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June 1, 2011

12:03
P.M.

Free Range on Food

Total Responses: 54

About the hosts

About the host

Free Rangers

The Washington Post Food section is your source for cooking and food stories and hundreds of recipes.

All We Can Eat Blog
Food Q&A archive

About the topic

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary.

Past Free Range on Food chats
Q.

Bonnie Benwick :

Not going to mention the weather. The sweltering, swamplike climate that has caused my hair to frizz a la 1977 and almost melted the food I hauled into work today.  It's cool  inside and I hope you're eating in comfort. We've got David Hagedorn, Domenica Marchetti, Jason Wilson, Jim Shahin and Tim Carman to talk cheese and more (pimento) cheese, pasta, cocktails and Root, barbecue and more...let's get rolling. Editor Joe's whooping it up in Austin at the IACP cookbook conference.

Today's two randomly selected chat winners will a copy of  either "Beer Craft" or "The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat," source of today's Dinner in Minutes recipe. They'll be announced at the end of the chat.

 

Q.

Can't find anything anymore

The link on the Food section web page titled "First Bite: El Centro D.F." links to last week's Island Hut review. Also, I can't tell whether there is a "Dish" item today because the online paper has not been posted and I can't find a link on the web page. If this is a marketing ploy to keep readers online longer in hopes that they see more advertising, it is working brilliantly.

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

To paraphrase Spinal Tap, there's a fine line between brilliant and stoopid.  That link was trouble and I thought it was fixed last  night and here it is, fixed again. The Dish item was posted on All We Can Eat last week; perhaps that's why our online producer chose not to post it on the homepage again. Two snaps up for your perspicacity.

– June 01, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

loopy pasta: whole wheat?

I loved the story on the maccheroni alla molinara! Good recipe and a wonderfully-written story to boot. I'd like to try making this pasta (it's nice that it doesn't require special equipment like a pasta press). My question: do you think it would translate well with whole wheat flour? I stick to TJ's "white whole wheat" if that helps... Though I should say that whatever your answer is, I might give it a shot anyways-- like the story says, relax, making pasta is imprecise and fun.
A.
Domenica Marchetti :

Great question. I have to be honest and tell you I'm not sure if it would work. I've made other hand-shaped pasta with whole-wheat, and white whole-wheat flour, including orecchiette (there's a recipe in the book). But maccheroni alla molinara is...different. You need to be able to stretch it wayyy long. That said, I say Go for it! You have absolutely the right attitude about it. Making pasta can and should be fun and adventurous. Good luck & I'd love to hear how it goes.

– June 01, 2011 12:04 PM
Q.

Maccheroni recipe

Are you using all purpose or semonlina flour?
A.
Domenica Marchetti :

For this recipe, I use all-purpose flour. It works beautifully and produces are really nice tender dough that stretches well.

– June 01, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

Sour Cherries

I saw some regular cherries at my local farmers market in Alexandria, but when do the sour cherries come into season? thank you
A.
Domenica Marchetti :

Around here sour cherries come into season in the last couple of weeks in June. I buy them by the quart, pit them, and freeze them on trays, then transfer them to freezer bags. They last all year!

– June 01, 2011 12:07 PM
Q.

People grilling

Loved Andreas' article about wood grilling last week; but particularly enjoyed this tidbit: "To most, people grilling is about singeing your eyebrows while lighting the grill and then punishing the food for the mishap." Ah, the ironic beauty of a misplaced comma. :)
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

[Insert red-faced emoticon here.] Thanks for the gift of humor with your feedback. I much prefer it to the scoldy grammar screeds of Free for All.

– June 01, 2011 12:12 PM
Q.

Pasta

I loved reading your article about Maccheroni Alla Molinara Domus. When rolling out the pasta dough, what are the most common mistakes to AVOID. Many thanks, Nancy
A.
Domenica Marchetti :

I find it helps to keep my hands very lightly moistened. This helps produce traction and makes the rolling of the pasta easier. That said, don't moisten too much; otherwise your rope of dough risks turning sticky. Also, make sure that you flour the coil of pasta liberally so that it doesn't stick together. If you aren't cooking it immediately, put it right into the freezer until cooking time. If the loops sit out too long they start to stick together. It's not the easiest recipe in the world, I know. But it is so much fun to make and you'll see that once you try it you will master the technique quickly. Good luck!

