Cooking Tips rss

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

Fresh, Fabulous Favas

It’s the season for fresh fava beans, one of the best things about late spring. Fresh favas are so glorious (and labor intensive, with shelling and skinning) that hounds prefer to serve them simply. cyberroo just throws the whole pods on the grill and cooks them until they’re soft, then pops the beans out to eat. “It’s easier than shelling them raw, and if you’re having a party that’s casual enough, it’s kind of fun,” says cyberroo.

oaklandfoodie’s favorite prep is fresh ricotta and fava bean bruschetta, which uses a fava purée. For a chunkier take, try CHOW’s Chopped Fava Bean Crostini with Pecorino.

Phurstluv serves favas at room temperature dressed with lemon juice, crumbled feta, and bacon. Old Spice tosses them with olive oil, salt, and chopped fresh thyme. weezycom likes hers hot, with a dressing of freshly chopped garlic and parsley mixed with tahini, salt and pepper, and enough lemon juice to make it about the consistency of loose sour cream. BamiaWruz suggests cooking favas with rice and sautéed onion or shallot, then adding lots of fresh dill at the end.

And check out CHOW’s Farro Risotto with Asparagus and Fava Beans.

Board Link: Favorite Favas

Instant Ice Cream, No Ice-Cream Maker Required

It’s easy to make a fruity, creamy dessert that tastes a lot like ice cream in minutes. The key is frozen fruit. Put a bag of frozen berries or peaches, sugar to taste, and a little milk or cream in a food processor, pulse it, and you’re done. “OMG! I had almost instant ice cream! It was delicious,” says Sherri.

greygarious keeps sweetened condensed milk in the freezer, and makes single servings by combining a couple of spoonfuls with some frozen fruit, and milk or cream if desired. jeni1002 uses 1 cup frozen mango, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup milk, and a bit of cardamom for a tropical treat. For a low-calorie, decadent-tasting version, TrishUntrapped processes together frozen fruit, a packet of alternative sweetener, a couple of tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder, and some ice water.

nemo has a neat trick for making instant sorbet: Freeze cans of fruit in heavy syrup, then open the frozen can and pulse the fruit and its syrup. One advantage to this method is the ability to use fruits not normally available frozen, nemo notes, such as pears.

Board Link: An absurdly simple dessert that tasted good - instant ice cream (for lack of a better name)

More Ways to Use Radishes

After some recent talk about unusual types of radish, hounds have switched their attention back to uses for regular peppery radishes, which are a great ingredient in much more than green salads. They’re excellent in sandwiches, or on crusty bread spread with butter (or butter mixed with blue cheese). Thinly sliced, they’re a nice garnish for creamy soups.

Try marinating sliced radishes in white vinegar and sugar, or making CHOW’s quick pickled Bread-and-Butter Radishes. The results makes a great condiment or sandwich filling.

Radishes play nice in some unusual vegetable salads, like this radish salad with mint, beloved by DGresh, or Missyme’s preparation of sliced radishes, chopped hard-boiled eggs, plenty of chopped parsley, and a mustardy vinaigrette. JRL mixes sliced radishes, chopped cucumbers, chopped scallions, dill, lemon juice, and salt with yogurt or cottage cheese for a light lunch or snack.

Hounds also like to braise radishes too. scubadoo97 cuts them in half, tosses them with a little butter and some water or stock, and braises. “They turn into little pink delicacies that are tender and mild,” he says.

And don’t forget about those radish greens: carswell likes them puréed in soup with onion, potato, a little carrot, chicken broth, and a splash of cream.

Board Link: Radishes … what to do w/ them?

Fresh Ideas for Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar snap peas are a sweet and delicious spring and summer produce option. They’re best eaten soon after picking, so try to use them shortly after purchase. They taste great raw with your favorite dip, or cook ’em: Hounds like them blanched in salted water, then tossed with sesame oil and soy sauce or an orange-ginger glaze. don515 loves this recipe for stir-fried sugar snap peas with Chinese sausage.

Gio sautés sugar snap peas, sliced asparagus, chopped garlic, sliced shallot, and red pepper flakes in extra-virgin olive oil, seasons the whole lot with salt and pepper, and tosses it with pasta before sprinkling the dish with chopped Italian parsley and lots of Pecorino Romano.

Bat Guano sautés chopped oyster mushrooms in butter until browned, then adds snap peas and about a half cup white wine, more butter, and salt and pepper and cooks until the liquid’s reduced by half.

Board Link: Sugar snap peas

Expert Hard-Boiled Eggs

There are a few keys to perfect hard-boiled eggs, say Chowhounds. First, use eggs with a bit of age on them—very fresh eggs can be almost impossible to peel once cooked. To speed the process, leave them out of the refrigerator overnight. “Works like a charm every time!” says julesrules.

Hard-boiled eggs shouldn’t be boiled at all. For perfectly cooked eggs, place them in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil, says alwayscooking. When the water boils, remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let stand 12 to 15 minutes, depending on desired hardness. She adds a tip for making deviled eggs: Lay the eggs on their sides for a bit before cooking; this will better center the yolks.

When the eggs are done, pour off the water and put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and cool them. When they’re cold, crack the shell all over by rolling each egg on the counter or agitating them in the pot (this method is very similar to CHOW’s video tip on peeling hard-boiled eggs). The shells will then slip off easily, says LTL.

Practice your skills by making CHOW’s Deviled Eggs with Tarragon.

Board Link: Boiled Egg Frustration–Peeling

Four Ingredients = Great Peanut Butter Cookies

Amazing peanut butter cookies can be made with just four ingredients, say Chowhounds. Peanut butter, sugar, an egg, and baking soda are all you need to make flourless peanut butter cookies.

