Free Range on Food

Jul 20, 2011

Today's topics: Sourcing and cooking with local honey, making your own non-alcoholic sodas, the expansion of D.C. Central Kitchen, and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings from Oven Central, where those no-cook recipes from a few weeks ago are looking mighty good right now -- as does today's DIY nod to homemade sodas. Did David Hagedorn's Sourced column send you in search of local honey? Are you ready to dunk your corn in a cocktail and get into white whiskeys, as Spirits columnist Jason Wilson recommends? Think your fave mussels recipe would top Claudio Pirollo's winner from the weekend's Mussel Throwdown?

We'll tackle those topics and just about any other food-related issues for the next hour. The AC's on and we're fresh as daisies, with the capable flying fingers of Editor Joe, Tim Carman, David Hagedorn and Jim Shahin. Jason's at the Tales of the Cocktail in NOLA, tweeting; wonder if he find the keyboard?

To class up the discussion, the chatter who delivers the best quotation, with attribution, about food will win either a copy of  Andrew Schloss's "Homemade Soda" or Fine Cooking's "In Season." Winners announced at the end of the chat. 

I'll get things started: "One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." -- Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, "Pavarotti, My Own Story"

Our company's annual picnic will take place at the end of the summer, the theme is "HarvestFest." We are expecting 150-300 people including employees, spouses, children & grandparents. There will be lots of activities and food. The food will be catered. I am working on the menu. Would I become "Public Enemy #1" if at this picnic there will be NO hot dogs, NO hamburgers, No french fries, NO fried chicken, NO potato salad and NO pizza? What if instead there will be whole roast pig or whole roast lamb and roast chicken, lots and lots of fixings for green salad, dry bean salad, rice, and at least six vegetable sides including sweet potatoes. Dessert: watermelon & fresh fruits instead of cookies, pies, cakes or donuts. Regrettably, company policy forbids serving beer or wine at this event, (I doubt we will be able to get Estadio carbonated drinks for all,) reluctantly we will serve sodas, although me thinks water and unsweetened ice tea would be just fine. Are potato chips a must? Could unsalted nuts or raisins replace them? I would love to serve this meal on disposable plates looking exactly like Michelle's "My Plate," picture of which was accompanying Tim Carmen's article a few weeks ago. Does anybody know whether does plates are available anywhere? What do you think? Please Speak up now. I want to know what I am getting myself into.

Are you kidding? I think your food sounds like it'd be a huge hit. Well, it would be in my circles -- but only you know the tastes of people you work with. Whole roast pig is a crowd-pleaser. As long as you make all those things tasty, I think you'll be good -- with the possible exception of dessert, which I'll get to in a second. But first, can I just say, I hope that you in the presentation/planning of all this emphasize the positive nature of what will be there, rather than what's missing? That'll make a big difference. Talk about what's so great about it -- what it is, not what it's not, if that makes sense.

Now, for dessert. I'd suggest that you do at least a big fruit salad like this one, which uses a delicious mint syrup, rather than just fresh fruit. Or, even better, that you make a large cobbler or shortcake thing, with whipped cream. I  made David Lebovitz's cherry-apricot cobbler with an almond-cake topping for a dinner party the other day; super easy and just perfect, really. Our own David H's peach-apricot cobbler would also be an excellent choice. Easy to scale up.

And for the drinks, it would be much more festive if you jazzed up things a little bit, too. The Backyard Blackberry Soda is pretty darn easy. Or you could buy some of those great Ceres juices from Whole Foods (my fave is passion fruit) and mix them with seltzer.

As for the plates, I don't think anybody's making any to look like the new USDA MyPlate. But you don't want to hit people over the head with this, anyway, do you? Nah.

With all the fresh peppers at the market and in the garden I'm tempted to try to make my own hot sauce. Do you have any suggestions, tips &/or recipes?

This Southwest Sriracha Sauce is exceptional, from a Washington Cooks contributor Tim Artz.

What a fabulous idea! I've been on a real ice cream making kick and will be sure to try this soon. A couple of the ingredients are a bit unusual, and thus potentially hard to find and expensive--the rose water and lavender honey. Can I substitute regular honey? And what about the rose water, just use more milk? I'm sure it's tasty, but I'd like to keep it simple if possible.