– June 01, 2011 12:13 PM
Q.

Re: Sour Cherries

Picked some off of a tree in Virginia just this past weekend. I'm pretty sure they are currently in season locally.
Q.

Sausage Party

Hi Foodies! My partner and I are planning on having a bunch of our close friends to our flat this weekend for a sausage party - seems like a fun theme to break out the grill for the summer! Our first inclination is to head to Whole Foods, but is there somewhere we are missing that would have lots of interesting, fresh sausages we could try? Ciao!
A.
Jim Shahin :

A place called Let's Meat on the Avenue in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria makes and "imports" (from Amish vendors in Pennsylvania) delicious sausages. 

I also like the wide selection of sausages at Canales Quality Meats and Canales Delicatessen at Eastern Market in Capitol Hill. 

Oh, and Wagshal's Market on Mass Ave in upper NW makes terrific sausages. 

– June 01, 2011 12:16 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I'll add the Kielbasa Factory in Rockville.

– June 01, 2011 12:16 PM
Q.

I'm a baker, not a decorator

So I made my first layer cake last week - tasted great, everyone at work loved it. Too bad it looked like a hot mess and ended up falling over (I had a cake dome over it, so the damage was fixable.) I know some of what I did wrong, but I'm not entirely sure on how to fix the problems, not to mention what all of the problems were. For instance, the cake was at room temp when I went to ice it, but I was still having problems with the icing pulling up bits of the cake. Should I have put it in the fridge? Basically, I need a good resource for tips on decorating cakes. I've read a little bit on it, but man is it harder than it looks! Any suggestions?
A.
David Hagedorn :

Well, I certainly have experienced these cake issues over the years. Here is what I've learned about basic cake decorating.

--The first thing is, you have to take your time. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing it. I always make 1.5 or 2 times the icing recipe so I don't have to skimp.

-- Invest in cardboard cake circles. Also invest in a revolving pedestal and offset spatulas, a large one and a small one. Tape the cake circle to the stand so it doesn't shift while you're icing the cake.

-- Trim the tops of your layers so they are flat and of even thickness all the way around. For the first layer, I start with a layer with its trimmed side up so that the bottom of the cake is neat and flat.

-- Start with a healthy dollop of icing and use the offset spatula to spread it in a circle. Turn the pedestal, not the spatula. I like to spread about a quarter-inch of icing between layers.

-- For the second and subsequent layers, the trimmed side should face down.

-- Once all the layers are in place, place large dollops of icing near the edges of the top layer and spread a thin coat of icing all around the side. This is called a crumb coat. Then spread a thin layer of icing over the top of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for an hour.

-- Ice the entire cake, starting with the sides. (Tip: If you trim the circumference of the top layer for about a quarter inch at a 45-degree angle, the edge where the side of the cake and the top of the cake meet will be neat. It's like a mitered edge.)

-- Use a pastry bag with a  star tip to pipe rosettes where the bottom of the cake and the cake round meet. This will make everything look neat and hide the shmears you created on the cake round when you were icing  the bottom of the cake.

-- You can also pipe rosettes around the circumference of the top layer. If you wish before piping any rosettes, you can pipe vertical stripes all around the side of the cake. Then, rosettes on the bottom and top of those stripes will hide where the edges meet and neaten up your cake.

-- You can also pipe little rosettes all over the top of the iced cake for a really professional look. Note: If you are piping stripes on the sides and rosettes on the top, make the layer of icing you apply after the crumb coat thin. You don't need to go overboard on the icing.

These are basic decorating tips. There are plenty of resources out there for more intricate applications. Rose Beranbaum's Cake Bible is one of my favorites on the subject of cake baking.

