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LizLemon

  • Location: Washington, DC

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Peperonata (Sweet Bell Peppers With Olive Oil, Onion, and Tomatoes)

This was SO DELICIOUS, and the leftovers tasted even better after sitting in the fridge overnight. What a great way to showcase the amazing peppers at our farmer's market right now. We ate ours on some good toasted sourdough bread on top of some goat cheese--perfect summer dinner.

I had a somewhat similar experience to Wally in that my garlic was browning too quickly, but as Daniel said, these things are just estimates and you have to know your stove and pans and how thinly you sliced the garlic. Otherwise, I had to add a fair amount of salt at the end and I also added some splashes of sherry and white balsamic vinegar to get a nicely balanced final product. I usually salt at least a little in the beginning of a long-cooked vegetable dish, and I suspect it would benefit this one to do so. I will try salting earlier next time.

Flour Buttercream

I saw on your Tough Cookie blog that a pastry chef in the comments recommended cooking the flour and milk on their own until very thick, and then adding the sugar off the heat. Supposedly this will help the custard to thicken nicely, preventing a buttercream that can get soupy later on. Did you ever try it this way?

Also, I wrote this on the main buttercream article page, but I think an easier way to cool the custard is to mix it at high speed for about 9 minutes with a paddle attachment. This will release all the heat and allow you to quickly move on to the step in which you combine it with the butter. I first saw this in the Ultimate Birthday Cake recipe from the book Baked Occasions (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/baked-ultimate-birthday-cake-from-baked-occasions.html) and the technique works perfectly. It wasn't my favorite flour buttercream recipe overall, but that technique seems like a keeper to apply to other flour buttercream recipes like this one.

The World of Buttercreams: 6 Varieties to Try at Home

I really appreciate the all-encompassing approach you took here. I've made all of these types of buttercreams at one point or another, but it's helpful to discuss them all at once to understand exactly what the differences are. Thanks! My favorite type for a classic cake is the flour buttercream, and although I think your recipe for it is spot-on, you might try cooling down your pudding by beating it in a stand mixer on high for about 7-9 mins. It really releases all of the heat so you can continue right on making the frosting with very little downtime. Once it is cooled from the mixing, then I usually add the room-temp butter in chunks, a few at a time while mixing on med-low, then once all the butter is in, add the flavorings and then mix on high for a couple of mins. to get it fluffy. I don't see why you couldn't cool the pudding with a mixer though and then add it to the whipped butter, as you suggest. I'll try that next time.

The Best Spinach Lasagna

@Kenji I was surprised at first to see that this has no tomato products in it, but then the absence of tomatoes made me think of another ingredient that seems like it could work here--artichoke hearts. So, if someone just happened to be obsessed with artichoke hearts, do you think they could successfully incorporate them here for a spinach-artichoke lasagna? I would think maybe stir in some chopped hearts at the end of step one to incorporate them with the spinach, and also use a cheese like Asiago or Fontina instead of Comte. What do you think?

Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots

Made these yesterday. I would caution people against store-bought dough unless you have a reliable source that you are super confident in. Since these were part of a surprise dinner, I had to resort to store-bought dough (couldn't tip the person off with any overnight homemade doughs in the fridge). Whole Foods only had dough that they labeled "Neopolitan dough," which is what I bought and used, and I wonder if that's why these didn't quite turn out. Even after 5 hours of room-temp resting, they hadn't really rose at all. I baked them off anyway but they were tough and chewy and the flavorless dough was actually evident, despite the strong other ingredients. The mix of ingredients that you toss the knots with is super delicious, and the crust you get from baking in the CI is amazing, so I'm sure the dough was my problem here.

A few ideas--I wonder if it would be good to dip the strips into the pepperoni mix before knotting, so that the garlic/pepperoni flavor really gets inside the knots as well? And like someone else commented, I'm thinking a little grated, dry, whole-milk mozzarella might be a good addition in here somewhere, again maybe on the inside of the knots? As Kenji notes, now is not the time for moderation.

Easy Gazpacho

Loved this. I have made the original, long-form version before and Kenji is correct when he says this gets you 90% of the way there. And really, unless you're serving it side-by-side with the original, no one will feel that it is anything less than 100% delicious. I halved the recipe and blended it in a Vitamix and it was super smooth with no need for straining. This was a great way to use up my farmer's market leftovers--some on-the-vine tomatoes, some Sungold tomatoes, a bunch of small, mild peppers, and basil instead of oregano. Summer eating at its finest.

