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Ileana Morales Valentine, Times Correspondent

Ileana Morales Valentine

Ileana Morales Valentine reviews cookbooks and writes the In Our Kitchen column for the Taste section. She also blogs at Follow her on Instagram @ileanamvalentine and Twitter @alittlesaffron.


  1. Everyday Entertaining: Simple hash is a go-to breakfast for guests


    A hash has become my go-to breakfast for houseguests.

    It was born one rainy weekend morning when my in-laws were in town, and we didn't want to go out for breakfast. I looked around the kitchen and fridge and found a few sweet potatoes and some curly kale. With eggs to anchor the vegetables, I knew I had breakfast.

    The resulting colorful hash was fairly healthful but hearty, which was great for my sort of health conscious mother-in-law and hungry husband and father-in-law. On every following visit, my mother-in-law mentioned the "great hash" I made that one time. I got the hint. So I made the hash again. And again....

    The mainstays are sweet potatoes, bacon, greens, something in the onion family and eggs.
  2. Cookbook review: Amy Thielen's 'Give a Girl a Knife', her story from rural kitchen to New York City, is worth a read


    The same way that water needs heat to boil, Amy Thielen needs to cook.

    Her story begins near her hometown in rural Minnesota, in a rustic off-the-grid house built by her boyfriend. No running water. No heat. There's a large vegetable garden, and in the kitchen she uses what she harvests and tries to cook like her Midwestern great-grandma.

    That's the base for Thielen's memoir, Give a Girl a Knife, and even though there are no recipes in the book, Thielen's writing is evocative enough to convince a reader that her thoughts on food are worth reading. ...

    By Amy Thielen Clarkson Potter, 320 pages, $26
  3. Everyday Entertaining: A Whole30 pot roast recipe you can serve to friends on or off the plan


    Whole30, a monthlong elimination diet geared toward identifying how certain foods affect your body, was not something that appealed to me when I first read about it. No sugar. No booze. No grains. No beans. No gluten. No dairy. No fun, it seemed.

    But when cookbook author and blogger Adrianna Adarme said she was trying Whole30, that's when I paid attention. Adarme is someone I've followed for a long time, and I know she loves to eat. If she could do it, maybe I could, too. She's a creative recipe developer and frequently shares layer cakes and pies on her blog, A Cozy Kitchen. After a holiday season of countless pies, she needed a break. A reset. So did I....

    Mashed cauliflower, which is Whole30 compliant, makes for a surprisingly rich companion to cookbook author and blogger Adrianna Adarme’s Peruvian-ish Pot Roast.
  4. Some cookbooks are turning to illustrations instead of food photos to convey their recipes


    Beautiful food photography often pulls me into a new cookbook, but lately something else has been catching my eye: illustrations.

    In Molly on the Range, food blogger Molly Yeh's food photography is the main form of imagery, but pages are also festooned with colorful illustrations: words drawn in sprinkles, a study of dumplings, a layered cake with a note encouraging readers to color it in....

    Here’s an inside look at “Cook Korean! A Comic Book With Recipes” by Robin Ha.
  5. Everyday Entertaining: Pineapple-Shrimp Kebabs make for an easy dinner from the grill


    Buying a house brought out a side of my husband I hadn't seen before. With a garage and homeownership came a lot of DIY the past two years. He's built wooden frames for art, made a concrete console table, replaced the old fence and is now working on turning our back yard into a space we can spend more time in.

    It started with a plan for a small pergola that, of course, became a bigger pergola. Pavers went in the ground. Concrete was mixed and poured for a wide slab that will eventually be a base for a bigger grill. There are dreams of an outdoor pizza oven....

    Grilled Pineapple-Shrimp Kebabs feature Sriracha and ginger, and the pineapple gets even sweeter when browned on the grill.
  6. Everyday Entertaining: Make rhubarb scones to stock away for a springtime brunch


    Ramps and rhubarb. Fresh fava beans and fiddlehead ferns. These are the markers of spring that from my vantage point in Florida are usually only found in Instagram photos. I can like images of these ingredients, but do I get to cook with them? The facsimile doesn't taste so sweet.

    The one seasonal produce darling I am able to find around here is also my favorite: rhubarb. When I get my hands on it, I treasure it. People who love pie and crumbles are probably familiar with the rosy fruit, but for those who aren't, rhubarb comes in long stalks that look like blushing celery. ...

    Scones studded with blushing rhubarb make for a great brunch-at-home move when friends or family are unexpectedly over before lunch.
  7. Cookbook review: In 'Dinner: Changing the Game,' Melissa Clark makes dinner fun and approachable


    Melissa Clark is a fount of ideas for what to cook for dinner.

    She writes a weekly column for the New York Times with a corresponding video and has written 38 cookbooks. Her latest cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game, holds more than 200 recipes. If the question is what to make for dinner, Clark has the answer.

    Her enthusiasm for cooking is infectious. Sometimes I hear or read that people in the food world don't really want to come home and cook dinner after spending the whole day on food-related work. Talking about her new cookbook on Eater's Upsell podcast, Clark reveals that her love for dinner runs deep. After work, she still looks forward to going home and cooking dinner for her husband and daughter. As she chops and stirs in the kitchen, her husband reads to her as part of their dinner ritual. With this book, she wants cooking at the end of the day to be "one of the satisfying and loveliest moments of the day" for all of us....

    By Melissa Clark Clarkson Potter, 400 pages, $35
  8. Everyday Entertaining: Making the case for a Friday night dinner party


    Here's a radical idea: Get home from work on Friday and host a dinner party.

