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January 8, 2014

12
P.M.

Free Range on Food: Lentils, Brunswick stew and more

Total Responses: 105

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Joe Yonan

Joe Yonan

Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and editorial aide Becky Krystal. Guest: cookbook author Mollie Katzen.

About the topic

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats
Q.

Joe Yonan :

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range! Hope you enjoyed our section this week, from my take on new-wave lentils to Jim Shahin's exploration of Virginia-style Brunswick stew, with beer and Dinner in Minutes and Nourish and First Bite and and and all your favorites in between.

We have a VERY special guest for today's chat! It's Mollie Katzen, renowned cookbook author and one of my sources for today's lentil story. (You MUST TRY her golden lentil mash: seriously.) She can handle questions about pretty much anything, really.

To entice you, for our favorite chatter this week we will have a giveway book: Mollie's fantastic new book, "The Heart of the Plate," signed by the author herself!

Q.

Red Lentils

I am intrigued. What are some of these stews or "mashes" I could use my red lentils in?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Red lentils pretty much cook themselves into a beautiful mash, and their natural flavor is good free-standing. If you mix in a large amount of caramelized onions, some olive oil, salt & pepper, you'll have a stelllar mash that can be the basis of a plate (pile grains and vegetables on top) or a lovely filling for small, hollowed-out potatoes, or a thick topping on artisan toast, topped with the best tomatoes.

– January 08, 2014 11:59 AM
Q.

cast iron

I am thinking about getting a cast iron pan, is it worth the work? It seems like they involve a lot of upkeep and are fussy. Also, when restaurants serve foods in cast iron pans how do they clean them? No soap? Are they re-seasoning the pans every time?
A.
Tim Carman :

I love cast iron. It heats fast and evenly. It sears meats better than any other pan I own. It's cheap, and it lasts forever with proper care.

 

To me, fears about the cleaning and occasional reseasoning are overblown. I just clean my pan with hot water, a tiny bit of soap and my own hand, which can feel the surface for the bits and pieces that need to be removed. Seasoning is as simple as evenly brushing on a tablespoon oil neutral oil along the surface and placing the pan in a 350 oven for an hour. How hard is that?

– January 08, 2014 12:00 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

I use water and a little brush, never soap. (And others would say never use even water, but use kosher salt and a paper towel!) I never need to season mine -- it's beautifully seasoned and stays such...

– January 08, 2014 12:00 PM
Q.

puzzled about eggplant

Some recipes say to salt it, some say don't bother. If salting is to get rid of moisture, why do some recipes say to rinse it after the salting process is done? Doesn't that get it full of moisture again? Can you tell I'm reluctant to try to cook with eggplant? The instructions seem contradictory! Please help. Thanks!
A.
Mollie Katzen :

If eggplant is smooth and skin is tight, you don't really need to salt it. If it seems at all aged or soft, go ahead and salt to release the bitter juices. Quickly washing off the salt won't sog the eggplant - the water will rinse right off and not get absorbed.

– January 08, 2014 12:01 PM
Q.

Caramelized onions and melted onions

Can you clarify the difference between these two? I would also appreciate it if you could briefly explain how to do each.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Could be talking about two ways of saying the same thing, but I'll take a shot at possible differences: 

Caramelized onions cook long enough (say 40 minutes or more) so that their natural sugars turn the onions golden/brown and sweeten their flavor. Those onions generally are soft yet hold their cut shape (as in, collapsed rings or half-moons). They can be cooked over medium-low heat on the stove top with a little water or oil to start but don't really need anything more than that.

 

"Melted" onions sound pretty appealing on a restaurant menu or in a recipe title, which is where I suspect the term originated -- maybe via Thomas Keller, a chef worthy of emulating in the kitchen. They can be cooked over low heat in less time or a lot more  time than caramelized onions; the goal is softness or a creamy texture plus sweetness, not necessarily a change in color. (You could even grill them, skin-on, until soft, or cook them in a slow cooker.) Often, butter or bacon/fat or an herb  is added during cooking. 

– January 08, 2014 12:02 PM
Q.

Food Processor

My mini prep seems to be toast (the blade assembly is cracking). I've never managed to keep one for very many uses, but I rarely use them so that works out to be a few years apiece. The last one I had burned out it's motor. Knowing that I pretty much only use it for things that must be pureed, or grinding nuts or hard candy is there a good, small, processor that won't give up the ghost so soon? I don't plan to start using one for my chopping or pie crusts (I'm old fashioned that way) so I don't think I really want to go for a bigger, high power, model.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

I have always used a Kitchen Aid regular size food processor that comes with a smaller bowl and small blade that can be set up within the larger. It's a very sturdy set-up; I use both size bowls constantly, and it has held up for years. Also, I believe that Cuisinart makes a sturdy medium capacity model. Check it out.

– January 08, 2014 12:02 PM
Q.

Small Wine Bottles

I went to the wine store to restock our wine rack and came home happy, with 12 bottles. Only as I was inserting the bottles into the rack did I discover that one of the Rieslings was 375 ml! That's half the amount in a standard bottle, which is half the oversized 1.5L bottles I've bought in recent years. Yet the 375 ml bottle cost the same as the 750 ml bottles around it. I admit to feeling a little ripped off. I'm not sure why I didn't realize the size of the bottle when I pulled it off the store shelf, and my wife LOVES the wine. So why complain? I suppose I'm wondering whether the 375 ml bottle is something I'll be seeing more of in the future, or if this is a one-off thing that I needn't overly concern myself with.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Wine columnist Dave McIntyre says

These half bottles have two purposes: They are good for restaurants, for example when a couple would like to either limit their consumption or try more than one wine. Second, they are used for dessert wines, often expensive. You didn't mention what Riesling you bought, but I'm guessing that it was very sweet, intended as a dessert wine. The economics of producing such wines can make them quite expensive.

So no, you won't be seeing a lot of half bottles. 

– January 08, 2014 12:03 PM
Q.