Chicken in Tomato Sauce With Chickpeas and Kale

This was delicious! Great healthy weeknight dinner and leftovers reheated well for lunch. One question--the breadcrumbs were really tasty and added a lot to the dish overall, but it seemed like the recipe called for a LOT of breadcrumbs. Are you really supposed to dump 1 cup of breadcrumbs + herbs over the top to finish the dish? I'm no ascetic but 1/2 cup seems like plenty.

Justin Smillie's Pasta with Shiitake, Peas, and Goat Cheese (Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria)

The flavors work really well together here but this particular preparation dirties a ton of dishes for a result that is just pretty good. It would be worth it to try re-imagining this into a one or two pot dish and also adding in additional sauce/moisture at some point so that the final result isn't quite as dry.

Jeni Britton Bauer's Blueberry Cobbler

Does anyone have a reliable conversion for using regular flour(s) to make self-rising flour? The internets are telling me some differing info. 1 cup AP/pastry flour + 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt + 1.25-1.5 tsp. baking powder? I have cake flour, AP, bread, and wheat pastry flours in the house (and a kitchen scale if you use weighted measurements!), along with salt and baking powder, and I'd love to make this without taking a trip to the store for self-rising flour.

The Food Lab: How to Pick and Cook a Holiday Ham

This guide is super helpful, thank you for writing and posting it!

Cook the Book: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I know this recipe is ancient but in case people find it and still want to use it, I thought I'd chime in. Like @dc_sarah, much of the cake portion came out dry and, as she says, "wimpy-tasting." I bake fairly often and I was surprised that the cake portion of this doesn't call for any salt in the batter. That might be because of the sprinkle of kosher salt called for atop the pineapple but I think the batter itself would benefit from a small amount of salt. Also using more interesting liquids might help, such as sour cream, buttermilk, or pineapple juice. The much bigger issue though is the low moisture in the cake batter. Anyone who has made cake even a few times will finish making this batter and think that it's way too dense and oddly holds its shape, almost as thick as Playdoh. I forged ahead, thinking that maybe the moisture from the schmear and pineapple would compensate once it baked, but they don't. I've done just a small amount of reading on cake ratios and in a traditional sweet cake, the weight of the flour would roughly equal the sugar. Here, the sugar clocks in around 4.4 oz. and the flour is at 6, so more sugar probably wouldn't be a bad idea. Then the the liquid in a cake recipe, including the eggs at about 1.75 oz. each, should weigh the same as, or more than, the sugar. If we used 6 oz. of sugar and subtracting the 3.5 oz. of eggs, we would still need 2.5 oz. of liquid (5 tablespoons). I think 5T would've improved it but still might not have been enough liquid. Maybe another whole egg or one egg yolk would help as well. My favorite upside-down cake recipe is America's Test Kitchen's Apple Upside-Down cake, and I think this pineapple version would benefit from stealing one of their steps--sauteing the schmear and the pineapple pieces first to get them caramelizing, then pour that into the cake pan, salt, then top with batter and bake.

Really Awesome Black Bean Burgers

I'm one of Kenji's biggest fans and I bookmark and frequently cook his recipes to great success, but this one didn't live up to Food Lab standards for me. I'm sorry! My final burger looked just like the ones Kenji pictured so I think they came out as he intended. I also love non-meat burgers so I'm not complaining that this wasn't meaty enough. For my husband and I, there were two issues--the flavor, which was surprisingly dull despite the bold ingredients used, and the texture, which was dry, crumbly, a bit chunky, and off-puttingly crunchy in some parts.

I'm guessing that, in the absence of an explicit amount of salt for this recipe, I didn't add enough to the mix before forming patties. That's somewhat on me, but it would be helpful to at least have some guidelines; this seems like an odd recipe to go with "salt to taste." I'm not terrified of eating some raw egg here towards the goal of achieving the right salt balance but a suggestion such as, "Start with a a teaspoon of salt and then adjust to your tastes" would be appreciated. As to the texture, the cashews really didn't work for us in this application and the final burger wasn't as moist as I would've expected given that that was a stated goal of this recipe development. Maybe what Kenji would call mushy, I would call moist. Maybe roasting only half of the beans would be an improvement. Also, roasted cashews have a delicious, strong flavor and are very crunchy, and not only was their flavor very evident in the final burger, but so were many of their little crunchy nubs that didn't seemed to soften much. I like a nice crunchy exterior sear, which we got, but I don't really want anything hard or crunchy on the interior of a burger.

