Red Velvet Cake questions.

A lot of bakers--myself included--would say that most cakes actually benefit from a stint in the freezer (tightens the crumb). Freezing it overnight will not be a problem at all, and is probably a better approach than leaving it out (to potentially dry) and then freezing just before cutting and frosting. Just be sure that the cakes are thoroughly cooled to avoid condensation and well wrapped to avoid absorption of odors.

I would take the cakes out a couple of hours before you plan to cut and frost. Mostly thawed cakes will work ok, but I have had less success when the cakes are more than slightly frozen.

I imagine that the call for freezing one hour before cutting is to get it to the semi-frozen state. Perhaps this is a very moist (ie., potentially very crumbly) cake, in which case, it might be too soft to cut and handle at room temperature.

Please report back on the results and how you like this particular recipe. I've been looking for an excuse to make a red velvet.

looking for a good food book or cookbook to read

Secrets of the Red Lantern is a newish cookbook that I recently enjoyed reading. It's the story of a Vietnamese family, covering the author's parents' memories of Vietnam during and after the war and their subsequent move to Australia, as well as her experience growing up in an immigrant family and in her family's restaurant. The family story is a bit harrowing, but the writing is well done, the book is beautiful, and there are many, many recipes.

Nigel Slater is also an excellent recommendation.

One of my favorite cookbooks to read is Nigella Lawson's How to Eat.

Favorite soupbook?

Everything I've made from the Daily Soup cookbook has been excellent, although it's a bit on the complicated side. I also love Deborah Madison's recipes, and she has a soup book (vegetarian).

Bake or Roast?

I thought that traditionally, baking was done in an enclosed oven and roasting over a fire.

What to do with Tarragon...

In a chicken and mushroom stew with a bit of cream and white wine...yum

Moroccan Hors D'Oeuvres?

You can do some lamb meatballs in tomato sauce. It's been ages since I made some, and the recipe was not really a recipe, more of a eyeball-it set of guidelines (ground lamb, parsley, mint, cumin, onion powder, baking soda). Here's a recipe (I haven't tried it), but there are many around:

Chiles in London

Several years ago I had no problem locating anchos and chipotles at a larger Sainsburys (O2 Centre). There's also the Spice Shop on Notting Hill, which might carry guajillos (they have them on their website):

casserole and sides.

I generally like something green with casserole: salad, or steamed broccoli, or maybe some spinach. For King Ranch, I would also like some corn, off the cob, although I know it's not the most nutritionally balanced meal.

Needed: 5 star chicken dinner side

I vote for panzanella, it's so delicious. If you're set on a puree, you could try broccoli. I think Giada has a recipe with butter and parm, but there's got to be others out there.

I like mashed potatoes with roast chicken. A decadent version with garlic, it's a puree.

Key Lime Pie: Part Deux: The Transport Issue...

In a pinch, I've gone to my local grocery bakery department and bought one of their disposable containers. Cost about a dollar.

grilled potatoes

@ Ribster I think they were red potatoes (from my CSA)

grilled potatoes

I tried grilling potatoes a few weeks ago (1/2 to 3/4 inch slices, simply brushed with olive oil and seasoned) and they were terrible: dry tough surface, dry interior.

Any suggestions how to make them good?

What food do you never cook because your too nice?

Mac and cheese here as well (surprised it's come up so often, I always thought that everyone loved it), and any kind of Mexican food that involves a tortilla (I'd say Mexican food in general but honestly it slips past most of the time, so long as there isn't a tortilla in the picture). He just doesn't like them. Also, cornbread.

And pancakes, which makes me sad.

Smoked Paprika sub?

There is artificially flavored liquid smoke, which is quite inferior, but natural liquid smoke is also widely available ; just check the ingredients. I use one by Colgin and was really surprised how much I like it.

Ancho chile powder has a nice flavor as mentioned above, and cumin can be helpful too. Even better if you toast them dry in a skillet before using.

Purple Potatoes from South America

They look really cool chopped and roasted with zucchini or yellow squash. Season well with garlic, some chopped onion, and whatever you prefer.

