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Ileana Morales Valentine, Times Correspondent

Ileana Morales Valentine

Ileana Morales Valentine 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: Blistered Shishito Peppers With Sesame recipe

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    Hot dogs, check. Icy beer, check. Pie, check. Burgers, potato salad, corn. Check. Check. Check.

    You probably have most of the bases covered for a Fourth of July spread this weekend, but if you're looking for something unexpected that will win over as many hearts as that bowl of chips, look to blistered shishito peppers.

    Platters of these charred peppers have become popular at restaurants, but they're way easy to make at home and are an excellent start to a meal. The hardest part may be finding shishitos near you. Typically they are picked when still green, and that's how you'll find them at the grocery store. (Locally, Trader Joe's carries them.) ...

    It’s easy to make the crowd-pleasing Blistered Shishito Peppers With Sesame.
  2. How to make hummus at home: Recipes for classic, beet and edamame flavors

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    My first memories of hummus are firmly tied to my college years in an incredibly vegetarian-friendly town where I enjoyed many a hummus wrap. It was a great alternative source of protein for this one-time vegan.

    A few years went by, and hummus really went mainstream. With a side of pita chips, this Middle Eastern spread is a mainstay when my friends get together. My mom frequently buys a tub of grocery store hummus to serve when people come over. A couple of years ago, Sabra hummus became the official dip of the NFL....

    Branch out from the traditional with a beet-flavored hummus.
  3. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Salmon Kebabs on the grill

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    Every time Danny and I are heading south on I-75 toward my parents' house in Miami, my dad or my mom calls to see how far along we are and, more importantly, what we want for dinner. And nearly every time they ask, Danny will request the same thing: pinchos, a.k.a. kebabs.

    This request, in part, is because we're usually getting in late on a Friday night and pinchos don't take too much time to prepare or cook. The other reasons is that we love eating them. They're so simple but so tasty. My dad usually threads the kebab skewers with strips of skirt steak and bell pepper, then grills them. ...

    Dinner becomes something special with colorful, flavorful Spiced Salmon Kebabs With Lemon. When possible, try to use wild salmon.
  4. How to pack snacks and map out food stops for summer trips

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    I was in the middle seat, which is not where anyone wants to be on a packed plane. Especially on a flight from California to Florida.

    But in my hands I cradled a fresh chicken and pesto sandwich from a market in San Francisco. I bet the guy sitting next to me would give up that window seat for a bite.

    As I ate, I delighted in the fresh flavors of herbs and vegetables, and thought: It should always be like this. However you travel, a prepacked meal or snack makes the journey much more comfortable and delicious. If a summer road trip is in your future, eating well should be as important as getting an early start on the highway....

  5. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp with Cardamom and Nutmeg

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    A fruit crisp, in this case a rhubarb and strawberry crisp, is my kind of dessert. Crisps, crumbles, cobblers, buckles, bettys — I'll take them all, with their buttery clusters of oats or dough against fruit that has been roasted until softened and concentrated into the best version of itself.

    Rhubarb begins to pop up in spring, and its prime season runs April through June. These stalks come in different shades of red and pink, and once sliced you'll see they are a dusty red and green inside. It kind of looks like celery from the future. ...

    Celebrate rhubarb season, which lasts through June, with Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp With Cardamom and Nutmeg.
  6. Ricotta Pancakes: light, airy and lovely

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    A few weeks ago, I hung out with my youngest sister, Lila, while she was on spring break. If given the choice, Lila wants just one thing for breakfast: pancakes.

    I decided that would be a fine breakfast to start our busy Friday of watching the (original) Star Wars trilogy. But since I usually go for waffles instead of pancakes on a weekend morning, I didn't have a basic pancake recipe on hand. After some Googling, I found one that was okay. But just okay. ...

    Start the day off right with Ricotta Pancakes, which owe their lightness and tenderness to the egg whites and ricotta cheese that are incorporated into the batter.
  7. In Our Kitchen: A recipe for exotic yet comforting Oxtail Ragu

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    Where does one buy oxtail in St. Petersburg? The only way I knew to get oxtail was at a fritanga (sort of a Nicaraguan cafeteria-style restaurant) in Miami. Locally, our first thought was Mazzaro's Italian Market, but they directed us to another nearby butcher: Tony's Meat Market on Fourth Street S.

    What I did find at Mazzaro's while elbowing my way down the aisle packed with fellow biscotti enthusiasts was an awesome and new-to-us pasta called garganelli, which I paired up with this oxtail ragu. I couldn't find the strozzapreti the Bon Appétit recipe originally called for, but found that any short pasta with some texture would do....

    Making Oxtail Ragu isn’t as quick and effortless as whipping up a bowl of spaghetti, but it isn’t difficult. The biggest challenge may be finding a place to purchase oxtail.
  8. Make room for lamb, different types of pork at the Easter table

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    What says Christmas dinner more than a big hunk of ham on the dinner table, spiraled and glistening with a sweet glaze? And Thanksgiving? Turkey is, of course, the star of the show, but I don't recall a T-Day dinner without ham on the table as well. On Easter Sunday, ham is once again a fixture. • But as the weather softens in the spring and we look to celebrate around the table, some of you might crave something new. You might be feeling, well, antiham. After all, there are other cuts of meat we can serve as the main attraction. And they can be much more affordable while still feeding a crowd. I'm suggesting different types of pork that allow you to get creative along with a lamb shoulder, also so flavorful. • I bet you won't miss the ham!...

    Pork Shoulder Pot Roast Stuffed with Garlic, Greens and Walnuts lends itself to braising. Amother plus: It’s reasonably priced.
  9. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for mouth-watering Caramel Pork Ribs

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    French recipes were on my mind for an upcoming party for friends who got engaged in Paris. Danny and I daydreamed a bit while flipping through cookbooks: cassoulet with a shortcut duck confit from David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen? Julia Child's Moules a la Mariniere? Onion Tart or Gateau Basque from My Kitchen in France?

    We landed on another recipe from Lebovitz's book because the pictures and the title were irresistible: Caramel Pork Ribs. (Though, oops, now I'm still looking for a more French recipe for that party.)...

    Work through your worries about making caramel and whip up fork-tender Caramel Pork Ribs, a recipe that was adapted from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories.