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

No-Boil Lasagne Noodles and Permutations Thereof

No-boil lasagne noodles can work really well, provided you follow a few key steps in preparing your lasagne. Use plenty of sauce, make your sauce a bit thinner than you normally would, and make sure to cover the entire surface of the noodles with sauce. Cover your baking dish tightly with foil to keep all the moisture in the dish, removing the foil only at the end to brown the cheese on top. hbgrrl broils hers briefly after it’s fully cooked to brown the top. Karl S notes that no-boil lasagne sheets can come close to capturing the soft and silky feel of lasagne made with fresh pasta–but because they tend to be thinner than standard lasagne noodles, no-boil noodles may not stand up to overloaded, multi-layered American-style lasagnes. Many hounds favor Barilla brand no-boil noodles.

Some use the no-boil method–thinner sauce, more sauce, tightly covered dish, and more time in the oven–with standard dry lasagne noodles, using the same principles, and swear by the results. Others use a compromise method credited to Ina Garten of “Barefoot Contessa” fame: soak dry lasagne noodles in very hot tap water for 10-20 minutes before assembling your dish.

kate used to be 50’s secret is assembling her lasagne the night before, with either type of uncooked noodles, and refrigerating. Bring to room temperature and bake as usual; the finished dish is never watery and servings come out neatly.

hbgrrl points out that it’s always a good idea to let your lasagne rest for 15 minutes before serving to firm up and absorb some of the juices, or it will be a sloppy mess.

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Lasagna Noodles

Garlic – Slice, Mince, Press?

The more you do to a clove of garlic, the more potent its flavor will be. Slice the stuff into very thin slices, and it will melt into a sauce. Mince it, and you’ll get more of a garlic punch throughout your dish. Put it through a press or puree it, and it has the strongest flavor. Which method you choose will depend on what you’re cooking, how much garlic flavor you want, and how long the dish will be cooked.

Some hounds prefer to use pureed garlic in preparations where it’s used raw, like dressings or spreads, despite its potency, because biting into a whole chunk of raw garlic can be an unwelcome surprise.

Beyond using a garlic press, there are a few ways to pulverize or puree garlic. The simplest is to use a fine Microplane grater. A classic method is to first mince the garlic, then sprinkle it with salt and use the flat side of a chef’s knife to crush the garlic to a paste. You can do the same with chopped garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle.

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Garlic: crushed or chopped?

Yahoo Courts Foodies

New niche-interest site Yahoo! Food launched yesterday amid media buzz. Rightly so, as the site boasts content from big names and major mags: Yahoo! has partnered with MarStew, who shows up right on the homepage with Thanksgiving tips, and with others including Rach, Food & Wine, and Allrecipes. Recipes are the site’s bread and butter—Yahoo! Media cooked up the idea partly in response to the fact that around 4 p.m. every day, its search engine was bombarded with queries for the terms “chicken” and “recipe”—but Yahoo! Food also features original material, including a multicity restaurant-listings section and Q&As with celebs (Morgan Freeman is up now).

The organization of the recipes is eminently user-friendly, with tags right on the main recipe page allowing users to search by type of cuisine (Indian, German, etc.), health requirements (dairy free, high fiber), and even “taste & texture” (with fun categories like “buttery,” “light and airy,” and “velvety“). These kinds of searches are a bit less intuitive on sites like Epicurious that require users to go to an advanced search page. Yahoo! Food will also ostensibly include images of each dish (though now there are only a few, with lots of placeholder drawings), which Epicurious doesn’t do (opting instead for text-only recipes).

Still, this new Yahoo! has quite a few kinks to work out, and it remains to be seen whether it can attract the hard-core foodophiles that flock to sites like Chowhound and eGullet. (Full disclosure: Chowhound and CHOW are tight— duh.) Take the restaurant-review section: As Time rightly notes, that department is way off-kilter, naming a hole-in-the-wall (though supposedly good) Vietnamese place as its top-rated Los Angeles restaurant (based on just one review) and listing Starbucks in the top five results for the writer’s neighborhood search. (I can also vouch that its New York and San Francisco guides are just as random and chain heavy.)

Also in need of some tweaking is the “Still Hungry?” section at the bottom of each recipe, which offers “extras” like this one from Rachael Ray’s Pepitapapas recipe: “Prepare to impress with this deceptively easy dessert.” Umm, OK, that was supposed to have satisfied my hunger for knowledge? Also, there’s no real intro to each recipe. When you see a list of recipes in a given category, there are thumbnail intros like this one: “The traditional Portuguese kale and potato soup inspired this delicious country-style dish. It’s especially welcome in the winter months when kale is at its … MORE”. But you don’t actually end up seeing “more” when you click—it’s just straight into the recipe.

As the site builds its database of recipes, I have a feeling it will become one of my go-tos for inspiration and meal planning. But I think I’ll stick to other sites for my restaurant recs and food learnin’.

Squanto Never Ate Popcorn

Squanto Never Ate Popcorn

Did the Pilgrims really eat popcorn? CHOW investigates Thanksgiving dinner. READ MORE

Ultimate Boy Toy

Ultimate Boy Toy

Meat slicers can create dramatic cuts at home for a little more than the cost of a good knife. READ MORE

Digging Up (Chocolate) Truffles

This month’s Bon Appétit puts a highly useful arrow in its readers’ home-cookery quiver with a piece on DIY chocolate truffles.

Truffles—like bagels, fried chicken, sushi, and a host of other foods we’re used to buying, rather than making—are sometimes thought to be beyond the reach of the average home cook. But they’re shockingly attainable, given a bit of interest and some high-quality bittersweet chocolate.