Collecting really local cookbooks

One of my favorite cookbooks to use and to read is a Junior League cookbook out of Houston (where I grew up) Stop and Smell the Rosemary. It's tends towards the elegant yet approachable, and the recipes are thoroughly tested and show a lot of the local influences (Texan, Cajun, Southern).

It was one of the first cookbooks I ever had (Christmas gift)

Food Network, enough cakes already!!!

I like Ace of Cakes, and I've watched a few cake shows, but I absolutely agree that way too many hours are devoted to them, and of course, it's not even the "food" aspect that is the focus: these are frosting sculptures, and I wouldn't doubt if most of them tasted blah. If it was a pastry competition, about the actual food and not merely the decoration, I'd be much more interested.

What Fictional Foods Do You Wish Were Real?

I would also like a krabby patty.

Trying to use less butter

Try Earth Balance. They make a tasty vegan butter substitute that works for baking, and they also do a 50/50 blend with butter. They also make a stick shortening without the bad stuff:

I've tried a pastry crust from Sally Schneider that was intended to have less fat, and it turned out very well. It only has 4 tbs. butter. If you eat baked goods often, it's good to have up your sleeve:

Do you Ever Make Food you Wouldn't Eat in a Restaurant?

Browned lettuce. I don't mind a few dark edges on a salad at home, but if I see it at a restaurant, it peeves me (happened all the time in England).

As far as cooked ingredients go, you can be sure that most restaurants would not throw out any veg just for a little tiredness. They get used, somewhere.

Tomato Sauce outta can? Gross!

I like to keep spaghetti sauce on hand for emergency quick cheap meals. For less than a dollar, I can get a can of Hunts mushroom and garlic tomato sauce, which is not overly sweet and has no corn syrup. The best tomato sauce, no, but totally fine for most purposes.

Some potluck etiquette questions...

And for #5 - the paper goods are necessary/appreciated.

Sorry about the stepmom situation: does she really bin your gifts, or is it possible she hides them away to eat on her own after everyone's gone?

Cook the Book: 'Modern Spice'

Proper Chinese food. And Indian.


I think morgancain nailed it.

Summer BBQ - How to deal with something tactfully

It's brownies with cinnamon. Take your favorite brownie recipe--or a mix--and just add cinnamon. There's nothing esoteric or ethnic about them, and also nothing unmanageable: brownies with cinnamon.

Easier than a flan, certainly easier than churros, and while it's a bit oddly demanding, the most tactful way to deal with it is to show up with some Mexican brownies. I was expecting you to say she asked you to make baklava or mochi or something.

Assuming you have a good brownie recipe, they are also delicious, whatever you decide to call them.

Michael Pollan's latest for the NYTimes

More of a heads up than anything:

Another fantastic article from Pollan appears in the Times this week. This one's about home cooking, or more precisely, our lack thereof, particularly in the age of the Food Network.

One nice quote:

"Bear with me. Consider for a moment the proposition that as a human activity, cooking is far more important — to our happiness and to our health — than its current role in our lives, not to mention its depiction on TV, might lead you to believe. Let’s see what happens when we take cooking seriously."

I haven't got the time or energy for a thoughtful response, but if you haven't read this article (it's a long one), I highly suggest making the time to get through it.

Help needed ASAP: Can I fix my whipped cream/ganache mess?

I'm making Dorie Greenspan's buttermilk cake with white chocolate cream and dark chocolate cream for party that is tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon

The white chocolate filling calls for mixing 6 oz. melted white chocolate with 1/2 cup heavy cream, cooling to room temp, whipping 1 cup of cream to soft peaks, then pouring in the cooled white chocolate mixture and whipping it together to firm peaks.

When I tried this, it went from soft peaks to butter almost immediately. I don't know how I can manage to make another trip to the store to start over.

So, I heated the mixture and stirred it smooth. It is now chilling in the fridge.

Can anyone tell me if I might have something resembling white chocolate ganache in the morning, and if so, I can whip it to a light consistency? Any other fixes available to me?

On hand, I have powdered sugar, sour cream, and cream cheese. I know that if I must I can make a cream cheese frosting but I think that light/fluffy is the right texture here. But if some of those might help stabilize the mixture I have now, please let me know.

Any help is very much appreciated. Thanks!

Alinea Cheese in Cracker?

(Preface: this is a ridiculously specific question, I know...)