Vitamix Question

My fiance took advantage of a black Friday sale and bought a Vitamix, which so far we both enjoy immensely. There is only one issue: it tends to blow the circuit. Through trial and error, I discovered that turning off anything unnecessary or switching to a rarely used outlet can prevent this from happening. But with a blender this expensive, I would prefer to use it where it is the most comfortable. I noticed in a chat a bit ago somebody said that they built their kitchen around their Vitamix -- I thought this was an endorsement for how great the Vitamix is (which I completely second!). But did they really mean that they electrically wired their kitchen so the Vitamix was the only thing on the circuit? Does anybody else have this problem? Is this User Error (entirely possible). Thanks so much, I read your section every week!
A.
Joe Yonan :

This sounds like a question for an electrician. I've certainly used my Vitamix on various outlets without ever blowing a circuit, so I think you need to have that checked out.

– January 08, 2014 12:04 PM
Q.

green lentil

Can't wait to try some of these lentil dishes! Is the green lentil the same thing as green split peas?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Green lentils and green split peas are two different legumes. Both great.

– January 08, 2014 12:04 PM
Q.

buffalo sauce

As a vegetarian, I don't crave much from my meat-eating days, but one big thing I miss is buffalo sauce because it seems to nearly always be served with meat. Any ideas for a vegetarian dish I could make and then slather with the sauce? Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

I've really been wanting to try this Crispy Buffalo Fried Cauliflower from Serious Eats. I also like the sauce on pizza with blue cheese and red onions. And call me crazy, but I'm a fan of dousing mashed potatoes with it.

Other suggestions?

– January 08, 2014 12:06 PM
Q.

I have a plea

I am happy to support people following vegetarian or vegan diets, even though I'm an unrepentant omnivore myself. I don't mind eating vegetarian on occasion. But can we stop with the "vegan milkshake" or "vegan cheese-steak"? Those are smoothies and philly style sandwiches respectively - they are missing the namesake ingredients. Maybe it's just that when I eat vegetarian I don't want things "pretending" to be meat. Tofu is fine, just call it tofu. Some things are bound to be grandfathered in - margarine has such a bad reputation that renaming "vegan butter" is probably a lost cause- but for the most part, if it doesn't have the food in it; be it cheese or milk or meatballs, can we please not name it as though it does?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Is this keeping you up at night? Sorry to hear it! ;-) Seriously, as a word person, I know what you mean, but I think you might be fighting a losing battle. Mostly, I think quote marks suffice, because, really, what else are you going to call a vegan "cheesesteak"? Seitan sub with vegan sauce?

– January 08, 2014 12:08 PM
Q.

Lentil recipes

Lentils are such a wonderful, versatile ingredient. I like to make a curied fish and red lentils dish - I make the red lentils similar to your golden lentils recipe but with curry powder, turmeric and grated ginger (and no vinegar), then flake in a filet of steamed white fish to the cooked lentils and heat it through. Add some fresh cilantro to serve. Sometimes I add coconut milk to the red lentils as they cook. I also love lentil soup made with brown lentils and a mild sausage like weisswurst. A dash of cider vinegar at the end perks up the dish. Can't wait to try the smoky lentil tacos!
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Sounds delicious!

– January 08, 2014 12:08 PM
Q.

lentil sloppy joes

Joe, great lentil story! I'm intrigued by the idea of lentil sloppy joes. I made the sloppy joes in your cookbook earlier this week but my wife wasn't thrilled with the texture of the seitan. (Who says your fantastic cookbook has to be for singles!) If I used lentils instead, what would be the best way of cooking them? Thanks!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks! Glad you liked it. On the sloppy vegan Joes, which mock meat did you use? I only like a few of these, really, and don't use them all that often (which I make clear in the recipe headnote), but I do like the chorizo-style "sausage" by Field Roast and the chorizo seitan by Upton's Naturals. Anyway, of course you could use lentils! Just cook brown or large green ones with water until tender (see this idea) and add them where the seitan goes in in the recipe. Or use leftover cooked lentils.

– January 08, 2014 12:08 PM
Q.

graffitti eggplant....

I think I over bought for my small (one person) household. I saw some of these on the "for quick sale" rack at the grocery store. They looked fine to me, so I bought 2 packs for 4 total. Oops. That is a lot of funny looking eggplant for one person. Any suggestions for something large to prepare that will keep to be eaten over several days? Or just a way to cook them for preservation (roast in slices maybe?) so I can use them later? Is there anything special about the graffiti variety that should be highlighted? I don't really care that they look different, but some basic internet research seems to indicate they might be less bitter than regular eggplant. Thanks for your help. Trying to eat even more veggies as the year starts. And add a few recipes to my limited comfort zone.
A.
Tim Carman :

 

According to Melissa's Produce, the flavor of graffiti eggplant is the same as the flavor of every other variety. So no need to fret about finding the perfect recipe to highlight the plant's particular characteristics.

 

As for something that would last a few days (and still be something you'd want to eat all week long), I'd suggest this Roasted Eggplant Dip. With some fresh, hot pita bread, I could easily see myself wolfing this down in front of a game, or even as a midnight snack.

– January 08, 2014 12:09 PM
Q.

I don't know beans...

Please help. For some time, more than I care to admit, I have been trying to find a bean burger recipe (preferably black) that a) tastes great, b) has a firm texture, and c) is predominantly bean (not grain). I can get any combination of one or two of the three but never all three. Do you have any recommendations? I've tried Kim O'Donnel's and that's the closest I've come but it smooshes when I pick it up on the bun to eat it. I chill them overnight as well to get maximum firmness. I don't like an overly grain-filled version either (I've tried a bunch). Sorry to sound picky but I have the idea in my head but am having trouble with the execution. Thoughts? help!
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Here's how I make them. Hope you like this version!

 

– January 08, 2014 12:10 PM
Q.

Uses for Flavored Oils

I bought a set of flavored olive oils-- basil, lemon, and hot pepper-- on a whim. The basil olive oil is easy-- I'm thinking pasta or caprese salad. Any ideas for how to use the lemon and hot pepper oils?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Lemon or hot pepper oil (or a lacing of both) - perfect for freshly cooked shell beans, green vegetables, pasta. Try all of these in one dish.

– January 08, 2014 12:10 PM
Q.

