The CHOW Blog rss

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

Organic: What’s in a Name?

Should a pest control product sold by Walmart and labeled both "organic" and "USDA organic" contain organically produced ingredients? The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit public interest group "promoting economic justice for family scale farming," is taking the following radical stance: Yes, it probably should.


Download CHOW Wallpaper: Pasta

This week's wallpaper comes from our pasta chart, a visual guide of our favorite kind of carbs and the sauces that work with them. Readers commented that they hadn't seen many of these varieties since childhood in Italy. Most of my childhood pasta memories revolve around Kraft mac 'n' cheese.

Our photographer Chris, was interested in showing the relative depths between each of the noodles, so chose to back-light them, which helped to visually describe the differences in thickness.

Choose a download based on your monitor resolution:
1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1680 x 1050 | 1920 x 1200

Nexus One | iPhone

And check out other wallpapers from CHOW:
Peppers, Beer, Mushrooms

EPA Scrutinizes BPA

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency released a "BPA action plan" to look at the environmental impact of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics that's been hotly debated in the last few years due to studies linking it with health ailments from cancer to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This comes on the heels of the FDA's January announcement that it was concerned about BPA's impact on on human health and would take steps to investigate the chemical, which has shown up in everything from baby bottles to the lining inside cans of food.

Faux Pas in the Bulk Aisle

Faux Pas in the Bulk Aisle

Tips on bringing your own containers. READ MORE

Bright Flavor, Practically No Calories

Roasted red peppers offer a convenient way to perk up lots of dishes, whether you roast them yourself or used jarred ones. Clever hound-approved ways:

• Make quick blender sauces for steaks, pasta, or bruschetta with roasted reds, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh basil

• Roast garlic, onions, and tomatoes, then purée with peppers. "This combination makes a dynamite marinara sauce for all pastas," says chef chicklet. "The roasted red peppers add so much flavor."

• Make romesco sauce for sandwiches, eggs, and vegetables; bear says this version is easy and tasty.

• Chill roasted red pepper relish overnight and it's even better, says amyzan says. It's great on burgers.

• Conjure up party dips like Whipped Feta with Sweet and Hot Peppers, and Middle Eastern muhamarra, with walnuts and pomegranate molasses.

Discuss: Your favorite recipes using Roasted Red Peppers????

What to Do with Tomatillos

Tomatillos, the tart green Mexican fruit, make delicious salsa, and are also great in braised dishes. They pair well with chicken, pork, and meaty fish.

DiningDiva makes a simple sauce with uncooked tomatillos to serve over grilled chicken or pork tenderloin: In a blender or food processor, blend tomatillos, white onion, a garlic clove or two, a serrano chile with its seeds, a big handful of cilantro, and salt to taste until somewhat smooth with some small chunks for texture. Taste and add more salt or a bit of sugar if needed.

Several hounds make a quick salsa by roasting or grilling tomatillos, white onion, and green chiles, and blending with cilantro. Or try CHOW's Smooth Salsa Verde.

Other ideas: just_M has successfully battered and deep fried tomatillo wedges. Dave O likes this traditional pork chile verde, and sholli recommends turkey chipotle chili.

Discuss: Tomatillo recipes?

The Retro George Foreman Grill

You can cook all kinds of things in a waffle iron, including Parmesan-coated eggplant and muffins and brownies. Now, hounds have come up with even more ideas.

4Snisl successfully cooked homemade falafel in a waffle iron. "Are they the same as deep-fried falafels....nope," he says. "Are they closer to that texture than when I bake them? Absolutely!"

"In hot weather I do bacon in the wafflemaker, which is thereby greased," says greygarious. "Then I do scrambled egg, then put the egg and bacon, plus a slice of cheese, between two slices of bread and waffle THAT."

After a stay in a mountain cabin where it was the only reliable appliance, Emme says "I consider the waffle iron to be the under-appreciated, under-used appliance." She "basically cooked everything under the sun using that nifty little thing! Pounded stuffed chicken breast, eggplant Parmesan, falafel, cornbread, bacon, hamburger, meatloaf patties, salmon croquettes, grilled cheese...oh the feasts."

Discuss: Falafel waffles?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Teach her where food comes from. My experience picking tomatoes from the vine, pulling onions from the ground, and watching flowers turn into melons in my grandmother's garden were invaluable lessons. So too was the experience of making cookies, sausages, mincemeat instead of buying them pre-made, pre-packaged in the grocery store." - JungMann, on involving a young child with cooking

"I've had mixed success making gnocchi. Sometimes it works and they are lovely little pillows; sometimes it doesn't and they are just leaden. I've used potatoes and I've used roasted squash, which I actually prefer. Either way, the 'light hand' is essential. You have to handle it as little as possible." - LNG212

"Frozen peas are great. Sweeter than the so-called 'fresh' English peas in pods in markets, unless you're getting ones that have just been picked from a farmers' market. They lose their sweetness so quickly. The frozen ones are flash-frozen within minutes after picking. I throw them in frozen and the heat of the dish defrosts and heats them through. That's all the cooking they need." - MakingSense

Social Conservatives Target Extreme Ice-Cream Flavors

A raft of picketers engulfed San Francisco ice cream shop Humphry Slocombe early this week, protesting its sale of liquor-based ice cream to children. The shop has attained cult status for its funky, edgy flavors such as Secret Breakfast, containing bourbon and corn flakes, and Magnolia Thunderpussy beer ice cream.

"These flavors introduce small children to the taste of liquor," said Lionel Jahosifat, who carried a sign that read "Foodies Today, Alkies Tomorrow!" "So that by the time they hit grade school, they're ready for the hard stuff," Jahosifat continued. "And that's just not right."

Marlena Macintyre, another protester, pointed out that on this particular day, the shop's limited-edition sorbet was "Jesus Juice," containing wine and Coca-Cola. "Frankly, I think this ice cream flavor should be flat-out illegal," she said.

Humphry Slocombe did brisk business during and after the protest, upping its Twitter followers by roughly 500,000.

Image source:

DPH Mustache-Net Crackdown in Cobble Hill

The artisanal cocktail movement suffered heavy casualties last night, when New York City Department of Health officials cited several restaurants in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn for old-timey facial hair code violations. For people preparing food and drink, state law requires that beards, sideburns, and mustaches be protected by a "mustache net." However, in recent years, a trend toward aggressive nostalgia in the hospitality industry has encouraged whimsical mustaches at the expense of hygiene. There is often an equally compromising accumulation of Victorian clutter: phonographs, velvet flocked wallpaper, tarnished medical equipment, and pinned butterfly wings that officials warn can attract dust and crumbs.

The crackdown was a surprise to restaurant employees—one bartender apparently panicked and attempted to hide behind a taxidermied warthog. However, many of those cited have remained defiant.

"I'd be happy to have my staff wear mustache nets—if I could find a sustainable source," said a representative of one of the establishments targeted in the raid. "And so far, I have not found a mustache net farm whose mustache netting practices I believe in."

Image source: Flickr member westerndave under Creative Commons