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

Don’t Let Cheesecake Push You Around

There is a lot of mystique surrounding the making of cheesecakes, but they're really not difficult, say hounds. In fact, unlike regular cakes, cheesecakes take well to playing with the amount of cream cheese, sugar, and eggs, and you can vary their flavors endlessly by including chocolate, fruit, or other flavoring.

Here are some tips that will make cheesecakes successful:

• Have all ingredients at room temperature so they blend well.

• Bake the cheesecake until it is mostly set but still jiggly in the middle, turn off the oven, and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door propped open for an hour.

• Run a knife around the edge of the pan once the cheesecake is done; this allows it to pull away from the edge as it cools and prevents cracking.

Some hounds like to bake their cheesecakes in a water bath, and some don't bother. If you use a water bath, wrap the springform pan in foil to prevent sogginess, and add boiling water to the pan you place it in.

Pia offers this method for a crack-proof cheesecake: Bake at 500°F for the first 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 225°F and bake for an hour to two hours, until the internal temperature is 150 to 160°F, checking with an instant-read thermometer.

If your cheesecake cracks, say hounds, disguise the fissures with a thin layer of sour cream or a fruit topping, such as CHOW's New York–style cheesecake with honey-kiwi compote.

Discuss: Baking Cheesecake— Is it as "temper~mental" as I've heard it is?

Don’t Be a Garden Mooch

Don’t Be a Garden Mooch

How to cohost a party in a friend's yard. READ MORE

Celery Leaves Are Treasure, Not Trash

Don't toss out the leafy tops of celery stalks. They have lots of flavor and can be used like an herb or eaten as a vegetable.

appycamper loves celery leaves in salads dressed with mayo. "They cut the mayo with a great sharp taste that I like much better than added vinegar," she says. "If I am fortunate enough to have a lot of celery leaves," says greygarious, "I use them as the green part of a salad." ipsedixit thinks they are lovely in banh mi.

Many hounds add celery leaves to soups and stews. "Like many other bitter greens, the celery leaves sweeten with cooking," says ChefJune. Pata_Negra adds them to steamed mussels and says they are much more aromatic than parsley. shaogo wilts the leaves in olive oil, adds tomato cubes, basil, and garlic, and serves them on fresh pasta.

For those who have an aversion to cilantro or are allergic, celery leaves are a good substitute, says CeeBee.

Discuss: Those fresh leafy celery tops

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Roll it tight in Saran wrap about the size of a medium cigar and freeze. It won't be like fresh, but it will be better than dried. I do it with cilantro, too." – mrbigshotno.1, on preserving fresh basil

"Why bother to peel potatoes at all? Potato peels are edible and add nutritional value, as well as color and texture. I rarely peel potatoes, just wash them and check them for eyes and bruises that need to be cut off before boiling." – BobB

"Mix some miso paste with a bit of sugar, sake, and mirin (you can sub a bit of white wine and vinegar). Marinate in that and broil or grill. If you ever get the chance, hamachi collar (yellowtail) is amazing, too." – sbp, on what to do with salmon collars

Sushi Gets Silly

Serious Eats presents a simple yet slightly awe-inspiring idea, at least for those of us with kids: peanut butter sushi. Granted that the concept (rolled-up bread containing peanut butter and fillings and toppings such as veggies, jam, mini-marshmallows, or Rice Krispies) is about as far from cuts of ocean-fresh fish laid reverently on vinegared rice as a hot dog is from a banana, but sushi's visual impact and finger-friendly size is nicely preserved by the concept.

READ MORE

Tasty Sugar-Free Maple Syrup

"Finding a maple syrup suitable for diabetics can be frustrating," says todao, who cooks for people with special dietary needs. "Most are either watery or have bitter aftertastes or both, which causes me to avoid them almost entirely." But Blackberry Patch Maple Praline Sugar Free Syrup is a sweet find. "It is, IMO, the best product of its kind," says todao. It does contain the ingredient malitol, which can cause cramping if used in excess; "I suspect that the tolerance for malitol must vary by individual, so it would be advisable, I think, to use it sparingly," says todao.

mcf has another tip: "I've found a really effective fix for weak-tasting sugar free maple syrup; I buy natural maple extract and add some to the SF stuff. Doesn't thicken it, but the flavor is richer, much more like the real stuff."

Discuss: Sweet Find

Earthy, Nutty Hempseed Oil

Hempseed oil has been showing up in natural food stores lately, says lagatta. "Of course I mean the legal stuff with minimal THC, not hash oil." You shouldn't really cook with it, says goodhealthgourmet, because it oxidizes very easily when exposed to heat. Not to mention it's pretty pricey for cooking use.

"I reserve it for salad dressing, pesto, hummus and bean dips, or drizzling over foods that are already cooked—it's OK to use it on hot food, I'd just avoid the higher direct cooking heat," says goodhealthgourmet. It works well in foods like pesto and hummus, traditionally made with olive oil. The flavor is earthy and nutty, as opposed to fruity (as with olive oil), but the flavor of hempseed oil isn't too assertive, says goodhealthgourmet.

Discuss: hempseed oil?

Peanut Butter on Corn?

"I was visiting with some friends from the West Coast and we had a big clam bake. Lobsters, clams, linguiça, corn. You know, all the fixings," says Lenox637. "One of my friend's daughters went into the kitchen and returned with a jar of peanut butter. I watched, horrified, I must say, as she spread the peanut butter over the corn on the cob." Lenox637 was told that peanut butter is a common corn topping on the West Coast, although few Chowhounds have heard of the phenomenon. ipsedixit's college roommate used to make sandwiches of drained canned corn and peanut butter on Texas toast. "Tried it once and it wasn't all that bad," says ipsedixit. "Sweet, savory, and crunchy. Sort of like a PB&J sandwich except you get that extra mouthfeel crunch and texture from the corn niblets instead of just the jiggly sliminess of the jelly or jam."

Peanut butter is a completely legitimate popcorn topping, says anonymouse1935. Warm the peanut butter first, says goodhealthgourmet, or "turn it into sort of a PB caramel sauce. Warm some honey or simple syrup (or for a delicious twist, maple syrup) and a dash of vanilla in a saucepan, remove from the heat, and stir in peanut butter without added sugar," suggests goodhealthgourmet. "Drizzle over freshly popped corn and toss to coat."

Discuss: Peanut Butter............ on corn?

Overheard on the General Topics Boards

"Actually, May's sompopo queen ants could be considered the 'Mayan caviar' since the part removed from them is loaded with ant eggs. In other words, the belly bottom of the sompopo queen ant is the equivalent of the roe of fish." – rworange

"Key is to buy SMALL strawberries that look ugly. More often than not producers have been trying to find the holy grail of 'beauty queen' strawberries—so much the better for dipping in chocolate and charging a premium, but so much the worse on the palate." – ipsedixit, on finding tasty strawberries

"I'm not yet fluent in Spanish and I found I have great success with info about fish varieties by pointing to it and asking 'Tilapia?' If they put one-inch smelt on my dish, I still ask the same thing." – rworange

See the Truck. Be the Truck.

As we've learned from running a food site, pictures of food make people want to eat it. If you're wondering what food truck you might patronize for lunch today, MobileCravings has the visuals to feed your musings. The site has pictures and short videos of trucks and their wares in cities from New York to Los Angeles. Pocket pies in Houston? Banh mi by bike in San Francisco?