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Ileana Morales, Times Correspondent

Ileana Morales

Ileana Morales 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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!...

    Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder With White Beans and Olive Tapenade is so succulent that the meat falls apart. The most labor intensive part of this dish is the olive tapenade. (The olive pits must be removed.)
  4. 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.
  5. In Our Kitchen: For Valentine's Day, a Salted Chocolate Rye Cookie recipe

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    Single or taken, I'd be attached to this cookie. And if the delight of my co-workers and my fiance is any indication, then I bet you'll love them, too.

    For Valentine's Day, I'm offering up this recipe for a cookie with a pound of chocolate up against less than a cup of flour. These Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies come from Chad Robertson of the highly regarded Tartine bakery in San Francisco. We were recently passing through the city during a quick trip to Sonoma for a wedding, but we made just enough time to stop and try the incredible bread, brownies and pastries. I've been dreaming about it ever since....

    Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies are fudgy, deeply chocolaty and even reminiscent of brownies.
  6. In Our Kitchen: Capture the flavor of New Orleans with muffuletta

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    It's true what they say about New Orleans. If a restaurant remains open in the city, it's because it's good. I got away for the weekend with seven girlfriends and an itinerary revolving around where to eat. We were not disappointed.

    Cafe du Monde was at the top of the list for beignets, of course, and we were dusted in a thin cloud of powdered sugar as we dug in. It was delightful. Bowls of gumbo, too, with a kick. But on this weekend of doughnuts and sazeracs, two things truly stood out: the rigatoni at Domenica and the muffuletta at Cochon Butcher....

    The muffuletta can be served warm or at room temperature.
  7. In Our Kitchen: Crisp Yeasted Waffles With Cocoa Whipped Cream

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    Diet is a four-letter word in my house.

    We regularly enjoy salad and vegetables around here, but eating one for lunch or dinner doesn't equal sacrifice. I resent the implication. I just want to eat well, in every sense of the word. Even though this is the first week of January, I don't think that means we have to talk only about salad and losing five pounds. It's a new year! I'm getting married in several weeks, and I feel like January remains celebratory and fresh long after the ball drops....

    Crisp Yeasted Waffles With Cocoa Whipped Cream have a sweet-salty balance.
  8. In Our Kitchen: baked sweet potatoes with cannellini beans, spinach

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    What's for dinner?

    I know. Loaded question! Despite such an interest in home cooking and food, I often find myself asking that question and feeling panicked about having nothing especially exciting to whip up when I get home from work or working out. And by then it's already dark out … and I'm tired … and, Danny, what do you think of wine and popcorn for dinner?

    Not a bad call every now and then, but there are only so many times I can or want to do that. Molly Gilbert, who blogs at DunkandCrumble.com, wrote Sheet Pan Suppers to help us out with this dinner thing. It's a reinvention of the one-pot meal....

    Baked Sweet Potatoes With Cannellini Beans and Baby Spinach taste as good as they look.
  9. In Our Kitchen: Breakfast Galettes for Two recipe

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    I'm a fan of little luxuries and celebrating the everyday. With the holidays coming into full swing, the idea of breakfast in bed came to mind. I wanted the breakfast to be special, and inspiration led me to make a breakfast galette.

    I love galettes, both savory and sweet, and this one calls for my most favorite, versatile dough: pate brisee. It's easy to make and I tend to keep a disc or two in my freezer, ready for any pie or galette craving. What's better than a cheesy galette with an egg on it? A mini breakfast galette baked just for you. ...

    In Our Kitchen: Breakfast Galettes for Two recipe
  10. Which apple should you use when baking? It depends on the recipe

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    Pink Lady. McIntosh. Sweetango. Ambrosia. Honeycrisp.

    This is just part of the apple aisle at my local grocery store. Never mind the heirlooms with whimsical names: Arkansas Black. Northern Spy. Esopus Spitzenburg. So with an estimated 7,500 apple varieties around the world (there are other wild varieties, too), just what are the differences? Apple varieties differ in texture, color, sweetness, juiciness and acidity, which are features to consider when you're baking with apples for Thanksgiving and beyond for cakes, pies and more....

    Baked Apples come together quickly. Serve them with a big splash of heavy cream for breakfast, or top them with ice cream.
  11. In Our Kitchen: Baked Camembert cheese is a luxurious and simple treat

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    Something had to be done about this stinky cheese. Amid the generous mix of fancy cheeses, chorizo and chocolate that Danny's aunt sent us in a spectacular Mazzaro's gift basket to celebrate his new job was a wheel of Camembert. I guess I'd never actually tasted Camembert before because now I realize that once you meet this cheese, you don't forget it. It looks like a cousin of Brie, but Camembert packs a more pungent fragrance and the rind has more character....

    Camembert resembles Brie, but its aroma is stronger, and its rind has more character.
  12. In Our Kitchen: Raise your apple cider jug to these recipes

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    The week of apple cider recipes started with dinner. It was Danny's first day at his new gig at the airport, and I was leaving work early to put together something good. My boss, knowing that I enjoy cooking, thoughtfully suggested the idea. Excited, and feeling like now it had to be really good given the gift of extra time, I started a list of possible congrats-on-the-new-awesome-job-I-love-you dinners: Spaghetti Bolognese, Pasta Carbonara, Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic, Boeuf Bourguignon, Pork Shoulder Braised With Apples....

    You’ll be cheating yourself if you let oil-splatter worries deter you from making these delicious Apple Cider Doughnuts.
  13. In Our Kitchen: Tomato Cobbler

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    If you mention that you're making a cobbler, the first thing people will think of is fruit and often it will be peach or apple. But tomatoes love biscuits, too, (and, after all, they're technically a fruit). Recipes that take a traditionally sweet dish and turn things savory always appeal to me.

    I was inspired to make this recipe for a certain friend who loves tomatoes, but all my brunch friends loved it. Cheesy biscuits on top of blistered sweet tomatoes mingling with caramelized onions and garlic? Not a bad way to kick off a Sunday. This will be one to make every season until the cherry tomatoes are gone....

    Red and sweet yellow cherry tomatoes make for a more colorful cobbler. If you’re serving a crowd for brunch, go ahead and make two and bake them at the same time.
  14. In Our Kitchen: Original Plum Torte

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    My announcement one Saturday morning — "I'm making a plum cake!" — fell a little flat. My fiance was not enthused and when I explained that, no, it would not be a cake with frosting, I was met with even more skepticism. But soon the house was scented with cinnamon and the plum torte sat proudly on my cake stand. The cake itself doesn't take long to make, and it took even less time for this recipe to find its newest fans....

    This Plum Torte is best baked in a springform pan, but you can use a regular cake pan if you line it with parchment paper. The flavors intensify if you wait a day to eat it. Wait?
  15. Vacation in Mexico chilaquiles: Tortilla soup meets enchiladas

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    They say it takes 21 days for something — like our morning ritual of chilaquiles and tequila sunrises while on a recent family vacation at a beach north of Cancún — to become a habit. But when you're in Mexico spending most of your day in water that's unbelievably blue and not knowing what time it is (and not caring), I think that number shrinks by quite a bit.

    There was no reason for this morning routine to change — except that we had to go back home. To reality....

    Chilaquiles, a Mexican dish of leftover tortillas simmered in a quick tomato sauce, is often served for breakfast or brunch. It’s even better topped with a fried egg.