“Getting into Truffles” features the recipes of Vosges Haut-Chocolat founder Katrina Markoff, who is pictured looking a bit like a trust-fund hippie, sporting a Grateful Deadesque “Free Yourself” T-shirt while lavishing highbrow truffles with artisanal care. Her concept?

‘Because it’s my company, I was able to create things that seemed far-fetched,’ she says. Out went super-sweet fillings, and in went pasilla chiles, Tuscan fennel pollen, and wasabi.

Fennel pollen aside, the recipes provided in Bon Appétit have their feet planted squarely on the ground. Building off of a solid basic bittersweet chocolate truffle recipe, readers can concoct truffles in the key of lemon and thyme, mango curry or balsamic vinegar.

Homemade holday gifts can be kinda touch-and-go, but I can vouch for truffles. Nailing the perfectly spherical fresh-from-the-chocolatier look can be tricky, but attaining smooth, rich flavor is surprisingly simple.

And anyone who doesn’t like rich dark chocolate is unlikely to be worthy of a home-baked gift to begin with. Because they’re objectively wrong.

Tia Pol Revisited: Not Just Your Everyday Tapas

The regular menu at Tia Pol is rich with deliciousness, but savvy regulars always check the day’s specials first. “They’re always, always spectacular,” promises iheartoffal. “Sometimes I even just ask them to send out all the specials without telling me what they are.” One recent hit: oyster mushroom carpaccio with olive oil, manchego, tomato, and Marcona almonds.

Among the everyday offerings at this popular Basque-influenced tapas bar, hounds especially like these:

- Fried chickpeas: “The best thing in the entire world,” declares tamasha.

- Patatas bravas: Rough-cut potatoes, nicely seasoned, perfectly fried, and served with lively spicy aioli.

- Pinchos morunos: Scrumptious lamb skewers, which arrive stuck into pieces of excellent crusty bread. That bread really soaks up the meat juices, so don’t leave it uneaten, advises Senor Popusa.

- Navajas y almejas: Razor clams and cockles. They’re terrific on their own, but once again bread is your friend–use it to sop up the briny, garlicky juices, urges Miss Needle.

Also recommended: Palacios chorizo with bittersweet chocolate, boquerones (white anchovies) stuffed into tuna, and piquillo peppers stuffed with potato salad.

Tia Pol [Chelsea]
205 10th Ave., between W. 22nd and 23rd Sts., Manhattan

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Tia Pol Ordering Suggestions
Tia Pol question
What to order at Tia Pol

Jedediah’s: Cooking Locally on Long Island’s North Fork

The local harvest takes the lead at Jedediah’s, the outstanding upscale restaurant from Long Island empire builder Tom Schaudel (CoolFish, AngelFish, Thom Thom, etc.). “A great setting, friendly, knowledgeable service, and incredibly fresh and delicious food,” sums up Justpaula. She recounts a superb dinner highlighted by seared diver scallops, quite tasty yet upstaged by the accompanying succotash of locally grown corn, soybeans, and tomato–“so sweet and slightly crunchy and so fresh I believe someone may have picked them just that day,” she marvels.

Other winners: tuna tartare with yuzu-sesame soy; butter-poached lobster with chanterelles; soft shell crabs with roasted vegetables; seared Hudson Valley foie gras with local blackberry gastrique; Long Island duck prosciutto with figs, blue cheese, and basil; pan-seared striped bass with Riesling, littleneck clams, wild mushrooms, and chorizo.

The wine list emphasizes Long Island producers. Two hound-endorsed picks, both a good match with seafood, are the chef’s reserve Chardonnay (made on the North Fork) and a Sauvignon Blanc from Cutchogue’s Castello di Borghese.

Jedediah’s opened in June in Jamesport’s Jedediah Hawkins Inn, which occupies a grand and painstakingly restored Victorian mansion. Downstairs from the main dining room, the less formal Captain’s Cellar offers a tavern menu featuring burgers, a cheese plate, and “American tapas.”

Jedediah’s [Suffolk County]
400 S. Jamesport Ave., in the Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Jamesport, NY

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Anyone been to Jedediah Hawkins in Jamesport?
Jedidiah Hawkin’s Inn–Jamesport, LI–review

Cold Noodles for Warm Weather

The house-made noodles at Maru Ichi are made to be served cold, says Melanie Wong. Their cold noodle preparation starts with a cool, springy tangle of ramen noodles, topped with a colorful array of red pickled ginger, seaweed salad, cucumbers, egg, and fatty roast pork. All the toppings contrast magnificently with the blankness of the noodle base, and the dish is enlivened by a “sprightly” dressing. They’ll be serving cold noodles (hiyashi chuka) as long as it stays warm, so go now. Oh, and you know Melanie Wong’s listing of the top 50 ramen places in the area? This one has just risen to #5, based on these cold noodles.

She notes that they charge for tea. Go anyway.

Maru Ichi Noodle House [Peninsula]
368 Castro St., Mountain View

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Hiyashi Chuka Ramen @ Maru Ichi in Mountain View

The Salt House

The Salt House has just barely opened, but hounds are digging its house wines, good vibes, and tasty food–like a tomato tart with a buttery puff pastry crust, or pan-roasted skate wing with Brussels sprouts and tarragon. There are still some kinks to work out (plumbers fixing the occasional leak at the bar, veal breast tonnato that reminds mbaldauf of tuna casserole), but it shows promise. kleungsf likes the house wine blends, served “on tap” out of stainless steel barrels. The house white blend–pinot gris, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc–is very nice. They also have a large selection of wine that doesn’t come from a barrel. Put this place on your list if you are into “ambience”–they have lots of that.

The Salt House [SOMA]
545 Mission St., San Francisco

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First Look–Salt House 545 Mission Street between Fremont and Third SOMA