Last year when I visited Austin, my husband Ted and I stumbled into Tears of Joy, the hottest little hot sauce shop in Texas. If there's a fiery sauce or spice made anywhere in Texas, or beyond, this store in the heart of the East Sixth Street music district is sure to have it. I shipped home a carton of dry spices and hot sauces, and my eyes have been crying tears of joy ever since. Named for the Texas state mascot, the Armadillo Rub, a deeply flavorful and not-too-too-spicy blend based on smoky ancho chile powder, inspired this slow cooker brisket recipe. Slow cooking tenderizes the meat, and the ancho gives it a bit of the flavor of a traditional smoked brisket. I like to serve it with corn and black bean salad with sweet lime dressing, for a real taste of the Southwest.
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Here in Rhode Island, the calendar says Spring, but the thermometer says Not Yet. I drive around looking for places where green might be peeking through, but until a few days ago, lingering patches of ice suppressed most of the crocuses, daffodils and fiddlehead ferns. The rainy, raw weather of early April puts me in the mood for soups like this traditional beef barley. I'm having a lot of fun learning how to use my first-ever electric pressure cooker, which is my new preferred method for making this soup, though I've included directions for making it on the stove. In the pressure cooker, the small chunks of beef and barley cook to perfect tenderness in just ten minutes at high pressure. Thick and chewy beef barley soup, a standard in New York delicatessens, has been a favorite of mine since childhood. This version is better than any you'll find in a deli. I promise.
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Growing up not in the St. Patrick's Day tradition, but in the corned-beef-on-rye-at-the-deli tradition, I'm a huge fan of corned beef. Fortunately, right after St. Patrick's Day, corned beef goes on sale in my local supermarket, and I snag a few pieces of low-sodium flat-cut corned beef to stash in the freezer. (Low sodium is the key, so be sure to look for that on the label.) Usually I cook it in the slow cooker, or even on the stove top, but this year I put my new electric pressure cooker to the test. I don't want to brag, but, honestly, this was the best corned beef I've ever made, and it was by far the easiest. No fussing required, ready in under two hours, perfectly tender, not salty, great for sandwiches the next day. All around perfect, with a kick from horseradish in the mustard sauce. Skip the traditional New England boiled dinner of corned beef and soggy vegetables: serve your corned beef with a platter of oven-roasted carrots, cabbage and potatoes, or this roasted cabbage, apple and pecan salad.
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A package of thin-sliced beef in the refrigerator put me in the mood for negimaki, one of my favorite Japanese restaurant appetizers. I had every intention of wrapping the beef around scallions to make the traditional negimaki roll, but I only had a couple of skinny scallions on hand. As luck would have it, I found a couple of thin asparagus, too. I trimmed the vegetables to the same length, and tossed them into a casserole dish to marinate with the beef for an hour. However, when the time came to roll everything together, impatience won out. My panini press grilled the meat and vegetables flat in just two minutes; the broiler or a stove-top grill pan would work just as well. This dish has all of negimaki's salty-sweet teriyaki flavor, in a more casual presentation. I served it for lunch with a bowl of steamed rice.
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