Category Archives: Main

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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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.

I guess you could call this my Unpopular Opinions week. It’s okay, though, I still love the Aperol spritz.

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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:

From the first moment I tasted this tart, I knew I’d be serving it again and again. I love the simplicity of the recipe, which allows the fruit to shine. I love the way it looks—a gorgeous burst of vibrant color peeking out of a shaggy top. And I really appreciate that you can use the most insipid supermarket raspberries (they emerge from the heat of the oven with a surprising intensity of flavor).

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potato vareniki

[Welcome to the Sous-Chef Series, a new, sporadic feature on SK in which I invite 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.

peeled and diced yukon gold poatoesadd butter and seasoning and mash

The book is a delight on every page; a bit of history, a substantial amount of wry observations, some hilarious guides (how to navigate a Russian grocery store, the rules of the “drunk fest” known as a pyanka, how to “tetris” your zakuski spread, and I will never stop laughing about the day in the life of sauerkraut, kickbacks and all, in the former Soviet Union) and recipes that will make you want to take the vodka bottle from your freezer (or start keeping it there, have I not taught you anything), have a rowdy group of friends over, and cook, eat, and drink until you make plans for next time. I immediately bought another copy for my mother-in-law and a third for a friend. I could go on and on, but then we’d never get to the wild thing that happened last month.

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