 

– June 01, 2011 12:19 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Well, that's the gist of a one-hour class right there!

– June 01, 2011 12:19 PM
Q.

Too many eggs

I find myself the (accidental) owner of 4 dozen eggs. Help!
A.
Tim Carman :

You can make lemon pudding souffle. (4 eggs)

A coconut cake with lemon filling and cream cheese frosting. (9 eggs)

An arugula and onion frittata. (8 eggs)

A basic quiche. (8 eggs).

And lots more. Just check our recipe finder for more ideas.

Or how about this: give some away. DH

– June 01, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

Website reviews?

I excitedly made your ginger glazed tilapia recipe last Wednesday, changing it only to add a pinch of sriracha (because I can't help myself) and grilling it the way Barton recommended, by not flipping. It was absolutely fantastic. Licking the plate good. I wasn't sure about the may and ginger, but it totally worked. I would love to play around with turning them into some Asian fusion fish tacos. BUT. I was so excited that I tried immediately to review the recipe but I realized there is no review function. Didn't there used to be? Am I making this up? I'd love to encourage others to make this delicious and healthy meal, but I couldn't. So I'm doing so now.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

We would lovelovelove for you to be able to add your review to the recipes, but some ongoing, behind-the-scenes retooling has rendered that function inoperable. For now. Pls hang on to those good thoughts.

– June 01, 2011 12:22 PM
Q.

Eclectic Cocktails

I love trying a new cocktail, but many of your recipes seem to require exotic ingredients which aren't in my liquor cabinet. Today's Penn Dutch Manhattan looks intriguing and I have rye, but now I have to try to find Root and white vermouth??? (And I don't live in a metropolis like DC). Jason, could we occasionally have a recipe for a new/tried & true cocktail with more common ingredients? Thank you!
A.
Jason Wilson :

Hmm. Since I don't know what's in your particular liquor cabinet, I think it's going to be rather difficult to design a cocktail specifically for what you have on hand. As for "exotic" ingredients, 1) white vermouth can be found just about anywhere that sells vermouth and 2) you can order just about anything over the internet at sites like www.drinkupny.com. Looking over my work from the past couple months, I see non-exotic columns on the Rum & Coke, on the Gin & Tonic, on mixing cachaça and fruit that you can find at a grocery store. Over the years, I've offer recipes for the "tried & true" daiquiri, the martini, the Manhattan, and dozens of I what I'm assuming you mean by "tried & true." In any case, if you'd like to send me the contents of your liquor cabinet, I will recommend a few cocktails you can make this afternoon without shopping.

– June 01, 2011 12:27 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Personally, I'm thrilled when Jason introduces us to new liqueurs and such. Root is a great find and worth experimenting with -- and it looks like this is a bottle you can obtain online.

– June 01, 2011 12:27 PM
Q.

Thanks for the Paletas recipe book!

Hi Food folks -- got the Paletas recipe book from last week. Spent my Saturday night reading it cover to cover. :) Here's a question: I'd like to make the pina colada paleta, but without the alcohol -- would I have to alter any of the other ingredients to make sure it freezes correctly without the booze?
A.
Jason Wilson :

You can easily leave the rum out of that recipe, and you'll be good to go without other alterations.

– June 01, 2011 12:28 PM
Q.

Poblanos, horseradish and such

Suggestions needed: I love spicy and bought a big jar of horseradish that looks like mayo but kicks like wasabi (wasabi is horseradish, right?). But it's definitely NOT working for me on quesadillas or rice and beans, where a Mexican hot sauce or chopped chilies taste great. And it's not working as a mayo substitute either. Other than gefilte fish and maybe sushi, how can I use this? Thanks!
A.
Tim Carman :

The confusion over wasabi is understandable, since most sushi restaurants do not make a paste with the real thing. Most stuff in restaurants is a paste of horseradish and mustard or some such combination. But real wasabi is sold as a root and is freshly grated to make a paste.

It's a pungent ingredient, obviously, and I find it goes well with beef, whether a grilled burger or the classic roast beef sandwich. You might also try spooning some into your next batch of mashed potatoes (not that it's the season, but still). It will give those mashed spuds a real spike in flavor.

