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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Variations on a Theme: Hummus

Chowhounds add a variety of things to their basic hummus recipes to change up the flavors. Some popular blend-ins are roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, green onions, parsley, and hot peppers. (Not all at once, of course!)

HillJ likes a really lemony hummus (she uses 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup zest to 2 cups garbanzos) with a bit of parsley pureed in, and a dash of paprika and a handful of toasted pinenuts sprinkled on top.

2m8ohed makes hummus using edamame in place of garbanzos.

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What hummus flavors do you create?

Dealing With Cheese Mold

Cheese getting moldy in the fridge, even in a plastic bag? Try the following tactics:

Wrap the cheese in tin foil, wax paper or very tightly in plastic wrap, instead of a plastic bag.

MMRuth wraps her cheese tightly in plastic wrap, and surrounds with foil. She then places it into the meat drawer of her fridge, which she lines with paper towels. The result: no mold, ever.

If the cheese does get moldy with green or white fuzzy mold, trim off the mold as soon as possible. The stuff lives only on the surface. If it gets moldy with red, pink, or orange mold, toss the whole thing. That’s a sign that there’s something nasty lurking inside the cheese. Goat cheese is particularly susceptible to the nasty stuff.

And last: if you really want to prevent cheese mold, don’t touch the cheese you’ll be storing directly with your fingers. Handle the cheese through paper or plastic wrap. Most molds get onto cheese via our fingers. Washing your hands thoroughly isn’t enough.

How to keep cheese in refrig from being moldy?

That Bizarre Norwegian Egg Coffee

The traditional Norwegian method for making coffee includes an egg. Simply break up a single egg and mix it with half a cup of water in a warmed saucepan. Add one cup of medium-grind coffee, and six cups of boiling water, and boil slowly for exactly three minutes, covered. Then add another half a cup of cold water, and let it steep for ten minutes, then serve.

What you get is slightly rich, mysteriously clear coffee. Why? Not only does the egg add a little richness, but the egg proteins bind with and settle the grounds. This happens when you add that last half a cup of cold water.

Some people use the whole egg broken up–that includes the shell. Some use the egg without the shell, others use only the egg whites. In all cases, the result is the same–mysteriously rich, and miraculously clear coffee.

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Norwegian Egg Coffee-How does this work?
‘Pioneer’ Coffee Brewing

Dancing Mudbugs and Voodoo Beer

The debauchery of Mardi Gras may have subsided, but New Orleans is still in the news. NOLA newspaper Gambit Weekly has an encouraging series of articles on its Best of New Orleans website about the resurgence of southern Louisiana products, from crawfish to Dixie beer to oysters.

After a scanty hurricane-ravaged season in 2006 that found prices high, local processing plants still closed, and supplies low to nonexistent, this year’s Louisiana crawfish hauls are hoppin’ so far, much to the delight of everyone from backyard bayou boilers to high-end chefs.

The comeback of Dixie beer, the last beer to be commercially bottled in the city, is a little more tenuous. Dixie’s massive brick brewery on Tulane Avenue was flooded by Katrina, then stripped by looters, and since then local bars have been hoarding their supplies of Dixie and Blackened Voodoo. Now, just in time for the company’s 100th birthday, the beer will again be produced, this time at Heiner Brau, a small German-style brewery in Covington, Louisiana. Batches will remain small for the time being, until Dixie’s owners can set up other brewing operations around the country for the national market.

And as for oysters, the Louisiana Oyster Task Force (which sounds like a pistol-packing, tough-shucking quasi-governmental ATF spin-off but is actually an oyster-industry trade group) is sponsoring shucking and eating contests at a Bourbon Street park this Thursday as part of their Oyster Jubilee event promoting the local bivalve.

Mmm, mmm … Dahmerlicious!

Dairy Queen’s got a relatively new commercial out on the market touting its new popcorn shrimp. Perhaps you’ve seen it? It features two anthropomorphic computer-animated shrimp who have been joined in the holy union of matrimony.

SHRIMP WIFE: Hey, honey! Whaddya got there?

