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real life test kitchen: watermelon, feta and charred pepper salad

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The moment I laid my eyes on the July issue of Food & Wine I couldn’t stop thinking about the salad on its cover. I didn’t even know exactly what it was, but I could see some of favorite ingredients — watermelon, feta, black olives — and knew I needed to make it. The occasion was our neighborhood block party, which is usually overflowing with hotdogs, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese and all kinds of yummy but not very light foods. A friend of mine who works at the magazine forwarded me the recipe. I immediately saw that their version called for a few ingredients I would NOT find at our local supermarket, (Gochugaru? Shishito peppers?), so I set about to adapt it slightly. The secret to this salad is a surprising mix of sweet and peppery. I’m happy to say my resulting bowl was a big hit and the leftovers (when mixed with more fresh greens) were just as good the next day. Here’s my take on a watermelon salad with feta and charred peppers.

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Charred Peppers


What You Need:

2 cups of seedless watermelon, cubed into 1-inch pieces
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2 tbls sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup + 2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
8 hot chili peppers
1/2 cup of pitted kalamata olives, halved
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1 cup lightly packed watercress leaves, stems removed
2 tbls minced cilantro

How To Make:
1. In a large glass or ceramic baking dish, gently toss the watermelon, cucumbers, red onion, vinegar, crushed red paper and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Spread in an even layer and season with salt and pepper.
2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until hot. Add the whole chili peppers and cook over high heat, tossing, until charred in spots and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly, then add to salad bowl.
3. Before serving, add olives, feta, watercress, and cilantro. Toss and serve.

From our partners

real life test kitchen: simple baked beans

The weekends that immediately follow Memorial Day are the most social in our little surbatopia hood. Saturdays and Sundays are booked way in advance with backyard BBQs, toddler birthday parties, block parties and yard sales. Many occasions call for a dish to be contributed. One of my go tos: good old, slow cooked baked beans. Guess what will be soaking in our sink tonight? Below, a favorite recipe.

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Few things accompany BBQ as nicely as a side of baked beans, but until recently, I had never attempted to make them myself. Then I spotted this recipe in the June issue of Real Simple and thought I’d give it a go.

The first, most crucial step, is to plan ahead and soak your beans overnight. The recipe calls for navy beans, but I used northern beans (very similar). Then, on the stove, you cook some bacon (secret yum ingredient, that you can skip for vegetarians easily), and an onion. Add beans, molasses, ketchup and dry mustard + 5 cups of water. Stick the pan (use a dutch oven) in the oven and bake at 300F for about three hours. Obviously, this is not a dish to make during a heat wave! The Real Simple recipe called to stir in a splash of cider vinegar before serving. Honestly, I forgot to do that and didn’t miss it all. Next time, I’ll try to remember!

The results were creamy, tangy and just sweet enough (though the beans were not quite as soft and mushy as some may like them). We had plenty to share with our neighbors. Beans, beans, the magical fruit! — Angela M.

From our partners

real life test kitchen: spicy bean stew with winter greens

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My Sunday routine usually consists of cooking a big pot of something we can enjoy that night, and use its leftovers for lunch most of the week. It has to be something yummy, that reheats easily. And, considering the freezing temps we’ve been facing nearly every day this past month, it better be something warming. This Bon Appetit recipe for Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens stew totally does the trick. The two things that make this baby taste really delicious: anchovies (my newly discovered secret ingredient) and Parmesan rind. I found the BA version a bit heavy on the greens, and on the second time I a made this opted to leave out the arugula completely. I didn’t miss it one bit.

Here’s my take on Spicy White Bean Stew with Winter Greens

WHAT YOU NEED:
¼ cup olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 sprig rosemary
1 or 2 pieces of Parmesan rind (about three inches big) plus shaved Parmesan for serving
1 pound dried white cannellini beans soaked overnight, drained
1 bunch of kale, ibs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, trimmed, coarsely chopped

HOW TO MAKE
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook anchovies, chiles, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until garlic is soft and anchovies are dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add onion, celery, and rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Add Parmesan rind, beans, and 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed, until beans are beginning to fall apart, 2.5 to 3 hours.
3. By now you should be able to crush the beans with a wooden spoon to give the stew a creamy consistency. Mix in kale, spinach, and half of arugula; season with salt and pepper. Cook until greens are wilted, 5–8 minutes.
4. Serve with additional Parmesan for sprinkling.

From our partners

real life test kitchen: old fashioned lasagna bolognese

Here’s something worthwhile to do during the next snowmageddon: make lasagna bolognese from scratch. It will occupy hours of your time, make your house smell wonderful, and please your family more than a cup of hot chocolate.

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I had been wanting to try Bon Appetit’s October cover story for some time, and actually decided that this was the perfect dish to serve at the Christmas pot luck we attended. I followed their instructions faithfully, but decided NOT to make my own noodles. Perhaps another year.  The results were outstanding, and tasted even better as leftovers the next day.

First, make the Bolognese sauce — which honestly is wonderful enough on its own to serve over pasta for a week.
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What you need:
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 pound ground pork
4 oz. pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk
1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided

How to Make:
1. Pulse onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until finely chopped.
2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add beef, pork, pancetta, and vegetables; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until moisture is almost completely evaporated and meat is well browned, 25–30 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
3. Add wine to pot and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until moisture is almost completely evaporated, 8–10 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes and 2 cups broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, adding water by ½-cupfuls if sauce looks dry, until flavors meld and sauce thickens, 2½–3 hours.
5. Let sauce cool, then cover and chill at least 12 hours or up to 2 days.

Second, make the bechamel sauce — a good technique any home chef needs to know.
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What You Need:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, warmed
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Kosher salt

How To Make:
1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.
2. Whisk in warm milk, ½-cupful at a time. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until the consistency of cream, 8–10 minutes; add nutmeg and season with salt.
3. Remove from heat, transfer to a medium bowl, and press plastic wrap directly onto surface; let cool slightly.

Third – Assemble the lasagna!

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1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 13×9” baking dish with butter.
2 Cook your noodles — don’t use the no-boil kind. Be sure to make them al dente. When finished, lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Try not to overlap them, or they will stick together.
3. Reheat the sauces if needed. Combine Bolognese sauce and remaining 1 cup broth in a large saucepan over medium heat, and heat until sauce is warmed through.
4. Meanwhile, if you made the béchamel ahead of time, heat in a medium saucepan over low heat just until warmed through (don’t let it boil).
5. Spread 1/4 cup béchamel in the prepared baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles, spread over a scant 3/4 cup Bolognese sauce, then 1/2 cup béchamel, and top with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
6. Repeat process 5 to 7 more times, starting with noodles and ending with Parmesan.
7. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake lasagna until bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 50–60 minutes.
8. Let lasagna sit 45 minutes before serving.

More Shelterrific lasagna recipes can be found here!

From our partners

thanksgiving roundup 2013! our favorite posts on the best meal of the year

Did you look the calendar today? Thanksgiving is next week! If you’re schedule is like ours this baby is creeping up on you fast. Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving posts from years past that may be of use this holiday season.

Above, the most yummy Brussels sprouts, ever.

More Thansgsiving help from Shelterrific:

What we learned hosting Thanksgiving last year.

How do you cook your bird?

How do you take your cranberry sauce?


Leftover ideas: sweet potato pancakes

What to do with leftover pumpkin

Brendon’s pecan pie

Leftover love


Prize-winning pumpkin pie

Domino’s One Hour Thanksgiving

Bourbon sweet potato Bundt cake

Cider glazed sunchokes and carrots

Chilewich’s lovely chargers

Super smart apron

From our partners