– June 01, 2011 12:28 PM
Q.

Pimento Cheese Recipe (thanks, Mom!)

My mom invented this one on a trip to the grocery: - 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese shreds - half a container of whipped cream cheese - 1 small container of Greek yogurt (I use Fage) - 1 small jar of pimentos, drained and diced - 1 jar of Kraft Old English cheese Mix together in a bowl, adding hot sauce and cayenne pepper to taste (I like mine spicy!). The flavors will mellow in the fridge, and the cheese can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or two... assuming it doesn't get eaten on bread or bagels or crackers, smoothed across celery, melted onto a burger, or just eaten with a spoon directly from the container. Super yum!
A.
David Hagedorn :

Sounds delicious, although I'm not diggin' the processed cheese. Love the Greek yogurt, though. Sounds more like a dip than a spread. Maybe add lots more cheese?

– June 01, 2011 12:28 PM
Q.

define?

what EXACTLY does free range mean? how is the life of that animal?

A.
Tim Carman :

Free range is not exactly as idyllic as it sounds. According to this story in Science Daily, the term "does not always mean that the animal has been in an open area its whole life. It may only mean they were in a restricted area and let out into that open area one time during their life."

– June 01, 2011 12:34 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

For our humble purposes, it means a spirited hour of give-and-take about cooking and food and ingredients and equipment and manners and grammar and....preferably while  you're enjoying a nice lunch.

– June 01, 2011 12:34 PM
Q.

Kid's snacks

Hi Free Rangers, I'm going to be spending a few weeks with my 3 year old nephew, and wanted to "cook" a bit with him. I'm thinking quick, fun snacks he could help make. I've already thought of blueberry yogurt and strawberry lemonade popsicles, and rice krispie treats. Any other suggestions? Especially semi-healthy ones? Thanks!
A.
Domenica Marchetti :

I used to do frozen banana pops with my kids when they were little. Cut bananas in half crosswise, insert a popsicle stick, dip them in melted semi-sweet chocolate, place on a tray and freeze. Great for summer. 

– June 01, 2011 12:34 PM
Q.

Corn Dogs Without Sticks?

In honor of the unofficial start of summer I'm making corn dogs from Food on a Stick tonight...but I don't have sticks! Will they work anyways if I fry them then eat them with a fork and knife like my proper German grandmother would have preferred? And besides salad what healthy, summery side should I serve with them?
A.
David Hagedorn :

No sticks necessary, but they make the job of dipping in batter and deep-frying a lot less messy and dangerous than if you're not using sticks.

 

I love that irony that you are dipping a god-knows-what's-in-it hot dog in a batter and plunging it into hot fat and that you are concerned about the healthfulness of the side dish. Slaw makes the most sense to me.

 

– June 01, 2011 12:35 PM
Q.

wood grill planks

I just received a gift of several alder and cedar wood planks for grilling. Can you give me a few suggestions of what would work well with each wood type? My mind always goes to fish/salmon, but I'm sure there are veggies and other meats that would take to the planks. (quicker recipes preferably) Also, any general grilling-with-planks technique advice is welcome!

A.
Jim Shahin :

This is such a great question, I may make it a column one of these days. 

You no doubt know (but it bears repeating) that you should soak your plank for at least an hour before using. The soaking not only helps prevent the plank from catching fire but provides for the lovely flavored smoke. Some folks will add wine to their soaking water to provide another layer of flavor. 

As for foods, the light and relatively quick smoke of a plank is perfectly suited to fish. It helps keep the fish moist while at the same time providing for a light crusty exterior. 

Alder imparts a light flavor and is great with such vegetables as thick-sliced onions, squash, and zucchini. 

Cedar has a deeper flavor and pairs well with a thickish pork chop. 

Always season your food beforehand so that the seasoning mingles with the woodsmoke to produce a depth of flavor. 

Enjoy!

– June 01, 2011 12:35 PM
Q.

