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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

In the East Village, Zabb Thai Hits Its Stride

Zabb City, the newish Manhattan outpost of a Thai favorite in Queens, has been on probation. When it opened last summer, hounds looked forward to more of the robust Isaan chow they’d swooned over at the Jackson Heights original. They were often disappointed. The menu offered few Isaan dishes, and the restaurant seemed little changed from the run-of-the-mill Thai eatery it replaced.

Happily, things are looking up. A recent meal was excellent, reports veteran Thai hand Simon. Highlights: superior laab moo (ground pork salad) and som tam (papaya salad) with admirable texture and just the right amount of sweetness. “I’m delighted,” Simon adds. “The quality of life in my neighborhood just got a lot better.”


Zabb City [East Village]
formerly Chaa Chaa Teahouse
244 E. 13th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Manhattan
212-529-8770
Locater

Zabb Queens Restaurant [Jackson Heights]
71-28 Roosevelt Ave., between 70th and 72nd Sts., Jackson Heights, Queens
718-426-7992
Map

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Zabb City
Excellent Thai in LES —Ama ya

Catch of the Day: Scallops Fresh from the Bay at Cor-J

Peconic Bay scallops are back in season, and there’s no better place to score some than Cor-J out in Hampton Bays. Fresh from local baymen, they’re sweet and scrumptious and don’t even have to be cooked, swears skeetereats. Cor-J, right near the Ponquogue Bridge, also offers the area’s best selection of local fish and shellfish, plus a boatload of small-town charm.

So far it’s shaping up as another lean season for Peconic Bays, so call ahead. If Cor-J’s is out, skeetereats suggests trying Stuart’s in Amagansett, which works with different baymen.


Cor-J Seafood Corp. [Suffolk County]
36 Lighthouse Rd., Hampton Bays, NY
631-728-5186
Locater

Stuart’s Seafood Market [Suffolk County]
41 Oak Ln., between Schellinger Rd. and Montauk Hwy., Amagansett, NY
631-267-6700
Locater

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Bay Scallops?

Celeriac

Celeriac, or celery root, is at its peak in wintertime. This heavy, knobbly root tastes kind of like a cross between celery and parsley, according to Candy; it can be eaten raw or cooked.

To serve celeriac raw in salads, julienne finely or shred, and toss with lemon juice or hold in acidulated water to keep it from browning. rabaja notes that using ice water makes it extra crunchy. She likes it with a light grainy mustard vinaigrette.

Celeriac can be cooked in many ways. It’s good mashed with potatoes or on its own; in gratins; braised with stock; in soups, either pureed or brothy; and tossed with olive oil and roasted, alone or in combination with other root vegetables. Adding a squirt of lemon juice a few minutes before you take roasted celeriac out of the oven adds a nice depth of flavor, says JenMarie66.

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Celeriac

Wimpy Jalapenos

Don’t think that just because you’ve got some jalapenos, that you’re guaranteed some heat. You can actually buy a bunch of them at the same time, only to find some will have no more zip than a bell pepper.

Newer varieties have been developed that are not only milder, but also resistant to disease. They seem to have penetrated the market, according to broncosaurus. The peppers that are the brightest green are often of that new variety called TAMs (after the developer, Texas A&M). JMF has found that the hotter peppers have black or purple striations near the stem end. Leave the interior ribs and seeds in for more heat.

They’re a hot weather plant, so look for them at farmers’ markets in August and September. When you find some to your liking, buy up a lot and freeze, advises MakingSense.

They’re easy to grow, if you live in a climate with long, warm days. They’re ornamental, as well.

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Where to find jalapenos that are actually hot

Dry Vermouth: Pantry Staple

Need a splash of white wine for your recipe, but don’t want to crack a whole bottle? Dry vermouth makes an excellent stand-in. Dry vermouth is a fortified white wine flavored with herbs. It has a distinctive flavor, but one that marries well with the foods in most dishes that call for white wine. It’s easy to keep on hand; it’ll last a long time in a cool, dark cupboard or in the fridge. Use it where a modest quantity of white wine is called for; if a recipe calls for a cup of wine or more, you’re better off buying an inexpensive bottle of white (you can freeze extra wine for use in cooking later on). Chowhounds agree that Noilly Prat is the best brand of dry vermouth for cooking.

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Vermouth vs. Wine

Tail-On Shrimp

It’s not unusual, even in a sauteed dish, to see shrimp served with the last bit of shell remaining on the tail segment. Most frozen shrimp just come this way and almost all shrimp available have been frozen. The little tail shell makes a good handle to pick the shrimp up.

