Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese

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By Freya Bellin

As the weather becomes chillier, I love a good casserole. This pasta dish, though maybe not a traditional casserole, evokes the same warm, melty, heartiness.  And while the list of ingredients may raise eyebrows, they all come together harmoniously: the bite of the cheese, the juicy sweetness of fresh figs, and the crunch of Brussels sprouts. I don’t always love blue cheese, but it served its purpose well here. 4 ounces of cheese, especially a pungent one like gorgonzola, is just the right amount to add flavor throughout, without overwhelming the dish. It seeps into the tubes of rigatoni, and coats everything in a light, cheesy sauce. The almonds add some crunch, but flavor-wise don’t interfere with the rest of the dish. This pasta is well balanced, unique, and makes excellent leftovers. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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The Minimalist: Apple “Pizza” (or Tart)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not wild about apple pie. If that makes me a bad American, so be it.

Of all the ways you can combine cooked apples, butter, flour and so on, pie is not nearly the best. I prefer either a nice crispy crumble topping made with oats, or this free-form apple tart. It is essentially an apple pizza, but uses a short dough, meaning it contains plenty of butter. It comes together very easily in the food processor.

Once you roll the dough out — into a thin circle or whatever other shape you choose (or your rolling pin chooses for you) — you have to address this question: how precious do you want this thing to be? If you have much more patience than I do you might start an elegant spiral of apple slices in the middle of the crust and loop it gracefully around until it reaches the edges. If you’re like me, you’ll randomly scatter the apples until you don’t see dough anymore. Call it rustic — I actually think it ends up looking just as nice, but maybe that’s equally un-American.

The last straw? Cut it with a pizza wheel.

Get the recipe here.

Taste, Adding More Chorizo if Necessary

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By Daniel Meyer

I recently moved to the stretch of 5th avenue in Brooklyn where Mexican food is king. Leaning out my front door I can see crates of chiles and cactus, giant plastic tubs of watermelon juice, and can smell gorditas deep-frying in corn oil (off-putting, strangely enough.) Brussels sprouts don’t exist here, (I checked) but tomatillos literally spill out on to the supermarket floor. Chorizo, like Entenmann’s or Little Debbie, sometimes gets its own display at the end of the aisle. It’s very comforting to see a community tailored so perfectly to the needs of its own home cooks.

Back to that chorizo, the fresh Mexican kind. I’ve eaten it only sparingly since I moved here; in a way, it’s so easy to get that I’ve stopped wanting it. I made it once, (pork shoulder ground in the food processor, mixed with plenty of paprika, cayenne, cumin, coriander, and garlic, and fried until crisp) but that was about it.

This week I needed some to test a recipe: chipotle-spiked sweet potato mac and cheese with crunchy chorizo crumbs. It made me remember how I like fresh chorizo best: as a garnish. Literally. Peel away the casings and fry the meat, breaking it up into little bits with a wooden spoon, until crisp. Use it to top gratins where you might otherwise use breadcrumbs, sprinkle over sliced avocados with lime juice, on eggs, on soup, toss into salads or roasted vegetables, (it’s even great on oatmeal with some cilantro and scallions.) Having a bowl of it cooked and ready to go in my fridge this week has been quite productive, though dangerous going forward: it’s as easy to find here as salt.

Curried Coconut-Butternut Squash Soup

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By Alaina Sullivan

Squash soups typically rely on a blender to give them a luxuriously creamy consistency, yet this version achieves richness without being pureed to a pulp. Small cubes of butternut squash are cooked in a milky-sweet broth, and they hold their shape all through cooking. The soup becomes creamy by way of coconut milk, which contributes a rich flavor without weighing it down. Curry, cinnamon and cumin spike the broth just enough to accent the squash without masking its natural flavor. The curry and coconut shine together as they usually do, but it’s the cinnamon that brings a warm, unexpected undertone to the dish. 

It’s a soup that sits in limbo somewhere between creamy and brothy, sort of the best of both worlds. Garnish with fresh cilantro or mint. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Curried Coconut-Butternut Squash Soup

Cook two cups of chopped squash in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, along with a diced onion, a teaspoon of cumin, a half teaspoon of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of curry powder (or more to taste). Cook the vegetables and spices until the onion is soft, about three minutes. Add five cups of chicken broth or water and a cup of coconut milk; bring to a boil and cook for about six minutes or until the squash is tender and easily pierced with a knife. Serve the soup topped with fresh cilantro and crusty bread or a scoop of rice.

 

Food Blooms in the Desert

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Last month, I stood in the midday sun a few miles north of Anthony, N. M., and Anthony, Tex. — a town divided by the state line created in 1854 — staring out over a 15-acre plot of land that didn’t look like much. In this part of the world, it was once almost as easy to travel from the United States to Mexico and back as it is to go from one Anthony to another. Now the trip can drive you crazy, with long waits and inspections; if you’re undocumented and unlucky, it can kill you.

I’d spent a couple of days touring El Paso and Las Cruces, the cities of El Paso del Norte, as well as the colonias. (These are unincorporated settlements largely inhabited by Mexicans whose ancestors lived here when it was New Spain, joined by more recent immigrants.) Here, I learned that the border isn’t the only thing that’s become complicated around here; food is another.

Read the rest of this article here.

A Letter that all Chefs (and Anyone Who Eats) Need to Read

I’ve known George Faison for 25 years or more; he was a co-founder of D’Artagnan and is now a co-owner of Debragga and Spitler, a New York meat wholesaler that’s been doing business since 1924, and a main supplier to many of the city’s best restaurants. This is a letter George sent late last week to a well-known chef, and one he’ll be sending to others. (It’s worth noting, if for no other reason than to answer the inevitable question, which I asked myself, that George doesn’t only sell naturally-raised meats – he sells industrially-produced stuff as well. But he’s on a campaign to persuade the chefs who insist that’s what they want to change their minds, and I know he’d like to supply only the right stuff.) I’ve changed nothing except misspellings.


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Sesame Noodles with Spinach and Salmon

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By Freya Bellin

Normally the idea of sesame noodles conjures images of a dense, nutty sauce. Here, a lighter approach is taken, with toasted sesame seeds offering a subtle nuttiness, alongside hearty whole wheat or soba noodles. Tender, wilted spinach soaks up the garlicky soy sauce, and seared salmon is a lovely accent; you can’t beat crispy salmon skin. However, it is truly just an accent. If you’re looking for a little more heft, you may want some additional protein, be it fish or tofu. Either way, the dish comes together quite quickly, and tastes great at room temperature. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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