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

Nudging Zucchini into Deliciousness

Zucchini can be watery and tasteless, or it can be delectable. The first step is choosing the right zucchini. Buy small ones, advises mbfant, who adds, “The larger it gets, the more water, more seeds, and less flavor it has.”

If you sauté zucchini, it’s best to cook it quickly over high heat, so it browns, say several hounds. “I find browning zukes to add a ton of great flavor!” exclaims scuzzo. Or marinate it, then grill. Hounds like to sauté zucchini with onions and/or garlic (add garlic at the end, so it doesn’t burn), and top it with crumbled blue cheese, or Parmesan and lemon juice, or cilantro and lime juice. karykat likes this quick sauté of zucchini with toasted almonds.

It’s also easy to make flavorful dishes incorporating grated zucchini. linguafood makes kolokithokeftedes, Greek zucchini fritters, by mixing grated zucchini with fresh mint, feta, a bit of flour and panko, and an egg. Drop into oil and fry until golden brown. “Dip into tsatsiki, and it’s heaven,” she says. LauraGrace makes an even simpler fritter: “A huge pile of grated zucchini with an egg and just enough flour to hold it together, salt and pepper, and maybe a bit of cayenne. Fry until very crispy and serve hot.”

linguafood also likes it raw, sliced carpaccio-style, with feta and pine nuts. (Try CHOW’s recipe.) paulj arranges the zucchini slices, along with sliced bell pepper and tomato, in a pool of olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper, saying, “It’s an easy way to create a visually pleasing salad.”

Board Link: Is zucchini worth eating? ;-)

The Fresser Fades Out

The mile-high pastrami, the overstuffed Reuben, the pile of rare roast beef on rye: They’re all on the way out, according to author David Sax, whose Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen sounds the death knell of the classic Jewish deli. The reasons for its demise, as listed in the Hungry Beast:

“[H]igh rents that many delis face in cities, low margins on items like pastrami and brisket, limited alcohol sales, a perception among regular eaters that delis should be cheap, dieting trends that have made anything high-fat or carb-loaded non-starters for decades at a time. The rush to the suburbs has allowed fewer delis to cater to larger numbers of people, and the deli owners who built these businesses would rather see their sons and grandsons in law school than in aprons behind the counter.”

Want to see what your kids will be missing? The Hungry Beast has a gallery of images from the best delis in North America. Mmm, meat mounds.

Goat Cheese at Every Meal

Goat cheese is a natural on pizza, on crostini, and crumbled over salad, but hounds also incorporate it into dishes from breakfast to dessert.

shanagain mixes goat cheese with butter, salt, and chives or flat-leaf parsley and uses it on finger sandwiches, and Phurstluv makes it into mousse by blending it with some heavy cream and folding in finely chopped parsley, salt, and pepper. This “can be put on or in just about anything,” she says.

Goat cheese can be used in cheesecake, as well as other desserts. goodhealthgourmet calls these goat cheese custards wonderful, and bluemoon4515 recommends goat cheese ice cream.

More ideas for goat cheese:
Bread it and pan-fry it in rounds, then serve it on green salad.
Add it to mashed potatoes.
Add it to scrambled eggs, frittatas, or quiches.
Mix it with garlic and herbs and use it to stuff mushrooms.

CHOW’s Corn with Chèvre and Red Peppers is a twist on classic creamed corn.

Board Link: What to do with LOTS of goat cheese?

Wait, What Are Your Qualifications Again?

The Atlantic’s Everybody’s a Critic online feature goes a long way toward establishing why not everybody should be a critic. Read it if you must, but here’s how a recent post pretty much boiled down:

Noncritic: I went to this highly hyped New York restaurant, ordered the roasted chicken, and I didn’t think it was all that. Why does everybody go there, anyway?

Commenter: You total sack. Nobody orders the chicken there; it’s a steak and burger place. What the hell are your qualifications for being a critic, anyway?

Commenter Number Two: Oh, wait, it says right there that he doesn’t have any.

Live Chicken Adventure

“There you are at the farmers’ market and there are cages of chickens … all types and colors. Which one do you choose?” wonders rworange. “Does it need to look feisty like a live crab in a fishmonger’s tank?” You’ll want to select a healthy, energetic chicken with bright feathers, says JungMann. “You can ask the supplier to help you choose a fat, healthy bird.” “Also check the color of the beak, earlobes, and comb,” suggests morwen. “As a chicken gets older, especially with layers, the color of these parts fade. They should be bright in a young chicken.”

So you select your chicken and the vendor puts it as is, breathing, in a paper bag. “Without being overly graphic,” asks rworange, “you bring your chicken home and what next?” Usually the supplier will take care of the dispatch and defeathering for you, says JungMann, but if you want to do it yourself, “be forewarned that this is a two-man job unless you have a traffic cone lying around to contain the bird, particularly if you choose to sever the trachea and carotid with a very sharp knife,” he says. Paulustrious thinks twisting the chicken’s neck to break it is the optimal manner of dispatching it. “For some it is a bit disconcerting, especially as the bird flaps after it is technically dead. However, it does make you realise what a chicken really is.”

