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

Odd Candies

There are lots of oddball candies in this world.

Chowpatty favors Mexican candies flavored with tamarind, chile, or both. She also loves leche quemada, basically Mexican milk fudge. It’s kind of like penuche, but made with white sugar instead of brown. This stuff is available in many Mexican markets–look for a small case with fresh pralines, coconut-fudge, and the like.

MMRuth’s favorite: Dutch double-salted licorice (candy makers in the Netherlands make quite a variety of salted licorice).

At Asian markets, you can find fragrant muscat-grape flavored gummies. They actually exude the aroma and have the flavor of wine grapes, and are chewy, says silence9. They’re more tender than European gummies. Look for them near the Pocky section.

diesel likes anything both salty and sweet, so he grooves most of all on Chinese dried salted plums, Mexican chili-coated gummi bears, Pearson’s salted nut rolls, and chocolate covered potato chips.

GG Mora is into durian candy. It’s like salt-water taffy, only with the unmistakable sulphurous flavor of durian fruit. Also: Ting-Ting Jahe, the sticky ginger candy from southeast Asia.

Choward’s Scents Gum is cool and tastes of lavender.

ipsedixit recommends: marshmallow Peeps, Zagnuts, Valomilks, tropical-flavored Razzles, and Claeys Candy (watermelon and root beer flavors in particular).

Then there are the sweets purists. typetive consumes muscovado sugar by the spoonful. And chica, our greatest purist, prefers a simple raw piece of sugarcane.

Board Links
What’s your favorite oddball candy?

Grilling In Fresh Grape Leaves

Do you have a grapevine in your yard, or access to fresh grape leaves that aren’t sprayed with insecticides? Here are a couple of neat ideas for using the leaves to make delicious dishes on your grill.

For an appetizer, Darren72 likes to take a piece of goat cheese, top it with a basil leaf and a piece of roasted red pepper, wrap the whole in grape leaves, and grill over low heat (this works well with jarred grape leaves in brine, as well).

Season fish (e.g., halibut, sardines, salmon, sole) with salt and pepper (and maybe a little citrus zest) and rub with olive oil, then wrap in grape leaves and grill over medium-high heat. The fish will take on a smoky, herbaceous flavor and the leaves will get a little crispy, says rabaja. If the leaves are young and tender you may be able to eat them, otherwise just open up the package and enjoy the fish on its own.

If you have more fresh-on-the-vine grape leaves than you can currently use, remember that they freeze very well. Blanch, shock in ice water, dry, roll up six at a time, wrap well and freeze (Infomaniac).

Board Links: Lots of Grape Leaves
Stuffed Grape Leaves (not Dolma)

Oyster Crackers

Good chowder deserves good oyster crackers!

The Premium cracker brand is fine for just floating in soup, but Trader Joe’s oyster crackers are puffy, pillowy crackers with more oomph. If you like a more substantial cracker, the well-known Skyline Chili folks in Cincinnati include a box of theirs for free with every order of chili!

Trenton Oyster crackers are an old brand of cracker perfect suitable for good chowder. They’re now called OTC (for Original Trenton Cracker). Pat Hammond had thought them extinct.

Board Links: Oyster Crackers

Lobster “Culls”

A cull is a lobster missing a claw. It still has plenty of good meat, of course. Culls were once highly discounted, but consumers caught on and the price has increased to the point where they may not work out as bargains anymore, pound for pound. And if claw meat is your favorite, you’re likely better off buying a whole lobster.

Board Links: Lobster Retail Value–Cull vs. Whole?

Chow 101: Miso

The healthful properties of miso are legendary. It’s a living food, with enzymes and other microorganisms said to aid digestion. It tastes good, too! It’s made from fermented soy beans and other grains and is a mainstay of Japanese cooking. The lighter colored miso is delicately flavored and used in light soups, sauces and salad dressings. Use darker miso in heavier dishes, like stews, or as a table condiment.