Rose water is actually fairly inexpensive and more available than you may think. Whole Foods carries it and Mediterranean stores, of course. It really adds a distinctive flavor, but you may substitute milk as you suggest.

As to honey, use regular honey, but the fuller the flavor, the better.

Also, using a vanilla bean (split it, infuse it with the nuts, then scrape the seeds into the base after straining the solids out) instead if vanilla extract with add some extra body.

I'm not local DC, so the article about Mumbo Sauce on wings, etc., was intriguing. Do you have a recipe for that sauce so that we can make it at home? Thanks!

Yes, mumbo sauce really is fascinating, less because of its flavor profile, than because of its influence and cultural significance.  If you haven't read Theresa Vargas's story, do yourself the favor.

As for a recipe, here's a fairly traditional one, using ketchup as a base and spiced with Hungarian paprika and hot sauce.

"Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn." Garrison Keillor.

Like it!

I don't know which Julia Child quote I like better: "The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook" or ""I think every woman should have a blowtorch."

I agree; a tough choice.

Do you see any reason that I can't freeze chimichurri sauce? I need to make a large batch ahead of time to use at a function next week. The base recipe is: 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 1/2 garlic clove, peeled Thanks!

Funny you should ask. We will have a cilantro chimichurri sauce as part of our package next Wednesday on grilling seafood. Ours is slightly different from yours - serrano pepper but no basil, parsley, or red wine vinegar in ours. Love the sound of yours. Check ours out next week. 

Okay, enough shameless plug. As for freezing a chimichurri sauce, I've done it and it turns out beautifully. Not quite as fresh tasting (obviously) and a little less lively in texture, but, pull it out in winter, and, lemme tell ya, you won't care. 

What exactly is a soda siphon? Is it different from a Soda Stream or is it the same thing? Did I miss the details section of this article? Great idea but I was very confused about the terminology, products and techniques on how to actually make the drinks.

Sorry you were confused! As we said in the piece, a soda siphon uses a C02 cartridge to inject carbonation into whatever you put in it. It's a handheld device about the size of a cocktail shaker. SodaStream, as we wrote, is a company that makes home-carbonation systems that also use C02 cartridges.

The recipes provide more details, telling you how to make the drinks using a variety of methods.

"I like to have a martini, Two at the very most. After three I'm under the table, after four I'm under my host." Dorothy Parker!

You're in the running.

My friends and I are going shopping at the fish market and farmer's market this weekend and then making brunch together based on what we find. Do you have any suggestions for what to look out for right now and also brunch recipe ideas for local, seasonal ingredients? Thanks!

This question is up my alley, because I'm making a similar brunch on Sunday for someone who bought me at a charity auction. I'm most inspired at the moment by all the great stone fruit coming in now -- sweet cherries (and MAYBE the last of the sour ones, but I'm thinking they're over), peaches, nectarines, plums -- plus blackberries, raspberries and blueberries that I've got crepes on the brain. Or maybe a clafoutis.

Crepes filled with lemon curd and berries are pretty spectacular.

Eggs are such a natural brunch item to think about, of course, that I'll be looking for possibilities there, too. A frittata made puffy by separating yolks and whites, beating up the whites and folding them back in is always dramatic and lovely. Top it with young onions, Swiss chard, feta cheese.

Or maybe a take on a Nicoise salad, or maybe a salad with lardons and soft-cooked egg. For the latter, I might use some of Red Apron's fantastic cured meats instead of plain-old bacon.

Lots to think about!

Help! I need an authentic tiramisu recipe! There are around a million online but I don't know which are authentic and which aren't....

Jane Black wrote a fun story about it way back when; I think it was her first Food section foray. Try this for the real deal.

For the person from the 7/13 chat who was looking for olive oil and vinegar, there is a new store that just opened in Shirlington called Ah Love Oil and Vinegar http://www.ahloveoilandvinegar.com/ That is all they sell. I went a few weeks ago and came away with a shallot, garlic oil and an 18 year old balamic vinegar. Both are really delicious. The owner seems to be very knowledgeable and readily offers to let you taste any of the products.

Right! It's on our list of places. Seems promising, these olive oil boutiques popping up.

