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

Sun-Dried Tomatoes by the Bagful

Sun-dried tomatoes sold in bags are most often rehydrated in boiling water before using. You can use them right after rehydrating, or you can pack them in a jar, with some herbs and peppercorns if you like, and cover them with olive oil to store. They add a deep tomato flavor to foods, no matter what the season. They’re a great addition to omelettes and frittatas, pizza, pasta, salads, and tomato-based sauces. If you store them in oil, you can use the flavorful oil in these dishes, as well.

carswell uses them in pesto rosso, a chunky puree of equal amounts of sun-dried tomatoes and pitted black olives with fresh thyme and rosemary leaves, garlic, crushed chiles, and olive oil. He spreads it on toasted country bread, or cod before roasting, and uses it as a sauce for spaghetti with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.

Chopped or julienned without being rehydrated, sun-dried tomatoes make a fine ingredient in quiches and risottos (they may soak up a bit of extra stock in risotto). adamclyde likes them chopped finely in pasta salads, and sasha1 eats high-quality sun-dried tomatoes out of the bag as you would dried fruit.

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much-maligned sundried tomatoes

Varieties of radishes

Radishes have a lovely crunch; it’s especially nice to mix up spicy radishes with mild radishes. Farmers’ markets will often have a number of different ones to choose from:

The daikon is a large Asian radish, with a sweet and mild flavor.

The French breakfast radish is also mild and will be along in the springtime. Eat them French-style, Das Ubergeek suggests, “with a sliver cut out of the top, a bit of sweet butter smashed in the cut, and a teeny sprinkling of sea salt.” They’re equally nice thinly sliced onto a well-buttered baguette, and seasoned with a shake of good salt.

They’re also very easy to grow. All you need is a few flower pots and some potting soil; the plants don’t require much depth. Sow some seeds, water, and wait. If they sprout up too close together, thin the plants out, and add those shoots to a salad.

Info on growing your own.

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Ultrapasteurized Cream

Virtually all the cream you buy in the supermarket has been ultrapasteurized, a heating process that extends the life of the product. Ultrapasteurized cream will keep for several weeks unopened. Some folks find this factor a convenience.

Plain pasteurized cream is fresher and more perishable. Use plain pasteurized cream for whipping, if you can get it; ultra takes a lot longer to whip. Small dairies and some organic sources sell the plain pasteurized. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry it, too.

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Dontcha hate ultrapasteurized cream and half & half?

Twilight of the Grouper

The St. Petersburg Times (of Florida, not Russia) is reporting that “17 of 24 Tampa Bay area restaurants tested last year by the Florida Attorney General’s Office advertised grouper on menus but served some other fish.”

The most entertaining snippet of the piece:

WingHouse serves a ‘grouper teammate’ sandwich that is swai, another Asian catfish.

Director of purchasing Christopher M. Jones said he has been on the job only a few weeks and was not party to conversations with the state but said WingHouse would follow the law.

Customers know that ‘grouper teammate’ is not really a grouper, he said. ‘It’s all a fun joke.’

Hilarious! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

A criminal investigation is under way, and the implications of GrouperGate are all pretty much terrifying.

1. If you go into a restaurant and order a particular kind of fish, there’s a chance the restaurant is conning you. Moreover, there’s a chance that the restaurant’s actually been conned by its supplier, and therefore will present you with the wrong fish without even knowing it.

2. People—customers and restaurateurs—can’t tell one kind of fish from another. Have we all lost our collective tastebuds? Or does it just not make much of a difference what we’re eating anymore?

3. There are not enough damned grouper to go around. Lump that in with the seemingly endless list of different overfished seafood species, and we’re clearly facing a seafood problem of epic proportions. And by “seafood problem,” I mean “aquatic ecosystem problem.” Because that sounds a little less gluttonously narrow-minded.

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Bruni Goes Normal for a Night

Frank Bruni, restaurant critic for The New York Times, joined the rest of the world this week, dining just like a “normal” person.

As he explains in his blog, it happened just as it does to the rest of us. Feeling hungry after a movie, Bruni and a friend popped into a neighborhood restaurant—without reservations, without prior research, and without great expectations beyond the hope for a decent meal. Just like the rest of us.

In Bruni’s own words, “I ate spontaneously. I ate imperfectly. I ate without agenda.”

‘Cause sometimes even restaurant critics get hungry.

Congratulations, Frank. You’re normal.

Don’t Get KidFresh with Me

New York magazine has a one-page story on KidFresh, “an Upper East Side children’s food store” that caters to “time-starved parents and juvenile taste buds.” The piece is nominally about the store, which lets kids push miniature carts around and browse 35 elegant little prepared refrigerated—and mostly organic—meals. But the star of the show is 10-year-old Jake, a precocious little foodie who says stuff like this:

‘I expected the food to be like Campbell’s soup, but it’s not at all. It’s pretty good, but not for a guy like me. I prefer Citarella or Dean & DeLuca. I treasure things like an aged balsamic vinegar and truffles—the mushrooms, not the chocolate.’

The moral of the story: Raise your kids on the Upper East Side, and brace yourself for wisecracking little adults who are freebasing and making commercial-quality crunk mix tapes by the time they’re 14.

The Littlest Foodies

Foodism has hit the pre-kindergarten set, The New York Times reports (registration required). That grown-up gastronomes are producing offspring with a taste for sushi and stinky cheese is no secret, but apparently now a growing number of restaurants and recreational cooking schools are catering to the tiniest of these tots, offering child-size portions and kid-friendly cooking classes for kids as young as 2 1/2. A culinary center in Texas teaches toddlers how to make finger sandwiches, and five-year-olds in New York’s celeb-chef-centric meatpacking district knead pizza dough with yeast pebbles and sea salt before topping with pungent Gruyère.

As Sunday Style pieces go, this article has a high concentration of funny quotes, particularly from Chef Eric Ripert of New York’s four-star Le Bernardin:

[Ripert] thinks his dress code helps keep children in line. ‘They have a tie, so they are almost strangled already,’ he said. ‘They don’t move much.’

Of course there are exceptions: On a birthday trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns last year, I was seated a table away from a suit-wearing six-year-old, who seemed to be enjoying the food. But about halfway through the meal, he freaked out and run into the garden, shortly after telling his mom she needed a facial and then crying loudly, “I don’t want to go to prep school!” Clearly his palate had developed more quickly than his ability to detect irony.