“This is without a doubt the best peanut butter cookie recipe,” says PamelaD. But maybe it can be improved upon just a tad: free sample addict aka Tracy L loves this chocolate chunk version. Some like to add vanilla to these recipes, or use all brown sugar to sweeten them. Make them small, recommends katecm, who says they can fall apart because they’re so moist.

Board Link: ISO: Gluten free Peanut Butter Cookie recipe

Luscious Braised Pork Belly

Pork belly, the rich cut used for bacon, makes a luscious dish when braised until tender. azhotdish calls Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s braised pork belly with shallot-ginger confit “easy and delicious.” The braised filling of David Chang’s pork-belly buns is also great over rice, says BigSal, who adds, “We devoured the pork belly in no time.”

Botch makes it Chinese-style, braised in beef stock with a little soy sauce, 1/4 cup vinegar (Chinese red or black, if available), a few star anise, a cinnamon stick, and a sliced orange, rind on. “It’s just right sliced in thick strips over rice,” says Botch, “with some sautéed veggies (garlic/oyster sauce is nice) on the side. Maybe a couple nice beers to go with it.”

Board Link: Pork Belly Recipe

Pimento Cheese 101

Pimento cheese is a traditional Southern dish usually eaten as a sandwich filling. It commands particular affection and strong opinions among Southerners, but is loved by folks from all over. Its main ingredients are cheddar cheese, jarred pimiento peppers, and mayonnaise, but it’s much more than the sum of its parts. FoodFuser waxes poetic about pimento cheese, which he learned to make when he was a small child: “Real Pimento Cheese will stroke the palate and connote the sounds of the creaking chain of the front porch swing as it pendulums its way through a lovely and lazy summer afternoon.”

Pimento cheese is extremely easy to make. It’s simply grated yellow Cheddar (most hounds like to use sharp Cheddar), chopped drained jarred pimientos, and mayonnaise folded together; hounds variously add a bit of Worcestershire sauce, a dash of Tabasco or ground cayenne, a little yellow mustard, or a small amount of grated sweet onion, according to taste. Tom P’s recipe uses a seven-ounce jar of pimientos and two thirds of a cup of mayo for each pound of cheese.

The classic bread for pimento cheese sandwiches is a close-grained white sandwich bread, says MakingSense. FoodFuser recommends Pepperidge Farm Very Thin or a Pullman loaf. In addition to making sandwiches or eating it on crackers, Janet from Richmond says it’s good on burgers and baked potatoes, and “makes a kick-ass grilled cheese or grilled ham and cheese.”

Board Link: Augusta National Pimento Cheese

Greens, Glorious Greens

Dark, leafy greens, such as Swiss chard, kale, collards, and bok choy are delicious, versatile, and super-healthy. Chowhounds have many favorite ways to prepare them, from tossing them in frittatas or simply sautéing with a squeeze of lemon, to serving them with pasta and in soups.

Southern-style greens cooked with smoky meats (such as bacon, salt pork, or smoked turkey wings) are popular: Brown the meat to render some of its fat. Add onions and cook until soft. Add greens, cover and cook until wilted, then uncover and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper and some cider vinegar. “Don’t forget the hot pepper,” advises Hungry Celeste, “or serve with some pepper vinegar on the side.” scubadoo97 likes these for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

pigtails says kale is “amazingly delicious” blanched, then sautéed with a shallot, a little nutmeg, and a splash of cream. jen kalb likes a simple Chinese preparation: Blanch the greens until crisp-tender, drain them, and drizzle with oyster sauce. Heat a couple tablespoons peanut oil until smoking, add shredded ginger and cook a minute, then pour over the greens and stir.

Chopped greens liven up any broth-based soups. pitu calls this method from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook “a genius simple surprise”: Sweat a couple onions, add some chile flakes and kale cut in ribbons, cover with water, and simmer 30 minutes or less. Emme simmers greens and wild mushrooms in miso broth until tender, adds some Bragg Liquid Aminos, then drizzles in egg whites beaten with garlic and herb seasoning to make egg drop soup. And try vegetable-rich Winter Greens Soup.

Another option: simple dishes of greens and pasta. Sauté greens with garlic in olive oil, then add diced ripe tomatoes, season with vinegar or red pepper flakes, and toss with pasta. Add olives, pine, nuts, anchovy, or other savory ingredients; sweetTooth is a fan of harissa spaghettini with kale and olives. When you’re more ambitious, try CHOW’s Winter Greens Lasagne or malfati, which pitu describes as “lucious balls of chard leaves, ricotta, eggs, and parmasean, served in sage butter.”

Board Link: Greens - how do you prepare them

Cooking with Boursin

Boursin cheese is a great ingredient, lending its garlic and herb flavors and creaminess to dishes, and Chowhounds have lots of ideas for ways to cook with it.

You can use it in sauces to top meat or pasta: iamafoodie makes a mushroom sauce with it to top a steak sandwich, and says it’s “pure bliss if you start with a good demi-glace.”

LindaWhit likes to combine sautéed veggies, Boursin, some half and half, and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan for a quick dinner. Or you can make twice-baked potatoes: Mix baked potatoes scooped from their skins with Boursin, some butter, and a splash of heavy cream, then stuff back into the skins, top with a sprinkle of grated Gruyère, and bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden, says Deenso.

Here are some more Boursin recipe ideas:

• Add to omelets, frittatas, and scrambled eggs
• Stir into grits or mashed potatoes
• Mix with chopped prosciutto or tomatoes, and use to stuff mushrooms
• Stuff into chicken breasts, pork chops, or beef filets

Board Link: extra boursin cheese left over