If there had been any red wine in the house, a bottle of cheap wine or even fancy dinner party wine, I'd have made my grandmother's brisket, the tried-and-true recipe my mother and her mother used to make with the sweet Manischewitz wine that was, at the time, the only kosher wine you could buy. And that would have been a shame, because without wine, I turned to my pantry for inspiration, and what I found were all of the ingredients for this Southwestern beef brisket that's a little bit sweet, and a little bit smoky, and a little tiny bit hot and spicy. Slice it or shred it, as you can see in the photos. Make this on Friday, serve it on game day, or freeze for your next Tex-Mex party.
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A sentence I never imagined I'd utter: I'm a fool for shredded meat. I'm a bigger fool for shredded meat made in the slow cooker, which does all of the work of breaking down the connective tissue so I just come along at the very end of cooking, and have at it with a couple of forks. Nothing could be easier. Over the past few months, I've been slow cooking and shredding lots of chicken, rolling and stuffing it into sandwiches, tortillas and pitas. One of my favorite variations, these tomatillo chicken and black bean tacos, starts with store-bought tomatillo salsa. Fresh tomatillos are hard to find in my small Rhode Island town; neither the markets nor farmstands have them, so good quality, all-natural salsa is a great option, and it's something I always have in the pantry.
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Necessity -- or is it forgetfulness? or humidity? -- being the mother of invention, this cucumber ribbon salad owes its spectacular ranch-style buttermilk herb dressing to a great pantry, and to my strong desire not to drive five miles to the grocery store for a quart of buttermilk on an unbearably hazy-hot-humid day. Powdered buttermilk, a baking pantry staple that will keep perfectly happy in the refrigerator for months, contributes the characteristic tangy ranch flavor, with a boost from Greek yogurt and a small amount of mayonnaise. I like the combination of dill, parsley and chives from my garden for a vibrant herby punch. The overall result? Delicate, much more so than traditional ranch dressing. I'm planning to use the leftover dressing on grilled salmon. The cucumber salad didn't last much longer than the time it took to photograph it. I ate it for breakfast. All of it.
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Perhaps not officially, not according to the calendar, but in every other way, summer has arrived here in Rhode Island. As the heat rises, my patience for spending lots of time on meal prep plummets. A few quick and easy dishes, like this simple cole slaw, go a long way to rounding out summer meals with minimum effort, and by making your own, you can eliminate the sugar that's almost always added to deli counter cole slaw. If your supermarket stocks packaged cole slaw mix, do what I do, and start with that. Of course, you can buy a head of green cabbage and a few carrots, and shred them thinly with a very sharp knife or in the food processor, but come on -- it's summer -- take some help from the store, and spend less time in the kitchen.
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