I am a new lover of fresh figs, the photo is wonderful. I do not see them at the farmers market or local grocery. Where can I procure some and what is the best method for storing. Also any other recipes you love which incorporate figs?

I used to abhor figs until a few years ago when I suddenly acquired a taste for them. What turned me off the most from them, the gritty texture, somehow became appealing--go figure.

Whenever I see them in the store, I snatch them up. I found them at Whole Foods and at my local Giant recently.

Store them in the the fridge in the container they came in and eat them within a few days. (You can freeze them, whole or quartered, in a freezer bag. Use them for cooked dishes, like pies, jams, cookie fillings or sauces.)

I like to do as little as possible to them, hence today's recipe that just requires composing things on a plate.

Another favorite for dessert is to place them on top of creme anglaise that is infuesed with saffron. Beautiful and simple.

Here is a recipe for smoked cherry, fig and apricot pie that I made on a grill, so you don't have to heat up the kitchen. It's delicious.

As a fairly newly pregnant woman trying to figure out "what in the world besides milk and water can I even drink now?" those sodas look wonderful (and they say fizziness may help with morning sickness). I can't wait to start playing with flavor combinations. Any other suggestions? Anything else liquid I should investigate for when I get tired of hydrating with water, water, all. the. time?

Jason had a couple more fun ideas in a column on mocktails. Check these out.

everything in moderation, including moderation.

Hmm...was she referring to edible temptation?

I'm in the mood for a sandwich for dinner tonight. Any ideas? No restrictions. I'm heading to the store this afternoon so I can pick up anything I need.

Did you happen to see Tony Rosenfeld's sandwich lineup in our July 6 issue? Think my fave was the turkey w/smoked gouda, pickled red onion and cherries.

Should be served in Mason jars with no sin taxes or other taxes paid on the beverage. Well made untaxed Va corn liquor is not harsh and does not bite even at full strength. Only urban dwellers who live 1br condos in upcoming neighborhoods prefer the waterdown elixor. I have tried the White whiskey from the small producers on Rt 7 and the hooch from Early TImes its okay but does not have the complexity or satisfy like liquor my friends bring along when we are working herding dogs on hundreds of sheep on a chilly November morning with clear blue skies and the fog just burning off. Real working men and women prefer the real thing in mason jars.

Thanks, Clifton.

"The only pepper I cannot abide is a green pepper. I just cannot see any excuse for them." Nigella Lawson

Although I often find excuses for them, I still find great humor in her passionate dislike for green peppers!

I'm with her, if not quite as vehemently. Indeed, as a background note, flavor base (part of the Southern "trinity"), sure. But more than that, I tend to stay away.

I love organizing trips out to pick-your-own berries/peaches/apples but recently have been trying to eat more organic produce. Do you know of any pick-your-own farms in the DC area that use organic or natural growing practices?

I miss the listings that The Post used to run in the Weekend section...here are links to PYO farms in Virginia and Maryland. The organic ones are listed "in green," and the sites include a calendar to see what's in season.  Chatters, do you have any favorite organic places to get dirt under your nails?

About six months ago or so, someone wrote in asking questions about buying cookware, and whether or not to purchase sets. Lots of advice followed, and one reader said that good non-tick cookware was often available by the piece at Marshall's and TJ Maxx. I hadn't even written in with this question, but really benefited from the advice....it took a few trips to stores to find all the pieces I wanted, but the savings were well worth it. There were some 'discount' sets available, but they included pieces I didn't want and weren't as great a savings as buying individual pieces. Thanks for the chats...they help a lot.

Interesting tale. I'm curious: How many hours would you say you devoted to your hunt for low-cost cookware? I suspect some readers would rather just shell out the cash than devote the time. It's all about what you value, I guess.

Hi Guys, posting early as I have to go out into Hades today at noon! Does anyone out there know the name of the honey guy who used to show up at the Silver Spring Farmers Market. I have never tasted any other honey that is as good as what he sells and I have been waiting for him to show up. So far this summer I have not seen him (sigh). Thanks

According to Bernie Prince at FreshFarm Markets, Rocky Ridge Apiary from West Virginia used to sell at the Silver Spring market, but no more. "They're not doing farmers markets any more," Prince tells me. The trip was apparently too far for the apiary, which is a shame, since Rocky Ridge had that cool bee display.

