Beloved bacon, buckets of oregano, shrimpless grits, cooking career advice, hot weather fare, seafood tips and more on Free Range on Food

Jun 23, 2010

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way.

Greetings, fellow sweltering earthlings.  I'm sure today will be busy, as right-thinking people will be staying indoors in this 96-degree heat, and because Jane Black wrote about beloved BACON (the operative word today; picture a duck dropping down  a la Groucho Marx), and because Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick is joining us, having revealed her "unleashed" cooking habits, and because talking about food is the next best thing to eating/cooking it.

We've got James Villas' "Pig" book to give away, and "Eating Local," source of today's Dinner in Minutes recipe.  Hot. Go USA!

Last weekend, I made refrigerator sour cherry jam--I pitted some sour cherries, boiled them with lemon juice and zest until they began to soften, added sugar (3/4 the volume of the cherries), and boiled until the bubbles disappeared and the jam passed the drop-some-on-a-cold-plate-freeze-for-2-minutes-and-see-if-it-wrinkles-when-you-poke-it test. Then, I ladled the jam into jars, let them cool to room temp, and put them in the fridge. The next morning, the jam was really stiff. Still spreadable (and yummy) but only barely. This is the same recipe I've used for peach and plum jam with no stiffness problems. What gives?

The only question that method raises for me is the "boiled till the bubbles disappear." Cherries don't have high levels of pectin but perhaps that's too long?  I made strawberry jam recently and I waited until it was reduced by half but there were still bubbles.

I just got caught up on last week's discussion and hope it's not too late to contribute. I like the Joy of Cooking's basic muffin recipe with any berry, plus the grated zest of an orange. In late summer, oatmeal muffins with raspberries and diced peaches topped with nutmeg and crystallized sugar are "da bomb", as they said in 2007 or so.

Thanks.

I recently made one of those cake doctor (though it was not an actual cake doctor recipe) recipes where you combine a box cake mix with other ingredients to make it semi-home made. In this instance, the secret ingredient was mayonnaise. The cake turned out fine, but do you think mayonnaise added anything, other than substituting for eggs and oil? Do you have any favorite secret ingredients?

There's a tradition of mayonnaise cakes, which may have come from the use-what-you-have school of cooking and baking. It can keep things moist enough.  Chatters, now's your chance to dazzle us with crazy substitution suggestions. . . .

Any recommendations in DC? I'm disapointed lately with Cannon's quality and can't get past the ammonia smell at Whole Foods. Thank you!

Save all your pennies and go to BlackSalt in the Palisades.  Good selection, only a fresh smell when you open the door.

Hello, Rangers! I'm having a cookout this Saturday and would like to get as much of the prep work done ahead of time as possible. With typical salads like potato or macaroni (that will contain mayonnaise and possibly hard-boiled eggs), is it safe for me to make them Thursday night? Or do I need to make them Saturday morning? Thanks for the guidance!

Absolutely fine.

I over planted oregano a couple of years ago and now I have 5 huge plants that are producing like crazy. A couple weeks ago, I cut down a bunch of it and dried it. Now my other plants are ready to be cut and I'm looking for something else to do with it to preserve it. Other than drying it or using it fresh, I'm stumped. Any ideas? Can you make an oil out of it? I recently used a recipe that called for chive oil.....oil and chived chopped with a wand mixer and then strained through a cheese cloth. It was very good. Do you think something similar can be done with oregano? Thanks!

I'm not sure I've run across oregano oil. If you have boatloads of dried oregano, you should check out recipes that call for it to be used in paste/rubs for meats -- why, we will be running one for a version of Pabellon Crillo next week, in Washington Cooks! It's usually nice to add a little oregano to the top of ciabatta that's been coated with olive oil, or even to oil itself in a saucer meant for bread dipping.  Gifts of home-grown and -dried oregano might be appreciated by your pals.

I love shrimp and grits, and a friend gave me my go-to recipe several years ago. The only problem is that my household doesn't like shrimp. Since I'm trying to subject them to it as little as possible, is there a way to make a grits main dish without it?

Um, sure. Use sauteed vegetables or cooked ham or some lovely BACON (that's the operative word today) or tasso or andouille sausage instead. Or just cheese and garlic. My friend Keith's mother makes the best baked cheese grits on the planet and serves them alongside black-eyed peas for a New Year's Day brunch.

Friends are bringing lobsters over this Saturday for us to boil or grill. Any fresh, interesting ideas for side dishes?

I feel like you have to have corn with lobster. And this might be my favorite recipe we've ever run in the Washington Post: Grilled Cambodian Corn.

