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

Food Aid for Haiti

The White House blog has posted some quick ways to donate to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti (which include food). If you want to make a contribution, here are its recommendations:

• Donate $10 to the Red Cross to be charged to your cell phone bill by texting "HAITI" to "90999."
Contribute online to the Red Cross
Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information.

Restaurants are stepping in as well. Eater is keeping tabs on benefit dinners being held in New York and San Francisco.

Overheard on the San Francisco Boards

"Hands-down the most creative tempura I have ever been served. Besides being delicious (think of Japanese/Maryland crab cakes) it was a great presentation." - Paul H, on the crab tofu-skin tempura at Kappou Gomi

"Keep in mind I only tried one dish, but I gotta say, this is the best German food I've had in SF (been here 20 years now)." - pauliface, after trying the Rinderroulade at Walzwerk

"I second and third À Côté, where [mussels] are cooked in a wood-fired oven, in a creamy Pernod-based broth. I do not overstate when I say that I would be content to eat them daily." - jillyju, on her favorite Oakland restaurant for mussels

Mexican Wine, No Joke

Mexican Wine, No Joke

Deep, dry reds from Valle de Guadalupe. READ MORE

Mail-Order Soup for Sickies

Mail-Order Soup for Sickies

This week's mission: someone else's chicken soup, your credit card. READ MORE

A Pizza Sinner Attempts Redemption

A Pizza Sinner Attempts Redemption

This week's mission: Domino's says, "We were bad, we've changed." READ MORE

Beef Stew with Soul

The correct cooking techniques and ingredients rich in umami will take a basic beef stew from simply hearty to deeply flavorful.

"The biggest key for me is browning the meat well," says alanbarnes. "Not just cooking it until it loses its reddish color, but subjecting it to very high heat (skillet, broiler, gas grill, blowtorch, whatever) until it has a really good mahogany-colored crust on the outside."

Seasoning is also vital. "Don't underestimate the role of salt in your stew," advises TorontoJo. "Salt and pepper the meat before browning it. Salt the stew while it's cooking, taste it after the salt has had a chance to blend in, add more salt if you think it needs it. I also like to use soy sauce to add saltiness and an extra boost of umami."

Richly flavored braising liquid helps. Hounds like to use good beef stock, especially in combination with fruity red wine or a stout or ale. "Guinness is a magical ingredient paired with beef," says kattyeyes, while joonjoon likes Chimay in stew.

Beef stew's flavor can be punched up with umami-rich ingredients. Try minced rehydrated dried mushrooms or powdered dried mushrooms, tomato paste, or Worcestershire sauce. "A few minced anchovies sautéed with the onions after browning the meat give a nice added dimension," says King of Northern Blvd.

For a different spin on the dish, Val recommends this recipe for mahogany beef stew with red wine and hoisin sauce, which she says is "utterly awesome with horseradish mashed potatoes." karykat says the hoisin "adds a sweet-sour-spicy note that is good." Both reduce the hoisin a bit to avoid making the dish too sweet.

Discuss: How to give beef stew more punch?

First Look: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

TV.com has posted this clip of the new show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which starts airing on ABC in March. The premise: Jamie Oliver goes to Huntington, West Virginia, the unhealthiest town in America, to convince residents to change the way they eat. From the looks of the sobbing chef in the clip below, his mission to "start the biggest food revolution this country has ever seen" may have been harder than he expected.

Crazy for Eggplant

Eggplant is great as the base for a dip or spread. "Eggplant roasted into submission, minced garlic, mayo, salt, pepper" is the_MU's simple recipe. "That's it," says the_MU. "Serve with warm pita, or eat with spoon." eight_inch_pestle purées roasted eggplant with Parmesan, minced parsley, and garlic, and stirs in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Baba Ghanoush is karianne's favorite, "hands down."

Jetgirly likes eggplant-heavy Thai-style roasted vegetables (she uses yellow curry paste).
cheesemaestro loves a Northern Burmese recipe from the cookbook Hot Sour Salty Sweet titled the best eggplant dish ever (scroll down).

fearlessemily recommends Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce. gourmet wife dresses steamed eggplant with a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, chile sauce or oil, vinegar, and cilantro.

Many hounds love eggplant Parmesan, either made the traditional way with fried eggplant, or with roasted or grilled eggplant, and fearlessemily likes Ina Garten's rich eggplant and tomato gratin.

TorontoJo is a fan of scuzzo's method of cooking eggplant on a waffle iron.

Discuss: Your favorite recipe for eggplant

Lentils from Paris to Bombay

Chowhounds love lentils in a range of dishes representing cuisines from around the world. nomadchowwoman loves lentils with garlic and ginger, and says it is good served hot, room temperature, or cold (which also makes it ideal for picnics). "I always use French green lentils, which hold their shape so well," she says, "and this makes all the difference."

i_eat_a_lot_of_ice_cream is a fan of Ina Garten's stewed lentils and tomatoes. "It is so, so easy to whip up and really comforting on a cold night," he says. nofunlatte likes lentils with wine-glazed vegetables.

Lentils are frequently used in South Asian cooking. rainey says this red lentil curry is "quick and easy to prepare and extremely tasty." "I'm rather keen on Ottolenghi's spiced red lentils at the moment," says Channa. "It calls for a long list of ingredients, but the dish absolutely bursts with flavour."

"The one critical thing for any lentil recipe," counsels GretchenS, "is some acid—citrus juice, vinegar, what have you. Anytime lentils are sort of meh they can be lifted with a good squirt of lemon or vinegar." Aggressive spicing is often called for as well: CHOW's Red Lentil Pâté relies on smoked paprika for a savory kick.

Discuss: Best Lentil Recipe?

Overheard on the Home Cooking Boards

"Nut crusts are wonderful with fish since they add flavor as well as texture. Almonds are a classic, but pecans and hazelnuts are good, too. You just need to dip a fillet in a bit of egg white and dip in ground nuts." - JoanN

"For me the best falafel is made with fava beans, or a mix of fava beans and chickpeas. Never precook, and never, never use canned unless you want something that tastes like a fried dumpling with a mushy interior. I tried it once, and that was one too many times." - Zeldog

"I usually use a cast iron pan and once the steak is resting, I save the fat and cook the Brussels sprouts in the fat instead of bacon or butter. It's really quite good, especially if your steak leaves you with yummy fatty goodness." - gourmet wife