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

  1. Make-ahead Easter brunch of creme brulee casserole, sliders, quiche

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    Brunch is my favorite meal these days, and I know I'm not alone.

    One of my favorite spots recently said it would be more than an hour before we saw any eggs or pancakes. The Portlandia episode in which a long line evolves into a brunch village complete with an overlord suddenly doesn't seem so outlandish. For our next Sunday out, I reserved a table.

    Wait, what? Brunch is supposed to be easy. Lazy. Indulgent. We smooshed two words into one for this thing and yet there's nothing shortened about the meal itself. ...

    A make-ahead quiche will impress guests and keep you out of the kitchen. This one has leeks and Gruyere cheese, but ingredients are only as limited as your imagination.
  2. Italian jam shortbread tart is fine for entertaining

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    Tiramisu, one of my first dessert loves, is one recognized by you, me and everyone else in America. The Italian treat of creamy mascarpone cheese and coffee liqueur-soaked ladyfingers comes in all kinds of versions, many delightful and some bastardized and served in places that don't offer anything else Italian on the menu.

    I still carry a torch for tiramisu, but there's a new Italian dessert in my life: fregolotta. I wish everyone knew it just as well. This one is a shortbread tart topped with jam and nuts, and it's my go-to dessert. ...

    This tart is traditionally made with almonds, but hazelnuts work well, too. As a matter of fact, you’ll get rave-worthy results using whatever nuts and jam you have on hand. Because the dessert comes together quickly, it’s a good choice if you’ve volunteered to bring a dish to a party.
  3. French radishes: good with a little salt and butter on bread

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    The Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg is a trek from our place in the 'burbs of north Hillsborough, but the trip is worth it every time. We hit up the first coffee stand we see and mosey around the rest of the market in search of this morning's pastry.

    We head to my favorite tent, the big one for Worden Farm. Their tables are always stacked high with fresh organic produce, but today, we're late. They're out of that deeply green savoy cabbage I can never get my hands on and the line stretches long and loops several times around like a garden snake. I hustle over to the greens and fill my basket with arugula, kale, and Brussels sprouts. I grab a bunch of perky sunflowers and start to slow down near the kohlrabi, propped up like purple roses, when I see the radishes. The French breakfast ones with their elegant, long shape and pink and white tones....

    Though it’s called a breakfast radish, we’ll go with a fine afternoon picnic nibble. The simplicity of four ingredients is exactly right. Serve with a bottle of wine, cheese and prosciutto. Done.
  4. Versatile cruciferous cauliflower trending, popular in restaurants

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    The family of cruciferous vegetables seems to be taking turns with its members, thrusting one or two into the spotlight at a time for its 15 minutes of fame. We've had Brussels sprouts every which way and kale found its way onto all our plates. • Now, cauliflower takes the stage. • Yes, I'm talking about the paler, less popular — though that's less true lately — cousin of broccoli. The variety most commonly found is a creamy white color, but more and more you'll find it in shades of purple, orange and bright green. Romanesco, a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower, is especially striking with its fractal-like clusters and lime green color. ...

    A few blitzes in the food processor (or a run-in with a grater or knife) breaks cauliflower down into what looks and serves like fluffy Israeli couscous. It happens so easily you’d think this is what cauliflower was meant for all along.
  5. In Our Kitchen: Spaghetti With Sardines, Lemon and Anchovy Bread Crumbs

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    The single-girl meal. For me, it had always been eggs or a tuna sandwich.

    These days, I turn to a tin of high-quality sardines. When I'm hungry I just peel back the top of the can to find glistening, plump fish. Halfway to dinner. On nights I find myself alone, I make my dinner for one. This is a meal that is to the point and often involves things on toast.

    To make sardine toast, I heat up a drizzle of oil in a small frying pan and gently saute a couple of cloves of minced garlic. Toss in sardines to warm and infuse them with the flavor of garlic. Spread on toast. Sprinkle with salt. Dinner for one....

    Spaghetti With Sardines, Lemon and Anchovy Bread Crumbs is a great weeknight dinner, especially toward the end of the week, when the fridge may be a little low but you can depend on your pantry. And this dish is no sacrifice. It is salty, delicious and enhanced with a jolt of green from arugula, kale or whichever green you have around.
  6. Dark chocolate waffles use cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate

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    A weekend with my sisters is a jaunt to the basics. Chocolate. Carbs. Sugar.

    So when it came to breakfast, I knew I had to sweeten the deal. Lila, the youngest, is the trickier one to appease. She wants a fluffy, tender pancake rather than a crisp-edged waffle. Danny and I love the texture of waffles, so I tried to sway her with chocolate. I didn't mention that it was dark chocolate rather than the milky, more sugary kind she's used to eating....

    Finely chopped dark chocolate joins the batter for waffles that end up on the tender side.
  7. Chicken pot pie is comfort food perfect for winter's chill

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    A sponge cake waits on the kitchen counter. Several candles are lit and the flames flicker in front of kids eager to blow them out. My grandfather starts his song. We shout along.

    Ya queremos pastel. Aunque sea un pedacito, ya queremos pastel."

    A dessert lover's rendition of the happy birthday song, "We want cake. Even if it's just a little piece, we want cake now." Everyone from Miami knows this song. Sometimes my abuelito started the song before the cake was even brought to the table. He couldn't wait for a piece. Or two....

    Chicken pot pie is one of those classic comfort foods. This one is thick with carrots, potatoes and kale and goes straight from the oven to the table.
  8. Apple-onion corn bread is a post-holiday treat

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    The latest issue of Bon Appétit arrived with a timely soup on the cover. Broth-based, somewhat prudent, and very January. Delicious, I bet, but I'm just not ready to switch gears yet. I'm still catching up on all the cozy recipes intended for the holidays. Gratins. Roasts. Comfort foods.