My family is getting ready to put together a personal cookbook for my stepsister. I know about Tastebook, and the prices seem reasonable for the quality (and the ability to upload pictures yourself). Does anyone have experience with that? Or know of other sites that may be better?

I reviewed a few different cookbook programs at Christmas a few years back. On balance, I definitely think Tastebook is easiest. But read all about it.

We just returned from a trip to Spain and had so many wonderful olives. Any suggestions on where I can purchase spanish olives? What brand? I don't live in dc, so mail-order or chain stores would be helpful.

La Tienda has a huge selection of Spanish products. You should find everything you need there.

We referenced them in Stephanie's story  today, so here they are. These are the numbers were use in determining whether a recipe is  marked "healthy" in our Recipe Finder database.

FOR MAIN COURSES

500 calories or less, 20 grams total fat or less, 6 grams saturated fat or less, 600 milligrams sodium or less, 80 milligrams cholesterol or less

FOR SIDE DISHES, SALADS, SOUPS, DESSERTS

250 calories or less, 10 grams total fat or less, 3 grams saturated fat or less, 300 milligrams sodium or less, 40 milligrams cholesterol or less

Hey guys, I need some help in the seafood department. I've always loved fish, but I have to admit I rarely encounter it with the scales still on. I wanted to try a recipe for cornmeal crusted panfried trout a few days ago and ended up buying catfish because the trout still had the scales on and I didn't want to deal with them. It wasn't until I got home and fully read the recipe that I realized you're supposed to leave the scales on. Yeah, I felt silly. Anyways, since I'm in the comfort of anonymity here, just what are the rules when it comes to eating fish scales?!?! I have to admit, I don't find the idea appetizing, but if it's what's supposed to be done, I'll give it a try. Or are you supposed to cook with the scales on and then scrape the fish off of the skin when eating? I'm so clueless!

No. No scales. You must mean, skin, right? There are recipes, like a cornmeal crusted fish, where you leave the skin on. It helps the crust stick to the fish.

When can I eat chinquapins?

September.

This isn't about recipes so it may be outside the realm of your chat, but here goes. My 16-year-old cooks a lot, kept Ruth Reichl's books at her bedside and is always thinking about the next meal. Any advice to her about launching a foodie career? She's not been successful finding a summer job in a food-related business or summer camp, with all the older kids and adults out of work this year, so is there another way besides employment for her to develop a food-related resume on her own this summer? She's done teen cooking classes and camps already.

Does she have a particular something she loves to make, or a recipe she's adapted that everyone loves? Maybe one thing she could do is market her creation through the neighborhood or a blog or even a farmers market, or offer to help cater an event where one of the things she makes would be featured. It's all about building a brand these days. Sometimes even neighborhood cafes will feature desserts made by someone else, for example. She could also check out the world of recipe contests -- could be fun for her to research on the Internets and find a place for her food to shine.

Does she want to cook? Write? She could intern at one of the big caterers. Or she can start a blog.

Hi Foodies, Last night, cucumber sandwiches. Monday, PB&J. Sunday night, hummus and veggies. Tonight, I may give in to the weather gods and serve ice cream. Any other good kid-friendly, no-cook meals you can suggest? Because I am not even turning on the grill in this weather! (BTW, I loved the blizzard - I made enough soup and chili, homemade bread and desserts to last a month)

Cool, crunchy salads. And Pineapple Gazpacho, which is my new fave cold soup. Doesn't it look good enough to dive right into?

 

Hey Food Section! I think this one's not too hard -- I've signed up to take a fruit dessert to book club tomorrow, but someone else is already making a pie (probably strawberry-rhubarb), and I want it to be easy to serve (no ice cream, parfaits, puddings). Was thinking about just doing chocolate-dipped fruits -- blueberries and raspberries -- any other ideas?

Bonnie and Joe swear by Michel Richard's Chocolate Grapes. (I am not a chocolate person but I swear by Bonnie and Joe.)

And sometimes, she swears at us.

Forgot to mention that.

The creamy eggs, tomatoes, and peppers recipe sounded delicious but I'm a vegetarian. I know I could just leave the bacon out but would there be anything I could substitute that would give it that salty-smoky taste?

Yep, you could toss in 1 chopped chipotle pepper en adobo, or you could sprinkle some Spanish smoked paprika into the eggs as they cook, instead of at the end.

Last week I commented about freshly ground pepper and the fact that Ina Garten & Giada diLaurentiis don't use it. I see that Ina always measures her pepper (which I don't think can be done easily if it's freshly ground), but I'm not sure why Giada doesn't grind. She may have started out as a home cook, but she's been to culinary school in Paris. Wouldn't you think she knows better?

