Profile

PumpkinBear

I love to cook.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Favorite foods: All sandwiches, pozole, pad thai, turkey mole, sushi, cheese, roasted potatoes, all pasta, mandarin oranges, bread, asparagus, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, parmesan chicken topped with a green salad, my dad's Mexican rice and enchilladas.
  • Last bite on earth: Fettucini with butter, cracked black pepper, and lots of Parmesan. Also, maybe some homemade bread for good measure.

ATTENTION all you beautiful foodie-type people: pumpkin muffins

There is an amazing recipe in the Baked Explorations cookbook by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Seriously, foodgasms are guaranteed. I've converted several people into pumpkin lovers because of these things.

Technically they're pumpkin cheddar muffins that have cayenne pepper and brown sugar in them, which makes them sweet and savory. They're topped with extra cheddar and toasted pepitas, which gives them a killer crunch. If you're interested in the recipe, let me know and I'll post it. I'm not sure if you can find it online, so I may have to type it up.

Cuban black beans recipes

I'm not sure how authentic my recipe is, but I think I make really good black beans.

My process is similar to making pinto beans: Fry up some garlic in oil, add the black beans, toss them in the oil, and add water to cover. In the pot, I throw in two bay leaves, a whole onion cut into chunks, and I think this is the key to black beans, even in cuban restaurants: You have to throw in some epazote, which is an herb also known as "Mexican tea." It's hard to describe the flavor, but it lends something really special to the beans.

When the beans have reached the desired doneness, I drain them, reserving the bean cooking liquid and picking out the onion chunks. While they drain, I add some manteca to a pan and let it melt and get very hot. Then, I throw in the beans and begin mashing them a bit while slowly adding some of the cooking liquid back into the refrying beans until they've reached the consistency I like. Some people like them really soupy, I don't. You have to keep in mind that the beans will continue to soak up the liquid, so you have to add more than you think you'll need or else your beans will dry out once they've cooled or when you're reheating them the next day. I probably end up using 2/3 of the bean cooking liquid.

That's it! That's how I make my black beans, I'd love to hear how others do it. I doubt my recipe is authentically Cuban. I'm Mexican and just sort of took the same approach to black beans as I do my refried pinto beans.

What's on Your Menu?

I actually have no idea how many people are coming to my house this year. I have a ton of work-related stuff to wrap up over the holiday, so I've chosen to make my life easier by purchasing both hor d'oeuvres and dessert- which is something I've never done before. I'm either getting smarter or getting lazier.

Hor d'oeuvres:
Potato balls from Portos and a cheese plate.

Main:
Huge, herb & lemon roasted turkey
Spinach gratin
Sweet potatoes with pecan streusal
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Mashed potatoes
Turkey gravy
Rye bread, italian sausage, and mushroom stuffing
And I might try Chuck Hughes' arugula, roasted cauliflower, and bacon salad

Dessert:
Apple pie, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cheesecake- all from Porto's ... because I'm a lazy ass this year.

Hey SE Staffers! Question!

@rasellers0: I wrote the SE Meet & Eat Column for six or seven months and for me, it really was as simple as sending a query letter to the submissions address on the site. Someone got back to me almost immediately and after brainstorming, it was determined I'd make a good fit interviewing West Coast-based chefs.

Well, it was that simple and it wasn't. I'm 26-years-old, went to school for journalism, and have been freelancing for almost six years. I usually work seven days a week, pitch stories to sites/magazines/newspapers constantly, and have about a million stories working at once. Freelancing is incredibly difficult, but being able to do what I've always wanted to do (and work my own hours) is more fulfilling than I can express in words.

My advice to you- and something I wish someone would have told me when I started out: Sometimes, you have to work for free. I don't mean an internship necessarily, but if you want to write about food and you don't have any experience writing, you should approach a food site you love (like SE) and ask if you can contribute. You may get paid nothing you may get paid very little, but at least you'll have clips to show for when you start pitching bigger features.

