Cooking Tips rss

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

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

With Pork Shoulder, It’s All in the Timing

A well-seasoned pork shoulder, roasted at superlow heat for a superlong time until its meat falls from the bone, is delicious. And since a pork shoulder is a big hunk of meat, you’ll have plenty to feed a crowd, or to freeze and enjoy later.

Nyleve’s method is to trim the skin off the shoulder, leaving a thin layer of fat on the surface, then rub generously with her favorite dry rub (adapted from a Mark Bittman recipe), and refrigerate overnight. Roast at 250°F for 10 to 12 hours, until the meat is “falling apart tender.” Leftovers can be used in pulled-pork sandwiches. Norm Man suggests leaving the skin on, for “tasty crunchy cracklings.”

Other hounds offer additional ideas for seasoning pork shoulder for roasting: adobo sauce; rubbing with a paste made of garlic, ginger, crushed chiles, oil, and rice vinegar; and covering and surrounding the pork with halved large green chiles, halved onions, and whole garlic cloves (then serving the pulled pork with corn tortillas and condiments).

Board Link: Totally killer slow-roasted pork shoulder

Easy Vanilla Extract

Making vanilla extract is simple: Split vanilla beans lengthwise, toss them into a bottle or jar of vodka, and stick the jar in a dark cupboard for a couple of months, shaking it up on occasion if you think about it. Use around eight vanilla beans for one liter of vodka; adding a small amount of sugar helps extract more vanilla flavor, says JMF. Eighty-proof vodka is fine, but 100 proof is better, and pure grain spirits (Everclear) are ideal.

alanbarnes likes 80-proof Moskovskaya vodka for infusions, saying it has a clean, neutral flavor and is supercheap (around $7 a liter at Trader Joe’s). don515 points to Vanilla, Saffron Imports for great deals on vanilla beans (as low as $19.95 per pound). A CHOW Tip video on homemade vanilla extract notes that rum works just as well.

Board Link: making vanilla extract with vodka

Dealing with Tough Cookies

When you’ve got cookies that are a little too hard, whether from overbaking or age, lmoy suggests that you soften them by wrapping a slice of soft bread loosely in a paper towel and placing it in an airtight container with the cookies. Within 24 hours, you’ll have soft cookies, hard bread.

The other alternative is to repurpose your cookies. Chowhounds suggest breaking them in pieces and using them as mix-ins for ice cream or in place of ladyfingers or cake in a trifle; or folding them into lightly sweetened whipped cream. Chill overnight to make a kind of cookie mousse. Or crush them and use them to make a crumb crust for a pie or cheesecake.

Board Link: Leftover chocolate chip cookies (slightly overbaked)

A Gumbo for Lent

Gumbo z’herbes, a traditional New Orleans Lenten meal, is a whole different pot o’ soup than the rich, roux-thickened, andouille-laden gumbos that are cooked year-round. speyerer explains that the name is a contraction of gumbo aux herbes. The dish is made with greens, and the more types used the better. Tradition holds that an odd number will bring good luck, and the number you use will be the number of friends you’ll make in the coming year.

Because it’s a Lenten dish, gumbo z’herbes traditionally is made without meat, though MakingSense says it is usually cooked with meat broth. It’s a light dish, made without roux, and unlike other gumbos it’s not served over rice. speyerer’s family recipe, which serves 20, doesn’t use meat broth. Here it is:

1 bunch mustard greens

1 bunch collard greens

1 bunch turnip greens

1 bunch spinach

1 bunch scallions

1 bunch Italian parsley

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch beet tops

1 bunch carrot tops

1 bunch radish tops

1 bunch dandelion greens

1/2 head green leaf lettuce (not iceberg)

1/2 head cabbage

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (enough to just cover the bottom of the pot)

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 small turnips, peeled and cubed

2 cups dry white wine

Water to cover

3 teaspoons Creole seasoning

Wash greens and drain well. Cut out stems and center ribs and tear greens into small pieces. In a cast iron pot, add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pot and heat oil until it is hot. Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add greens and cubed turnip. Add wine, water to cover, and Creole seasoning and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until greens are tender, about 2 hours. Serve greens hot with their cooking liquid or “pot likker.”

Board Link: Lenten Treat? --- Gumbo Z’herbes