Monthly Archives: April 2023

Roast Tarragon-Cognac Chicken

Chef/author Melissa Clark tell us “The sophisticated, French flavors of brandy, butter and tarragon season this golden-skinned roast chicken, adding panache to what is otherwise an easy and straightforward recipe.”

Nothing like a fabulous meal using a limited number of ingredients. We decided to include about a dozen shallots to surround the poultry and add the beloved allium flavor. As they roast with the chicken, the shallots become all soft and jammy.

Serving the chicken with mashed potatoes or polenta, provide a soft bed to absorb all the heady, buttery juices. But we were jonesing to try the “Gunpowder Potatoes” in this case. If you choose the mashed potatoes idea, go ahead and make a flavorful pan sauce, especially if you add those shallots.

Oh, and if you’re not a tarragon fan, fresh thyme makes an excellent, milder substitute.

Roast Tarragon-Cognac Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 4-lb. whole chicken
  • 10-12 shallots, trimmed and peeled
  • 2 tsp. coarse gray sea salt or 2½ teaspoons kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon, leaves and tender stems coarsely chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • 2 Tbsp.s Cognac
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pat the chicken dry and salt the bird inside and out. Transfer to a plate or baking dish, preferably on a rack, and refrigerate uncovered for at least 1 hour or overnight. (Ours was in the fridge for 4 hours.)
  2. When ready to cook the chicken, heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. In a small bowl, combine butter, tarragon, 1 tablespoon Cognac and the pepper. Rub mixture inside the chicken cavity and over and under the chicken skin.
  4. Place chicken on a rimmed sheet pan or in a large, ovenproof skillet. Roast, breast side up, until the skin is golden and crisp, and the juices run clear when you insert a fork in the thickest part of the thigh (165 degrees), about 1 hour.
  5. Turn off the oven — don’t skip this step, or the Cognac may overheat and catch fire — and transfer the pan with the chicken to the stovetop. Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon Cognac over the bird and baste with some of the buttery pan juices. Immediately return the chicken to the turned-off oven and let rest there for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark for NYTimes Cooking

Romanian Pork and White Bean Soup with Vinegar and Caraway

The original Romanian soup is called ciorbă de porc, which features beef, pork, sausage, meatballs or even just vegetables. Beans and smoked meat are a common pairing, and that is included in this version.

No matter the headlining ingredient, the defining characteristic of ciorbă is a distinct tanginess that comes from the addition of a souring agent. Here, white wine vinegar is used, but other options include pickle brine, sauerkraut liquid, or even the juice of sour plums. Quick-pickled red onion garnishes individual bowlfuls of this ciorbă, adding a sharp, punchy flourish. Make the pickles a day ahead or while the soup simmers so the onion has time to steep in the vinegar mixture.

Don’t forget to soak the beans, as directed in the first step of the recipe, for at least 12 hours before you plan to begin cooking. Soaking the beans in water that is salted tenderizes them as wells as seasons them throughout.

It is recommended smoking the sausage at home in a roasting pan, but for ease, go ahead and use a smoked ham hock and bulk out the soup with the meat from a half-rack of baby back ribs. Topped with quick-­pickled onions and fresh dill, this bright, brothy stew encompasses the hallmarks of Romanian cuisine—tangy, smoky and rich with flavor.

Romanian Pork and White Bean Soup with Vinegar and Caraway

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. dried great northern beans
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 medium celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 1-lb. smoked ham hock, OR 1 lb. smoked pork neck
  • 1 1/2 lbs. pork baby back ribs (½ rack), cut between the bones into 3 sections
  • 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, finely crushed by hand
  • 2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 qt. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • Pickled red onions to serve, if desired


  1. First, soak the beans. In a large bowl, combine 3 quarts water, 1½ teaspoons salt and the beans. Stir until the salt dissolves, then soak at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain the beans and set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions, celery, carrots and bell pepper, then cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add the soaked beans, ham hock, ribs, tomatoes with juices, caraway, broth and 1 quart water; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high, then cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until the beans are tender and a paring knife inserted into the meat between the rib bones meets no resistance, about 2 hours.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Using tongs, transfer the ham hock and ribs to a large plate. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from both and shred into bite-size pieces; discard the bones, fat and gristle.
  5. Return the meat to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, then stir in the dill and vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with pickled red onions, if desired.