Rather than pawing through a saucy dish to pick up the shrimp to remove tails, lots of folks just chew the tails. You can also move them a bit to the side, pin them down with a fork, and slice that part off, before eating.

The tail shells of fried shrimp are crunchy and they taste good. They do contain a nice morsel of meat. If you buy shrimp to shell for yourself, you can always remove the tail, leaving the meat intact.

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Tail-on shrimp.

Break Out the TV Trays


Workers at a Frito-Lay plant in Frankfort, Indiana, toiled overtime this week as part of the snack maker’s plan to ramp up production of tortilla, corn, and potato chips by about 10 million pounds nationwide.

Why? Because Super Bowl Sunday is almost at hand. And BusinessWeek is all over the supermarket aspect of the game, providing hard, cold data for increases in frozen-pizza sales and piquant factoids about spicy snacks consumed on every sports fan’s favorite national holiday.

But man does not live by barbecue potato chips alone, and the more ambitious party hosts will want to show off more of their mad skillz than just opening a few boxes and bags. For them, there are plenty of resources and recipes, from Super Bowl chaat to football-shaped cakes. Don’t forget the Chicago-style deep-dish pizza and Indianapolis fave pork tenderloin sandwiches.

But while lots of food sections are going all out to help readers have a decadent Super Bowl party, there are still those who want us to stick to our resolution and try to avoid the food trough this Sunday.

One thing that won’t be on the menu in Chicago? Horse meat. As much as those rabid Windy City fans might want to chow down on a real symbol of rival Indianapolis, according to “No horse for you,” an article from Chicago paper Daily Southtown:

Colts are verboten from the dinner plate in the Land of Lincoln, where state law prohibits the sale of horse meat for human consumption.

Ethnic Is the New Organic

Farmers stand to gain from the growing demand for multi-culti veggies, the AP reports. According to the story,

The explosion of immigrant populations is fueling the growth of ethnic vegetables like cilantro and bok choy, giving farmers new, and potentially more profitable, revenue streams to add to their American staples of corn, sweet peppers and tomatoes. They’ll have less competition for this narrow niche, crops that an ethnic population would have consumed in their home country, now growing in small quantities in the U.S.

These crops, farmers and researchers say, bring premiums of 200 to 300 percent—as much as six times more than most organic products. Agricultural experts at Rutgers are launching a plan to link East Coast growers (in states like Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, and Georgia) with local buyers for their ethnic eats.

Could this extra cash be the start of what Dan Barber recently called the “green” (as in greenback) revolution, wherein farmers profit from the diversity of their crops instead of being nudged by government farm subsidies into growing monocultures of corn, rice, soybeans, or wheat for processed food?

Perhaps; small producers who specialize in “exotic” veggies certainly would be able to hang on to a large chunk of those premium prices, unlike organic growers. If ethno-farmers don’t go the certified-organic route, they don’t have to pay the government-sanctioned 5 percent surcharge on crop insurance that organic growers do—nor do they need to fallow their land or pay costly certification fees. Nearby specialty-food retailers, farmer’s markets, and ethnic grocery stores alike might demand their fare year-round, which would mean that fewer natural resources would be devoted to shipping and importing the veggies from faraway places.

Of course, there are already plenty of small growers selling cilantro, bok choy, and unusual peppers at the nation’s farmer’s markets. What are some of your favorites?

Say No to NaCl

You might be forgiven for not knowing that it’s National Salt Awareness Week, especially because the nation in the title is the UK.

We’ll take note of it here anyway, since in the U.S. it seems to be “National ‘Hey, Packaged Food Isn’t So Good for You, Even If It’s Organic’ Week.”

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) doesn’t want us to give up our Himalayan pink salt or our jinx-removing black salt.

Instead, CASH is focusing on processed food with “unnecessary amounts of salt. The organization has issued a list of products to boycott. The list includes such salt fests as Unilever Peperami Sticks (with a whopping 4 grams of salt per 100 grams) and, unsurprisingly, a product called Quaker Salt and Vinegar Snack-a-Jacks. It has salt right there in the name!

Time to Cut the Baby?

In the impressive-but-unappetizing category is an award-winning cake from British cake designer Michelle Wibowo. I’m sure it tasted fine, but who wants to eat a cake in the shape of a newborn baby?

As noted on the blog Cake Fun, Michelle has a YouTube video that shows the cake’s assembly—speeded up so that it fits into three minutes. While it is an interesting thing to watch, the design itself—an eerily lifelike baby complete with swaddling blankets and a little newbie cap—is a bit off-putting. I mean, really, is this for a baby party? Who wants to eat a facsimile of the guest of honor?