I have not tried this recipe, but from the blogs, it looks manageable enough. Has anyone here tried it?

I have one question that I can't answer from the various bloggers who have posted on it: does the cheese sauce recipe yield enough to fill the whole batch of dough? The recipe in the book only goes through 1/4 of the dough (save the rest for another use), but it's not clear whether the sauce recipe is only for 1/4 of the dough, or for the whole batch. I'd like to try it this weekend for a party, but I'm not sure how much cheese I'll need to buy. I know I want to make more than 8 crackers, though.


Morels - where did I go wrong?

I was talked into picking up fresh morels at Central Market a couple of days ago. I was excited, having read so much about them. I checked a couple of recipes, then ever so briefly rinsed them, dried them, and sauteed with sweet onion and asparagus before tossing with hand-made pasta (ie., by my hands) and a touch of cream.

Looked beautiful, but one bite and yuck! sooo gritty. I can endure a lot when I'm already a bit tired and feel done with the cooking, but this was unbearable. I separated the veggies from the pasta before (yikes) rinsing the pasta off and starting over with a little butter, etc. Sauce and texture of the pasta are okay now, and most of the sand seems gone. But the morels, I don't get. Not so much flavor, and some of them still feel like biting into a smudge of mud. Terrible.

Where did I go wrong? I tried to pick small morels that had a deep color and a dry but not dried texture. Should I have cleaned them some other way? Are the stems to be trimmed and discarded? And the taste (not so much)? Were these bad morels ($29/lb.)? Was it my fault, or do I just not get it?

Thanks everyone


Just wondering if anyone else has tried Aerogarden for herbs, lettuces, or tomatoes. How did you like it?

I got one for Christmas and was excited about it. Set it up in mid January, and I am sad to say that the only herb that really seemed to thrive was basil. My dill does all right, but mint hasn't really got going (not any usable quantity), and same for my chives, which I was so excited to have. Oregano and thyme do okay, except last week the thyme started to die.

I admit that I let it go dry the week before I took the bar, but it was a matter of 3 days. Could that have been enough to make irreversible damage?

If anyone has tried the lettuce or tomato pods, how did you like them? I'd love to have chives and dill available all the time, but not if it means 2-3 plants I don't use. Would it really be a terrible thing to mix the sets?

Unseasonably warm weather food?

It's not too uncommon for temps to reach the 80s here at this time of year, but tomorrow we're getting close to 90.

So my question is, what do you like to eat when the temperature far surpasses the season? I'm craving something fresh and bright (especially since I've been able to cook for the past couple of weeks), but the produce hasn't caught up to the temperature... Maybe it's time to hit the citrus hard.

Vegan side dish needed, to anyone who's out there

I'm grilling some jalapeno sausages and some shrimp tonight, and I plan to do some veg kebabs (zucchini, red pepper, mushroom).

But I need a side dish that is:
- grain or starch-based (additional veggies are welcome)
- vegan (and will make a suitable meal with the grilled veg)
- guy-friendly
- amenable to, basically, Mexican flavors.

I've considered a simple rice pilaf (red or white) but wonder if anyone has a more exciting suggestion.

Thanks in advance, there's always such a helpful host of people around here.

Food storage disaster

We just replaced our last broken fridge a month ago, and now this one is out too. At least in the last fridge, the freezer still worked, so I moved everything I could to the freezer, which is basically full of meat. Then when we replaced it, I stocked up on frozen meals (for work lunches) and frozen fruits (for smoothies).

Now I have an unfrozen freezer full of meat, Weight Watchers meals, and frozen fruits and a few veg.

Question: assuming I can find a way to keep these items cold (not frozen), what might be re-freezable? Will my dinner table look like some kind of Viking feast tomorrow? What's the simplest way I can cook cuts of meat, if I have to cook and then chill and re-freeze?

Recipe for NYC-style candied nuts?

Saw a post on emeril's blog and it reminded me how much I loved those candied nuts that you can get from the street vendors. Anyone have a good way to duplicate them in my home, far far away from Manhattan?

I know there are lots of spiced/candied nuts out there, but these seem quite simple and at least a cursory search didn't turn up anything. Is it the same glaze as the guys in the (sniff) mall kiosks?

