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A few weeks ago David Lebovitz, the Paris based American born pastry chef and cookbook author, wrote a post about pork rillettes. I’m never sure how I feel about rillettes. They are essentially shredded meat of some kind, often pork or duck, slowly cooked in their own fat and pressed into a dish or ramekin to be enjoyed on a crispy baguette. I’ve encountered them countless times on my travels through France, brought home a zillion tins from the local market and I want to like them. I really do. But something about them doesn’t quite do it for me.

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Summer food is summer food for a reason. The ingredients tend to be things that are in season, many for only a short time like tomatoes and corn. The dishes typically come together quickly with a consideration given to not heating up the kitchen, utilizing techniques like grilling or a quick stovetop sauté and avoidance of the oven altogether. Full disclosure: I break this rule all the time and just sweat it out. I make what I want to make, weather be damned. Last weekend toward the end of a horrible heat wave, I was craving something cool and light and I was seriously considering sitting in a bucket of ice during every meal. Friends were coming over for Sunday Lunch and I decided to channel my inner French woman and make the ultimate summer meal I’ve enjoyed immensely during my travels – a Grand Aioli.

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Not long ago, on a hot sunny Chicago day, some friends and I were drinking Michelada’s – the beer, tomato juice, hot sauce concoctions that are perfect day drinks. They’re refreshing, tart and tangy and are what they refer to in the business as “session-able” – you can drink several without becoming a sloppy mess. All around, it was a perfect day.

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I’ve never been much of a soda drinker. The six Diet Cokes a day? Not me. Once in a while, I’ll make an exception. For example, there’s always whiskey in my Coke and I have a real soft spot for Squirt, that deliciously sweet grapefruit soda that is my go-to when I’m not feeling well. I also occasionally enjoy a spicy ginger ale and a cold cream soda. Man, I do love a cream soda.

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I love a good cold Asian noodle dish – peanut noodles, sesame noodles, cold soba noodle salad. They are perfect as the weather heats up; cool, refreshing, filling and easy to make without heating up the kitchen. But I’ve never quite gotten the recipe right on my own. The flavor is always slightly off, the mixture sticky and gloppy. I made them but I never really enjoyed them. About this time last year, I posted a Vietnamese steak and peanut noodle salad that I loved, thought I had finally nailed it. But then I tasted these noodles and realized this version is better. Dang it.

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Back in the days right out of college when I was scraping to get by, I survived on soup. It was easy to make, inexpensive and could be varied countless different ways. Meatless chilis, various vegetable concoctions and chicken-less chicken noodle were my standards. Soups were filling and they reheated beautifully in small office microwaves but more importantly, one could really stretch their dollar far with a pot or two. When you were saving any bit of extra cash to buy a few rounds of beer Friday night, this was important.

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I keep a strange schedule that follows no patterns. Such is the life of a freelance recipe developer – it’s a drought or a tsunami – and right now I’m drowning. Given that I’m cooking all day, when it comes time to actually make something for myself, I usually punt. Classic case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes, I tend to default to delivery, take out or nibbles here and there of leftover scraps from whatever I’ve made that afternoon. Sometimes it works out well, other times not so much. Case in point: my dinner the other night was a bowl of partially mashed edamame. That’s not even a thing. I spend a lot of time staring at the contents of my fridge and while I may shut the door and dial the number for Chinese delivery instead, I do get a lot of ideas this way. That’s how this post came together.

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