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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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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....

    Should guests offer to bring something, suggest Champagne, prosecco or cava. Those three pair well with any cheese.
  7. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Spiced Pepita Brittle


    I'm still rolling my eyes at all the things that are bizarrely pumpkin spiced this time of year, but the flavor gave me an idea for another kind of seasonal treat: Spiced Pepita Brittle.

    I've been wanting to try my hand at brittle for some time, and though a peanut or almond brittle is a more obvious place to start, pepitas were calling to me. Pepitas are pumpkin seeds, just not from the same kind of pumpkin you carved for Halloween. I love pepitas for their earthy green color and texture. I also think they're much tastier than the pumpkin seeds I usually end up picking out of pumpkin guts....

    Savor the salty-sweet taste of Spiced Pepita Brittle by itself or try it in a bowl of ice cream.
  8. In Our Kitchen: Lentil Soup With Spicy Italian Sausage recipe


    Back on land after a rum-soaked trip to the Bahamas, my stomach growled, but for the first time in a few long days, dinner would require more effort; there was no pizza at the ready. Easy, breezy cruise life was over but I couldn't yet deal with groceries and cooking dinner. I needed to ease back into real life. I needed takeout.

    And if I'm going to pay for delivery, I may as well order enough for my husband and I to have leftovers for the next day. As part of my plan, I ended up with a quart of lentil soup. I've always loved lentil soup, even after a friend called it dirt soup....

    Hearty Lentil Soup With Spicy Italian Sausage comes together in about an hour. The beauty: Leftovers are just as good if not better.
  9. In Our Kitchen: Mussels With Cherry Tomatoes and Chorizo recipe


    This week's recipe continues a theme from my last column: recipes that work for both quick weeknight dinners and for when you have guests. They're efficient, easy, elegant and so good you'll be making them again and again.

    Last time, it was about a quickly braised chicken in a broth heavy on mustard. This week it's another dish with a very important broth, but a new star: mussels. Steamed mussels are one of my favorite dinners to make at home because (1) people are always impressed, (2) it's fast and easy, (3) it is so good. ...

    Mussels With Cherry Tomatoes and Chorizo is a dish worth repeating.
  10. In Our Kitchen: Mustard Chicken With Shallots recipe


    There are endless ways to serve up chicken, and in our kitchen we most often roast or quickly fry it in a pan. Add mustard? I'm sold. Wine and herbs mixing in a broth that begs for big hunks of bread to go with it? Yes, please.

    The chicken dinner I keep coming back to is Mustard Chicken With Shallots.

    Beyond the tender, golden brown pieces of chicken bathed in an irresistible golden broth of white wine, chicken fat and mustard infused with fresh tarragon, I really love this recipe because it works just as well for a weeknight dinner as it does for a small dinner party. ...

    The shallots in this recipe will practically melt in your mouth.
  11. In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Espresso Panna Cotta, for a crowd


    After dinner, my husband often wants a little sip of something more or a bite of something sweet. At a restaurant in Chicago years ago, he ordered and never forgot one thing on the menu: a so-called after-pork digestif. There was a lot of pork at this dinner, and here was this liqueur served at the end of the meal, as if to punctuate it and soothe your full stomach.

    The classic after-dinner coffee is the same idea just without the alcohol. With an upcoming dinner party, I wanted to play off this idea but combine it with dessert. With 12 people joining us for dinner, it had to be something I could make ahead. And it shouldn't be too over the top. ...

    Your guests will be pleased when you serve them Espresso Panna Cotta. It can be made ahead of time, which is nice for you, and it can be flavored according to your tastes.
  12. In Our Kitchen: recipe for Roasted Cherry and Coconut Pops


    Cherries are my main squeeze right now when it comes to fruit. Sorry, berries. Sorry, apricots. Plums, it'll be you soon. But for now, I'm craving cherries so much that I'm willing to stain my fingertips red as I pit more than a pound of them in the name of popsicles.

    Popsicles — because it is so steamy outside right now, and we are in dire need of a refreshing treat. For these pops, I coated the cherries in a big splash of balsamic vinegar and roasted them in the oven for 20 minutes. The balsamic vinegar won't make the cherries taste like salad; it'll just deepen their flavor. Freezing dulls ingredients, so roasting the fruit is an important step for maximizing the cherry flavor....

    Once you’ve gotten past the pitting, it’s a breeze to make Roasted Cherry and Coconut Pops, the perfect recipe for summer refreshment.
  13. In Our Kitchen: Peach Pie Bars


    “That's it. This is the last time I turn on the oven in this house," I said to my husband. We're planning on moving at the end of July, and I was sweating in our kitchen. Again.

    "Yeah, right," Danny said.

    He totally called it. Because I have a problem: I love roasting dinner and baking dessert in the oven, even if it's not quite the season for it. Despite my better judgment, I've kept turning on the oven, which is probably as old as me and emits nearly as much hot air into the whole kitchen as it does to the food cooking inside it. I've continued to turn the dial up, fanning myself with pot holders for the sake of za'atar roast chicken and potatoes, broiled tofu to top a weeknight salad and, most importantly and recently, crumbly peach pie bars....

    You’ll need about four peaches for the filling.
  14. In Our Kitchen: Blistered Shishito Peppers With Sesame recipe


    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.
  15. How to make hummus at home: Recipes for classic, beet and edamame flavors


    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....

    Beautiful Smoky Beet Hummus has an earthy sweet flavor.