Cooking Tips rss

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

On Conch

How do you prepare conch, besides in conch fritters?

phneale offers conch salad, cracked conch (pounded to tenderize it), and a classic tomato-based conch chowder. Recipes can be found here and here.

Board Link: Conch

Turn My Boyfriend Into an Okra-Lover!

Chowhounds converge to convert a boyfriend from the dark side of okra hate.

WendyBinCT offers a battered fried okra after she quotes Indiana-born journalist Roy Blount Jr.’s poetic tribute:

“String beans are good, and ripe tomatoes,
And collard greens and sweet potatoes,
Sweet corn, field peas, squash and beets—
But when a man rears back and eats
He wants okra.”

Here’s an excellent recipe for fried okra.

1 pound okra (about 24 pods)
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
4 to 6 dashes hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
1/4 cup oil

Wash okra pods. Trim away and discard the stem end and tip of each pod. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.

In a bowl, combine buttermilk (or egg) and hot pepper sauce. Add okra and stir until all slices are well coated. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, Old Bay, and cayenne. Use a slotted spoon to lift okra slices from buttermilk, draining well, then add okra to cornmeal-flour mixture and toss lightly to coat. Pour okra into a sieve and shake off excess cornmeal.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Test the pan for correct heat by placing 1 slice of okra in the hot oil. If it sizzles, the pan is hot enough. Place the remaining okra into the skillet. (It may be necessary to fry the okra in batches.) Allow the okra to fry 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or perforated spatula, turn gently. Continue to fry, 6 to 10 minutes total, checking and turning as needed until okra is quite brown and very crisp. Place 2 or 3 crumpled paper towels in a serving bowl. Transfer okra to paper towels to drain.

As an alternative to frying, bake the coated okra. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet. Arrange okra on rack and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes.

You can roast uncoated okra, too. mimilulu says roasted okra is “wonderful and not slimy at all.” Start with the smallest okra you can find. Larger okra tends to be woody, which won’t roast well.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil or spray, add okra, and season to taste. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and toss. Roast, stirring every 5 minutes, until okra is browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

And what doesn’t taste better with bacon—even okra?

bkhuna offers tomatoes, okra, and bacon. Fry chopped bacon. Remove the bacon bits from the pan and set aside. Fry sliced okra in the bacon drippings with chopped onion. When the onion starts to color, add chopped canned tomatoes. Add a little salt and pepper, and simmer until tender. Serve over rice.

And then an okra-potato hash that’s converted mudster and his Midwestern peeps: Dice a few red potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes. Sauté in a nonstick pan in olive oil with onions and garlic, just as you would make home fries. Jalapeños or serranos are a good addition. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and, if you desire, cumin. When the potatoes are brown and the onions nearly caramelized, remove them from the pan and set aside. Wipe the pan thoroughly. Toss sliced okra with cornmeal and sauté in moderately hot olive oil. (Transfer the okra over to the pan in a slotted spoon, so you don’t dump excess cornmeal into the oil.) Season with the same mixture of salt, pepper, cayenne, and cumin. Cook until golden on both sides. You want the oil to be hot enough to pan-fry the okra. If the okra cooks too slowly, it’ll start to steam—and that means moisture, which in turn means slime.

Once the okra is browned, add the potatoes and onions back to the pan and mix thoroughly.

Board Link: Help me turn my boyfriend into an okra lover

On-the-Go Breakfast

Your assignment: good ideas for breakfast that are easy to make, can be eaten on the run or at the office, and don’t include oatmeal or peanut butter or yogurt. Chowhounds came through with plenty of suggestions from complex to as simple as buying a muffin from a good bakery.

Eggs lead the way in endless variations: Frittatas and quiches can be stored and transported easily, reheated or eaten at room temperature, and, most important, offer a template for the creative use of appealing ingredients. Jennalynn makes miniomelets in greased muffin tins with beaten eggs and chopped-up veggies and meat. Wrap in tinfoil, refrigerate, and microwave at work. Lemonii constructs egg sandwiches of fried eggs, cheese, mayo, spinach, and tomatoes on whole wheat bread.

Others offer variations on bagel-egg-avocado sandwiches; quesadilla constructions; pita with chicken or tuna; lavash with cream cheese, lox, onions, and tomatoes; or burritos made ahead with scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese, and salsa and frozen. If you have a toaster at work, try sliced hard-cooked eggs on buttered toast.

Plenty of Chowhounds break their fast with neither eggs nor sandwich inventions. Emme suggests cottage cheese and salsa or salmon croquettes, frozen and ’waved, or couscous salads with seasoned rice wine vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, chopped tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, cipollini onions, basil, and currants.

Board Link: Breakfast–Easy, On the Go

Vegetarian Rosh Hashanah

lucyis wants to celebrate the holiday with delicious vegetarian fare.

rruben1 offers an autumnal bounty of root vegetables served over Israeli couscous. Marinate diced root vegetables, sweet potatoes, and other veggies you’d like in wine vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Roast in a baking dish at 350°F for one hour. Serve over couscous.

chicgail offers up the love that is kugel. Blend sour cream, cottage cheese or yogurt, Worcestershire sauce, a small diced onion, Tabasco, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Mix the blend with cooked small egg noodles. Pour the mix into a casserole and top with Parmesan cheese and paprika—smoked paprika if you want extra flavor.

