheesy galette with an egg on it? A mini breakfast galette baked just for you. ...

    In Our Kitchen: Breakfast Galettes for Two recipe
  3. Which apple should you use when baking? It depends on the recipe

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    Pink Lady. McIntosh. Sweetango. Ambrosia. Honeycrisp.

    This is just part of the apple aisle at my local grocery store. Never mind the heirlooms with whimsical names: Arkansas Black. Northern Spy. Esopus Spitzenburg. So with an estimated 7,500 apple varieties around the world (there are other wild varieties, too), just what are the differences? Apple varieties differ in texture, color, sweetness, juiciness and acidity, which are features to consider when you're baking with apples for Thanksgiving and beyond for cakes, pies and more....

    Among the ingredients in Apple Cheddar Galette are honey, cinnamon and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
  4. In Our Kitchen: Baked Camembert cheese is a luxurious and simple treat

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    Something had to be done about this stinky cheese. Amid the generous mix of fancy cheeses, chorizo and chocolate that Danny's aunt sent us in a spectacular Mazzaro's gift basket to celebrate his new job was a wheel of Camembert. I guess I'd never actually tasted Camembert before because now I realize that once you meet this cheese, you don't forget it. It looks like a cousin of Brie, but Camembert packs a more pungent fragrance and the rind has more character....

    Don’t be fooled by Baked Camembert’s sumptuous appearance. It’s a cinch to make. Serve the French cheese with fresh fruit and crusty bread or crackers, and open up a bottle of wine.
  5. In Our Kitchen: Raise your apple cider jug to these recipes

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    The week of apple cider recipes started with dinner. It was Danny's first day at his new gig at the airport, and I was leaving work early to put together something good. My boss, knowing that I enjoy cooking, thoughtfully suggested the idea. Excited, and feeling like now it had to be really good given the gift of extra time, I started a list of possible congrats-on-the-new-awesome-job-I-love-you dinners: Spaghetti Bolognese, Pasta Carbonara, Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic, Boeuf Bourguignon, Pork Shoulder Braised With Apples....

    One jug of apple cider can be used to make Pork Shoulder Braised With Apples, an apple cider cocktail and Apple Cider Doughnuts.
  6. In Our Kitchen: Tomato Cobbler

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    If you mention that you're making a cobbler, the first thing people will think of is fruit and often it will be peach or apple. But tomatoes love biscuits, too, (and, after all, they're technically a fruit). Recipes that take a traditionally sweet dish and turn things savory always appeal to me.

    I was inspired to make this recipe for a certain friend who loves tomatoes, but all my brunch friends loved it. Cheesy biscuits on top of blistered sweet tomatoes mingling with caramelized onions and garlic? Not a bad way to kick off a Sunday. This will be one to make every season until the cherry tomatoes are gone....

    Red and sweet yellow cherry tomatoes make for a more colorful cobbler. If you’re serving a crowd for brunch, go ahead and make two and bake them at the same time.
  7. In Our Kitchen: Original Plum Torte

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    My announcement one Saturday morning — "I'm making a plum cake!" — fell a little flat. My fiance was not enthused and when I explained that, no, it would not be a cake with frosting, I was met with even more skepticism. But soon the house was scented with cinnamon and the plum torte sat proudly on my cake stand. The cake itself doesn't take long to make, and it took even less time for this recipe to find its newest fans....

    Scalloped pototoes
  8. Vacation in Mexico chilaquiles: Tortilla soup meets enchiladas

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    They say it takes 21 days for something — like our morning ritual of chilaquiles and tequila sunrises while on a recent family vacation at a beach north of Cancún — to become a habit. But when you're in Mexico spending most of your day in water that's unbelievably blue and not knowing what time it is (and not caring), I think that number shrinks by quite a bit.

    There was no reason for this morning routine to change — except that we had to go back home. To reality....

    Chilaquiles, a Mexican dish of leftover tortillas simmered in a quick tomato sauce, is often served for breakfast or brunch. It’s even better topped with a fried egg.
  9. In Our Kitchen: Cool off with watermelon granita

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    It's sweaty out there, whew. Jeans are getting pushed to the back of the closet. No pants till September. If, like me, you're looking for an excuse to stick your head in the freezer, the answer is granita. Gra-ni-ta! That's the Italian name for this icy dessert, and you can flavor it pretty much any way you like.

    This one tastes intensely of sweet, fresh watermelon enhanced with liqueur and black pepper. We think it's pretty spot-on and we've looked forward to it for dessert each night this week. Watermelon granita hits the spot when your apartment's AC has given all it can give, and it's time to find other ways to keep cool....

