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3 Things You'd Never Thought You'd Make (but Should)

Photo: Thinkstock

Photo: Thinkstock

By Lynn Andriani

And no, I'm not talking about a whole barbecued octopus with two equally out-there sides. These three dishes are just a little beyond the norm, but doable. I came across them in a new food quarterly from chef David Chang called Lucky Peach. While the issue focuses on ramen, there are some hidden, non-ramen gems inside.

RELATED: How David Chang is Changing the Food Culture in America

Sauteed lettuce. This is part of a ramen-crusted skate recipe, but I'd skip the fish (leave dredging skate in instant-ramen breadcrumbs to Chang) and go straight to the vegetable: Add a head or two of iceberg or butter lettuce, torn, to a skillet that's already sizzling with a tablespoon of grapeseed oil and a "nice big knob of butter." Toss in a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the lettuce is wilted but not completely slack, one or two minutes. Chang gives bonus points if you season it with a dash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon.

RELATED: 8 Mouthwatering Meals That Can Last All Week

A soft-hard-boiled egg. Ivan Orkin, a New Yorker who runs a ramen restaurant in Tokyo, swears by this method for making a "not-quite-boiled egg," where the white is firm but the yolk is meltingly soft: Boil for six minutes and 10 seconds, plunge into ice water and peel. Cut with a piece of fishing line just before serving.

RELATED: 9 Scrumptious (and Energizing!) Breakfast Recipes

A recipe in haiku form.
 I've seen shorter recipes (take a look at @cookbook on Twitter if you haven't already; her 140-character recipes are genius), but none as poetic as Corn with Miso Butter and Bacon by Peter Meehan. Told in three haikus, it reads:

Render the bacon,
Add the corn. Jump and sizzle
As gold turns to brown.

Miso and butter
Join'd in equal proportions
Plop! Into the pan.

Splash stock, then toss. Glaze.
Crack slow-poached egg to crown like
Hokkaido sunset.

User food review: Mr. Peanut is Made Into Butter!

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I guess it was only a matter of time before Mr. Peanut put his face on the front of a jar of peanut butter, because everyone knows that he has graced the front of nearly every single package of peanut related products for decades now. The company has recently introduced its new line of peanut butter that comes in both creamy and crunchy to please every picky palate out there. Many companies are producing more peanut butter than ever and the competition for peanut butter is more intense than ever with more companies opting for a healthier version without the added oils, salt, and sugar; as well as the addition of different types of nut butters. Would Mr. Peanut be able to take control of the competitive peanut butter market or crack under the pressure?

Many people already have a favorite brand of peanut butter that they grew up with, and since Planter's is marketed towards adults you have to wonder how they are going to be able to crack the market. The taste has a strong peanut flavor to it which could be expected from Planters, however the taste of the overall product is a little too sweet which can be seen on the ingredients list with sugar being the second ingredient. The consistency of the creamy peanut butter is pretty smooth, which is easy enough to achieve if you have enough oil in the product as this one does with hydrogenated oils as the third ingredient. The bottom line is that if you were to even think about changing peanut butters at this time in your life (yea right) and didn't care about how healthy the peanut butter was (this isn't) then this could be an option for you. Overall (2 out of 5).

The pros are that it has a strong peanut flavor, and the consistency is smooth.

The cons are that it's a little too sweet, has some trans fat in it, and it's not what you grew up with.

Nutritional Information For 2 Tbsp:

  • Calories 180
  • Fat 15g
  • Sodium 150mg
  • Carbs 8g
  • Fiber 2g
  • Sugar 3g
  • Protein 8g

Mark Bittman on Shine: Loaded guacamole with chicken kebabs

photo by Freya Bellin

photo by Freya Bellin

It seems like everyone has his or her own guacamole secret. I can always be counted on to use a lot of garlic, a little jalapeno, cilantro, and lime. But it's always fun to add something new here and there, and this guacamole is in fact loaded with extras. I was pleasantly surprised by the unusual addition of shredded lettuce. It adds heft, almost like a guacamole salad, and cuts some of the richness of the avocado. Most importantly, it makes an excellent base for these kebabs, which are very easy to prepare. The simple marinade gives the chicken and veggies a nice kick, and the grill adds that signature smokiness. I made a little extra marinade and put some all-veggie kebabs on the grill, too. Mushrooms, eggplant, and zucchini are all great for grilling, in addition to the veggies in this recipe; really, anything goes. Try adding pineapple or other fruits for a sweet variation.

Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Loaded Guacamole with Chicken Kebabs

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 45 minutes, plus time to marinate

Guacamole, of course, can stand on its own—but it can also act as a support for plenty of other ingredients. Here the avocado is combined with corn kernels and lettuce, but you can use frozen peas, grilled or roasted asparagus, or ripe tomatoes. If you marinate the chicken ahead of time and mix the guacamole a little before serving, the meal comes together in a heartbeat.

12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs or legs, cut into 12 or 16 large chunks

1 large onion, cut into large chunks

8 ounces cherry tomatoes

1 bell pepper, any color, cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon chili powder

Salt and black pepper

3 avocados, skin and pits removed

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1 cup corn kernels (thawed frozen are fine)

2 cups shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce

1 fresh hot chile (like serrano or jalapeño), seeded and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

Lime wedges, for serving

1. If you're using wooden skewers (you'll need at least 8), soak them in water for 20 to 30 minutes while you prepare the chicken. Thread the chicken, onion, cherry tomatoes, and bell pepper alternately onto the skewers, leaving a little space between the pieces.

2. Combine the oil, 3 teaspoons of the garlic, the chili powder, and some salt and pepper; taste and adjust the seasoning. Brush the chicken and vegetables with the oil mixture and let marinate for at least a few minutes or up to 1 hour at room temperature. When you're ready to cook, prepare a grill or turn on the broiler; the heat should be medium-high and the rack about 4 inches from the fire.

3. Meanwhile, make the guacamole: Mash the avocados in a large bowl until they're as smooth or chunky as you like. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon garlic, the lime zest and juice, corn, lettuce, chile, and cilantro. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir, and taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to eat, but no longer than an hour or so.

4. Broil or grill the chicken kebabs, turning once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes (to check for doneness, cut into a piece with a thin-bladed knife; the center should be white or slightly pink). Spoon guacamole onto serving plates, top with the kebabs, garnish with cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.

The Food Matters Cookbook offers the most comprehensive and straightforward ideas yet for cooking easy, delicious foods that are as good for you as they are for the planet. The Food Matters Cookbook is the essential encyclopedia and guidebook to responsible eating, with more than 500 recipes that capture Bittman's typically relaxed approach to everything in the kitchen. There is no finger-wagging here, just a no-nonsense and highly flexible case for eating more plants while cutting back on animal products, processed food, and of course junk. But for Bittman, flipping the ratio of your diet to something more virtuous and better for your body doesn't involve avoiding any foods—indeed, there is no sacrifice here. With a tone that is easygoing and non-doctrinaire, Bittman demonstrates the satisfaction and pleasure in mindful eating.

10 Ways to Make Summer Berries Even Better

We know the feeling. Beautiful berries in reds and blues are winking up at you at the market this time of year -- before you know it, you're pints deep in glistening summer fruit.

The moment popping them straight in your mouth and sprinkling them on your cereal gets old, turn to these 10 gorgeous recipes -- great for swooping in last minute to save a summer brunch or dinner party.