Miamicooks extols vegetable-stuffed cabbage. Sauté inner cabbage leaves until soft and flexible. Stuff with rice, tofu, garlic, celery, onions, raisins, or any other veggie combo that tickles your palate. Braise in a sweet-and-sour tomato sauce. Serve with rice and remember your grandma.

Board Link: Any vegetarian faves for Rosh Hashonah?

Beet It!

The Dairy Queen has a problem. She needs a low-fat alternative to those delicious, enormously high-fat gourmet bratwursts.

jhuston says, “Tuna steaks are super easy and so very healthy.” Brush them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grill them for a couple of minutes per side. If you want to jazz it up a little, marinate them ahead of time for 20 or 30 minutes.

bulavinaka suggests beets! “I think beets have been dealt a bad rap because the canned stuff is pretty hideous.” Take fresh beets, peel, and slice them between a 1/4 inch and a 1/2 inch thick. Brush them with some marinade, and grill them until you get nice brown spots on the surface—this is the beet sugar starting to caramelize.

Jill Brazil says that turkey sausages are a good lower-fat alternative. There’s even turkey bratwurst.

Board Link: Help! Easy alternative to brats/sausages on the grill?

Ideas for Cherry Tomatoes

Here are some delicious ways to dispatch summer’s bounty of cherry tomatoes:

For hors d’oeuvre, cut a tiny slice from the bottom of each tomato so it sits flat, cut the tops off, and scoop out the seeds. Then stuff with pesto, guacamole, herbed cream cheese and smoked salmon, a bit of fresh mozzarella and a sliver of fresh basil, or whatever strikes your fancy.

Roasted cherry tomatoes have an incredibly intense tomato flavor, says Budino. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil and roast them at 225°F until their skins burst and they are caramelized and a bit dehydrated. Use them in salads, pasta, omelets, couscous, on bruschetta—they’re delicious in all sorts of dishes. They keep well refrigerated, topped with a little olive oil, and freeze well, too.

Spicy Roast Chicken with Tomatoes and Marjoram and sautéed chicken with cherry tomatoes are both highly recommended.

Many Chowhounds love this cherry tomato–onion tart.

Several recommend this curried ketchup made with cherry tomatoes.

Board Link: Cherry Tomato Recipes?

Fig Salad Dressing and Barbecue Sauce

Fresh fig purée makes a fabulous salad dressing or barbecue sauce for grilled pork when combined with balsamic vinegar, says itryalot. For salad dressing, she whisks balsamic vinegar with extra-virgin olive oil and fig purée to taste, seasoning with salt and pepper. For barbecue sauce, she cooks fig purée and balsamic vinegar down until it is reduced to a thick sauce, then brushes it on the meat.

Board Link: ISO Fig salad dressing recipe

Peaches on the Grill

August’s ripe peaches are great grilled, both as a light dessert and as a sweet-savory side.

For dessert, pilotgirl210 halves peaches or nectarines, brushes the cut sides lightly with canola oil, and grills them over medium heat, cut side down, until lightly browned. Turn the fruit over, spoon a teaspoon of blueberry preserves into the cavity of each half, and grill until they’re tender; serve hot.

ChefBoyAreMe grills peaches as a side dish: Halve peaches, brush with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill until lightly charred, turning once. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

Board Link: Grilled Nectarines with Blueberry Preserves

“The Universal Condiment”

Barry Foy was thrilled to discover that the simple chopped chiles preserved in salt that he made to use in Hunanese recipes from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook cross culinary divides East and West: They lend heat, spark, and zing, with a nice bit of fruitiness and color, to whatever you add them to, and you can vary the heat level and flavor profile depending on what kind of chiles you use. Indeed, says Barry, they are “the universal condiment.” They’re great for picking up a bland dish, and give a fresher flavor than hot sauce or chile powder would. Barry’s used them in mayonnaise, rice pilaf, and homemade kielbasa, as well as Chinese dishes, and says his fridge will never be without a jar.

Here’s how to make them: Wash 1 pound very fresh hot red chiles (Barry used Fresnos) and dry thoroughly. Remove stems and bottom tips, and chop coarsely, including seeds. In a bowl, mix the chiles thoroughly with 3 1/2 tablespoons salt, then pack them into a glass jar and top with 1/2 tablespoon salt. Close tightly and refrigerate for two weeks to cure. Stir the salt and chiles thoroughly; they are now ready to use. Kept refrigerated, they will last for months.

Board Links: I Have Discovered the Universal Condiment

Fantastic Veggie Burgers

Homemade veggie burgers can be a bit of work to put together, but they invariably taste much better than the bland frozen variety. You can make big batches and refrigerate or freeze them for another day.

rose water created her own recipe, with terrific results:

1 cup lentils, boiled until tender
1/2 cup wheatberries, boiled until tender
2 shallots, sliced and fried
1 or 2 carrots, grated
1 red pepper, minced
Several beet green stalks, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Handful fresh basil, chopped
Handful cilantro, chopped
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons spicy-sweet prepared mustard
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
Aleppo pepper, salt, and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Mash together all ingredients, shape into patties, and bake 10 minutes.

abud says Heidi Swanson’s Ultimate Veggie Burgers are incredible, and also recommends CHOW’s recipe.

Board Links: Fantastic Veggie Burgers