Original recipe by Diane Unger for Milk Street

Seared Salmon Paka

Paka refers to a silky coconut-milk-based sauce popular in East African cuisine. In this take from Bon Apétit on machi paka—a classic fish curry—quickly seared salmon takes the place of the traditional charred, grilled white fish. Cooking the blended curry base down until the coconut milk breaks and the aromatics toast in its rich fat is key to developing deep flavor—don’t rush this part.

The curry base is wonderfully versatile; if fish isn’t your thing, sub in chicken or your favorite canned beans (adjust cooking times accordingly). Having a lot of rice and curry sauce left over, we browned some boneless chicken thigh pieces and added them to the sauce for another dinner a few days later.

Since no Thai chiles were available at the grocery store, we opted to incorporate jalapeños instead. The color of the paka may be a bit off-putting as it gives the appearance of pea soup, but don’t be fooled by that, the sauce is amazing!

Seared Salmon Paka

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 6-oz. boneless salmon fillets, preferably skin-on
  • 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2–3 green Thai chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves 
  • 1 1½” piece ginger, peeled 
  • 1 Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste,
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric 
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves with tender stems 
  • 2 13.5-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime
  • Cooked basmati rice


  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Season four 6-oz. boneless salmon fillets, preferably skin-on, with kosher salt and cook (skin side down if it has skin), pressing fillets gently with a spatula, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn fillets over and cook until golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe out skillet and reserve.
  2. Purée 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped, 2–3 green Thai chiles, depending on heat preference, 3 garlic cloves, one 1½” piece ginger, peeled, 1 Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste, ½ tsp. ground turmeric, ¼ cup cilantro leaves with tender stems, and one 13.5-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk in a blender on high speed until smooth. Pour onion mixture into reserved skillet and sprinkle with 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt. Bring to a brisk simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until mixture is reduced to a thick paste, fat separates from coconut milk (it will look broken), and aromatics are golden brown, 30–35 minutes.
  3. Pour in remaining one 13.5-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk and ¼ cup water and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits.
  4. Gently break salmon fillets into 3″ pieces and return to skillet. Cook just until salmon is heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice into curry and remove from heat.
  5. Divide curry among shallow bowls and top with cilantro leaves with tender stems and halved green Thai chiles. Serve with cooked basmati rice or country-style bread and lime wedges alongside.

Do ahead: Curry base can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat over medium-low, adding water to thin as needed.

Recipe from Bon Appétit

World’s Best(?) Lasagna

Well, those are some pretty big boasting words! “World’s Best” is maybe pushing it just a tad, but our dinner guests helped themselves to seconds and wiped their plates clean. OK, this lasagna powerhouse does take most of an afternoon, so be prepared to spend some time. But, oh how you will love it when dinner time rolls around. Your dining companions will be screaming for more, as did ours.

The back story is, John Chandler submitted this lasagna recipe to Allrecipes more than 20-some years ago. One of their top-performing recipes of all time, World’s Best Lasagna racks up more than 7 million views per year and has ranked among the most popular lasagna recipes on the internet for two decades!

Folks adore this lasagna recipe because it’s incredibly customizable, so you can easily alter the ingredient list to suit your needs. Our personal touches included using an entire pound of mozzarella, and a bit more grated parm than called for. Then a bit of the leftover meat sauce and mozzarella slices were the crowning feature.

While assembling, whether or not you lay the lasagna noodles length- or crosswise, you’ll likely have to trim them down a bit to fit the dish.

The assembled lasagna should take about 50 minutes to cook in an oven preheated to 375°. Cover it with foil for the first 25 minutes, then let it cook uncovered for the final 25 minutes. Also, it’s important to let the lasagna rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes before you cut into it.

