Epicurious’s Joe Sevier explains the appeal of charred food:

“Burning foods on purpose is nothing new. In classic French cuisine, stocks are often started by cutting an onion in half and then searing the exposed flesh until the surface is totally black. The blackened onion then goes into the pot with roasted animal bones and other aromatics to simmer away. When I was in culinary school, we learned that this was a key component of a certain type of dark stock: the blackened onion not only adds flavor, imparting a subtle bitterness that offsets the sweet taste of carrots, tomato paste, and whatever else might be in the stock. It also lends a rich color, which makes the stock look more appealing.”

Worth Their Salt

Jonathan Sawyer, chef at Restaurant Trentina in Cleveland, and Jeremy Umansky, the restaurant’s “resident forager and ‘fermentationist,'” are growing their own seasoning salts:

“The process starts with a super-salty solution of the recycled salt and water. Sawyer ties a string to a spoon or stick, suspends it into the solution and waits. As the water evaporates, salt crystals begin to form on the string. When the whole string is covered in giant crystals after about 30 days or so, it’s removed and set out to dry. Then, the salt gets misted with the brine, which hardens onto the crystals, imbuing them with color and the flavor of whatever it came from.”

Quick Work

Kate Bratskeir explains how to dice an onion–and why you should learn:

“It’s something everyone should know — yes, even you. Even if you can hardly boil yourself a pot of spaghetti, you should still know how to finely chop an onion. It’ll come in handy for recipes galore — soups, marinades and dips all benefit from the aromatic flavoring and crunch of the bulb.”

Stock in a Snap

Mark Bittman shares ideas for making stock on the spur of the moment:

“Fortunately, there are almost certainly flavorful ingredients sitting in your fridge or pantry that can transform water into a good stock in a matter of minutes. The process may be as simple as simmering in water fresh herbs, mushrooms or even tea, or browning aromatics to create richness, or adding staples like crushed tomatoes or coconut milk. To further maximize flavor in minimal time, it pays to reach for ingredients that pack a punch, like miso, anchovies, chipotles, Parmesan rinds, sometimes even leftovers.”

“It Was a Great Foundation for Me As a Cook”

David Lebovitz, renowned food blogger and author of My Paris Kitchen, describes how he got his start at Chez Panisse:

“It was very exciting because we were getting things at Chez Panisse that no one had ever heard of — fresh goat cheese, radicchio, blood oranges — and focusing on buying food from local producers, before the term ‘locavore’ was around.

“In the early ’80s, we were insanely busy. At opening time, 5:00 pm, we’d have a line out the door, which didn’t stop until we closed. The hosts were turning people away. I worked in the café and we worked very, very hard but it was amazing to be surrounded by such beautiful ingredients and serve them.”

Pickling on Wheels

The New York Times profiles Tara Whitsitt, “a nomadic evangelist for fermented foods”:

“A soft-spoken Texas native who refers to her cross-country travels as Fermentation on Wheels, Ms. Whitsitt has spent the past 18 months motoring around the United States in the bus, a former Michigan State Police vehicle outfitted with a kitchen and a wood stove and laden with five-gallon jugs of mint-lemon balm wine, jars of radish-turmeric sauerkraut and plenty of sourdough starter. Ms. Whitsitt earns a living largely by holding workshops in which she teaches old-fashioned methods of food preservation.”

Saving Your Bacon

Bacon fat should be “saved and cherished, not discarded,” says Matt Duckor:

“The process of saving bacon fat couldn’t be easier…. After a few batches, you’ll have a stockpile of the stuff to start cooking with on a regular basis. The key to working bacon fat into your cooking routine is that you don’t want to overdo it. It’s extremely rich and shouldn’t be a straight substitute for olive oil or butter. Believe me when I say that a little bit goes a long way.”

Going Easy

Henry Dimbleby urges home cooks to keep things simple:

“There’s a place for complex cookery, of course. A brilliant chef, such as [Marco Pierre White], can perform amazing feats of alchemy: taking something as unlovely as a pig’s trotter and turning it into a dish of implausible refinement. But, just as a good writer doesn’t need to use lots of long words to make a point, a skilled chef never loses sight of the simple pleasures.”

Burning Desire

Adam Roberts accidentally burns the carrot garnishes for his parsnip-potato soup but decides to go with it:

“Weirdly, those burnt carrot chips worked wonders; they added a deep, charry note to the otherwise light, almost marshmallowy proceedings. The earthiness of the carrots echoed the earthiness of the soup. All in all, it was a major success (even if you don’t believe me).”

Sugar, Sugar

Gabriella Vigoreaux explains the differences between demerara, turbinado, and other sugars:

“Is it too much? Actually, it’s not enough–this is the best time for sugar fiends, as all of these varities have unique flavors, textures and personalities. You just have to know what those traits are and how to best exploit them.”