The CHOW Blog rss

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

Maximizing Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce gets a bad rap for having little nutritional content or flavor, but its cool, crunchy texture is perfect shredded for sandwiches or served in wedges with a creamy dressing (as in Iceberg Wedges with Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Buttermilk Dressing).

According to hounds, iceberg works surprisingly well in hot preparations. chowser likes it stir-fried. "My mom used to do it," she says, "and it was odd at first bite but there's something about it that's addicting." "ANY lettuce is good with chicken broth, chopped onion, and some curry powder in lettuce soup," according to blue room. "Iceberg keeps its crunch much better than others in hot liquid."

Hounds have a couple of nifty tips for prepping iceberg. greygarious explains how to remove the core from the head easily, making it easier to separate the leaves or break into sections: "Hold the head in both hands, core side down, and give it one solid bash onto the counter. Turn it over, twist the core, and it pops right out."

After she removes the core, janniecooks holds the head under the tap, cored side up, and fills it with cold water, letting the water run between the leaves. Then she drains it, cored side down, in a colander for half an hour. Store it in a plastic bag with a folded paper towel under the cored end to absorb any remaining water. Change the paper towel the next day, "and you'll find the lettuce keeps for at least two weeks, staying wonderfully crispy and fresh," she says.

Discuss: Tip for the iceberg

A Tip on Growing Blueberries

Play Video

One variety isn't enough. ... WATCH THE VIDEO

As Seen on TV: The Screwups

Poorly cracked eggs, uncuttable brownies, frying pan mishaps, and a host of other home cookery screwups adorn this charming video montage. It's a collection of all those moments in As Seen on TV product spots when the protagonist just can't seem to execute a simple frickin' task that we all manage every day effortlessly.

Celebrate Springtime with Sorrel

Tart, citrusy sorrel is a springtime delicacy that can be used to flavor dishes or as a vegetable.

"It's delicious used raw, as an herb, any place you want a fresh sour tang," says eight_inch_pestle. LNG212 recommends sorrel frittata. "There's something about the slightly sourish/lemonish flavor that really works well with eggs." eight_inch_pestle loves it in scrambled eggs: "Stir in a bit toward the end with a little cream cheese and smoked salmon and go find your running shorts, because you're about to overeat."

Sorrel makes a great sauce for salmon, says GretchenS. Sauté chopped onion or shallot and a bit of minced garlic, then add lots of sorrel (it shrinks when cooked) and heat until it breaks down into a paste. "It will turn a sort of muddy color," she says, "but you won't care once you taste it with your salmon—that is one of the great pleasures of spring for me!"

Sorrel is also delicious in hot or chilled cream soup or puréed as a side dish.

Discuss: Masses of sorrel

Better Than Quaker: Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

Chewy granola bars are simple to make from scratch and accommodate an endless variety of mix-ins. Once you try them, you'll never go back to store-bought.

lilmomma offers a simple formula: Combine 3 cups rolled oats, 4 cups assorted mix-ins (nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, dried coconut, wheat germ, or flax meal), and a can of sweetened condensed milk. Press into a greased pan and bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Invert onto a baking sheet to cool and set. TIRGL used this recipe and says it's "easy, fast, and delicious. It's now my go-to granola bar."

"I have been making thick, chewy granola bars weekly since I found the recipe," says Becca Porter. "They are absolutely perfect!" She finds that they hold together a bit better made with almond butter instead of peanut butter.

These crispy breakfast bars (described as "crispy-chewy") are made with puffed whole grains instead of oats. LNG212 likes them with puffed kamut and varies the dried fruits, though her favorites are cranberries and blueberries. David Lebovitz's friendship bars eschew grains for nuts and dried fruit. "They're excellent," says katecm, "and they are really adaptable so you never have to make them the same way twice."

Discuss: ISO Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Make a green enchilada sauce from scratch, and fill the enchiladas with sweet corn, pan-fried shrimp, and feta cheese. The sweet-salty combo of the filling really works well, and the texture is superior to chicken." – Condimentality

"Shred it, fry it up with some onion, garlic, and red chile. Twist it up in a tortilla with some fresh chopped onion and a little hot sauce." – paul balbin, on using leftover braised pork shoulder

"I have always found that tightly placing cling film over the top of ice cream and then putting it in a airtight (Rubbermaid/Tupperware) container keeps ice cream from picking up off flavors and ice crystals." – Kelli2006

Curry to Go, in a Big Way

Food tells migratory stories. Follow the banh mi long enough, for example, and you go from the bread of France to the gastronomic preferences of Vietnam to the lunchboxes of working-class people of all ethnic backgrounds in American cities. Thus: Leg three of a similar journey is taking place in India.

READ MORE

America’s Next Top Snack Chip

America’s Next Top Snack Chip

This week's mission: delicious and gluten-free Risotto Chips. READ MORE

More Reasons Not to Eat Random Burgers

The other day, my friend was bragging about this awesomely cheap piece of meat he bought at the already bargain-basement grocery store in our neighborhood. The one that he then let sit out on his counter for four days at room temperature, “marinating” so it “got real funky.” Concerned that he might be dead next time I tried to hang out with him, I pulled a lecture-lite on him, about how "meat is probably not where you should be looking for deals." He countered that he would "cook the meat thoroughly," and next time he saw me, bragged again that he had eaten the meat, even served it to his date, and they’d both found it "awesome."

READ MORE

Cornmeal Versus Masa Harina

Cornbread is made from cornmeal, but what are corn tortillas made from? That would be masa harina, a finely ground preparation of corn flour, or "dough flour," says Uncle Bob. "Field corn (not sweet) is dried and then treated/soaked in a solution of lime and water," says Uncle Bob. "This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. The soaked corn is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough, called masa. It is this fresh masa (dough), when dried and powdered, that becomes masa harina (dough flour)." This is what's used in making tortillas and tamales; the treatment of the corn gives the final dish its characteristic flavor. paulj notes that there are several "grinds" of masa harina. The stuff for tortillas is a much finer grind than the stuff used in tamales.

In addition, to make matters even more confusing, there's a flour made from cooked corn that is used in arepas, a type of corn cake made in Colombia and Venezuela, says paulj. "Goya brand Masarepa is what you want for arepas," says bushwickgirl. "It's a precooked corn flour and it has a unique taste. I'm sure there are other brands available, but this is the one I can find most readily and use."

Discuss: corn meal vs. semolina vs. masa harina