But Prince says that 90-year-old Charlie Koiner from Koiner Farm sells honey at the Silver Spring market.

"Mama always cooked. No one died of too much cholesterol or some such crap." Junior Soprano, Tony's uncle (in the Soprano's Family Cookbook)

Today, you bet.

during dinner parties "must be good. no one's talking."

Music to every cooks' ears.

I thought I'd have to paraphrase because I can't remember word-for-word but then I googled it and found it. Hopefully that's not cheating! If so, I'm admitting it outright :) But I thought it appropriate given your (awesome) honey article. From Alton Brown: So on one hand, honey is an amazingly sophisticated and efficient food source. On the other hand it's bee backwash.

Yes, and it's the tastiest backwash I know!

I can't belive this poster is planning such a responsible, healthy meal, but ended the post with "paper plates." So much waste. Maybe the caterer can provide real food serviceware or s/he can get a compost company to come and pick up the waste (which would mean using compostable plates, etc.). At the very least, please recycle your beverage containers!

Yep, good point! There are great compostable plates available now.

I love creamed/whipped honey. I just use it in my morning tea. I think it might be clover, but I don't know if there are other varieties of it. I recently asked a vendor at the fancy food show if they had any creamed honey and they turned up their noses at me and said that it's just lower quality honey that has air added to it to make it seem more special. Can this be right? I'll go on eating it anyway.

Actually creamed honey (the Riningers are thinking of adding it to their product line this year) is simply honey to which crystallized honey has been added at a cool temperature (57 degrees) and stirred with a screw-like spoon over a period of weeks to produce a spreadable honey. Many Europeans prefer this to the gooey honey we are used to because it doesn't soak into bread.

So you just crinkle right back and affirm your Europeanness.

Reminds me of a funny tip I saw in Cook's Illustrated....if you have a small bowl for dipping that keeps sliding around a crudites platter, use a little creamed honey to secure the bottom to the platter. Really.

Two of my favorite quotes are: Food is our common ground, a universal experience. James Beard If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. J. R. R. Tolkien (Hobbit)

What purpose does it serve? Thanks

Imparts a fruity flavor and some tanginess.

I bought a share at my local organic farm and receive bi-weekly deliveries of vegetables. Because of the weird growing conditions this year, I'm getting an unusual amount of greens and romaine lettuce. Lots and lots of romaine lettuce. I don't have a grill, so what can I do with this besides making salads?

Braise it. This one for braised romaine with mustard and bacon isn't ours, but looks good. Then there's the classic peas "a la Francaise," which I saw Eric Ripert make yesterday as part of this bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin dish while making my way through my DVR library while recovering from strep throat. (The recipe calls for bibb lettuce, but Eric used romaine on the show.)

I look forward to Free Range every Wednesday as I always learn interesting information. I am hoping you have a recipe for Salted Caramel Ice Cream and also one for hot fudge sauce to go over it.. Thank you so much.

Well, we have Salted Caramel Sundaes -- kind of the best of both worlds? I suggest you track down a copy of "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams" or David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop." And  you will be happy.

 

Is there a ratio that we can use when substituting sugar for honey? For example 1 tablespoon of honey is how many tbspns/tspns of sugar? Thanks.

For sweetening purposes, just add honey until something is as sweet as you want it. For baking purposes,  it is generally considered correct to use 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar for a cup of honey, but you'd also have to up the liquid in the recipe by a 1/4 cup.

Hi Free Rangers! I've been dealing with the summer heat by cutting up fruit and letting water soak up the flavor. We're saving a ton on the flavored waters. Oranges or peaches are great, especially with mint. Lemon and lime are too strong. Any suggestions for ideas?

Funny you should mention flavored water. I tried a Mash water drink for the first time yesterday. It's made by Boylan.  It's good: A subtly flavored drink with only 40 cals per serving. (But be mindful: Each bottle contains 2.5 servings.) I bought the lemon peel/ginger root version of Mash water from the El Floridano food truck. I actually thought the flavors could be pumped up, which makes me think it could be made better at home.

If you Google "agua fresca" you'll find lots of ideas. Bet you'd like that Sparkling Watermelon in today's recipes, too.