SHRIMP HUSBAND: Popcorn from Dairy Queen! Wanna try?

SHRIMP WIFE: Sure! Mmm! Hey … wait a second … this isn’t popcorn, you idiot … IT’S POPCORN SHRIMP!

SHRIMP HUSBAND: You know, I knew there was something familiar about it.

SHRIMP WIFE: Hold on. Where are the kids?

BOTH: AAAUGH!

Underlying assumption #1: Cannibalistic crustaceans really move product.

Underlying assumption #2: America wants to buy its seafood from a maker of third-rate ice cream products. Granted, America already buys its seafood from Red Lobster, but at least it’s got a relevant name.

Underlying assumption #3: You want to eat anthropomorphic shrimp babies and children, ensuring that they never attend another day of shrimp preschool or go back to Camp Arthopowanna, the tiny shrimp summer camp under the sea.

Congratulations to Dairy Queen on their wonderful new ad campaign!

Want Some Beer with Your Breakfast?

Timed to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day, 300,000 jars of limited-edition Guinness Marmite are being released this week in the UK.

Marmite, a savory spread beloved by Brits but which may be an acquired taste to those who first encounter it as an adult, is made from yeast extract. This version uses authentic Guinness yeast to achieve a Guinness-y flavor to the mixture. The black jar with a white lid is meant to mimic the appearance of a pint of Ireland’s dark tipple.

According to the Guinness blog, the spread will be available for only a few weeks and is proving to be hard to come by—would-be customers are reporting empty supermarket shelves. There are several tubs listed on eBay UK, with prices up to £9.99 ($19.54) for the Buy it Now option.

With Marmite being a love-it-or-hate-it sort of proposition, this is not bad news for everyone. As blogger Arbroath observes, “I bet it tastes as awful as the original.”

Oh, and there’s no alcohol involved here—just the same yeast as the beer.

Well, then, forget it.

Is it Really That Hard to Make Salad Dressing?

We’re all busy all the time—email, voicemail, work, gym, friends, family. But you gotta eat, right? Have we simply become too busy to cook?

That’s what some people are saying. It stems from a conversation sparked by Anthony Bourdain’s smackdown of the Food Network on Michael Ruhlman’s blog (545 comments and counting—is that a food-blog record?) and was taken up by Elise Bauer in a post on food blog Simply Recipes. Next, David Lebovitz got into the action when he asked his readers, “How many seconds does one save by opening a bottle of premade salad dressing as opposed to mixing together a few spoonfuls of olive oil and vinegar?”

The debate revolves around the interest or need for such shows as Rachael Ray’s super-speedy dinner prep, or Sandra Lee’s if-you-don’t-want-to-make-it-fake-it approach to cooking. At the root of it all lies the question, are we simply too busy to cook? Are prepared meals, takeout, and processed frozen foods all we have time for after a long day of climbing the capitalist ladder?

As David asks:

I wonder what people are doing where they don’t have time to eat anymore. When I moved to France, they practically had to nail me in my chair to get me to sit down and have a decent meal. I was so used to eating on the run (in my car, in the shower, etc.). But cooking and eating are two of the most fundamental things that human beings do, but what’s happened to us if we can’t do them anymore?

His questions have kicked up a furious debate that has gotten a bit down and dirty, as those who feel unable to regularly prepare homemade meals square off against those who think it’s wrong or ridiculous to claim that you can’t.

The complaints seem to fall into a few camps. There are those who don’t feel they have the time:

If you get off work at 5:00, stop by the market for fresh food (where the parking lot is crowded with the rest of the after-work crowd), and cook it, the kids will have about 15 minutes to eat it before they need to be in bed by 8:00. If you need to help with homework, make calls for the PTA, do some laundry, and reconnect with a spouse while the chicken roasts and you chop the vegetables, you may opt to save a few minutes with a prepared rice pilaf mix and some bottled dressing.

There are those who are skeptic of this claim:

People simply don’t want to take the chance that cooking will bleed into their TV watching is best I can figure.

Time to harangue David L. on his blog, but no time to put a chicken in the oven, cook some pasta, or saute a piece of fish to feed the kids. Puzzling.