When I dropped out of college and moved away from my hometown of Los Angeles, I did an internship and began contributing to a collective blog. I didn't get paid, but I made a bunch of contacts at publishing houses and I got cookbooks for free, so it seemed worth it. After several dozen cookbook reviews (and other clips I'd amassed over time), I was able to start pitching food-related pitches to magazines. Long story short, it really is worth it to work for free sometimes. The experience, clips, and free swag really helps.

FYI - Pioneer Woman will have a program on Food Network

Though I'm not a fan or Pioneer Woman and stopped watching Food Network ages ago, it's hard to take a majority of these comments seriously. You have to wonder why people are quick to be so mean and hateful online. Saria in particular really illustrated why I avoid the Talk section these days:

"Jealousy? Really? I think her kids are rather average-looking, never gotten the swooning over her husband, and I certainly have nothing to envy Ree Drummond in the looks department (no, seriously, I'm way way hotter ;))." You attacked her kids, her husband, tried to convince the world of how physically attractive you are, and then finished it off with a smiley face, really?

The Food Network doesn't produce quality programming, that obviously stopped being the goal a long time ago. For every one of us who dislikes the Pioneer Woman or Sandra Lee or whoever, there have to be at least 15 who adore them or FN wouldn't keep doling out contracts to new "home cooks" and renewing the contracts of their mainstays.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Thanks, dbcurrie! Work really picked up for me recently and now I hate sitting at my computer and avoid it unless I have to, which seriously cut down on my Serious Eats time.

Favorite food-related memoirs? (And ones to avoid)

A while back I reviewed Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee and I really loved it. She's a great writer and I was surprised that the book never really took off. I would avoid Cleaving by Julie Powell. She may have struck gold with Julie and Julia, but she followed it up with the most horrible, self-obsessed cookbook/memoir ever.

Pasta dinner party need sides....

My boyfriend's favorite meal of all time is fettuccine alfredo with a side of sautéed mushrooms (lots of garlic, thyme, and butter) and roasted cauliflower and broccoli. He requests this meal every time he chooses what's for dinner and though I give him crap for being so predicatable, there's something about all of these flavors that really go together. If you're doing anything with homemade alfredo, maybe you should consider it?

Gift Guide: Food-Related Graphic T-Shirts

This is a shameful admission, but I'm a 25-year-old woman who shops at a website called Girz Lyfe (yes, that's how they spell it), which specializes in cutesy, food related crap that I'm entirely too old to be wearing. It's so bad that my nices, ages 6 and 7, often mistake the stuff I buy for presents intended for them.

Maybe I should just start wearing food-related tees because God knows I'm too old for strawberry shortcake earbuds, peanut butter and jelly necklaces, and donut rings.

The 12 Days of Dumpling in a Halloween Costume: Pumpkin

Dumpling looks like he's got some junk in the trunk ... or just a really stubby tail.

"I only have 1 item. Can I sneak ahead of you?"

I rarely ever stop at a grocery store for just a thing or two, but when I do I'd never ask someone if I could go in front of them. I don't want to inconvenience anyone and I think I'd probably be too shy to ask anyhow.

Every two weeks I do major grocery shopping all over town and I'm always the one with the huge, overcrowded cart. If someone is behind me and they're holding a pack of napkins or diapers or something, I always ask if they'd like to go ahead of me. It just seems like the polite thing to do.

Meatballs...why can't I get it right?

There was actually an article about this in Bon Appetit this month. Check it out:

http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/2010/10/in_search_of_the_perfect_meatball

The Food Lab's Top 6 Food Myths

This article made me very happy, especially because I've noticed some of these things to not be true and yet I see chefs on television saying these things as if they're fact. For example, Bobby Flay's always talking about just flipping the burger once and Lydia Bastianich always says that salting the beans will make them tough and anything less than a ridiculous amount of water will make your pasta cook incorrectly and stick together.

Brown Gravy

Saute some garlic, a bit of finely diced onion, and some fresh thyme in pan drippings, add a bit of flour and cook the roux until it's light brown and smells nutty, add good beef stock (preferably homemade), whisk while it thickens. Towards the end I season with salt and pepper and a few dashes of worcheshire. This is how my grandpa's always made it. Boobird's sounds good, too. It's like red eye gravy, isn't it?

