Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Reader recipes

Almost final call for your Battle of the Burgers recipe + Carl's (not Jr.) Burger

Consider this your warning: You have until 11 p.m. Sunday night to submit your best burger recipe to the L.A. Times' first-ever Battle of the Burgers.

Don't just sit there. Get cooking!

Here’s how it works: Go to our Facebook page and submit your hamburger recipe, along with a short essay on what makes this the baddest burger of all. A photograph will probably help -- you know how voters like pretty things.

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Our recipes, your kitchen: SippitySup takes a crack at our gratin

We love it when you try one of our L.A. Times Test Kitchen recipes.

We love it even more when you send us proof.

L.A. food writer and blogger Greg Henry -- you know him as SippitySup, and you should follow him onTwitter @SippitySup -- was inspired by our recent article on gratins. The story by Times Test Kitchen Manager Noelle Carter offered up some basic gratin guidelines, and then challenged readers to use the season's freshest produce to come up with their own gratin recipes.

Greg did just that. Here's his take on Carrot Béchamel Gratin. Thanks for sharing the recipe Greg, and thanks for letting us use the image in today's Food section. (Turn to Page F8. You DO subscribe to the paper, don't you!?!?)

If you try one of our Test Kitchen recipes, please let us know about it. Upload your photos of the finished dish here so we can share them on the Daily Dish blog. (Be sure to tell us if you have a food blog or a Twitter account, or other places where we can follow your latest food endeavors.)

--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Greg Henry / SippitySup

Welcome to the L.A. Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off

Holiday_cookies300 What's your favorite holiday cookie recipe? And what makes it so special? Why does your family love it so? And would you be willing to share that with the rest of us?

Welcome to the first-ever L.A. Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off. From now until Nov. 15, we welcome you to upload that recipe  -- and the story behind it -- to our database. We'd love a photo too!

Here's how the contest works: Readers will vote online for their favorite cookies. Go ahead -- vote for your own cookie, and ask your family and friends to cast their ballots in your favor too. From there, we're enlisting some pastry-chefs-in-training at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena to test the top vote-getters and help winnow them down to the 10 favorites.

We'll fete the winners in a style becoming a foodie: You'll come down to the L.A. Times Test Kitchen for photos and a tour. And we'll publish those recipes in the L.A. Times Food section in December.

Don't worry if your cookie isn't an original work of art. If your family's favorite cookie comes from Martha Stewart Living, no problem. We just ask that you do your best to give credit where credit is due. (And if you need some inspiration, check out some of our favorite cookies from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen.)

Most important, we want to know why it just wouldn't be a joyous holiday season in your household without your favorite cookie.

For you social-media hounds, join us on Twitter to chat about our favorite cookies: #LATcookies.

And let me be one of the first to say: Happy holidays!

--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Read the story behind these holiday cookies -- the ones Times staff writer Mary MacVean's mother made for her -- by clicking here. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

So you wanna be a Test Kitchen intern.... Meet Joe Moon



It's been a busy week in the Test Kitchen, and today is no different. We're just wrapping up another video shoot for KTLA's afternoon news "Eat Beat" segments, taping "how-tos" for recipes on whole wheat pancakes, a Dutch apple walnut loaf, fragrant nectarine jam and braised Romano beans. And we just finished testing some Culinary SOS requests we hope to run in the next few weeks.

While we're happy it's Friday, this is also a bittersweet day. Our intern Joe is leaving to finish his schooling at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Today is his last day.

Over the last few months, I've introduced some of our recent Test Kitchen interns, including Michael Osborne, Leo Rubin, Tara O'Reilly and, just this week, Kat Nitsou.

In addition to our full-time staff, we host interns from culinary schools all over the United States, including international students. These students receive hands-on training as they learn the finer points of recipe testing and development (recipe reading, wording, problem solving, adapting for the home kitchen and testing for consistent results). The students also learn tips for food styling and interact with chefs, writers and food professionals of all kinds.

And as much as they may learn from us, we also learn a lot from them. Hailing from various regions and with diverse ethnic backgrounds, our interns bring unique perspectives and passions to our kitchen, whether it's discussing the secret intricacies of a Texas-style "bowl o' red" or sharing a mother's technique for making Chinese bao. What we all share is a deep love of food.

