Spaghetti and Meatballs

The secret to forming meatballs is to keep your hands wet, which prevents the meat from sticking to your fingers. These meatballs, along with provolone cheese and your favorite sandwich trimmings, can also be stuffed inside a baguette or a sub.

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Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil

At Italian restaurants they call this pasta aglio e olio, but no matter the name, it’s a quick and easy dish, great for a late-night supper when there’s really nothing in the pantry. If you’re lucky enough to have a loaf of bread or the ingredients for a Caesar salad, you have yourself a fine meal.

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Portobello Mushroom Pizza

This isn’t really side dish but rather a light summer supper or a lunch. My daughter, Lauren, loves these; she often takes them to school and reheats them in the microwave. These “pizzas” can be endlessly varied by adding cooked vegetables, pepperoni, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, or basically whatever you’d like on a pizza. Serve with a tossed salad.

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Roasted Potatoes

This classic steakhouse side is a healthy alternative to French fries and a great breakfast accompaniment (without the garlic if you choose). You can substitute 1½ to 2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams for the new potatoes, or better yet, cook half each.

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Mashed Potatoes

Nothing says comfort food like mashed potatoes. Serve them with meatloaf or anything else. Form leftovers into patties and cook them like a burger, or mix them with shredded cheese and bake in a casserole for an easy version of scalloped potatoes.

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Maple Cookies

I decided to make molasses cookies one night after putting the kids to bed, but I was out of molasses. So I decided to substitute maple syrup. These cookies turned out to be just what I was looking for: crisp on the edges and chewy in the center.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

I spent literally years and hundreds of dollars coming up with what I think is the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Perfect for me, I should say. I was looking for something that was like the cookie dough I used to slice and bake as a kid and something that was like the kind of cookie that my grandmother’s cook, Delia, made. So good, in fact, it made no difference if you left the chocolate chips out. To me, these are the ideal cookie: crunchy, not too sweet, lots of nuts. If you’re looking for soft and chewy, keep looking.

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Spicy Scallops with Cashews

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients – most of them can be found in your pantry. The Asian ingredients can be found in a well-stocked supermarket or specialty foods store. If you have to buy them just for this dish, they keep indefinitely and you’ll find lots of ways to use them in everyday cooking. The versatile sauce can be used with shrimp and a finishing or basting sauce for grilled scallops, shrimp, or chicken. It can be prepared right before you cook or hours ahead, which makes it a sure bet when you don’t have a lot of time.

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Tuna Au Poivre

Cynthia Stuart, one of my oldest and dearest friends, gave me this recipe. It’s pure Cynthia: low in calories and fat, deceptively easy to make, pretty to look at, and high in flavor and jammed with black pepper. It’s also great made with salmon.

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Bouillabaisse with Rouille

Most recipes for bouillabaisse call for fish broth to be made as their first part of the recipe. If you are the type to make fish broth, you probably have a recipe for it; if not, no recipe I could include would induce you to make it. You can go to a good fish market or specialty store and purchase ready-made fish broth or substitute a mixture of two cups bottled clam juice and two cups water.

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Pan-Steamed Spinach

When dishes are served on a bed of spinach, they are called Florentine because when Catherine de Medici left her home in Florence in the 1500s to marry the king of France, she brought along her own cooks to prepare spinach, her favorite vegetable. Lacking a wealth of recipe ideas and needing some versatility, they often served the spinach underneath whatever they were making. Nevertheless, this is a great way to serve spinach.

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Grilled Salmon Steaks with Citrus and Lime

I got this recipe from my friend Nancy Olin, who got it from her stepfather, Bob Raives, who cut it out of a newspaper, but he no longer remembers which one. It’s gone through enough changes to avoid a lawsuit, but if you’re the author, my congratulations on an amazing dish and my apologies for not acknowledging you.

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Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce

I first made this Joy of Cooking-inspired recipe when I was in high school and, after trying many versions, I still feel that there is none better. Later, when I was in college and came home from vacations, I used to make this for my brother Peter, who was then a tall, skinny teenager with a frighteningly voracious appetite. Not one to wait for anything, he rarely allowed it to chill and instead, promptly devoured the whole thing. I wanted him to wait for it to be just right, but even so, I was flattered at his inability to do so.

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Grilled Marinated Flank Steak with Soy, Sherry, and Dijon

I was a vegetarian for 15 years until one cool, breezy summer night that followed a very hot, very sticky summer day. I visited a friend who was grilling flank steak on his Cambridge deck. The smell of just about anything grilled is seductive, but the aroma of the steak knocked me right off my feet. I’ve been eating meat ever since, and although I don’t often cook it, it’s one of my favorite things to eat at restaurants. I cook it at home on special occasions, always cooking more than I need, because I love to eat it cold the next day, sprinkled with lots kosher salt and black pepper.

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Jake and Earl’s Six-Layer Bars with Chocolate, Pecans, and Coconut

Chris Schlesinger, chief owner of East Coast Grill, and Cary Wheaton, co-owner of Full Moon, two of my favorite Boston restaurants, used to own Boston’s best barbecue joint, Jake and Earl’s Dixie BBQ. Jake and Earl’s, which is now closed, served these amazing Six Layer Bars, but, for some reason, neither East Coast Grill nor Full Moon continue to carry them. So, if you’re dying for one, you’ve got to make it yourself. Here it is, layer for layer.