Cookbooks

Every Christmas over the past few years, I've been asking for cookbooks - because of this, I have accumulated quite the collection. However, it's become so easy to just go online and search for a recipe that I sometimes get lazy and just do that. Do you guys have any great tips for getting the most out of cookbooks and taking advantage of all those great recipes languishing on my bookshelf?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yes, I do. It's a website that I use called Eat Your Books. Give it a try -- basically you punch in the name of each of your own books, and it's super easy to build a library. EYB has virtually every book you can think of indexed -- and I mean REALLY indexed, like down to the ingredient list of every recipe -- which means that you can very easily go online to search YOUR OWN COLLECTION OF BOOKS. It's fantastic, because you know what books you trust, and it helps you remember how many great recipes are in books that you might have forgotten. It's just what you're asking for, really.

– January 08, 2014 12:12 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Hands raised to the sky, I believe in the power of the sticky note.  Cookbooks on my shelves whose pages are tabbed many times (on the side, not at the top) means those are recipes I want to revisit every now and then. I make notes on them about how I might have tweaked things -- and that extends the life of those recipes as well.  Pretty simple system, eh? But not to be discounted.

 

I've been swapping those preferred books with friends who have been "cooking" out of a particular book they like. And last -- there's a treasure trove of tips in your cookbooks. Next time you crack a book open, peruse and take notes; start a file on  your desktop. Categorize them, and you'll be surprised at what you'll amass in a short time -- just like your own double-truck spread in Cook's Illustrated. :)

 

And I also can testify to the power of culling your collection. I just donated some cookbooks of the '80s -- things I just don't cook anymore.  Or you could be deliberate about cooking from certain-era cookbooks; sounds like an excuse for a series of dinner parties to me!

– January 08, 2014 12:12 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

I swear they're not paying me to say this, but with Eat Your Books I've found myself going back to books that I thought I'd never cook out of again. (Latest example: Ming Tsai's Blue Ginger Cookbook!) It reminds you of the full breadth of your options!

– January 08, 2014 12:12 PM
Q.

buffalo sauce

I like to use spicy sauces like buffalo sauce as a dip for sweet potato fries.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Like I said. Potatoes + buffalo sauce = match made in heaven.

– January 08, 2014 12:15 PM
Q.

love lentils!

Great article, Joe! Love all those uses of lentils. I especially love them in mujadara, a Middle Eastern dish of lentils, rice, and carmelized onions. I'll also make a quick pancake of them with an egg and a tablespoon of chickpea flour and whatever else I have on hand -- great food for the whole family, including our toddler, who can't get enough. Let's hear it for cheap protein!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yes, mujadara's a good one! Love the pancake idea, too. Thanks!

Here's a recipe we had awhile back that uses mujadara as a base. Lovely, no? Also, while we're on the topic of traditional lentil recipes, there's the famous Pasta and Lentils, Sicilian-Style. (Not vegetarian, but would be easy to make so.)

– January 08, 2014 12:15 PM
Q.

Brunswick stew

I have eaten Brunswick stew, but never made it. What is the best way to get that silky thickness? I am guessing the long, slow simmering breaks down the potato starch which then thickens the stew. How far off would I be from using instant mashed potatoes as a thickening agent?
A.
Jim Shahin :

        You're right, the long slow process of cooking down the potato start thickens the stew. So does evaporation. I don't know if instant mashed potatoes would work; haven't tried it. It's easy to use real potatoes, so I'd just go with that. But if you try the instant mashed, let us know how it worked out. 

– January 08, 2014 12:15 PM
Q.

fresh turmeric

first of all--those lentil dishes look fantastic, thanks! I'm especially excited about the lentil taco filling, will try that this week. I have so many lentils just sitting in the cupboard waiting for me to be creative. So I recently got a pretty large plastic tub of fresh turmeric at the store (somebody told me to seize it when I see it b/c it's so good for you) but after a week I'm kind of at a loss as to how to use it up. I've been putting it in smoothies, grating it into rice dishes, into beans, etc., but what am I missing? Also, and perhaps most importantly, how do I preserve it? Can I freeze it? just as-is or do I need to peel/grate first? Thanks for any insights! Love your work!

A.
Mollie Katzen :

Fresh turmeric, as you've likely observed, is a very close (small, yellow) cousin to ginger root, and they can be treated similarly. They freeze well, and can be refrigerated in plain cover or  in a small jar of white wine, which spikes both the wine (delicious in the case of ginger. not sure re: turmeric) and the root. More importantly, the wine serves as preservative.

– January 08, 2014 12:15 PM
Q.

Soft tortilla storage

My question is about soft tortillas - I really like making wraps, but soft tortillas all come in packages of at least 6, I live alone, and I don't like wraps EVERY day. They're definitely not long-lasting, as I've even had them mold in the fridge (and not tucked way back), besides which, they stick together something fierce. Can I freeze them? Should I separate them out first - with wax paper perhaps? Thanks, and Happy New Year!
A.
Mollie Katzen :

You can freeze corn tortillas w wax paper or parchment (or even a piece of plastic wrap) between them. Works great.

– January 08, 2014 12:16 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

Do you mean corn, or flour? From your comment about mold, I'm thinking you might mean the latter. Flour freeze fine, too, and yes, same separation technique would help you grab one at a time.

– January 08, 2014 12:16 PM
Q.

Cookbooks

I appreciated the question from the chatter about using one's cookbook collection. I find I do the same thing--just Google for a recipe if I'm in the mood for something, while my cookbooks languish. I set a New Year's resolution to use my cookbooks more this year, and not just my favorites. I like Joe's suggestion to use Eat Your Books (I have the free trial, which allows you to input 5 books). I'm also planning to set aside a few cookbooks I've never made anything from and find at least one recipe to try from each.
Q.

Smelly fish

I missed the Free Range chat last week, but noticed that someone was looking for tips to reduce fish smell. I have found that wrapping the fish in a foil packet before you bake it does wonders. I can't STAND the smell or taste of salmon, but my seven-year-old son loves it, and foil has kept me sane and him fed. I use a splash of lemon juice and a bit of honey, nothing else, then wrap it up and bake it, and he can't get enough. (For his dad, who likes milder fish, I use tilapia or another white fish with a bit of butter, some herbs, and maybe a dash of wine or lemon/lime juice.)
A.
Becky Krystal :

Thanks for coming back with this tip.

