cherry tomato cobbler with gruyere biscuits

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I couldn’t figure out what wine to serve with this. On the one hand, it’s just vegetables. On the other, the gruyere and biscuits would make it pretty rich. A medium-bodied red would have been perfect, but all I had was chianti, which seemed too Italian. A rich white would have worked too, but I didn’t have one. In the end, I went with zinfandel, slightly worried that the wine would be too rich for the food.

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It wasn’t. It wasn’t just the gruyere with enough flavor to stand up to the deep wine, it was the tomatoes themselves. They might just be vegetables (fruit, whatever), but after roasting in the oven for half an hour with shallots and thyme, they were sweet and tart and jammy all at once.

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The original recipe calls for leaving the grape or cherry tomatoes whole before baking, but I dislike the saggy pouches of scalding mush that whole tomatoes become once cooked. By cutting them in half, the juice can mix with the other flavors, as well as reduce into a rich, flavorful sauce. It had so much flavor, in fact, that sips of rich wine and bites of earthy spinach was absolutely required between bites. It was a perfect combination.

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Cherry Tomato Cobbler with Gruyere Biscuits (adapted from Martha Stewart via Pink Parsley)

6-8 servings

I used a mix of all-purpose white flour and of whole wheat pastry flour in the biscuits.  I only made a third of the recipe.

For the filling:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 shallots, diced
salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
3 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

For the biscuit topping:
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (2¼ ounces), plus 1 tablespoon, for sprinkling
1½ cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray.

2. For the filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook just until the shallots begin to brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, 1½ teaspoons salt, pepper, and flour. Remove from the heat; set aside.

3. For the topping: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the food processor. Add the butter and pulse until it is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the cheese; pulse to combine. Pour in the buttermilk; pulse just until the dough is evenly moistened but still looks crumbly.

4. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and pat into a ball. Knead the dough a few times. Use a large spoon to arrange mounds of dough about ¼-cup in size over the tomatoes. Brush the biscuits with buttermilk and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon grated cheese.

5. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake until the biscuits are browned on top and the filling is bubbling, 35-45 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

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goat cheese almond strawberry cheesecake

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Sometimes you just nail it. I remember years ago, when I was barely starting to get into making rustic breads, I baked the best baguettes I’d ever made. I don’t remember what meal I cooked to serve with the bread, but I distinctly remember having leftovers of the main dish while we filled up on bread. Later, despite my best efforts, I was never able to reproduce that bread.

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Let’s hope this cheesecake doesn’t go the way of that bread, because I nailed it again and I definitely want it to be just as good next time. It might sound like an odd idea – how could goat cheese in cheesecake be even better than cream cheese? Honestly, I don’t know; I was trying to use up a big package of goat cheese.

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But, it was better. It was the best cheesecake I’ve ever made. Everyone who ate it raved; some said it was the best thing I’ve baked. Most said they wouldn’t have been able to taste the goat cheese if they hadn’t known it was there, and I agree; it was subtle, just a bit of extra tartness. The almond flavor wasn’t noticeable and even the strawberry was on the subtle side, but I’ll tell you this – there is not one thing I’d change about this, because it was perfection. And it had better be just as good, just as soft and creamy, next time I make it.

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Goat Cheese Almond Strawberry Cheesecake (adapted from Love and Olive Oil)

Crust:
8 ounces vanilla wafers, ground to make 2 cups crumbs
1 ounce (¼ cup) almond meal
pinch salt
5 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
3 eggs, room temperature
6 ounces whole fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed and drained if frozen, pureed

1. For the crust: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a springform pan with nonstick spray. Either grind the cookies with a food processor or place them in a ziptop bag and crush with a rolling pin. Add the almond meal, salt, and butter to the crumbs and stir until evenly mixed. Press the crumbs into an even layer covering the bottom of the prepared pan.

2. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool on a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

3. For the cheesecake: With a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese and goat cheese at medium-low speed until smooth. Add the sugar and salt; continue mixing for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the sour cream and flour, then vanilla and almond extracts, and the eggs one a time, mixing just until each one is incorporated.