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    • Blackberry, Rosemary, and Yogurt Popsicles
    • Berry Summer Pudding
    • Raspberry Custard Cups
    • Raspberry Acetosa Mojito
    • Lemony Cream Cheese Pancakes with Blueberries
    • Mom's Blueberry-Coconut Muffins
    • Blackberry Caipirinha
photo 1 of 10

Blackberry, Rosemary, and Yogurt Popsicles

Kids like to witness transformation, which is why they enjoy baking so much. Blobs of dough turn into round cookies. And batters rise to lofty cakes. So when I'm cooking with my kids, I try to focus on recipes that will completely change from start to finish. But I was not about to turn on the oven last weekend; it was the freezer's turn in the spotlight. Mission: popsicles. After a few hours, we had torpedo-shaped treats. And the three of us sat on the floor of the magical kitchen, eating our popsicles.- Amanda Hesser 

Head for the beach in 30 minutes or so--without leaving the kitchen!

Fish Tacos with Summer Salsa

Fish Tacos with Summer Salsa

4 Servings | Prep 30 min | Cook 8 min
1 pound halibut or other meaty white fish fillets
Juice of 2 limes
One 11-ounce can whole tomatillos, drained
4 small zucchini—peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves and stems
2-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
Eight 6-inch corn tortillas
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Hass avocado, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 225°. Place the fish in a medium bowl and drizzle with half of the lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Using your hands, squeeze the juice and flesh from the tomatillos, 1 at a time, into a medium bowl; discard the skins. Mash the tomatillos with a fork. Add the zucchini, the remaining lime juice, the cilantro and 2 teaspoons of the salt and toss.

Spread the tortillas on 2 baking sheets and warm in the oven for about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cayenne pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Remove the fish from the lime juice, pat dry and cover with the spice rub. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the fish, about 4 minutes on each side. Break the fish into bite-size pieces and season to taste with salt. Arrange the fish in the tortillas with some of the salsa and avocado slices.

Southern recipes inspired by "The Help"

Classic Southern recipes are featured in The Help, both the movie and the novel, and are as much a part of the action as Aibileen, Minny, Skeeter, and Hilly. Here are a few of the featured foods.

Chocolate Icebox Pie  Law mercy. Even Minny's Terrible Awful Thing couldn't keep us from trying this ultra-decadent pie made with homemade chocolate filling. It's topped with whipped cream and chopped chocolate candy bar pieces; what more could you ask for? 

Get the Recipe

Jennifer Davick

Jennifer Davick

Creamy Grits Casserole Celia never met a pork chop she couldn't burn, but she could do up grits like the queen of Sugar Ditch. If grits are a regular on your breakfast or brunch menu, try this decadent twist: Grits Casserole. Flavored with Gouda, Cheddar, and a dash of red pepper, these grits are no sides dish—they're the star of the show. As Abilene says, "That's all grits is, a vehicle. For whatever it is you rather be eating." Melty cheese, anyone?    
Get the Recipe

Charles Walton

Charles Walton

Curried Chicken Tea Sandwiches  Everyone knows that chicken salad is best when made the night before so that the flavors can meld together, so when Elizabeth asks Abileen if she's got the salad ready 20 minutes before bridge club, it's a wonder Abileen doesn't faint on the spot. Next time, she should try this chicken salad recipe; the hit of curry will serve as smelling salts, should the need arise again.   
Get the Recipe

Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Southern Sweet Tea  In the South, the way a person handles a beverage can be telling. Stirring the sugar into the tea a little too long? We're deep in thought. Tinkling the ice around in the glass? We may not like your outfit. Holding the ice-cold glass of tea against our wrist? We're just plain hot! Cool off with a tall glass of the South's signature drink.

The best way to serve beer (aka how summer just got better)

Michelada #1

Michelada #1

A Michelada is a Mexican drink served so many ways it's hard to say which is the original. The one I discovered this summer can't truly be called a "beer cocktail" because you don't mix it with anything. What makes it special is what lies on the rim of its glass, so I prefer to just call it: How a beer realizes its potential. For people who love Mexican flavor, this drink turns a beer into a party. Prepare to walk a tasty road to greatness.

Here's what you need for one glass:

1 lime
1 glass (a Mason jar works well because it has a thick rim)
Mexican hot sauce (like Chalula)
1 very cold pale Mexican beer (Tecate, Corona, Pacifica, etc.)

