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

Creative Uses for Won Ton Skins

Won ton skins are very versatile, according to Chowhounds. greenstate uses them to make delicious crackers for dips, soft cheeses, or eating on their own: Cut them diagonally, lay them on a cookie sheet, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground red pepper, and bake at 400°F for about seven minutes.

amanda3571 cuts the rind off Brie, wraps chunks in won ton skins and seals well, fries them in peanut oil until golden (30 to 60 seconds), and serves them with a dipping sauce of melted raspberry jam.

DanaB recommends this recipe for Alaskan king crab “nachos,” which are served in shells made from won ton skins, and says the shells can be used for a variety of fillings.

hannaone makes cheese pockets with cheddar or Jack, minced onion, and jalapeño; fold the won ton skin diagonally and use some water to seal the edges, then cook on a hot grill or in a skillet.

pamalamb says they’re great in place of no-boil noodles in lasagne. Make sure no ends are left uncovered before baking, or they won’t cook.

MeffaBabe fries the skins plain and tosses them in powdered sugar. These are a big hit at parties, she says. janeh thinks they’re “ridiculously decadent” filled with Nutella and fried until crispy.

Board Link: Interesting Uses For Won Ton Wrappers

Cooking Up Red Bell Peppers

Using a summer bounty of red bell peppers is no problem for hounds. coll freezes roasted red peppers flat on wax paper in resealable plastic bags, so she can pull them out one at a time for later use. DGresh fills roasted pepper halves with a slice of Manchego cheese and a canned anchovy, then bakes at 350°F until the cheese is hot and melted. Check out CHOW’s Basic Roasted Bell Peppers for a roasting how-to.

Red pepper–based dips are popular. JungMann recommends ajvar, a roasted red pepper and eggplant dip from the Balkans. Agent Orange loves muhammara, which is made with walnuts and pomegranate molasses. And bear likes this roasted-red-pepper-with-feta dip.

Board Link: Abundance of red peppers

What to Cook in Cast Iron

agarose2000 is a convert to cooking all things meat in a cast iron pan, saying the results are consistent and flavorful. greenstate says because cast iron gets so hot, and heats so uniformly, it makes the best Yorkshire pudding. FoodFuser says cornbread baked in cast iron comes out with a crunchy base; pour the batter into a very hot, greased pan. MMRuth uses hers for tarte Tatin.

emerilcantcook thinks frittatas cook beautifully in cast iron, and several hounds say it’s great for potatoes. BeefeaterRocks can’t imagine making home fries in anything else. cassoulady cooks potatoes au gratin and potato pancakes in cast iron.

Board Link: What else besides meat is heavenly in the cast-iron skillet?

Roasted Beet Salads

Roasted beets are a great addition to salads. Here are some favorite salads featuring them. (CHOW’s Basic Roasted Beets can get you started.)

Budino loves a mixed green salad with roasted beets, peaches, and feta cheese; jenhen2 likes to add blue cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, and red wine vinaigrette. alanbarnes recommends using spicy greens such as arugula or watercress with roasted beets, and adds goat cheese and candied nuts to the mix.

oakjoan says roasted beets and their greens, cooked and chopped, make a wonderful salad. “The bitter and sweet contrast is great, especially with a vinegary dressing.”

nolanani loves potato salad with roasted beets, made with red potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, red onion, and an oil-and-vinegar dressing.

another_adam mixes roasted beets and sardines with sour cream or yogurt, dill, and mustard or horseradish, and serves over spicy greens. emerilcantcook mixes them with a sauce of yogurt, minced garlic, and crushed coriander seeds, then tops with roasted chopped walnuts and a drizzle of olive oil.

Board Link: Salad ideas to feature roasted beets

Roast Your Pasta Sauce

Several Chowhounds roast their tomato sauce for pasta. “Roasting concentrates the flavors and enhances the sugar content of fruits and veggies,” explains Kelli2006.

Boccone Dolce recommends throwing the cooked sauce into a big roasting pan, and then into a hot oven for a while. “It’s goooood.” geminigirl roasts tomatoes with other summer veggies tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper until they’re soft; then puts them all in a blender to make a sauce. Once the vegetables are roasted, you don’t notice their skins, so she doesn’t bother peeling them beforehand. But Cookiefiend finds it’s easy to pluck off the tomatoes’ skins once they’re roasted, if you prefer your tomatoes peeled. She browns meatballs, deglazes the pan, and adds the roasted sauce to simmer with the meatballs.

Board Link: Why does roasting make everything taste better?

Lemon Curd Creations

While more than one hound attests that lemon curd is wonderful simply eaten with a spoon, or “with Greek yogurt if you want to fancy it up,” says Peg, it’s also terrific as a component of desserts.

