Cooking Tips rss

Ideas, advice, and what to make now from Chowhound editors.

DIY Barbecue Sauce

People tend to have their own ideas about what makes the best barbecue sauce, so the easiest way to find that perfect flavor is to do it yourself. “There is no reason to buy BBQ sauce when you can make it at home so easily,” says chef chicklet. “You can make the sauce as simple or as complicated as you like.”

bex109 makes his favorite sauce for baby back ribs by blending a can of mangos in juice and combining the resulting purée with a healthy dose of habanero hot sauce, fresh lime juice, and a pinch of salt, then bringing it to a simmer and reducing it until it’s good and thick.

BobB bastes his Memphis-style home-smoked ribs with a finishing sauce made from canned tomato sauce, vinegar, beer, butter, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, which is cooked to thicken.

Monch makes big batches of Jesse’s lip-smacking sauce to can, and then uses it on chicken and pork. NE_Elaine really likes the vinegar and mustard sauce included in Tyler Florence’s pulled pork sandwiches.

And check out the recipes on CHOW for Thick and Sticky Barbecue Sauce and Big-Time Barbecue Sauce, which is recommended by Antilope.

Board Link: Homemade BBQ Sauce–Do you?

Instant Aioli

Making aioli by hand can be a painstaking process: You must begin by incorporating oil drip by drip with puréed garlic and egg yolk until you achieve emulsification, before you can start dribbling in your oil a bit faster, says FED, who feels the handmade version is worth the extra effort for its “luxurious texture.”

But maria lorraine has a method of making aioli in a food processor, which she claims “takes 3 minutes max.” She starts by processing two egg yolks for 1 full minute to release the lecithin, which is the emulsifier. Then add olive oil in a needle-thin stream that hits the processor blade as you pour it in. Once you have added enough oil to achieve an emulsion, the mixture will thicken and you will hear a change in sound as it begins slapping the sides of the bowl. Stop the processor and add the garlic, salt to taste, and any other ingredients you want, then process them.

You should add garlic a little bit at a time, as it’s easy to add too much, says maria lorraine. Also, the flavor can intensify to the point of inedibility if it’s stored for long, according to JonParker. And hill food gives his aioli a mellower garlic flavor by using roasted garlic so “that raw bite is softened.”

Finally, maria lorraine recommends this review of aioli technique.

Board Link: Aioli

Sweet on Zucchini

Are you overrun with zucchini? Well, its not just for main dishes: Chowhounds have been baking with summer squash too.

Flora’s famous zucchini cake, filled with lime curd and topped with cream cheese frosting, is one of NYCkaren’s favorite cakes ever.

As an alternative to traditional zucchini bread, chowser likes this sweet potato and zucchini bread.

In a savory vein, torty substitutes roughly grated, squeezed-dry zucchini for most of the liquid in cornbread, and adds a couple handfuls of grated cheese.

Or try CHOW’s Zucchini-Pine Nut Muffins, suggests spyturtle008.

Board Link: baking with zucchini—your favorite treat

Miso Soup from Start to Finish

The secret to great miso soup, agree Chowhounds, lies in homemade dashi, the basic stock made from kombu (a seaweed) and bonito flakes. Happily, dashi is easy to make once you’ve got those ingredients.

thew explains miso soup start to finish: Put a piece of kombu in a pot with cold water and slowly heat the water; take the kombu out just before the water boils (this should take at least 10 minutes). Bring the water to a boil and add bonito flakes, then take the pot off the heat. After a minute or two, the flakes will saturate and sink. Strain out the solids. Place a little of the hot dashi in a small bowl and whisk in the miso until it is smooth. Add it back to the pot. Don’t allow the miso soup to boil.

FoodFuser likes to soak some dried shiitakes in hot water and add that to the dashi, along with a splash of fish sauce. sixelagogo recommends using both white and red miso in a 60 percent–to–40 percent ratio. FoodFuser notes that classic garnishes include half-inch cubes of soft tofu and a sprinkle of green onion.

Board Link: What is the Secret to Miso Soup?

Lentil Feta Salad

galleygirl found a lentil and feta cheese salad recipe so good she made it three times in one weekend, garnering raves from even the pickiest eaters. One of the best things about the recipe, galleygirl says, is the way it describes how to cook lentils for salad so they’re al dente. Both galleygirl and beetlebug note that the recipe makes much more dressing than you’ll need; beetlebug only used a quarter of the dressing for the full amount of salad.