    No resolutions here.

    Rather than put away these recipes until next year, I want to work my way through the stacks of magazines now. ...

    Thinly sliced apples and onions are tangled and caramelized over the top of this skillet corn bread that’s as perfect for the breakfast table as it is as a side dish.
  9. Greet the new year with shakshuka, eggs poached in tomatoes

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    Twelve grapes at midnight. Black-eyed peas. Flutes of Champagne, clinking and bubbling. The spread for New Year's Eve is one we all know. We want drinks that sparkle and food that will bring us luck in the new year. But what about the morning after? We should be thoughtful about the first meal of the new year, too.

    Nothing too ambitious. Or sweet. I don't mean that in a resolution-sort-of way but by this point you don't really want another cookie. You want a meal. Something savory. And on Jan. 1? Something that doesn't ask too much of us, please. It's the first day of the year, we watched the ball drop not too many hours earlier, and I think I still have glitter and confetti in my hair....

    Shakshuka isn’t just fun to say. This tomato-based dish with eggs poached in the sauce is delicious, easy to make and doesn’t take too long. It’s a fine dish when the calendar turns to 2014.
  10. Gingersnap cookies smell and taste like Christmas

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    Brisk air does a lot to set the scene for the holidays and a break to the Midwest instilled the Christmas spirit in me. Cold weather and a little snow on the ground made a visit to Iowa City with my boyfriend, Danny, even more romantic. Visiting old haunts made him sentimental in this nostalgic time of the year.

    After the turkey, the smoked ham with a candied pecan shell, and the scalloped potatoes, we needed something that more plainly conjured up thoughts of Christmas: Cookies. And since we were in Danny's hometown, where better to get a classic cookie recipe than from his family? His parents, Kathy and Rich, pulled out family cookbooks and journals, and it was like the past spilled right into the kitchen....

    The gingersnap cookies crisp up soon after they’re out of the oven and they are a perfect cookie to dunk into coffee.
  11. Simple homemade chocolate pudding a classic perfect for holidays

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    The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is often a blur of lights, sugar and parties. But at some point during the days of turning out cookie dough and shaking up wintery cocktails, I think you should slow down and make chocolate pudding.

    Pudding is a classic dessert, but when did you last make it? I find it quite elegant in its simplicity, and it's appropriate for special occasions. Just right for December. An old-fashioned dessert for the most nostalgic time of the year. ...

    This cup full of chocolate goodness isn’t a piping hot drink but homemade pudding. Boxed mixes may be easy but this isn’t difficult — and it’s worth the extra effort. For the best results, use high-quality chocolate and vanilla beans instead of extract.
  12. Sausage and apple Thanksgiving stuffing is a heartland recipe

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    The truth is I don't remember seeing stuffing on the Thanksgiving table. We had turkey every year, and I know there was cranberry sauce. Potatoes, always. Mashed or scalloped and afloat between thick layers of butter and cheese. But stuffing? I can't picture it and if it was on the table I'm not sure who in our family would have cooked it.

    You may think, what the heck does this girl from Miami know? A girl from a city where they call it "Sangiving" and the traditional American staples of this holiday might share a table with gallo pinto, taquitos, and tres leches....

    Sausage and Apple Stuffing gets a twist with fennel for a new classic Thanksgiving stuffing. With precisely cut 1/2-inch French bread cubes, the result should be moist with a crispy top. 
  13. Apple galette is easy as pie for Thanksgiving

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    Plums, apples, peppers, I want to galette you all up.

    Pate brisee, the French version of classic pie or tart pastry, and I are going to be friends for a long time. The thing is it's just so easy. A few whirls in my stand mixer, and it's done. How could I not keep rolling out this dough?

    Used in a quiche, this dough bakes up beautifully flaky and crisp, even on the bottom.

    Galettes, flat round cakes of pastry, are pie-ish without having to deal with lattice or crimped corners. I'm taking good fruit, slicing it and tucking it into slabs of dough. Rustic, I suppose — simple and beautiful without being perfect....

    For breakfast or dessert, Apple Galette With Brown Butter and Thyme hits the sweet spot. But don’t limit yourself. Once you’ve mastered the dough, try topping your galette with other fruits, or even savory ingredients.
  14. Dress up feta cheese and cracker app with berry compote

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    Cheese and crackers are fair game for entertaining, and I'd be pleased with a good Gouda or something triple cream and soft with fancy crackers. But why not step it up?

    Dressing up a cheese platter doesn't take much more effort. The holidays are imminent, and I'd like to offer a trick to keep up your sleeve: Baked Feta With Blackberry and Rosemary Compote. Test it on a few friends this weekend and you'll have a go-to appetizer for the season....

    Baked Feta with Blackberry and Rosemary Compote: This little appetizer doesn’t ask too much of you, but it really delivers with a beautiful presentation. Feel free to use another berry or swap in thyme for rosemary.
  15. Butternut squash soup with vanilla, pears hearty and tasty

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    After many dinners together, I can tell you Danny is a soup hero.

    He is always willing to whip up soup, and though it may seem unlikely, the soups we've shared are some of my favorite meals. They're modest, as he'll tell you. Nothing too fancy. Soup is not necessarily made to impress; it's simply a homemade meal to feed, comfort and nourish you, and to let you know that you are loved. When it's raining all afternoon or you've caught the inevitable cold, it's all you want....

    The flavorful Butternut Squash Soup With Apple Cider and Vanilla comes together quite easily.