Thanks everyone.

Popcorn Poppers

I love stovetop popcorn but am getting tired of standing and shaking the pan (something about the sound and feel of the pan rubbing against the stove, I hate it). So I'm looking into getting some help. Has anyone got experience and opinions on Whirly Pops or the Stir Crazy poppers? Pros/cons, or other recommendations?

Thanks in advance, everyone.

Fresh Cranberries: Savory Applications?

Bought a bag on a whim, and now have no idea what to do with it. I'd like to avoid dessert, although I did spot a nice looking crumble on this site, if all else fails.

But does anyone have suggestions for fresh cranberries, besides dessert or breakfast (sweets, basically?).

In the last alternative, have anyone tried drying them at home? I have a dehydrator, but this would really be the last resort.

Many thanks all.

Cake decorations? For a guy?

I'm making a birthday cake for a guy, and wondering what I could do to decorate it. I have piping bags and tips, but am by no means a master of piping.

It's going to be a large sheet cake, which is why I'm having troubles. A 9-inch round cake, no problem. But this is a vast space.

The other thing is, I'm not certain whether to go chocolate or non-chocolate. I see a lot of cool decorations in chocolate, but he tends to prefer lemony desserts, so I might go white/lemon. And I haven't seen any light decorations that aren't feminine or even bridal.

Anyone have any suggestions? I'm willing to do a bit of work, but I am not Wilton-trained.

Turkey parts - should I brine?

I'm cooking turkey pieces this year, due to an initial expectation of just the 2 of us. Now it looks like we'll have a couple of guests, so I bought a little more turkey because I want to have leftovers.

Anyway, I now have 2 split breast halves (on the bone) and 3 thighs from free range turkeys. I don't want to go as far as braising them (a la Bittman's recent suggestion), I do want to roast them as traditionally as possible.

My question is, should I brine the breasts? Since I can cook them separately, the potential for overcooking is alleviated. I'm hesitant to brine because, with other poultry, I've found that the results seem like lunchmeat, mushy and diluted in meaty flavor.

I made turkey stock today with some necks, so I'm not worried much about gravy. But I've never roasted turkey breast on its own, and I'd hate to miss the chance to do it right. Should I stick with the dry pre-salting, a la Judy Rogers? Any other tips or experience cooking turkey parts?

Best use for frozen salmon?

I bought a whole (fresh) salmon at Whole Foods a few weeks ago, and the man at the counter cut it into steaks and fillets. We grilled a couple of the steaks that night and they were beautiful and delicious. I froze the remaining packages.

Last week I thawed the remaining steaks in the fridge, overnight, and grilled them. They were terrible. Lousy texture, dull flavor. I'm new to grilling, so will concede that I might have cooked them poorly, but would like to ask if anyone has tips for preparing (and even simply thawing) frozen salmon. Perhaps grilling was just too simple and straightforward for thawed fish?

Thanks all.

Best lunch kits (for grown-ups)

Wondering if anyone has recommendations for a "grown-up" lunchkit. Something that won't look ridiculous next to a briefcase.

I had a Mr. Bento before and grew to resent it--very bulky and heavy, and as it turned out, I didn't need to bring that much food. Once all the containers were spread out, I needed almost a whole table, and I felt a little pompous.

Summer-friendly ideas for veal chuck roast?

I have a small one in my freezer that I didn't get around to cooking a month or so ago. Now I'm looking for ideas for it that aren't heavy braises. I've never cooked veal before.

Caveat: I do not have access to a grill.

Thanks everyone.

Comfort foods: men vs. women?

Caught a tidbit in the NYTimes City Room blog today that I hadn't heard before:

Is There Any Comfort in a $30 TV Dinner?
By Jennifer 8. Lee

...Research out of Cornell University suggests that females tend to prefer snack-related comfort foods (candy and chocolate) while males prefer more meal-related comfort foods (pasta or casseroles). The researchers speculate that the gender differences may relate to upbringing. Men may have been conditioned to prefer hot or labor-intensive meals (conjuring up memories of their mothers taking care of them) while women seek convenient comfort foods (a form of self-indulgence)"

At first I thought, that's not true, I am female and I like "dinner" foods for comfort. Then I realized that it doesn't work as well if I have to make the macaroni or soup myself. But candy and chocolate never cut it for me, because I like cooked or somehow prepared food. So I guess what comforts me is having a bit of fuss made over me, while the convenient foods are just too cold.

