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

Chard: It’s Green

Chard is one of those dark leafy greens packed with fiber and nutrients–you know, the stuff that we’re always being told to eat more of. Luckily, it’s also delicious–provided you don’t mind a bit of bite to your greens (though chard is definitely milder than, say, kale). You’ll find green, ruby, and rainbow chard for sale; they’ve all got green leaves, but their ribs and stems differ in color (rainbow is green, ruby, and gold-ribbed chard bundled together). Both stems and leaves are good eating, but stems need to cook longer. There are two main recipe schools: parcook, then finish with a brief saute, or don’t parcook, but add liquid and braise.

It’s best to parboil chard, believes jen kalb, who says the ribs can sometimes turn gray when steamed or sauteed. She adds that if the stems are thick, it’s best to pull some of the strings from the outer layer and cut them into smaller pieces before proceeding.

Chard’s great in minestrone, jen adds: the ribs never lose their crispness. Will Owen says chard enhances any variation of lentil soup–vegetarian, meat based, simple, or complex: “the earthiness of both lentils and chard intermingle and enhance each other.” Add chopped chard for the last hour or so of simmering, and put a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice in your bowl at the table.

Alan Divack calls his prep “Korean-ish”: shred and and boil the chard; put the stems in, cook about 3 minutes, then add the leaves and cook for 5 minutes more. Drain, refresh in cold water, and squeeze dry. Mix sesame oil, white sugar, salt, and cayenne or Korean red pepper in a serving bowl to taste. Add chard and stir well.

Chop rainbow chard and parboil in a little chicken stock. Once the chard is softened, add some olive oil, sea salt, lemon zest, and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Great mixed into orzo that dressed with olive oil, parsley, and more lemon zest to taste, says MaspethMaven.

phoenikia offers this variation a classic Italian spinach preparation: saute 2 cloves of minced garlic in 2 or 3 Tbsps. of olive oil, then add 1/2 cup pine nuts, and sautee a bit more. Add 6 or7 cups of parboiled, drained, chopped chard to the skillet, along with 3/4 cup of raisins soaked in warm water for 5 minutes to plump, then drained. Sautee for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

JasmineG cooks a dish she says is terrific as is, but also makes a great topping for pasta shapes like penne–it’s especially pretty over pasta if made with rainbow chard: cut the stems and ribs from a bunch of chard, and chop them and the leaves up (keeping them separate). Put just enough olive oil in a big skillet to coat the bottom and add some minced garlic and red pepper flakes, then add the chard stems and some water and cover. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the leaves and more water, cover again for about 3 minutes. When the chard is tender, add feta, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, some grated pecorino, and salt and pepper, and toss it all together.

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Chary of chard

Five Spice Powder for Fish and Sweets

Chinese five spice powder is most commonly used when cooking duck and other meats, but Chowhounds offer tips for using it with fish and in dessert-y preps.

rootlesscosmo rubs five spice powder on the exposed flesh of a salmon fillet, then pan-sears the fish, skin side-down, for a few minutes, and finishes in a 400 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes until done. Meaty white fishes like halibut stand up well to assertive five spice powder, says lunchbox, who recommends dredging halibut in flour seasoned with five spice and sauteing.

For sweets, “anything sweet that you would add cinnamon to is better with five spice,” preaches lunchbox. He poaches pears for tarts in ruby port and five spice powder. DGresh sautes ripe plantains in a mixture of butter and oil, sprinkling with five spice powder when they’re nearly done. babette feasts loves five spice powder in gingerbread.

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Non-Meat recipes for 5 spice powder

The Venerable BLT

Bacon, lettuce, and tomato on toast is just about the perfect sandwich, and easy to make. Most prefer the bacon to be crisp enough that it breaks with one bite. Thick-sliced crisp bacon will give you even more bacon flavor.

Those who like a chewy texture use a hardy baguette that will hold up to the ingredients.

macca says it’s a great sandwich to take on road trips. Put each ingredient in its own container, take along some mayo in the cooler, and assemble when it’s time to eat. (If you’re camping, the bacon can be cooked just before making sandwiches.)

An alternative to sliced tomatoes is tomato relish. It’s nice for variety, says ipsedixit. Fried green tomato is good too. Serve before the tomatoes get soggy.

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How do you prefer your “B” in your BLT?

Favorite Foods by Mail

Shopping online is fast and convenient, and a great way to get something special or products you can’t find locally. Here are links for some favorite online purveyors.

Bazzini Nuts in New York is a wonderful source for mixed nuts. You can get them packed in a great-looking tin with a picture of an elephant holding a peanut in its trunk; it would make a nice gift. Five pounds of mixed nuts (without peanuts) is about $30, reports Niki Rothman.