There are those who believe that lack of cooking knowledge is the culprit:

Suppose I want something like Italian dressing. Here are some of the ways that ignorance, as well as other factors, keep me from doing it myself on the spur of the moment:

• What proportion do the oil and the vinegar need [to be] in?

• I’m comfortable that olive oil is okay. But what kind of vinegar should I use? Is my rice vinegar okay? Will the flavored vinegars I have make things taste funny?

• I don’t tend to keep fresh herbs around, because I don’t really know how to use them. Will dried herbs do? Will just throwing my dried herbs into the vinaigrette work, or will I wind up with just bits of dry, too-strongly-flavored bits of gunk in my oil and vinegar?

• If I do use fresh herbs, how much is too much? Will my minimal knife skills get the herbs small enough?

My point is simply this: making your own dressing for the first time is NOT as quick as it is for an experienced cook with skills, a repertoire of recipes that need no book, and a pantry that’s well-matched to the way that person cooks.

Some blame advertising and the processed-food industry:

Madison Avenue has successfully convinced us that we are too tired and too pressured to cook honest meals. They have huge motivation ($$$) to convince us of this and their message seems to be getting through to the last generation or two. I don’t honestly believe that MOST of us are indeed too tired or too busy to cook, but we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we are. We think we need some kitchen shortcut. We think it’s cheaper to buy pre-packaged food.

The fact is, before there was the option of takeout and the supermarket deli section, people did manage to prepare almost all their meals (imagine that).

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that my friends who complain of being too busy to cook manage to watch a significant amount of prime-time TV (are we too busy to cook or too tired to cook?). We all succumb to the occasional takeout shortcut, but too busy or too lacking in skills to be able to cook dinner from scratch? I have a hard time believing that.

Perhaps it is Madison Avenue’s fault after all.

Bring Wine, Pay Double

Bring Wine, Pay Double

Do restaurants ever waive corkage fees? READ MORE

Killer on Wheels

Psst—know where to buy a mobile slaughterhouse? The state of Vermont may soon be in the market for a pair of ‘em, according to the AP. At the moment, small farmers there face months-long waiting lists and multihour commutes to get their livestock “processed” at one of the state’s two overbooked USDA-certified facilities. The mobile processing units could save these farmers—who take only, say, five chickens at a time to the slaughterhouse—a lot of headaches (and probably also a bundle of cash).

Turns out Vermont isn’t the first state to roll out the death-cab-for-cows idea, but it has been the site of recent protests over slaughterhouse rules. If animals are killed without federal inspection, farmers are allowed to use the meat only for “personal consumption”—except in the case of chicken, which can be sold directly from the farm stand (though not to restaurants, a state court ruled last summer).

I knew raw milk was available at some small farms around the country, but the chicken loophole was news to me. Has anyone had occasion to try off-the-grid meat, either in Vermont or another state?

Astounding Macrobiotic (Not a Typo!)

Montreal

La Pâtisserie Belge (3485 Avenue du Parc, Montréal, Quebec; 514-845-1245) makes some of the best croissants in town.


Ah, to be an ant endlessly devouring my way through this mother lode of crisp, fluffy croissants …

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Aux Vivres (4631 Boulevard St. Laurent, Montreal; 514-842-3479) is both macrobiotic and enormously delicious. That’s a radical statement, I know. For some perspective, consider that Googling “macrobiotic” and “enormously delicious” yields precisely zero results.

Why can’t other vegetarian places be one-tenth this good? This is not merely “great for a vegetarian restaurant.” It’d rate deliriously in any category (thanks to filmmaker Adrienne Amato for the tip!).

The kitchen’s staffed by magicians. Muffins come on like nothing special, with very little sugar. Then you notice fruit flavor building to a climax so intense that you can’t imagine how the baker pulled it off. You find yourself coaxing every last drop of salad dressing out of its little cup. Leftovers are likely to be ravaged moments after leaving the restaurant.


It’s quite the low-profile operation.


Two complete brunch choices—at an absurdly low price.

