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The Washington Post Cookbook

The Washington Post Food section's 1956 debut was announced with a headline declaring “Mrs. Homemaker, This Is for You!” Much has changed in the six-plus decades since, but demand for the recipes run in the paper remains high. For the first time they've been collected in a cookbook composed of reader favorites. We talk with editor Bonnie Benwick about how the section has evolved along with our tastes.

Recipes From 'The Washington Post Cookbook: Readers’ Favorite Recipes'

spicy watermelon soup

Pisco Punch


6 to 8 servings

This adaptation of the classic San Francisco punch is a little spicier than the original and not nearly as cloying. It substitutes limoncello for freshly squeezed lemons; the ginger beer gives it a nice kick and effervescence.

From Duggan McDonnell at Cantina Bebidas in San Francisco.


1 cup fresh pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
12 ounces pisco
4 ounces limoncello
4 ounces brown sugar syrup (see NOTE)
Juice of 2 medium oranges
Juice of 2 large limes
8 dashes Angostura bitters
Two 12-ounce bottles ginger beer
Thin slices of orange, for garnish


Crush the pineapple in a large glass pitcher, then add the pisco, limoncello, brown sugar syrup, citrus juices and bitters. Add ice, then stir vigorously.

To serve, pour into 9- or 10-ounce highball glasses filled with ice and add about 3 ounces of ginger beer to each glass; stir to mix well. Garnish with orange slices.

NOTE: Brown sugar syrup is made the same way as simple syrup, using brown sugar instead of white: Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup light brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until it has dissolved, about 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, until just slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. This will make 1 1/4 cups. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Butterflied Leg Of Lamb


6 servings

Edith C. Vanocur, wife of NBC correspondent Sander Vanocur, was a cookbook author and food columnist for The Washington Post in the early 1970s. She covered a range of basics, including how to make jam, how to boil beef tongue (with a cheerful admonishment, “Don’t be afraid!”) and how to decorate and cook for dinner parties. Newscaster David Brinkley said she was “probably the best cook in town.” She died in 1975.

Lamb must have been a favorite in the Vanocur household, as it cropped up in several of her articles. Vanocur taught this recipe during a cooking course she gave at the Smithsonian Institution in 1972.

MAKE AHEAD: The meat needs to marinate for at least 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.


1 small (3 pounds) boneless leg of lamb
6 to 8 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
1 cup cooking oil
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
4 tablespoons ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper


Butterfly the leg of lamb. Spread it flat in a roasting pan. Spread the garlic over the surface of the meat. Pour over the oil, and evenly distribute half the tarragon and half the cumin over the top.

Baste occasionally. After about an hour, turn the meat over. Sprinkle the remaining tarragon and cumin over the meat. Allow the meat to marinate for several hours at room temperature. Baste and turn occasionally during that time.

To broil or grill: Drain and discard the marinade. Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 15 minutes on each side (for medium-rare to medium).

spicy watermelon soup

Icy-Spicy Watermelon Soup


8 to 10 servings

Here’s a no-cook “salad soup” to keep in mind for the dog days of summer. It’s naturally low-fat and vegetarian.

From food writer and stylist Lisa Cherkasky, who styled much of the food that was photographed for the Food section in the 1990s and early 2000s.

MAKE AHEAD: The soup needs to be refrigerated (to blend flavors) for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.


3 cups seeded fully ripe watermelon chunks, very thoroughly pureed (to make 2 1/4 cups juice)
3 cups seeded and finely diced fully ripe watermelon
1/2 small red onion, finely diced ( 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup peeled and finely diced jicama
1 to 4 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly squeezed juice from 2 or 3 limes (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar


Combine the watermelon puree, diced watermelon, red onion, jicama, jalapeno (to taste) garlic, lime juice, red wine vinegar and salt to taste in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Photo credit Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

The Story Behind The Washington Post Food Section


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