 

Hi, Our garden is overflowing with ripe tomatoes. Could you post a link for your tomato recipe winners from last year? Or provide other recipes that would use a lot of tomatoes? Slicing them onto my cheese sandwiches isn't using them up quick enough! Thanks!

Jealous. Where the heck are you? If you go to our Recipe Finder and search on Top Tomato Contest, you'll get a bushel o' winners. Ah, the Summer Garden Poached Eggs...

"I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food." W.C. Fields

I just bought your book and I'm wondering if you could suggest fish substitutions for your turbot and halibut recipes. Can't wait to cook through it -- lots of great dishes. Thanks.

Sure thing -- For halibut, sea bass (if you seek out the MSC-certified kind, which is sustainably fished) or maybe domestic swordfish would be good subs. For turbot, try catfish or wild-caught Pacific sole.

I'm intrigued by the homemade soda recipes -- particularly the Bitter Lemon and Bay -- but I'm not sure I'm ready to invest in the soda siphon yet. Any recommendations on converting the recipe to the bottled seltzer method? I guess I'd need to make the base stronger?

I think it'd be hard to do in this case, because you'd be watering down the liquid base so much.

Hi guys! Going to be outside at Wolftrap on Friday, what looks to be the peak of the heat wave! Thinking of bringing along some frozen fruit to help us cool down. I'm thinking grapes and blueberries for sure - any other suggestions? And about freezing method - is it ok to just throw them in a ziploc bag and then straight into the freezer? Thanks!

Grapes and blueberries are ripe for tossing in a bag and freezing as you suggest. You could mash/blenderize cantaloupe or honeydew and turn it into a kind of slushie. If you're bringing a cooler, toss in some wet washcloths for the back of your neck/your head.

Hi Foodies - My girlfriend and I bought a nice pork tenderloin this morning (around 2.75 pounds), but our familial backgrounds are rearing their ugly heads again when it comes to tenderizing it before we cook it this evening. She is up for using her fists, but I think we should pound it with a tenderizer. Thoughts?

Tenderizing a tenderloin? No need! It has the name for a reason.

About this tenderloin....you mean the long thin meat you often find vacuum-packed in two's in the grocery meat dept., or a larger pork loin?

To follow up to the person who asked about fig recipes, my favorite is another composed app. I just take fig halves, drop a chunk of good Saga bleu on top, a couple small arugula leaves and wrap the whole thing in proscuitto. They're always the first thing to go off the table. Also, I agree with your frustration -- I've been looking for figs for weeks in the stores and haven't seen any yet!

I've seen figs at Whole Foods for at least a week -- look like they are the brown turkey variety. You need to find a generous friend with a backyard fig tree.

We are grilling this Sunday despite the heat (are we crazy?). The menu so far includes grilled flank steak, tofu, and misc. veggies (portobello, eggplant, onions, peppers, etc.) Any advice for a starchy side? Must be something I can do in advance. Thanks!

How about this amazing Guatemalan Potato and Green Bean Salad, which can be prepared a day before? Plus, given its roots in Mayan cooking, the dish will be a conversation piece all by itself.

(Berlioz' March to the Scaffold plays in the background) Are you kidding? You said there will be children there? If I thought that would be the menu, I wouldn't come. Healthy food is fine, but the traditional ones must be there too. And there must be something--cake, cookies, ice cream, etc, for the sweet tooth. Sincerely, I would not come. Period.

I'm with you on this one. I can just see all those children lining up to pull charred limbs off of Mary's little lamb. I say, offer healthful dishes, plenty of salads, vegetables, etc., but I see no problem with potato salad at a picnic, some good quality hot dogs, etc. and even fried chicken. It's a staff party, a celebration, not a nutrition seminar.

One martini, Two martinis, Three martinis, Floor

Also known as "one tequila, two tequila, etc."

Freeze some cubed watermelon and peaches. And ice your sunscreen.

Ooh. Chilled sunscreen. I'm so feeling it.

"The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day you're off it. " I've found this to be only too true!

Is there a way to look back at previous winners of the tomato contest? I'd love to do a tiny bit of research...

Yep, you can click on that link I posted in the earlier chatter's question about Top Tomato recipes, or you can search the interWebz for Washington Post Top Tomato Contest and you'll find stories about the past winners. Can't believe this is the sixth year. NEVER get tired of judging it.

