Cooking Tips rss

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

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons, commonly used in Moroccan cooking, are simple to make at home and keep for a long time. Several recommend this Paula Wolfort recipe. Be sure to use clean utensils–not your hands–to pack and remove your preserved lemons from their jars, to avoid the growth of mold.

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want to hear from anyone who’s ever made Moroccan preserved lemons
Preserved lemons?

Preserving Fresh Herbs for the Long Haul

It’s possible to freeze some fresh herbs and maintain good flavor, when you have an overabundance of such green glory. Plan on using frozen herbs for cooking; you won’t be able to use them in applications that call for raw fresh herbs. Thyme, rosemary, and sage can be rinsed, dried well, and stored in zipper-top freezer bags as is. It’s a snap to strip the leaves from the still-frozen stems, says MakingSense. Parsley leaves can be washed, dried, chopped, and frozen loose in freezer bags. Just grab the amount you need to throw into your dish.
There’s no satisfactory way to freeze whole basil leaves, but they can be minced finely, mixed with a little bit of olive oil and frozen in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes into a freezer bag and add them directly to sauces, etc., as they cook.

SeaSide Tomato makes herbed salts with end-of-season herbs, which can be enjoyed year ‘round and make great gifts. Wash, dry, and tear the leaves of fresh herbs in small pieces, and combine with kosher or sea salt in a ratio of 2/3 salt to 1/3 herbs or half and half. Use a combination of herbs or a single type, depending on your preference. The salt can be stored in tightly sealed bags for months (it will be damp at first, from the fresh herbs, but will dry out over time). Transfer the salt to pretty jars for gift giving or to keep in your spice rack.

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Freezing herbs —which ones work?

Different Takes on Baked Ziti

JaneRI finds that sharp cheddar cheese nicely offsets the sweetness of roasted butternut squash and onions. She combines the roasted vegetables with 1 lb. cooked ziti, a drained can of diced tomatoes, and plenty of grated sharp cheddar. If the mixture doesn’t seem moist enough, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup cream. Turn into a baking dish, top with breadcrumbs, and bake until bubbly and heated through.

greenstate’s baked ziti with chicken is easy and comforting: Saute 1 lb. cubed boneless, skinless, chicken in olive oil. Add a chopped onion, a can of roasted tomatoes, and two cups of tomato sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and basil. Toss with a pound of cooked ziti and a mixture of fresh mozzarella, fontina, and Parmesan cheeses. Top with a generous layer of mozzarella and bake for 45 minutes at 375F.

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Give me your best baked ziti recipe—no meat, please.

Keeping the Heat in Your Meat

Many recipes instruct you to remove meat from a pan and “keep it warm” while you deglaze the pan to make a sauce, or take other steps and add the meat back to the dish in progress. And when you roast or grill meat or poultry, you want to keep it warm while it rests before serving. The best way to keep meats warm without allowing them to overcook depends on the size of the cut and the way it’s cooked. If you’ll be adding meat back to a pan or plating within a few minutes, keeping it on a plate on top of the stove–which will be nice and warm from your cooking–will often do the job. Many tent meat with foil to help keep the heat in: drape foil loosely over the meat, don’t wrap it tightly. If you need to keep meat warm for longer than 10 minutes or so, put it an oven at the lowest possible setting (“keep warm” or at most 200F). The one case where you should not tent meat is when you’ve cooked something whose texture you want to keep crisp, such as skin-on roast chicken. Tenting will create a bit of steam and you’ll lose that delectable crispiness.

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How do you ‘keep meat warm’?

So Many Ways with Fresh Dill

Fresh dill works with any number of foods. It’s a great complement to fish, chicken, and potatoes, but also works well with many other vegetables.

Use it in shrimp, tuna, chicken, and potato salads, made either with oil- or mayonnaise-based dressings. It’s great in a lemony vinaigrette, or in a salad dressing made from cream and lemon juice. Add it to fresh green salads for a bright flavor. Steam carrots with dill or saute mushrooms in butter with dill. Add it to beet borscht, potato-leek soup, or lentil soup. Fill omelets with dill and feta cheese. Add it to bread dough, with or without chopped olives.

carswell likes a versatile sauce made from olive oil, lemon juice, blanched green olives, capers, and snipped dill fronds heated until warm.

spades’s favorite way to use dill is in a creamy cucumber salad: Peel and slice thin an English cucumber and toss it thoroughly with salt. Chill for an hour to allow the salt to draw the water out, then drain the water off and add sour cream, dill, pepper, and salt if you think it needs more. SuzMiCo makes a similar salad with hearts of palm. For a lighter version, use plain yogurt in place of the sour cream.

mermaidsd makes dilly rice: Saute garlic, turmeric, cumin, and salt in some olive oil until the spices are fragrant. Stir in finely chopped dill and saute for another minute, being careful not to overcook. Add rinsed basmati rice and mix until coated with spices and herbs. Add appropriate amount of water and cook until rice is done.

