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By Sara Moulton The Associated Press

Meatballs are a hearty dish for a late-winter dinner

After the Mona Lisa, Italy’s most beloved and enduring gift to world culture might be the meatball. But talk to any two Italian cooks about which ingredients actually comprise a meatball and you’re going to get an argument. Fine. I took this contentiousness as a license to concoct a meatball recipe of my own using the best tips from Italian friends and colleagues.

Cheesy Baked Grits a deeply satisfying staple

A kind of carbo-licious porridge made from dried and coarsely ground corn, grits are to Southern cuisine what potatoes are to Northern cuisine — a deeply satisfying staple. Like squash, tomatoes and deep-pit barbecuing, grits came to define Southern cooking via the cuisines of such southeast American Indian tribes as the Caddo, Choctaw and Seminole.

Cauliflower is surprisingly versatile

Until pretty recently, there was nothing sexy about cauliflower. Boiled or steamed, it’s bland at best. And if you overcook it, you’d better duck or suffer the smell of dirty diapers. But roasting or sauteing cauliflower is a different story. The veggie’s natural sugars caramelize and its tasty inner cauliflower suddenly blossoms. Think popcorn with an attitude.

Bruschetta, 3 ways, for a satisfying main dish

There are few dishes more elemental and satisfying than bruschetta. A mainstay at many Italian restaurants, it’s an appetizer comprising slices of grilled bread adorned with any number of toppings.

I like to make bruschetta on my stovetop grill at home during the colder months. It’s a winning accompaniment to just about any soup or stew and a reliable favourite with the family.

Baking whole fish in foil easier, tastier than steaming it

The Chinese like to feature whole steamed fish on the menu of their New Year’s feasts. Said to signify togetherness, abundance and long life, it’s a dish with symbolism that is as important as taste. Indeed, you’re supposed to leave the bones, head and tail intact, a way to help ensure that the new year will be a winner from beginning to end.