I've always seen creamed honey labeled "Canadian-style." By marriage I'm related to some Canadians with a honey farm and oh-my-goodness their Canadian-style creamed premium honey is a whole other food group from the grocery store stuff.

It's spreadable goodness!

As an old fogey Washingtonian, the mumbo sauces I remember tasted quite differently from the ones offered around here over the last 30 years or so. I think it's the sweet and sour component brought in when Chinese takeouts and restaurants began to expand their menus and other asian-owned carryouts proliferated around the area. That's not to say today's sauce is bad; it's just vastly different from my childhood memory of it. It used to be some variation of ketchup, hot sauce and some sweetening agent, not thick or gooey at all, and, of course, finger-licking good. Maybe someday Tim could do a story about D.C.'s old time eateries like Eddie Leonard's, Little Tavern and Miles Long carryouts; they were great places for good, cheap, greasy food. As for a quote, best I can do is "Good food, good meat, good God, let's eat!," Clint Eastwood in "The Beguiled."

Thank you for this information on mumbo sauce's early flavor. I hadn't heard this before. Could you e-mail me with your contact information? My e-mail is carmant@washpost.com.

I have recently fallen in love with the combination of Ras el Hanout and harissa. I realize that these are meant to be used with meat (lamb), although I made killer turkey burgers with them. My question is is there a way to use them with vegetables?

Sure, just like you would  salt and pepper.

So, this is my first year in a CSA, and I'm having a problem I never anticipated. We're getting a ton of corn, but it's a little on the bland side, so my normal approach of just grilling it is letting me down. Any recommendations for using a lot of corn that might be a bit more flavorful? We're talking 6+ ears a week and it's just me most nights. Also open to suggestions on using up zucchini, but I seem to be having more success with ideas on that front (grilled, curried and bread have all happened so far).

If it's bland, you can do no better than to slather it with brown-sugar-sweetened coconut milk as in this Cambodian Grilled Corn recipe from Steve Raichlen. We also Tweeted out 10 corn recipe links last week under the hashtag #marketbounty -- are you on Twitter? If so, search for that, and/or follow us @WaPoFood. We hope to do another series of #marketbounty posts next week -- maybe on zucchini, right, Bonnie?

Correct, Editor Joe! (He's being kind. I was supposed to follow his corny Twitter series with another #marketbounty series this week.)

Thanks for the lettuce ideas. Love both bacon and peas, so these look like winners.

My parents have a budding pick your own place that is small and word of mouth only (not offering it up for the original asker, sorry, they're swamped with pickers as it is) and they use no pesticides and only natural fertilizers. However they'd never get the organic or even "naturally grown" certifications because of how expensive they are, especially for a smaller operation. While other local places might be somewhat to much bigger than my parents' place, for the smaller places the certification costs and hassles just might be too much, so if you're willing to expand your view beyond the actual certification labels you might find places that use green practices even if they can't afford an official green name.

Food for thought.  But what about offering it up for the rest of us? :)

"Fat gives things flavor"

I don't know the name of it but there is a place to pick-your-own fruits and veggies right next to Sky Meadow Park (a good hiking spot) in Virginia.

How long did it take me to find the cookware? I live in Boston, and just made a habit of stopping into Marshall's and TJ Maxx when I was nearby, usually on foot. Sometimes I found a piece, other times I didn't. All told, the combined shopping / transactions probably took me a little over an hour. A good value for savings, I thought. For those who don't routinely pass these stores and have to make a special trip, there's a bigger time factor involved, but it was pretty easy for me. I also spent some time online researching brands and comparing prices, so I could recognize a good value. (But I would have done that even if I was shopping online or in a single store.)

Thank you for the swift response!

I would run your proposed menu by the powers that be. Sounds great but most folks are most comfortable with food they know and food they think is safe at a company picnic. I raise organic lamb and if you called me for advice I would advise against since your audience probaly will not include risk takers and includes children and seniors. Same with the whole pig. How conservative is your company? or how free spirited? Dry bean salad yuch. Green salds at a compnay picnic might result in a pink slip for the planners. Do you want to kill any chance of a promotion? Raisins and unsalted nut? You are hallucinating because of the heat right? Unless the powers upstairs bless your menu go with burgers, dogs, and barbeque chicken. Potato salad, cole slaw and sodas and bottled water. Watermelon,fresh fruits and cookies andpies would work. Do you have another job lined up?