– January 08, 2014 12:17 PM
Q.

Whole Hog

My friends and I are purchasing a whole hog from a local farm (Crowfoot Farms in Amissville, VA) and having it butchered. We can get the pig's feet, innards, pig ears, lard--if we want it. I know I want the some lard to render, but what can we do with the rest? Is it worth the hassle?
A.
Jim Shahin :

      You can pickle the feet, stew the innards (chitterlings), and you can slow-braise the ears. Lard, of course, can be added instead of butter or oil to beans or any number of dishes to deepen their flavor. 

       The Whole Hog Cookbook by Libbie Summers has some great recipes for the hog and its parts. 

– January 08, 2014 12:17 PM
Q.

Brunswick Stew

Just to add to the article on Brunswick Stew, if you want to taste a variety of stewmasters' creations, go to the Taste of Brunswick which takes place in October of each year on the campus of Southside Community College in Alberta. I am from there and the stews are fabulous!
A.
Jim Shahin :

     The festival was mentioned in the article. Thanks for putting it out there in this forum too. It would no doubt make a great daytrip from DC. 

– January 08, 2014 12:17 PM
Q.

Buffalo wing sauce

Popcorn!!! This is my favorite way to make popcorn. I find pouring the sauce (about 1 T or more as you like) into the bowl first, and then swirling it around the bottom and sides of the bowl, is the best way to do it. You then toss the popcorn to mix it, and it comes out really well.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Interesting! May have to break out the popcorn popper for this.

– January 08, 2014 12:17 PM
Q.

vegan substitutions

No, the naming isn't keeping it up at night, diet zealots do that for me ;-) I just had a moment when I had to label read to avoid getting almond based vegan "eggnog" the other day.

A.
Joe Yonan :

I see. I think it's always a good idea to label read, in this day and age, for so many reasons.

– January 08, 2014 12:18 PM
Q.

Lentils and Mustard greens

I have a TON of mustard greens from my CSA this week and I'm now tempted to pair them with lentils somehow for dinner tonight. What preparation would you recommend?
A.
Joe Yonan :

How bout this Orechiette With Mustard Greens? Calls for 2 pounds, serves 4 people. That should help, no?

And you know what? I think lentils would be nice in this dish! Or on the side.

– January 08, 2014 12:19 PM
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Mustard greens combine beautifully with other dark gree leaves: dandelion, collard, kale, chard, turnip, beet, etc. Make sure they are squeaky clean, then chop and cook quickly with olive oil, garlic, s & p. Toss w pasta, mash into potatoes, or serve plain. If too bitter for your taste, top with caramelized onions or toss in a few golden raisins.

– January 08, 2014 12:19 PM
Q.

Re: sloppy joes

Thanks for the info and advice! I used Upton's chorizo seitan. I was actually pretty impressed with it because I generally avoid mock-meats. The flavor was great thought the texture was a bit on the springy or spongy side. I'll definitely try their products again though, especially when it gets back to grilling season and I won't feel left out of the cool kid's barbecue club.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yep, seitan definitely has that springy thing. Next time, you might try chopping it up a little more (or whirring it in a food processor) to get the pieces smaller.

– January 08, 2014 12:19 PM
Q.

lentils

So easy to cook, so satisfying for lunch at work. I often mix them with chili or what ever leftover I have.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yep. As someone who has had SO MANY LENTILS left over from all my recent recipe tests, I have to say they're pretty swell to add to other things. Doing it a lot.

– January 08, 2014 12:20 PM
Q.

lentils

Our grocery store in Baltimore sells one kind of lentils: Brown. Where can I find other colors and types of lentils easily and without breaking the bank?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Can you find an Indian market? Those are the best places. So many varieties and CHEAP.

– January 08, 2014 12:21 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

These days, too, Whole Food and Trader Joe's carry a good assortment of lentils. (Not as cheap as at the Indian market, though, it's true!)

– January 08, 2014 12:21 PM
Q.

Brunswick stew

I enjoyed today's story and recipes on Brunswick stew. I made one years ago from a slow-cooker cookbook and haven't thought about it in a long time. The "official" Brunswick stew recipe includes fatback, which your note says is available from the butcher, but doesn't explain what it is. So...what is it? I'm guessing it's a fatty cut of pork or beef. If fatback isn't available, could you substitute bacon or pancetta? Or just omit it?

A.
Jim Shahin :

    Fatback is fat from the upper part of the back of a pig. It's usually salted. 

     I don't see why you couldn't use back or pancetta. In that case, as opposed to the fatback, the meats would more likely become part of the stew.

       That said, you'd do the stew no harm by omitting the fat.

– January 08, 2014 12:22 PM
Q.

Vegetable resolution

Which vegetable should we resolve to cook in 2014?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Beets and beet greens. Cook separately (boil or roast the beets - peel, dice, marinate in your favorite vinaigrette. Quick-sauté the greens in olive oil, garlic, s & p.) Serve the beets on top of the greens. Decorate w pomegranate seeds and.or hazelnuts (chopped, toasted) or small cubes of queso fresco.

– January 08, 2014 12:25 PM
Q.

Slow Cooker Recipes

I got a Crock-Pot for Christmas; but I've never owned a slow-cooker so I need some recipes. It has a timer and a stirring device that can be used or removed. What are your favorite recipes?
Q.

chicken

I've read a lot of scary stories lately, including on the WaPo, about how awful chicken processing is about how many harmful chemicals are used, including on organic chickens. I am not in a position to special order my meat and have no close by farmer's markets. Is there any brand of chicken that is processed with less chemicals that I could look for? The grocery stores I have access to are Giant, Shoppers, Food Lion, and Wegmans.
A.
Tim Carman :

Yes, the stories about the poultry processing lines have been rather alarming. In short: Because  companies have sped up their processing lines, they are compensating by treating the birds with anti-microbial chemicals to kill salmonella and other contaminants. 

 

I would look for Bell & Evans chicken, which is available at Wegmans. B&E prides itself on the treatment and processing of its birds. The company's Web site doesn't specifically mention anything about anti-microbial chemicals, so I can't say for sure if Bell & Evans doesn't use them. But given all the  company's other lofty standards, I have a hard time imagining that it then sprays the birds with a cocktail of nasty chemicals.

