Linguine with White Clam Sauce

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“Mariam, when are you making linguine with white clam sauce again?” – My sister, every month since forever, basically.

Growing up, this was one one of my sister’s favorite dishes that I’d cook, but let’s be honest. It’s one of my favorites too. What’s better than pasta? Pasta enveloped in a garlicy seafood sauce. Sure, the dish has 1990s vibes, but good taste is timeless. This dish is easy and it’s a crowd pleaser. The next time my sister asks, I’m making a huge pot of this — for us both.

Linguine with white clam sauce

1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup bottled clam juice
1 pound linguine
3 pounds small clams, scrubbed well
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute onion, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in wine and clam juice and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

2. Cook pasta in another large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

3. While pasta is cooking, stir clams into sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until clams open wide, 4 to 6 minutes. (Discard any clams that have not opened after 5 minutes.) Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.

4. Add pasta to clams along with parsley and salt to taste, then toss with sauce until combined well.

Manhattans

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I know what you’re thinking. Manhattans? Too easy. But I beg to differ. I’ve had many a sad Manhattan: too bitter, too sweet, too weak. It’s easy to go wrong. I’m taking it back to basics. Artisanal vermouths are all the rage right now, but you know what? I actually prefer Martini brand vermouth in my Manhattans. It’s smooth and it’s balanced. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Manhattans

Ingredients:

1 cup bourbon, preferably Bulleit
2/3 cup red vermouth, preferably Martini Rosso
4 dashes Angostura bitters
4 thin slices orange
4 maraschino cherries

1. Combine bourbon, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass.

2. Divide cocktail among 4 ice-filled rocks glasses. Garnish each drink with an orange slice and cherry.

Caesar salad with Parmesan toasts

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Kale Caesar salad, spinach Caesar salad, Brussels sprouts Caesar salad. You get the picture: Caesar salad is overdone. But despite its infinite variations, I always return to the first Caesar salad I learned to make, well over a decade ago. It’s heavy on the garlic, the anchovies, and the Meyer lemons.

The best part? Little Parmesan cheese toasts to sop up all of the leftover dressing. And if you want to be fancypants, don’t chop up your lettuce. Instead, serve the leaves whole and delicately piled on top of each other. Who’s eating fancy salad? YOU’RE eating fancy salad!

Caesar salad with Parmesan toasts

Ingredients:

1 sourdough baguette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese plus 1/3 cup thinly shaved Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup lemon juice
9 canned anchovy fillets, drained
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried

1. To make Parmesan toasts, cut baguette into diagonal slices 1/4 inch thick. Lightly brush one side of each slice with olive oil, using 2 tablespoons total. Arrange in a single layer in a baking sheet.

2. Bake bread in an oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Sprinkle slices evenly with 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan and paprika. Bake until cheese is melted and bread is golden, 10 minutes longer.

3. In a food processor, whirl 7 tablespoons olive oil, 1/3 cup shredded parmesan, lemon juice, anchovies, garlic, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until smooth.

4. Place lettuce in a large bowl and Parmesan toasts in another. Drizzle 2/3 of the dressing over lettuce and remaining 1/3 over toasts. Mix toasts to coat with dressing; gently lift and mix lettuce to coat.

5. Arrange Parmesan toasts alongside lettuce and add Parmesan shavings, layering if desired.

Korean Soy-Braised Black Beans

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These savory banchan are almost too pretty to eat. These are a popular side dish in Korean meals, ubiquitous among any banchan spread. I learned to make this dish because it was always one of the first banchans I’d polish off at Korean restaurants. I was surprised to learn how easy it is to make. The result is a little sweet, a little savory, a little chewy, and easily addictive to snack on.

Korean soy-braised black beans

Ingredients:

8 ounces (1 1/2 cups dried Korean black beans)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cups water
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup Korean brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1. Cover the beans with cold water in a large bowl or pot and soak overnight.

2. Drain the beans, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Put the beans in a large pot, add the 4 cups water, cover, and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes. If the water becomes foamy and rises, adjust the lid so the pot is only partially covered. Stir occasionally.

3. Add the soy sauce, garlic, rice syrup, and brown sugar to the beans. Turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

4. Uncover and stir the beans. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans appear shiny, sticky, and slightly wrinkly, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let them scorch and add more water if necessary, a little at a time. Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve at room temperature.

Orange Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale

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This is my favorite dal recipe, and I don’t say that lightly. From Iranian adassi to Sri Lankan parippu, I’ve never met a version of dal I didn’t like, but I always come back to this one. Creamy, coconuty, and redolent with warm spices, this dal is what dreams are made of.

Make sure to use actual orange (or red) lentils here — not yellow split peas (chana dal/gheymeh). Toor dal will also work in a pinch. Split peas won’t give that velvety texture that lentils will. The chicken stock isn’t traditional, but it adds a savory layer of depth. This is alchemy in a bowl.

Yellow lentil dal with coconut milk and kale

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
1 green chili pepper (such as Serrano), thinly sliced
1 quart chicken stock or broth
One 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups orange lentils, cleaned
1 bunch kale, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt
Pepper

1. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Add the cumin, fennel and turmeric and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Spoon half of the spiced onion mixture into a small bowl and reserve.

2. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, and lentils to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

3. Spoon the dal into bowls. Top with the reserved onion mixture and serve warm.