Maybe they can create a position called "Company Scold."  Here's my favorite food quote: "Fried chicken and potato salad at a company picnic will kill you."  D. Downer

[Insert wah-WAH sound here.]

It sounds like the HarvestFest person has some great reasons to aim high for healthy food at the fest, but I do think that you're asking for trouble a little bit on the meat front. My guess is there will be people who think roast pig or lamb is too exotic, and possibly some kids too young to eat chicken on the bone. Sure, hamburgers may seem too pedestrian to you, but it's not just about you -- it's about everyone having a good time. Right? Don't plan the food just to make a point.

Pig less so than lamb, I think, but your point is solid. You can make burgers and dogs on the healthier, more interesting side, too, in the choices of beef sources, etc.

Goat burgers!

I love the thai-ish soup with the shrimp that chris the crab cake guy sells at various markets and would love to make some at hom--I have googled away but not found a recipe. Help?

I'll see whether he'll give it up.   Check back in a few weeks?

The classic Italian summer sub - egg and pepper "grinder" as we say in Connecticut, where I'm from. Must have green peppers. . . . .

The egg and pepper sandwich (or grinder, to use the more colorful term) has a long history in the Italian-American community, which typically gobbled down those meatless sandwiches during Lent. Here's a decent recipe for one.

Thank you for the homemade soda article - like the previous poster, I'm pregnant and always searching for alternatives. One of my store-bought favorites is La Croix or similar flavored water - easy grab and go. I also use mint from my garden to freshen up good store-bought lemonade - finish with a healthy splash of club soda and fresh lemon slices. And, caffeine-free tea is great - I like it iced. There are so many tea varieties out there that you can certainly find something you like - sproice it up with fresh fruit or mint. Finally, another quick option in a pinch is buying flavored syrup (like they use to flavor coffee drinks) and add to club soda. It's sugar, but at least you can control the amount. I look for varieties made with real sugar, not corn syrup. (the brand sold at Starbucks is real sugar.)

Yep, another vote for those syrups...

"It should be drunk on one's knees with hat in hand." --A. Dumas

"NOM NOM NOM NOM!" - Cookie Monster

It's not always a crowd-pleaser. Some people may be really disturbed by a whole roast animal.

Yes -- that's why I predicated that statement by saying that my crowd would go for it but that I didn't know about the workplace the chatter was describing.

If you can find them, champagne mangoes and pluots are great chilled and small enough to leave whole. And chilled Seabreeze to dab a hot sweaty body is simply heaven.

Seabreeze! My mom was a super-user.

I am not the original poster, but I am a serious cook. I do have more pots and pans that I actually need, but I use most of what I have and I am very please when I have the right equipment for the job at hand. I did not buy all of them in one day. I chose each piece very carefully. I did not make special trips to the store either, I took the time and bought them when I was at the store anyway. My neighbor received several sets from her mother in law, all of them matching, and she is constantly borrowing my stuff. Paying attention to cooking equipment is worth the time it requires. Most of us keep our pots and pans for a very looooooong time

Here's another reader advocating for taking the long and methodical route to buying cookware.

Personally, I always buy cookware one piece at a time.

Seeing talk of honey, I'd like to ask about recipes which contain it. Do they usually account for the fact that a significant amount coats the spoon and can't be added to whatever you're making? Same goes for molasses. Or is this just a goofy question that came to me because it's so hot?

Um, I think it's the latter. Recipes assume you get the whole amount in the dish, I'm afraid! But there are tricks that help with this -- you can spray or wipe measuring spoon or cup with oil first.

Could you give me some suggestions for combinations of seasonings/spices or fresh herbs that would go nicely with roasted veggies that are coming into season now? We are waiting for our eggplants and zucchini to come up.

If it grows together, it goes together, so all of the herbs that are also in season now are worth trying. But I happen to particularly like mint with both eggplant and zucchini, in addition to basil, of course. And oregano. As for spices, eggplant takes so well to smoky flavors and heat that I like to use smoked paprika and/or various ground chilis with it. Zucchini I prefer to keep light.

Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts! ~James Beard

In your research, did you find any sources that make their honey available closer to DC? I really want to try it for my allergies and to support local food sources, but I'm not going to drive to the 504 area code for it. DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda farmers markets would be great.

Though many of Fern Hill's customers swear that they have had relief from allergies, many people consider thr idea honey hooey. Donielle says that to be effective, the honey should come from within 50 miles. I'd ask vendors you see at your farmers market for sources. Or, by next year, Founding Farmers' hives (they have installed 6 colonies on a rooftop at GWU) should be producing honey.

Good honey mixed with smashed, diced peaches (or other fruit... blackberries are good, too) and plain yogurt. Bonus if it's all local.

Heaven!

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf.

Shout-out to Todd Gray's Muse for not only introducing me to the quote, but also for having some of the best food I've had out in a while. And In a museum, no less.

I wonder if she had a good meal before throwing herself into a river.

Can I come to your picnic? Our company picnic was several weeks ago and had hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken and steak. Per our newsletter: "No matter what your picnic favorite may have been, it was probably there." Um, no. Actually that's why I *didn't* go. As a vegetarian, there was absolutely nothing for me to eat. Same is true for our holiday party and annual all-hands.

We need to have a picnic therapy session! Wait a minute, I think we are... Thanks.

Impulse buy - I bought a huge bag at Costco . . . what do to with them besides mushroom barley soup which doesn't sound to appealing in 100 degree temps?

I would store it away until the weather is cool, there aren't all sorts of beautiful fresh vegetables growing close by, and you feel like some soup, honestly.

Or you could crust a steak with them.

Raw corn is really great as the basis for a salad. Cut the kernels off the cob and dress with a little olive oil and lime juice, then depending on how hefty you want it, you can mix with anything from black beans to red peppers to radishes to feta. Sky's the limit! And if the corn itself lacks flavor just boost the seasonings.

Yep, it is. And I like to use the cobs, silks and husks to make a vibrant Corn Broth that's great as a base for soups, sauces, risotto. Freezes well.

I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I see that you hate vegetarians just as much as the original planners (burgers, hot dogs and chicken). How about incorporating something that they'd like instead of leaving them with some sad sides?

The gauntlet has been thrown.

I know the Joy of Cooking authors use it but it's originally Goethe and I love that they apply it to food: That which thy fathers have bequeathed to thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it.

"After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual "food" out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps." ~Miss Piggy

You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients. Julia Child I like this quote. I really relate to because I love to cook with fresh ingredients.

Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people. ~Elizabeth Berry

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. " from (amazingly) J. R. R. Tolkien. I think this applies to more than hobbits!

Everything I am in life, I owe to pasta. --Sophia Loren

My favorite quote, by me: "martinis are like boobs, you only need two."

"I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy." Dorothy Parker

"Mine's Bigger" Otter to Dean Wormer's wife. "Vegetables are sensual" Otter Dean Wormer's wife in response "No they are sensous people are sensual" Come its the best scene in the movies ever involving veggies.

"After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives." Oscar Wilde

I planted tomatoes for the first time this year and I seem to have ended up with about 8 tomato bushes. I'm a little intimidated, but I thought this will be my excuse to make homemade pasta sauce and salsa. Is pico de galllo the same as salsa? I've made pico de gallo before, but it seems less tomota-y than the store bought salsa, so I'm wondering if salsa is different. Do you have a recipe for salsa, preferably something simple?

There is a difference between pico de gallo and salsa; the former is, basically, just an uncooked, chopped up combination of tomato, onion, chiles, cilantro and whatever else you may want to put in there. Salsa is typically a blended combination of ingredients; sometimes you may even roast the tomatoes before blending.

Try this advocado and fresh fruit salsa, which is adapted from White House chef Walter Scheib's recipe. It should be a winner.

Lots of good ones there at the end!

Well, you've mashed and strained us, then transferred us to the siphon with the CO2 cartridge so you know what that means....thanks for exchanging lovely words on food today. Gotta hand it to the chatters who offered the Junior Soprano and Garrison Keillor sayings. Send your mailing info to food@washpost.com and which book you'd rather own

Until next week, stay cool. Cook and eat happy!

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