Video: Making Hand Pulled Noodles at Mr. Chow in Los Angeles

Favorite Music for Dinner Party / Potluck

Right now I'm completely obsessed with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It's just completely joyful music. Check out when they played their beautiful song "Home" on Letterman:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb9jY8yAxgs

What IS The Best Tip, Trick, Recipe etc You've Gotten At SE?

I could eat pasta every day of my life, so any pasta recipe featured on Serious Eats is a blessing. That being said, the BEST things I've gotten from Serious Eats are Rick Bayless' recipe for Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style (which I make about twice a month) and The Crisper Whisperer's Jícama, Black Bean, and Corn Salad (which I make about four times a month).

5 Ways to Celebrate Fall with Chocolate

I actually think Mexican hot chocolate is the perfect fall drink. It's oh-so-chocolatey, but it has that nice little kick from warm spices like cinnamon.

This belly would burst

I have the same problem. I don't even particularly like baking, but I like being able to do something nice for my dad and great uncle so I bake something each week and get stuck with the leftovers. I give things to neighbors and friends, but perhaps since you're new to the area maybe you can mail your goodies to family and friends in other areas. My boyfriend often benefits from my baking leftovers and he always seems more than happy to get brownies, breads, and cookies in the mail.

Fall foods, yes, but. . .

I really love a lot of the food you requested we not mention, but I'm also ready for Persimmons to show up at the farmer's market. I had my first one last year and couldn't get over how sweet and delicious they are. I'm also looking forward to figs. My dad planted a fig tree in his backyard for me and it's already giving off fruit. They're the green kind though and I'm pretty excited to find brown turkey figs at the farmer's market, they're my favorite.

Fall is my favorite season, it makes me so happy and I find mysefl using certain incredients around this time of year that I don't usually use, like fresh sage and woody herbs like rosemary. As someone else mentioned, sweet potatoes are really great this time of year, but I only like them in savory applications liked stuffed in ravioli.

Your last dinner party menu?

My last major dinner party was basically a BBQ for Father's Day. There were maybe 15 people over of various ages, with the youngest being four-years-old.

The party featured:

- Grilled carne asada and pollo preparado (marinated by the local Mexican market)
- Grilled corn done up "Mexican style" with cilantro lime butter and a sprinkling of cotija cheese
- A Serious Eats recipe from the Crisper Whisperer for black bean, corn, and jicama salad with cumin vinaigrette
- Homemade tortillas
- Beans refried in lard
- Rice
- Homemade tortilla chips
- Guacamole
- Pico de gallo salsa, roasted poblano salsa, lots of other salsas

My cousins picked up dessert (also from the local Mexican market) because we all suck at baking. They got a glazed fruit-topped cheese cake and a glazed fruit-topped chocolate cake.

Drinks included various Mexican beers, Jarritos, and bottled water. I was going to make jamaica to drink, but after prepping for the party for two days I stopped caring.

Poll: Are These Dishes Played Out?

I really hate the idea of food trends or certain foods being "played out" or passé. I think it reeks of food snobbery. I mean, good food will always be good food, no matter what asshole food writer deems so last year. When the hoopla dies down about chimmicurri sauce or mole or kimchi or whatever ethnic ingredient being given its 15 minutes of fame, I will still eat those things because they will still be good.

Anthony Bourdain On Culinary School

I think Peechie brings up a good point. I'm twenty-five, write about food often, and have really been wondering if I should give up freelance writing and head into the food world. I think I'm at a point where it's now or never, but I always figured cooking schools were a sham and I'm not willing to put myself in debt.

But what about culinary arts programs at community colleges? Has anyone attended one, is it worth the trouble? Here in CA these classes can basically be taken for free if you apply for the Governor's Waiver, but I don't know if I should take time away from making a living at writing to pursue something that might not be all that beneficial.

To someone important at Dominos

My line of thinking is: What kind of "side of marinara" did you expect for a $5.99 pizza?

Zucchini Blossoms

I have had them stuffed and fried and fried plainly, but was hoping for something different. After reading your posts, I'm now hungry for fried blossoms so that's what I'll do!

Thanks for the convincing!

Have You Ever Dry Brined a Turkey?