“Plucking is messy,” advises AnnaEA. The chicken needs to be dipped in water that is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but no more then 170 degrees Fahrenheit. “Too cool, the feathers won’t loosen, too hot and you can accidentally cook the skin, which makes it rip when you try to clean it.” And “after plucking and cleaning, it’s best to allow the chicken to rest in the fridge over night before cooking—this allows rigor to fully pass, and helps ensure you get tender meat,” she says.

Board Link: How to select and … um … deal with a live chicken from the farmers market?

Honeys from Around the World

The flavor of honey varies appreciably with locale, because of the differing vegetation bees use to keep on buzzing. nofunlatte scored some honey in Cameroon that was “deep and darkly colored, very complex in flavor with a taste of deep, dark caramel and chocolate, among other things.” Ruth Lafler says her favorite has been coffee blossom honey she bought at a farmers’ market in Kauai. “It’s very dark, almost molasses, and has a very faint coffee flavor,” she says. Veggo fondly recalls the honey from the Michoacán region of Mexico: “Michoacán and Querétaro have 100-foot eucalyptus trees and delicate orchids and a million plants in between, so the honey was a symphony of everything one could see,” he says.

Sam Fujisaka thinks the best honeys are from the coffee-growing regions of Chiapas, Mexico, and Cajamarca, Peru. And pikawicca loves the “very dark evergreen honey from the Black Forest.”

Board Link: Honeys from around the world--share your favorites!

10 Meads You Should Try

10 Meads You Should Try

It's not just for jousting tournaments anymore. READ MORE

Cloudy Cider and Hot Doughnuts

Ali G is in search of unpasteurized apple cider, and even though justbeingpolite says none-too-politely “I think this gets asked every year,” Ali G’s still asking. The most popular recommendations on the boards are Cider Hill Farm, Honey Pot Hill Orchards, and Russell Orchards. tdaaa recommends that Ali stop by Cider Hill as it has a new hybrid, gingercrisp, that is “absolutely great.”

Meanwhile, nothing goes with cider like hot cider doughnuts, and the pastries from each of the aforementioned spots have their fans. Hounds also talk up the ’nuts at Wilson Farms: “As good as my back-home faves,” says ex-Michigander Prav. Get them “right out of the machine in the garden center,” advises ziggles. And Wilson Farms is one of the closer options for Bostonians.

Cider Hill Farm [Merrimack Valley]
45 Fern Avenue, Amesbury

Honey Pot Hill Orchards [North of Boston]
144 Sudbury Road, Stow

Russell Orchards [North Shore]
143 Argilla Road, Ipswich

Wilson Farms [North of Boston]
10 Pleasant Street, Lexington

Board Links: Unpasteurized Apple Cider
Good cider donuts close to Boston?

Teranga’s Multinational Menu

Senegalese food has touches of French, African, Portuguese, and Vietnamese cuisine to it, as the menu at Teranga demonstrates. Take the nems for example, which are much like Vietnamese imperial rolls, or the maafe, a lamb, peanut, and rice stew that has a distinctly African feel and is “delicious without being weird,” says kayowinter.

“I’d say this was the best Senegalese food I’ve ever had but that wouldn’t mean much since it’s the only Senegalese food I’ve ever had,” says 9lives. “It won’t be my last.”

For her part, kayowinter was cock-a-hoop over the decidedly non-average salad “ordinaire,” which mixed spring lettuce with white and sweet potatoes and beets in a light, garlicky dressing. Her husband loved the lamb chops, which were “tender and garlicky with a lot of that delicious char taste from the grill.”

Senegalese cuisine is known for its ultra-fresh juices; hounds generally like the ginger drink, but say that the bissap juice (a purple mix of sorrel or hibiscus juice, pineapple, orange flower water, and vanilla sugar) is an acquired taste.

Teranga [South End]
1746 Washington Street, Boston

Board Link: Teranga/ Senegalese South End

Sriracha: A Universal Condiment?

What’s the difference between the popular hot sauce called sriracha and the condiment known as “chili garlic sauce”? Isn’t sriracha pretty much chili garlic sauce? Aren’t they interchangeable? The main difference is that sriracha has sugar, and chili garlic sauce doesn’t, says goodhealthgourmet. Sugar tempers the heat a bit.

Chili garlic sauce is also more garlicky and tart in flavor than the sriracha, again, because of the lack of sugar, says Miss Needle. “Personally, I find sriracha to be more of a ‘universal’ condiment as the sugar balances out the vinegar,” says Miss Needle. “And I’m only talking about the Huy Fong brand as I’ve found other sriracha sauces to be quite vinegary. And sriracha is smooth while there are seeds present in the chili garlic sauce.”

Another similar product is the Indonesian sauce sambal oelek. It’s even more elemental than chili garlic sauce as it “has no garlic or sugar,” says SnackHappy. “The ingredients are chile, salt, and vinegar, but the taste is pretty much straight-up chili paste.”

Board Link: Sriracha/chili garlic