– January 08, 2014 12:26 PM
Q.

food processor-- go for the big one

The big food processor's slicing blade is perfect for chopping veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers), making coleslaw, and prepping greens to sautee. We also use it to slice apples for apple pie. I never saw a need to replace my mini with a big one, but I use my big one several times a week to save chopping time
A.
Tim Carman :

The larger food processor does save time with certain chopping chores. (It's also mandatory for recipes in which the volume of ingredients just overwhelms a smaller processor) . I used to have a large processor, but it blew out about a year ago. I've been limping along with a smaller machine. But your post makes me realize I need to upgrade asap.

– January 08, 2014 12:27 PM
Q.

Barrel-aging cocktails

Hello, For Christmas, we received a fun gift--a 5 gal charred oak barrel! We'd like to try making a batch of barrel aged cocktails--does Carrie (or any of the other Free Rangers) have any suggestions or tips? We were thinking maybe a Manhattan but would be open to other suggestions. Has anyone done this and have any idea how long it takes? We found this column by Jeffrey Morgenthaler but not a lot of info about process or technique.Thanks for any help you can provide.

A.
Carrie Allan :

Lucky you! Nice gift. And for those who didn't get one of these, there are some cheaper ways to try aging cocktails, including kits that come with a charred barrel stave to keep in a bottle -- you can get these at Uncommon Goods, among other places -- and you can also just buy oak chips and char or toast them yourself for a similar effect). I haven't tried this yet, but I'm looking forward to doing so later this year. As far as some technique points go, though, I've been reading on this a bit -- next column is on aged gins, and it's been somewhat instructive. There are a few things I'd keep in mind: One, you don't want to age anything that contains fruit juice, as it'll go off in the process. I've also read that low-alcohol drinks in general don't age so well. Two: Keep in mind the flavors that a charred oak barrel is likely to bring into your drink -think vanillas and caramels and smokes, among others. Three: Taste your concoction frequently to make sure you're not getting too MUCH barrel. I suspect that especially if you age something that contains an already-aged spirit (like the whiskey in a Manhattan) you may want to be careful. I'd start with the full cocktail, but if you're really going to dig in and make this a long term project (hard, I know, since you're already going to have to wait to taste the fruits of your labor!) -- you might also consider trying aging in parts, leaving out the spirit that's already aged and comparing the results? Here's one other thought: A few distillers are now bottling and selling their own barrel -aged cocktails, and it might be worth following their lead for your first batch. Here's High West's basic recipe for how they did their barrel-aged Boulevardier -- one of my favorite cocktails, I should mention, and probably where I'll start when I get around to doing this! Finally, filter what you get at the end of this, and I mean MORE than just the usual cocktail straining, in case you get some bits of barrel char in the drink. I picked up Todd Thrasher's use of jelly bags for cocktails years ago, and they are a great tool for when you need to remove pulp/bits/spices etc. from a drink. Let me know how it goes!

– January 08, 2014 12:28 PM
Q.

lentils, lentils, lentils, lentils

Oh how I love lentils so this issue is my favorite! but this brings up a question. I make lentil soup weekly and I want to know if when I take it off the stove and transfer it to a glass bowl to put in the fridge if I need to wait for it to cool off. I have gotten confusing answers and for now I put it right in the fridge as soon as I take it off the stove and put in the bowl.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

I always let it come to room temperature before refrigerating. This avoids compromising your refrigerator temperature, which can harm the other inhabitants.

– January 08, 2014 12:28 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

Becky wrote about the following for the Post Points food-tips email that goes out weekly:

We all know that a little salt can go a long way toward enlivening the flavor of your soup, but did you know it can also help you cool it quickly? In their February issue, the scientifically-minded folks at Cook's Illustrated shared this tip so that you can get your hot liquids off the counter and into the refrigerator or freezer. Place your soup in a metal container. In another container large enough to hold the first container, add 1 pound of ice and 1/3 cup of salt. Nestle the container with the soup into the container with the ice. Let the soup cool to room temperature (about 72 degrees - Cook's said this can take as little as 5 minutes). Transfer the soup to a storage container and refrigerate or freeze.

– January 08, 2014 12:28 PM
Q.

graffiti eggplant question....

Unfortunately adding hot red chili sauce (of any ethnicity) probably isn't going to be one of my favorites. Any other ideas?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Quick Eggplant Soup

Quick Eggplant Soup

Eggplant Chips (calls for "oriental" eggplant, but I think yours will be fine)

Roasted Eggplant

Eggplant "Meatballs" in Tomato Sauce

Eggplant "Meatballs" in Tomato Sauce

That's just a start. We have so many eggplant recipes in our database. Have a look.

 

– January 08, 2014 12:28 PM
Q.

favorite combo

lentils and rice!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Sure!

– January 08, 2014 12:29 PM
Q.

whole hog

Lard should already be rendered. Depending on the custom slaughter plant you are using, they likely will render the fat for you and give you the lard. Otherwise they would be giving you pork fat. If you are really wanting to use the whole hog, ask for the hog head to make scrapple. using the cheek meat, tongue and brains to make scrapple is the best way to go.
A.
Jim Shahin :

      Thanks for the scrapple suggestion. Some folks find it an acquired taste. Me, I acquired that taste years ago and come back to it every chance I get!

– January 08, 2014 12:29 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

Would you believe we have a scrapple recipe? Back in the days when I ate that sort of thing, I liked this one!

– January 08, 2014 12:29 PM
Q.

cocoa

I received a generous holiday gift that included a package of black onyx cocoa powder. I am a baker and generally usually Penzey's dutch process cocoa powder for all of my chocolate goodies. Do you or any chatters have any good recipes/ideas for showcasing my new gift?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Cool. I'd use it to make a choc cake that doesn't get all covered up by frosting, or in this fab Chocolate Spice Bread

Here's what David Lebovitz has to say.

 

– January 08, 2014 12:30 PM
Q.

Garlic bread

I've always made my garlic bread by rubbing a cut piece of garlic on toasted bread, but this gets pretty old (those garlic pieces are so slippery!) Could I just toast some garlic in oil and then use that oil to brush my bread before toasting it? Wouldn't that get me some tasty garlic bread too?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Definitely. If you think you can use up a large quantity in a week, here's a garlic oil recipe from Everyday Food.

