Roasted Pepper and Artichoke Antipasto

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Summer is finally here and I am all about it, y’all. Gimme all the greens, gimme all the corn, gimme all the tomatoes, gimme all the peppers. This simple vegetable antipasto is like summer on a platter. Best of all, you can make it ahead of time and let the flavors marinate. Now go outside and get some sun.

Roasted pepper and artichoke antipasto

Ingredients:

4 red bell peppers
3 yellow or orange bell peppers
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
a few drops of hot pepper sauce (optional)
4 canned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 garlic clove, sliced
salt and pepper
1 handful basil leaves, plus more to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Lightly oil a foil-lined baking sheet and place the whole peppers on the foil. Bake for about 45 minutes, until beginning to char. Remove from the oven, place in a heatproof bowl and cover lightly with plastic wrap for 5 minutes.

2. Slice the sun-dried tomatoes. Remove the core and seeds from the peppers and peel away the skins. Slice each pepper into thick strips.

3. Whisk the vinegar, oil, and hot pepper sauce, then season with salt and pepper.

4. Toss the peppers with the sliced artichokes, tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Pour the dressing over and sprinkle a few more basil leaves on top.

Fried Eggplant with Spiced Cashews and Yogurt

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This recipe doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does, and brilliantly at that. Part Chinese, part Middle Eastern, buttery eggplant comes together with a kick of five-spice, vinegar, and yogurt. It’s a bit of work, but totally worth the super unique result. I cribbed the original recipe from Bon Appetit and adapted it to taste.

Fried eggplant with spiced cashews and yogurt

Ingredients:

2 pounds Japanese eggplant (about 3)
salt
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups rice flour
1 cup full-fat Middle Eastern or Greek yogurt
Chopped green onions, for serving

1. Slice eggplant crosswise into 3-inch thick pieces. Cut pieces lengthwise into quarters. Toss eggplant in a large colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit at room temperature 2 hours.

2. Pulse cashews in a food processor until you have some bigger bits and some finely ground sandy bits. Toss in a small bowl with cayenne, five-spice powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

3. Evenly scatter sugar into a small saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a heatproof rubber spatula to help it melt evenly, until melted and light amber. While stirring, gradually add vinegar; the caramel will sputter, but keep stirring until it smooths back out. Let cool to thicken.

4. Pour in oil to come 1 inch up sides of a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high.

5. While oil is heating, drain eggplants and pat dry. Dredge in rice flour in a large bowl, shaking off excess.

6 .Working in batches, fry eggplants, turning occasionally and adjusting heat as needed to maintain temperature, until cooked through and lightly golden, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

7. Spread some yogurt on a serving platter and place eggplants over the top. Drizzle with black vinegar caramel, spiced cashews, and green onions.

Flowering Chives with Turkey and Black Beans

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I was missing Taiwan and the cornucopia of food I ate during my trip last year, so I made this spin on what’s colloquially known as “fly’s head,” but is really more like Chinese chives with minced pork and salted black beans. Except my version uses ground turkey instead of pork (I stay halalifying Chinese recipes on the regular).

Try to seek out the flowering chives jiu cai here, as opposed to the flat, leafy ones. These stalks are light and crisp and will make all the difference in the final dish, which is perfect alongside a simple bowl of steamed rice.

Flowering chives with turkey and black beans

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
3/4 cup mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 pounds flowering chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons dried fermented black beans, rinsed and drained

1. Heat oil in a wok over high. Add turkey and stir-fry while breaking up the pieces, until almost cooked through but with some remaining pink spots, about 3 minutes. Add mirin and soy sauce and simmer, continuing to press down on the turkey to break into small pieces, until liquid is reduced by half and meat looks slightly glazed, about 8 minutes. Add flowering chives, garlic, chiles, sesame oil, and black beans. Cook, tossing, until chives are just tender and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Serve over rice.

Sri Lankan Caramel Pudding

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A nation’s cuisine is in many ways a reflection of its history. Take Sri Lanka, for example. Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, Indian, Indonesian, Dutch, and Portuguese influence factor into everything from street food to curries to desserts, a reminder of trade routes, colonization, and migration.

One of the sweeter examples is caramel pudding, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Portuguese flan. I include a tiny bit of ground cardamom in my version, but you can omit it. Either way, it’s a perfect cooling treat at the end of a Sri Lankan meal.

Sri Lankan Caramel Pudding

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cans water
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Heat sugar with 1 tablespoon water in a 2 quart stainless steel mold or saucepan until the color of amber. Swirl the melted sugar to coat base and sides, being careful to not let the caramel burn.

2. In a bowl, mix condensed milk, water, eggs, vanilla, and cardamom.

3. Pour mixture into the prepared mold or saucepan, cover with aluminum foil, and steam in a double boiler for 30 minutes until set. (The water should not boil under it but simmer.)

4. Remove from heat, remove foil, and allow to cool.

5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours before serving. Serve chilled.

Rose Sangria with Berry Ice

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Rose season is upon us, friends. Rose all day, rose-yay, etcetera, etcetera. I’ve got to be honest, though. I like summer’s official beverage as much as the next person, but I don’t like all rose. A lot of it is too sweet for my taste, too white wine-y, too, well, too rose-all-day-ish, if you know what I mean.

But not this rose. This rose is (a) in sangria form, which is always a good thing, (b) includes rum and Campari, and (c) has too-pretty-to-eat-except-they’re-melting ice cubes that impart a subtly berry flavor to the whole thing.

So yeah. Rose season is upon us. Bring it on, I say.

Rose sangria

Ingredients:

1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries
Two (750-ml) bottles rosé
1 cup light rum
3/4 cup simple syrup
1/2 cup Campari
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1. Layer the berries in two ice cube trays. Gradually add just enough distilled water to cover. Freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight, until solid.

2. In a pitcher, stir the wine with the rum, simple syrup, Campari and lemon juice. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

3. Serve sangria in individual glasses with two or three berry ice cubes each.