Ideas, advice, and what to make now from Chowhound editors.
Have you ever wondered what the bizarre-sounding Ritz Cracker mock apple pie tastes like, and if it’s good to eat? Chowhounds say it really tastes like apples, and they like it.
“To my surprise it’s actually quite good; in fact, it’s very good. Almost makes me wonder if I ever need to use apples again,” muses ipsedixit, who adds that a downside is the lack of apple aroma while baking. karykat used to get a kick out of passing it off as real apple pie, and notes that the cracker layers resemble apple slices when baked. Hounds point out that the Ritz version may be more expensive to bake, and is certainly higher in fat and calories than real apple pie.
Others have had surprising results with other “mock” pies. pigtails makes a vinegar pie that tasted like lemon custard, and greygarious made an oatmeal-coconut pie that looked and tasted like pecan pie made with chopped nuts.
Board Link: RITZ® Mock Apple Pie
Leeks are more than an onion stand-in, say Chowhounds. They’re terrific all on their own, particularly in preparations that showcase them. Try braising them whole in chicken stock or water and serving them with a mustardy vinaigrette and capers. Broiling is another good cooking method: Top leeks with melted butter and Gruyère or Parmesan before cooking. And you can slice them and sauté in butter to use in an omelet or frittata; or try making this potato and leek gratin with cumin (registration required).
Caralien makes a super-simple potato-leek soup that really lets the flavors of the leek and potato shine through. Combine leeks and a slightly greater volume of waxy potatoes, both thinly sliced, a generous amount of sea salt, and water. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, then purée. Others like to use chicken stock as the cooking liquid, and some finish the soup with cream. For a flavor twist, add garlic, nutmeg, cayenne, or dill seed.
Board Links: Potato Leek Soup--it really is that simple
Parmesan crisps, known as frico in Italian, make an elegant garnish for soups and salads or a delectable snack on their own. And they couldn’t be simpler to make. Simply spread grated Parmesan in rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat and bake at 350°F until the cheese is melted and crisp; let cool before removing. Alternatively, cook the rounds in a skillet on the stovetop; danhole even suggests making small ones on a plate in a microwave.
You can turn the crisps into edible cups or bowls in which to serve salad by removing them while warm and draping them over upturned glasses or muffin cups. For flavor variation, add cracked black pepper or herbs such as oregano or rosemary. Den likes to add a bit of dry rub for barbecue crisps.
Board Link: Parmesan crisps
Fresh ricotta cheese is wonderful stuff, nothing like the supermarket version. Here are some preparations that really highlight its flavor:
• Bruschetta rubbed with garlic and topped with ricotta, good olive oil, and sea salt
• Stirred into broccoli rabe that has been sautéed in oil and garlic (this can be served on its own, with pasta, or in a sandwich)
• Pasta with fresh ricotta and lots of fresh herbs, Parmesan, and fresh ground pepper
• Tagliatelle with smashed peas, sausage, and ricotta
• Gnudi Toscani, “naked ravioli” with spinach
• Paired with figs, pears, or with honey and nuts for dessert
• Mixed with orange or lemon zest, vanilla, and white or brown sugar (for dessert or breakfast)
Board Link: what to do with great ricotta
Artichoke hearts, either frozen or jarred and marinated, are a great convenience ingredient that adds a bit of panache with little effort. Here are some favorite uses for them.
Marinated artichoke hearts:
• Chop and use in grilled sandwiches or on pizza
• Toss seasoned chicken parts with artichokes and marinade and bake; top with toasted pine nuts
• Heat artichokes, halved cherry tomatoes, and olives in marinade and use to top grilled chicken breasts
Frozen artichoke hearts are best simmered in salted water for a few minutes, then patted dry if they won’t be otherwise cooked. Some ideas for using them:
• Chop, sauté, and use in a quiche, omelet, or frittata
• Bake with shrimp, tomato, and feta cheese
• Combine with mushrooms and lightly steamed vegetables and marinate in a vinaigrette
• Chop and add to pilafs and grain salads
• Simmer in water with onion and garlic, then purée for a simple, satisfying soup
• Toss with pasta and basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, and cooked chicken
bear makes lemon artichoke pesto by pulsing a couple of garlic cloves, a bit of lemon zest (a little goes a long way here), artichoke hearts, lemon juice to taste, and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a food processor. CHOW’s version includes ricotta and basil.
