Ideas, advice, and what to make now from the Chowhound community and CHOW editors.
At Feeding America, the online repository of Michigan State University’s special collection of historic cookbooks, you can read the full texts of 75 cookbooks published between 1798 and 1922, reports rworange.
Nancy Berry’s favorite books in the collection are “Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book from 1889, which she describes as a “very good” Jewish cookbook with lots of traditional recipes, and the Chinese-Japanese Cook Book, published in 1914, which contains “some surprisingly good recipes.”
Board Link: Feeding America–75 online cookbooks published between 1798 and 1922
Fresh figs are like nectar to many Chowhounds; they just can’t get enough. Here are some of their favorite ways to use them.
Several hounds like to stuff halved figs with goat or blue cheese, wrap them in prosciutto, and eat them raw, grilled, or broiled. Figs stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with honey make an excellent appetizer, says lattelover.
JasmineG makes a “supereasy” pizza topped with thinly sliced figs and crumbled feta cheese, to which she adds prosciutto at the last minute.
mlgb thinks fresh figs are good in salad, while Emme recommends drizzling figs with balsamic vinegar and oil, then roasting and cooling them, before adding them to chicken salad.
MeffaBabe splits figs in half, lightly warms them in a mixture of butter and sugar, and then eats them with vanilla ice cream.
Finally, ScarletB says this recipe for fig-sesame jam is great and “incredibly easy.”
Board Link: what to do w/fresh figs besides gobbling?
Ribbons of zucchini are versatile both cooked and raw, according to Chowhounds. You can cut zucchini into ribbons using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, and you should use only the firm outer sections of big zucchinis and not the core, advises Karen_Schaffer.
Sherri tops cooked zucchini and carrot ribbons with white clam sauce, or bakes them with a Parmesan cheese sauce.
Karen_Schaffer likes to sauté the ribbons in a dry nonstick pan with just a little salt to bring out the natural juices. It lets the sugars caramelize a bit, she says, compared with sautéing them in oil. She then likes to top the ribbons with pesto or blue cheese sauce.
chicgail suggests dressing raw zucchini ribbons with olive oil, and making them into salads with lemon zest, feta cheese, and mint, or lemon juice, avocado, pistachios, and thyme.
Board Link: Zucchini Ribbons
Twice-cooked spicy chicken is a street food hannaone enjoyed many years ago in Korea, and he re-created the dish for a restaurant he owned. Chicken thighs are marinated, then grilled, sliced, and stir-fried with some of the marinade. The marinade contains lots of hot Korean chili powder (kochugaru) or chile flakes, but hannaone says you can substitute milder fresh peppers if you want a less spicy dish.
andrewm tried the recipe and says it is fabulous. He cut back the chile a bit, and says: “It wasn’t super fiery, just delicious.”
Board Link: Time for Korean Grilling
Chowhounds love arugula in much more than just salads.
JungMann likes it sautéed with garlic, butter, and tomatoes and plenty of Parmesan as a quick condiment for pasta, while cassoulady melts Gorgonzola with butter and tosses this with pasta and arugula. And several hounds recommend making arugula pesto—here’s a CHOW recipe for Pasta with Arugula Pesto.
It’s also popular on various pizzas, fresh out of the oven: westaust tops thin-crust pizza with arugula and a drizzle of hot pepper or herbed oil, and LNG212 dresses arugula with lemon and olive oil to top a wild mushroom and Gruyère pizza.
Analisas mom uses arugula in cream soup, soufflé, risotto, quiche, and stuffed mushrooms.
Finally, roxlet dresses it with lemon juice and olive oil and then puts charcoal-grilled steak on top: “The juices from the meat mix with the lemony dressing and then you sop up the whole delicious mess with a nice piece of crusty bread.”
Board Link: too much arugula
Old Bay Seasoning is popular with seafood, but Chowhounds love it with lots of other foods, too.
Hal Laurent likes it on corn on the cob instead of salt and pepper. meatn3 says it’s great in tomato-based vegetable soups. dct adds a teaspoon or so to chicken hash to round out the flavors and add some zip. And amethiste makes a cocktail sauce with ketchup, hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, and Old Bay.
greygarious likes it in egg salad, and uses it in place of salt and pepper in flour for dredging. It’s also one of the things she reaches for when cooking a stew or soup that seems to need a little more complexity.