Their chapati with vegan butter is worth a plane trip. I have no idea what “vegan butter” is, except that it’s too good to be legal. The combination with melt-in-your-mouth chapatis could make a strong man weep.



I couldn’t help gnashing at leftovers, despite heavy traffic.

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Fun between-meal activity: a trip to the Biodôme (4777 Avenue Pierre-De Coubertin, H1V 1B3, Montreal; 514-868-3000), where one walks transportively through exotic ecosystems. There’s a phone link where you can ask questions of people in Antarctica. Cool!

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The residents of Spain’s northwestern corner get around. At one time, there were Galician (“Gallego” in Spanish) social clubs in many major world cities. Assimilation having taken its toll, such clubs are rarities nowadays. So I was especially happy to come upon the creaky Centre Gallego De Montreal (4602 Boulevard St. Laurent, Montreal; 514-843-3821).

The food tastes as if it had been made by a South American chef. And there’s a Portuguese waiter. And menus are in French as well as Spanish. But the room is stocked with the requisite 5-foot-5 older bald guys in sweater vests playing cards and smoking cigars, so the experience took me utterly back to Iberia.

Service is a shambles—for example, it took a half-hour to pay the bill. But who am I to complain? This is a private social club; I shouldn’t have even been allowed to wander in in the first place.


Tortilla—one of my favorite things in the world!

The tortilla (potato omelet) sported a palpable Latin American touch, but is clearly made from a Galician recipe, with lots of onion, potatoes diced in non-uniform chunks, and extremely runny egg (request “buen hecho” if you want it more fully cooked). Bread’s authentically Spanish. Flan looked top-notch. To those who’ve spent time in Spain, or those who’d like to soak up the last remaining ripples of the culture that Hemingway wrote about, this is a remarkable place.

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When a Chinese woman in a French Canadian bakery (Boulangerie Séraphin; 5008 Boulevard St. Laurent, Montreal; 514-277-9290) hands you a little tart filled with eggy custard that could be either Cantonese or Portuguese, how do you decode what you’re eating? What if she turns out to speak good Portuguese?

I rambled theories into my voice recorder while walking through cold, windy streets, munching away contentedly. Hear the short podcast: MP3.

This, for comparison, is a different pastel de nata, and it was a lot better than Seraphin’s. I remember its flavor vividly … but can’t remember where I bought it. That and the unidentified Chilean alfajor—both evidence of encroaching Chowzheimer’s—will haunt me forever.

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St-Viateur Bagels are typical in a town where bagels spill off the line, hot to the touch, at all hours of the day, and clerks throw them snappily into a paper sack, from which they tantalize you as you strive to get them home intact.

Montreal bagels require some explaining. I wrote the following some years ago, and it still holds true (except that both Fairmount and St-Viateur now have satellite locations).

Just as San Francisco, compared to Montreal, is not really a bread town, neither is New York a bagel town. We have nothing to match the buzz, the palpable bagelicious life force streaming out of the city’s two most renowned bagelries, Fairmount Bagel (74 Rue Fairmount Ouest, west of St. Laurent, Montreal; 514-272-0667) and St-Viateur Bagel (158 St-Viateur, Montreal; 514-276-8044).

Montreal bagels are very different from ours. They’re a bit tougher in the skin, and a bit breadier (though certainly not fluffy) in the interior. They seem to have virtually no salt or malt or sugar, so it’s all about the wheat, which gives them a pretzely flavor. And they’re very roasty, with much more oven flavor. They’re much better plain and unadorned than ours are, but I suspect they wouldn’t toast nearly as well.

While Montreal bagels come in various flavors, it’s always the sesames that are hot and fresh (and they’re ALWAYS hot and fresh at these places; only a moribund bagel culture like ours in New York would have their goods sitting around for minutes on end).

I thought both bagel shops made excellent—and very similar—products. But in a side-by-side comparison, St-Viateur won. A St-Viateur bagel is a deeper toasty brown, with zestier, more robust texture. It’s bigger, browner, tastier, chewier … simply “more” in every facet that makes a Montreal bagel distinctive.