We were all so excited to eat, I completely forgot to take photos of the finished lasagna, so snapped a couple of the leftovers…

World's Best Lasagna

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
  • ¾ lb. lean ground beef
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 6.5 oz. cans canned tomato sauce
  • 2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1 ½ tsp. dried basil leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt, divided, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp. fennel seeds
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic in a Dutch oven over medium heat until well browned. Remove as much excess grease as possible and discard.
  2. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and water. Season with sugar, 2 tablespoons parsley, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, and pepper. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  6. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles length- or crosswise over the meat sauce (which ever fits your dish the best). Spread with 1/2 of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  7. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, spray foil with cooking spray.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Rest lasagna for 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe by John Chandler 

Berbere-Spiced Chicken Skewers

If you’ve never tried Ethiopia’s signature spice blend berbere, these vibrant chicken skewers get deep flavor from it. Made with dried alliums, chilies and warm spices, berbere features complex flavor and a rich, earthy aroma. Look for it in spice shops or well-stocked grocery stores.

If you can’t find berbere, or don’t feel like purchasing another spice to add to your growing collection, use a mixture of ground coriander and smoked paprika (which is what we did). In this recipe from Milk Street, they combine berbere with softened butter, lime juice and honey, making a spicy-sweet seasoning mix ideal for clinging to the chicken before cooking.

We served our skewers with a Lemon and Herb Farro side dish.

Berbere-Spiced Chicken Skewers

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4 Tbsp. salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. berbere OR 1 Tbsp. ground coriander plus 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. honey, plus more to serve
  • 1 Tbsp. grated lime zest, plus 2 Tbsp. lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 2 medium red OR orange OR yellow bell peppers OR a combination, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1½-inch pieces


  1. Set a wire rack in a broiler-safe rimmed baking sheet and mist with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the butter, berbere, honey, lime zest and juice, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Measure 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a small bowl; set aside for brushing.
  3. Add the chicken and peppers to the bowl with the remaining berbere mixture and mix with your hands to coat.
  4. Thread the chicken, alternating with the peppers, onto four 12-inch metal skewers. Place the skewers on the prepared rack, spacing them evenly. Let stand at room temperature while the broiler heats.
  5. Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the element. Broil the skewers until lightly charred, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip and broil until charred on the second sides, another 6 to 7 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a serving platter, brush with the reserved butter mixture and drizzle with additional honey. Serve with lime wedges.

Original recipe from Milk Street

Sweet-and-Sour Pork with Pineapple

This takeout classic has delicious roots in Cantonese cooking. Now, it is tempting to dismiss sweet-and-sour pork as gloppy, Americanized Chinese food. And, let’s face it, it often is. Been there, tasted that.

Looking to harness that enticing sweet-tart profile without the saccharine stickiness, Milk Street was drawn to the dish’s origins. A lighter, earlier variation happens to be preserved in Taiwan, where cooks skip the deep-frying—and the ketchup—to better highlight the other ingredients.

Thinly sliced pork shoulder is marinated in soy sauce, a bit of sugar and cornstarch. The starch creates a protective layer against the high heat of a stir-fry, helping to keep the pork tender by preventing it from overcooking. After briefly stir-frying the meat with ginger, in go red bell pepper, chilies, scallions and pineapple with roughly equal parts rice vinegar, sugar and more soy sauce.

A hefty chunk of ginger is cut into matchsticks for bigger pops of piquant flavor, while thinly sliced serrano chilies add spice to further balance the sweetness. It makes for a savory-sweet dish, a little tart and well-balanced to the last bite. A delicious return to the dish’s roots.

NOTES: Don’t use canned pineapple, as its flavor is dull compared to fresh. But if prepping a whole pineapple is too much work, look for ones sold already cleaned in the produce section of the supermarket. Also, don’t use a conventional (i.e., not nonstick) skillet. Without a nonstick coating, the sugars from the pineapple and sauce are likely to stick to the pan’s surface and scorch.

