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

Dim Sum 101

Dim Sum is like a Chinese smorgasbord on wheels. It makes for a wonderful communal brunch or lunch. The more people you have, the more dishes you can sample. Scope out what others are choosing, if you’re unsure about the selections.

As the servers wheel the carts around, check out their offerings and, if you want some for yourself, flag the cart down. A smile and a nod of your head will communicate you want some, if they don’t speak your language. Each cart will have more than one item to select. Even if you don’t like what you’ve selected, you’ll just be out a couple of bucks per plate.

PaulGardner is always on the lookout for har gau (steamed dumplings with shrimp); shu mai (dumplingss with pork and black mushroom filling); beef meatballs; shrimp wrapped in rice noodle; sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf; steamed barbeque pork buns; and baby clams in black bean sauce. Candy says if they have chicken feet, go for them!

An important component of dim sum is tea. Jasmine is the most commonly offered, but a good place will have some choices. Ask what kind they have. Chrysanthemum tea is a nice choice.

Save the sweet items, like custards, for the end of the meal.

A handy little primer, “Dim Sum: A Pocket Guide,” by Kit Shan Li,is on sale at Amazon for $3.99.

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I’m decidedly ignorant about Dim Sum…
Help! Dim Sum for Beginners

Good-for-You Frozen Yogurt

You can freeze yogurt with no problem. All the healthy good stuff in it isn’t destroyed.

For a satisfying treat, freeze some of the yogurt-filled tubes available from Stonyfield farms and other brands. The active cultures become dormant when frozen, but will become active after the yogurt warms up in your stomach, says Non Cognomina

Making your own frozen yogurt dessert is another option. You can add fruit for sweetness and flavor, and control the amount of sugar that’s added to it.

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frozen yogurt

A Tale of Two Cooks

Spanish-American chef Jose Andres, a Ferran Adrià disciple who helms DC’s Minibar, is taking reader questions in an eGullet forum through Thursday. He hasn’t started answering yet, but the conversation so far looks like it will be fairly tame. As of Tuesday evening, the 14 user posts include a query about how Andres was influenced by Mr. El Bulli, and a reader’s photo of Andres’s cookbook in a Spanish airport bookstore. Some of the more interesting ones are a politely worded but transparent request that Andres open a can of Haterade on non-Spanish tapas restaurants, and a possibly pointed question about “the unrealized potential for excellent coffee in fine restaurants” from a fan of Andres’s cooking.

If you have a couple of cents to add to the conversation, go post your own question. And while you’re there, check out the great “Why I Cook” piece by chef Joseph Carey in Daily Gullet, the site’s “literary journal” (which actually looks an awful lot like a blog). In a series of four engaging posts so far, interspersed with reader comments (the posts themselves can be viewed here, here, here, and here), Carey talks about making baby caskets, pissing off Allen Ginsberg, cleaning out an abandoned whorehouse, and his roundabout route to culinary success. Carey, the author of Creole Nouvelle: Contemporary Creole Cookery and Chef on Fire: The Five Techniques for Using Heat Like a Pro, has a wild-and-woolly writing style that works well for the blog medium, where commentary and autobiography are often interwoven. Case in point: After describing how the manager of a local restaurant taught him how to make pizza and ride horses, Carey boasts:

I still make a mean pizza. And a couple of relatively tame ones, too. I can also deliver a mean pizza—just not as far as I used to—as that was another of my collegiate jobs. Don’t like riding mean horses. My first wife, Suzan, was quite a horsewoman, though. She actually won the Arabian costume class at the Grand Nationals at the Cow Palace one year. Today, she and her husband live near Lodi and raise and show quarter horses. More on Suzan in installment two when our antihero arrives in California.

I’m looking forward to it (even if it IS taking Carey forever to really get down to the actual food).

Honeycrisp. Ask for It by Name.

Unless you’ve been living under a pile of leaves all fall, you may have noticed that this apple has gotten a lot of media attention. It’s become the darling of the pome fruit world, an apple with its own Wikipedia page.

The fruit is a mere decade old (as opposed to the heirloom varieties that have been getting all the attention in the tomato world), but this mammoth apple has become an underground hit. It has even muscled its way into becoming the state fruit of Minnesota.

It turns out that, like California avocados and eggs, the Honeycrisp has some marketing muscle behind it. The New York Times likens it to the iPod of the food world. You can check out the official site, taste some for yourself, and then decide whether they’re the platonic ideal of an apple or just another flavor of the month.

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A Mighty Mouse Is a Healthier Mouse

According to The New York Times (requires registration), Disney characters will no longer be shilling for Pop-Tarts and Happy Meals, at least after current licensing agreements run out over the next couple of years. Reports the business section:

The food items that would be barred from Disney licensing deals are those in which total fat exceeds 30 percent of calories for main and side dishes and 35 percent for snacks, saturated fat exceeds 10 percent of calories for main dishes and snacks, and added sugar exceeds 10 percent of calories for main dishes and 25 percent for snacks.

Trans fats will also be no-nos in the theme parks’ restaurants by next year.

In addition to the licensing restrictions, Disney said its own theme park restaurants would change the default options for side orders from French fries to a more healthy choice, like carrots or applesauce.

Baby carrots aside, however, the company’s kiddie programming won’t be cutting back on the sugar-frosted advertising anytime soon. Ronald McDonald and the Keebler elves will keep their profitably high-calorie slots on its TV programs, as the Times article points out:

Still, the omission of any guidelines that address the advertising of junk food products on the company’s television networks— including ABC and Toon Disney—is an indication that a ban on the marketing of unhealthy food on Disney channels is not in the works.

Fresh Solutions for Nonexistent Tableware Problems

Gourmet’s Good Living section features “Fork Art,” a profile of an innovative new cutlery set by Ferran Adrià of El Bulli.

If the spork is a tacky but arguably more useful version of our old familiar tableware, this collection runs headlong in the opposite direction. It finds innovative and elegant new ways to flush function down the toilet in the name of form. Here’s a brief recap of four of the wackiest utensils:

1. A spoon with a clip on it for “holding fresh herbs.”

2. A knife that looks vaguely like a Maori war club.

3. A spoon that is full of holes so as to prevent its users from accidentally ingesting liquid. (Perfect application: You’re starving to death in a North Korean prison. You’re served a bowl of deadly liquid cyanide bobbing with life-sustaining and strangely nonabsorbent kobe beef chunks. Using your El Bulli Holey Spoon, you scoop out the beef, leaving the cyanide behind. ¡Bravo, Ferran! Note: This example assumes that North Korean prisons are stocked with El Bulli–inspired tableware.)

4. A fork with—wait for it—two tines.

Those in love with the “so crazy it might just work” school of cookery will likely regard these new utensils with respect and affection. They look great, and all you have to do is sacrifice utility on the altar of trendy good looks. For the rest of us, we’ll just have to plod onward with our trusty old pals: the knife, the fork, and the nonpermeable spoon.

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