I think I'll stick with the Southwestern Black Bean Burgers from the cookbook "Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health" unless Kenji tackles the topic of black bean burgers anew. I know you were shooting for a more neutrally-flavored burger here but for us it ended up having not enough flavor generally. I love beans but maybe we just need to accept that black beans, without any adornment, aren't as flavorful as beef without adornment, and given that fact, it makes sense to make bean burger recipes that shoot for a purposeful flavor profile (such as "Southwest").

Kimchi Chicken and Cabbage Stir-Fry

Made this for dinner last night over brown rice and we really liked it! It's dort of a perfect weeknight meal--sufficiently healthy, not expensive to get the ingredients, lots of interesting flavors and textures, and the recipe is pretty straightforward and easy to prepare. Thanks! This will definitely become part of our dinner rotation.

Banana Ketchup

@Bruce Howard Thank you! I think you are correct!

Turkey-Ricotta Burgers With Leeks and Dill

These weren't just "good for a turkey burger," these were so delicious that, in a lineup next to a decent beef burger, I would still sometimes choose this turkey burger! Plus they work well with lots of different toppings. One night I used basil pesto, Torrisi hot sauce, Greek yogurt and feta and ate it without a bun, and the next night I did cheddar, ketchup, and mayo on a toasted bun, and it all tasted great. They are moist and full of flavor and if the trolls who commented on the recipe intro page would actually sample these before ranting, maybe they would know that. Probably not though, they are trolls after all and would continue to deny that turkey burgers "exist." It's so funny to see people insisting that things like burgers exist in the Platonic sense, like there is only one true definition of a Burger, and ground turkey is not a part of that definition. It's madness. Burger, defiant poultry cheese allium patty, whatever--this thing is great and it has earned a spot in my dinner recipe rotation. Plus, the cooked patties freeze well and makes for a great packable lunch. Thanks for posting this recipe!

Cherry-Amaretto Tart

I bookmarked this recipe when you originally posted it, based on your description and beautiful picture, and the urge to make a tart finally hit me this past weekend. Of course, it's not cherry season, so I made the crust and mascarpone layers you describe here, and topped it with Tartine's lemon cream that I made with Meyer lemons (http://food52.com/recipes/16407-tartine-bakery-s-lemon-cream). It was DELICIOUS! This is such a tasty and versatile tart base and I think it would work well for so many different toppings--fruits, nuts, chocolate, etc. Everyone I've fed it to loves each layer. The only thing I changed is that I added a touch of almond extract and a bit more sugar to my mascarpone layer, but I bet the correct balance in this layer depends a bit on the brand of Amaretto you're using. Thanks for such a great recipe, I know I'll use this often to whip up easy but impressive tarts!

Brussels Sprouts and Kimchi from Roy Choi's 'L.A. Son'

Random thought--I haven't made this yet so I know I really shouldn't comment, but as soon as I read it I thought, "I bet bacon would be a good addition to this." I make bacon+kimchi quesadillas all the time, and we know bacon+sprouts is a winner. And this is coming from someone who is not one of those "bacon makes everything better!" people. It makes some things better, some things like this perhaps?

Cook the Book: Roy Choi's 'L.A. Son'

I made Kenji's lasagna bolognese for my dad not too long ago and we all loved it.

Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (or Dressing)

@kenji Any suggestions as to how to modify/reduce the liquid if we're planning on cooking all or part of this under a spatchcocked turkey that is on a grate above this?

Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (or Dressing)

@kenji Sorry for being an idiot and not removing the foil at the end. That one is totally user error! I hope you weren't insulted by all my questions and comments, btw. I am a longtime huge fan of yours and I feel like many of your recipes over the years have actually taught me how to cook, so I certainly wouldn't want to come off as a troll. I was just dissatisfied with how this turned out for me and I was hoping to get some additional tips, which you provided. Thanks! I hope maybe you'll consider being on-call on Twitter again this year for day-of emergencies, you helped us out a lot last year with how long we needed to cook our spatchcocked turkey. Either way, enjoy your holiday.

Classic Sage and Sausage Stuffing (or Dressing)

This is now the third year I've used this recipe for stuffing, but something isn't quite right about it. Year one it turned out the best, and I'm kicking myself for not taking better notes about what brands of sausage or stock I used, plus what fruit I added and how much and when (I know it was just fresh apples but I don't know the type, amount, or when I folded them in). Year two, last year, the final product was bland and I was disappointed at the Thanksgiving table.

