Here in New England, we love, love, love clam chowder. White, red, or clear -- where you come from probably determines your loyalty to one version or another. So what's a girl who was born in Manhattan (the home of red chowder), lived for decades in Boston (white chowder), and now spends most of her time in Rhode Island (clear chowder) to do? Well, if that girl were me (and she is!), she'd create her own chowder, the quick and easy kind. I'm partial to white chowders, made with the addition of milk or cream. And though I live near the water and can get fresh clams at my local fish market, I know many of you cannot, so I've used canned clams (our local favorites, from Iggy's, the clams we used in Rhode Island Recipes), and bottled clam juice in this recipe. Chowder is a summer tradition at clam shacks throughout Rhode Island, but it's a year-round comfort food that's easy to make in your own kitchen.
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When we wrote Rhode Island Recipes: Creative, healthy cooking with iconic local foods, Jennifer of Savor the Thyme and I didn't fully appreciate one of the perks: the opportunity to meet all of the food producers in the book, and to learn about new products, sometimes before they hit the market. Kenyon's Grist Mill isn't new -- they've been grinding grains on their Rhode Island site since 1696 -- but their red corn meal is new to me. I adapted a recipe from the Kenyon's site for this Mexican red corn bread. It's a rustic pan bread, lumpy and bumpy with chopped green chile peppers and whole corn kernels (I used frozen, fire-roasted corn). If you like your corn bread on the sweet side, add an additional tablespoon of sugar, as the original recipe suggests. You can substitute yellow, blue or white finely ground corn meal, or purchase Kenyon's red corn meal online or at their mill shop here in Rhode Island.
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Some dishes will never win a beauty contest. These slow cooker Sloppy Joe beef quesadillas may not take the swimsuit competition, but oh, they are good. And, like real Sloppy Joes, they're sufficiently messy to eat. You can cook the meat ahead of time, in your slow cooker, and freeze it in portions to fill quesadillas, tacos or burritos, whenever you want them. Add something green -- chopped avocado, lettuce, cilantro leaves -- or serve them with nothing more than melted cheese, and a bit of salsa on top. Summer should be just that easy.
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In the house where I grew up, there were no nachos. In fact, I can't remember ever having nachos until I went off to college, where my favorite near-campus bar served ooey-gooey-drippy-cheesy nachos with beer and free movies a couple of nights a week. I've eaten my share of nachos since those college days, but I don't make them at home, for the same reason I don't bake brownies every day: much too tempting. However, I've been experimenting a lot with coffee syrup while working on the Rhode Island Recipes cookbook, and when I made this slow cooker sweet coffee flank steak, I couldn't help turning it into these unusual nachos. The meat is so flavorful that you really don't need a lot of toppings, but who am I to stop you if you want to add some guacamole or sour cream?
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