    That's right. Friday, not Saturday.

    The idea was born out of necessity. Saturdays are more likely to get booked with other events, leaving Fridays often free for dinner. And the more I do this, the more I want to host on Fridays.

    With less time to cook, there is also less pressure. A dinner party on Friday is instantly more casual, and the short window from quitting time on Friday to dinner party mode forces me to get organized with a menu and a game plan for executing it. If I have all Saturday to get to the farmers market and spend the day cooking, I probably will. I'm likely to get more ambitious with what I'm cooking. But for a Friday, almost everything is made ahead. My menu has to be more relaxed, and as a result so am I....

    Dinner parties on a Friday night are more casual and carefree thanks to the better planning they require. They’re also a good way to squeeze more out of the weekend.
  9. Cookbook review: 'One Pan & Done' and 'Back Pocket Pasta' help get weeknight dinners on the table


    Getting home from work with no game plan for dinner can be a fast track to hangry territory. With a long commute and a semiregular workout routine, it can be challenging for me to turn out an enticing meal on some weeknights.

    I've recently turned to two cookbooks whose authors approach weeknight and everyday cooking with aplomb. Back Pocket Pasta and One Pan & Done stand out for their promises of laid-back cooking with stepped-up results. ...

    By Molly Gilbert Clarkson Potter 2017, 256 pages, $17.99
  10. Everyday Entertaining: Fresh pasta and pesto are a great way to say thank you


    One way to say thank you is with a card.

    Another way to say thank you? Homemade pasta.

    Recently, I had a few friends I wanted to thank with more than a card, and thought it might be nice to do so by making them dinner. But I was about to head out of town, so instead of having them over I made something they could enjoy while I was away. A dinner party from afar.

    It also provided a great reason to get one of my favorite wedding gifts out from its spot in a higher-up kitchen cabinet, the one I have to get on a stool to reach. I have to really want what I'm reaching for, and in this case it was the pasta maker attachments for a KitchenAid mixer. I used to have a dedicated pasta-making machine that needed to be cranked with one hand while the other fed the pasta through the roller, but it broke on a night I was planning to make three lasagnas. ...

    To make fresh egg pasta, eggs are placed in a well inside a mound of flour. A fork helps to combine all the ingredients into a dough.
  11. Dutch babies 101: What they are and how to cook them, plus recipes


    When it comes to pancakes, I usually go Dutch.

    A Dutch baby — also known as a German pancake, David Eyre's pancake or a Bismarck — is the preferred pancake of weekend mornings in my house, and I'm convinced it should be in everyone's home.

    For the uninitiated, a Dutch baby is a large baked pancake akin to a popover. Its shape varies slightly each time. Mine often looks like a swollen, edible sombrero, with a golden dome in the middle and a puffed-up matching rim, until it deflates. The way the golden brown pancake balloons to twice the height of the pan it's baked in before collapsing in on itself is hypnotizing. And then you get to dress it up with toppings....

    One variation we recommend: the savory Everything Bagel Dutch Baby Pancake with smoked salmon, dill and herb-yogurt sauce.
  12. Tips for making Dutch baby pancakes, plus topping ideas


    For the uninitiated, a Dutch baby is a large baked pancake akin to a popover. Read more about them here, then check out the tips below to guarantee success.

    • Make sure the milk, eggs and butter are at room temperature.

    • It's important to preheat a heavy skillet so it's ready to go as soon as the batter hits the pan. A cold pan, especially something made of cast iron, takes too long to heat up while you're trying to cook the pancake....

    A couple minutes out of the oven, and the freshly baked Dutch baby pancake has started to collapse in on itself. It's ready for toppings. Photo by Ileana Morales Valentine, Times correspondent.
  13. Cookbook review: 'Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook' offers a guide to balance


    When January resolutions roll over into February, it can be enough to test anyone's allegiance to eating better in the new year.

    In my own efforts to eat mostly wholesome meals in the past several months, one book kept showing up on my kitchen counter. Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook is a slim book, with 80 recipes for everyday eating, including the weekend splurges and special occasions that tend to come along. It was written by Andie Mitchell, 32, a bestselling author who has written a memoir about obesity, weight loss and her struggles with food called It Was Me All Along and who blogs at She wrote this cookbook as a way to talk about how she eats after losing more than 100 pounds....

    By Andie Mitchell Clarkson Potter, 240 pages, $27.99
  14. Everyday Entertaining: Toast inspires a simple appetizer with ricotta and prosciutto


    Looking back, I have been entertaining with toast longer than I had initially remembered.

    One younger cousin's favorite breakfast when staying at our house was cinnamon-sugar toast reminiscent of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. I'd pop a slice of sandwich bread in the toaster oven and, after it was lightly toasted, spread butter on it and sprinkle the buttered toast with sugar and cinnamon. It was a simple, alternative breakfast for a generation of cereal eaters. ...

    Indulge in Minty Pea and Ricotta Toast With Crisp Prosciutto.
  15. Give the gift of a cookbook this holiday season — here are some suggestions


    Fall is many things. It is baked pasta season. Back-to-school season. Football season.

    It is also, thankfully, cookbook season. It has been a strong year for cookbooks — with dozens of beautiful, useful and interesting new ones. This all seems to peak in October as suddenly as a Florida thunderstorm with the release of a bunch of exciting and anticipated titles. Now is a great time to peruse the slew of new cookbooks to pick up new favorites to treat yourself or find holiday gifts for friends and family....