Cooking Tips rss

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

Making the Most of Cucumber

Chowhounds have many favorite ways of preparing cucumbers, especially during the summer months.

Jennalynn likes this cucumber-mint raita, and says it tastes great with fish. janetofreno makes a similar raita, but uses jalapeños and cilantro instead of cayenne and mint.

chowmel makes cucumbers in sour cream: Salt thinly sliced cucumbers and onions and let them sit for a few hours. Rinse (you should still taste some salt), and squeeze out the liquid. Add pepper and sour cream, then set it aside for a few more hours before eating.

valerie loves this sweet-and-sour cucumber salad with fresh dill, to which she adds red onion.

torty recommends making a quick pickle: Halve the cucumbers, seed if necessary, and slice them between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Add sliced onions to taste, salt lightly, sugar generously, top with the vinegar of your choice, and let sit for a few days in the fridge before eating.

Chowhounds also enjoy cooked cucumbers. Sherri makes a quick sauté of chopped and peeled cucumber pieces and scallions tossed with fresh dill.

Megiac quarters them lengthwise, removes the seeds, and cuts them into 1/2- to 1-inch-thick slices, tosses them in flour, then sautés them in olive oil until crisp-tender, before finishing with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

chowmel stuffs larger cucumbers with a filling similar to that used in pot stickers: minced shrimp, ground pork, garlic, and ginger. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, fill with the stuffing, and steam until cooked through.

Board Link: bumper crop of cucumbers- any suggestions?

Spirited Desserts

Introducing a bit of alcohol to the dessert course in the form of a flavorful spirit or liqueur adds sophistication and complexity even to something as simple as fresh fruit.

Grand Marnier is chef chicklet’s favorite, over mixed berries, in a soufflé, or in chocolate mousse. phan1 is a fan of Kirsch (clear cherry brandy) in creams and custards. Vetter loves the hazelnut-flavored liqueur Frangelico with chocolate or in pear butter. She also marinates pineapple and peaches in dark rum, brown sugar, and vanilla bean, then grills the fruit. And both crosby_p and lcool like green Chartreuse herbal liqueur on vanilla ice cream. crosby_p says, “The alcohol content is so high it actually bubbles in your mouth.”

Meanwhile, Gooseberry says that the Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook offers recipes for a range of alcohol-based desserts.

Board Link: Your favorite alcohols in desserts!

Fresh, Fast Okra

Cooked okra has a reputation for unpleasant sliminess, but it needn’t be so. “The shorter and younger the okra, the more tender; the faster cooked, the less gelatinous,” explains drmimi.

chowmel tosses whole okra with oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and Aleppo pepper and then roasts it at 450°F for about 10 to 15 minutes. “Delicious, tender, soft, and crispy!” she raves. joshlane4 uses a similar preparation but grills the pods in a basket over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

ESNY’s favorite prep is to slice the okra into 1/2-inch-thick wheels, dust them with cornmeal (shaking off the excess so they are only lightly coated), and pan-fry them with a little oil in a cast iron skillet for a few minutes per side. Sprinkle them with salt and cayenne pepper, and let rest until cool enough to eat.

weezycom makes a Middle Eastern–style okra dish using very small pods: Sauté them in oil with a generous amount of garlic, then add tomato sauce, fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh parsley, and salt and pepper, then serve with rice or couscous.

Board Link: Roasted Okra

Candied Ginger Adds Sweet Heat

Quite a few Chowhounds like to munch on candied ginger as a snack, but they also cook with it. Here are some of their favorite ways to use it.

HillJ suggests blending candied ginger with light rum to spike a fruit salad, or putting some in a sugar bowl, where the ginger will flavor the sugar.

For a summer dessert, carswell likes melting butter and sugar in a saucepan, adding sliced plums, chopped candied ginger, and a splash of brandy, then cooking the mixture until the plums begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Serve on ice cream or with a slice of pound cake.

pinstripeprincess likes to add it to homemade granola, and jodymaryk chops it up and cooks it in oatmeal.

sarasparagus has added diced candied ginger to muffin batter and pancakes, and Val loves it in these ginger spice cookies.

Board Link: What to do with candied ginger

Halloumi How-To

Halloumi cheese is usually cooked by itself and eaten hot. But, unlike most cheeses, it doesn’t melt when heated. tmso explains that you can cook it in a frying pan or on the grill. He serves it with olives and bread. dexters says it goes well with mint for a starter or in tossed salad.

LoN pan-fries it in a small amount of oil until brown and slightly crisp on the outside, squeezes fresh lemon juice and sprinkles dried oregano over the top, then serves it speared with toothpicks.

moh loves halloumi for breakfast with a piece of toast and some stone fruit or berries; she thinks the fruits contrast nicely with the salty cheese.