– January 08, 2014 12:30 PM
Q.

Mix and Match

Hurray! A chance to talk with Mollie Katzen. Thought I would seek your advice on a question I sometimes get from my non-veg friends who sometimes want to eat veg during the day and bring lunch to work -- so needs to be quick to prepare as well as nutritious. I usually recommend having different components prepped for mixing together. Cook up a variety of grain, thrown in various veggies (roasted or raw), throw in some nuts or beans, maybe some dried fruits, greens can be tasty and healthy, and then mix with a quick vinegrette and fresh herbs. All of this stuff can be purchased already prepped if they are really short on time and offer variety with different mixing and matching...and most can be eaten cold or room temperature if they don't have access to a microwave. What do you recommend for fast and healthy vegetarian lunches?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

You have given your friends the best veg-meal advice! That's exactly what I think they should do. And if they can find time on the weekend or weekday evenings to cook whole grains and beans (so little labor - they mostly cook on their own) (as you clearly know) they can save a lot of money and eat very well w minimal effort. The biggest effort is planning ahead and keeping your kitchen stocked. Re: fast & healthy lunches: keep a stash of excellent whole-grain bread in the freezer, and keep avocados and good cheese on hand. Apples are more delicious sliced than whole (my opinion) and cut up a bunch of  lovely crudités. Bags of toasted nuts for snacks. Last night's dinner leftovers in a fun container. I have nothing against reheating things in a microwave.

– January 08, 2014 12:30 PM
Q.

Lentil Love!

Well, I was just going to comment on how happy I was to see the lentil gravy recipe - as the only vegetarian in the family, I'm always in charge of providing my own gravy. I usually do a mushroom one (based on Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven recipe), but I always like to have options. And then to see Mollie Katzen here talking about lentils! Vegetable Heaven has some great lentil recipes too - I might have to make the lentil and apricot soup, or the lentils with tomatoes and caramelized onions. I brought chick peas for lunch, but now I want lentils!!!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Good! We did our job.

– January 08, 2014 12:30 PM
Q.

For Sloppy Joe Husband

Here's a great lentil sloppy joe recipe. My omni husband prefers it to the meat version.

A.
Joe Yonan :

Yes! Thanks. From Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Her stuff is great.

– January 08, 2014 12:32 PM
Q.

tricolor bread

Just thought you'd like to know -- we had the tricolor braided bread for Boxing Day with a vat of vegetable soup and it was FABULOUS. Then we ate the leftovers broiled under cheese later, and it was FABULOUSER. Thanks!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Excellent! Will make sure Jim Webster, author of that funny story about tackling this, hears about your experience.

 

– January 08, 2014 12:35 PM
Q.

Cleaning cast iron

I have had great luck cleaning bits off cast iron with a kosher salt paste and sponge.
Q.

Buffalo sauce ideas

Eggs and any kind of fried potato. Delicious.
Q.

Lentils!

Joe, it's like you read my mind every week. We just bought our first bag of yellow lentils for making dal! I want to make the lentil-miso gravy with some of the lentils instead--do you think I can sub yellow for the green lentils? I don't have an immersion blender. I'm afraid they might fall apart. I have a Vitamix so the green could go in there (right?)
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yep, I think the yellow would work in this. They'd fall apart, sure, but that's OK!

– January 08, 2014 12:36 PM
Q.

OMG MOLLIE KATZEN!?

Just wanted to say hi, if she's reading all the questions, and thank you. I wrote you a fan letter once, in the summer of 1989, because that summer I was in college, living with a friend, neither of us had ever cooked before. We bought the Enchanted Broccoli Forest and ate our way through it and it changed my life. I have been cooking ever since. So I really just can't thank you enough. I'm not a vegetarian but I eat lots of vegetarian meals and you changed the entire way I think about food, and about cooking, and community, and so much more. I'd never tried tofu, and the broccoli/peanut sauce with tofu became one of my regular recipes--still is!! Anyway--just, thank you for all you have done for the food world (and for me!). Take good care.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Hi, and what a wonderful message  - thank you! Very glad you have benefitted from my recipes over the years. I hope it continues, and that you enjoy every bite. You take good care, too. xo

– January 08, 2014 12:36 PM
Q.

Another disadvantage of cast iron

...and the main reason I got rid of mine: although I am a fit woman, I am not strong enough to hold the skillet in one hand for very long. So getting food out of it onto a plate was just too much trouble.
A.
Tim Carman :

It's true. Cast iron is heavy. You can't exactly toss vegetables in a 12-inch cast iron pan -- unless you gobble down as many steroids as you do holiday cookies.

– January 08, 2014 12:36 PM
Q.

Lentils!

Lentils are probably more of a staple in my house than anything else; I eat them regularly. My latest lentil favorite is a lentil loaf (meat-free meatloaf) that started out as a complicated vegan recipe and that I converted to merely vegetarian. (I have eggs. I do not have flax.) I decided it was still too much work to be realistic, even though it's delicious, so rather than turning it into a loaf, now I just cook some lentils and saute all the veggies/nuts/raisins/spices that went into the original recipe, and toss the whole works together with a little barbecue sauce. (I had the same craving as the previous poster did, except for barbecue sauce rather than buffalo sauce, and this hits the spot.)
A.
Joe Yonan :

Sounds good!

– January 08, 2014 12:37 PM
Q.

EYB

Just wanted to mention one other feature I love about Eat Your Books (who is also not paying me!) - it also indexes food websites. Since googling for recipes is pretty much a waste of time these days (IMO, too many hits) I love being able to select my favorite food websites and search them in addition to the books that I own!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yes!

– January 08, 2014 12:37 PM
Q.

Molecular veggies?

