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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Just in time for holiday weekend entertaining, here's an easy roasted eggplant spread (or dip, or side dish, or sandwich stuffer or pasta topper) with garlic, red bell pepper and onions, that takes less than ten minutes of work time and can be made in advance. It's vegan, gluten-free, and finger-lickin' good. Who could ask for anything more? The pairing of eggplant and red pepper might remind you of caponata; the addition of cumin echoes the flavor of baba ghanoush. Two Facebook friends suggested using this spread in lasagne or in a wrap -- both great ideas that show off the versatility of the recipe. I've gone with fresh parsley here, because it's always available in my local market, but later in the summer, when I have abundant herbs in the garden, I'll substitute with basil or mint, or some of each.
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Three times I attempted this black bean recipe, as I tried to recreate a dish I enjoyed years ago in a local Puerto Rican restaurant. Three times I loaded my slow cooker with dried beans, not presoaked, just rinsed and picked over. First, I tried cooking them without any seasoning, thinking I'd add the flavorings at the end so they wouldn't keep the beans from softening. (Not enough water; the beans turned into a solid blob before I realized it.) The second time, I added sufficient liquid, but in an act of defiance, the perfectly cooked beans refused to absorb the sofrito, tomato or spices. (Blech.) The third time, success: dry beans, correct amount of water, sofrito and tomato and spices added right at the beginning, everything coming together with no more intervention on my part than a stir somewhere between hours five and six. In a pinch, you can substitute store-bought sofrito (I like Goya red sofrito, though it contains a tiny amount of MSG), but it takes just a minute to make your own from scratch.
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No doubt about it -- I'm a stem gal. Always have been, always will be. Yes, broccoli florets are sexier, but I've always been partial to the stems. Peel them and slice them, or julienne with your mandoline. Or, let someone else do the work while you buy ready-to-cook broccoli slaw from the supermarket. That's what I do, and as a result, I'm eating a lot more fiber-filled, Vitamin D-rich, detoxifying broccoli these days. This version of broccoli slaw salad, with honey-mustard yogurt dressing and the tartness of lime, makes a perfect side dish for grilled beef, chicken or fish.
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