Cooking Tips rss

Ideas, advice, and what to make now from the Chowhound community and CHOW editors.

Refreshing Cucumbers

Simple preparations of crunchy cucumbers are refreshing during the heat of summer.

Cucumber salads are a classic. Some simply combine sliced cucumbers, red or sweet onions, vinegar, salt, and a bit of sugar if desired; others add sour cream and dill. foodeye says Joanne Weir’s cucumber and feta salad is great on its own or as a sandwich filling. toveggiegirl loves Asian cucumber ribbon salad, and linguafood makes it Thai-style with fish sauce, lime juice, a bit of Sriracha, and tons of garlic.

Chilled water with cucumber is very refreshing on a hot day, says ola (try CHOW’s Cucumber-Orange Water). Or make tzatziki, the Greek dish of yogurt, chopped or grated cucumber, garlic, and dill, for dipping pita or as a condiment for grilled meats. CHOW’s Cucumber and Cumin Yogurt Relish uses mint instead of dill.

Board Links: I have a ton of cucumbers!
Cucumber Ideas

Making More of Pound Cake

Pound cake was traditionally made from equal weights of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. Modern recipes vary the ingredient proportions and include all kinds of flavor additions. Pound cake is great served on its own, or as a component of a dessert course. “Can’t beat the richness of pound cake,” says middydd.

For the basic cake, cassoulady is a fan of Jacques Pépin’s favorite pound cake. Variations start with extra ingredients, like the cream cheese pound cake with strawberry coulis beloved by pinkprimp. “The cake is so sublime,” she raves. “So rich, so eggy, with the perfect ‘chewy’ crust forming on top. The first time I had tried this recipe, I fell so deeply in love that I had to make two more in one week.” This recipe freezes beautifully, adds HillJ. middydd’s favorite for summer is Georgia peach pound cake.

Hounds love toasted or grilled pound cake, accompanied with fruit or fruit sauces, ice cream, or just some jam. Try CHOW’s Toasted Pound Cake with Coffee Sauce or Grilled Lime Pound Cake with Raspberry-Kirsch Sorbet (pictured above).

Board Link: Appreciating pound cake

Add Depth with Dried Porcinis

Rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms add great depth to all sorts of dishes, and work well as an accent or as a major component in a dish. “They’re great at bumping up flavor, for risotto or even mushroom soups and sauce,” says hotoynoodle. “Strain the soaking liquid and add that to whatever you’re making.” HillJ thinks they’re great with eggs, in any cream-based soup, and on pizza.

Reconstituted in chicken stock and then blended with some cream, shallots, and garlic, dried porcini make a beautiful sauce for pasta or grilled chicken, says JungMann. kchurchill5 combines them with fresh portobello and shiitake mushrooms, beef broth, wine, garlic, and caramelized onions for a pasta sauce.

ajcraig makes a rub for grilled meats by grinding dried porcini with salt and pepper, dried onion and garlic, dried thyme, smoked paprika, and cayenne.

CHOW’s Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole (pictured above) is flavored with rehydrated dried porcini.

Board Link: Dried Porcini Mushrooms

How to Cook with Lavender

Lavender is not just a flower, but also a culinary herb, best known as part of the French seasoning mixture herbes de Provence. Use it in both savory and sweet cooking. “Many people don’t like the flowery aroma,” says LindaWhit, “but when used judiciously, it can add quite a lovely fragrance and flavor.”

gourmet wife adds lavender to stewed short ribs, and sarah galvin uses it with maple syrup, salt, and pepper when making cedar-planked salmon. AndrewK512 thinks it tastes great when sprinkled over roasted potatoes right near the end of cooking. ChefJune uses fresh lavender greens as she does rosemary, and says the herb adds a subtly sweet flavor.

gourmet wife adds lavender to strawberry and raspberry sorbets, and Old Spice adds it to pastry cream for fresh fruit tarts. Lavender is good in shortbread, say hounds, and sf toronto uses ground dried lavender in chocolate cookies.

Vetter loves lavender lemonade (steep the lavender in water and use this to make lemonade), and operagirl steeps it in simple syrup and adds Meyer lemon juice and vodka for a summertime drink. CHOW’s Lavender-Thyme Syrup complements more flavorful liquors.

Board Link: Cooking with Lavender?

Strawberries Are the Secret

Give arugula salad a fantastic twist by adding strawberries, recommend hounds, who also include goat cheese and toasted nuts. “I think what I liked most about it was the sweetness and slight acidity of the strawberries against the sharp arugula,” says Nyleve, who adds, “it really came across as savory rather than sweet.”