Mollie, I am absolutely thrilled that you're on chat - Moosewood was my very first cookbook, and every fall I still cook up a huge batch of ratatouille using that recipe - then freeze it and ration it out over winter to get an occasional reminder of summer. That page is pretty grubby by now! My question: I regularly cook vegetarian in a homey way - like the ratatouille, for instance, or pastas, roasted veggies, legumes, all kinds of salads. Do you have a favorite over-the top showstopping recipe/presentation? Thanks!
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Thanks for your kind comments. Ratatouille rules! I love it over polenta, or with eggs, for breakfast. I also have made it into a salad in my new book, The Heart of the Plate. For a show-stopping presentation, make a blueberry sauce (well-cooked minced red onions, frozen baby blueberries, s&p) and mix it into black rice or brown basmati - or a combination. Stuff this beautiful, purple mixture into roasted acorn sqaush half. So pretty - and a great little meal. 

 

– January 08, 2014 12:37 PM
Q.

Vegetarian version of last week's Pasta e Fagioli?

I read the "real" of The Post (on paper!) so I didn't see last week's recipes until after the chat. The Pasta e Fagioli recipe looked really good, but I prefer a vegetarian (and lower calorie) version. Would too much flavor be lost if I left out the pancetta and used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth? What ingredients drive up the calorie count? (I would trim the quantities slightly). Or should I just look for a different recipe?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

The fat in a single serving of this recipe from Le Virtu in Philly is reduced from 18 to 11 grams if you cut out the pancetta. And I'm sure that if you cut back on the cheese you'd trim more calories (we included it in our analysis). But minus-pancetta would be a loss of flavor, so try substituting with a dash of smoked Spanish paprika (altho pancetta's not smoked). I think of this soup as a meal, with carbs and veg; at 580 calories, not so bad, really. 

– January 08, 2014 12:40 PM
Q.

homemade coffee creamer?

Joe, I think on a previous chat you mentioned making your own coffee creamer from nuts.... can you share more details and/or the recipe?! Thanks!
A.
Joe Yonan :

I wrote about making a coconut almond milk on my blog -- you might try it. I have to say, I haven't REALLY found anything homemade that does as good a job as dairy when it comes to blending with coffee, but this was the best.

– January 08, 2014 12:40 PM
Q.

Slightly more adult drinks

I think I'm finally becoming a grown up: My drink of choice up until now has always been whiskey or vodka mixed with a soft drink like Pepsi or Dr. Pepper. However, I am now finding these drinks to be just too cloying and sweet. Yes, it only took me until the age of 29 to grow out of a college drink. So, now that I no longer like coke as my mixer, what are some other drinks that would be a good next step? Mind you, I'm still not ready for serious drinks, like martinis. I'd like some sweetness in my drinks - I'm just looking for something that isn't as disugtingly sweet as soft drinks. I'd like drinks that are easy to make on a weeknight and preferably involve vodka or whiskey. I like rum, too, find tequila OK but HATE gin (and I've tasted some supposedly good ones - they all taste like drinking a Christmas tree.) I'm willing to make simple syrup. I like fruit, but not if it makes my face pucker. Any ideas?
A.
Carrie Allan :

Hey, congratulations on your bibulous growth! :) Manhattans are a good place to start; you can play around with the vermouth options and see what amount and type you like in the ratio, and there are so many beautiful vermouths out there these days (Carpano Antica -- so good -- and I just bought some Cocchi vermouth di Torino; these are really underappreciated, still, and many have amazing depth and complexity along with sweetness). How about a lemon drop cocktail? Those are sweet but tart and can be beautiful when made right, and you could play with whiskey and apples as well, which are a really nice pairing. I'd also suggest maybe playing around with some liqueurs that are more interesting and sophisticated -- try St. Germain, Domaine de Canton, Apfelkorn. Another fun one, given that you're sneaking away from sodas, is Art in the Age's Root liqueur -- it's herbal, but sweet, and will remind you of root beer. I personally love Campari/Aperol, but if you don't like bitterness, they may not be your thing immediately ... but can be lovely in some sweet-ish, graduate-level drinks. Enjoy!

– January 08, 2014 12:40 PM
Q.

Mollie Katzen!

I just want to thank Mollie Katzen for her beautiful and inspirational books. I used them to teach myself how to cook 'real' food, and how to make bread. I'm pretty sure I own them all, and they are my most-used resources in the kitchen. So, thank you!
A.
Mollie Katzen :

So glad! Thank you too! xo

– January 08, 2014 12:40 PM
Q.

Lentils and Chestnuts

Do you think these two foods would go well together? If so, any suggestions on how to use them?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Could.

I would definitely eat some chestnut gnocchi served on a bed of lentils.

– January 08, 2014 12:40 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

Wow -- I sure would, too! Hmm...

– January 08, 2014 12:40 PM
Q.

Vitamix

Mine does, too. Or at least it trips it, so I have to push the red reset button on the outlet.
A.
Joe Yonan :

All right, there's another vote.

– January 08, 2014 12:41 PM
Q.

Pork belly

I've seem pork belly a lot on menus and now it's showing up at my grocery store (Whole Foods). Any suggestions for how to prepare it? I'm thinking maybe a pasta dish.
A.
Jim Shahin :

      Yeah, pork belly has become the "it" meat recently. It's everywhere. 

       I slow-smoke it and eat it as is or add it to greens and other side dishes. It's rich, bacon-y flavor and silky texture makes it perfect for all sorts of preparations.

        You may well have a pasta dish in mind, but I have done this simple one and really liked it.

– January 08, 2014 12:41 PM
Q.

dal

I love dal at most Indian restaurants -- but can't quite figure out how to get the same flavor and spice at home. Any ideas?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Here's a dal recipe from Monica Bhide, who knows a thing or two about Indian food. I'm not sure how you've been making yours, but a good base is to start with some aromatics bloomed in oil (or even ghee!) -- onion, garlic, cumin at least. For dal, I like to cook the lentils until they're practically mush. My favorite variation is a mango dal recipe we picked up in a cooking class with local instructor Rupen Rao at Culinaerie a few years ago. If you want the recipe, e-mail me and I'll send you a copy.

– January 08, 2014 12:41 PM
Q.

lentils

Hi all, I just wanted to thank you for the lentil article, I absolutely love them. The lentil and onion recipe sounds like it would be great for spreading on a piece of toasted focaccia, a sauce for pizza or a hearty meal with rigatoni pasta and sauteed turnip wedges and garlic. On my way to the grocery store right now because of you guys. Manga!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Good! I love that pizza/pasta idea!

