Cooking Tips rss

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

Lentil Love

barefootpris needed ways to use a surfeit of lentils, and hounds came through with plenty of ideas.

Euonymous likes lentils with kielbasa, as a soup or a heftier bean dish. orangewasabi bakes green lentils and brown rice together in equal quantities, and uses this is a base for a stir-fry. It is “a lot heartier than just rice with a nice nutty taste.”

One of renz’s favorite lentil dishes is mujadarrah, which is lentils with rice and caramelized crispy onions. Val loves this lentil salad with balsamic vinaigrette. She replaces the radicchio with crispy romaine lettuce, and tops it with a few dabs of goat cheese.

Kagey likes this “very simple and forgiving” recipe for Italian lentil soup (see sixth paragraph).

Board Link: Tons of Lentils

Sushi Rice Is Risotto Rice

Deftly crossing the globe, the short-grain rice used for sushi also makes excellent risotto. Sam Fujisaka explains that sushi rice and Arborio are very similar. The California-developed Calrose rice can also be used for risotto, says Antilope, who adds that this variety makes a really creamy rice pudding too.

Board Link: Can I make risotto with sushi rice?

Savory Ways with Buttermilk

When you’ve had enough cornbread, pancakes, and even devil’s food cake, it’s time for some savory cooking with buttermilk.

Sharuf uses one cup buttermilk mixed with one tablespoon cornstarch or two tablespoons Wondra as her standard gravy base. Pour it into the pan you’ve used to pan-fry chops or other meat and you’ve got a pan gravy with a sour cream flavor, but without the calories.

A buttermilk soak is traditional for fried chicken, and also works for fried fish. If you don’t want to fry, Val recommends spicy oven-fried chicken.

Diane in Bexley shares her buttermilk-rich recipe for ranch dressing: “So good with iceberg lettuce wedges, cucumbers and tomatoes.” And MeffaBabe advises mixing buttermilk with “sour cream, mayo and a touch of lemon juice, add blue cheese and you now have the absolute best blue cheese dressing!”

Board Links: Uses for leftover buttermilk?
What to do with too much buttermilk?

Head Tuna

If you’re lucky enough to score the head of a nice, fatty fish like a tuna, Chowhounds offer advice on preparing it so as not to miss out on what some say are the tastiest bits of the whole fish: the collar and cheeks.

The collar is the curved section that braces the head and brackets the gill opening, explains Sam Fujisaka. Feel the bone structure around the gill opening, and cut all of it out. “Broiled with a bit of salt, it’s the best fish dish in the world,” he says. “Rich, oily delicious meat!”

You can broil the rest of the head separately and pick out the cheeks and other meaty bits (the collar cooks more quickly, so it will overcook if not done separately, Sam notes). Or you can put it in a soup. wearybashful suggests rolling the whole head, collar intact, in melted butter, then roasting it at 450°F.

Leucadian recommends making fish head curry, a fusion favorite in Singapore.

Board Link: Someone gave me a fish head

Fresh Passion Fruit

Jennalynn requested suggestions for what to do with “a bunch of fresh purple passionfruit,” and Chowhounds responded.

mlgb uses fresh passion fruit anywhere one might use lemon juice, such as fruit salad, yogurt, salad dressing, or fish. “One of my favorite dishes now is pangrilled salmon with a passion fruit squeezed over,” says mlgb.

Leucadian makes passion fruit–ade by diluting 1/2 cup sieved passion fruit pulp with 2 cups water, then dissolving 1/4 cup sugar in this mixture. You can add passion fruit juice to hot or cold tea, or mix it with fresh orange juice. coll uses it in New Orleans’s renowned Hurricane cocktail, while RPPR recommends this recipe for passion fruit sorbet.

Board Link: ISO Fresh Passionfruit Ideas

Ready-When-You-Are Chocolate Chip Cookies

You can combine the taste of homemade chocolate chip cookies with the convenience of purchased, ready-made dough by whipping up your favorite recipe and storing it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Many hounds scoop cookie dough onto baking sheets, which they freeze before transferring the individual cookies into zipper-lock bags. You can bake them from frozen, adding two to four extra minutes to the recipe’s normal baking time. JoanN bakes just a couple at a time in her toaster oven.

jlafler rolls her cookie dough into a log and wraps it in waxed paper, then refrigerates; when she wants to bake cookies, she slices them from the log.

Board Link: Bake-when-ready Chocolate Chip cookie dough?

Proper English Scones

Traditional English scones are different from the hardy, muffin-size sort that populate U.S. pastry cases. The original variety are smaller and much more delicate, with a tender crumb, most often made with currants or raisins. Here are some recipes that pass muster with British hounds.

emily recommends a scone recipe from Claire Clark, who is pastry chef at the French Laundry.

A couple of hounds also insist you can’t go wrong with Delia Smith’s illustrated scone recipe. nanette says superfine sugar is a reasonable substitute for castor sugar.

Cream scones that use no fat but heavy cream are simple to make and have a wonderful texture. Anne, who used a recipe with the same proportions when she baked scones for a café, points out that you can use any sort of dried fruit (currants, dried cranberries, raisins), chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or coconut as your add-in.

Board Link: SCONE RECIPE WANTED: must be good

Cooking with Lavender

A little lavender goes a long way in cooking. Lavender and lemon are a lovely match, as are lavender and honey. Add a little lavender to any lemon baked good. Lavender also works wonderfully in pound cake and biscotti, or in custardy desserts such as crème brûlée, pudding, and ice cream.

Try infusing vodka with lavender blossoms. Lavender lemonade is extra-refreshing on a hot day. Earl Grey tea with lavender is a variation on the traditional one flavored with bergamot, says jlafler.

lmoy says the fragrant greens of the lavender can be used as a substitute for rosemary. lmoy threw together a terrific kale and goat cheese quiche seasoned with lavender greens and rosemary. PamelaD stuffs the cavity of a chicken with lots of lavender greens and lemon slices and rubs the skin with lavender buds before roasting.

Board Links: Overabundance of Lavender (help!)
Savory Foods with Lavender Sprigs?

Simple, Delicious Vodka Infusions

chazzerking makes pineapple-vanilla vodka: Cut one large or two small pineapples into chunks and place the chunks in a clean, one-gallon glass jar. Add one split vanilla bean and two 750-milliliter bottles of vodka. Cover the jar tightly and place it in a cool spot. Shake the jar gently each day for 10 days, then strain out the pineapple. Decant the vodka into bottles, leaving the vanilla bean in the infusion.

guerrilagourmet makes quick vodka infusions with spices and fresh aromatics, letting them steep for a couple of days in the bottle, then straining. Here are some of his favorites:

• Jalapeño and chile seeds
• Horseradish root, peeled then grated
• Lemon zest and coriander seeds
• Vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg
• Star anise and anise seed or fennel seed

Board Link: your favorite cordial / liqueur / infusion recipe?

Fresh Tomatoes on Pizza Sans Sog

How to use fresh tomatoes on pizza without turning out a soggy pie? The key, say Chowhounds, is to use plum tomatoes, which are meatier and less juicy than other varieties. Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds, which will get rid of a lot of the liquid. Some hounds like to roast plum tomatoes before using them as a pizza topping, as this dries them out and concentrates their flavor, but others feel roasting negates the freshness factor. They advocate slicing seeded tomatoes very thinly and allowing them to drain on paper towels before adding them to your pie.

Board Link: Fresh tomatoes on pizza