Home Chef winner shares his fave time-saving cooking tip

Jan. 26, 2012 at 5:20 PM ET

Brandon Matzek /

Meet Brandon Matzek, this week's winner of TODAY's Home Chef Challenge. Brandon documents his cooking adventures on his blog, Kitchen Konfidence. Learn more about him, and get his winning recipe for the delicious, nutritious green bean salad with mustard seeds and tarragon.

Age: 30

Hometown: San Diego, Calif.

How does it feel to win the Home Chef Challenge?

This is such an amazing honor! Thank you for the opportunity. And a big thanks to all who voted for my green bean salad!

How long have you been cooking?

I have been an avid home cook for the past ten years; however, I have vivid memories of spending a great deal of time in the kitchen when I was young. I would watch my mother, grandmother and aunt prepare traditional Italian dishes. Sometimes I was given tasks like snapping green beans or cutting homemade ravioli.

Courtesy of Brandon Matzek /

Share your favorite cooking tip

Hazelnuts are an ingredient that I love to use in my dishes. Wonderful flavor. Satisfying crunch. For the longest time I would get completely aggravated trying to get the skins off all of the hazelnuts after toasting them in the oven. Some had suggested rubbing the hazelnuts in a clean dish towel. I found this method only marginally less aggravating. Last year, I discovered a new method of peeling hazelnuts that is so, so simple. Bring a pot 2/3 filled with water to a boil. Add 4 tablespoons baking soda then drop in about 1 cup of raw hazelnuts. Let bubble for 3 minutes, drain and rinse under cold water. As you are rinsing, the skins should easily pop off. At this point, you can toast the hazelnuts in a 350 oven until golden and fragrant.

What would be your ideal last meal?

Pizza and pasta!

Are you up for the challenge? Enter your recipe here, and vote for next week's winner.