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

The Right Shape for Hamburger Patties

How do you form hamburger patties for perfect burgers? A hockey puck shape is the right idea, says goodhealthgourmet, with even thickness and uniform shape. You don't want a mound of meat. For one thing, "you're sort of encroaching on meatball territory," says goodhealthgourmet.

Second, burgers puff up in the middle when cooked, and the mound shape would only exacerbate this problem, says scubadoo97. "I do the hockey puck shape, then depress the middle to make it resemble a red blood cell," says scubadoo97. "This way when it puffs in the center it evens out." TongoRad goes a step further and pokes a hole in the center of the patty. "It doesn't have to be huge—I just poke my pinky through there—but it works every time, and even sort of closes in on itself during cooking so you're not left with a gaping hole at the end," says TongoRad.

Discuss: Hamburger Patty Shape

Lox and Smoked Salmon

Traditionally, "lox" referred to brined salmon, not smoked. "Nova brought in the smoked aspect, many years after lox was popular in the Lower East Side amongst Jews and East Europeans," says applehome. "Nova is from Nova Scotia—the Scotsmen who smoked anything and everything. But today, everything is everything—lox refers to cold-smoked salmon as well as non-smoked."

If you go to a traditional lox purveyor, though, be aware that the old meaning still applies: "Order lox, and they'll bring you lox!" says applehome. "It's pinkish and slimy, where the smoked stuff tends to be orange and more dry."

"Hard" or "hot" smoked salmon, with its flaky texture, is never called lox, though, thank goodness, says applehome.

Discuss: Nova Lox vs Regular Lox

Hey, Mama, Steer Clear of That Pizza

A new study found that "mothers who eat a high fat diet before and during pregnancy may be putting their offspring at risk of birth defects," reported Reuters. British researchers showed that a poor maternal diet may interact with defective genes to cause severe problems like congenital heart disease and cleft palates—in mice, at least.


Overheard on the General Topics Board

"Corn is quite popular in China's Northeast (Dongbei) region, where it is used in cornmeal type breads as well as some stir-fry dishes." – scoopG, on corn in Chinese cuisine

"A good Chi-dog uses a Vienna style dog, which is subtle and creamy and goes well with the accouterments. It's all about the flavors playing off each other. Whereas a nicely spiced Perl in natural casing, grilled to perfection, needs nothing or maybe a dab of whole grain mustard." – localemperor, on condiments for hot dogs

"I thought of another dish that I ate with Swahili speaking people: maharagwe. ... I was living abroad and homesick and being originally from Texas, the rich hearty taste of maharagwe hit the same spot for me as some of the Texan, Tex-Mex, and Mexican bean dishes we have. It is a delicious comfort food." – luckyfatima

Sixty2 Wakes Up the North Shore

North Shore residents are no longer to be pitied for their lack of good grub, says opinionatedchef, not now that Sixty2 on Wharf is packing 'em in with elegant yet affordable Mediterranean/Southern European food.

The space is "casual but not bare bones," says opinionatedchef, with cushioned chairs and banquettes and candlelit tables. The four-course prix fixe for $28 has to be one of the best bargains around: "An hour further south in bustling Boston, this meal would easily have been $58," opines opinionatedchef. Sixty2 also offers a selection of "sputini," or little bites, for $6 a throw ("easily as big as their $10-$15 Boston counterparts"), or five for $25.

One little bite, chickpea fritters, laid the whole table out: "These are not the boring one-note chickpea fritters I have had elsewhere," says opinionatedchef. "These batons are made with chickpea flour cooked down with milk; chopped cooked chickpeas, sweated onions, and spices that chirp 'cumin' in my grinning mouth. They're served with a date compote and they have me thinking a lot of Indian pakoras and their tamarind-date sweet sauce (but better)." Another standout was the "beautifully tender" house-made ravioli with "noteworthy" ricotta and Parmesan tossed with mint, fresh peas, artichoke hearts, and more Parmesan. "Actual house-prepared baby artichoke hearts, too; all for only $11 for a filling half portion!"

Desserts are made in-house by the "Hollywood-handsome, friendly, exuberant chef." Try the panna cotta with lemon and blueberries and the toffee cake.

Sixty2 on Wharf [North Shore]
62 Wharf Street, Salem

Discuss: 6/9/10 "Sixty Two On Wharf," Salem: Wow!! Major Wonderful on the North Shore!!
Best Chow on the North Shore. Period.

Do Pricey Food Trucks Suck?

I started to splutter defensively when I read a takedown of food trucks and other annoying food trends in the Hungry Beast. Who the hell is this writer to insist food shouldn't be free? READ MORE

Ravioli to Dream About

When seeking tender ravioli with delightful fillings, the hounds have some go-to spots and dishes.

pollystyrene says the best ravioli she's ever had were wild mushroom at Mamma Maria.

barleywino's fave is Sorellina. Try the veal and liver ravioli in Marsala sauce, or the quail egg ravioli with pancetta and caramelized onions.

• The menu at Prezza is loaded with hound craving triggers. hotoynoodle says that the poached egg ravioli is haunting, while phatchris speaks up for the sweet corn with rock shrimp.

• Pizzeria Posto's crab ravioli in sweet pea brodo is "heaven," pocketgarden says simply.

Mamma Maria Restaurant [North End]
3 North Square, Boston

Sorellina [Back Bay]
1 Huntington Avenue, Boston

Prezza [North End]
24 Fleet Street, Boston

Pizzeria Posto [North of Boston]
187 Elm Street, Somerville

Discuss: Ravioli Recs

Where to Splurge on Tasting Menus

No bones about it: Tasting menus are expensive. Depending on the swankiness of the joint, multicourse tastings can run anywhere to $100 to $200 a person. And that's before you pay for the wine.

So where are the worthwhile spots to drop such coin? Multiple hounds recommend the following spots:

• Craigie on Main, where the six-course tasting will set you back $90, and the ten-course $115. "All my best meals at Craigie have been the blind tastings," avows kimfair1. "A six course usually contains at least an extra amuse, and usually something else extra at the end. Chef Tony Maws will usually personally deliver the final savory course of the evening."

• Clio, where a nine-course tasting is $105, and the fourteen-course $135. "IMHO, that's the way to experience Clio," says lipoff. "Ken Oringer really pulls out the stops on the tasting menu, and I think his molecular gastronomy food shows best in that format."

• L'Espalier, which has a Spring Degustation for $104 and a "tasting journey" at $185 that joth68 says is well worth it.

Craigie on Main [Cambridge]
863 Main Street, Cambridge

Clio [Back Bay]
370-A Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

L'Espalier [Back Bay]
774 Boylston Street, Boston

Discuss: Best Boston Prix Fixe

Overheard on the Boston Board

"Pierrot [has a] mellow French bistro vibe. Price points are about right, nice ambience, and excellent meat selections. Service is good as well, and they have a decent wine list with some affordable selections." – StevieC

"The best lamejuns are sold at an unlikely spot, Victor's Falafel Wraps, 233 Worcester Road, Natick. ... These are truly superior; when heated on a rack in the oven until just beginning to crisp around the edges, the bread becomes a little chewy, with great flavor." – 2ForTheRoad

"I recently had some fantastic Chinese-style fruit/whipped cream cake and a spectacular Portuguese tart at Great Taste in Chinatown." – Luther

Punk-Rock Fanciness at the Alembic

I’m going to start with a bold statement: the Alembic is one of my very favorite places to eat and drink at in San Francisco. READ MORE