Are you sure about Giada? Her recipes on the FN Web site call for it.  If you want to measure freshly ground pepper, either grind it into a small dish just before you cook, or do some test grinds to measure how much comes out of your grinder. Then you're set.

Hi! Wondering if you guys have a super delicious but easy to make homemade granola recipe to lend? I want to send my SO off on his long road trip (2 1/2 weeks in Georgia) with some healthy, eat to grab-n-go, breakfast items that will keep for a bit if properly stored. Thank you so much!

Do you like peanut butter? Check out Leigh's Peanut Butter Granola. I mean you are headed to Georgia!

I enjoy, as an all-day meal, roasting a whole chicken with some veggies. I've done some simplistic roasting/stuffing. So, I'm left with a question. Should I try to marinade (or brine) whole chickens, or try spice rubs? Which is the better bang for the buck (whole chickens being cheaper than parts)?

I  like using rubs for a whole chicken on the grill, but a marinade for roasting in the oven. Buy a whole chicken, preferably from someone who was close to it when it gave its life for your dinner.  Easy to cut up, as long as  you have a sharp knife.

The link to Jane's thing at the top doesn't work and I want to read about BACON. Tell me more about BACON. (BACON!)

Should be fixed now. Sorry about that. Here's the link.

Hello Rangers! I have lots and lots of basil (like 12 plants that are all thriving). My husband jokes that we have pesto once a week. I also have a chicken recipe with basil and garlic, but we both want something new. Any ideas for me? The only limitation is that I'm not a tomato fan (bad experience as a child and still am not over it 25 years later). Thanks!

You'll never believe it but we have had this question before! Indeed, it crops up every year which is why last year we were super smart and pulled together a ton of great recipes that use basil. (The series also included corn, peaches, tomatoes etc and was called Bumper Crop.) Here's the link for everything you can do with basil.

Greetings! I think it was in this chat where I read the tip to put fresh herbs in a zip-seal baggie with damp paper towels and press it really flat before sealing, then in the fridge to make them last a while. First question is, did I dream that, or is that a good tip? And second, if so, how long would the herbs last in such a setup?

You had me till the part about sealing and pressing flat. That doesn't ring a bell. I'd say keep the bag  open and loose. Hardier herbs should last at least a week.

I think that would work -- Thomas Keller flavors oil with nearly everything using that technique you describe. You could drizzle it on pizza, add it to marinades, top vegetables with it, etc. I think it would be great on shrimp. You could certainly do a small batch -- what do you have to lose? (Besides oregano, which you already have too much of? As long as the oil's not too expensive.)

I love this attitude. Sometimes it's fun just to try! My advice is to use an oil that is not heavily flavored. Perhaps a lighter olive oil or a grapeseed oil rather than a fruity olive. Otherwise it will be difficult for the oregano to come through.

We are running out of ideas for all these CSA greens. We've made soup, quiche, stirfry, bacon and greens, salad, pesto. Any other suggestions?

Well, that seems early. Blanch, drain and chop. Freeze for future use. Add to fillings for lasagne, stuffed shells. Add a little sauteed onion, nutmeg and cream for a rich side dish. Make dips.

Chatters, what would you suggest?

Chocolate dipped fruits are always good! If you want a baked alternative, though, blueberries are in season right now. How about a blueberry crumble? A blueberry cake? Try out this blueberry boy bait.

Nice idea.

I am hosting some vegetarian friends for a BBQ next weekend. Any tips for something really impressive (and fairly easy) besides the usual grilled veggie kabobs? Thanks!

I'm a big fan of grilled haloumi cheese. It's a salty, thick cheese that does well on the grill. (You can find it at Whole Foods Market or at middle eastern markets such as Yekta in Rockville.) Brush it with olive oil and throw on the grill. Or you can do it in a skillet and flambe it with ouzo. (Then I serve it with roasted peppers and peaches, a combo from Ana Sortun's excellent cookbook "Spice.") It's a neat trick but I've found I don't taste much of the ouzo once it's been lit on fire.

A gardening question, but please answer if you know: I'm a little late out of the starting gate this season. Is it too late to get my tomatoes planted?

I don't think so. I got a garden plot in July last year and we got plenty of tomatoes by August.