And Val loves CHOW’s recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole, which is seasoned with Old Bay.
Board Link: Baltimore Old Bay Uses
Saffron may be famous for being the most expensive spice in the world, but it only takes a small amount to unleash its seductive aroma. In fact, Chowhounds warn that it can be easy to overdo it: “Go easy, less is more,” says LJS, and TongoRad agrees: “It’s amazing the fine line between being subtle to overpowering.”
Saffron is a classic ingredient in Spanish paella, says MMRuth, while other hounds weigh in with rice dishes from varying cultures. It goes really well in kheer (rice or vermicelli pudding made in India), according to TongoRad, who uses Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe and adds saffron and white raisins.
Anonimo infuses saffron threads in very hot water, which he then uses to make saffron aioli. ElissaInPlaya is a fan of this saffron chicken (scroll down). One of MMRuth’s favorite uses for saffron is these saffron mashed potatoes.
Robin Joy cooks couscous in stock or water that has been infused with saffron, then uses this to make a salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsley, and feta cheese. JRL recommends Ina Garten’s saffron, zucchini, and herb couscous.
JungMann uses the spice to make a rosewater-saffron frosting for this Persian love cake.
Board Link: What can I do with a jar of saffron?
Spearmint is the “default mint,” according to Pei, who puts the versatile herb to work in mixed drinks, salads, spring rolls, and as a garnish for dessert. Pei also uses spearmint to flavor iced tea: Throw a couple of big handfuls into freshly brewed black tea, then remove after 5 or 10 minutes so it doesn’t go bitter.
carswell suggests using it instead of vanilla to flavor crème anglaise and crème brûlée. karykat makes mint syrup to pour over fresh fruit for dessert: Heat about 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water so the sugar dissolves, then take it off the heat and throw in a handful of chopped mint leaves. Let it steep and then strain (or don’t) and pour over fruit such as strawberries, peaches, or nectarines.
pemma and thew both make mint pesto as you would basil pesto; it can be used the same way, too, and it also works well with lamb dishes.
Magnificat2005 sautés zucchini and summer squash in butter. Just as they’re done, he spritzes on some lemon juice and adds a handful of finely chopped mint, then turns the heat off and mixes in about a tablespoon of honey.
Caroline1 makes a classic fresh mint sauce to serve with roasted or broiled lamb: Mince lots of spearmint fairly fine and mix it with malt or cider vinegar and a little sugar (not too much sugar, she says, but it does underscore the mint flavor when it’s subtle).
Board Link: Uses for spearmint
Cynar, the bitter Italian artichoke-based herbal liqueur, is traditionally drunk neat or on the rocks as a digestif, but Chowhounds have some intriguing ideas for using it in cocktails.
The best Cynar recipe bza has found is the Scorched Earth, which mixes the liqueur with Cognac and sweet vermouth.
tmso suggests using Cynar in place of the vermouth and bitters in a Manhattan, and also shares his own creation: Stir one part pastis and two parts Cynar with ice; fill a champagne flute halfway with the strained liqueurs; and top with sparkling wine.
Board Link: Cocktail with Cynar?
When a steak comes off the grill, let it rest for five minutes before serving for maximum juiciness, say Chowhounds. The idea behind resting is to let juices redistribute from the interior, where the heat has driven them, to the exterior, explains carswell. In theory, this makes for juicier meat all over and reduces the amount of liquid lost when the meat is cut. FoodFuser offers this link to a handy chart of meat resting times.
Several hounds recommend tenting cooked steaks loosely in foil to keep them hot while they rest. Don’t let the foil touch the steak, or the meat’s crust will soften up, warns ESNY. carswell places the steak on a cooling rack over a platter; the steak doesn’t soak in the expressed juices (“saving that crust again,” carswell says) and it’s easy to salvage the fluid for drizzling on the meat once cut.
When ready to serve, FoodFuser sets the steak on a hot, cast iron fajita plate, lets it sizzle for five seconds, then flips it and lets it continue to sizzle on the other side as it’s served. This isn’t enough time to recook the steak, but there is, he says, “something deep and atavistic about the sizzle.”
Board Link: Steak “resting” done correctly??