1. Cut a wedge from the lime and cut a slit in its center.
2. Hook the slit onto the rim of the glass and slide it all the way around to wet it. Remove the lime wedge and save.
3. Pour salt into a small dish that is bigger than the circumference of your glass and turn your glass over onto it so that the rim of the glass is covered in salt.
4. The hot sauce is the tricky part. If you're not careful it'll come out like Michelada #2, which isn't all bad if 
Michelada #2

Michelada #2

you like it spicy. Carefully trace the rim of the glass with hot sauce. If your hot sauce doesn't have a small nozzle you can put some sauce in a small dish, as you did with the salt, and apply the hot sauce that way.
5. Pour beer into glass.
6. Reapply lime to rim for presentation.
7. Squeeze lime into beer before drinking.

P.S. Many Micheladas call for ice, but I skip it.

16 Foods That Should Be Banned From Weddings

Crudite Platters with Ranch Dip

Crudite Platters with Ranch Dip

This is a wedding, not your monthly book club night. Crudités just don't feel synonymous with (what we hope is) one of life's defining moments. If you're looking for something inexpensive and vegetarian for cocktail hour, try edamame hummus, falafel balls, or vegetable tamales. 

New! Dinner on the grill -- for less than $3 a person

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    • Pork Skewers with Pineapple-Scallion Rice
    • Honey-Mustard Chicken with Potato Wedges
    • Spicy Steak Salad with Mint and Cucumber Noodles
    • Hawaiian Pizza
    • Hot-Sauce Chicken with Grilled Green Beans
    • Penne alla Vodka and Grilled Chicken Pizza
    • Grilled Sausage Salad with Ginger Crostini
photo 1 of 8

Pork Skewers with Pineapple-Scallion Rice

4 Servings | Prep 20 min (plus marinating) | Cook 20 min
One 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks in their juice, drained and juice reserved
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 pounds pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice

1. In a resealable plastic bag, combine the pineapple juice, garlic, soy sauce, ginger and oil; season with salt and pepper. Add the pork and scallions and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cups salted water to a boil. Add the rice, cover and cook over low heat for 18 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, thread the marinated pork and two-thirds of the pineapple chunks onto four 10-inch skewers and the marinated scallions onto one 10-inch skewer. Grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until golden and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

4. Coarsely chop the remaining pineapple chunks and stir into the cooked rice. Remove the grilled scallions from the skewer and stir into the rice. Serve the pork kebabs with the pineapple-scallion rice.

8 Delicious Things to Do With Mint

Source: 8 Delicious Things to Do With Mint

With its strong familiar fragrance and structured bright leaves, mint is an easy herb to identify. It also thrives when growing and can take over the pot it's planted in, so it's best to grow mint in its own area. If you have mint in your garden, you might end up with a surplus of the flavorful leaves, but there's plenty of ways to make use of this hearty herb. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Use as a flavoring agent in a salad. Think outside the box and toss chopped mint with fresh peas for a fast side dish or peaches for aslightly sweet fruit salad.
  2. Make mint pesto. Instead of serving the pesto with pasta, offer with a protein like shrimp or lamb chops.
  3. Make homemade mint chip ice cream. Before making the custard, the milk is steeped with tons of fresh mint.
  4. Use in a cocktail. Not only is mint essential for mojitos, but it's also an important ingredient in mint juleps. For an unexpected preparation stir into a Champagne limoncello concoction.

More from YumSugar: The Basics: Herb Butter

  1. Make mint jelly. The classic condiment is traditionally served with lamb dishes, but would work with chicken or fish.
  2. Make an herb mayonnaise with mint and slather on the toasted buns of a lamb burger.
  3. Use like a green in an eggplant and feta sandwich.
  4. For a refreshing drink, infuse water (or tea) with mint, cucumber, and citrus. Enjoy over ice garnished with a mint sprig.

What do you make with mint?