My question is about cast-iron pans, which I adore. Everyone knows (the surest sign that something may be more complicated!) that cooking in cast iron adds iron to your meal. And everyone also knows that cast-iron becomes nonstick and innured to rust because coatings of fat form a barrier between the food and the pan. But those things seem mutually exclusive - how can the iron be reactive and non-reactive at the same time? I suppose I am pondering this because a "helpful" soul ran all of my cast iron thru a dishwasher, now I have to re-cure 3 huge pans and a dutch oven :(

Nothing scientific here, but I reckon when the surface is permeated by heat or is oxidized or exposed to acidic ingredients, it will react. Not sure that iron is ever "nonreactive" or considered thus because it is seasoned well. Does that make sense?

Hello..I'm in Sacramento, CA and usually read your chat transcripts after the fact (I always learn something new!) so am hoping you can answer a question about brining. Is there a general rule with regards to proportions of the salt and water ratio vs the amount of meat I am brining? Also, after brining, do I rinse off the meat prior to cooking? Thanks in advance. Love the website and chats-keep up the good work!

Thanks, Sacramento! I think it's 1 quart of brine per every 2 pounds of meat. Yes, be sure to rinse, rinse, rinse.

the boyfriend loves homemade egg and biscuit sandwiches. I can make a passable one using a Better Homes and Gardens recipe for "Baking Powder Biscuits" and sticking egg on it -- but how can I up my game? i'm looking for better biscuit recipes, topping ideas, egg frying tips - anything you've got! he's a student and just finishing a tough round of exams so I would like to show my support with a greasy breakfast sandwich.

First things first, make the best biscuit. I can't tell if you like your biscuits or just want topping ideas. But if you want a great biscuit, try one of these two recipes that I learned to make in Charleston a few years back.

As for toppings, slow-cooked scrambled eggs -- if you're really serious you can make them over a double boiler -- are great and then I'd add thick-cut bacon or a very ripe tomato and cheese.

I LOVED Stephanie Sedgwick's column on backsliding on healthy cooking. It's great to see this very human side of writing about healthy foods. A comment...she said she likes to use a extra dose of olive oil for flavor in her 'rebound' cooking. That's not unhealthy. The research on low-fat diets isn't very good. We should be minimizing saturated fats, but good fats like olive oil appear to be good for taste and health. Also, she says she likes real sour cream and not yoghurt. I say all things in moderation and that's fine. But I've had great success using Greek yoghurt (Trader Jope's brand preferred) in place of sour cream in many dishes. Anyway, a great piece. Thank you.

Thanks for your positive comments.

While olive oil is a "good" fat, it still adds to the total calorie and fat so I have to be careful to let the count get too high-a calorie's a calorie any way you look at it!

In today's article, pre-cut bagged escarole is mentioned, where do you find it? Would you recommend any other greens to substitute in the recipe? Thanks

I bought the escarole at Wegman's but it should be available whole or bagged in most major supermarkets. If you buy a whole head, wash it carefully in cold water. It's usually very dirty.

It's my birthday this weekend and believe it or not I really don't want to go out and celebrate. I'd rather have a nice quiet evening at home with my husband. I want to make an awesome meal though I was thinking something with shimp and pasta. I was thinking of a cream cheese based pink colored sauce. I made it once by mistake and have been searching for a recipe since but with no luck. Suggestions on an awesome meal? I don't care for salmon or lobster but anything else is fair game (as is all red meat, chicken etc.).

Wait. You have to cook your own birthday dinner?

Hello Food Folks. I need a great recipe for a steak/blue cheese salad I'd like to make this weekend. Do you have one off the top of your heads? Thanks!

Arugula. Grilled Steak. Cherry tomatoes. Good blue cheese. Toasted walnuts or croutons. Simple vinaigrette with a little blue cheese mixed in so you have that flavor throughout the salad.

I bought 6 lbs of local Virginia peaches 2 days ago and need to use them quickly! We don't do jam and are off loads of sugar and there's only 2 of us. How to use, cook or freeze? Also, I end up clipping Stephanie's columns every week and was hoping a cookbook in the future to replace all the scraps?

Peach, tomato and cilantro salsa? Peach and goat cheese in salad? Stewed peaches (cook them over medium heat until they are soft but not mushy) to serve with yogurt or ice cream. Or skin them and cut into chunks and freeze. You can then use them for great smoothies.

Trying to make the most of produce delivery - have heard that "kale chips" might be tempting - even for little ones - what is the best way to make them?

Stem them, dry them, spread them out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until you can see the leaves have crisped and browned at some edges.

I noticed a shrimp recipe and an article on Gulf seafood. I LOVE shrimp but I will not buy farm raised asian shrimp. I go for the wild caught Gulf shrimp. How will the oil spill impact this shrimp? What other shrimp should I buy?

There's enough Gulf shrimp to be had. Just saw some at BlackSalt Market last week. You may end up paying a bit more for it.

