General Topics rss

Highlights from the General Topics and Cookware boards. Food trends, food products, and burning questions.

Vern’s Toffee

Vern’s toffee, out of Ft. Collins, Co., is a new name to us! Low humidity makes Colorado an excellent place for making toffee, says dml. These folks use no preservatives or chemicals.

Board Links: vosges toffee…huh?

Catalogue Your Wines, and Lots More and will help you catalogue your wine collection, with wines listed by country and region. You can check ratings and values, and find out when your wine is ready to drink. All are free to try, though registration is required to fully participate.


Hot Sauce with Flavor

El Yucateco is a hot sauce with plenty of habanero heat, but it’s flavorful and aromatic, as well. Try the red and green, both made from habanero chiles. This sauce is produced in the Yucatan, where it’s a big favorite.

Board Links: Great Hot Sauce: El Yucateco

Marvelous Silicone Baking Mats

A silicone baking mat–commonly referred to as a Silpat (the name of the best-known brand)–is one of a baker’s best friends in the kitchen, hounds agree. They are stick-resistant even where parchment paper fails, help cookies and other baked goods brown evenly without burning on the bottom, can withstand high oven temperatures, and are dishwasher safe. Beyond lining cookie sheets, they’re also great for roasting vegetables, rolling out and kneading dough without sticking or using too much extra flour, and making candies such as nut brittle.

There are, however, a few baking tasks they’re not well suited for–like achieving the correct texture on the bottom of delicate ladyfingers and high-volume holiday baking where you’re churning out many dozens of cookies simultaneously.

Silpat is, again, the best-known brand, but a number of companies now make mats that perform equally well and vary in price. They can often be found at good discounts via’s Friday-only sales, or using Bed Bath & Beyond’s frequently mailed 20% off merchandise coupons.

Order a standard half sheet pan-size silicone mat online.

Board Links: Silpat Baking Mat

Fruit-Flavored Syrups

Fruit-flavored syrups are good for making flavored drinks or tea. Monin and Da Vinci brands use natural ingredients (including sugar–no high fructose corn syrup here). Both offer a variety of sugar-free flavors, as well.

Board Links: Iced Tea

Bubble Tea

Bubble tea, pearl tea, or boba tea are a few of the names for a refreshing drink made with fruity tea or milk (tea made from real fruit, naturally, tastes a lot better than drinks made from flavored powders). A good boba shop offers lots of flavors.

The “bubbles” are big, slippery tapioca balls that sink to the bottom. A fat straw let’s you suck ‘em right up. It’s a beverage you both drink and chew!

Pei has discovered that you can buy vacuum packed tapioca that’s been partially cooked, so it requires only 5 minutes of boiling. Look for it in Asian markets.

Board Links: What exactly is Bubble Tea?

Apriums and Pluots

Apriums and pluots are the Labradoodles and Cockapoos of the stone fruit world: they are, in other words, culinary crossbreeds.

They’re both plum/apricot hybrids. Apriums are more like apricots than plums; pluots are more like plums than apricots.

Pinstripeprincess says that if the fruit looks more like a plum on the outside with a deeper purple skin, it will taste more like an apricot inside! The reverse is also true: lighter colored skin means more plummy flavor.

Read about Floyd Zaiger, the “father” of apriums and pluots.

Board Links: Aprium vs Pluot

Kohlrabi – Raw!

Most recipes call for cooking the bulb-shaped veggie kohlrabi–roasting, mashing, simmering in soup, and so on. It’s delicious however you do it, though perhaps not ideal for the summer palate. But Kohlrabi’s great raw, too–even older, larger bulbs that may seem too fibrous to munch uncooked. Only the outer layer of the bulb is fibrous, explains Aaron; many people peel off just the skin, but you need to remove the fibrous layer beneath the skin as well. The heart of the bulb will be tender enough to eat raw.

You can make kohlrabi into a slaw, or use it as you might jicama (though it contains much more water). Or try this Indian finger food prep–especially refreshing if you chill the kohlrabi before preparing it, notes Jupiter: Chop peeled kohlrabi into matchstick-size pieces, squeeze lemon or lime onto them, generously sprinkle with cayenne, and toss. Perfect with a cold beer (best with a light brew like lager or pilsner).

Board Links: mole pastes?

Chowhounding 101: Indian Food in the U.S.

India is a vast country with numerous regions–and regional cuisines. Each of India’s 28 states is like its own country, with its own cooking style.

The Indian food served in the U.S. is mostly divided into the food of the North or the South. There are commonalities, like basmati rice or reliance on vegetarian dishes. (The test of a good Indian restaurant is how well they prepare vegetables.) Spices, condiments, sauces, and bread are equally important, and the variety will seem dizzying.

Boogiebaby has supplied a terrific listing of dishes to get you started:

North Indian:
Dal Makhani–black lentils cooked with kidney beans and butter
Chicken Makhani–chicken in tomato/butter sauce
Palak Paneer–Spinach with Indian cottage cheese
Aloo Gobi–Potato and Cauliflower
Bengan Bharta–mashed eggplant
Raita–yogurt with cucumber (usually, could be other types as well)
Saag Gosht–Lamb cooked in spinach
Malai Kofta–vegetable dumplings in cream sauce
Shahi Paneer–Indian Cottage Cheese in a cream sauce
Biriyani–Veggies, chicken, or lamb slow cooked with basmati rice, onions, and sometimes nuts and raisins

South Indian:
Dosa–rice/lentil crepe
Masala Dosa–dosa stuffed with spiced potatoes
Sambhar–lentils cooked with tamarind and veggies
Upma–semolina cooked with veggies
Uttapam–pancake type with tomatoes and onions
Rasam–tamarind water with spices (good for digestion)
Idli–steamed rice/lentil patties
Vada–fried rice/lentil donuts
Coconut chutney–served with dosa, idli and vadas

Board Links: Please educate me regarding Indian cuisine

Beans, Beans

The British love their baked beans–in particular, Heinz baked beans with tomato sauce, in the blue tin. Unlike American Boston baked beans, they’re not sweet.

They’re served with the typical English breakfast, and as a topping on buttered toast (even better, place a fried egg with grated cheese on top of the bean-topped toast). You’ll see them spooned over a baked potato, too. You might want to add some water to the beans to make them soupy.

A nice accompaniment is brown HP Sauce, another British staple. Heinz beans and HP Sauce are available in shops that sell food from the UK.

Board Links: English beans on toast?