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Espinacas is a traditional tapas dish found in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia consisting of tender stewed chickpeas, delicate wilted spinach, and bold North African-influenced spices.

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There’s no reason why a vegetable lasagna made with the classic trio of eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash should be any less satisfying than a meat-based casserole, especially when the produce is in season and locally grown.

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Centuries ago, focaccia began as a by-product: When bakers needed to gauge the heat of the wood-fired oven — focaccia stems from focolare and means “fireplace” — they would tear off a swatch of dough, flatten it, drizzle it with olive oil, and pop it into the hearth to bake as an edible oven thermometer.

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At the end of an interminable confab with my family at Christmas dinner, taking into account my children’s admittedly provincial preferences along with the varied aversions and phobias of our invited guests, I huffed in exasperation, “Maybe we should just send out for Chinese!” My daughter yay-ed spontaneously, and Chinese takeout it was.

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Black bean chili should be primarily about the beans — they should be creamy, tender, and well-seasoned. We wanted a hearty bean chili that was as rich, savory, and deeply satisfying as any meat chili out there, yet simple to make in our multicooker.

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This classic New Orleans specialty is built on a roux — a cooked mixture of fat and flour that must be stirred constantly, sometimes for an hour or more, until it is deep brown.

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It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t love a bowl of spaghetti topped with meatballs and marinara, but stovetop versions are often messy (between the spattering oil from frying the meatballs and the sputtering tomato sauce), and the sauce requires a long simmering time to develop rich, deep flavor.

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Shrimp scampi is rarely awful — t’s unusual for things to go terribly wrong when garlic, wine and butter are involved — but restaurant versions always make me wish I’d ordered differently. I have never been presented with the ultimate scampi, the one that I can almost taste when I peruse the menu: perfectly cooked, briny beauties in a garlicky, buttery (but not greasy) white wine sauce.

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Good gingerbread is dark and moist, with an intriguing hint of bitterness and a peppery finish. Usually it’s a rustic square cake or maybe even an attractive Bundt, but it’s never quite sophisticated enough to serve as the centerpiece holiday dessert.

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Although it’s hard to imagine that apple crisp needs much improvement, we liked the tartness and texture that cranberries added to one of our favorite standard dessert recipes. The challenges were balancing the fruit flavors and making sure that the filling baked evenly while the topping stayed crisp.

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Most of the time, I end up putting my energy into the main course. You, too, right? The side dishes then have a tiered level of time and effort afforded to each of them, often ending with something exciting like “rice.”

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This bistro classic is as refined as it is rich. We kept the filling onion-forward by cooking the strands in rendered bacon fat and stirring them into a light custard. Use yellow or white onions here; sweet onions will make the tart too sweet. Use a 9-inch tinned-steel tart pan.

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These scones are a flaky, honey-glazed brunch delight, brimming with juicy, sweet berries in a buttery, rich crumb. We achieved a perfectly crumbly texture by incorporating butter in two ways, processing some with flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt for even distribution, then pulsing more into pea-size pieces to achieve rich buttery pockets.

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With the arrival of fall, my produce thoughts start moving from things that grow above the ground to things that grow under it. Yes, my fellow seasonal cooks, root vegetable season is heading our way.

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With a tangy, rich flavor and velvety consistency, cheesecake’s characteristic qualities make it well-suited to variation: Lemon cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake, and berry cheesecake are all common. But our favorite variation might just be pumpkin cheesecake.

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We start our cheese bread with all-purpose flour and add whole milk and sour cream for a clean, creamy flavor and rich, moist texture. Just a few tablespoons of butter adds enough richness without greasiness, and using less fat makes the texture heartier and less cakelike.