Watch her & you'll see. She has a bowl of pepper and takes a pinch or two & sprinkles it over what she's cooking. Even Rachael Ray fresh grinds pepper!

Ah, I'm sure it's just a TV-cooking thing.

Bacon Camp! Sounds wonderful! Jane, did you get to enjoy the experience, or were you pretty busy tracking down people to interview, getting their stories, arranging for photography, etc. Even beyond the tasting I think I would have just stood there in dropped-jaw awe... Eckhouse... Benton... Molly Stevens... *choirs of angels singing*

I have to say it was pretty fun. And ironic. I'm one of those roll-my-eyes at bacon people. But I got unusually excited at the prospect of Camp Bacon. And it delivered. Great minds. And great food. Interestingly, one of my favorite bacons was the Edward's from Surrey, Va. Almost local!

I think the Pasta Caprese from America's Test Kitchen is my favorite basil-using recipe ever.

Good thought. But it has tomatoes and she has an aversion. But for everyone else...

I tried a lovely herbal beer at a brewers festival that had oregano as its predominant flavor. Know any homebrewers who are looking to step up their game? If it were my problem, I'd hook up with the too-much-basil person and make a bunch of tomato sauce, freeze it and use it when the weather gets colder again.

Well, I've had pizza beer made with oregano.  Guess you'd certainly use a lot of it!

For all intents and purposes, trout do not have scales (they are so minuscule and soft they don't need to be removed for cooking, and in fact you'll more likely damage the skin if you try). The skin itself is fine to eat if you like or you can scrape it off after it's cooked - it can add a nice crunch if you cook it right.

Well, whaddya know? You are absolutely right. Sorry for the confusion all...but...still confused about whether the original poster meant scales or skin? If he had trout, apparently there were no scales.

But very cold basement apartment. I think I'm the only one who braises or turns on the oven in August around here. No complaints, just really looking forward to the meatloaf on the lovely Cheddar Jalapeno Rolls I picked up from the Lyon Bakery stand at Union Station that I found out from you all on the blog. Thanks!

Glad you are happy. Just hope you are warm in winter!

That bread is delish.

The teen looking for cooking experience should look into volunteering at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda or Gaithersburg. I've had several friends who volunteered there. After a few classes, when they've had experience with some of the chef's and teachers, a couple were asked to guest host a class or even teach a class there. Several former volunteers and teachers broke off a few years ago to open a catering firm. Great opening for someone who wants to get more into food careers.

Super idea!

I'm late to respond, but this is one of those things that gets me. These are SHOWS people, you don't think there's some intern who grinds the pepper before the taping? That's my guess what's going on. Plus, I've read that in one taping Giada cooks the meals start to finish, two or three times, probably goes through alot of pepper.

Do as they say, not as they do?

Greens: You will never get bored of them Scicilian style. Caramelize onions, stir in chopped greens until wilted, splash of cooking wine and add dried fruit (raisins, crainsins, chopped dried apricots). Secret ingredient: Red star nutritional yeast, the workhorse of the vegan kitchen. But every omnivore I know falls in love with it when I introduce them to it, often as a topping on salted and unbuttered popcorn - tastes like white chedder popcorn! Adds that certain 'something' to everything, and adapts to what you need that 'something' to be: eggy, cheesy, rich/buttery. Can't live without it!!

Sold.

If that recipe tastes anywhere near as good as what I ate in N'Orleans, I will be blissed out, and thank you in advance.

Loved coating the oysters in mustard in between the cornmeal and flour. That's key. Also, the tartar sauce is pretty darn good. Just don't look at the nutritional numbers....

You had a bunch of ceviche recipes last week and while I have eaten ceviche out, I have been leery of picking "good enough" fish to make ceviche at home. Suggestions for a novice in this area?

It has to be fresh, above all. So go to a fishmonger you trust, on a day of new deliveries.

I really don't get the cake in a box thing. I mean, if you have 10 minutes, I understand why some would use it. But if you're going to be adding things anyway, it literally takes an extra 5 minutes to mix the flour, baking powder, chocolate, etc.... It's like boxed pancakes - I just don't get it!

Some people grew up on that boxed-mix taste, so maybe it's a food-memory thing. I am not defending.

In honor of the Caribbean Parade this Saturday, I'm planning on making some festive drinks to sip on my porch, any ideas for something that can be made in large batches and will be delicious and appropriate to the occasion? I'm thinking rum is probably the best liquor to go with...

You could try this fun and fancy Thieves Punch with tawny port and cachaca.