Board Link: Lentil Feta Cheese Salad Recipe

Dressing Fruit Salads

Summer fruit salads are delicious au naturel, but even better well-dressed. Here are some Chowhounds’ favorite dressings for fruit.

Citrus and honey combinations are popular. gatorfoodie likes to toss melon with honey, mint, and grated ginger for a little zing, and dexters uses a little mint, lime juice, lime zest, and a modest squeeze of honey.

sugarbuzz goes for yuzu or lemon juice, sugar, and finely chopped Thai basil, while soypower uses cinnamon and lemon juice.

For stone fruit and strawberries, cyberroo likes to use mint sugar (sugar and fresh mint blended until homogeneous), saying, “The mint just makes it seem like more than just fruit in a bowl.”

Board Link: Do you ever dress a fruit salad?

Pizza on the Grill

In this season of outdoor cooking, even pizza can be cooked on the grill. Here’s the basic technique, according to flourgirl: Place the crust on the grill over medium heat and close the lid; let it cook for about 3 minutes, then remove with tongs and flip it over onto a pizza peel with the uncooked side down. Add your toppings and return the pizza to grill over indirect heat with the lid down until the bottom is golden brown and the cheese is melted. todao suggests using tongs to check the bottom of the crust frequently to avoid overbrowning.

firecooked says that after you roll out your pizza dough, you can place the rounds on parchment paper (you can even stack them that way); then you can easily flip a round onto the grill upside down and peel the paper off. Cheesy Oysters finds it easier to make smaller, individual pizzas on the grill. Finally, jesoda notes that vegetables such as onions, peppers, and mushrooms should be precooked because they won’t have time to cook on the grill before the pizza is done.

Board Link: Grilled Pizza Questions and Help

Crazy for Quinoa

Chowhounds love cooking with quinoa, a tiny protein-packed grain. Some treat it simply, incorporating it into other dishes, while others use it as the base for salads and sides meant to highlight its nutty flavor.

ziggylu’s husband loves to cook quinoa in coconut milk. ipsedixit adds it to vegetable soups and minestrone to make them heartier. HillJ finds the grain makes an interesting substitute for rice in stuffed peppers.

pikawicca chops and adds whatever vegetables are available to cooked quinoa, along with vinaigrette, sun-dried tomatoes, and black olives.

WendyBinCT says this Martha Stewart recipe for spicy lemon quinoa is “easy and delicious.” And oakjoan says this citrus-dressed red rice and quinoa recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi is terrific, drawing raves from guests.

newfoodie recommends a breakfast recipe of warm and nutty cinnamon quinoa, saying it’s a “satisfying and unique way of preparing quinoa.”

Board Link: Quinoa–New Jfood Favorite

Watermelon Goes Beyond the Wedge

Summer is when watermelon really tastes great, but there’s only so much you can eat in one go. Chowhounds have some creative ways to use up the rest.

Watermelon purée makes tasty beverages. karykat recommends this recipe for Mexican watermelon and lime agua fresca, and DiningDiva suggests adding some rum to create “an interesting and drinkable cocktail.” twodales cuts watermelon into chunks and freezes it. Then, whenever he feels like it, he purées some in a blender, with or without rum, for a refreshing drink.

sugarbuzz makes watermelon ice pops by puréeing melon with sugar and lime juice, then straining and freezing the mixture in molds. HillJ simply pushes sticks into fat slices of watermelon and freezes these for a cool snack.

Watermelon works well in savory dishes, too. Nigella Lawson’s watermelon, feta, and black olive salad is a big hit with livetocook, while andrewm rates this Indian watermelon curry. And Emme recommends watermelon gazpacho, either with tomatoes or with cucumbers.

Here are some CHOW watermelon recipes as well.

Board Links: Lots of Watermelon
Too much watermelon!

Jerk Your Own Chicken

Authentic jerk chicken, the spicy Jamaican street food, contains habanero peppers, allspice, scallions, and thyme, says Val.

9lives makes a “lazy man’s” jerk chicken, saying, “I don’t pretend that this is authentic, but it’s easy and good.” He makes a paste in a food processor with habaneros, red onion, scallions, ginger, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, allspice, cilantro, and fresh thyme, adjusting the amounts to taste. (9lives warns that it’s important to take special care when handling extra-hot habaneros, and especially to avoid touching your eyes.) Rub some of the paste on the chicken, refrigerate for 24 hours, then grill, basting with the remaining paste.

diva360 recommends this recipe for jerk chicken, and alkapal says Steven Raichlen’s jerk seasoning and sauce will “light your fire, it’s that wonderful.”

Board Link: Lazy Man’s Jerked Chicken