4. Pour ¾ of the batter into the cooled crust. Mix the strawberry puree into the remaining batter. Dollop it over the plain batter in the crust and use a butter knife to gently swirl it.

5. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until the top is just barely jiggly. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack; run a thin knife or spatula around the edge to release the cake from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before serving.

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brisket and brie tacos

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My stubbornness knows no bounds or logic, as was evident in the cooking of this brisket. First, I refused to buy Dr. Pepper to use as a braising liquid. Dave and I don’t drink soda, and I’m not really into the whole high fructose corn syrup thing, so I didn’t want to buy a bottle only to use a fraction of it. Beer and honey would provide all the acidity and sweetness the brisket needed.

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I’m also not all that into the crockpot. I like it for certain things, particularly broth, but if I’m home anyway, usually I like the firmer texture and added browning of braising meats in the oven. This has always worked great for pot roast and stews, but I’m not sure it was the best method for much leaner brisket, which can more easily dry out.

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Not that I have any complaints though. Topping the tacos with brie certainly solves any potential problems the low fat content of the meat might have introduced. With a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, stretchy Monterey jack cheese, and slices of creamy avocado, these tacos had plenty going on, despite or because of my stubborn changes.

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One year ago: Pizza with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Roasted Tomatoes
Two years ago: Strawberry Daiquiri Ice Cream
Three years ago: Chicken Fajitas
Four years ago: Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Five years ago: Blueberry Poppy Seed Brunch Cake

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Brie and Brisket Tacos (adapted from Rebecca Rather’s Pastry Queen via Confections of a Foodie Bride)

Serves 4, with leftover brisket

No one seems to brown brisket. I don’t know why that is, but I browned mine.

Brisket:
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 (3-pound) brisket
salt
ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 (12-ounce) medium-dark beer
2 tablespoons honey

Raspberry chipotle barbecue sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
½ cup ketchup
1 chipotle chile in adobe sauce, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Toppings:
12 corn tortillas, warmed
4 ounces brie, thinly sliced
1 cup (4 ounces) Monterey jack cheese

1. For the brisket: Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat the oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the meat dry, season it generously with salt, pepper, and the chili powder. Transfer the brisket to the Dutch oven and cook, without moving, for about 3 minutes, until deeply browned. Flip and brown the second side. Transfer the meat to a plate. Discard any fat in the pan (but leave the cooked-on brown bits).

2. Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour the beer into the pot, scraping up the sticky brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Stir in the honey, then add the meat. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the Dutch oven and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 3 hours, turning every hour or so.

3. For the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until it runs like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until it just starts to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ketchup, chile, lemon juice, raspberries, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Puree, either with an immersion blender in the saucepan or by transferring the sauce to a blender.

4. When the brisket is tender, either slice it or shred it, leaving behind large chunks of fat. Layer brisket, sauce, brie, and Monterey jack cheese in the tortillas (plus Hatch green chile and avocado if you can’t imagine tacos with them). Serve immediately.

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pasta with broccoli, chickpeas, and garlic

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Have I told you that we’re moving? In just a few days, in fact. It isn’t a big move as far as distance, as our new house is just a 15-minute drive away from our old one, but it is big as far as life steps. Having spent the majority of our twenties in graduate school, we watched our friends buy houses while we were still solidly in apartment mode. We’ve rented a nice little house for the last three years since we moved to New Mexico, but now, finally, we’re acting like grown-ups and buying our own place.

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The process hasn’t been without its hiccups. Who knew that ordering lighting fixtures would be so complicated? I keep telling myself that, when we’re settled and I have bright and colorful pendants hanging over the breakfast bar, it’ll be worth it, but for now, I just wish we could find lights that aren’t actually purple when the website says they’re cobalt, or lights with cords that are long enough, or lights that work with the slopes of our vaulted ceilings. Not to mention the hours of packing, visits to the bank, trips to Lowe’s, and oh yeah, we’re going on vacation a week after closing.