I have about 2 cups of plain yogurt left over from making tzatziki. I'm thinking about draining it, then flavoring to make a spread for crackers. Much as I love tzatziki, I probably shouldn't duplicate the cucumber/garlic/dill flavors, especially since I'm out of dill. Any suggestions for a savory spread?

How about this Must Go Spinach Spread?  Or, it won't be quite as good as the original, but you could substitute in yogurt for the cream cheese in the recipe Bonnie ran today for BACON-Horseradish Dip.

Obtaining recipes... I had an amazing meal at MJ's Daily Bread in Rochester, NY. An AMAZING meal. Do you ever ask restaurants for recipes? Her potato salad blew me away. Never had any so good. If you don't ask for recipes, got any suggestions on obtaining them from chefs? (And if anyone is going to be in Rochester, she's on Main St around the corner from the Susan B Anthony House museum. Best meal I've had in years.) thanks

We don't usually get them; and if we do it's someone local. My advice for getting the recipe. Call up and ask. If you tell them what a big fan you are, I'm sure they will happily oblige.

Thanks for your kind words. I think you should be making peach crisp. You can "prebake" the filling in an aluminum foil pan; cool, add the the crumb topping, wrap and freeze. Bake right from the oven at your leisure. Thank me later!

Jason, if drinking in the morning on weekends is wrong, I don't wanna be right. During the summer, my friends and I tend to start with batches of Pimm's Cups at 11am-ish. It's the best way to beat the heat.

Are you British by any chance?

Having my office over for a backyard "BBQ" this Sunday... but I don't need to make a full meal since it's late afternoon. Any ideas for yummy outdoor snacks? I want to do something more special than just opening bags of chips!

This summer my go-to-hors d'oeuvre/cocktail food is a shrimp skewer. I mix the shrimp with spice rub and oil (not too much) and skewer 3 to a stick so the shrimp lay flat (through the back and tail). Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side on a hot grill; drizzle with bbq sauce and accept the compliments graciously.

my favorite substitute for oil and eggs is a can of diet soda! i use diet pepsi or coke for chocolate cakes, and 7up or sprite for white cakes. it is fabulous, and no one notices the difference! i think the cakes actually turn out moister!

In the coca-cola cake realm.

Hi all. I loved the pork and pineapple skewers recipe last week. I'd been pondering what kind of marinade I can develop using fruit to infuse that flavor into meats like chicken or pork. I've considered using nectars like peach or mango along with a few seasonings as an overnite marinade. I worry that too much of a citrus base would "cook" the meat (not bad for short marinades, not good for long term infusions). Do you guys have any ideas to infuse fruity flavors into cubed meat for kebabs/spedies?

I won't worry at all for a quick marinade.  Pineapple's the worst offender in altering the texture of meat, but a few minutes won't do any harm. Citrus will overmarinate fish fast (anything over 30 minutes)  but for meats it will take a long time. Go ahead and experiment. I keep trying new fruits with success. Next week's Nourish has a dressing made from whole blueberries.

When a recipe calls for minced garlic, is it ok that I use my microplane on the garlic? Do you have any good tips for mincing garlic beyond a press? I find both manual chopping and the press are incredibly sticky where the microplane is not. Is there a time (other than when you want to see pieces/slices) when I should forgo using the microplane for manual chopping of garlic?

No worries, in fact I'm going to try it myself.

Sometimes I use the small ceramic grater that is made for ginger. It works great and you get access to the garlic juices.

Whole Chicken guy again. For marinading a whole chicken, do you have any suggestions that don't involve quarts of oil? Can you water down marinades to cover a whole chicken? Etc. (Recepies are nice too!)

Doesn't take quarts...a good slathering and a night spent refrigerated in a Ziploc bag can do the trick. Also, you might want to think about yogurt marinades with chicken, in the Greek/Mediterranean mode.

Help! I feel like all my toddler eats (that is, all I feed my toddler) is carbs. Goldfish, pretzels, granola bars....that's it for snacks. Other than carrot sticks, what else can I give him? Thanks.

Um...berries, pineapple, mango, yogurt, peas, stringbeans, soups. Any other real food cut into toddler-size pieces.

Is there something wrong with toddlers eating carbs?

Has the Food section ever done a listing of all of the neighborhood gardens in DC? I am on a few waiting lists for an allotment but have had a hard time finding out where all of the various ones are.

As in, community gardens? That's a good idea.

Both do in fact grind their pepper, but both grind a big batch each morning to use as they cook throughout the day. Ina I believe uses a dedicated coffee/spice grinder, and I imagine Giada does too.

You sound so certain, I'm going to post this as a final answer to that line of inquiry.