I always brine my Thanksgiving turkey in a huge brine-filled tub that sits in my refrigerator for two days, but this year it's out of the question because I don't have the space.

I was at Fresh & Easy recently and I noticed they had a dry brine, which is something I've never heard of before. I guess you cover your turkey in it and then rinse the bird off before preparing it.

Do any of you have any experience using a dry brine? Did your turkey come out well? Would you reccomend a dry brine? I'm assuming a wet brine is preferable, but as I said, that's not an option this year. I guess I'm trying to figure out if I should use a dry brine or not brine at all. To brine or not to brine ...

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Is Anyone Reading Lucky Peach?

I decided to subscribe to David Chang's new food magazine Lucky Peach and I was incredibly excited when I got the first issue in the mail (which is all about ramen), but after reading it I'm very ... underwhelmed. I think the magazine assumes that those of us who are interested in food hang on to every word Chang says and everything Chang thinks. Bourdain's sort of over the top in the magazine, too.

I don't want to judge too harshly, it was just the first issue after all, but is anyone else reading the magazine? If so, what are your first thoughts? I did learn a lot about ramen, but I don't know if it's worth $10 an issue.

What To Do With Fresh Buckwheat Noodles?

I recently found a Korean grocery store by my house and each time I go there I lose my mind and pick out 1,000 different things and then come home and have no idea what to do with half of it.

This past weekend I picked up some fresh buckwheat noodles. I think they're called soba noodles? I'm not sure. Anyhow, I'm aware I can use Google to find recipes, but I was hoping some Serious Eaters would have suggestions as to how I should use these up. So, any suggestions?

I have tons of produce, a gazillion different herbs, several different kinds of mushrooms, miso paste, various proteins, and a well stocked pantry. I'm an adventurous eater and I love to cook, so I'm not necessarily looking for anything that's super simple to make.

Any suggestions are much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Have You Ever Browned Flour?

This morning I was watching Chef Paul Prudhomme's old PBS cooking show and I saw him do the craziest thing- he browned flour in a dry skillet. There was no butter, he wasn't making a roux, he just poured AP flour into a dry skillet and toasted it until it was this nutty brown color and later, he used it to thicken a stew.

Has anyone heard of this before or done this? I was really intrigued by it and now I'm thinking about new applications for browned flour. Could you bake with it? What kind of flavor does it produce?

Is the Customer Always Right?

I saw this New York Times article and thought it was really interesting:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/nyregion/05puritans.html?_r=1&smid=fb-nytimes

I actually applaud the chefs standing their ground. I'm a firm believer in the fact that the customer ISN'T always right. When cooking for family or friends, I'm kind of stern in how I'd like them to eat the food I'm preparing, in the way that I'm not going to omit onions because someone doesn't like them or I'm not going to cook an expensive piece of meat all the way through because someone is sqeamish about pink meat. Maybe that makes me a jerk? I don't know.

How do other Serious Eaters feel about this?

Bourdain Branches Out

I went through a phase recently (I actually think I'm still going through it) where I was obsessed with everything New Orleans and thankfully, HBO's Treme aired around the same time.

Today I read that Anthony Bourdain is writing restaurant scenes for the second season:

http://www.nola.com/treme-hbo/index.ssf/2011/02/today_in_treme_anthony_bourdai.html

Is there anything Bourdain doesn't do these days?

Is anyone else interested in this? Will you check out his scenes? I've read a few of Bourdain's books and was pleased to find that he's an excellent writer. Hopefully his writing for television is just as good.

Thousand Island Dressing on Burgers

I live in Los Angeles and don't eat any high end burgers. I cook nearly every day and when I'm too busy to cook or don't feel like it, I usually opt for burger from one of the many non-chain fast food joints near my house. I've noticed that nearly every place slathers the burger with thousand island dressing. I'm not opossed; I really like the taste, but I'm wondering if this is common in other parts of the country.

Do fast food burgers where you live use thousand island on burgers? Do you like it?

Manteca

A while back I bought a tub of manteca- or pork fat- from a local Mexican market. When I first purchased it the lard was fresh and had a butter-like consitancy and it smelled like carnitas (because it's the rendered fat from carnitas). I've used it sparingly here and there, but the problem is I can't remember how long ago I purchased it.