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When we’re not eating leftovers from the freezer, we’ve been eating a lot of quick meals like this one. Even better, I’ve gotten in the habit of buying those bags of pre-cut broccoli, which shaves another ten minutes off of prep time. At that point, it’s just an issue of boiling pasta while pan-roasting broccoli, pressing garlic into the pan with a pinch of red pepper flakes, and mixing everything together with a whole lot of lemon juice and parmesan to up the flavor ante. Dinner is served in no time at all, which means I can get back to procrastinating on packing by shopping for light fixtures.

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One year ago: Star Wars Cookies
Two years ago: Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Three years ago: Roll-out Sugar Cookies (comparison of 3 recipes)
Four years ago: Roasted Kale
Five years ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Pasta with Broccoli, Chickpeas, and Garlic (adapted from Gourmet via epicurious)

Serves 6

Pasta dishes like this tend to cool quickly after being transferred to serving dishes, so I like to warm the empty bowls in an oven heated to about 200 degrees.

16 ounces whole wheat pasta
salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 (12-ounce) bags fresh chopped broccoli (or 3 heads of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
12 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
juice from 1 lemon
1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated parmesan, plus more for garnish

1. Bring 4 quarts water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook according to package instructions. Before draining the cooked pasta, put about 1 cup pasta cooking water in a separate bowl and set aside. Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the broccoli and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and browned in spots, 4-5 minutes. Add ¼ cup water; cover the pan for 1 minute to cook the broccoli through. Remove the lid and push the broccoli to the edges of the pan. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes to the center of the pan. Cook, stirring constantly and excluding the broccoli as much as possible, for about 1 minute, then add the chickpeas and stir the mixture into the broccoli. Add the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Transfer the broccoli to the pot with the pasta, stirring to incorporate. Add about half of the reserved pasta cooking water and 1 cup of cheese, stirring until the cheese melts evenly over the pasta. Taste and adjust for seasoning with more salt, lemon juice, or parmesan. Add more pasta cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Serve immediately in warmed bowls.

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manchego cheese and garlic hot dogs

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Maybe I shouldn’t play favorites between four fun and delicious hot dog recipes, but this one had roasted garlic, so…it’s my favorite.

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One thing I found through making four types of hot dogs in four days was that most hot dogs benefit from being topped with something vinegary to cut through the fat of the meat. Mustard and pickle relish are the traditional choices. In this recipe, it’s sherry vinegar, mixed into a relish of roasted garlic and roasted red peppers.

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Roasted garlic is always sweet and creamy and delicious, and a hot dog was just as good as a vehicle for serving it as my other favorite – plain rustic bread. It’s no wonder this ended up my favorite of the hot dogs from our Hot Dog Week. The roasted garlic made it a shoo-in.

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One year ago: Pasta with Salmon in Pesto Cream Sauce
Two years ago: Chocolate Frosting (comparison of 3 recipes)
Three years ago: Bacon-Wrapped Goat Cheese and Almond-Stuffed Dates
Four years ago: Honey Yogurt Dip
Five years ago: Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

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Manchego Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs (adapted from Bon Appétit via Annie’s Eats)

Makes 6 hot dogs

Relish:
2 large heads of garlic, top ½-inch cut off
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup diced drained roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Coarse kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Hot dogs:
6 grilled hot dog buns
6 grilled all-beef hot dogs
2 ounces Manchego cheese, grated

1. For the relish: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place each head of garlic, cut side up, in the center of a square of foil; drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of oil; enclose the garlic in the foil. Place the packets on the oven rack; roast until the garlic is tender, about 45 minutes. Open the packets; cool 15 minutes.

2. Squeeze the garlic cloves into a small bowl; mash. Mix in 3 teaspoons oil, the red peppers, and parsley. Season with salt, pepper, and sherry vinegar.

3. For the hot dogs: Arrange the buns on plates. Top each with a grilled hot dog, then cheese and garlic relish. Serve immediately.

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argentinian hot dogs

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Dave and I had an impromptu get-together last fall, the same day I made cupcakes for a wedding. I already had these hot dogs planned for dinner that night, and without time to plan and shop for anything new, I had to accept that hot dogs would be the first thing I would ever cook for some of these friends. But at least they were fancy hot dogs.

