Author Archives: Kylie Elliott

black pepper tofu and eggplant

I spotted black pepper tofu on Ottolenghi’s* Instagram last week, a fine place to gush over food. The recipe is from Plenty, an excellent cookbook that I happen to have, which means I could make it right away. However, rather than making it and then still feeling a loose obligation to make a vegetable side dish or salad, I decided to add eggplant. From there, everything went south. I don’t have three types of soy sauce. I can get them, theoretically, but I was feeling lazy about it. I was pretty sure five tablespoons of crushed peppercorns and eight thinly sliced red chiles would make my children run screaming from the room; 11 tablespoons of butter was a bit rich for my tastes. But here’s the thing with this and, I think, all recipes. Much ado is made about “internet recipe commenters” and their “I changed eight ingredients and it didn’t work, zero stars”-type presence on websites. I’m often asked how I don’t “lose patience” with these types of comments and here comes an opinion, you just know I had one brewing:

For the love of absolutely nothing holy, because this an internet recipe blog and not the 11th commandment, you are allowed to make every single recipe you come across any way you wish. Modify for the ingredients you have. Modify for the schedule you have or the free time you want. Modify for the nutrients you need. Recipes aren’t bibles; I am no goddess. I don’t find it annoying. I mean, we’re going to have to manage our expectations about the outcomes. Some changes work, some don’t, and we can talk about it, I’ll answer whatever I can as best as I can. But honestly the best thing you can do is to report back in the comments, that is, tell us what you changed and how it went, and help the next person with the question out.

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ultimate zucchini bread

I have a few complaints about zucchini bread and I bet you cannot wait to hear them. I bet you were thinking “I was hoping to hear more complaining today than I usually do.” Or, “Wow, Deb is really going hard on the zucchini content this summer, isn’t she?” It’s all fair — and true. But if you, like me, couldn’t help but notice that a lot of zucchini bread recipes could be better, well, pull up a chair, you’re among friends.

what you'll needanother way to grate ita whole lot of zucchihnipile in the eggs, oil, sugars, vanilla, saltwet batter, one-bowladd the flourfork-mixedready to bake

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zucchini quesadillas

Sure, it’s only been one month since I wrote “I don’t find summer squash naturally loveable. Its flavor is not robust—fairly watery when fresh, slippery when cooked, and even when you do succeed in browning or crisping it, this textural triumph is short-lived.” But I never meant that I avoid it. Just because it may not be the most popular vegetable at the party doesn’t mean that it cannot flourish under the right conditions (salt, pepper, acidity, heat, herbs, and cheese — please). Conveniently, I almost always have these conditions in stock.

any zucchini you got

Lately, my favorite approach has been to cook it with garlic in it olive oil for about 15 minutes, at which point it becomes jammy — fully tender with concentrated flavors and excellent seasoning. Once you have a skillet of this, zucchini is your oyster. Maybe you fold it into an omelet with goat cheese and herbs? Maybe you mix it with big pasta, parmesan, basil leaves, and lemon? But last week, I mixed it with grated Monterey jack cheese and cooked it between two white corn tortillas until they were browned and crisp and it turns out, this might be my favorite use of it yet.

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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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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.

first corn of the season

I get it though, it’s kind of cute (I’d unquestionably wear it as a printed skirt), especially with pink pickled onions, many shakes of Tajin (chile-lime salt), and cilantro on top. The corn salad is loosely modeled on esquites, the Mexican street snack. Typically, corn is cooked in butter with onions, chiles, and epazote (an herb) is served in cups with lime juice, chile powder, mayo, and crumbled cheese and I don’t care what you think, or think you think, of mayo; you will inhale it and then want another cup immediately. You often see these same ingredients slathered on to corn on the cob. But, I was craving more distinct layers of flavor — a cool dressing, warm corn, and then crunchy heat and acidity on top. (Also, I dreaded imagining the condition of my children’s okay my clothes if I made the slatethered-on version, but that’s not exactly a “culinary” decision.)