    This granita tastes intensely of sweet, fresh watermelon enhanced with liqueur and black pepper.
  10. In Our Kitchen: Peach and Plum Crisp

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    This time of summer is like being in stone fruit heaven, with all kinds of plums, fragrant peaches and plump cherries. I paired plums and peaches to make what is my favorite summer dessert: the Peach and Plum Crisp. It's as easy to make as it is delicious, and this stone fruit crisp will be loved by everyone at any potluck or hangout you're invited to this summer.

    This crisp uses up the bounty of summer in beautiful sunset-hued shades of orange, pink, yellow and purple. I made three crisps for breakfast on the July 4 weekend, and one friend said it's the best thing she'd ever eaten....

    Peach and Plum Crisp is a summer staple and a total crowd-pleaser. It uses up the bounty of summer in beautiful sunset-hued shades of orange, pink, yellow and purple. It can be served warm or at room temperature, and it works well with ice cream or heavy cream.
  11. In Our Kitchen: Sweet and Smoky Beet Burgers with homemade buns

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    The first time we went to Portland, we hiked, biked, and drank and ate our way around the city and developed a serious crush on the Pacific Northwest. It was July, a perfect time to leave overheated Florida for lush Oregon.

    The first place we went was Deschutes Brewery. We ordered beers immediately because a drink with lunch means it's vacation. We often order a vegetarian meal when we go out to eat because those dishes are often more interesting than the meaty ones. This was never more true than the day we ordered the Deschutes beet burger. It was so good, we went back to the brewery for a second time that trip to order it again....

    These beet burgers, plumped with lentils, walnuts and onion, can be served on a bun, or think of it as a falafel and serve with a salad.
  12. Friends raise glasses of wine to summer by making strawberry cheesecake

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    By the time I watched New York Times food writer Melissa Clark put the finishing touches on the prettiest cheesecake I'd ever seen, I knew Double Strawberry Cheesecake had to be part of my weekend plans.

    I messaged my friend Leanna and said: "I'm making cheesecake this weekend. Help me eat it."

    Turns out she'd just been reading the recipe for the very same video I was watching. I invited myself over to her house to make the strawberry cheesecake together....

    This strawberry cheesecake is different because it mixes fresh berries into the cheese filling rather than just spooning them onto the top in a syrup. 
  13. Dutch Baby Pancake looks dramatic, easy to make

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    We dream about someday running a little B&B. If it did happen, Dutch baby pancakes would be in the rotation. It's the kind of thing I'd always welcome on a weekend morning.

    I say this is a weekend breakfast because it tastes like a treat, not because it's a very involved recipe. It's a simple batter with basic ingredients you probably always have around. You can dress it up as you like, with spices in the batter or jam swirled throughout. I found the most important thing here is to preheat the skillet. When I didn't take that step, my pancake did not puff up at all. Sad, like a kid realizing summer break doesn't actually start until next week. You can't imagine the joy when I pulled the next one from the oven: bold, proud and towering high above the skillet. You've got to preheat, people....

    The way a Dutch baby pancake puffs up is something to behold. It soon deflates and folds into itself.
  14. DIY Bloody Marys for cocktails as unique as the drinker

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    Everyone thinks they know where to get the best Bloody Mary. But, while any spot serving brunch usually has a bloody or two on the menu — right next to the mimosas— the surefire way to sip one you like is to mix it at home. � Some people are crazy for horseradish and others just want a vehicle for garnishes. You can let your friends have their drinks the way they want them by setting up a DIY Bloody Mary bar. Put out glasses, a large pitcher of homemade Bloody Mary mix, straws and cubed ice and let your friends decide on their vodka and garnishes. This allows you to prep the ingredients before everyone shows up so you don't have to play bartender all day. � You might want to try making fresh tomato juice but I found it easier and just as tasty to use high-quality tomato juice I bought at the store. Blending fresh tomatoes to make your own juice base will yield a thicker juice than what we're used to buying. I included a Yellow Tomato Bloody Mary, which uses fresh tomatoes and offers a striking option at the bloody bar. This fresh tomato juice will also have a more robust flavor. Feel free to thin out the juice to the texture you like using water or, the obvious choice, more vodka. ...

    There are many ways to mix things up with your Bloody Mary, depending on your tastes.
  15. An engagement ring and a tomato pie in Charleston

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    I remember exactly when Danny and I met: Oct. 1, 2010. We were newspaper interns sharing a breaking news beat and an address, each renting a room in a house with another woman and a cat.

    One night, walking on Bayshore Boulevard after dinner, he almost kissed me.

    On a trip to Ikea, he almost kissed me.

    Until finally, one day, he did. By Thanksgiving, we were together.

    By February, I said I love you. By spring, we had keys to our first apartment. And by this time next year, we'll be married....

    Make the most of early summer tomatoes by baking them into a pie. Tomato is a fruit, remember? Campari tomatoes are used here, but use any tomato variety you like.