Was wondering if you or the chatterers...

..had any experience with induction cooktops, particularly the ones (that I think are only currently available in Europe) that are zoneless? Er....and has anyone installed one locally? It wouldn't be UL certified, but I have heard that some people are able to get a waiver from their homeowners' insurance company.
Q.

hamburgers

I found a fantastic recipe for merguez sausages, which I used in my beef burgers. It was a concoction of  Ras el Hanout, harissa, garlic, and cumin. Only problem was that I cooked the burgers too long (in a pan) so that all the liquid escaped and they were very dry. I thought by covering them, I would ensure that the insides would cook properly. Such a pity to have wasted an otherwise fantastic recipe. What is the best way to cook burgers on the stovetop?

A.
Jim Shahin :

I don't know about the "best" way, but for years this is the way I've done it: 

Sear over smoking high heat for about two minutes on each side, then turn heat to very low and (for medium-rare) cook on each side for another 2-4 minutes, depending on thickness. Comes out charred on the outside, juicy on the inside. 

 

– June 01, 2011 12:36 PM
Q.

Springfield Butcher has good sausages

and they're on Groupon today.

Q.

icing a cake

The best advice I received on icing a cake, was from the post food section. I forget who it was, a cake baking person (possibly in the story about baking for bake sales, a few years ago) but her suggetion, to avoid the little bits of cake mingling with the rest of the frosting, was to first coat your cake with a very very thin layer of frosting (I call it "priming" myself) , then have at it- Works like a charm every time!
A.
David Hagedorn :

That was from a Chef on Call piece of mine, "Doing Their Bake Sale Best."

It's called a crumb coat, because it captures all the loose crumbs and glues them to the cake, keeping the second coating of icing crumb-free.

– June 01, 2011 12:37 PM
Q.

Leesburg, VA

Too many eggs can make lemon curd and freeze the whites for meringues later.
Q.

re: lots of eggs

eggs benedict! or follow the recipe in "joy of cooking" for cream puffs. the egg yolks used in that recipe are equal to the amount of egg whites needed in the merengue recipe in the same cook book.
Q.

re: ordering alcohol online

just a gentle reminder that not all states allow you to ship alcohol there. (see montgomery county laws)
Q.

Pizza on the grill

So, we just bought a new grill and broke it in with some pizza. Am I missing something? I was expecting this revelatory experience, but it was just eh. We did mozz, gorgonzola, bacon, spinach and caramelized onions. Too many toppings? Any tips would be welcome!
A.
David Hagedorn :

Food writer Tony Rosenfeld has some great ideas for grilled pizza in this  WaPo piece.

– June 01, 2011 12:38 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Was  your crust thin or thick?

– June 01, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

salad dressing

Hi free rangers, I'm looking for salad dressing ideas. My boyfriend (while perfect in many other ways) does not like the taste of vinegar or mayonnaise. Any salad dressing recommendations that do not include those ingredients? Thanks!
A.
Jim Shahin :

Try substituting lemon for the vinegar. For a summery taste, add maybe a minced garlic clove and a small handful of chopped fresh mint. 

– June 01, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

A Cheesy Question

I hope that it's not a faux-pas to ask this, but can you recommend a low-fat or even a fat-free cheese that doesn't taste as if it were made of plastic? Thank you.
A.
Tim Carman :

That's a tough one, and I sympathize with your plight. I don't have much experience with low-fat cheeses. But here's a potentially helpful thread on Chowhound, where some folks debate the merits of various low-fat cheeses.

– June 01, 2011 12:39 PM
Q.

wheat-free pasta

I love pasta as much as the next addict but am trying to avoid wheat products for a few months. Should regular pasta sauces work with rice-based and other non-wheat pastas, or what should I do differently? Thank you.
A.
Domenica Marchetti :

I would encourage you to try non-wheat pasta with regular pasta sauce. If you go to Domenicacooks.com, you will find pasta posts by some food blogger friends of mine, including Shauna, a k a Gluten-Free Girl. She made a recipe from my pasta book using gluten-free linguine; click on the link and you can read all about it.