Both Michael and Leo have since returned to the Culinary Institute of America (or CIA) to resume studies, Tara has gone to gain more experience in the kitchens of New York City, and Kat is here for another week before her own internship is completed.

Here, I introduce Joe Moon.

-- Noelle Carter

When I was about 10 years old, I attempted to make a grilled cheese sandwich for the first time.  I put a slice of American cheese between two slices of wheat bread and popped it in the toaster.  I was only going to leave the kitchen for a few minutes to watch TV,  but when I saw that my favorite cartoon was on, I was glued to the television and completely forgot about the sandwich.

After about half an hour, I ran into the kitchen. It was filled with smoke....


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Notes from the Test Kitchen interns: Recipe testing

About a week ago, I introduced Michael Osborne, one of our Test Kitchen interns. Probably the most important thing we teach our interns is how to read a recipe from a recipe tester's standpoint. Unlike the latitude we might take when we tackle a recipe at home, formally testing a recipe in a test kitchen is a whole different thing. We follow a recipe step by step, ruler and timer in hand, making notes on everything from what size saucepan we use to what the consistency for a finished sauce might be and how many minutes it takes to get there. Any questions we might have go through the chef or restaurant; we make no assumptions.

Michael worked a lot on our most recent Culinary SOS, our weekly column where we adapt readers' favorite restaurant and bakery recipes for the home. He tested and retested the recipe, double-checking ratios and making sure every step worked -- literally -- as it was written. Here are his notes. -- Noelle Carter

A reader loves the caramel banana bread pudding from a hotel in Phoenix, and we just got the recipe from the chef. It's a potential Culinary SOS, but will need to be tested before we can run it.

The recipe looks a little complicated. As we read through the ingredients and steps, we quickly note that the recipe will have to be scaled down -- a home cook doesn't need three gallons of custard to make a bread pudding for a family of four. Calculator and red pen in hand, we quickly adjust the recipe proportions and reduce the amounts to a manageable size. Simple math. The directions look a little nebulous: What are the visual cues? And what does the chef mean by "overripe bananas?" Do we toast or dry the cubed croissants -- and how big are the cubes? Time to get the chef on the horn and break out the ruler.

In the Test Kitchen, our normal M.O. is to take the recipe quite literally the first time we make it....

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Is this the best mac 'n' cheese ever?

At least one reader thinks this is the end-all, be-all macaroni and cheese. And who are we to argue? It's on the menu at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite, and they were kind enough to share the recipe with Culinary S.O.S.

On behalf of mac attacks everywhere, we thank them.

If you have a recipe you're just dying to get, please send an e-mail to Times Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter at noelle.carter@latimes.com. Just remember that we get dozens of requests every month, and sometimes restaurants aren't willing to share their best recipes. Lucky for us, Noelle is quite persuasive. Take a spin through this photo gallery of other SOS requests the Test Kitchen has been able to answer: 

--Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Family dinners, deep-fried cheese sandwiches and endless recipe-testing with Jack Bishop

Cheese Frenchees The reader recipes arrived by the thousands, just as Jack Bishop knew they would. Some were indecipherable. Some were clearly awful. But the majority were family treasures. And not just a tasty recipe for meatloaf or pot roast, but the story behind those recipes as well.

The result -- one of Bishop's latest projects, "Cook's Country Best Lost Suppers" -- is like pulling up a chair to the nation's kitchen tables. But consider yourself warned: Don't pick up this cookbook when you are in a rush to get dinner on the table; it's far too easy to get caught up in the personal stories that grace each page.

Bishop is the editorial director at Chris Kimball's America's Test Kitchen empire, which specializes in testing recipes and bringing readers and viewers along for the ride. He was in town this week to tape a few upcoming segments for Evan Kleiman's "Good Food," KCET and PBS, which broadcasts the TV version of "America's Test Kitchen."

Fortunately for the Daily Dish, Bishop had time for breakfast at Fig in Santa Monica. He had a cappuccino to start, followed by steel-cut oatmeal and a side of fresh seasonal fruit.