Sweet-and-Sour Pork with Pineapple

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed, cut into 2-inch-wide strips, and thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided, plus more if needed
  • 1/2 tsp. plus 1 Tbsp. white sugar, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple (½-inch chunks)
  • 2-3 serrano chilies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 3 Tbsp.)
  • 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar, plus more if needed
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the pork, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, the ½ teaspoon sugar and the cornstarch; stir until the pork is evenly coated.
  2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the pork in an even layer and cook, stirring only once or twice, until the pork is lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the pineapple, chilies and ginger, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the pineapple begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the vinegar, the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Cook, stirring often, until the meat and vegetables are lightly coated with the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Off heat, taste and season with additional soy sauce and vinegar. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the scallions.

Original recipe by Albert Stumm for Milk Street

One-Pan Paprika Chicken with Lentils, Squash and Daqa

Who doesn’t love a one-pan dinner? (Although you will be using several bowls.) This oven bake requires minimal effort and is very much a meal in itself. Daqa is a vinegar-based condiment, most commonly used when making the much-loved Egyptian koshari, a hearty dish of rice, pasta and lentils.

Daqa is a nifty way to brighten stews, braises and anything that needs an acidic lift. Feel free to swap out the kabocha squash for root vegetables, such as sweet potato (which we used) or celery root, and serve the whole thing with nothing more than a leafy green salad.

This meal was so flavorful, and fantastic as leftovers.

One-Pan Paprika Chicken with Lentils, Squash and Daqa

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2¼ lbs.)
  • ¾ lb. skin-on kabocha squash, seeds removed, cut into about 6 (1-inch-thick) wedges
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. ground sweet paprika
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 small yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds, lightly toasted
  • 8 oz./1 heaping cup (uncooked) French green lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup finely chopped chives
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill, plus 1 tablespoon picked leaves for serving
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp. granulated sugar


  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, squash, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon salt; set aside.
  3. Place the onions, 2 garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 2 teaspoons paprika in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and mix to combine. Roast for 10 minutes, stirring halfway, until the onions are lightly colored.
  4. Stir in the lentils and chicken stock. Arrange the squash wedges and the chicken, skin-side up, on top and roast for another 20 minutes, until the chicken skin is deeply golden.
  5. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and cook for another 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the squash is nicely softened.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sour cream, chives and dill; set aside.
  7. To make the daqa, mix the remaining garlic and cumin with the vinegar, sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of water.
  8. When ready, remove the bake from the oven and top with spoonfuls of the sour cream mixture. Pour over the daqa and sprinkle with the extra dill. Serve hot, straight out of the baking dish.

Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi for NYTimes Cooking

Marmitako—Basque Tuna Stew

There is nothing better than a warm and comforting stew on a cold day, it takes all the chills out of your body and fills you with nothing but comfort. However, this tuna stew is equally welcome on a bright Spring Day. And since The Hubs loves all-things Spanish, making the dish was a no-brainer.

Marmitako is really quite simple to make and you don’t need any special equipment, just a standard stock/braising pot, and most importantly, fresh ingredients. With a recipe this simple, it is always important to use the freshest and highest of quality ingredients, it truly does make a difference in the overall flavor.

We made numerous changes to the original recipe, which included doubling most of the vegetable ingredients. Some of the timing was altered also to cook the potatoes 5 minutes longer, and the tuna cubes 5 minutes less. All of the changes are noted below.

Marmitako - Basque Tuna Stew

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 fillets fresh tuna
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin Spanish olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups fish broth, preferably homemade
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Fresh parsley


  1. Begin by cutting all the vegetables first, 4 minced cloves of garlic, diced onion, diced red bell pepper, dice green bell pepper and cut 2 medium Yukon gold potato into 1/2-inch cubes.
  2. Heat a large stock pot with a medium heat and add a 1/4 cup of extra virgin Spanish olive oil, once the oil gets hot add the diced onions and minced garlic, mix with the oil and cook for about 4 minutes, then add the diced bell peppers, mix and cook for another 5 minutes, then add the cubed potatoes, mix and cook for another 2 minutes, then add 1 cup of diced tomatoes, season everything with a generous pinch of sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, mix everything together and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Turn the fire up to a HIGH heat and add 1/2 cup of white wine, about 4 minutes after adding the white wine add 2 1/2 cups of fish broth, once it comes to a boil, place a lid on top and lower the fire to a LOW heat.
  4. While the stew is simmering, season 2 fresh tuna fillets with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper on both sides, then cut each one into 1/2 inch cubes.
  5. After leaving the stew to simmer for 25 minutes, add the cubed tuna to the stock pot, mix it with the rest of the ingredients, place the lid back on top and cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer the tuna stew into shallow bowls and garnish each one with fresh parsley