– June 01, 2011 12:40 PM
Q.

Strange Ingredient

I've been craving alligator and rattlesnake lately. Any idea where in the DC area I'd have a shot of finding them? Raw for home cooking, ideally.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Well, as it happens, the aforementioned Let's Meat on the Avenue can order both of  those for  you. Call 703-836-6328.

– June 01, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Shredded coconut

I made a (vegan) coconut pie this weekend, it was delicious! Now I have a lot of leftover shredded coconut and am wondering what savory dishes I could make with it, sans meat. Anything with black beans, maybe? You may notice, I'm trying to clean out my pantry, but I have plenty of fresh herbs from the garden available. Thanks, you guys have the best ideas!
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Lots of curries call for the kind of coconut it sounds like you have -- unsweetened, right? Think island foods, chicken and corn soup. This recipe was a winner, as I recall.

 

– June 01, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Meat thermometers

Anyone have a good recommendation for a meat thermometer? I don't want to spend a lot of money on one, but I'd also like something that will actually work, unlike the cheapo one I bought. Thanks for the help.
A.
David Hagedorn :

I have a TruTemp digital thermometer that cost around $12 as I recall. I got it at Target and it works just fine.

– June 01, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Weinergate?

Is or is not this the best nickname for a scandal ever?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Technically, this could be the place to discuss that kind of -gate. But seems like you'll get more of a rise from the Gene Weingarten gang.

– June 01, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

artisan cheeses

Thank you tons for telling us which local chefs serve their own cheeses. I know where I'll be eating for the next several weeks or months! Question about LaCivita's goat cheese, and goat cheese in general -- and I love goat cheese so much, it's higher on my must-have list than chocolate: In the photo, it looks like there's a lot of ash in the cheese (tho I guess it could be chestnut leaves?). Certainly I see goat cheese, and I think only goat cheese, sold with ash around or in it. But I don't "get" the allure of ash outside a campfire. Might one of you explain it to me? Thanks in advance.
A.
Tim Carman :

Thanks for the comment and the question about ash. I've been reading (don't laugh) the "Idiot's Guide to Cheese Making," with the idea of making my own at home (which I did this weekend -- yum!). But according to this helpful book, "Many goat cheeses are covered with a fine coating of food-grade ash made from activated charcoal. The ash is tasteless and is used to reduce the acidity of the cheese surface. This promotes the growth of favorable surface molds, which provide complex flavor compounds."

– June 01, 2011 12:48 PM
Q.

Tasteless Grapes

I bought a bag of green seedless grapes the other day for snacking. Unfortunately, they really have very little taste. Before i throw them in the compost, I'd love to hear any ideas for cooking with the grapes? Maybe a dessert?
A.
Tim Carman :

Tasteless grapes will likely produce, unfortunately, a tasteless dessert. I've tried in the past to use unripe fruit in a recipe. It's a disaster. You have to add sugar, which is NOT the same as a fruit's natural sweetness.

– June 01, 2011 12:50 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I know what I'd do with them. Dare I mention? Chocolate Grapes.

 

– June 01, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

other sauces for the maccheroni?

I was fascinated by the maccheroni description and recipe, and would love to try it. Any thoughts on other, especially vegetarian, sauces that might work well it?
A.
Domenica Marchetti :

Hi. Glad you enjoyed the piece on maccheroni alla molinara. And yes, you most certainly could use a vegetarian sauce. I would recommend a simple fresh tomato sauce or one made with good canned tomatoes. (I have numerous vegetarian sauce recipes in The Glorious Pasta of Italy.) Good luck!

– June 01, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

Horseradish

I grew up in New England and horseradish was always served with roast beef or prime rib. We would have horseradish cheddar cheese on roast beef sandwiches too. Or, if we didn't have that, we would mix it with mayo on - guess what - a roast beef sandwich.
A.
Tim Carman :

Yep, it's a classic combination.

