piri piri chicken

My favorite part of our trip to Portugal is that it was almost accidental. Like we have done almost every summer, in the spring we began looking for a house to rent on one fork or another of Long Island because it us. Frustrated by prices and lack of appealing inventory (“which kid should stay in the dark basement bedroom where we won’t hear their screams?” is definitely the conversation every parent wants to have before forking over more than a month’s rent for the honor) our friends confessed that they couldn’t stop thinking about going somewhere like Spain and Portugal, where we could rent a villa for significantly less money and, you know, go see another part of the world. I said yes. My husband said “but 8 hours on a plane with a baby!” and “she’s going to burst into flames on a beach!” (referring to me passing on my unfortunate pallor to our youngest) and then I starting getting all insufferably philosophical about how this is our life and we have two kids and we either learn how to take big vacations with them or we’re never going to see all the places we want to see in our lifetime … and then I said “you can totally blame me if this is terrible.” And somehow that did the trick. Let me know when you want me to write that marital advice book, okay?

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plum squares with marzipan crumbleRecipes

plum squares with marzipan crumble

We are still in Portugal, which means, look away now. We are total blissed-out bores. The ridiculous truth of this vacation is that all the planning of it went down with the other family we are with when I was neck-deep in a book deadline and my husband had a bit of extra free time earlier this summer so I outsourced 100% of the decisions to them. Thus, I knew extremely little about Portugal upon arriving here and now every turn is a surprise and I don’t want to leave. This place is stunning. The architecture is unbelievable. The people are so nice, and so kind to our rugrats. The beaches… don’t even get me started. I feel like it will take another three vacations to even see half of what we should. I want you to know that I’m up for the job.

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how to julienneTips

how to julienne

I enjoy chopping things but have no notable knife skills, no tuck, no game, but no shame either. I’ve always found julienning fruits and vegetables to be difficult, just a lot of very precise cutting that’s not going to come easily to someone who didn’t mince their way through hours of knife skills class in cooking school. When a recipe wants me to julienne something, I sign, inwardly groan and usually take out either this slicer and then spend 32 minutes looking for the julienne blade or I use this peeler, which is fantastic but limited to long skinny strands.

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even more perfect blueberry muffinsNotes

even more perfect blueberry muffins

[Get the recipe for Even More Perfect Blueberry Muffins right here]

Since we rolled out the redesign, I’ve been flagging recipes in the archives I can’t stand looking at the pictures of anymore with plans to reshoot them. The perfect blueberry muffins were on this list except on my way to prettying them up, I made four other recipes first. Why make four other batches of blueberry muffins when you already have a favorite, is a pretty reasonable question, only if you’ve never shopped for jeans before even while wearing the pair you like most… or ordered steak at a restaurant besides the place you think makes it best. What I mean is, when a lot of people say “but the steak/jeans/cake here are amazing!” it’s hard not to wonder if maybe they’re onto something. What if they were just my favorite blueberry muffins at the time and there’s better out there that I didn’t know about yet? It’s been six years. Maybe it was time for a re-review. [Note: The prospect of a re-review with outside sources every few years is not recommended to be applied to spouses, children or hairdressers.]

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eggplant parmesan meltsRecipes

eggplant parmesan melts

A thing I have learned over the last 10 years (!) here is that people have fairly bifurcated opinions of eggplant. Some find it to be the greatest, especially when it is at its most eggplant-y, others don’t care what you do with it, they’re never going to be converted, but even the most eggplant-equivocal agree on one thing: eggplant parmesan is the bee’s knees. I am, however, the one that’s ambivalent about it. To take beautiful coins of eggplant, batter and fry them to a profound and well-seasoned golden crisp just to bury them in texture-killing amounts of sauce and melted cheese feels wrong to me, disrespectful of the labor involved and calories embedded in gloriously deep-fried foods. (I feel the same way about fries smothered in sauces and gravies. Unfollow me now!)

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burrata with lentils and basil vinaigretteRecipes

burrata with lentils and basil vinaigrette

Although I will happily eat burrata — that lush mozzarella-on-the-outside, creamy-ricotta-center cheese from Puglia’s Razza Podolica’s cows by way of skilled craftsmen — with a knife and fork, quartered on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, flaky sea and pepper with or without a few tiny tomatoes all around and sometimes even some basil from this day until the end of days and never want for anything else, two small things about this will forever plague me: this is an expensive undertaking and when I’m done, I will still probably be hungry for dinner.

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chocolate peanut butter icebox cakeRecipes

chocolate peanut butter icebox cake

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl, happy and in love. He liked chocolate and cheesecake and peanut butter and coffee and she, rather luckily for him, liked to bake. When they’d been married for one year, she made him a chocolate caramel cheesecake on his birthday. Year two, another cheesecake, this one with cubes of brownie throughout. Three, an epic chocolate peanut butter cake. Four, an espresso chiffon cake with fudge frosting. And then a month later a baby came along and it appears she next made him a birthday cake five years after that, and only, from what I can gather, because she was procrastinating and didn’t want to pack for their move. I’m not saying that if you like homemade birthday cake you might consider not having kids (gasp!) but I’m also not saying it either, you know?

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chile-lime melon saladRecipes

chile-lime melon salad

If you go to Mexico City and leave without a pressing, relentless craving for melon, or really just about any fruit, sprinkled with taj√≠n (salsa en polva), a branded seasoning powder comprised of chiles, lime and salt, I think you need to go back because you did it wrong. It feels melodramatic to call this intersection of tangy spice and juicy fruit a national dish, but the spice blend is a staple on tables and at street vendors all over Mexico, and I dare say more popular than ketchup is here. If you go to someone’s home and they have a bottle of tajin in their cabinet, it’s usually right up front and there’s a spare somewhere near because it would be unfathomable to run out. If asked, the person will probably tell you that they had it once over melon, mango, pineapple or cucumbers one time, or maybe in a michelada and they could never eat it another way again. I hope you consider that a warning.

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peach melba popsiclesRecipes

peach melba popsicles

When I moved to New York City 16 years ago I am pretty sure that on some level I believed if I went far enough above 14th Street with money I did not have, I’d reenter some gauzy version of New York from the past, you know, stuffy restaurants with tufted leather banquettes, paintings in gilded frames, black and white tiled floors and stories about when Sinatra was a regular. Places where mutton chops, Lobster Newburg, Baked Alaska and things in champagne cream sauce never went off the menu. It’s not entirely clear to me why I thought I was moving to 1950 but needless to say, in the actual New York City I moved to, my first years were filled with the typical stuff, a walkup apartment in an illegal sublet, a terrible job, a lot of wine, virtually no hangovers (because: youth) and a lot of five-dumplings-for-a-dollar and $1.50 slices at 1 a.m.

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summer squash pizzaRecipes

summer squash pizza

Stop what you’re doing. Dinner tonight is the very best kind there is: it has five ingredients including the ones to make the pizza dough. It’s seasonal, which means you can use it to decimate your CSA pile-up. And it doesn’t care what else you had in mind; recipes like this exist to disrupt the best-laid meal plans and that’s my favorite thing about them. It is, in fact, pretty much the only thing I want out of any dish, for it, at least for a time to be the thing you have to eat next because now nothing else will do.

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