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

Juniper Flavors More Than Gin

Juniper berries are a key flavor component of gin, but they are also great in recipes, like CHOW's Poached Fig, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Tart.

Juniper berries are common in sauerbraten; rainey thinks Alton Brown's recipe is excellent, and says it makes enough marinade for two roasts.

cocktailhour grinds juniper berries with rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and orange zest and uses the combo as a rub for duck. vincentinparisandrome finds that a mixture of wine, stock, and juniper berries makes a nice sauce for duck or pork.

caiatransplant poaches fish in dry white wine with crushed garlic, whole peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a small handful of whole juniper berries. "The fish comes out wonderfully every time," she says. mickeygee likes this salmon with martini sauce, which incorporates both juniper berries and the ingredients of the cocktail.

Juniper berries are also terrific braised with red or green cabbage or sauerkraut, and in choucroute garnie, the classic French dish of pork cooked in sauerkraut, say hounds. They work well with lamb too, and are a classic pairing with venison. Oh, and look for Scandinavian recipes, recommends eight_inch_pestle, who says, "Scandinavian food is lousy with juniper berries."

Discuss: What can I do with this bag of Juniper Berries, besides garnishing G&T's?

Using Up Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil are a flavor-filled addition to all kinds of dishes. They're a staple in thursday's kitchen for jazzing up quick dinners: "If what we're making seems a little boring," she says, "we throw in some sun-dried tomatoes and voila! A little sharpness, a little sweetness, a little color."

Many hounds use them with pasta. The simplest treatments: Sauté garlic in olive oil and add the sliced tomatoes and chopped parsley, or add them to your favorite pasta sauce. bear makes a more complex dish with Italian sausage, mushrooms, kale, and sun-dried tomatoes with farfalle or penne. The oil they're packed in is great for arrabbiata sauce, says mbfant, so don't toss it.

cookie44 loves braised chicken in sun-dried tomato cream, and lexpatti makes a goat cheese, pesto, and sun-dried tomato spread.

More ideas for sun-dried tomatoes:

• Purée with goat cheese and use to top crostini.
• Add to omelets, frittatas, and scrambled eggs.
• Mix into a compound butter with herbs and citrus zest.
• Add to sandwiches in place of fresh tomatoes.

Discuss: need ideas for using sundried tomatoes in oil

The Million-Dollar Chicken Recipe

Chowhounds are high on a simple Moroccan-style chicken recipe with cumin, cinnamon, dried currants, and prepared salsa that won the million-dollar prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

"I've been making this since it was first published," says cinnamon girl. "I'm embarrassed to say I made it mainly [because] I was indignant that a recipe with a jar of salsa poured over some chicken pieces would win a $1M prize! But the sum of the parts proved to be greater than the individual ingredients." She prefers it made with bone-in thighs, rather than the boneless called for. "Before I put in the liquids," she adds, "I push the chicken to the edges of the pan, put the garlic in the middle and lightly cook, then put in the spices and stir them a bit being careful not [to] burn. It just adds something."

"This is unbelievably good," raves coll, who substituted beer for the water to good effect.

"It's amazing how the salsa cooks down and changes—there are no 'Mexican' notes to this dish like I feared," says Snorkelvik.

Discuss: Million Dollar Moroccan Chicken, Thanks Free Sample Addict aka Tracy L

Foods That Might Kill You, If Stupidity Doesn’t Kill You First

Time magazine has published an exceedingly silly list of the "Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods." Lazy beyond belief and essentially without any kind of organizing principle that might help give it shape or definition, the list includes stuff like rhubarb (pictured at right), because if you eat rhubarb leaves, they're dangerous!; fugu, which kills a tiny handful of people over the course of a given decade; and coffee, because ... well, someone got burned by it at McDonald's, once.


Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"[S]tale pita bread makes the best tasting bread crumbs! Something about pita bread crumbs makes the food they are cooked with extra special. Nice texture, and good flavor." - smtucker

"I use mine when brewing iced tea or for punch type things like sangria or homemade margarita mix. I keep extras in the freezer." - just_M on mango pits and the fruit left clinging to them

"I never have a problem EVER if I crack them as I'm running them under cold water, once cracked they can sit in the cold bath until I'm ready for them. If I don't crack them, even if sitting in a cold bath—they are miserable to peel." - lexpatti on peeling hard-boiled eggs

Guava on Sweet Potatoes, Guava in Oatmeal Squares

What do you do with that big block of guava paste? It's traditionally paired with cheese as a cracker or crostini topping—and it pairs with a huge variety of cheeses, "from Manchego to queso blanco to cream cheese," says goodhealthgourmet. "I enjoy a slice with an equal amount of cream cheese and a cold glass of milk, delicious!" says mrbigshotno.1. In this way, it's practically interchangeable with quince paste, known as membrillo in Spanish, says goodhealthgourmet.