Adapted from a recipe from Spain on a Fork

Miso Pecan Banana Bread

How about a banana bread that is moist on the inside, with a crunchy bite around the edges? While banana bread has been around for decades, the dish is now a global mainstay. Morning with coffee, noon as a quick bite for lunch, or after dinner shared with a scoop of ice cream—it doesn’t really matter what time of day you indulge. My personal preference is a warm slice with a dab of ghee, or a schmear of peanut butter; or let’s face it, just by itself is perfectly fine.

In this recipe, the crunch of pecans complements the bread’s softness, while miso (which we always have on hand) adds complexity alongside the banana’s sweetness. Be sure to utilize the ripest bananas you can find because it really will make a difference. This banana bread can hold for several days on the counter or in the fridge—if you have any left.

“Banana-bread recipes over the decades have in common bananas, sweetener, a chemical leavener, some fat and flour. But beyond that they can differ wildly.”

PJ Hamel

Banana bread is extremely flexible: If this recipe doesn’t work for you, just change it. Add a little more miso. Maybe lighten up on the sugar. Or toss in another half cup of pecans until you’ve adjusted it to suit your own preferences. I followed the directions without any alterations (other than what I did with the toasted pecans), and loved the results!

“Banana bread is both striking and unremarkable, simple and staggering, found on the counters of coffee shops and apartment bar tops and tiny cafes globally. A corner piece can shift your entire day. Or maybe your choice is a slice from the middle, full of flavor without the baggage of a crust. Or perhaps your ideal banana bread is whichever iteration is available — YouTube’s code sags under the weight of banana-bread recipes, and they’re each as delicious as the impulses behind them. It’s a dish as perfect as it is malleable.” — Bryan Washington

For the topping, you can add all of the chopped pecans to the batter, and place 8 or 9 whole roasted pecans to the top once in the loaf pan; or do half and half as instructed below. The indicated baking time of 60 to 80 minutes didn’t pan out for us. It took 1 hour and 35 minutes in the oven before the thin metal skewer stuck into the center came out clean.

Miso Pecan Banana Bread

  • Servings: 1, 9 to 10-inch loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • ½ tsp. vegetable oil, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 tsp. fine sea or table salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. white miso
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (1¾ cups)


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9- or 10-inch loaf tin, then line the base with parchment paper. Also, grease and flour a loaf pan.
  2. Toss pecans on a parchment-lined baking sheet with salt and oil. Bake until fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. When cool, chop to your desired consistency.
  3. While the pecans cool, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar using an electric mixer until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, milk, miso, honey and vanilla extract until well-combined. Gradually beat in dry ingredients until just combined.
  5. Using a spatula, stir bananas into the batter to combine evenly. Add half of the pecans (and any salt on the pan) to the batter and mix to combine evenly throughout. Add batter to the prepared loaf pan, smoothing when complete. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly on top.
  6. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in several areas around the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes (ours took 1 hour 35 minutes). Tent with foil if it starts to darken too much on top before the middle is baked through.
  7. Let bread sit in tin for 10 minutes before removing and setting on a rack to cool for 60 minutes. Serve with coffee, ice cream or entirely by itself.

Adapted from a recipe by Bryan Washington for NYTimes Cooking

Grilled Flap Steak, Mushroom and Onion Kebabs

As you are aware, Shish kebab is a dish of skewered and grilled cubes of meat that is popular all over the Middle East, and made of lamb, beef or chicken, they also are commonly found in the United States. When selecting the type of beef to make your kebabs, you have unlimited choices but ultimately you want your beef on the skewer to be tasty, tender and not break your budget.