– June 01, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

Horseradish dressing with seafood

The jarred horseradish dressing can also be used mixed with jarred cocktail sauce to make an excellent dip/dressing for seafood. I like extra horseradish in my cocktail sauce and serve with steamed shrimp, pan-fried crabcakes, fried bivalves and more.
A.
Tim Carman :

Thanks for the suggestion. I've never tried that.

– June 01, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

More ideas for Kid's Snacks

Jello (especially in little clear plastic cups, for individual servings), banana bread (or banana bread muffins) and celery with peanut butter.
Q.

induction cooktops

Only certain cookware works on them.
Q.

Greek shrimp with stelline

I made this recipe a week or so ago - I loved the flavors but found it to be kind of mushy. Was this the expected texture or did I overcook the pasta? I couldn't find "stelline" but used star-shaped Barilla past that was next to orzo on the shelf. Maybe these stars were smaller than what you used? Would this work with rice or a larger small pasta? Thanks.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

 It's very easy to overcook tiny pasta. I did it the first time around in testing the recipe. Barilla is what I used as well.  Orzo's more foolproof, I guess, but I liked the texture and look of the dish with the stelline. So if you're game to try again and there's a twofer sale on the dried pasta aisle, try cooking the stars so that there's still a bit of darker pasta at the center of each one. By the time the dish finishes in the oven you'll be good. In fact, I'll go into that recipe in the database and make a note. Thanks for the input!

 

– June 01, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Grill Pan?

Hi guys- This past fall I moved from a large house with lots of space and roommates to a small apartment. I used to grill two to three times a week (even in the winter) in our backyard, but now I'm in a small apartment that specifically outlaws grills of all types on the balcony. I was able to manage the past few months via crockpot and the stove, but now I REALLY miss it. Will a Grill Pan help fill the hole my old red gas weber has left in me that a George Foreman couln't replace? If so, what should I look for when buying?
A.
Jim Shahin :

If you were a year-round two- to three-times-per-week griller, then, no, a grill pan probably isn't going to satisfy you. A grill pan can handle high heat, which is nice, but if you want that smoky outdoors flavor, you might try the Camerons stovetop smokers. 

Also, try using bbq-simulating seasonings, such as smoked paprika and smoked salt. 

– June 01, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

Grilled pizza

It was thicker; I just used the same one I use for pizza in the oven (Ina Garten's, FWIW--it's got a fast rising time, which is great for when it's 4 pm and I don't know what we're having for dinner). Can you recommend a thin crust recipe?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

For the grill, thin is in. See the previous answer, which has a link to  Tony's recipes.

– June 01, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

Pasta rollers/cutters

I'd really love to make homemade pasta, but don't have a roller/cutter. I was thinking about getting the attachment for KitchenAid, but are there any ones out there that might be cheaper but just as good?
A.
Domenica Marchetti :
Hi there,
I used a basic Marcato Atlas hand crank pasta roller to test all of the fresh pasta recipes in The Glorious Pasta of Italy. I have thought about getting a Kitchen Aid attachment, but it is more expensive than a basic hand-crank machine, and to tell you the truth, I like having the control of the hand crank. I know lots of people feel differently and prefer the motorized machines and attachments. Whichever you end up using, know that it is a worthwhile investment. I have rolled out sheets of pasta dough the old fashioned way--with an old wooden dowel, and I have to say as much as I like "authentic" cooking, it is much easier to use a machine. Good luck and have fun.
– June 01, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

beer and artichokes

My husband loves to saute artichokes hearts. He loves craft beers, and he invariably uses an IPA to deglaze the pan and to make the sauce. I don't like the combination of hops and artichoke (too bitter, maybe?). Any suggestions for what might work better?
A.
Tim Carman :

Well, that's tough. Artichokes have a reputation of making wines taste sweet, at least when pairing outside the pan. You might try deglazing with a dry Sancerre or a New Zealand sav blanc. 