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They were one topping less fancy than when Dave and I made these recently during what was basically Hot Dog Week, because I simply ran out of time and energy to make chimichurri. But homemade buns, all-beef dogs, chorizo, pickled onions, Hatch green chile, and queso fresco were plenty of toppings. These were declared the fanciest hot dogs anyone had eaten. The chorizo stole the show, as it usually does.

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But it’s too bad I didn’t get to the chimichurri the first time I made these, because it really does add a nice green element to the sandwich, which balances all the fat in the meats and cheese. Chorizo on its own makes one heck of a great hot dog topper, and I know one of our guests that day won’t make hot dogs at home without it now, but I love my hot dogs with something intensely vinegary, and this is even better because it has two different ways of drawing that flavor in, the onions and the chimichurri.  The only disadvantage is that this is so much stuff to fit into a hot dog bun that you’re bound to lose some of it on the plate, but serving hot dogs with a fork to scoop up extra goodies is a small price to pay.

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One year ago: Marinated Roasted Tofu
Two years ago: Pasta e Fagioli
Three years ago: Oatmeal Pancakes
Four years ago: Crispy Bagel Sushi Roll
Five years ago: Olive Oil Bread

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Argentinian Hot Dogs (from San Jose Mercury News via Oishii)

Makes 8 sandwiches

For the pickled onions:
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
¼ cup white wine or champagne vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar

For the chimichurri:
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch parsley leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
⅛ teaspoon salt

To assemble:
8 grilled beef hot dogs
8 buns
8 ounces ground chorizo, cooked
8 ounces queso fresco , crumbled

1. For the onions: In a small bowl, combine the onion, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.

2. For the chimichurri: Add the garlic to a food processor; process until minced. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; add the parsley and process until chopped. Add the remaining ingredients; process to combine.

3. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the hot dogs until they are browned and heated through, about 5 minutes. Toast the buns on both sides. Transfer the buns and hot dogs to plates. Fill each bun with a hot dog, chorizo, queso fresco, pickled onions, and chimichurri. Serve immediately.

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rosemary gruyere and sea salt crisps

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Pretty much every year, I get it into my head that I want to make a big Thanksgiving-style turkey dinner. Geography doesn’t allow me to host the holiday for either my family or my in-laws, so I usually end up doing it on a random weekend in December. This time I had to wait until January. (My “insane amount of time spent in the kitchen” project for December was the Star Wars cookies, and there wasn’t time for another big project.)

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I had some friends over, and they brought the stuffing, but the rest was up to me. I spent almost one full day of a 3-day weekend preparing as much as I could ahead of time and the greater part of the next day cooking, then entertaining. It was glorious.

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I served these, along with glazed pecans and butternut squash phyllo cigars, as a snack before dinner (insurance against dinner being late – which, miracle of miracles, it wasn’t!). They’re a great recipe for a big meal like this, because almost all of the work can be done in advance – far in advance – and you still get to serve perfectly fresh crackers. I mixed, rolled, cut, docked, and froze the dough the weekend beforehand. The day of my dinner, all that was left to do was transfer the crackers to a baking sheet, spritz with water, and top with salt.  And beyond their convenience, their eminent snackability make these little grown-up Cheez-Its perfect for before a feast.

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One year ago: Chickpea and Rosemary Soup
Two years ago: Curry Coconut Chickpea Soup
Three years ago: Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Four years ago: Crispy Baked Chicken Strips
Five years ago: Caramel Flan

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Rosemary Gruyere and Sea Salt Crisps (from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)

6 ounces (1½ cups) shredded Gruyere cheese
4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup (3.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary (from about 1 sprig)
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, processing continuously until the mixture resembles coarse, craggy crumbs, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large sheet of plastic wrap, gather it together into a ball, and flatten it into a thick square. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 15-20 minutes.

