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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


  1. Welcome to Page to Plate, a column about cookbooks, creativity


    The first cookbook I remember buying for myself was Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which, come to think of it, I lent to a friend and don't remember where it ended up. No matter. My cookbook collection has grown. A lot.

    A recent survey of the bookcase in my home office, the stacks in the living room, the dining table and my purse showed I'm up to 104 cookbooks. That's approximate — another one may be hiding in my nightstand. ...

  2. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Rich Coconut Pops


    I was always that kid who actually liked coconut. Let me take all those Almond Joys off your hands, I'd say, smiling as I pocketed the Halloween candy.

    Nothing has changed in that regard, though it seems like coconut has been getting a lot more love than it did when I was a kid.

    Coconut milk is now nearly as common as soy milk as a dairy alternative, a fact cemented by its offering at Starbucks. And there are dozens of Pinterest pins about all of the uses for coconut oil. One of the best ways? Melt it with chocolate for a homemade version of Magic Shell, that chocolate coating of my '90s youth. Combined with coconut oil, the chocolate hardens about 30 seconds after coating an ice pop or ice cream. ...

    A homemade version of Magic Shell, adorned with cacao nibs, toasted coconut and coconut flakes, coats Rich Coconut Pops.
  3. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Rosewater Meringue With Blackberries and Cream


    If you're in the market for a showstopping dessert this summer, this Rosewater Meringue With Blackberries and Cream is for you. The meringues are gorgeous and not especially difficult to prepare. Streaked with the brilliant syrup of juicy berries, meringues are also an excellent vehicle for showing off any fresh berries you can find — blackberries, raspberries or blueberries.

    Part of the fun of making this rosewater meringue is watching a few simple ingredients transform into something else entirely. Egg whites are whipped into a frothy frenzy. Then comes an avalanche of warm sugar. Beaten together, the whole thing thickens until it achieves a glossy, sticky texture akin to marshmallow fluff. It's kitchen magic. ...

    Rosewater Meringue With Blackberries and Cream makes for a mouthwatering dessert.
  4. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Plum Swirl Pops With Basil


    Peaches seem to get picked more often than plums this time of year, but with plum season starting this month, it's time to consider the underrated stone fruit.

    Throughout the summer, plums are great sliced and tossed into big dinner salads. Every year since I first came across a famous plum torte from New York Times food columnist Marian Burros, I've baked the simple but wonderful cake topped with halved plums. (Find that recipe at ...

    That swirl in Plum Swirl Pops With Basil comes courtesy of vanilla yogurt.
  5. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Tofu and Brown Rice Salad


    Yotam Ottolenghi's Black Pepper Tofu is one of the most flattering recipes I've come across for the soy product. Browned tofu cubes are drenched in an inky, irresistible sauce. It is spicy and surprising. Another typical preparation for me is cooking the tofu with perfumey ginger and garlic sizzling in butter.

    Tofu and Brown Rice Salad, inspired by the Sprouted Kitchen blog, takes tofu in a completely different direction. This salad brims with color and texture and is rounded out with a savory yet light dressing....

    Tofu and Brown Rice Salad is colorful and flavorful. The brown rice adds to its heartiness.
  6. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Pea and Prosciutto Pizza With Pistachio Pesto


    I don't remember my first taste of pesto, but I know my husband is a longtime fan. Maybe it's the Italian roots on his dad's side (Valentine was Valentini just a few generations ago), but Danny was likely one of the only kids in his elementary school toting a lunch box filled with pasta coated in homemade pesto. His dad tells me he insisted on this for lunch just about every day. For the record, 9-year-old me was unwrapping a standard turkey sandwich on whole wheat....

    Pea and Prosciutto Pizza With Pistachio Pesto.
  7. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Easy Cheese Crackers


    This is the story of two crackers.

    One cracker is made from a dough that calls for more water than fat, which in this case is olive oil. A rolling pin will help you form a stretchy and delicate dough, one that might remind you of pizza. Sprinkle a generous amount of fennel, salt and sesame and poppy seeds on these crackers, and use a pizza cutter to cut the dough.

    Despite my best efforts, my neatly cut squares became abstract versions of themselves during the transfer to a baking sheet. (Let's call it rustic.) No matter. They were still beautiful and tasty, and they were devoured alongside a cheese plate set out to hold over a full house until dinner. ...

    You’ll need just three ingredients for these crackers: butter, flour and cheese. Do yourself a favor and double the recipe so you can keep one log of dough in the freezer for next time.
  8. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Spinach and Chickpea Stew


    The first wedding anniversary gift theme is, traditionally, paper. Since I've already gifted Danny too many cookbooks, there were two ways to go with this: tickets to an event or a dinner reservation.

