Cooking Tips rss

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

The Arrival of Ramps

Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a much-anticipated spring arrival at East Coast farmers’ markets. Because they aren’t cultivated, their season is short and their area of availability is limited. But hounds have some good ideas for highlighting the flavor of this wild member of the onion family.

Ramps go very well with eggs: LNG212 had some in a “delicious” frittata, while relizabeth suggests cooking them in an omelet with ricotta cheese. Simple sautés also work well: MB fka MB sautéed some in olive oil with salt and pepper, and then tossed them with some pasta, and LNG212 sautés ramps with garlic as a side dish. relizabeth also recommends making ramp pesto.

HillJ uses them to make ramp soup, and MMRuth enjoyed this ramp risotto, though she used an entire bunch of ramps instead of the specified four.

Board Link: Ramps Recipes

Salt Your Pasta Water Well

Chowhounds agree: Salting the water you boil your pasta in makes a huge difference to its flavor. As it cooks, the pasta absorbs water, and the salt is incorporated into the pasta with the water, explains Ruth Lafler, who says that adding salt after cooking won’t have the same effect at all. Any kind of salt will do, and it doesn’t make much difference whether you add it before or after the water comes to a boil (though apparently adding it at the start may pit certain types of cookware, warns Nettie). But all agree that it’s important to use plenty of it; several hounds say pasta water should taste “as salty as the sea.”

Board Link: Do you add salt to boiled water for pasta?

Perfect Potato Pizza

“The classic recipe for potato pizza in Italy is quite simple: potato, rosemary, olive oil, and salt,” says vvvindaloo. To make it, lightly toss paper-thin slices of potato in olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt, with an optional tiny bit of either pepperoncini or black pepper. Bake on high until the top and edges are brown.

Other Chowhounds go nontraditional and add some cheese: Gruyère and raclette are favorites. Crushed garlic and caramelized onions are also additions that several hounds recommend. Some also precook their potatoes before adding them to the pizza to ensure they cook through. This allows you to make more toppings-heavy pies too. Agent Orange makes a pizza with pesto, roasted potato rounds, roasted garlic, and a few small dollops of chèvre cheese.

Board Link: how to do potato on pizza?

Ideas for Kale

Kale is a healthy green that can be cooked many ways, and even eaten raw. JungMann braises it with ham hocks as he does collards; Alice Letseat sautés hers with finely diced onions and garlic in olive oil, and adds red pepper flakes; lgss makes masamba, which is steamed ribbons of kale with a sauce of peanut butter and salsa, and serves it with potatoes.

Portuguese kale and potato soup, with or without chorizo, is hearty and filling. puppymomma likes this recipe with sausage; saltwater prefers a vegetarian version, using the kale stems to make broth.

sweetpotater spritzes kale leaves with olive oil, tosses them with salt and pepper, and then roasts them briefly at 425ºF, turning once, to eat them like potato chips.

Some Chowhounds are mad about salads made with raw dinosaur kale (also known as Tuscan kale and cavolo nero). karenfinan mixes two parts olive oil with one part each Bragg Liquid Aminos and nutritional yeast and pours it over raw chopped dinosaur kale. Several hounds rave over this raw Tuscan kale salad with pecorino (requires login) and this lacinato kale and ricotta salata salad.

Nettie likes this pesto made with cavolo nero.

Board Link: Kale-What Do YOU Do?”

Lemonade Secrets

Chowhounds have lots of tips for improving fresh lemonade. For example, instead of using granulated sugar to sweeten your lemonade, use a boiled Rich Simple Syrup, which will dissolve cleanly in cold liquid and keeps well, say hounds. Kagey makes hers from two parts water and one part sugar.

Additions can enhance the flavor of lemonade. Suggestions include maraschino cherry juice, grenadine, fruit purée (e.g., strawberry, raspberry, blackberry), fresh ginger, or a dash of orange blossom water. You can also try infusing herbs such as mint, rosemary, or thyme in your simple syrup or the lemonade itself. MikeG feels that using lemon zest gives lemonade a more complex flavor, so he infuses his simple syrup with zest for a day or two.

Instead of ice, punkin712 recommends using chunks of frozen fruit to cool your lemonade, which won’t dilute the drink and add their own flavor. HillJ notes that lemonade ice cubes are handy for adding to recipes and cocktails.

Board Link: Make your own lemonade

The Dark Side of Pork

Far from looking for another white meat, many Chowhounds prefer the “dark” cuts of pork, which have more fat and more flavor. Especially recommended are shoulder roasts (also called Boston butt), as well as sirloin roasts and chops. mommycook points to the National Pork Board’s guide to pork cuts for more info. Dmnkly suggests seeking out heritage pork for superior flavor.

Board Link: Pork “dark meat”–what cut??

Spicy, Sweet, Versatile Hot Pepper Jelly

Hot pepper jelly is a great ingredient in appetizers and snacks. jmax uses it over goat cheese on crackers. nemo makes cheddar thumbprint cookies filled with pepper jelly. Janet from Richmond likes it on a bagel with cream cheese, and LulusMom likes it with peanut butter.

Several hounds point out that hot pepper jelly works nicely on its own as a condiment for grilled meats and burgers, fried oysters, and fried coconut shrimp. AGM_Cape_Cod uses hot pepper jelly in her recipe for Cajun mustard shrimp.

drbbaldwin whisks melted pepper jelly into Italian dressing to give it a sweet and tangy kick.

Board Link: Uses for Hot Pepper Jelly

Inspirational Food Porn Website

TasteSpotting is a site full of fabulous food porn, collating gorgeous photos from blogs and other Internet sources from all over the world. Several hounds use it as inspiration for their own cooking. Just click on a photo, and it will take you to the story where it was originally posted, explains farmersdaughter. It might include a recipe, or be a write-up of a restaurant meal or shopping trip.

“I like that it stays right on top of trends—if not ahead of them since its reach is global,” says MakingSense. “Always very, very fresh and energetic. ... Covers a lot of territory. From the simple to the sublime.”

Board Link: Tastespotting Recipe Website

In Pursuit of Tender Octopus

scubadoo97 cooked up some tender, flavorful octopus using Harold McGee’s unusual oven method. Following his instructions, she blanched the octopus in salted water for 30 seconds, then cooked it in a tightly covered dry pan at 200ºF for four hours, then let it cool in its juices. She reduced the juices to make a sauce, and briefly grilled the octopus over wood chips to add a little smoke flavor, then served it on the sauce with some very good extra-virgin olive oil.

Board Link: Octopus success a’ la Harold McGee

Flourless Cake Recipes

Dense, rich, and dark are all good descriptors for these hounds’ favorite flourless chocolate cake recipes. La Bete Noire is very easy to make, according to eatmyfood, and im_nomad adds that it’s “like eating a slice of truffle.” JoanN makes this chocolate oblivion truffle torte often, and usually serves it with spiked raspberry purée. And leanneabe says that this chocolate cloud cake is heavenly.

Board Link: Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipes: