Recipes

frozen watermelon mojitos

There is no time like a heat wave to unlearn everything you thought you knew about watermelon. I don’t need to tell you that a slice of fresh watermelon cold from the fridge is one of life’s perfect things. But most of my attempts to bake with it or turn it into drinks, with this exception, have had limited success, because there is a mildness, a gentleness to watermelon that gets smothered under other things. “So, just eat it fresh and be done with it,” would be a reasonable, rational takeaway. The watermelon has spoken; it has told you its limits. But I don’t want to be reasonable nor rational, and I’ve been pining for a frozen watermelon mojito for a couple summers now and been stuck at the impasse of knowing once I added the requisite ice, simple syrup, or club soda, the watermelon-y impact would be all but diminished. I’m not sure why it took me as long as it did to have my a-ha moment but the solution was, well, right next to the ice cubes in the freezer.

ready to freeze watermelon

Freezing your watermelon in cubes and foregoing the ice cubes is summer drink brilliance. It actually tastes like watermelon because you haven’t diluted it in any way. The texture is fantastic enough that you might skip the club soda too (but adding a splash basically makes it a grown-up Slurpee; you’re welcome). Simple syrup, and the water involved in making it, is never necessary if you can just dissolve sugar in your lime juice. I’ve made it as straight frosty watermelon lemonade and limeade (no rum; keep the mint if you wish) but as a heatwave balm of a summer drink that takes approximately 65 seconds* to make, it’s downright revolutionary.

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Recipes

corn salad with chile and lime

For July 4th, we hosted a dozen people (no, we don’t have space for this but why learn now) and I prepared six racks of ribs, a double batch of broccoli slaw, a kind of ad-hoc-ed potato salad with a mustardy-caesary vinaigrette, a charred corn salad, a flag cake, lemonade, Aperol spritzes, Suze-and-tonics, watermelon, and then we went up to the roof to light sparklers and watch the fireworks and approximately 95% of the people who slid into my DMs after seeing photos of all of this on Instagram only asked me about the corn. It’s okay, my ribs’ feelings will eventually recover.

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Recipes

crispy oven pulled pork

This site has been bereft of a giant pork roast for too long. This one, to us, has been worth the wait and it came from the most logical place. I’ve been Bo Ssam-ing since the David Chang recipe was published in the New York Times in 2012. For legions of fans, it quickly became a generation’s go-to dinner party dish: a spectacularly low-effort, high-reward way to feed a crowd. The masterful thing about this slow-roast is the way the exterior takes on a dark, glossy, crisp, varnished edge that collapses easily under the tines of a fork, revealing pale, perfectly cooked pulls of pork within, and that you did almost nothing to make this happen. The ingredients couldn’t be simpler (got salt? sugar?), and in just a small fraction of the time that you’ve been liberated from any kitchen toiling while the pork slow-roasts and permeates your apartment with an unholy delicious aroma, you make the accompaniments. I wanted the pulled pork recipe on this site to have all of that, but designed with barbecue-style sandwiches in mind, no smoker required.

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Recipes

strawberry summer sheet cake

Eight years ago, I wrote about a strawberry cake I’d been making and tweaking from Martha Stewart since, apparently, 2005 that felt to me like the epitome of early summer. The batter is a simple cake — butter, sugar, flour, eggs, milk. The berries are fresh, hulled and halved. There’s seemingly nothing new or revolutionary but what differentiates it from other summer cakes is the sheer volume of strawberries. There’s a full pound of berries placed on top before you bake the cake, more than easily fit. In the oven, the batter buckles around the berries, turning them into jammy puddles, especially if your strawberries are a touch overripe. The sunken berries dimple the top like a country quilt. The edges of the cake brown and become faintly crisp. If you can bear to wait half to a full day to eat it, and really let those baked berries marry with the cake, you might swear off all other summer desserts.

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Recipes

simplest spaghetti al limone

In 2011, I shared a recipe for spaghetti with cheese and black pepper (cacio e pepe) but it always bothered me that it contained extra ingredients and that the technique left a wide margin of error. In 2018, I finally cracked the code at home and ran to the internet to tell you about it. Today I’m sharing what I hope will be a similar glow-up for spaghetti (or fettuccine) al limone, a classic pasta dish from, depending on who you are asking, Genoa, Amalfi, Sicily and further (the common thread is, no surprise, places where lemons are grown). In its simplest form, spaghetti al limone contains only lemons, olive oil, parmesan, salt, pepper, and a few leaves of fresh basil in an uncooked sauce. Versions abound, including mine from 2011, with cream, butter, wine, shallots, or more, usually simmered and reduced. Garlic, ricotta, and/or goat cheese are not uncommon. I suspect it’s less due to a blasphemous streak or attempting to bait this parody account, but because they are all delicious. You should feel no obligation to choose.