    I reserved a couple of spots for us at a chef's tasting menu in town.

    And as I turned a couple of pages in a flipbook Danny made for me, I realized he had also made a dinner reservation for us. In Spain. On a hill in the Basque country at a restaurant where the food is described as "techno-emotional" and has been ranked as one of the best in the world....

    Raisins give Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpea Stew) a pop of sweetness.
  9. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Egg in a Hole


    I'm getting ready to head to Asheville, N.C., for a weekend getaway with my husband to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. He keeps accidentally calling this trip a honeymoon, which is sweet. A honeymoon every year? I'm in.

    About a year ago, when we returned from our first honeymoon to California, one of the first things I remember cooking is this breakfast: an egg cracked and cooked into a hole — a heart-shaped one — in a thick slice of bread toasted in butter. It was simple but so good....

    Show your love with Egg in a Hole, complete with a heart-shaped bread cutout.
  10. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Sweet Onion Soup with Caraway and Croutons


    It is soup season.

    I love a ribollita with white beans and a handful of Tuscan kale. Or a comforting lentil and fennel sausage soup. The thought of onion soup usually takes me right to that classic French approach. French onion soup comes with a thick lid of broiled cheese and bread capping a brown, rich soup. But the newest cookbook in my collection, The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits, offers a lighter version of onion soup that elevates the humble onion....

    This sweet onion soup is lighter than the classic French approach, topped with caraway and croutons rather than a lid of cheese.
  11. In Our Kitchen: recipe for Deviled Eggs Benedict


    If I had to choose a favorite food, it'd probably be the egg.

    At home, I scramble them gently in butter and fold in soft goat cheese when the eggs are almost set for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner. My husband is an ace at making omelets. Soft-boiled eggs are a dream on a big salad.

    My favorite way to eat my favorite food is fried, with edges that have crisped to brown lace and whites that have fluffed up while the yolk remains warm and runny....

    Deviled Eggs Benedict will please the palate. For easier peeling, start the eggs in hot water.
  12. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Overnight No-Knead Challah Cinnamon Rolls


    My resolution in 2015 was to eat more doughnuts. I totally followed through — even frying up an apple cider version at home — and it was a happy year.

    For 2016, a year that I hope is as golden as the previous one, I intend to bake more cinnamon rolls. Perhaps intimidated by yeast, glazes and having a whole tray of sugary rolls in my house, I hadn't made them at home until I decided to play host for Christmas. My in-laws flew in from Iowa, and my parents, sisters and cousin drove up from Miami to join us for the holiday, so how could I not make them cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning?...

    Both the cinnamon roll dough and the cook benefit from resting in this recipe.
  13. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Slow-Roasted Salmon With Citrus and Dill


    End of November: Give me all your potatoes and pies.

    Early December: These sweat pants are all that fit me right now. Get that pie away from me.

    In the search for a lighter yet full-flavored dinner, I dug up this recipe I'd bookmarked many Moleskine pages ago for slow-roasted salmon. We have not been cooking enough fish around here, which I always feel guilty about for some reason. Before this, one of my favorite ways to cook fish at home was en papillote. You tuck your fresh fish fillet, a handful of chopped vegetables and a splash of wine into a pouch and everything steams in the oven until cooked through. It is impressive and fast....

    For a healthy, hearty and heavenly dinner, try Slow-Roasted Salmon With Citrus and Dill.
  14. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Squash Blossom Frittatas


    Squash blossoms, those ephemeral sunset-hued blooms, are my farmers market weakness. With the Saturday Morning Market back in full force in St. Petersburg, I pick up a bunch of the orange-tipped blossoms whenever I see them.

    So how to eat these pretty flowers? The most common preparation is to stuff them with cheese, something like ricotta or goat cheese, and fry them. This is never a bad move, but I wanted to try something different that didn't require coating the beautiful blooms. With Saturday turning into Sunday, these quick-to-perish blossoms were slated for breakfast. ...

    Squash Blossom Frittata isn’t tour everyday frittata.
  15. For easy holiday entertaining, assemble your own cheese and charcuterie boards


    Picturing the oncoming whirlwind of food that is the next couple of weeks, I closed my eyes and wondered what Ina Garten, the queen of easy, breezy entertaining, would do.

    She would probably work on her cheese and charcuterie game.

    Cheese and charcuterie boards are prevalent on local menus, but they're also the perfect appetizer to serve at home this holiday season. While friends and family await dinner, a cheese board will keep them happy until the big meal. Or, for a holiday gathering, these beautifully composed platters can even serve as the evening's main event. They're fun, festive and easy. And they don't require an oven....

    Charcuterie board with cheeses, details of Malghese.