one for the weekend: spanish spiced nuts

I finally found a delicious use for my box of Spanish smoked sweet paprika (Pimentón de la Vera dulce). I bought it when I purchased Spanish smoked hot paprika for this irresistible roasted chicken recipe, thinking that Spanish smoked paprikas were all the rage and I’d use it up lickety-split. I was right about the hot paprika, which is nearly gone, but the sweet stuff just sat in my spice collection in DC, unused and unloved. Then it sat untouched in Boston. Now that it’s in its third home, I am determined to use it before it loses its potency.

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what we keep on cooking

As of September 6th, we’ve been blogging here together for two years. They’ve been a huge two years in our personal lives (engagements, marriage, moves, career changes), and it’s been great to have this creative and grounding outlet to return to. We’ve both tried out new techniques, mastered new recipes, and found new inspiration. While this shared project has been a great excuse to push ourselves to cook new things, there are of course those recipes we come back to again and again. We thought we’d share some favorite regulars in our kitchen routines, along with a few things the men in our lives wish we cooked more often. We’d love to hear what you cook most often, too!

jessica + laura at jessica's bridal shower in march 2014.

jessica + laura at jessica’s bridal shower in march 2014.

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one for the weekend: peaches soaked in wine

I had a nice cooking challenge earlier this week: make a dairy free dessert. Molly was coming over for dinner to talk wedding flowers (!), and mentioned in passing that she was trying to cut down on dairy these days. Since I had coincidentally already picked out a dairy free dinner to make, I decided to stick with the trend and hunt up something sweet without dairy to end the meal. I searched through my cookbooks, realized butter is in dang near everything, and then found my answer in Ina Garten’s beautiful Barefoot in Paris (especially perfect, since I visited Molly in Paris during her semester abroad): peaches in Sauternes. With just four ingredients and a little soaking time I had an elegant dessert highlighting fresh summer peaches, with nary a dairy in sight. It was cool, colorful, full of fancy feeling flavor, and simple as could be. Ina always knows.

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sweet corn polenta

There is no shortage of corn here in central Illinois. Fields of it run along the highways and border the strip malls, car dealerships, and housing developments (including ours). My guess is that the biggest fields are growing Big Ag corn, but there are a few farmers around Springfield who harvest their crop for hungry locals. In fact, a dusty farmer straight from central casting sold me a dozen ears of his “peaches and cream” corn last week. He told me it was the sweetest corn I’d ever eat. He wasn’t lying. The kernels were so juicy and sugary that I knew they’d be perfect for sweet corn “polenta,” a puree that’s made of superstar fresh corn.

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one for the weekend: melon and cucumber caprese salad

The last long weekend of summer is here, just in time for this sweet and juicy variation on a caprese salad. Melon, cucumbers, and a tangle of arugula have replaced the tomatoes, but the classic version’s fresh mozzarella and basil are still key to this salad’s success. The flavors are subtle and refreshing, a perfect complement to summer’s salty grilled meats.

melon and cucumber caprese salad

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red bean curry, with a side of nostalgia

This August marks the 15th anniversary of the year that I moved to New York and started college. That may seem like a semi random milestone, but working at my alma mater and getting to speak to the new first students during their orientation every year keeps me close to that eager / nervous / hopeful / standing at the start of something huge feeling. So yesterday I looked out across an auditorium of 600+ bright young things and really felt all 15 of those years. I thought about what a different world these students live in compared to the one I inhabited at 18. I thought about how far I’ve come since then, all of the complicated ways I felt about starting school, and what that first year was like (impossible, joyful, transformative). And, because I of course always come back to food, I thought about how many kidney beans I ate that year.

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one for the weekend: salted toffee chocolate squares

There are times when one has to throw things like kale and quinoa and caution to the wind, and just have a serious indulgence. These little treats are for exactly those times. A mix of chocolate, nuts, candy bars, salt, sugar, and butter (so much butter) baked until everything melts together on a graham cracker base, these salted toffee chocolate squares are a dessert that doesn’t look like much, but will knock your socks off. I remember bringing some in for my students once and watching one gal surreptitiously open the tupperware they were hiding in before our meeting started. She took a big whiff, her eyes got wide, and she turned to me and said, “Jessica! WHAT ARE THESE?” and then made the next couple of folks who came into the office smell them, too.

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