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

Demystifying Tofu Skin

The chewy, satisfying texture of tofu skins (also known as yuba or bean curd sheets) makes them a welcome component of dim sum dishes. But at the store, they often come as mysterious dried sheets resembling rice paper, says EWSflash. What to do with them?

Fresh tofu skin is sometimes available, but if you're using the dried kind, you need to rehydrate the sheets with water or stock, says fourunder. Chemicalkinetics lets bean curd skins soak in cool water for a few hours; you can speed up the process by using warmer water. READ MORE

Unique’s Extra Dark “Splits”: Perfect Pretzels?

"When I think about it, the parts of a pretzel I've always liked best are the crisp ends," says CindyJ. And Extra Dark "Splits" from Unique are "over-baked" all over, she says, not just at the ends. For fans of the well-done, they're everything a pretzel ought to be, and the best pretzels CindyJ has ever tasted.

Discuss: Absolutely the BEST pretzels I've ever had!

What to Do with Sour Green Plums

Piles of small, bright green plums are showing up these days in supermarkets, especially Middle Eastern markets, says jumpingmonk. They're always sold firm, underripe by the standard of more familiar plums, and they never ripen. So what do you do with them?

Unripened, rock-hard, and intensely sour is exactly what they're supposed to be, says nyfoodie718—and you eat them raw, ideally dipped in salt. thursday has seen them sold as snacks at the farmers' market, served with Tabasco and salt.

Alternatively, in Berlin, cooks use similar tiny, unripe plums to make a jam that tastes a bit like gooseberry or rhubarb, says biondanonima.

Discuss: Little Green Mystery Plum

Kimchi: Fresh or Funky?

After tasting kimchi from a small container, DWB loved the fermented funk and vinegary tang enough to acquire an industrial-sized jar—"the kind that makes you remove a shelf from the fridge to accommodate it." The problem? The new jar had none of the tang or funk that DWB liked so much.

"Sounds like you bought fresh kimchi," says alwaystired, referring to kimchi that hasn't been aged long enough to taste pointedly fermented. There's nothing wrong with that; in fact, alwaystired prefers the fresh stuff. If you want the intense, fermented flavors, just leave your fresh kimchi in the fridge for a week or two, alwaystired says, or kick-start the process by leaving it out at room temperature for a day. READ MORE

Should Raw Beef Be Brown or Red?

Sometimes raw ground beef is a healthy-looking red color on the outside, but inside it's more of a brown color. This is perfectly normal and exactly what it should look like, says Uncle Bob. (And Ray Venezia of Fairway Market in New York seconds what Uncle Bob says; check out Ray's CHOW Tip video on how to choose ground meat.) Meat "blooms" (that is, it turns red) when the myoglobin in it comes into contact with oxygen, Uncle Bob says. Break up the hunk of ground beef, and the inside will turn red, too. "You'll also see this with other pieces of meat, like steaks," says tommy. "If two steaks are lying on top of each other (well, that's physically impossible, but you know what I mean), you might notice that they are brown where they are coming in contact with each other."

Discuss: Interior color of ground beef

Ground beef image from Shutterstock

The Easiest Slice-and-Bake Cookies

What's the easiest cookie you can make that you won't be reluctant to eat? Tubes of slice-and-bake cookie dough get high scores for convenience, but some hounds object to the flavor. The packaged doughs all have a bit of an artificial taste, says gooddog—especially plain sugar cookie dough. But "with more stuff added, that taste gets masked." READ MORE

Instant Coffee in Liquid Form?

While traveling through Quito, Ecuador, standish was intrigued by the unusual way the owner of a hostel prepared coffee. "Basically she had a tall, glass, refrigerated decanter of thick, syrupy coffee that was possibly slightly sweet," says standish. "You simply added this to hot water with or without milk to a desirable proportion." This elixir wasn't in a commercial bottle, and seemed to be a homemade preparation, though Alan408 notes that commercial instant coffee comes in liquid as well as granulated and powdered forms.

The concentrated liquid preparation that standish mentions reminds John E. of the concentrated cold-brew coffee he likes to make and dilute with cold milk over ice, or with hot water—though it doesn't have the syrupy, gel-like texture of the stuff standish remembers. "Cold brewed coffee is quite strong but seems to be less bitter with less acid," he says. "I put a pound of ground coffee into a kettle and pour 12 cups of water over it and let it steep for 24 hours in the refrigerator. After straining the coffee, I put it into .5 liter water bottles and freeze it for future use."

Discuss: Strange coffee prep while traveling?

True Yams: Delicious and Sweet If You Can Find Them!

There's perennial confusion about sweet potatoes and yams; most sweet tubers for sale in the United States are sweet potatoes, not true yams. But Will Owen has found a kind of true yam—"the football-sized white-fleshed ones"—at Latino markets around Los Angeles, especially those markets catering to Cubans, he says. "You need a good, heavy-bladed knife to cut them into cooking-sized chunks, but they're delicious and very sweet."

Discuss: Yams vs. Sweet potatoes

What Do You Eat When No One Is Looking?

What "weird" foods do Chowhounds eat in the kitchen when nobody's looking? Surprisingly, delicious fats usually reserved for cooking are a popular indulgence. biondanonima's secret snack is butter—straight from a spoon. "My husband found this equally fascinating and repulsive when we first started living together, but to me it's no different than eating a very rich triple creme cheese, or a spoonful of crème fraîche, etc.," she says. Jzone has a similar penchant: a spoonful of good extra-virgin olive oil. "I love a great evoo from almost anywhere in the Mediterranean and will sip some straight up with a pinch of grey salt or fleur de sel," Jzone says. "Currently really enjoying a Palestinian evoo." Finally, mutti likes pure duck fat smeared on French bread. READ MORE

Cooking Large Dried Lima Beans

Large dried lima beans (called "butter beans" when cooked and canned) have a completely different flavor from small limas, says greygarious, even though they're the same color. greygarious says these beans make a great substitute for potatoes in "fauxtato salad"—their taste and texture are virtually indistinguishable from spuds.

Uncle Bob likes large lima beans with andouille sausage and cornbread, while dberg1313 likes to use them for Boston baked beans.

Discuss: Dry large lima beans - going the way of the dodo?