If cost is not a hindrance, the best cut of beef for kebabs is definitely filet mignon. Other excellent beef options include Porterhouse, and if it looks good at the butcher or in the meat counter, also try a rib-eye. They all grill nicely and don’t require a marinade to make them tender. But while those cuts meet the criteria of best tasty beef, they’re pricey and will take a chunk out of your wallet.

For those looking for great flavor on a budget, sirloin tips work well if they are marinated ahead to make them more flavorful. Our choice, flap meat. Historically, flap meat was one of the cuts of beef that butchers kept out of the meat case for a reason: they were saving it for themselves. Much like skirt steak and hanger steak, it’s becoming more widely known and popular, and therefore easier to find in markets everywhere. (Costco carries flap meat.)

With its great beefy flavor, flap steak has a similar texture and grain to flank, hanger and skirt steaks. It tends to come to the market at 3 to 4 pounds, whereas skirt and flank steaks average around 2 pounds or less. Price-wise, flank and flap steaks are about the same.

We had 2 pounds of flap meat instead of the 18 ounces originally called for, so we also increased the mushrooms from 8 to 12 ounces. Another alteration to the recipe was adding 6 whole smashed garlic cloves to the marinade. Our kebabs were served with a minted couscous (recipe below), and a baby arugula side salad that also contained mint.

Grilled Steak, Mushroom and Onion Kebabs

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 2 lbs. flap steak, cut into 24 cubes
  • 12 oz. baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, trimmed of stem
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, sliced into 12 wedges


  1. Whisk oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic cloves and rosemary into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add steak to a bowl, and mix to coat. Cover with plastic wrap (or place in a ziploc bag) and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for a minimum of 1 hour (longer is better).
  2. While beef is marinating, soak 12 bamboo skewers in water.
  3. To assemble skewers: Add 1 piece of steak, 1 mushroom and onion wedge. Continue by adding the same. Continue until all 12 skewers are complete.
  4. Preheat the grill on high for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high and clean and then oil grates. Add skewers Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes and then flip skewers. Continue cooking for additional 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer to serving plate. Garnish with fresh rosemary if desired.

Adapted from a recipe from Paula of Bell’alimento for The Mushroom Council

Minted Couscous

Minted Couscous

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3⁄4 cup tri-colored couscous
  • 1⁄2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 3⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


  1. In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.
  2. While the kebabs are grilling, bring 1 cup water and 3⁄4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Stir in the couscous, peas, and lemon juice mixture. Cover, remove from heat and let stand at least until the peas are tender and the couscous has absorbed all of the liquid, at least 10 minutes.

Chickpeas with Spinach, Chorizo, and Smoked Paprika

A traditional tapas from the southern Spanish region of Andalucia, this dish consists of tender stewed chickpeas, delicate wilted spinach, and bold North African-influenced spices. For the flavor backbone, the Spanish classics of saffron, garlic, smoked paprika and cumin are utilized.

Traditional addition of chorizo adds meaty richness, while curly-leafed spinach is the best choice for its sturdy texture in this brothy dish. That being said, we were unable to source curly-leafed spinach and had to go with baby spinach—not the best option, but it still worked.

Including the chickpeas’ flavorful, starchy canning liquid helps to give the dish more body. The picada is a traditional cooking thickener in Spain. This bread crumb-based mixture gives the stewed beans and greens just the right velvety texture and flavor boost.

It is good served over rice or with good crusty bread to sop up the flavorful broth. We just served it with a side salad.

Chickpeas with Spinach, Chorizo, and Smoked Paprika

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • Pinch saffron threads, crumbled
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. curly-leaf spinach, stemmed
  • 3 oz. Spanish-style chorizo sausage, chopped fine
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas
  • 1 recipe Picada (recipe follows)
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar


  1. Combine 2 Tbsp. boiling water and saffron in small bowl and let steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add spinach and 2 tablespoons water, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted but still bright green, about 1 minute. Transfer spinach to colander and gently press to release liquid. Transfer spinach to cutting board and chop coarse. Return to colander and press again.
  3. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in now-empty pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, paprika, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in chickpeas and their liquid, 1 cup water, and saffron mixture and bring to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are tender and liquid has thickened slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Off heat, stir in picada (recipe below), spinach, and vinegar and let sit until heated through, about 2 minutes. Adjust sauce consistency with hot water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.