Board Link: What to do with Halloumi Cheese?

DIY Barbecue Sauce

People tend to have their own ideas about what makes the best barbecue sauce, so the easiest way to find that perfect flavor is to do it yourself. “There is no reason to buy BBQ sauce when you can make it at home so easily,” says chef chicklet. “You can make the sauce as simple or as complicated as you like.”

bex109 makes his favorite sauce for baby back ribs by blending a can of mangos in juice and combining the resulting purée with a healthy dose of habanero hot sauce, fresh lime juice, and a pinch of salt, then bringing it to a simmer and reducing it until it’s good and thick.

BobB bastes his Memphis-style home-smoked ribs with a finishing sauce made from canned tomato sauce, vinegar, beer, butter, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, which is cooked to thicken.

Monch makes big batches of Jesse’s lip-smacking sauce to can, and then uses it on chicken and pork. NE_Elaine really likes the vinegar and mustard sauce included in Tyler Florence’s pulled pork sandwiches.

And check out the recipes on CHOW for Thick and Sticky Barbecue Sauce and Big-Time Barbecue Sauce, which is recommended by Antilope.

Board Link: Homemade BBQ Sauce–Do you?

Instant Aioli

Making aioli by hand can be a painstaking process: You must begin by incorporating oil drip by drip with puréed garlic and egg yolk until you achieve emulsification, before you can start dribbling in your oil a bit faster, says FED, who feels the handmade version is worth the extra effort for its “luxurious texture.”

But maria lorraine has a method of making aioli in a food processor, which she claims “takes 3 minutes max.” She starts by processing two egg yolks for 1 full minute to release the lecithin, which is the emulsifier. Then add olive oil in a needle-thin stream that hits the processor blade as you pour it in. Once you have added enough oil to achieve an emulsion, the mixture will thicken and you will hear a change in sound as it begins slapping the sides of the bowl. Stop the processor and add the garlic, salt to taste, and any other ingredients you want, then process them.

You should add garlic a little bit at a time, as it’s easy to add too much, says maria lorraine. Also, the flavor can intensify to the point of inedibility if it’s stored for long, according to JonParker. And hill food gives his aioli a mellower garlic flavor by using roasted garlic so “that raw bite is softened.”

Finally, maria lorraine recommends this review of aioli technique.

Board Link: Aioli

Sweet on Zucchini

Are you overrun with zucchini? Well, its not just for main dishes: Chowhounds have been baking with summer squash too.

Flora’s famous zucchini cake, filled with lime curd and topped with cream cheese frosting, is one of NYCkaren’s favorite cakes ever.

As an alternative to traditional zucchini bread, chowser likes this sweet potato and zucchini bread.

In a savory vein, torty substitutes roughly grated, squeezed-dry zucchini for most of the liquid in cornbread, and adds a couple handfuls of grated cheese.

Or try CHOW’s Zucchini-Pine Nut Muffins, suggests spyturtle008.

Board Link: baking with zucchini—your favorite treat

Miso Soup from Start to Finish

The secret to great miso soup, agree Chowhounds, lies in homemade dashi, the basic stock made from kombu (a seaweed) and bonito flakes. Happily, dashi is easy to make once you’ve got those ingredients.

thew explains miso soup start to finish: Put a piece of kombu in a pot with cold water and slowly heat the water; take the kombu out just before the water boils (this should take at least 10 minutes). Bring the water to a boil and add bonito flakes, then take the pot off the heat. After a minute or two, the flakes will saturate and sink. Strain out the solids. Place a little of the hot dashi in a small bowl and whisk in the miso until it is smooth. Add it back to the pot. Don’t allow the miso soup to boil.

FoodFuser likes to soak some dried shiitakes in hot water and add that to the dashi, along with a splash of fish sauce. sixelagogo recommends using both white and red miso in a 60 percent–to–40 percent ratio. FoodFuser notes that classic garnishes include half-inch cubes of soft tofu and a sprinkle of green onion.

Board Link: What is the Secret to Miso Soup?

Lentil Feta Salad

galleygirl found a lentil and feta cheese salad recipe so good she made it three times in one weekend, garnering raves from even the pickiest eaters. One of the best things about the recipe, galleygirl says, is the way it describes how to cook lentils for salad so they’re al dente. Both galleygirl and beetlebug note that the recipe makes much more dressing than you’ll need; beetlebug only used a quarter of the dressing for the full amount of salad.

Board Link: Lentil Feta Cheese Salad Recipe