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

An Unsavory Take on Ritz

An Unsavory Take on Ritz

This week's mission: a sweet incarnation of an old American cracker favorite. READ MORE

Perfect Seared Scallops

Searing scallops is a simple matter that requires only a few techniques; after they're done perfectly, you can get creative with sauces.

Before you sear scallops, make sure they are very dry by patting off any moisture with paper towels. "Obviously, dry-packed scallops are the best," says LindaWhit, but if using injected or thawed scallops, "I've found that using lots of paper towels and letting the scallops sit to allow the moisture to leach out as well as it can also works."

Season the scallops with salt and pepper, or dredge lightly in seasoned flour. Heat a pan well, and sear in oil or clarified butter over medium-high heat until they're nicely browned, then turn. It's important not to overcook them or they will become rubbery; they only need a few minutes on each side and should be just opaque in the middle.

bushwickgirl offers a formula for a rich and tasty pan sauce that can "be altered to suit your taste; spicy, tangy, tart, whatever you like. Scallops are very flavor-friendly and go with many things." Here's how: After searing, remove scallops from pan, add wine or liquor of choice (she likes Pernod), a splash of heavy cream, herbs, a little spritz of citrus juice, and cold butter; reduce for a few minutes; serve. For a variation, CHOW's Seared Scallops with Lemon and Vodka ditches the Pernod in favor of vodka.

normalheightsfoodie reduces a combination of one cup each orange juice and pomegranate juice, a bit of sugar, and a bit of balsamic vinegar to a syrup. She places seared scallops atop wilted spinach and drizzles it on.

Discuss: Suggestions for Pan Searing Scallops?

Delicious Dunking for Artichokes

Melted butter is the classic dip for artichoke leaves, and some like straight mayonnaise or mayo mixed with Dijon mustard. But spend just a minute or two more, and you can add lots of new flavors. Try adding lemon juice or garlic to either melted butter or mayo, suggest hounds.

"My favorite is a gribiche sauce," says Boswell, "like a mayonnaise made with the yolks of hard-boiled eggs pushed through a sieve, then mixed with the diced egg whites, capers, and dill." sparkareno mixes mayo with roasted garlic, orange zest, orange juice, and some chipotle in adobo sauce. "People flip out—it is so good," she says.

More ideas: Lemon vinaigrette; Greek yogurt with minced garlic or shallot and salt and pepper; a dressing of blue cheese, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil; remoulade; or tartar sauce.

For the cooking part, use CHOW's tutorial on steaming artichokes.

Discuss: What do you eat with artichokes?

All Convenience, No Flavor

All Convenience, No Flavor

This week's mission: Can Nestlé pull off refrigerated, stuffed cookie dough? READ MORE

What’s the Difference Between a Macaroon and a Macaron?

What’s the Difference Between a Macaroon and a Macaron?

That one o makes a big difference. READ MORE

Seaweed Bacteria Meet Tummy Bacteria and Decide to Get Along

Eating sushi has made the Japanese more capable of... digesting sushi. The journal Nature has just published a study that found Japanese people carry a gene that allows them to digest carbohydrates specific to nori. All other non-acclimated guts just ignore the extra potential energy while focusing on ingesting all that mercury. READ MORE

Peanuttiest Peanut Butter Cookies

There are many kinds of peanut butter cookie, including a flourless one popular with hounds. They also like other styles that pack extra peanut oomph.

gmm's favorite is Cook's Illustrated's recipe, which uses crunchy peanut butter and ground peanuts. ChefJune says her "hands-down favorite recipe" is the unusual Peanut Minus Cookies, made with maple syrup and brown rice flour but without eggs or butter. "Best peanut butter cookies I've ever made or eaten," she says.

bushwickgirl is a big fan of CHOW's Triple-Peanut Peanut Butter Cookies, which include roasted peanuts and peanut butter chips. "Notice the word 'triple' in the recipe title," she says, "peanut upon peanut upon peanut butter."

Discuss: Favorite peanut butter cookie?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Take a mix of different nuts (peanuts, mixed nuts, almonds, walnuts), add a little canola oil, and mix in your blender. Then, take your favorite granola (I make my own) and stir that in to the nut butter, 1 cup granola to 1 pint of nut butter. Totally addictive." – shaebones

"I really enjoy stock made from spiral/glazed ham. I don't have it very often but when I do, I simmer the bone with scraps for about a day; strain, chill, and skim the fat. I then add fresh green beans, a couple generous pinches of tianjin (Chinese preserved cabbage), and some black pepper to make stewed beans. Sometimes, I also add some white kidney beans. I love it ... pure comfort food to me." – Mere962

"I use salami in casseroles and quiches of all varieties. It works well in calzones or on pizza, and a small amount of it chopped very fine and included in a good Italian bread formula can add a tasty and interesting feature to an otherwise plain bread." – todao

The Wisdom of Young Farmers: Amy Rice-Jones

At 28, Amy Rice-Jones has built Bounty Farm in Petaluma, California, from the ground up, transforming an empty lot with dilapidated sheds full of garbage on it into a productive urban farm. The farm is part of Petaluma Bounty, a non-profit with a mission to provide everyone with access to healthy food. As the farm manager, she plans the entire year's production of food, trains and coordinates volunteers, and teaches classes on the farm. Here's what she has to say. READ MORE

Must-Have Garden Party Gear

If you're throwing a barbecue and you're anything like me, you've got some random wine bottles open, getting warm in the sun, or stuff stashed in some broken, ghetto plastic cooler full of half-open bags of party ice. Shouldn't we all strive for a better life? Imagine if you could chill your Lillet and Pinot Gris right there on the patio, in a classy hammered aluminum drink bucket by Roost? (Note to self: Remember to serve Lillet at next barbecue.)

The Pasha Wine and Party Buckets, $77-$143