The small market in my village surprises me on a regular basis, despite the fact that I shop there two or three times every week. On the day I found both a locally made habañero salsa and a spice mix used in the sauce for Rhode Island's famous New York System weiners, I knew I had to pair the two in a recipe. At first I'd planned to fold the salsa into the meatball mixture, but it buried the taste of the spices, so the salsa became the dipping sauce, and the weiner spices really shine in these meatballs. If you don't live in Rhode Island, you can make your own weiner spice mix. The key ingredient, celery salt, gives these meatballs a distinctly Ocean State flavor. The meatballs make a great appetizer, or you can toss them with pasta or serve on a pizza, as we did in our Rhode Island Recipes cookbook. Make a double batch and stash some in the freezer.
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Do you remember American chop suey, a dish whose name has absolutely nothing to do with its contents? In the part of the country where I grew up, the mac-and-meat-sauce casserole found its way into every school cafeteria and church supper. It even followed me to sleepaway camp, thanks to a cook who got his kicks whipping up noodle dishes for 200. Here's a Rhode Island spin on the classic, featuring a spice mix that usually stars in the sauce that tops our state's famous hot weiners. If you live near me, look for the blue box of Harry's New York System Original Weiner Sauce (the dry spice blend) in your grocery store. If you don't, the recipe below makes enough for this dish and more, or substitute your favorite chili powder mixed with a bit of celery salt.
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To get to the trains in Boston's Back Bay Station, you navigate between two of those famous Northeast donut shops and a vendor selling Jamaican meat patties from his cart. On most days I can resist the temptation of lattes and chocolate glazed doughnuts, but the aroma of curry wafting from that cart pulls me in. The last time I walked through the station, I promised I would make Jamaican meat patties for you. Though I prefer mine with extra-lean ground beef, you can substitute freely with ground chicken or turkey, pork or even goat, which is a Caribbean favorite. The filling comes together quickly from ingredients you already have in your pantry, and to make it even easier, use store-bought discos (empanada dough), another pantry staple, for the wrapping. If you have time, make a double or triple batch. Freeze them after they're baked, and reheat in a warm oven whenever you're ready to serve. These tasty little hand pies make a great take-to-work lunch, and a popular party appetizer.
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It's school vacation week, and you've got your hands full. Why not toss a few ingredients into the slow cooker, and let dinner cook all day while you're making snow angels or going to see The Hobbit with the kids? This Italian pot roast tastes great on the day you make it, served with boiled potatoes or egg noodles, and even better the next day. The balsamic vinegar and olives lend their perky tang, and sun-dried tomatoes deepen the sauce, turning a humble chuck roast into a divine stew. Dinner doesn't get much easier, or more comforting, than this.
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When I found a couple of bottles of O'Doul's nonalcoholic beer in the far recesses of my refrigerator, along with a partial bag of chopped kale, I searched the pantry and freezer for other ingredients that would bring those two together. This year I've made a real effort to cook with more dark leafy greens, especially kale, and though I didn't love it in January, I can say honestly that I love kale now. For my husband Ted, a true believer when it comes to any variation of beef stew, I decided to put that "near beer" to good use in this braised beef with kale. The slow cooker makes it easy; let the beef cook all day while you're out finishing your holiday shopping, and half an hour before you serve, stir in the kale so it retains some texture without turning to mush. Like all stews, it's even better the second day, and it freezes well, too.
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