I admit that my husband and I have a love affair with bacon and the taste can really vary from one processor to another (right now our faves are Trader Joe's uncured Applewood thick cut bacon and Smith Meadows Farm bacon sold at various farmer's markets including Arlington and Del Ray). Our favorite summer sandwich is toasted bread (brioche is especially nice) lightly treated with good mayo topped with thick slices of tomato sprinkled with salt/pepper, slices of avocado (one between the two of us), and slices of crispy but not burnt bacon. It is just an amazing culmination of creamy, salty, crispy goodness. I have also found that bacon makes brussel sprouts especially edible and is often a perfect compliment to many savory dishes. I know pork belly is related to bacon (in fact kind of tastes like a meatier yet also fattier version), but can I buy that in the store and if so, how would I cook it? I have seen something that has been called pork belly but it just looked like a square of fat and kind of scared me.

Yes, what is amazing about BACON is that you need so little of it to add so much flavor. (This is one of the reasons that the "more BACON" people get on my nerves.) I like my BACON cut thick and not overly smoky.

American BACON is made from pork belly. If you've ever had Canadian or English/Irish rashers, they are not made from the belly but the loin. (It's why they call ours streaky BACON because it's streaked with fat, unlike their traditional kind.) It is fatty and can be hard to work with if you don't know how to cook it. The best way to use it is to braise it. It helps render a lot of the fat. For the best recipe, I point you to Molly Stevens, who did a great demo at Camp Bacon. Her book, All About Braising, is, to quote another chatter here today, "da bomb."

 

The original poster (me) meant both because I'm so clueless I don't even know the difference. So, no to scales but yes to skin? Except with trout, because the scales aren't scaly at all, right, so it's cool to eat them with the skin and fish? Or is it totally OK for me to be a baby and not eat the skin? Thanks!

You got it. And no, you don't have to eat the skin. You have our blessing.

If I read a "women's magazine" type recipe, I will often substitute ingredients, such as: Real whipped cream for cool whip Butter for margarine etc. Sometimes those recipe combinations sound good, but when the directions start with "open a can of" or "open a box of", I know I need to do some substituting.

Yessirreee Bob.

Mark Bittman has the best recipe ever for biscuits in How to Cook Everything.

I am a big fan of MB. Thanks for the link.

Not British. Just really appreciative of at least that aspect of British culture.

I hear you. I am a big fan of Pimm's cup meself.  :)

Okay, I'm ready to make biscuits after you posted that link to your article. Where can I get White Lily flour? Or is this brand only available in the South?

It is indeed. We have found White Lily flour at Balducci's, some Harris Teeter and Williams-Sonoma stores.

I have a friend who loves shepherds pie and doesn't cook much but is coming to visit me. I have been trying to eat healthier and have cut white potatoes out in favor of sweet potatoes due to the difference in nutrients. Do you think I could do mashed sweet potatoes but still make it a good pie? How would you recommend I spice them? With white potatoes I use a little butter, a little half and half, salt and pepper, a bit of sharp cheddar cheese, and a bit of fresh garlic.

Sure, why not? A few things to keep in mind:

The mash will be looser as sweets are higher in water content than baking potatoes so you'll need to add less butter or cream.

It's not going to taste the same. You might want to use pork instead of lamb or beef. The mash will be sweet and sometimes sweet and red meat doesn't go.

You''ll have to spice differently.

Hmmm..I think you'll have a good dish but it's not going to be shepherd's pie. Why not try this new dish on your family and give your friend the traditional old-style dish he or she loves.

I'd also suggest volunteering at Food and Friends in DC. Not only do you learn about large quanitity food prep and preparing food for different people with special needs, I found the head chef a few years ago to be very friendly (though busy) and willing to discuss menu planning etc. with teens. Not to mention you would be contributing to your community.

A GREAT idea. You win something.

Avocados. Apples with honey or peanut butter. Bananas with honey or peanut butter. Stop buying those prepackaged, sodium-overloaded junk foods. A piece of toast with jam is better!

More good ideas...and a mini-rant.

I never would have thought of this myself, but at Tria in Philly once I had a savory spread with basil and pistachios... out of this world. You may want to play with those flavors.

Interesting!

I think the person got scammed or they are hothouse peaches. No peaches are ripe yet in VA, or SC or GA for that matter.

There is no such thing as a hothouse peach. And yes, there are peaches already. Some early varieties. I got some at the market this weekend. I forget the name but the farmer told me he didn't have many of them because the early varieties are finicky. The seed breaks and the top turns black. Should be high peach season by early-mid July.

Certainly nothing wrong with him eating carbs. I love carbs and agree they're important part. But so are fruits and proteins and...

