Good morning. Tejal Rao took to The New York Times Magazine this week to extol the virtues of long-cooked vegetables, vegetables cooked so deeply that they reveal new and complex flavors and texture, vegetables that are a long, long way from the French-style ones we see so often in restaurant cooking, bright and crisp.
To illustrate her point, she highlights a recipe from Alice Waters for long-cooked broccoli (above), the florets simmered in water with olive oil, garlic and red-pepper flakes for nearly an hour, until they’re so beyond tender that they start to crumble. (Then you dress them with anchovies, lemon juice and Pecorino Romano.) “The broccoli is sweet, so sweet you could eat it just like that, with a fork, or pile it on toast,” Tejal wrote. “If you want something really substantial, stir it into hot pasta with a piece of butter, but do it a little aggressively, roughing up the broccoli so it really falls apart.”
You could cook that tonight, in advance of the weekend’s festivities, honoring the Fourth of July. Or, if the idea of simmering something on your stovetop for an hour is anathema this week in the heat, you could try a quick stir-fry of black pepper beef and cabbage instead, or assemble a cherry tomato Caesar salad.
What else to cook this weekend? A flag cake is traditional, where I sit, to serve after an afternoon meal of burgers and brats. And I’d like to accompany those with this inventive potato salad with tartar sauce and fresh herbs, a layered dish with a briny dressing that completes a beautiful, yet low-effort spread.
Or maybe we head in another direction entirely: I’d like to make these bulgogi cheese steaks, to serve alongside a quick kimchi of smacked cucumbers. I could see myself taking some lamb chops, seasoning them aggressively with salt, smashing them into a ripping-hot oiled skillet to create a rich crust and then adorning the rare meat with this tahini ranch dressing. It’d be great to make shrimp rolls. I’d love to put together a coconut cream pie.
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Now, we’ll get to my nonedible recommendations soon enough. But I want to stop to tell you about my colleague Rich Meislin, who died a week ago at 68. Rich worked at The Times for 40 years, starting as a copy boy and rising through the ranks to become Albany bureau chief, Mexico City bureau chief, graphics editor and editor in chief of New York Times Digital, helping to bring The Times online. He was also the spiritual father of New York Times Cooking, arguing since at least the early 1990s that the company should find a way to digitally organize and share the newspaper’s recipes. If you like what we’re doing here, please raise a glass in his honor. Rich was a pioneer and had the scars to prove it.
It’s nothing to do with sharp Cheddar or burger meat, but I loved this Rebecca Mead story in The New Yorker about Australasian birds in Renaissance paintings, and what they tell us about the lengths of ancient trade routes.