I've keep it refrigerated and today I went in for a spoonful for refried beans and the texture was weird- grainy and clumpy rather than smooth and buttery. There is no expiration date on the tub.

Does anyone know how long manteca lasts? Is it still safe to use given its texture or am I better off throwing it out?

Thanks in advance!

Summer Squash Recipes

At the farmer's market I got a great deal on summer squash, but I've never cooked this type of squash before. I have yellow squash and a pretty, light green squash and both are sort of short and squat- shaped like chubby stars, if that makes any sense.

Should I just treat these the way I do zucchini? My boyfriend said his mom buys this type of squash often and she just boils them, but I was hoping for something more exciting. Does anyone have any recipes they'd care to share for this specific kind of squash? I have a well-stocked fridge and pantry. Thanks in advance!

Is This Food?

Today I learned that former Microsoft executive and inventor Nathan Myhrvold has a cookbook coming out called "Modernist Cuisine" from this L.A. Times article:

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-modernist-cuisine-20100923,0,7059582.story

I haven't seen his yet-to-be published $625, 2,400 page book, but it seems to suck the fun out of cooking and maybe I'm old school, but I don't like this hyper modern take on food that's getting a lot of attention lately. Yes, technically, these emulsions and powders and foams and blah blah blah are food, but not the kind of food I want to be eating or cooking.

What do you guys think, are you interested in the science of modern cuisine and do you find this kind of food appealing?

Zucchini Blossoms

Today I went to the Mexican market near my house and couldn't resist a big, beautiful bouquet of zuchinni blossoms.

I know you can stuff them and fry them and I know you can put them in empanadas- I'm basically familiar with many of the Mexican food-like preparations, but I was wondering: Are there any pasta dishes that call for zucchini blossoms?

I've got a well-stocked pantry, bacon, fresh herbs, tomatoes, and all kinds of other good stuff, so if you have a pasta & zucchini blossom recipe, please send them my way!

Applesauce Cake?

My great uncle is 80-years-old and he has a huge sweet tooth. Every week I bake him something decadent and sweet that usually involves chocolate or peanut butter- his two favorite things in the world.

Recently he was telling me a story about how he grew up very, very poor and the biggest treat he'd ever get was his mom's homemade applesauce cake that she'd make once every other month when she could get a hold of some fresh apples and could find the time to make the sauce and the cake (she had six children).

This week it's my goal to recreate his mom's cake, but the only thing he remembers is that it had applesauce in it and that it was brown and sweet. I've found a few recipes online, but I thought I'd turn to Serious Eaters. Do any of you have an old time-y tried and true applesauce cake recipe? Something moist and sweet and delicious?

Thanks in advance!

Two Fat Ladies

This summer I've had some time to watch T.V. between deadlines and I'd grown so tired of the Food Network, that I finally broke down and decided to order the new Cooking Channel. For the most part I love it and have actually learned a few things and picked up some great recipes to try along the way, but I'm a little confused about their weekend programming. One show in particular kind of blew my head off.

Has anyone seen Two Fat Ladies? It is the oddest, craziest, most bizarre cooking show I've ever encountered. I don't even know if I like it, I just can't seem to look away. I made my boyfriend watch it with me and he was so confused and is now convinced that anyone- including our cat- can have their own cooking show.

Have you guys seen it? What do you think? How the hell did this show come to exist?

Tomato Sauce & Vanilla?

A family friend keeps giving me tomatoes. They're big and beautiful, but I can't eat another fresh tomato to save my life so I'd like to make some pasta sauce. I have a way of making sauce with fresh tomatoes, but I remembered a recipe I saw on Bravo's Chef Academy with Jean-Christophe Novelli. He taught the students how to make his grandmother's tomato sauce, but along with star anise (which I think is weird), he also added a vanilla bean.

Vanilla beans are expensive and I don't want to waste one on tomato sauce if it's going to taste unusual, so has anyone ever heard of that? What does it add to the sauce? Do you reccomend it? It seems completely bizarre to me. I've heard of adding sugar to tomato sauce, but other than this Novelli recipe, I've never heard of adding a vanilla bean.

