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Root Vegetable Soup

DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

When it was cold outside, my granny made vegetable soup from whatever root vegetables were available. She usually sautéed the vegetables and then simmered them for a few minutes in chicken broth with a piece of ham or other cured pork. It was like a light, brothy chicken soup but with root vegetables in place of chicken. This soup re-creates that dish from memory.

Warm Banana Pudding

DIFFICULTY: 3 of 5 (5 being hardest)

My great-grandmother on my mother’s side always hosted Thanksgiving when I was a kid. It was a family reunion with 70 to 100 people at her house in Fayetteville, Georgia. There was always banana pudding. But there was only one big baking dish of it, and it was hidden somewhere in the house. When it was announced that it was time to look for the banana pudding, whoever found it got the first bowlful. This is built from my flavor memory of my great-grandmother’s banana pudding. My mom tells me it’s spot-on.

Glazed Vegetables

DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

My mom made pot roast the same way every time. She put the beef, vegetables, seasonings, and water in a slow cooker, turned it on, and let it go. I never liked it. Now I know why: All of the flavors blended into one and tasted flat. Here, I braise the meat with some vegetables to create a flavorful brown sauce, but I cook different vegetables separately to put on the plate; that way they don’t taste bland.

Tomato Salad with Smoky Melon and Spicy Salami

DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

For die-hard tomato fans like myself, a raw sliced heirloom tomato with a little salt is all you need. This salad has that fresh tomato flavor, along with a few other flavors for contrast. Cantaloupe adds sweetness to help you taste the tomato as a fruit. But a little smoked paprika keeps the melon from tasting too sweet. Salami Calabrese adds the heat.

Pan-Seared Shrimp with Summer Vegetables

DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Here’s a quick take on shrimp that makes a perfect pairing with summer vegetables. Once the ingredients are prepped, the dish cooks in less than 10 minutes. The advantage of quick cooking here is the browning and flavor that take place when protein meets high heat. Don’t be afraid to crank the heat up to full blast.