JoanN stirs together an equal amount of lemon curd and whipped cream and layers the mixture with macerated strawberries in shortcakes. roxlet puts lemon curd in a baked tart shell and then covers it with raspberries.

nemo thinks lemon curd and blueberries are a great match, and suggests layering the curd in a parfait with fresh blueberries or using it to fill a roll cake and serving the cake with a blueberry sauce, which can be made with frozen berries.

weezycom uses lemon curd to fill the layers in a coconut cake, and tall sarah puts it on top of gingerbread.

abud loves it in Zazie’s ricotta pancakes with lemon curd and raspberry sauce, and ChefJune says it makes a great filling for crêpes.

Board Link: Favorite use for lemon curd?

Sweet, Spicy Cowboy Candy

jodymaryk discovered the addictively delicious candied jalapeños known as cowboy candy thanks to her nephew in Texas. He buys them jarred, but jodymaryk makes her own with this recipe, which she says tastes “sweet, with a nice spicy back bite.” She adds an habanero chile when she wants to up the spice.

“This is so-o-o good, s-o-o-o easy!” exclaims Cynsa. “I made it this morning and it’s nearly gone.” She likes it with cream cheese; jodymaryk uses it as a condiment for carne asada and also likes it mixed into plain yogurt and scooped up with crackers.

Board Link: Just have to share this recipe for Cowboy Candy…

Surprising Uses for Gin

Gin has a more pronounced flavor than most spirits used in cooking, but Chowhounds have found some interesting ways to capitalize on its herbal complexity.

gordeaux makes a gin sauce for scallops: First sear sea scallops until almost done. Add a good chunk of butter, and some garlic, shallot, salt, and pepper to the pan. Deglaze with a few ounces of gin, add a touch of heavy cream, and finish with chopped parsley. “The gin showcases the scallops’ sweetness like you wouldn’t believe.”

smalt makes a quick sauté of geoduck or razor clams and adds a combination of ginger, gin, and soy sauce to flavor it; he also uses this same trio of ingredients to marinate chicken and beef. And meatn3 says gin gives refrigerator pickles a very nice flavor.

Board Link: Cooking with Gin

Suggestions for Fresh Tarragon

Chowhounds have lots of ideas for things to do with fresh tarragon. For example, you can make a béarnaise sauce, says JoanN, to serve with steak or eggs. JoanN also likes tarragon with fish and will “stick a few sprigs into a whole fish before roasting it.”

karykat suggests making tarragon butter by mixing tarragon with softened butter, then shaping and freezing it. “Then you can lop off a chunk of the butter when you need it for sautéing chicken or fish or anything else.” MMruth uses tarragon butter to add quick flavor to a steak.

msmarabini loves tarragon with chicken. She adds chopped tarragon to a cold salad of rotisserie chicken, chopped celery, halved red grapes, and chopped pecans, with a honey, mustard, and plain yogurt dressing. kc girl enjoys whole tarragon leaves tossed in a green salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette.

Emme sears scallops in butter and olive oil, deglazes the pan with white wine and lemon juice, adds chopped tarragon and cream or half-and-half, and returns the scallops to coat. She serves this over asparagus.

Richard 16 thinks tarragon goes well with corn, and likes it in his father’s specialty: scrambled eggs with caramelized onions and corn. He also suggests baking onions with sprigs of tarragon.

Board Link: Ideas for Tarragon?

Broccoli Stems Take Center Stage

While it’s usually the florets of broccoli that get all the attention, a number of Chowhounds are mad about broccoli stems, which, notes scubaadoo97, are the sweetest part. The florets and stems are almost two different vegetables, says tmso. “I think I like the stalks better. When serving them, I’ve had guests ask what that wonderful vegetable was.”

scuzzo thinks broccoli stems are “gold,” and peels and eats them raw. ipsedixit juliennes raw stems and adds them to salads for a nice crunch, but notes that “99 percent of the people think that you’re serving some sort of ‘artisan’ cucumber.” And oryza and gwendolynmarie have both pickled broccoli stems.

tmso’s favorite way to serve broccoli stems is poached and tossed with brown butter. toodie jane slices peeled stems in thick chunks and sautés them quickly with celery, then serves them sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. It’s a good flavor combination, she says.

Sam Fujisaka serves cold steamed broccoli stems with a miso-lemon drizzle or dip. almccasland cuts the stems into chunks and grills them. gwendolynmarie recommends tossing broccoli stems with garlic, red chile flakes, cumin, and a bit of toasted sesame oil and then roasting them; she also says that if they’re steamed quite well and trimmed, their inner core is so soft and silky that it can be mashed to be eaten alone or made into a dip.

Board Link: Broccolli stems