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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. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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....

    The golden brown pancake bakes dramatically, ballooning to twice the height of the pan before collapsing in on itself.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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....

  10. Interview: Julia Child's great-nephew Alex Prud'homme on his new book, 'The French Chef in America'


    By Ileana Morales Valentine

    Times Correspondent

    Alex Prud'homme, a journalist and the great-nephew of Julia Child, co-wrote his great-aunt's 2007 memoir, My Life in France. Now, Prud'homme has written The French Chef in America, which is described as the story of Child's "second act."

    The French Chef in America tells the story of her life after the publication of her classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia and Paul Child return to the United States from France and settle in Cambridge, where she reinvents herself as a TV personality and finds her voice. She deals with the success of her cookbooks and her newfound celebrity, as well as some difficult colleagues and challenging health issues for her husband, never losing that infectious optimism that became her signature....

    Alex Prud'homme
  11. Cookbook review: An eclectic collection makes up food blogger's 'Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from an Unlikely Life on a Farm'


    Every Thursday, a timer goes off on Molly Yeh's phone reminding her to start the dough for the unbreakable ritual of Friday Pizza Night. Friday Pizza Night is sacred whether her family is traveling, at home or during harvest when her husband works long days on the family farm and they eat slices on a tractor.

    There are some other things you should know about the immensely popular food blogger. Her blog,, was chosen as Saveur's Blog of the Year for 2015. She has 171,000 followers on Instagram, and hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors to her site. She is on Team Cake, not Team Pie. The only all-nighter the Juilliard grad has ever pulled was in the name of doughnuts. Her first cookbook, Molly on the Range, includes a macaroni and cheese flow chart and a diagram for a schnitzel costume, which she made for Halloween after winning a month of free schnitzel from a food truck in New York City....

    Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories From an Unlikely Life on a Farm
By Molly Yeh
Rodale, 304 pages, $32.50
  12. Recipe for Chopped Salad With Spiced Chickpeas and Tarragon-Tahini Dressing


    My first trip to the grocery store postvacation was a blur of kale bunches and zucchini — and tubs of coffee. After two weeks of jamon and patatas piled high onto slabs of tortilla in Spain, I needed to restock our fridge with everything green.

    A week of mostly healthy eating was followed by a Saturday filled with pitchers of beer and pizza in the name of cheering on the Gators. So I was craving a salad. ...

    Chopped Salad With Spiced Chickpeas and Tarragon-Tahini Dressing is among the tasty dishes in Eating in the Middle.
  13. Cookbook review: Escape with the cocktails in 'Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki'


    Martin and Rebecca Cate make for excellent guides to the history of tiki and its folklore. In their tome of tiki, Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki, the movement's history unfurls with each introduction of the larger-than-life characters who created the culture in America.

    It doesn't take long to become fully absorbed in the tales of Donn Beach, considered to be the father of tiki; Trader Vic's, a Polynesian-themed lounge in California inspired by the Beachcomber that grew into a restaurant chain; and Steve Crane's celebrity-filled the Luau, a landmark bar that combined features of both the Beachcomber and Trader Vic's to create a template for subsequent Polynesian Pop design. ...

    By Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate Ten Speed Press, 352 pages, $30
  14. Cookbook review: Vegetarian cooking for everyone in Anna Jones' 'A Modern Way to Cook'


    A Modern Way to Cook is the boldly titled second book from Anna Jones, a followup to her popular debut cookbook, A Modern Way to Eat. Both books feature healthful, vegetarian recipes, but the latest one from Jones focuses on everyday cooking. Recipes are for the kind of weekday meals aiming for the holy grail of nutrition, satisfaction and convenience.

    With the use of the word "modern," Jones is referring to recipes that celebrate and incorporate vegetables for full-time vegetarians and those who don't cut meat entirely out of their diets....

    By Anna Jones Ten Speed Press, 352 pages, $35
  15. In Our Kitchen: We'll drink to this Gin & Tonic


    It's been just over a year since my husband and I moved into our first house, and though a few sparse walls remain, we have figured out one thing this summer: our house drink. I keep bottles of rose in the fridge for the brutal summer months, but the go-to cocktail in our house has become this Gin & Tonic.

    Simple and clean tasting, it's the perfect cocktail to stir up after work or any time a couple of friends stop by. My sister sent us cute glasses that say, "You're the gin to my tonic." A friend's mom has challenged me to a G&T-off. ...

    A good Gin & Tonic starts with good ingredients.