General Topics rss

Highlights from the General Topics and Cookware boards. Food trends, food products, and burning questions.

Torta Nirvana

Nirvana may be closer than you think–torta-wise, estone888 says YaYa’s are truly transcendent. There’s an astounding variety, all fresh and fantastic. Makes Super Tortas (otherwise great, especially the Alvarado location) look like a dump.

Ya Ya’s Burgers [East LA-ish]
3202 E. Gage Ave., at Plaska, Huntington Park

Super Tortas [Downtown]
360 S. Alvarado St., at 3rd, Los Angeles


Super Tortas [Hollywood]
1253 Vine St., Fountain, Los Angeles

Super Tortas [East San Fernando Valley]
7949 Vineland Ave., at Strathern, Sun Valley

Board Links
LA Report —Super Tortas

Buying Fish

To be sure you choose the freshest fish, use your eyes and your nose. The flesh or skin should be shiny, the eyes clear, and the gills should be nicely pink. Most good fishmongers will let you smell fresh seafood; if it’s old, you’ll be able to tell.

tbear says some fish varieties hold longer than others. Flat fish like sole and turbot are more perishable. Ask when they were caught, since these fish are often caught and brought to market same day.

Large fish, like tuna and swordfish, last longer if they aren’t cleaned immediately. If they’re caught at a distance from the market, they’ll be flash-frozen on the boat–which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Oysters and mussels hold surprising well, because they’re stored alive. Toss out open ones, which may be dead. A test for determining if they’re dead: tap them on the counter. Good ones will close right up!

Most important: get to know your fishmonger.

Board Links: Buying fish on a Monday at a supermarket

How to Keep Dairy Products Fresh Longer

This trick is so simple, you’ll be slapping your forehead that you haven’t thought of it already!

Store milky products, like milk, cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc., in the back of the fridge, where it’s coldest. This applies too, when you pick them up at the store; choose containers farthest back in the case. You’ll find these items will remain fresh longer.

A tip for cottage cheese from rworange: store it upside down (in the back of the fridge, of course!). This is said to create a vacuum seal that helps keep the cottage cheese fresh.

Board Links: A thank you for a good tip … keeping dairy products fresh
Keeping cottage cheese fresh


Nutella is a delicious and creamy chocolate/hazelnut spread. You buy it by the jar, and it has lots of uses beyond eating it with a spoon.

Spread it on toast, good bread, croissants, waffles, pancakes, crepes, even tortillas! You can dip fruits too (bananas are wonderful with Nutella).

Sandwich it between two shortbread cookies.

Add it to ice cream base, before freezing.

Make Nutella ravioli! Just fill the ravioli wrapper with Nutella, brush egg wash around the edges and seal. Fry and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Donut hole extravaganza! Here’s a photo Weez took of some donut holes filled with Nutella and hazelnut gelato.

Board Links: Nutella…....mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Favorite Pretzels

Martin’s pretzels are a favorite in New York. They can be ordered online or picked up at greenmarkets in NYC. They make hard pretzels, salted or unsalted, and they’re very good!

Also very popular are Snyders and Utz’s, both from Pennsylvania.

An unusual style of Pennsylvania pretzel is called “Unique,” which is both a style and a brand making that style. Unique Splits are extra dark, and come with extra salt–amazing and super crunchy.

Karl S is more old school, preferring Brachman’s twists, which he deems a delightful textural pleasure.

Board Links: Do you have a favorite brand of pretzels?

Food Shopping 101: Bad Apple

A mushy or “floury” apple is not easy to detect without biting into it, and by that time it’s too late! Here are some tips to guide you in buying the best apples.

Your best bet is to buy in season (i.e., in cool weather) from a grower or at a farmers’ market.

Look for apples that have some heft to them, and don’t yield when you apply pressure with your fingers. Check the blossom end (bottom) of the apple. It should be nice and tight with no signs of splitting, mold, or discoloration, advises Non Cognomina.

Note that apples packaged in “dimpled” cardboard, with a space for each apple, arrive in better shape, too.

Your supermarket, of course, sells apples year-round. Hopefully, the trucks that delivered them have ethylene gas filters. Here’s why: apples (and other fruits) produce ethylene as they ripen, which accelerates the aging process. In a truckload of fruit, the cumulative gas begins to age the fruit prematurely. Trucks with filters help extend shelf life.

Final note: Never hesitate to return bad fruit.

Board Links: floury apples.

Hot and Sour Soup

Trader Joe’s makes jarred hot and sour soup that’s nicely sour, with a bit of heat (if you want more, add some white pepper). A bit of white vinegar enhances the sourness.

The soup is nice on its own, but you can also use it as a base for adding more solid ingredients.

Board Links: Hot & Sour SOUP

Duck Eggs

Duck eggs are much larger than chicken eggs. The yolks are thicker too, so they can get rubbery if overcooked. Chocolate chick had some duck eggs (with bright orange yolks) cooked over-easy in Scotland, and proclaims them the best eggs she’s ever eaten.

They’re also rich and wonderful for baking, and they make custards turn out silky smooth.

Here’s a nice photo showing off the yolk and the dense white.

Order duck eggs online at

Board Links: Duck eggs?

Yuzu Pepper Paste

Yuzu pepper paste is a Japanese condiment that’s spicy and salty, with the citrus flavor of yuzu. In Japanese, it’s called Yuzu Koshou. There are two varieties: green, from green chile peppers and green yuzus, and red, from red peppers and yellow yuzus. A little goes a long way, and it’s great as a rub for chicken, fish, or meat. Look for it in Japanese markets.

Board Links: yuzu pepper paste

Traditional Waffle Irons

Traditional flat waffle irons are the exception these days, with thick Belgian waffles commanding prime breakfast real estate. Chowhounds endorse several irons that yield old-fashioned thin waffles.

Cuisinart makes three models garnering thumbs-up for ease of use and even heating. The Round Classic waffle iron and Heart-Shaped waffle iron (which produces a roundish flower that comes apart into 5 hearts!) cost around $30, and both store horizontally so they don’t take up much space. The 6-square iron is a larger, heavier model that makes a lot at once–great for serving a bunch of people or making batches for freezing.

Allstonian has been very happy with VillaWare’s Classic Heart Waffle Iron, which has a light and sounds a tone to let you know your waffle’s ready.

Board Links: Need a Waffle Iron Rec