The conversation was all over the map: lamenting the loss of Gourmet magazine, his grandmother's 99th birthday, and why his wife, cookbook author and pastry chef Lauren Chattman, just might have one up on Martha Stewart. He also let us in on a little-known secret about the recipes that come out of the Brookline, Mass.-based "America's Test Kitchen" and end up in Cook's Illustrated, a food magazine that bucked convention long ago by rejecting all advertising, and has about a million paying subscribers to show for it. (Its sister publication, Cook's Country, has about 310,000 paying subscribers.)

After the jump: highlights from our conversation and two of his favorite recipes from the new book.

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More ways to wake up your cauliflower....


It's always great to hear when a recipe or technique inspires our readers. I've already received a number of e-mails about this week's Culinary SOS, featuring Ad Hoc's rice with roasted cauliflower. Readers loved the idea of roasting the cauliflower to enhance and broaden its depth of flavor.

I wanted to share one e-mail I received from Patrick in Los Angeles, who shared his own recipe for browning cauliflower in a skillet, which he then deglazes with a little mirin. Sounds wonderful!

"Hi Noelle: I enjoyed reading today’s SOS, 'Roasting Wakes Up Cauliflower.' I, too, was baffled about a year ago as to what to do at home with a fresh head of cauliflower. Steaming it just seemed too bland, and I wanted it as a side dish at the time. I didn’t think to roast it, but I did come up with a tasty and simpler way to 'wake it up.'

"I cut up the cauliflower and threw the crowns in a cast iron skillet, drizzled EV olive oil over them and sprinkled with salt and pepper. After letting the crowns brown on one side, I started stirring occasionally until they were browned throughout, but still slightly crunchy. Afterwards, I put about 1/4 cup or so of mirin cooking sake in the pan and covered it to let it “steam” in the wine. (I’ve used chardonnay as well.) Once most of the liquid cooked off, I uncovered the pan and turned the heat to high and further carmelized the crowns until browned to my liking. I have, on occasion, also put in green onions.

"The end result was great with rice and has been a staple as a side to meat and chicken in my kitchen as of late. I’ll try it with some curry powder next time! Thanks!"

Thanks so much Patrick, and to all those great ideas out there!  We love to hear from you, and will post what we can.

-- Noelle Carter

Photo: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Slow cookers: Break out those recipes

Does the cold, wet, blustery weather have you hankering for comfort foods -- and slow cooker recipes?

Times Test Kitchen Manager Noelle Carter is working on an upcoming story about slow cookers, and has been busy developing recipes for it. (We can say this much: Not all the recipes are for dinner. At least one recipe is for a dessert so good that some have already predicted it will be a front-runner for the Times' top recipes of 2009 -- and it's only February!)

Do you have any favorite slow cooker and crock pot recipes to share with the Daily Dish? Or how about some tips for converting your favorite recipes for crock pot use?

Please let us know -- leave a comment here. We'd like to use them as part of our upcoming feature on slow cookers.

--Rene Lynch

Nutella pizza and other suggestions

Nutella_pizzaThis week's Nutella story has three recipes that call for either homemade or purchased Nutella. Here's another one: Nutella pizza (right). Although you don't really need a recipe.

Just bake a crust using a basic pizza dough recipe (try using hazelnut oil instead of olive oil and adding a bit of sugar), and when the crust is still warm from the oven, assemble the pizza. I used homemade hazelnut-chocolate spread on this one, then added raspberries, bananas and toasted hazelnuts. The powdered sugar on the crust you get by placing a round piece of paper or parchment, cut small enough to show the crust, over the top of the pizza and sifting powdered sugar over the top. Or try shaved chocolate and strawberries. Or chocolate chips and cream whipped with orange zest.

Nutella is also great to frost cupcakes or cakes, to stir into a cup of hot chocolate (or coffee) and as a filling for panini. So far most of the suggestions I've gotten on my Facebook page are for eating the stuff on bread or with a spoon. If you have more ideas, or a favorite recipe that calls for Nutella, I'd love to hear about them.

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo of Nutella pizza by Amy Scattergood


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.