– June 01, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

Re Cake icing

Thanks for the tips! And yes, I dearly wish I had known about the crumb layer, because my icing ended up all marbled from the crumbs and the filling that had squished out. OK, now to prep myself up for take 2.
A.
David Hagedorn :

Oh, something I forgot to tell you. Stick bamboo skewers in the top of the cake (maybe 4 of thenevenly sapced about 2 inches from the outsdie edge) before refrigerating the crumb coat. This will keep your cake layers from slipping and keep your cake straight while the icing firms up. You can skewer the finished cake  if you want to ensure that it doesn't shift. Keep a small pastry bag of icing at the ready for touch-ups before serving.

– June 01, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

Root

For Jason -- who makes this American amaro?
A.
Jason Wilson :

Root is sold by a company in Philadelphia called Art in the Age (though I'm not sure who the contract distiller is). They also have a ginger liqueur called Snap, that's also very good and will eventually be available in DC, too.

– June 01, 2011 12:59 PM
A.
Jason Wilson :

The full name of the company is Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Huge bonus points for whoever can name the cultural critic whose work this is named after.

– June 01, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

Re: Corn Dogs without Sticks

David, in this case we actually were extremely picky on our hot dogs and only got ones with ingredients that we recognized. The point of taking the trouble to make corn dogs at home, besides the fun of it, is having a bit more control over what's in them. And on the side dish I think it's exactly when you're splurging in some area of your daily eating that you'd best be extra careful about the rest of it. But I'm glad you enjoyed the irony.
A.
David Hagedorn :

Well, I guess you done told me but good.

– June 01, 2011 1:00 PM
Q.

Re: Meat Thermometers

After my spouse and I broke I think 4 of the black digital $10 Taylor's between us we upgraded to their $20 model and have absolutely loved it. It's not that the cheaper one didn't work, it's that the head broke apart way too easily when dropped. The more expensive one doesn't, and still works just as well.
A.
Jim Shahin :

Well, I'm probably the wrong person to answer because I love harissa on everything. Eggs. Burgers. You name it. Whatever you want jazzed up. But it goes particularly well with meat stews and as a flavoring in couscous. 

I can't vouch for yours, but I got some a year and a half ago, also at an ethnic market, put it in my fridge, and it is still good. 

– June 01, 2011 1:00 PM
Q.

RE: Tasteless Grapes

Freeze the grapes--it seems to bring out the sugars. I think that's why ice wines are so sweet. Also a great snack for the weather this week.
Q.

too many eggs..

A friend of mine began a dairy delivery service and thought she was ordering a half dozen eggs (she ordered 6)- and of course, ended up with 6 dozen eggs!! She mostly solved her problem by giving them away (and making a few egg heavy items)
Q.

For the love of pimiento cheese

I grew up in Alabama eating pimiento cheese, and I love it. (I just had some for lunch.) But, I find myself making the same kind over and over--sharp cheddar, mayo, cream cheese, and pimientos. What unlikely cheeses do you suggest for branching out a little with my recipe?
A.
David Hagedorn :

I got lambasted by a reader for suggesting smoked gouda for a PC recipe I created for a Real Entertaining piece last year, but I stick by it. I like the extra flavor that smoked cheeses add. Also, manchego or other sheep's milk cheese. Along with cheddar.

– June 01, 2011 1:01 PM
Q.

Tim Carman's home-made cheese

You say you made cheese in only a weekend? Or does it now have to sit for a month or longer?
A.
Tim Carman :

It was a fresh ricotta, made with cream-line Trickling Springs milk and cider vinegar. I hung it in cheesecloth for a few minutes, which firmed it up too much for my tastes. But otherwise, it tasted fresh and milky, which is to say, sort of bland. It was great with sea salt and olive oil.

– June 01, 2011 1:01 PM
Q.

Bonnie Benwick :

Where did the time go? Thanks to you, dear chatters, and David, Domenica, Jason, Jim and Tim for spending the hour with us.  Always learn a thing or two.

Today's chat winners:  The good-humored misplaced comma spotter, and the chatter who sought counsel on cake decorating.  Tell us which of the two books you'd rather have, send your mailing address to food@washpost.com and we'll get those right out. 

Till next week, happy cooking and eating!

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