4 Whip-Smart Recipes (& Tricks!) to Add to Your Go-To List

The results are in! Here are the recipes our community loved from the Your Best Recipe with a Smarty Pants Trick or Technique contest. And it’s clear: You’ve got a lot of smarts.

Once again, we want to give a big, big thanks to all of our volunteer recipe testers for your thoughtful comments and for helping us continue to strengthen our recipe recommendations. You can read their comments on the recipe pages of the dishes featured below. And even if the recipe you tested wasn’t chosen as a Community Pick, please feel free to leave your notes in the recipe’s comments section. Constructive criticism is always encouraged!

A Versatile Italian Sauce, Powered by Your Pantry

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Zippy Salsa Tonnato (Cold Tuna Sauce)
by Bogre

Bogre‘s Zippy Tonnato (a.k.a. cold tuna sauce—but don’t let that turn you off!) is a “rustic pantry sauce turned flavor-bomb condiment,” stretching to top crostini, or sauce pasta, or liven up your crudité platter. We doled the tonnato over a large plate, then topped it with an assortment of blanched (asparagus, snap peas), boiled (potatoes), and raw (radishes, Romanesco) vegetables.

What’s the trick to a fully flavored tonnato? Before adding the ingredients to the food processor, Bogre cooks the canned tuna with onion, fennel, radishes, hot pepper flakes, white wine, capers, and parsley—you’ll want to spoon the mixture right onto your plate before it’s even finished. Bogre also reserves the oil the tuna is packed it to incorporate into the finished purée—smart and thrifty.

For an upscale tuna melt, Bogre recommends spreading it on an open-faced croissant, topping with slices of tomatoes and cheese, and sending the whole sandwich under the broiler.

The Six-Ingredient, Cheesy Herby Pasta (a.k.a. Last-Min Din)

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A Cure for the Blues Pasta
by luvcookbooks

Oh hello, favorite new weeknight six-ingredient pasta dinner. Inspired by a recipe from Deborah Madison’s The Savory Way, luvcookbooks calls this dish “as comfortable as an old shoe”—and we can see why.

The trick is to melt some blue cheese in a small bowl that’s floating in the same pot where the pasta is cooking (really, just do it!)—it’s time-saving, energy efficient, and the tiniest bit risky. (Tip: If your pot threatens to overflow, turn down the heat.)

Thinned with a bit of pasta water, that melted cheese becomes a not only sufficient but delicious sauce, all on its own. Mix in buttery walnuts and a handful of parsley and you’ve got dinner.

Vegan Brownies Even Non-Vegans Will Eat Up

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Chocolate Brownies with Tofu
by Eleni

We were, admittedly, a bit skeptical of Eleni‘s vegan brownies, which are made by blending two cups of brown sugar with 350 grams of silken tofu (tofu!) in a food processor before incorporating the dry ingredients.

But the brownies were satisfyingly rich and moist, with pockets of fudginess from the layer of chocolate chunks laying in wait in the middle of the pan.

Let it be known that this recipe is not for diehard fudgy fans: The brownies have a soft, tender crumb that pushes them closer to the cakey side of the brownie texture spectrum.

No-Churn Ice Cream Cake That’s Easy to Make & Hard to Resist

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Mrs. Owen’s Unchurned Ice Cream Cake
by creamtea

One forkful of creamtea‘s unchurned ice cream cake and you’ll understand why she used to beg her mother to make it. A faux “ice cream” base that’s rich and tangy from the addition of cream cheese and crême fraîche gets poured over a simple graham cracker base, then frozen solid.

Community tester Carla Fisher said it was “easy to make and hard to stop eating” and that all ice cream should include cream cheese.

While the cake is “scrumptious served perfectly plain, allowing the tang of the cream cheese to shine,” creamtea also suggests topping it with berries, crystallized ginger, or pretzels (we think chocolate-covered pretzels would be particularly good). And Carla has hopes of swapping the sugar for treacle or molasses, or dipping the finished squares in chocolate, then refreezing for chocolate-covered, ice cream bites.

What’s your favorite recipe that uses a special trick or technique? Tell us in the comments below.

How on Earth Is Fried Chicken the Best First Date Food?

Earlier this week, Hinge, one of many dating apps that caters to lonely hearts in their mid-20s, released the findings of its survey regarding the best ways a first date can guarantee a second date. Respondents were concentrated in major metropolitan areas across the country—New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.

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Is It Ever Okay to Sneak Food into a Movie Theater?
by Mayukh Sen

There are some vaguely interesting insights hidden in the survey. For example, 79% of respondents in New York prefer to go to movies or shows on their first dates. The most popular drink to get on a first date is the Bloody Mary at 50%, trailed by an old fashioned at 35%.

But I was utterly confounded, borderline awestruck, at respondents’ admission that the food most likely to guarantee a second date was fried chicken, commanding 24% of the vote. (Not far behind was, simply, “vegan” at 23%. Poor pancakes, sitting soppily at 9%, behind pizza’s 15% and sushi’s 19%.)

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Our 12 Best Fried Chicken Recipes (& the One That’s Right for You)
by Caroline Lange

Well, I’m not quite sure what to say. I’m usually self-conscious and dainty with my food on a first date if I opt for dinner (which I rarely do), ordering a small plate of salad alongside a drink. I’m careful not to expose my messy, occasionally feral eating habits—which tend to emerge when, say, I’m facing a bucket of fried chicken.

Fried chicken when you’re in a relationship? Sure; no problem. I’d even consider ordering it on a third date, if the vibe’s right. But the only first date I can remember where I ordered fried chicken also happened to be my last with that person.

What’s the verdict: Is fried chicken an acceptable date food? And what is the best first date food, anyway? Make your voice heard in the comments section.

The Unexpected Seating Shape America Isn’t Ready For

New York design week is as thrilling as it is overwhelming, but the best things always are. It’s sort of like Brimfield, but also it’s the exact opposite: an addictive marketplace where, instead of shoppers and shopkeepers uncovering the past’s best work, designers put the present (and future) firmly on display—and up for sale. Here’s what’s trending.

Utensils Are The Next Big Thing

If you’ve never really paid much attention to your utensils—kitchen, garden, bath, or otherwise—designers are proposing that you do so now. Montreal designer Loïc Bard’s minimalist spoons aren’t merely finished in a matte black—they’re literally torched to achieve that smoky hue; Grain Design shared these primitive-looking hand-carved “sculptures,” on display at Soho’s BDDW showroom; and DWR had an entire collection, Furnishing Utopia: Shaker Design Influence Now, that looked at modern interpretations of the almost monastic design vernacular.

And I don’t even shave, but Good Thing’s collaboration with Harry’s on a line of conceptual shave brushes, has me reconsidering my beard’s appeal.

Marble Is Going To Take Over Your Home—in New & Exciting Ways

Marble has proven its staying power in the design world, and this year we saw the distinctive style manifest itself in fresh new ways. Exhibit A: This super-chic platter from Other Kingdom, which might just be poised to usurp Max Lamb’s ubiquitous marmoreal serving boards as the tray du jour.

Cut Out Platters are available for pre-sale now on our website! ☝️link in bio⠀

A post shared by @other_kingdom on

If you need more surface area covered, look to Aesthetic Pursuit designer Jenny Kaplan’s Pieces collection, which put marble to use on tabletops large and small—all of them equally covetable. Last, but not least, the humble bud vase got a bold new faceted shape and a marbleized makeover from design studio Response Response.

The Unexpected Seating Shape America Isn’t Ready For

It’s like a lounge chair and a love seat in one—the love lounge? Maybe best described as an oversized armchair, I first encountered the uniquely proportioned seat at SP01’s Over / Under pop-up showroom in Soho, where it stole the show in an orangey-hued aniline leather on a natural ash frame.

I came across a similar-sized seat at Arper’s showroom, where the old-school Italian brand collaborated with the new-wave design gurus behind Sight Unseen on a series of 80s office-inflected furniture tableaus.

Then I discovered Philippe Malouin’s foam Mollo armchair and realized that this indulgent new seat size has firmly gripped the imaginations of design’s biggest creative minds. Are you ready?

Outdoor Furniture That Could Be Indoors

Another takeaway from SP01’s incredible Over / Under showing: We all need to think about bringing our outdoor furniture inside, stat.

SP01 Designer @tom_fereday has been selected as a @nycxdesign Awards finalist in the Emerging Product Designer category for his SP01 Outdoor collection 👏🏽 ⠀ ⠀ Pictured is the Jeanette chair and Eileen circular table from Tom's SP01 Outdoor Collection. ⠀ ⠀ Photo by @brookeholm ⠀ ⠀ Winners and honorees will be announced on May 20th at 6pm in NY during a ceremony taking place at MoMA that will be streamed on @interiordesignmag ’s Facebook page.⠀ ⠀ @ladiesandgentlemenstudio @cc_tapis @modernprinciple @dadagoldberg #sp01design #tomfereday #contemporarydesign #sp01outdoor #australiandesign #madeinitaly #italianmade #interiordesign #italiandesign #apartment #apartmentdesign #interiors #ICFF #NYCxDesign #newyorkdesignweek #ladiesandgentlemenstudio #modernprinciple #cctapis #dadagoldberg

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For the skeptics in the audience, Spain’s Expormim offers an upholstered option that looks so chic no one will be the wiser, whether it’s patio-bound or front and center in your living room.

Color Is The New Pattern, At Least In Rugs

Though, don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of patterns to go around. But it was the color combinations, gradations, and permutations that really caught my eye this year. Good Thing’s new line of rugs showcased a relatively straightforward Bauhaus-cum-Craftsman pattern made all the more amazing in a range of on-trend colors.

Coming s 👀n. By @justsamanderson and debuting @icff_nyc.

A post shared by Good Thing (@supergoodthing) on

Spain’s NaniMarquina unveiled their new Shade rugs, with a technically impressive ombre flatweave design.

Then there was Swedish brand Kasthall, whose new Harvest range is made entirely of residual yarns in rainbow hues.