Anyway, not sure if there's much of a question there, so how's this: we've talked about what our favorite comfort foods are; I'd like to hear the reasons why they are so comforting.

I need to use protection (skin allergies and food prep)

Turns out I might be allergic to the onions and/or garlic I love so dearly. The fingers on my left hand are suffering mightily from contact with something, and I need to find a way to avoid/minimize contact.

I have a little food processor but it's kind of a pain to be using every day, not to mention it won't do small quantities of garlic.

I'm looking for suggestions about favorite garlic presses and any weird gadgets/grips that are useless for most people but might help me out. I like using my knife for food prep, but I also like using my left hand for general living.

Thanks a bunch.

Tongues - for eating

I have a recipe that calls for calves' tongue. Can't get that, so I bought a beef tongue. I know it's not the same but I'm fine with that. I have 2 questions, though.

1. How much time do I have between purchase (yesterday) and cooking? I hope to cook tomorrow (Saturday). Since I think of the tongue as a muscle meat rather than organ (kidneys, etc), I think I can take the extra day before cooking. Please tell me if I am wrong.

2. Blanching: my recipe only blanches: bring to a boil and then drain. But my guide to meat calls for a 12 hour soak in cold water, followed by a dip into boiling water, peeling, sprinkling with salt, and 24 hours in the fridge. Both versions occur before the simmering with aromatics, etc. Since I have the beef--and not calf--tongue, should I take the 36 hours prep (which would solve my first question)? Is it better to simmer before or after peeling?

Thanks to anyone with a little experience here. I've eaten but never cooked this before.

Food for a stressed student stomach?

I'm surely not the only one in the thick of exams around here. I definitely feel the stress in my stomach (and I do mean stomach, and not a euphemism for anything else). I know it's especially important to eat healthy and stay fueled during times like this, with many all-nighters and lots of pressure. Unfortunately, it's the only time I can honestly say that I lose my appetite. My stomach is in a knot, strong flavors are unappealing, and the simple act of eating is hard to do. I have another 8 days of this.

Any recommendations for friendly foods? What keeps you going when you're under the gun (and I don't mean coffee)?

Thanks in advance and sorry if I don't reply too much (preoccupied, obv'ly).

WTF is on my swiss chard?

I was cleaning this chard from the farmers market (organic) and the last 2 leaves have something strange on them, neither appears to be "organic".

One is a bunch of tiny dots, in 2 shades of brown, connected together.
The other has 2 tiny opalescent beads on it. It doesn't come through in the picture, they just look like white dots, but they shimmer like pearls.

Pics are linked.

Does anyone know what this is, before I show them to my conspiracy-theory/UFO-obsessed husband? Are they coming for us?

strawberry ice cream - recipes?

Anyone have a tried and true recipe? I've only made it once before from a Nigella book. It used 10 egg yolks, and I think that's why I didn't like it. It was just too slimey/coating in the mouth. I'm not looking to go frozen yogurt here, but somewhere between 10 yolks and zero must be the good place.

Also, my ice cream experience is very limited. I usually make sorbet. But I'm not afraid of custards.

Thanks in advance.

Rachal Ray's oval pan

I don't want to start another discussion about her personality or hr food, but I seem to catch her show more and more frequently, and I'm starting to get intrigued by her pan.

Has anyone used a pan like this, oval-shaped? Is there much advantage to this shape?

Green garlic/ garlic scapes

Had another impulse at the market today and bought a bunch of green garlic. I'm surprised that none of my books have much to say about it, not even mentioned in my big veggie book.

It looks like scallions, so I assume I can use it that way, but I wonder if anyone has a particularly favored dish? Also, I noticed that it's already pretty mild raw. Would cooking it diminish the flavor?

Also, does anyone know what is a garlic scape? Is it the same as the green parts of the green garlic?


Favorite Cheap Homemade Meal?

What's your favorite cheap homemade meal? Let's say a meal for 2 under $5. Mine would be rice with stewed tomatoes. After that would be potato soup. What would yours be?... More