Teach Me About Miso Paste (and other things)

My nieces and I bond over food and one of our favorite things to do is to walk to the corner Japanese restaurant and have a big bowl of miso soup. The other day I was thinking about how fun it would be to try making the soup with them instead of buying it. So, I went online and went Google crazy and got really confused.

So, can someone please tell me how to make dashi? What type and brand of bonito flakes should I purchase? (I can order stuff online or go to a local Asian market.)

Also: Please teach me about miso paste. What are the differences between the colors? How do I store it? Other than miso soup, what can I use it for? What are some easy-to-find brand names that taste good?

And then if someone could throw in their recipe for miso soup, that would be especially awesome. If not, I can try one of the 8,000 I found online.

Thanks in advance!

Moon Cakes

Last year before I'd ever tried a moon cake, I asked other Serious Eaters about their experiences with them. I can't find the link, but they're incredibly dense, rich little cakes (often including a salted duck egg) and they're eaten during the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival in September.

Last year I ordered a lotus seed paste one from Asian Food Grocer, but this year I'm going to seek out the real thing in Chinatown.

Are any other Serious Eaters going to partake in a moon cake this fall? What flavors do you reccomend? Also: Why are they so goddamn expensive?

Back When You Were Stupid About Food

I remember being interested in cooking as a kid, but my passion for food didn't really develop until I moved away from home- and out of state- for the first time and was forced to fend for myself. Rather than go the frozen dinner and junk food route, I opted to learn how to cook and take advantage of the awesome markets near my house.

Today, while eating a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, I was thinking about all of the stupid shit I used to do back when I was stupid about food, wasteful with my money, and too lazy to cook. Some of the things included:

- Paying around eight bucks for a bad grilled cheese sandwich and fries at a diner ... when I wasn't drunk
- Buying soup out of a can
- Buying things like pasta sauce and cheese sauce
- Eating vegetables that came from a can
- Using margarine

Those are just a few of mine. I'm sure some of you grew up in houses that treated food with respect, but I didn't. So for those of you like myself, who weren't born to food-loving serious cooks, what are some of the stupid things you used to do before getting serious and learning to cook and eat right?

Summer Food

Los Angeles was having such a weird summer up until three days ago. It was overcast and sunny, but not hot. The evenings would cool down dramatically and get so windy you'd need a sweater. Then BAM! A major heat wave moved in and I can't seem to stomach heavy, hot food.

I need some ideas for cold dishes that will be filling and tasty. I'm going grocery shopping in a bit and so far I only have the following cold food ideas:

Fruit
Green salads
Greek pasta salad
Potato salad
Various sandwiches
Cottage cheese topped with tomatoes and pepper

And that's it. Kind of sad looking, I know. Does anyone have any ideas for summertime food? Cooking a bit with family and friends on the weekend isn't out of the question. We usually grill chicken and carne asada and made various salsas, so I'm willing to budge on the cold food thing a bit.

Also: What are you guys eating now that it's unbearably hot? New Yorkers, I know you've had one hell of a summer. What are you eating?

Thanks in advance!

Sugar Coated Fennel Seeds?

My nieces are in California and they're alternating between my house and their grandma's house. Today, after a sleepover at their grandma's, they came back with a ziplock bag of what appeared to be brightly colored candy. They looked good enough and the girls said they were delicious, so I ate a couple and thought they were disgusting .... but familiar.

After a couple more tastes I realized they were fennel seeds coated in candy. I immedietly became intrigued and asked them a thousand questions they didn't know the answers to.

So, Serious Eaters, have you heard of sugar coated fennel seeds? How on earth did these things come to be? Are there any fans out there? Are there other similar candies? Where did these things come from, what is their origin?

Your Best SIMPLE BBQ Sauce

I've made BBQ sauce before from recipes I found on random food websites, but they never taste quite right. Tomorrow I'm making ribs and I thought I'd ask the ever reliable Serious Eaters if you guys have a simple BBQ sauce I can throw together for dinner.

I don't care if it's vinegar-based or tomato-based. I have a well-stocked pantry, so access to different ingredients shouldn't be a problem.