  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Pinch pepper


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 F. Pulse almonds in food processor to fine crumbs, about 20 pulses.
  2. Add bread, oil, salt, and pepper and pulse bread to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.
  3. Spread mixture evenly in rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. (Picada can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Recipe from The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by America’s test Kitchen

Pasta with Cremini Mushrooms and Miso

For this hearty vegetarian dish, the pasta is cooked directly in the sauce, so there’s no need to boil water in a separate pot. Japanese miso may seem an unlikely ingredient to pair with Italian pasta, but it deepens the mushrooms’ earthiness, and lightly browning the miso as it is done here develops even more flavor intensity so the dish tastes surprisingly meaty and rich.

Cavatappi is a good choice because its twisty shape is a good match for the chunky mushrooms, but any short pasta shape, such as penne or fusilli, works well, too. But because we used a larger flat pasta, we needed to add another cup of water to loosen the sauce.

Don’t forget to stir the pasta as it cooks. The pot will be quite full, so frequent stirring will help ensure that the pasta cooks evenly.

Pasta with Cremini Mushrooms and Miso

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 4 Tbsp. (½ stick) salted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup white miso
  • ½ cup dry white vermouth
  • 2 lbs. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 lb. short pasta (see note)
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ oz. pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (¼ cup)


  • On a 6-quart Instant Pot, select More/High Sauté. (Or use a pressure cooker.) Add the butter and melt. Add the onion and garlic, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the miso and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the vermouth and cook, stirring, until almost fully evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  • Add 3 cups water (or 4 if necessary to loosen) and whisk until the miso dissolves. Stir in the mushrooms and bring to a boil, then distribute in an even layer.
  • Press Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 5 minutes. When pressure cooking is complete, quick-release the steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.
  • Select More/High Sauté. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the pasta. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente and and the sauce clings lightly, about 10 minutes. Press Cancel to turn off the pot.
  • Stir in the thyme and lemon juice, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley and pecorino.

Recipe by Phoebe Maglathlin for Milk Street

Roasted Sweet Vidalia Pork Loin

For quite a fancy spread, this elegant dinner comes together in not much more than an hour. The sweet Vidalia onions break down into luxurious softness, while the apple slices (we used Ruby Frost) and garlic render down and provide additional layers of flavor to the onion mixture.

Served with garlicky mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli, it was a complete and satisfying meal. We had plenty leftover so we plan to get two additional meals from it. One, a pork fried rice dish, and the other we’ll just simply reheat the leftovers as they are, and enjoy the meal all over again!

Roasted Sweet Vidalia Pork Loin

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 center-cut pork loin, (3 lbs.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Vidalia onions, sliced into thin half-moons
  • 1 apple, sliced thick
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup hard apple cider, or beer
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Generously sprinkle all sides of the pork loin with salt and pepper. Place a braiser or shallow Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully put the pork in the pan. Sear until deeply golden on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan.
  3. Put the onions and apple in a large mixing bowl. Add the caraway seeds, dried thyme, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat. Transfer the mixture to the bottom of the braiser and nestle in the garlic cloves. Pour in 1/4 cup of the chicken stock and place the pork back on top. Put in the oven.
  4. About 20 minutes into the roasting time, turn the apple and onion mixture, leaving the pork loin alone. Continuing cooking the roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, about 30 minutes. (Ours took 40 minutes to come to temperature.)
  5. Transfer the pork to a cutting board to rest while you make a pan sauce. Remove the apple and onion mixture to a platter
  6. Return the braiser to the stove over medium-high heat. Pour in the hard cider and remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock. Cook, scraping with a spatula to remove any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the mustard. Allow the sauce to simmer until reduced slightly, a couple of minutes. Add the butter, whisking until melted. Cook just until the sauce is shiny and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Slice the pork and arrange the slices over the onion and apple mixture. Top with sauce and chopped parsley.

Adapted from a recipe by Trisha Yearwood