2. On a floured work surface, roll the dough to about ⅛-inch thickness. Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Dock each cracker with a skewer, then brush with water and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer the crackers to a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

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bolognese hot dogs

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Having my picture taken with the RockerDogz hot dog truck guy in San Antonio might be one of the dorkiest things I’ve done in my life. I did walk over two miles (in ballet flats – ouch!) to his truck, which already pretty well establishes that I’m an oddball. But when I was looking into where we should eat on our weekend in San Antonio last fall, this hot dog cart got more positive – raving really – reviews than any real restaurant. I was determined to eat there.

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Once I had, I was then determined to steal all of his ideas to copy at home. Probably the best of the hot dogs we had from there were the Thai Kick Boxers, with a cabbage slaw, pickled Serrano peppers, cucumbers, and artfully applied sriracha. The dog topped with carne guisada was a delicious mess, and I was expecting the same from the Bolognese-topped sandwich, but not a drip was dropped.

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And that one, at least, was easy to mimic at home. At least it would be if you had leftover Bolognese sauce lying around. I didn’t, but I did have pot roast pappardelle, so I finely shredded some beef into the sauce and then simmered the mixture until it was thick (and resembled something regurgitated, but let’s bypass that aspect of it).

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The pot roast sauce was, as I said before, a little lighter in flavor than a red wine-braised roast or regular Bolognese would be, and the sweet all-beef sausage almost overpowered it. It was still really good though, and not nearly as messy as you might think; just like in San Antonio, we managed to eat our sandwiches without napkins or drips, so using a thick Bolognese (or whatever meaty Italian sauce you happen to have around) really makes a difference. It was just as delicious as the one we had in San Antonio, but this time, acquiring a tasty and creative hot dog didn’t give me any blisters.

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One year ago: Lentil Salad with Squash and Goat Cheese
Two years ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Three years ago: Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars
Four years ago: Caramel-Topped Flan
Five years ago: Country Crust Bread

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Bolognese Hot Dogs

Makes 8 sandwiches

8 all-beef hot dogs
8 hot dog buns, split
4 cups Bolognese sauce, warm
½ cup (1 ounce) grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the hot dogs until they are browned and heated through, about 5 minutes. Toast the buns on both sides. Transfer the buns and hot dogs to plates. Fill each bun with a hot dog, then divide the bolognese sauce evenly between the sandwiches.  Top with parmesan and parsley; serve immediately.

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muffuletta hot dogs

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When Dave and I were brainstorming how to maximize our glorious four days at home between traveling for Christmas and going back to work, the only idea we came up with that we actually stuck with was hot dogs for lunch every day. It was actually Dave’s idea, but I’m the one who made it awesome.

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If he was expecting four days of ketchup and mustard, he doesn’t know me very well. I couldn’t resist making four different types of hot dogs, requiring the purchase of approximately one million different ingredients that would we would use only a fraction of. Practical!

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Muffaletta from Central Grocery in New Orleans was the first time I saw Dave enjoy something with olives. And I’m not surprised, because those sandwiches were amazing. I had a feeling the briny topping would work well on fatty hot dogs, and I was right.  The provolone, slightly stinky, acts as a bridge.  You don’t need me to tell you how much I miss fancy hot dogs for lunch everyday now that we’re back at work, do you?

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One year ago: Grapefruit Margaritas
Two years ago: Beef Short Ribs Braised in Tomato Sauce
Three years ago: Apple Muffins
Four years ago: Chopped Salad
Five years ago: Banana Cream Pie

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Muffuletta Hot Dogs (adapted from Bon Appétit, epicurious, and allrecipes)

Makes 8 sandwiches

If you don’t have and don’t want to buy cocktail onions, just thinly slice some red onions and put them in red wine vinegar for 15 minutes or so.

1 cup pepperoncini
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup green olives, pitted
¼ cup cocktail onions
2 cloves garlic, toasted
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 large basil leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 all-beef hot dogs
8 hot dog buns, split
16 slices provolone cheese

1. Pulse the pepperoncini, black and green olives, onions, garlic, capers, oregano, basil, and olive oil in a food processor until minced.

2. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Place the hot dogs on the grill. Place the buns, flat side up, on the grill; cover with 2 cheese slices. Grill until the cheese melts and the hot dogs are heated through, covering barbecue to allow cheese to melt, 5 minutes for hot dogs and 3 minutes for buns. Transfer the buns and hot dogs to plates. Serve with the olive mixture.

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vegetable lasagna

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After spending the better part of a week visiting my parents and celebrating Christmas, Christmas Eve, my dad’s birthday, and a rare opportunity to eat sushi and get takeout from my favorite pizza joint and carne adovada breakfast burritos from my favorite burrito place (twice!), I thought maybe some vegetables were in order when we got home. On the other hand, we were still on break from work and I got a new lasagna pan for Christmas. Vegetable lasagna was clearly the answer, even if it isn’t necessarily healthy.

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I was feeling pretty good when I bought three big eggplants, three zucchini, three yellow squash (not the most seasonal recipe, but let’s face it, the quality of zucchini is pretty constant year-round even if it is a summer vegetable), and two bags of baby spinach. It seemed like an awful lot of vegetables for one pan of lasagna, but I figured they’d cook down a bunch. Besides, this is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, so they must know what they’re doing.

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Maybe they do, but my grocery store apparently doesn’t know what they’re doing when it comes to calibrating their scales in the produce department. Three eggplants resulted in quite an intimidating pile of ½-inch cubes, especially for someone who doesn’t generally love the vegetable. It didn’t lose much volume during its trip to the microwave, and the pan was so crowded when I sautéed the eggplant with the squashes that the vegetables mushed instead of browned.

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Once it became clear that I had far more vegetables than necessary, I adapted my cooking method and ended up with a big bowl of properly cooked vegetables in addition to a big bowl of mushy vegetables, plenty for two generous layers in my lasagna. The browned squash and wilted spinach were a great match for the bright tomato sauce and cheesey white sauce. But…

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That eggplant. It was just a bit rubbery and chewy. It tasted okay, but the texture was disappointing enough that I dreaded the eggplant bites, and with as much of the stuff as this lasagna contains, every bite is an eggplant bite.

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It seems like there’s a simple solution though – mushrooms. Mushrooms would go just as well with the other ingredients in this lasagna, and it’s such an easy fix that there’s no reason not to share this lasagna that has so much else going for it. And even if the eggplant was disappointing, at least I ate some vegetables and used my new pan.

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One year ago: Rice Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing
Two years ago: Pasta Puttanesca
Three years ago: Asian-Style Chicken Noodle Soup
Four years ago: Pasta with Broccoli, Sausage, and Roasted Peppers
Five years ago: Pad Thai

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Vegetable Lasagna (from Cook’s Illustrated)

I bought three of each of the eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash, but two of each would be plenty. And if you decide to substitute mushrooms for the eggplant, like I will in the future, skip the microwaving step and just sauté them separately from the squashes until they soften, release their water, dry out, and brown.

No-Cook Tomato Sauce:
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

No-Cook Cream Sauce:
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup whole-milk cottage cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Vegetable Filling:
1½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 pound yellow squash, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
12 ounces baby spinach (about 12 cups)
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
12 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.

2. FOR THE CREAM SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl; set aside.

3. FOR THE FILLING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Line surface of large plate with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over filters. Wipe out and reserve now-empty bowl. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly. Return eggplant to bowl and toss with zucchini and squash.

4. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and thyme in small bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half eggplant mixture, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of skillet; add half of garlic mixture to clearing and cook, mashing with spatula, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to combine garlic mixture with vegetables and transfer to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, and remaining garlic mixture.

5. Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining teaspoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to paper towel–lined plate and drain 2 minutes. Stir into eggplant mixture.

6. TO ASSEMBLE: Spray 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of baking dish; shingle 4 noodles on top of sauce. Spread half of vegetable mixture over noodles, half of cream sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining cream sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella. Place remaining 4 noodles on top layer of cheese. Spread remaining 1 cup tomato sauce over noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Lightly spray large sheet of aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray and cover lasagna. Bake until bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 25 minutes. Cut into pieces, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

vegetable lasagna 9