Thanks in advance!

The United Cakes of America

I'm reviewing this beautiful new baking cookbook called The United Cakes of America for a website and it features two or three cakes for each state.

I've found all of the regional cakes very interesting and I was especially interested to test recipes for my own state (California Avocado Cupcakes).

Some of the cakes were pretty obvious, like New York's cheesecake and Boston's cream pie, but it was cool to read about North Carolina's Hummingbird cake and other sweet treats I didn't know about.

It got me wondering: Are regional cakes really that well known? For example, do you know the sweets that originated in your area? Are they really cooked often for parties or family get-togethers?

Cooking Channel Recipes

I know we've discussed the new Cooking Channel on the site before, but I'm wondering if anyone's tried any of the recipes featured on the shows.

I used to love Food Network. I think the network was largely responsible for teaching me how to cook, but I haven't been excited about any of the shows for a while. Every now and again I'll catch Anne Burrell, Ina Garten, or Alton Brown, but other than that I think it's a waste of time.

I don't have the cooking channel, but last week I noticed I had a few of the shows On Demand under the Food Network channel. It's ridiculous how into these shows I quickly became. Every single show has featured one or two recipes that I've since made. I can't recall the last time that happened with the Food Network.

I've made Chuck Hughe' beautiful potato risotto with sausages, I've made Chin He-Huang's Egg Fu Young with roasted red pepper and sweet chile sauce, and Laura Calder's apple tart, among many other things. All of the food is solid, easy, and delicious. Why can't the Food Network be like this?

Have any other Serious Eaters tried making Cooking Channel recipes? What do you think of the food?

New Orleans Food: Cafe au Lait and Red Beans & Rice

I'm reviewing a copy of Tom Fitzmorris's Food Town, about the New Orleans food scene pre and post Katrina. I've been obsessed with New Orleans for a long time and it's only gotten worse while reading this book and watching that new series Treme on HBO.

Anyhow, I want to start making some authentic New Orleans food and drinks at home, starting with cafe au lait. Food Town provides a recipe, which seems simple enough, but does anyone know an online source where I can buy chicory?

Secondly, does anyone have an authentic red beans and rice recipe they'd care to share? I'm dying to try a couple versions, including the one in the book.

Thanks in advance!

Snacking Different than Eating "Real Food"

I do a majority of my work at night and because I only eat one major meal a day, I tend to get hungry when working.

Lately I've noticed that the snacks I choose to eat are totally different than anything I'd eat for a "real" meal. They're either really odd, or made up on the spot, or more adventurous than the food I choose to eat at more conventional times.

Lately, one of my favorites is a black forrest ham, pepper jack, and jalapeno quesadilla that I eat with Mae Ploy-brand sweet chili sauce. This is the kind of thing I would NEVER eat for say, lunch, but for a snack in the middle of the night it's more than acceptable.

Do you find your late night snacking habits to veer off into weird food or junk food, too? I'm wondering why these foods really hit the spot late at night or why they become acceptable, even though they're not the kind of thing I would consider eating for lunch or dinner.

Beginner Pork Belly Recipe

The local Mexican market had pork belly on sale, 2 lbs. for around $3. I've never made pork belly in my life, but couldn't pass at the opportunity.

I'm sure I can find all kinds of fabulous pork belly recipes using Google, but I was hoping some Serious Eaters could provide me with an easy, tasty, beginner's pork belly recipe. I watch tons of cooking shows and it seems as if this is a favorite ingredient among chefs, but I don't even know where to start with this crazy fatty looking thing.

Any recipes/advice/help is appreciated. Thanks in advance!

The Crisper Whisperer: Share Your Favorite Fall Produce Recipes

Ever since the moment I wriggled into my brand new stretch pants, two pairs of slouch socks, and oversized T-shirt on the first morning of fourth grade, fall has been my favorite season. Becoming a produce obsessive has done nothing to dampen my love for this crisp, Technicolor season we're about to enter. But do you notice how the blue potatoes and butternuts on that roasting pan are—ahem—raw? That's because I have no kitchen this week, and I need your help. Please share your favorite ways to use fall produce in the comments. More