Board Links: Marinated artichokes
Frozen artichoke hearts?
Mangoes are great in fruit salad and tropical cocktails, but they’re also great in savory dishes.
Mango salsa is great on grilled fish or chicken. Glencora makes hers with shallots, fresh chile, citrus juice, and fish sauce; valerie loves this one. Or try mango chunks with puréed chipotle on roasted pork.
Try mangoes in a salad: add to green salads; use in a quinoa salad with black beans, red peppers, and red wine vinaigrette; or make spicy, refreshing Marinated Mango.
• Curried coconut mango chicken in wonton cups, with added chopped fresh mango
• Madhur Jaffrey’s mango curry
• Mango with lime juice and a dusting of chile powder for a snack
Board Link: Mango
Frozen fruit is a handy ingredient that can perk up a winter kitchen, and even serves some purposes that fresh doesn’t. Here are some favorite ways Chowhounds use frozen fruit:
• In smoothies, instead of ice
• Blended into slushy rum drinks
• Microwaved until warm and used to top ice cream, plain yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, or waffles
• Chopped in a food processor and pulsed with yogurt and honey for instant frozen yogurt
• Microwaved with sugar and a bit of lemon juice to make instant jam, no pectin needed
• Turned into a baking dish, topped with a simple cobbler or crisp topping, and baked
• Tossed with a bit of flour and folded into muffin batter
Board Link: How do you use frozen fruit?
A head of green cabbage lends itself to many simple, comforting dishes. Several hounds make it into soup by simmering chopped cabbage with onion, garlic, and chicken stock, adding rice, noodles, potatoes, or kielbasa. greygarious uses kielbasa, wild rice, chopped apple, and caraway seeds. lupaglupa steams strips of cabbage and combines them with cooked fingerling potatoes, penne, browned butter, and grated cheese.
Other hound-approved ways to cook cabbage:
• Sauté slowly in butter, add salt, pepper, and walnuts.
• Sauté with garlic, red pepper flakes, and finish with a squeeze of lemon.
• Blanch shredded cabbage, drain, and sauté in olive oil with caraway seeds until crisp-tender, then mix in fresh breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil.
• Cut cabbage into quarters and core, grill in foil packets with salt, pepper, and butter.
Hounds also suggest trying these recipes for sweet and sour slaw and the “world’s best” braised cabbage.
Board Link: I bought a head of cabbage (green), now what
For a different take on crispy pan-fried or baked breaded chicken or fish, try breading with ground canned deep-fried onions (the sort that grace green bean casserole). cheesecake17 dips chicken in egg mixed with a bit of Dijon mustard, then in equal parts fried onions and crushed cornflakes before baking. HillJ uses equal parts onions and panko, and says, “If you like a crunchy crust on your fish or chicken—this is it.” dockhl riffs on buffalo wings by dipping chicken in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, then crushed fried onions, baking until crispy, and dipping in blue cheese dressing. bear notes that pan-frying at hotter than medium heat can burn the onion crumbs.
Board Link: Canned fried onions as breading
Brussels sprouts are terrific simply roasted, or in more complex preparations. To roast, halve the sprouts (or quarter, if large) and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400°F for around 20 minutes, turning halfway through. Dress with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or melted butter mixed with maple syrup.
Shredding Brussels sprouts gives them a whole different texture. Sauté shredded sprouts in olive oil or with bacon, or try CHOW’s Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Fried Capers.
avgolemona likes pasta with hashed Brussels sprouts and pine nuts. And jen kalb loves a salad of raw slivered sprouts with lemon, walnuts, Parmesan, and olive oil, saying, “It has a very fresh flavor.”
kchurchill5 makes a layered casserole of sliced sprouts, fennel, potatoes, and sweet potatoes with a mixture of vegetable broth, salt and pepper, and rosemary poured over, and a topping of walnuts and bread crumbs.
Board Link: Brussels Sprouts recipe?