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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.

thickly coatedscored the fatone hour ina couple hours in

I make a slew of adjustments. Chang’s Bo Ssam calls for a bone-in pork shoulder or butt but I prefer boneless — it’s smaller, cooks faster, and has a more dramatic collapse. Instead of a simple salt and white sugar rub, I channel barbecue flavors, keeping the salt but swapping in brown sugar, paprika (smoked is wonderful here) and cayenne. I enlist a thin marinade known as a mop throughout the process — to initially baste the roast, to flavor the slaw, to dress the final roast as you pull it apart, keeping it moist, and then more at the table. We find it eliminates the need for a standard dark red barbecue sauce, but hey, if you’re nervous you’ll miss it, here is my simplest and a more elaborate recipe. Both sauces keep for what seems like forever in the fridge. (I will never admit how old my jar is.)

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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.

prepping strawberries

Clearly, I’m a fan. But I hadn’t expected on a site with many other cakes with fresh fruit in them for it to so quickly take off, ultimately joining the small club of recipes on SK with more than 1000 comments.* The only thing that’s never right about it, however, is the size. A cake like this is here to make friends, and eight wedges never last. For years, if anyone asked about making it in a 9×13 pan, I gave my default answer: double it! For most cakes, this absolutely works. But at home, it was never quite right. The cake was too thick and 2 pounds of berries never fit on top, meaning you’ll use less, and if you use less, the cake is, in my opinion, way less spectacular. I’m not sure why it took me until this summer to get it right, but I finally realized that I was scaling it wrong. The 1.5x yield of batter and berries creates the strawberry summer sheet cake I’ve always needed and finally have. I haven’t made it the original way since, and I thought you deserved an update that was more than a footnote, too.

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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.

what you'll need + olive oil

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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.

this is the best burrata move
drizzled with oil, flaky salt, left to warm up

Until recently, I pretty much only used this method as a vehicle for tomatoes. But in Where Cooking Begins, the first cookbook from Bon Appétit food director, Carla Lalli Music, I spotted a recipe for sugar snap peas in which half are left raw and the other are grilled and knew it was exactly what I wanted to do to hold me over until perfect tomatoes arrive. It’s such a treat. Sugar snap peas — unlike regular peas, and what makes them so special — require no cooking. When they’re in season, as they are right now, they’re perfectly sweet and crunchy right from the market. But they’re really good lightly charred on a grill, or in a hot skillet, shishito pepper-style. Why choose? This recipe gives us both.

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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 rosés by the glass on the menu, so you’d never get bored. I promise, I’m getting somewhere with this.

barbuto's kale salad barbuto's crispy potatoes always the rosé at barbuto barbuto's chocolate budino

We probably ate six times a year for the last six years and we finished every single meal with the chocolate budino, which is a rich cold custard, the Italian take on chocolate pudding. “Seriously, when are you going to make it for us?” someone DMed me when I showed off my favorite spoonful two weeks ago, the yin-yang of cold dark chocolate custard and unsweetened cream. She had a point. Because I have Jonathan Waxman’s cookbook, it’s particularly rude that I’ve never shared it before. The thing is, the recipe was too fussy. First, there’s the fussiness inherent in decadence: Many egg yolks. A tremendous amount of heavy cream. Lots of good chocolate. Then, there’s the fussiness in the measurements: The recipe calls for 9 ounces of chocolate, 8 bittersweet and 1 ounce of milk chocolate. Nobody asked, but it’s my hunch that when a recipe calls for 9 ounces of butter or chocolate, it’s because it has a European origin, where in metrics, it’s around 250 grams. But why put this in a US cookbook when here we buy things in whole, half, and quarter-pounds? And who wants to buy milk chocolate just to use an ounce of it? Finally, there’s the fussiness of steps: Melt the chocolate. Heat the cream. Whisk the eggs and sugar. Temper in the hot cream. Transfer it to a saucepan. Heat it, strain it. Cool the chocolate and custard separately to an undisclosed temperature and then combine them and cool them further. Sure, it’s delicious. But even I, a Barbuto Chocolate Budino Superfan, haven’t got time for that.

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