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Staff Picks: Our Favorite No-Shame Snacks for When No One's Looking

Cheap ramen with several spoonfuls of hot giardiniera mixed in when it is done. That way you get the salty ramen, the pickled veg, and the spicy oil all in one. I also love stove-top popcorn with lots of butter and Tony's creole or ranch dressing seasoning sprinkled on top.

The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away

I'm glad to see someone standing up for the durability of cast iron. In college I went out and bought my first and only cast iron pan (and I say that not because it was bad but because I have never needed to buy another). I can definitely say that I have not always treated it well: I have always used metal utensils, used it over campfires when camping, used it on the grill, accidentally left it outside for a week, etc. After my initial seasoning, I have only needed to go through the process again once, and that was when my roommate left it soaking in the sink for two days.

To those who want to know the difference between the enameled and regular cast iron, I own and regularly use both kinds (from the basic Lodge brand on up to Le Creuset) and my regular cast iron is far and away a better non-stick surface. The enameled is great for giving things a super crisp crust that wont stick to the enamel and I am more likely to use one of those when the final dish will be baked, but there is no way you are frying an egg or anything else in there without a solid slick of oil to keep it from sticking.

Tales of a Cookbook Writer: What if a Dish Makes Me Gag?

I also like this approach to food. A few years ago I made it a mission to find (or invent) at least one recipe that I like for each ingredient I grew up hating. I've managed to overcome most of my aversions (cottage cheese, rutabaga, fennel) but I still have a few I haven't managed to find the right tweak for just yet (beets, lima beans, hominy). The point is that I keep trying.

The Best Way to Store Vermouth

@KevinLiu, trust from a home brewer that running the bottles through the dishwasher isn't sufficient to sanitize them, but bleach isn't exactly food safe. I'd suggest what home brewers use and get some "One Step" sanitizer to use on your bottles and caps.

Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Bitter Greens?

I puree them raw as if I was going to make pesto (any mix of greens you like + a few green onions) and then add them to risotto when it is about 3/4s finished. The rice will soak up any juice they release and they cook quickly in the rice so you don't get too much bitterness.

Manner Matters: Playing the Dating Game

I know everyone is suggesting drinks as a first date, but I also found brunch first dates to be very nice. Because of the time of day, there isn't any implied sexual contract, and it just feels more casual and relaxed than a typical dinner date. Additionally, if it does go really well, you can easily suggest that you continue the date at some local attraction or event. Or if it is going poorly you can say that you have other plans/obligations for the afternoon as a way of excusing yourself.

As far as paying goes, I stand by the old idea that whoever initiates and plans the date should also be prepared to pick up the tab.

Oh, and this should be obvious, but make sure you treat the staff well and tip generously.

Cook the Book: 'Ottolenghi'

Well, I just made risotto with 3 greens this weekend, and tonight I made a casserole with eggplant, red pepper, and dandelion greens with a wild mushroom roux.

Chain Reaction: Waffle House

In the southwest you can also get your burger topped with green chile and a fried egg at the Waffle House. These northerners just don't know what they are missing with their lack of fried egg on burgers.

Valentine's Day Giveaway: Win This Prime Rib

Anything counts as romantic if I don't have to cook it, but I prefer if it comes with good beer.

Drinking with Will Gordon: Samuel Adams Recreates New Albion Ale

I'm actually drinking one of these right now. Initially, I thought the finish was a little too sweet, but I think it has grown on me. At any rate, it has a nice smooth taste and makes for some easy afternoon drinking. Now that I know who the profits are going to, I might just pick up a couple more six packs.

The Food Lab: How To Make Carne Adovada (Chili-Braised Pork)

As another native New Mexican, I will say that this is never the way that I would make this dish (orange juice concentrate? sacrilege!). However, I have the benefit of having a lovely 90 year old grandmother who still drys her own home grown chiles (

I do find the surliness about this topic to be rather amusing. I am constantly using alternate ingredients to try to reproduce Asian or African flavors deriving from ingredients that can't easily be purchased here in America. I am simply a fan of bringing New Mexican tastes to the rest of the US, even if we don't all have access to the authentic ingredients. I can guarantee that no supermarket in my area (upstate NY) has anything close to the chiles I get from home, but I would hate for that to prevent people from being able to attempt a lovely regional dish.

On an unrelated note, does anyone have any suggestions for cooking up bear meat? I have found myself in possession of some, but I've never tried to cook bear before.

Cook the Book: 'Secrets of the Best Chefs'

As my grandmother always says, don't over knead the tortilla dough.

Cook the Book: 'Jerusalem: A Cookbook'

Another vote for kofta, especially when it comes with butter bread.

Bake the Book: Vintage Cakes

Poppy seed cake with cream cheese frosting. I am still trying to pry that recipe from my best friend's mother.

Staff Picks: The Best Meals in Chicago for Under $5

This isn't technically in Chicago since the restaurant is up in Evanston, but you can get a dark meat box at the Chicken Shack for $5. It has two legs, two thighs, french fries, coleslaw, and two pieces of white bread to soak up any excess chicken grease. Additionally, it is the best fried chicken I have found in the Chicago area.

The Food Lab: The Best Guacamole (and the Science of Avocados)

I'm not actually sure what the big problem with browning is for people. I mash the lime juice and garlic and some of the salt with the avocado (usually 1/2 a lime per avocado) before I add any other ingredients, and my guacamole will stay green for at least two days in the fridge, or three with a little browning starting to occur. I don't think it tastes overly sour or citrus-y and since I am known in multiple circles of friends as the best guacamole maker around, I don't think I am off in my estimation.


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