Nyleve uses chopped red onion, chopped toasted hazelnuts, and a dressing made from hazelnut oil, white balsamic vinegar, a dash of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. peppermint pate uses chopped toasted almonds and a balsamic dressing with a touch of truffle oil, which she says “adds an intoxicating new level of flavor.”

Board Link: Just made a great salad: arugula and strawberry

Make Green Onions the Star

Green onions, often just chopped and sprinkled over dishes raw, can be the center of preparations both simple and elaborate. They’re popular grilled as a side, in scrambled eggs and frittatas, and flavoring classic sour-cream-based dips.

fourunder makes a condiment of finely chopped green onions and fresh ginger, kosher salt, and canola oil (add jalapeño or red pepper flakes for a spicy twist). It’s great with anything Asian, fourunder says, especially meats and dumplings.

corneygirl makes green onion pot stickers filled with chopped green onions and tofu mixed with soy sauce and cornstarch. These freeze well, she says. Chinese scallion pancakes make great munching, according to chef chicklet.

thinks too much adds chopped green onions and shredded cheddar to drop biscuits and serves them with chili.

Board Link: Help–green onion overload

Image source: Flickr member ewen and donabel under Creative Commons

Summer-Perfect Watermelon Salad

Watermelon is among the most refreshing of summer foods. In a salad with feta cheese, it becomes dinner fare, and several hounds are fans of Nigella Lawson’s watermelon, feta, and black olive salad.

CreativeFoodie42 likes to use good balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, because “the feta and the watermelon really highlight those two ingredients.” hotoynoodle simply adds black olives, mint, and a little olive oil; and janeh combines watermelon, cucumber, feta, and mint and leaves it undressed. “Perfect and refreshing on a hot summer day,” she says. vcavett loves very thinly sliced red onions in hers.

hotoynoodle warns that watermelon feta salad doesn’t keep well because the watermelon weeps so much.

CHOW’s version includes tomatoes, and uses ricotta salata in place of feta.

Board Link: Watermelon and Feta Salad

Brownies with a Spicy Kick

Chocolate and chile can be delicious together, and some Chowhounds like the combo in brownies. janeh soaks a small ancho or morita chile in hot water to soften it, removes the stem, veins, and seeds, and purées it with the eggs before adding them to her recipe. “Gives a nice background kick to the brownies,” she says.

tommyskitchen soaks seeded dried chipotles, purées them with water and strains the liquid to remove any solids, then uses it in place of water to prepare a boxed brownie mix. This gives “a nice, mellow warm heat with each bite,” says tommyskitchen. jadec has used garam masala with chile powder in brownies.

breadandroses thinks Aztec Gold brownies, with chipotle, cinnamon, and espresso, are amazing, but says they’re pretty spicy, so he sometimes reduces the chipotle powder.

Board Link: Spicy brownies

Rhubarb Takes a Savory Turn

There’s more to rhubarb than pie. cayjohan loves rhubarb chutney with fatty grilled meat, and thinks rhubarb’s astringent flavor combines well with mustard. doughreme makes a compote of rhubarb cooked with sugar, lemon, and grated ginger to accompany pork chops.

AmyH thinks red lentils and rhubarb with Indian spices is excellent, but recommends making it with crushed garlic and grated ginger, instead of minced.

todao makes a savory quick bread flavored with rhubarb purée, garlic powder, and cumin. And carswell makes a salad of mint, arugula, cucumber and thinly sliced raw rhubarb dressed with lemon juice.

Board Link: Savory Rhubarb Recipes?

How to Season Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks

Rib-eye steaks are so tender and flavorful they don’t need heavy seasoning or marinating before grilling, say Chowhounds. Many simply sprinkle the room-temperature meat with salt and pepper before cooking.

Several hounds advocate dry brining: Rub the steaks with kosher salt and allow them to rest uncovered on a rack above a pan in the refrigerator for a day. This lets them dry out a bit, explains Phurstluv, who says, “they will be incredibly juicy.”

“I think you get a better crust that has lots of flavor,” agrees scubadoo97. “The loss of some water helps to concentrate the flavors in the meat.”

If you’d like to add some complementary flavor to your rib-eyes, NYchowcook recommends this grilled spiced rib-eye steak recipe. The salt, cumin, and allspice rub highlights the beefy taste of steaks, she says. silverhawk rubs rib-eyes with powdered dried porcini mushrooms mixed with salt, pepper, and olive oil. “This technique keeps the meat center stage, adds a hint of welcome flavor and fills the bill as ‘special,’” he says.

For a fun way to dress your steak, check out CHOW’s Grilled Rib-Eyes with Chile-Lime-Tequila Butter.

Board Link: Rib Eye Steak Marinade