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Glazed Baby Back Ribs

My friend Nancy Olin wanted to make this dish for Memorial Day dinner but was going to be out of town until 1 p.m. on the day of the dinner. So she prepared it on the Friday before, froze it, defrosted it when she got back into town and grilled it. I was one of the guests and if she hadn’t told me, I’d never have guessed. The glaze can be used on pork cops, country-style ribs, and chicken.

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Dain’s Grandmother’s Carrot Cake

When I was in college I had a friend named Dain Fritz, who used his truck to help me move a piece of heavy furniture. Since I knew he loved carrot cake, I made him one as a way of saying thanks. Although he was gracious and appreciative, when the cake had been completely consumed, he told me that the best carrot cake he had ever had was his grandmother’s. So when it came time for his birthday, I called his mother, who called her mother, who sent me the following recipe. I have never had a better carrot cake.

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Saffron Risotto with Pan-Broiled Fennel Shrimp

“When you are making a risotto, you should be in perfect harmony with yourself. You shouldn’t be nervous or angry. It’s a ritual that is going to give you so much pleasure later that it’s worth spending 15 or 20 minutes over a hot stove stirring very slowly… It’s the dish of romance. If you rush it, it’s never good. (Pino Luongo, A Tuscan in the Kitchen, Potter, 1988)

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Chocolate Bread Pudding Drizzled with Heavy Cream

I never tasted bread pudding until I made this one, which tastes like a very rich, very decadent brownie. Even if you don’t usually serve heavy cream, don’t omit it here: the pudding is at its best with something that contrasts with the chocolate intensity. You could also serve vanilla or cinnamon ice cream or whipped cream instead of the heavy cream.

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Orzo and Broccoli Rabe

If you haven’t tried broccoli rabe (also known as Italian broccoli or broccoli di rape), this is a good introduction. The bitterness (which I love) overwhelms some people, but is somewhat lessened by the taste of the creamy orzo I can’t convince my husband to eat even this mild rendition, so I often eat it as an entrée when he goes out of town. It is especially good with shaved Parmesan cheese.

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Garlic Roasted Chicken with Pan-Roasted Vegetables

You need a huge roasting pan, probably the one you only pull out at Thanksgiving. I like to serve this right out of the pan.

Serves 6.

2 whole roaster chickens about 5-6 pounds each, giblets and neck removed
¼ cup olive oil
12 shallots, peeled (or 3 Spanish onions, quartered)
6-8 carrots, peeled, if desired, and cut into chunks
2 Idaho potatoes, unpeeled and cut into chunks
3 ripe pears or apples (any kind will do), peeled, if desired, and diced
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1½ teaspoons dried sage
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1.Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Rinse the chickens in several changes of cold water and pat dry.

3. Place the oil, shallots, carrots, potatoes, pears or apples, and butternut squash in a large mixing bowl and toss well.

4. Place the sage and salt in a small mixing bowl and mix to combine. Rub half into the chicken flesh, skin, and cavity and sprinkle the other half on the vegetables.

5. Place the chicken on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan and surround it with the vegetables. Transfer to the oven and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees or the juices run clear from the breast and the leg moves easily, about 1 hour (about 10 minutes per pound). Serve immediately.

Note: If you want to use bone-in skin-on chicken breasts instead of whole chickens, place the chicken and vegetables together in the roasting pan and cook for 45 minutes instead of an hour.

From The $50 Dinner Party: 26 Dinner Parties That Won’t Break Your Bank, Your Back, or Your Schedule (Simon & Schuster, 1998)

Roasted Garlic Bread

I am not a fan of buttering bread, but for this I make an eager exception. In fact I guarantee that people will eat so much, you might want to serve two long baguettes. You must use a really high quality unsalted butter (never salted) and either leave it out to warm to room temperature or whip it in a frenzy in a mixer (but be careful not to overwhip it to heavy cream).
After eating this butter on bread, I was sure that it would be equally delicious on spaghetti, but I was absolutely wrong. The subtle flavor got quite lost.

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Classic Lasagna

Although I didn’t eat lasagna until I was in my twenties and only made it for the first time when I was in my thirties, it represents comfort to me. While a bad lasagna can be heavy; a good one is enriching, warm, substantial and yet light.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Strawberries and rhubarb are the most sublime combination. Here they are served unadulterated. If you must, add vanilla or ginger ice cream.
In Latin, rhubarb means “the root of the barbarians,” meaning anything foreign or unknown. What it doesn’t say is that the leaves are toxic, so be sure to use only the stalk. Most cookbooks recommend that you pull off the strings as you do for celery, but I find that using a vegetable peeler works even better.

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Oven-Baked Corn

If you’ve only had steamed or boiled corn on the cob, you’re in for a real treat. Roasting, which is my favorite method, yields a corn that is drier yet both sweeter and crunchier than steaming. I had never really eaten it until my husband, Mark, surprised me by making dinner. I rarely eat it any other way now.

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