Which one of these are you dying to incorporate in your home? Which is simply not for you? Let us know in the comments.

Ultra Fluffy Rolls vs. Garlicky Baked Home Fries: Which Will Win?

For our latest contest, we asked for your smartest, thriftiest, most head-turning tricks and techniques. And you delivered!

We got flavorful, face-changing condiments made entirely from pantry ingredients; ice cream cakes that require no churning, no baking, and no fancy equipment; vegan brownies moistened with tofu; tater tots where cauliflower stands in for potatoes…

You are a bunch of smarties. A-pluses all around! But we had to pick two finalists—and with the help of our community reviewers, we’ve narrowed down the contenders. These two are at the top of the class. (And now it’s your turn to choose the winner by heading to the contest page and casting your vote.)

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Even the raw dough looks delicious.
Photos by Julia Gartland
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Breakfast of champions.
Photos by Julia Gartland

First up: Super Fluffy Rolls 3 Ways (Plain, Garlic, and Pretzel) from Jenya | BlueGalley. The dough’s a dream to work with—like a well-zhuzhed comforter under your hands—but the real smarts of Jenya’s technique lie in how she customizes the shaped rolls within one pan.

Instead of brushing all twelve risen buns with egg wash, she only gives one-third of the pan that classic treatment: Half of the remaining rolls get a garlic-herb butter brush, and then the rest get a baking soda wash that makes them pretzel (that’s a verb, right?) in the oven.

We can’t wait to use Jenya’s dough and technique to create more variations within the same baking dish: We’re thinking cinnamon-sugar, curry butter, and Parmesan. (Of course, we’re just as tempted to triple the recipe and make three pans, each with a separate theme…)

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Super Fluffy Rolls, 3 Ways: Plain, Garlic, and Pretzel

By Jenya | BlueGalley

For the rolls:

  • 1
    cup whole milk

  • 2 1/2
    tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/4
    cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon to activate yeast

  • 1
    teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/3
    cup luke warm water (preferably 110 to 115 degrees, but 105 to 115° F)

  • 1
    packet “bread machine” active dry yeast (can use regular active dry yeast, but bread machine is better)

  • 3 to 3 1/2
    cups all-purpose flour, divided

  • 2
    eggs, beaten

  • flaky salt for sprinkling (Maldon is great, kosher works too)

To pretzel and garlic:

  • 2
    tablespoons butter, melted

  • 3/4
    teaspoon granulated garlic

  • 1/2
    tablespoon minced fresh parsley

  • 1/2
    cup water

  • 1 1/2
    teaspoons baking soda

  • 1
    egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

View Full Recipe

Our second finalist, also in the Starch Family, is Brittany‘s Better-Than-a-Restaurant Home Fries, which actually come from her husband—”it’s one of the top five reasons I married him!” Now that‘s love for potatoes.

Instead of frying the potatoes (or heaven forbid par-boiling them, then frying them), Brittany (slash her husband) purées half an onion with neutral oil, paprika, salt, and a whole head of garlic. The potatoes get tossed in this slush, spread out on baking sheets, and baked.

You get potato cubes with crispy edges, soft insides, and garlicky intensity, through and through. We ate so many of these straight from the baking sheet, we weren’t sure they’d make it onto the plate. But we’re glad a few did—they’re even better with ketchup (and Brittany recommends a three-part mix of ketchup, mustard, and horseradish cream).

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Better-Than-a-Restaurant Home Fries

By Brittany

  • 2
    pounds red or yellow potatoes

  • 1/2
    medium onion (about 2 ounces)

  • 1
    head garlic

  • 1/2
    cup frying oil (we use grapeseed)

  • 1 to 2
    teaspoons salt

  • 1/2
    teaspoon paprika

  • 1
    teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

View Full Recipe

Now it’s time to vote! Head to the contest page to weigh in.

Share your favorite technique for rolls or home fries in the comments below!

Get Pumped: Ina Garten’s New Show Premieres on Sunday

A mere two months ago, Ina Garten announced that her new show, simply titled Cooking Like a Pro, would be premiering in May. There was little to no other information given about the project at the time.

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Excited About Ina Garten’s New Show?
by Sarah Jampel

Since then, there’s been a slow, incremental rollout of information. For one, it’s set to premiere this Sunday at 11AM on the Food Network. Throughout the 8-episode season, Garten will be occasionally featuring others celebrity chef cohort, from Mario Batali to April Bloomfield, as guests. She’s devoting the first episode to chicken.

More generally, though, the show represents a thematic change of pace for Garten, whose previous shows have been focused on dispensing tips on how to entertain guests. Here, she’ll be focusing her energies more on cooking tips (like, for example, how best to cut cauliflower florets, she tells People). It’s a decision born out of the sheer number of emails and letters she gets from fans asking her about the best techniques.

Garten’s new show is “going to be SO different,” Refinery29 tells me. “This is going to be HUGE,” says Delish. Will it? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

’Cook Like a Pro’ premieres this Sunday at 11AM on the Food Network. Will you be tuning in?