Agreed.

I've been making Stephanie's Garlicky Shrimp since the recipe first came out. I've used almost every vegetable instead of broccoli since, and all are great. But tomatoes and feta - oh my. I came home from the farm market today with lots of baby carrots. What is the best way to pre-cook them to be added to either of these dishes?

My absolute favorite way to cook baby carrots is roasting. Just toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper; roast at 375 degrees until tender and nicely browned. I wouldn't add to the dishes (carrots, shrimp and feta seems like a bad trio) but you could add to a green salad on the side.

Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan and on at Potomac Ave both carry White Lily. Be careful, as they carry both regular and self-rising!

Good to know.

One idea for abundance of greens: Deborah Madison's "What We Eat When We Eat Alone" includes this recipe for:

Polenta Smothered with Braised Greens

Polenta; 1 T olive oil; 1 small onion, thinly sliced; 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped; 3 or 4 big handfuls chard, kale, or other greens; leaves removed from the stems, rinsed and torn; salt and pepper; 1/3 c water or chicken broth; a few drops red wine vinegar; 3 slices prosciutto, cut into strips (optional); Asiago or Parmesan cheese for grating.

Make the polenta and pour it into a lightly oiled bowl to set. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onion. Give a stir and cook until the onion is wilted, about 8 minutes, adding the garlic halfway through. Add the greens, sprinkle them with 1/2 teas salt, and pour in the water or stock. Cover and cook until the greens are wilted and tender, from 8 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of greens used. Sprinkle with vinegar and add the prosciutto, if using. Let rest while you turn out the polenta. Cut polenta into slices and arrange them on your plate, cover with the greens, and grate the cheese over all. This is a recipe for one person (or maybe two) but can certainly be multiplied.

Awesome. Thanks

I'm going to finally attempt making my own chicken stock. I put a leftover chicken carcass in the freezer a few months ago. First question, think it's still good? Second, if it is, do I defrost first, or can I just throw it frozen in the pot with water and start it up? Thanks!

Throw it in and let it rip, baby!

I'm looking for a foolproof pie crust recipe, preferrably using butter over lard/shortening. Do you have a go-to version to share? Also, I think my pie pan is wider/deeper than standard and I always seem to come up short for a good edge. Are there any pitfalls to increasing the recipe by a third or so to have plenty of dough to work with?

Everyone swears by the Cook's Illustrated recipe with vodka (recipe via SeriousEats). It has shortening and butter. Take a look.

Not the original poster, but... I love to cook. For many years when I was an up and coming professional and didn't time to cook much, I used to have a party on the night of my birthday. I would invite 6-10 friends (some friends were invited every year, but there were a couple of "rotating seats" to include some new faces). The menu was whatever looked good to me in the store and what I wanted to make for me. I did and do entertain a lot and I try to make the meals fit allergies, likes and dislikes of my guests and still give a variety (I try to remember what I've served a group of friends and vary it). So, for my birthday dinner, it was all about me. Yes, I cooked for my own birthday. Now I'm married and cook regularly. Additionally, my wife is not a very adventurous eater so I don't do my "all about me" birthday dinner anymore, but did for over 10 years.

Fair enough. That was a joke. I love to cook/entertain. Just teasing.

Hello Free Rangers! First, is there any place where you can get all of a certain type of column (say, Nourish or Cooking for One)? I would love to be able to go back and browse, as I find that the recipes in context of the story are often much more inspiring.

Second, I was thinking of making some type of fresh peach syrup which I could add to champagne or over ice cream, one with lots of fresh peachiness and a bit of fruit flesh. Any suggestions? Many thanks!

Indeed there is. Here's our archive of Cooking for One and Gastronomer. It doesn't look like there's an archive for Nourish. We'll build that today.

Ack, running out of time, so you get half an answer. You can search the  Recipe Finder database for Nourish or Gastronomer or Washington Cooks, and those related recipes will come up for you.

Well, we've sizzled and crisped, awaiting the all-important drain on paper towels, so you know what that means. Thanks to Stephanie and to you for joining us today. The chatter who suggested Food & Friends for the cooking teen gets the "Pig" cookbook, and the chatter keenly interested in marinating chicken gets the "Eating Local" book. Remember to send your snail-mail info to food@washpost.com so we can send the books to you.

Next week, we've got picnic food that can beat the heat, and an inside look at what's gone into opening Estadio, the new Spanish resto in Logan Circle. So c'mon back!

In This Chat
Free Rangers
The Washington Post Food section is your source for cooking and food stories and hundreds of recipes.
Recent Chats
  • Next: