Ingredient Profiles

We like playing in our test kitchen. The geekery is at its finest when we’re researching ingredients: their history, uses in cooking and unique qualities. Then we get to play with them.

Below is a full listing of the ingredients we’ve featured so far, from apples to zucchini. If you’re looking for our posts in chronological order, keep on scrolling. Now go play in the kitchen!

Note: You can peruse our full recipe list to see what we did with all those ingredients.

Apples: The Seductive Fruit
Artichokes: The Ultimate Finger Food
Avocados: Nature’s Butter
Baby Vegetables: The First Flavors of Spring
Basil: A Basil Primer
Basil: Uniquely Common
Beets: Just Beet It
Berries: Naked Deliciousness
Bread: The Wonder of Bread
Cardamom: Heaven’s Scent
Caviar: An Endangered Pleasure
Champagne: Cause for Celebration
Cheese: The Cheese Course
Chestnuts: The Taste of December
Chocolate: Savory Chocolate
Chocolate: The Sweetest Indulgence. Or Not.
Cilantro: Herb with an Attitude
Cocktails: Cocktails, Anyone?
Coffee: Not Just for Beverages
Corn: Sweet Versatility
Cranberries: Beyond Thanksgiving Dinner
Cream: Creamy Delights
Fennel: Fabulous Fennel
Figs: A Feast of Figs
Fish: A Culinary Quandary
Foie Gras: The Art of Foie Gras
Game Meats & Birds: Game for a Taste
Garlic: The “Stinking Rose”
Ginger: The Feisty Rhizome
Honey: Oh, Honey…
Hors d’Oeuvres: Little Bites of Heaven
Lamb: Spring…Lamb
Lavender: Sweet Blooming Lavender
Lemongrass: Perfumed Allure
Lemons: Pucker Up, Sweetheart
Lobster: The Sophisticated Crustacean
Mascarpone: Mellow Mascarpone
Morels: Mmmorels
Nutmeg: The Stirring Spice
Olive Oil: The Golden Elixir
Oranges: The Taste of Sunshine
Peaches: Summer’s Sweet Signature
Pears: Pear-Luscious September
Pecans: Nuttin’ Like ‘Em
Peppers: Taste the Rainbow
Port Wine: Any Port in a Storm
Pumpkins: Into the Pumpkin Patch
Root Vegetables: Hidden Jewels of the Harvest
Rosemary: The Scent of Inspiration
Sage: Sensually Satisfying Sage
Salmon: In the Pink
Seafood: The Taste of the Sea
Shrimp: America’s Favorite Seafood
Spinach: An Unexpected Indulgence
Stone Fruit: Drupey Drawers of Goodness
Summer Squash: Delicious & Nutritious
Sweet Potatoes: Tasty Tubers
Tarragon: The Sweet Taste of Spring
Tea: Tea Time
Tomatoes: A Tomato Primer
Tomatoes: The Tomato Parade
Truffles: The Truffle Hunt
Turkey: Talkin’ Turkey
Vanilla: Vivacious Vanilla
Winter Squash: A Must for Fall

Post image for The Charm of Chocolate

Chocolate, rich and creamy, is the quintessential indulgent food. It’s perfect in almost every form, one of the most versatile ingredients, and we’re addicted to its unique taste and smell. We crave it in the summer as a smooth ice cream and as a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a frosty winter night.

Beyond the archetypical Hershey bar, chocolate comes in many forms. While I do admit to having a weakness for the occasional popular candy bars, their waxy textures hold nothing to the silky richness of high-end, high-cocoa-content chocolate. Most chocolates indicate a percentage, which is the sum of its cacao fat (called cocoa butter in the United States) and its cacao solids. A higher percentage = higher cocoa content; in other words, high percentage chocolate has a lower percentage of sugar and the chocolate will have a less sweet, more bitter and deeper flavor. For example, the average milk chocolate is usually 30 – 40% and dark chocolate ranges from 50 – 70% and higher. 50 – 60% is about average, 60 – 70% is dark and slightly bitter, while 70% and higher is very bitter, as it is closest to chocolate in its most natural state (100% with no added sugar). In substituting chocolates, only ones with like percentages should be used, as the final result will definitely have a different taste and texture.

Percentages of chocolate also vary in their distinguishing properties. For example, if you break a piece of chocolate in half, darker chocolates will create a sharper snap, while milks and whites will be softer. White chocolate will also smell more like vanilla, while milk chocolate will have a delicate chocolate aroma, and dark chocolates will have a stronger, bitter scent. Finally, because they contain more cocoa butter, lower percentage chocolates will also melt faster.

Chocolate marries well with so many different flavors: nuts, fruits, pepper and spices, savory meats, caramel, red wine, liquors, and, the Test Kitchen’s other ingredient of the month, coffee; and it’s when we introduce other flavors that chocolate’s strength is enhanced and heightened. Coffee and chocolate make a wonderful pairing because they’re both strong flavors that play well off each other.

But chocolate is more than just a food; there is no other ingredient that has attained such an esteemed status in history, connoting symbolic significance in many different cultures. So it will come as no surprise that chocolate, both as a savory and a sweet seasoning, reigns as a popular ingredient in main dishes, sides, desserts, and drinks, and as an indulgent treat on its own. Perhaps it’s the satisfyingly silkiness or the sweetness that lures me, but I can never resist an offering of chocolate in any form. Included in this week’s Test Kitchen are recipes that showcase chocolate in a variety of sweet degrees.


Luscious Thai Curry Chocolate Truffles
Cardamom Hot Chocolate
Mocha Pudding with Espresso Crème


Port Wine: Any Port in a Storm

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Also known as Vinho do Porto or Porto, this typically sweet wine is one of our favorite ways to end a meal.

Poached Pears with Chocolate Raspberry Sauce

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Here we pair chocolate with a poached pear, which has a sweet fruitiness and a hint of citrus from the lemon and wine poaching liquid.

Turkey Preparations

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There are as many ways to roast a turkey as there are grandmothers to teach us their cooking secrets.

Turkey Gumbo

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Wondering what to do with the leftovers? This gumbo uses dark meat turkey instead of the traditional sausage and shrimp.

Apples: A Seductive Fruit

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In recent years you may have begun to take apples for granted; since they are available year-round in supermarkets, apples have lost their connection to a season.

Stone Fruit: Drupey Drawers of Goodness

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Beyond coloring our landscapes with clusters of elegant blooms, stone fruit trees produce sweet and utterly juicy treats. ‘Tis the season for stone fruit celebration, and our test kitchen is overflowing with all kinds of color.

Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Chickpeas and Honeyed Sauce

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This simple and rustic dish uses honey to sweeten the sauce and bring together the dish.

Chestnuts: The Taste of December

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Take an afternoon by the fire with some warm chestnuts and a spot of brandy. Go ahead, it’s the holidays.

Hors d’Oeuvres: Little Bites of Heaven

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Hors d’oeuvres can encompass a wide variety of foods, and range from casual finger foods to elegant nibbles.

Beets: Just Beet It

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Healthy and delicious, beets are arguably one of the most underrated vegetables in the garden.