Here you can buy cashews spiced with piri piri.

Lobel’s butcher shop in New York City has beautiful and expensive meat.

Zingermans Deli is great for everything, says Tripper. Olive oil, vinegar, cheese, are all top quality. They also make great gift baskets.

pickawicca highly recommends lobster pot pies from Hancock Lobster. They’re expensive, but packed with chunks of lobster. A great special-occasion entree.

Wolferman’s has super-thick English muffins in amazing flavors. They taste a bit cakey, like soda bread. The fruit spreads are great too, saysIvecch

For fresh wild mushrooms, go to Aux Delices.

And for game, try D’artagnan.

Get your spices from Penzey’s. Or try the Spice House in Chicago. Not everything is listed on their site; just tell them what you’re looking for. They’re nice folks, too, says Bananna A.

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favourite mail-order food

What to Do with Plain Yogurt

What to Do with Plain Yogurt

Drink it, make cheese with it, cook with it instead of sour cream or buttermilk. READ MORE

Sweet, Sour, Salty, What?

Sweet, Sour, Salty, What?

Americans have historically hated bitter tastes, while other cultures loved them. Until now. Chefs are playing with bitter in new ways, and U.S. diners are finally appreciating it. READ MORE

Jimbo’s Bar: Greek Bites for Astoria Nighthawks

Neighborhood bar, live Greek music, broiled octopus with lemon and oregano. What’s not to like about Jimbo’s? OK, maybe the boring white bread–though it’s slightly improved by a run under the broiler. The short menu ranges from nibbles like feta with olive oil to more substantial Greek standards like lamb chops and that broiled octopus. “It may not cut the mustard as fine dining,” allows fotaq, “but as bar food it may be the best I’ve ever had. And it was 2 a.m. On a weeknight. I’ll be back.”

Jimbo’s Bar [Astoria]
30-05 Astoria Blvd., between 29th and 31st Sts., Astoria, Queens
718-204-2087
Locater

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late night octopus bar food in Astoria

Inwood Update: Fresh, Cheap, Hearty Dominican

Inwood’s International Food House lays out an unusually fresh buffet of hearty Dominican chow, reports JackS. Highlights include roast pork with crispy, sticky skin and decent rotisserie chicken, good but perhaps a step below other neighborhood favorites like Malecon. Staples–soupy beans and fluffy yellow rice–are reassuringly solid. The ever-changing spread might also feature stews, fish and shrimp dishes, fried plantains, and mofongo. (International Food House is connected with Albert’s Mofongo House, around the corner on Broadway.)

susiec80 recommends roast chicken at La Galeria, which also rolls out a cheap steam table spread of stews, roasts, steaks, seafood, asopao (rice soups), and more. Budget-priced family combos (e.g., four pork chops, rice, beans, salad, two-liter soft drink) are $11 to $20.

International Food House Restaurant and Buffet [Inwood]
217 Dyckman St., just east of Broadway, Manhattan
212-942-5656
Map

Albert’s Mofongo House [Inwood]
4762 Broadway, at Dyckman St., Manhattan
212-567-3052
Map

La Galeria Restaurant [Inwood]
575 W. 207th St., at Vermilyea Ave., Manhattan
212-304-8844
Map

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Decent Dominican buffet in Inwood

Fried Pies

The deep-fried peach pies at Memphis Minnie’s are a flaky package of hot, peachy heaven, says mercuryflyin. The crust is light, crisp, and not too greasy, and the peaches inside are tender and delicately sweet. It’s a lovely indulgence if you haven’t obscenely stuffed yourself with barbecue.

Fried pie has also been noticed on the menu at Looney’s, says chocolatetartguy.

Memphis Minnie’s BBQ [Haight]
576 Haight St., San Francisco
415-864-7675
Locater

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Fried pies?

Sausage Gravies of Our Lives

and one order is enough for two people.

Finally, if you’re near Alameda on a weekend with a sausage gravy craving, go to Jim’s Coffee Shop, says rtmonty. Country Benedict is served on Saturdays and Sundays only. Two big, fluffy biscuits, two big sausage patties, and two poached eggs are slathered with a wonderful sausage cream gravy. This dish is a great choice for the folks for whom English muffins with eggs, spinach, and a pint of hollandaise is “rabbit food.”

Sunny Side Cafe [East Bay]
1499 Solano Ave., Albany
510-527-5383
Locater

Garden Court Cafe [Sonoma County]
13647 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen
707-935-1565
Locater

Jim’s Coffee Shop [East Bay]
2333 Lincoln Ave., Alameda
510-523-5368
Locater

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sausage gravy