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Recipes

burrata with charred and raw sugar snap peas

Mozzarella on the outside, lush ricotta on the inside, I could eat burrata with a fork and knife for dinner with every day of the summer and never grow tired of it. I mean, if money was no object. In reality, it’s a bit too much of a luxury to pull off on a daily basis, so instead, I try to find ways to stretch burrata into a foundation for larger dishes. This leads me to my favorite burrata move, the one that if you’re not doing yet, I need you to start right now. We’re basically going to butterfly it, or open it like a book. Cut the burrata down the middle, but stop halfway, turn your knife to the side, cut almost out to the edge of the ball, then flip this outward. Repeat on the second side. Nudge the ricotta center a little flatter. Drizzle it with olive oil and flaky sea salt and then let it hang out and warm up while you figure out what you’re going to scatter on top. Burrata was meant to be eaten at room temperature, where its complex flavors and creaminess come through the loudest. There’s an economy to it, too; instead of feeling like we never have enough, every bite on the plate gets its own generous swoop of the best part.

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Recipes

chocolate budino

Barbuto is the restaurant that made me love kale salads. It proved daily that toasted gnocchi > any other gnocchi. The chicken is legendary, although we probably got the hangar steak more often, because it’s also the restaurant that showed me how wonderful they can be. The crispy potato side is one of my favorite formats of potatoes on earth (I’ll get to them, I promise). But little of this matters because they closed last week. We knew it was coming. The building was sold over four years ago and I know because I got panicked emails from some of you about it. [“What are you going to do??!” I felt seen.] I assume it’s just taken this long to get whatever teardown-and-rebuild plans [I’m confident that it will be affordable housing, aren’t you?] the new owners have for the spot in order. They’ll probably find a new location eventually, but I am skeptical that will have the casual charm of an old auto garage with roll-up glass doors. This unfussy charm was our favorite thing about the restaurant. There was no bread on the table, no heavy sauces, no dots of reductions, no frippery, nothing exhausting. Pretty much everything was seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice or a light vinegar, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Variations on salsa verdes and gremolatas abounded. It was the kind of unshowy food you could eat daily, as if they were hoping you’d notice and become regulars, and if that didn’t convince you, in the summer there were five to six different ros├ęs by the glass on the menu, so you’d never get bored. I promise, I’m getting somewhere with this.

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Recipes

exceptional grilled chicken

I’m sorry to disappoint you if you ever believed otherwise, but only a fraction of the recipes on this site come from a place of adoration — i.e. I’ve always loved this dish, thus we all need to make it at home. A far greater amount come from befuddlement that people are so into something I find so unspecial. Maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds. I mean, would you rather get a recipe for a dish from someone who loved it to the moon and back and may not see its flaws or from a deep skeptic that had to be convinced by an exceptional version? Or so I tell us as a long windup to the fact that there are probably few summer dishes I like less than grilled chicken. Let’s take something that already leans dry and cook it for what is usually way too long and make it more dry! Here’s a thick sweet sauce that almost guarantees there will be little texture or color on the outside. I’m not saying that good grilled chicken doesn’t exist (I like this and that one, for example, and yours, yours is fantastic), it’s just far less common than bad grilled chicken.

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Recipes

raspberry crumble tart bars

Last month, Ruth Reichl, food writer extraordinaire and the last editor-in-chief of the now shuttered Gourmet magazine, rounded up her 10 favorite recipes from her magazine years for Epicurious. It’s possible I’ve never clicked on a link faster. I adored the magazine; in my early years here, it really helped me crystalize a vision of what I love in cooking and do not. I cooked so many of the recipes — and yet, almost none of these. A raspberry crumble tart by Ruth Cousineau in August 2006 (just weeks before I launched SK) in particular jumped off the page. Reichl writes:

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Recipes

potato vareniki

[Welcome to the Sous-Chef Series, a new, sporadic feature on SK in which I invite cooks I admire over to my small kitchen to teach me — and thus, us — to make one of their specialties. Spoiler: I’m the sous!]

I first heard of the Russian restaurant Kachka when I was last in Portland, Oregon on book tour (hi, Powell’s!), when no fewer than a dozen people separately told me I had to go while I was there. A few said it wasn’t just their favorite restaurant in Portland, but their favorite restaurant, period. This made me all the more sad that I didn’t have time to make it happen. My regrets snowballed when I finally dug into the restaurant’s eponymous cookbook last summer. I was no further than the first page — where the confusion as to what is “Russian” food when “food from the former Soviet Union including Russia but also the countries surrounding it like Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine…” would be more accurate is humorously laid out — when I became deeply, emphatically obsessed with all that I’d missed.

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