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

May 26, 2017

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

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.

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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)

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

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

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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • witloof
  • zoemetro uk
    zoemetro uk
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witloof May 26, 2017
I am stealing this idea from a Deborah Madison recipe: cottage cheese makes a terrific substitute for béchamel in vegetable gratins.
zoemetro U. May 29, 2017
Wow! That is a genius short cut! Thank you witloof. I remember using cottage cheese in a Barefoot Contessa recipe with puff pastry, ham, gruyere cheese--and the baked product was transformed. I am going to try it a cottage cheese/vegetable gratin this week.