So in preparation for this year's feast I just did a test run of this recipe last night. I used a mix of high quality sandwich bread from the bread aisle (i.e., soft, not artisan bread) plus an artisan sourdough loaf because my family loves the sourdough tang. I had a tub of duck fat in the fridge so I used 4 T of duck fat and 4 T of butter as my fat, as I was hoping to add in some poultry fat richness. For stock I used Kitchen Naturals Turkey Stock, and for sausage I went with Jimmy Dean Sage Breakfast Sausage. I sort of loathe using Jimmy Dean anything but last year I used a sage sausage from our great Dupont Circle farmer's market and since the overall stuffing was a letdown, I thought I'd go more mainstream with this test (presumably Jimmy Dean is filled with more salt and additives to make it stronger-tasting is my reasoning here). I also peeled and chopped 3 Granny Smith apples and added them at the very end of the vegetable cookdown, so they got about 2-3 minutes of cooking on them. I know Kenji recommended adding fresh fruit at the bread stage but every other fruit stuffing recipe I referenced has you add them with the veggies and cook them down, so I split the baby and put a few minutes of heat on them.

In the end, my husband liked it but I still thought it was kind of ho-hum. Solid, but could definitely be improved. It still feels bland to me, in texture and in flavor. I want some acid/sweetness in there to balance the savory aspects, and I'd like some textural contrast too. Since you leave the foil on the whole time, it's a mushy affair throughout with not even a crunchy top. And I was surprised that the addition of three tart apples seemed to add no sweetness or tartness to the final product (although I'm sure that without them, it would've been even more boring). But then it occurred to me that this recipe lists salt and pepper in the ingredients but never actually directs you to add them to you stuffing, and when.

So a few questions, Kenji, if you're still monitoring this: (1) Assuming our stock and sausage of choice are not bringing enough salt to this game and that additional salt and pepper are necessary, how much would you guess we need (or how much should we start with) and when would we mix it in? With the egg mixture? I'll take my chances and taste-test the raw egg stuffing if it means getting the seasoning right here. Do you think that looking at the sodium content of our respective sausage and stock choices, assuming they are not homemade, would provide some clues to how much more we should add? (2) My family likes stuffing with fresh apples in it and is open to dried fruit as well. Since my three Granny Smiths didn't do the trick, what would you recommend? Fresh apples added at the bread stage? What kind? Peeled? Unpeeled? Dried cranberries too? How much? (3) I often find that my soups and sauces, when they taste bland to me, are corrected by adding a touch of acid like lemon juice, a tip I probably picked up from SE. Do you think adding an acid component to the stock would possibly help here? (4) Texture-wise, what do you think is a good way to add some crunch to all this mushiness? I'm hesitant to add nuts to this stuffing since I'm not sure I want that flavor in here, but if I was going to do that, what type and how much would you recommend? And if I don't use nuts, should I just crisp up the top under the broiler at the end of baking this?

I know this is a lot but I feel a Thanksgiving table with a ho-hum stuffing is just as bad as a Thanksgiving table with a poorly cooked turkey. The other classic side dishes are easy to execute but getting this stuffing right is stymieing me! Help, please :-)

Open Thread: What Do You Want to Know this Thanksgiving?

This is great, thanks! I am hosting Thanksgiving for a small crowd (up to 10 people) in my small condo. We like to have a traditional meal and have no dietary restrictions. I have a standard oven, microwave, and one slow cooker. Last year I hosted in the same circumstances and despite a lot of pre-planning and time-lining, I was doing way too much cooking right before the meal and I felt like it was tough to serve everything at the right temperature. So, more tips about how to use the stuff I have and if I should invest in other things (chafing dish type elements) would be very helpful. Recipes are great but I would really appreciate tips in the holiday recipes about which elements can be done ahead, how to reheat or keep a dish warm, etc.

Second question: I have tried many pie crust recipes over the years now, and one thing I notice is that no matter what recipe I use (and most of them are very similar of course) I seem to require more water than most pie crust recipes call for. I've seen some recipes call for as little as 5-6 tablespoons, but I feel like it's not unusual for me to need up to 12 to make the dough come together. I've used a food processor, forks, and a pastry cutter to cut the butter in. I usually use King Arthur unbleached AP flour and butter as my fat (I've tried Plugra, Land O'Lakes, and a couple other brands). I figure the problem must be me and not the recipes, but I can't figure out why I need so much water compared, apparently, to other people. Any ideas?