Cacio e Pepe Panzanella

Lately in all this hot weather, I’ve been craving salads for dinner– anything else feels too heavy– but even salads have to have some heft to them in order to feel satisfying. Enter the panzanella: a salad that’s a good 30-40% homemade crouton, which (let’s face it) is often the very best part.

This salad from Food52 has it all– freshly-toasted croutons tossed in a cheesy, peppery dressing (hence the “cacio e pepe” moniker), sweet corn, tangy tomatoes, and a nice big ball of burrata to bring it all together and make it feel indulgent. I’ve made it twice already and foresee eating this a lot this summer, even if it does involve turning on my oven in this weather!

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Filipino Chicken Adobo

adobo-chicken

When I was growing up, my dad would make a delicious dish that he called “Filipino Chicken,” which was basically a bunch of dark meat chicken pieces cooked up with potatoes in a savory/sour sauce with bay leaves and whole peppercorns. I never did get the recipe from him (I don’t think he ever writes his recipes down, they’re all in his head), but as an adult I came across recipes for “Filipino Chicken Adobo,” which seemed to have a fairly similar flavor profile, and I really enjoyed them.

This particular recipe is an adaptation of one I found somewhere but can no longer locate the source for (my apologies, unknown recipe creator!), and it’s a wonderful, warming dish to serve when the weather turns chilly. Juicy chicken thighs are bathed in a rich, creamy coconut-milk sauce that’s seasoned with soy, garlic, and bay leaves, sharpened with a healthy dose of vinegar, and spiced with plenty of black pepper. It’s a one-pan recipe so it’s easy to make, and while you’ll have a ton of leftover sauce you won’t regret it! Served over steamed rice with some snowpeas or broccoli on the side, it’s a perfect weeknight dinner.

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Black Pepper Butter Cookies

pepper-cookies

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting holiday baking recipes– my favorites are desserts that are rich, gooey, highly decorated, or a combination of all three. However, sometimes you just want a break from the elaborate stuff and just need something deliciously simple… something you can idly nibble on between multiple courses of festive holiday food without overdoing things.

Enter the butter cookie. Basic butter cookies are amazingly versatile, and can be flavored with all sorts of things without losing their elegant simplicity. In this case I decided to go with a kick of black pepper to set them apart from the crowd. I know that black pepper isn’t exactly an original idea for holiday cookies– Swedish pepperakor are well-known– but most recipes combine pepper with other warm spices and flavors, like cinnamon and molasses. Here, the butter and vanilla background really lets the floral notes of the black pepper come through– it’s not immediately apparent, but after a moment the flavor fills your mouth and it’s nicely aromatic. The pepper flavor becomes a touch stronger as you store the cookies, so keep that in mind– I thought these were even better on the third day than when freshly baked!

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Black Pepper Sour Cream Rolls

pepper-rolls.jpg

I was walking down the street around lunch time the other day and passed by a bakery/cafe– suddenly I was hit by the wonderful, buttery, unmistakable aroma of freshly-baked croissants. I had just eaten lunch so was able to resist buying one to devour right then and there, but the memory stayed with me and I was moved instead to bake something to satisfy the craving at dinner that night.

I decided to go with some soft, buttery dinner rolls– there was no time for croissants, but there were enough similarities between the overall flavor profiles (butter, yeast, golden outer crust) to make them a decent substitution. And when I found a recipe that promised to have pillowy rolls ready with zero kneading and minimal rising, I knew I had to try it. The added interest of black pepper just sealed the deal.

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Broccoli Melts

broccoli-melt
I admit it, I’ve done it again– shamelessly lifted a new favorite recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. And I’m not even sorry, because this is such a delicious way to get my vegetables that I’ve been eating it all week. I double the recipe to be sure I have enough to last!

What is this new favorite, you ask? Broccoli melts. Garlicky, spicy, cheesy broccoli, piled on top of toasted bread, generously accented with lemon, and covered in a gooey blanket of bubbly cheese. It makes a hearty breakfast, a fantastic lunch, and (with a glass of white wine) a perfect dinner.

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Buffalo Wing Popcorn

buffalo-popcorn

You guys. Make this. Make it now. Then I’ll have someone else who shares my addiction to it, and I won’t feel weird about crunching it non-stop. What is it? Buffalo wing popcorn. It’s a savory caramel corn, and it’s crunchy, sweet, salty, and spicy all at once– the perfect snack for any occasion.

Bon Appetit has called this “the best recipe we’ve ever made,” and while I’m not sure it’s the best thing I’ve ever made myself, it’s certainly unique and interesting and did I mention addictive? It starts off lightly sweet, then the hot sauce kicks in and the easiest way to assuage the slight burn is to eat more popcorn… which of course starts it all over again, and before you know it you’ve gone through a large handful and are reaching for more!

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Vodka Sauce

vodka-sauce-done

I know it’s traditional to serve vodka sauce with penne, but all I had in the house was farfalle, so I went with that. But the sauce is really the star here, and always will be– spicy, creamy, rich but with bright tomato flavor, it’s a perfect comfort food. Plus, it’s made with pantry staples (the original recipe called for shallots and fresh tomatoes, but I think the modified one is just as tasty) and is quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner!

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Smoky Corn Chowder with Shrimp and Bacon

smoky corn

This recipe isn’t a project, per se, but it’s my favorite soup, hands down, and I thought it worthwhile to share with everyone. It’s a great use for fresh corn, as it preserves the sweetness and the slight crunch of the corn while warming it up with smoky paprika and bacon. The shrimp is just icing on the cake (err… not a particularly appetizing metaphor… let’s go with “gilding the lily”).

The soup is made all in one pot, which makes it an easy weekday meal, and it reheats well (if there’s any left!). If you want to be particularly impressive, go with jumbo shrimp, but it’s just as good with smaller ones. I could eat this every week…

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