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Dill–wonder herb.
Ideas for using up dill?

Cheese Fondue Fun

There are plenty of great things to dip in a cheese fondue beyond cubes of French bread. Vegetables that make good dippers include steamed or roasted fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, pearl onions, blanched broccoli and cauliflower, steamed asparagus and green beans, and grilled or roasted mushrooms. Sliced tart apples, pears, and grapes also complement cheese fondues. Cornichons are traditional, as well. If you want to include meaty dippers, consider a dried meat like speck, or thinly sliced ham, sliced sausage, or seared cubes of beef filet. Also consider fruit and nut breads in addition to or in place of French bread.

A crisp green salad with a tart vinaigrette or an assortment of pickled vegetables on the side help counteract the richness of all that cheese. A light and sweet dessert of fruit or sorbet, perhaps accompanied by small squares of dark chocolate, is an ideal way to finish a fondue meal.

Several chowhounds offer raves for this recipe for three-cheese fondue with Champagne.

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what else to serve with CHEESE FONDUE

Say Aloha at the Bar

When you want Hawaiian-style cocktails, but aren’t in the mood for sweet slushy fruit-based drinks, try out these libations.

The original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai recipe is wonderfully balanced, says JK Grence the Cosmic Jester:

1 oz. each gold and dark rum
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. orange curacao
1/4 oz. simple syrup
1/4 oz. orgeat (almond) syrup
2 cups crushed ice

Shake everything together in a shaker, pour into a double rocks glass, garnish with a sprig of mint and a speared pineapple piece and maraschino cherry.

The Royal Hawaiian was the signature drink of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel back in the 1950s. Here’s the recipe:

1 1/2 oz. gin
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. orgeat syrup

Shake well with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

sku recommends Sam Choy’s Li Hing Mui Margarita. Li Hing Mui powder is a popular seasoning in the Islands that’s sweet, salty, and sour all at once and is usually sprinkled on fruit. If you can’t find it locally, you can order it online.

1 1/2 oz. tequila

3/4 oz. Cointreau
2 Lemons
1 Lime
1/2 tsp. Li Hing Mui Powder

Squeeze citrus juices into a blender, add tequila, Cointreau, and Li Hing Mui powder, and blend. Rub the rim of a glass with lime juice, and rim with more Li Hing Mui powder.

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Hawaiian-style Cocktail

When Life Gives You Sour Grapes…

If you’re faced with a bunch of grapes that turn out to be too sour for eating out of hand, here are some ideas for using them:

Freeze them and eat frozen for a tart snack.

Add them to a green salad, or to a fruit salad tossed with orange juice to sweeten it up.

Toss them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast them to bring out their sugar; drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving.

Saute them with onions or shallots, add a little rosemary, and serve with sausages on soft polenta.

Add them to an Indian curry.

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Sour Grapes

Keys to Great French Onion Soup

The most important step in making an excellent French onion soup is to thoroughly, patiently caramelize your onions. Keep the heat medium-low and keep stirring them until they become a deep golden color; this can easily take 30 minutes or more. Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat; slow caramelization brings out the onions’ sweetness and their ultimate oniony essence, the very basis of French onion soup. If your recipe has you slicing what looks to be a mountain of onions, you’re on the right track: they’ll cook down as their water is released and they caramelize.

Use the best quality stock you can get your hands on (preferably homemade). Many hounds like some fresh thyme leaves in their French onion soup, and some add wine–red or white–to deglaze the onions before adding stock. It’s classic to finish the soup with a dash or two of cognac, but sherry and port also add wonderful nuance to the flavor. Gruyere is the preferred cheese for topping a crouton of toasted bread and browning in the oven until it’s molten and bubbly, though MMRuth likes to add a little fontina for its meltability.

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What makes a good french onion soup?

Guinness Stout Brownies

The malt in Guinness Stout is said to intensify the flavor of the chocolate in these brownies. luv2bake finds them quite wonderful–very rich, moist, thick, and a bit chewy, with just a hint of stout flavor. Here’s her version:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) Guinness Extra Stout beer, room temperature, without foam
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
confectioners sugar for dusting, if desired

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan or line with with nonstick foil. Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt until evenly combined, and set aside. Melt butter, bittersweet chocolate, and white chocolate chips in a double boiler over very low heat, stirring constantly until melted; remove from heat. With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Beat flour mixture into batter, then whisk in Guinness and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips. The batter will be somewhat thin. Pour batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips evenly over top. Bake 25-30 minutees, until a tester comes out almost clean. Cool to room temperature uncovered before serving. Dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.

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ISO Guinness Brownies Recipe