South River Miso is artisanal and fire-roasted. Their products are for sale at their website, which includes lots of miso information and recipes ranging literally from soup to nuts (and miso desserts, too).

Board Links: artisan tofu makers

Getting Creative With Kimchee

Chowhounds love to use kimchee to perk up all kinds of simple recipes.

Kimchee is delicious chopped into tuna for sandwiches.

theannerska serves it with seared tofu, just a little soy sauce, and scallions.

Kimchee’s great atop burgers, but bigjeff likes it even better mixed into the ground beef before he forms the patties.

It adds oomph to soup: try kimchee with broth and dumplings; or GretchenS’s combo of kimchee, shredded cabbage, scallions, and tofu in chicken broth, with some of the juice from the kimchee jar added in at the end.

Dommy makes kimchee pizza by mixing a little kimchee juice into her sauce and spreading on a prepared crust, adding fresh mozzarella, and baking. When it comes out of the oven, she puts kimchee on top. bigjeff adds kimchee to leftover pizza, and reheats in the oven.

Board Links: what can I do with my kimchee besides stand in front of the fridge and eat it

Bob’s Red Mill

Bob’s Red Mill carries all kinds of high-quality provisions: flours (some gluten-free), grains, beans, seeds, oats, nuts, and other baking needs. Lots of raves from the hounds for these guys.

Their hot cereal mixes can be used in in breadmaking, and taste perfectly good microwaved with just added water. Bob’s steel cut oats are terrific and cheaper than McCanns. Their coarse-ground cornmeal makes a fine pot of grits or polenta.

It’s best to buy these sorts of products from stores with good turnover, or else order online.

Board Links: Bob’s Red Mill: any good??

Wild and Farmed Salmon

There’s no question that wild salmon tastes better and contains fewer contaminants (industrial chemicals) than farmed. “Consumer Reports” magazine recently produced an article revealing that it’s difficult to know which you’re buying, regardless of labeling. And you can’t tell by the color, because the farmed fish are fed food that gives them a “real” salmon color.

Mislabeling is said to be most common during the off season for wild fish. So buy wild salmon during the season (May through September), when their labeling is most likely to be accurate.

Board Links: Consumer Reports on wild salmon [Moved from Home Cooking]

No-Cook Pasta Sauce

Summer is the time for hot pasta with an uncooked, room-temperature sauce made from excellent tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. It’s not the sort of thing you need a formal recipe for; ingredients and ratios depend on personal taste. Here are some pointers.

The basic drill is: chop tomatoes, mix with olive oil, chopped fresh basil, mint, or parsley, season with salt and pepper and a bit of chopped garlic (or a bruised garlic clove or two–remove before serving). Let sit at room temperature for a half hour or so to let flavors meld. Cook pasta in well-salted water, drain (do not rinse!), combine with sauce, and toss well. Add cheese (most common: Parmesan or Pecorino Romano). Toss again, and check seasoning. It’s best served on warm (not hot) plates.

Other ingredients chowhounds like to add for variation: kalamata olives, capers, arugula, scallions, fresh fennel, toasted pine nuts, fresh mozzarella, brie, goat or feta cheese. Softer cheeses melt into the hot pasta, making for a luxurious texture.

Board Links: HOT PASTA with COLD SAUCE

Cooking Less Bilious Beans

Here are some tricks for cooking beans that hounds say will minimize unpleasant intestinal effects.

Put beans in rapidly boiling water and let them boil for two minutes; take off heat and let them sit for an hour. Discard the water and continue cooking with fresh water (rworange).

Add a tablespoon of baking powder to your pot of beans and water; bring to a boil; rinse, cover with fresh water and simmer (*Candy).

Add a strip of kombu (a thick seaweed sold at Japanese markets) to the cooking liquid (it leaves no discernible flavor).

Add a tiny pinch of the Indian spice asafoetida (“heeng” in Hindi), a pungent tree resin in powdered form (careful–a little goes a long way!). It aids in digestion.

Board Links: How to “de-gas” beans?