But don't relegate guava paste to the cheese plate. "Replace the fruit purée in a fruit muffin recipe with the guava paste," suggests goodhealthgourmet, or "use in place of preserves to glaze meat or fish (e.g. glazed pork tenderloin with guava instead of apricot)." Emme suggests guava as the base for a sweet potato glaze. "Reduce some over heat with butter, bake the sweet potatoes, then slice open, baste the tops and broil 'til golden and gooey," she suggests. Or try making oatmeal squares with guava filling: "make a crust, then spread with guava cubes, then sprinkle with more oat crumble, and bake," says Emme.

Discuss: Guava Paste....what to do?

The Two Sides of New Mexican Cuisine

New Mexican cuisine, meaning the cuisine of the New Mexico region of the United States—not to be confused with Mexican cuisine—can be divided into two subcuisines: southern New Mexican food and northern, "Santa Fe"–style cuisine. "I get the sense, perhaps erroneously, that the food of the south is more down-home and traditional while that of the north is more innovative and sophisticated," says Perilagu Khan.

That's true, says gordeaux, though it's a matter of personal taste whether this "sophistication" is for good or ill. The term Santa Fe–style is often applied with derision by those in other parts of New Mexico, says gordeaux, "because of the perceived 'worthless fanciness'" of the northern, urban style. "For me," he says, "if there were two restaurants offering 'New Mexican' fare and 'Santa Fe' style fare, I'd more than likely go to the former over the latter." Critics might say that the Santa Fe style "interjects a great deal of pretentiousness into food that does not support it easily," says Perilagu Khan. Not that practitioners of Santa Fe cuisine have a monopoly on pretentiousness. "This is a phenomenon that happens to pizza a great deal, too," he says.

Discuss: What Are the Differences between Southern and Northern New Mexican Cuisine?

Are California Vintners a Bunch of Trophy Hunters?

Why aren't more of the "great" winemakers in California trying to put out affordable bottles? In Slate, Mike Steinberger looks at the question, noting that "In Europe, some of the most celebrated vintners put out modestly priced wines alongside their loftier offerings. ... But among California's superstar vintners, there is almost no one making wine for the masses."

One of the biggest reasons, Steinberger writes, is that many Euro wineries are operating on land that was paid off generations ago. Manfred Krankl from the Central Coast winery Sine Qua Non explains that in contrast, "many of the better vineyards in California were developed or acquired fairly recently," and he estimates that prime acreage on the California Central Coast to be about $25,000 to $50,000 an acre.


How Bacon Can Make Any Dish Suck

Bacon is delicious, rich, fatty; we all know this, says Chef Tim Love in the Daily Beast. But this thing where we put it in everything, that's got to stop. The bacon flavor takes over, for starters: "With any ingredient, no matter how versatile, it is the chef's job to temper it. Instead, because it's so popular right now, bacon serves as the quick fix to provide crowd-pleasing smoky fatty richness and flavor." It's familiar, it's easy, and it's also tired: "When eaters see bacon on a menu, they know exactly what they're getting, just like the familiar reassurance of a slice of pizza or French fries. Plus, bacon's just never fancy, so no one feels intimidated ordering it."

Could we please get past it? No bacon-wrapped beer mugs. No bacon candles. No more cocktails with a strip of bacon in them. Try a new pig part, maybe even a whole different animal. Love's a dove hunter; hey, would it count if we started knocking off city pigeons?

Are you sick of bacon being slapped onto everything?

Already voted? See results.

How to Pick the Juiciest Limes

"Every damn lime I get is dry as a rock," says LuluTheMagnificent. How can you tell if a lime is full of juice? Juicy limes are heavy for their size and very shiny, says RGC1982. ("Heavy for their size" is a good rule of thumb for all fruit, says KTinNYC.) They will also "give just a little when pressed with a thumb," says woodleyparkhound. If you absolutely can't find any juicy limes, "microwaving a lime/lemon for 1 minute on low will significantly increase the amount of juice that they produce, as will rolling them under your palm with medium pressure before you cut them," says Kelli2006. (Amy Sherman of the food blog Cooking with Amy agrees.)

Discuss: How to pick limes?