– January 08, 2014 12:42 PM
Q.

For the person with the barrel

David Lebovitz did a column on barrel-aged Negronis. I found the link for you.

Q.

Re: red lentil recipes

Love love love this recipe for Spiced Red Lentils With Cucumber Yogurt from Plenty.

A.
Joe Yonan :

Yep. What's not to love?

– January 08, 2014 12:43 PM
Q.

"Taste Fatigue" - real or imagined?

Say you make your favorite lasagna…Yum. In many cases foods tastes better the next day, Yum Yum. If you made a big batch you might have leftovers for lunch on the third day after you made something. Yum Yum Yum. But there is a limit to this escalation. Because then you don't want to make lasagna again for a while. Why is that? You are tired of it, you want variety yes. But I contend that if one made lasagna (or any dish) over and over is that you physically lose a taste for it. That maybe your umami receptors become numb to a certain combination of flavors? Do you agree? Do you thing 'taste fatigue' is physical or mental?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Taste fatigue; texture fatigue; dinner expectation jadedness - all of these things happen to various people over various dishes. When you reach that point with your lasagna, your best friends or favorite neighbors will not object to your taking the leftover leftovers over to share.

– January 08, 2014 12:43 PM
Q.

vinegar

I always hear about "finishing" a dish with vinegar, but I don't know how to do it. I'm thinking mostly soups and greens/veggies -- would these things benefit from a splash of vinegar? If so, when - at the end of cooking? Mid-way through? And what kind -- apple cider, balsamic, red wine? I guess I'm looking for a "vinegar 101" primer!
A.
Mollie Katzen :

It's a ton of fun to experiment with various vinegars. (I must have about 10 different bottle in my cupboard right now.) "Finishing" can mean just a few drops at serving time - and you can be creative (and experimental) w checking to see how you like them and on what. Try just a little on a small sample of the dish first before lacing it onto the whole pot or bowlful. If the dish contains green vegetables or herbs, add the acid (vinegar or citrus) at the end, so the chlorophyll won't leach out and leave things pale. 

– January 08, 2014 12:43 PM
Q.

Baking Pan cleaning

I swear by baking soda for cleaning pans. Sprinkle it on, with a little water if you need to get it to cling, sit a while (the pan, but also maybe you), scrub with a light scrubber. If you need to cut grease especially, add a little lemon juice. Works great, and doesn't require buying specialty items. Non-toxic, and cheap.
Q.

Apple Allergy

My husband is now allergic to all kinds of raw fruits/veggies (apples/carrots/celery etc) and is finding it really frustrating to no longer enjoy the crispness of a raw apple. I would love to cook apples in some way - as little as possible - to retain crispness yet cook them enough to cancel the allergic reaction? Now I know all allergies and reactions are different but is there a cooking temperature that denotes a food cooked for something like fruit? My thought has been to steam them and then chill them to create a similar result to fresh, raw apples. Thx :)
A.
Joe Yonan :

This seems above our pay grade -- in that you really should talk to his allergist about how much cooking will cause the apples safe enough for your husband, right? (BTW, nothing approximates fresh, raw apples, even lightly steaming/chilling. But some varieties hold their shape/texture more than others -- I'm thinking Granny Smiths.)

– January 08, 2014 12:44 PM
Q.

Turnips and beets galore

I still have an abundance of beets and turnips leftover from my fall CSA. I've roasted them, mashed them, tossed them into soups, and for the beets, juiced and smoothied them, and yet I still have about a dozen left to go through (including one of each that's about the size of a softball). Any healthy recipe ideas to help me burn through my stash before the winter CSA season begins and I'm overrun again?
A.
Becky Krystal :

We have a bunch of recipes for both in our databse, but two to start:

Roasted Turnips With Mushrooms and Wine

Roasted Turnips With Mushrooms and Wine

Moroccan-Style Carrot and Beet Salad

Moroccan-Style Carrot and Beet Salad

– January 08, 2014 12:45 PM
Q.

Bean Burgers

I love Bittman's autumn bean burgers!

Q.

Molly Katzen!

I am excited to have this opportunity to ask you questions, and wish I'd prepared beforehand (I have many first editions of your books and I've been to Moosewood in Ithaca, NY many times over the years) -- because all I can think of right now is, When and why did you leave Ithaca for the San Francisco area, where Joe's article says you live? Has the move changed your cooking? Do you miss the cold at all? Thanks for all you've done for vegetarians! PS -- I love lentils too and can't wait to try these new recipes.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Hi! I left Ithaca over 30 years ago, so have actually lived most of my adult life in the Berkeley area. Had gone to school out here and was working with a West Coast publisher (Ten Speed Press) and wanted to return here. I was very young (22!) when I co-founded Moosewood Restaurant, and I stayed the first 5 years.  Am 63 now, and have not done a restaurant since.

– January 08, 2014 12:46 PM
Q.

thank you!

the first cookbook i ever bought was "The Moosewood Cookbook" and that was followed quickly by "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest." I just want to say thank you to Ms. Katzen for a lifetime of cooking enjoyment. your books are treasures.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Wonderful - thank you so much! Very glad. 

– January 08, 2014 12:46 PM
Q.

"Carotino" oil, anyone?

Bottles of a shockingly bright orange cooking oil with the brand name of Carotino have suddenly appeared in my local supermarket. The bottle identifies it as a blend of palm oil and canola. Looks & sounds interesting but I don't want to spend the six bucks to experiment unless I have to. Have any of you used this oil, and if so what do you use it for and what's the verdict?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Haven't cooked with it; chatters, have you? The color is disturbing to me, somehow -- memories of other viscous red liquids in my life? The company's US site, as I'm sure you've visited, certainly touts the oil's health claims and sustainability. If you're looking to add lycopene and Co Q10 to your daily diet, this would be one way to do it. 

– January 08, 2014 12:47 PM
Q.

food processor

I am learning to cook healthier. However, I am tired of spending so much time chopping up veggies. My mother has an old food processor that is too much effort to use. Are food processors better now? Which ones do you suggest? I will have to buy a used one.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

You can use the slicing blade of a food processor (Kitchn Aid or Cuisinart) to slice vegetables, but you will have much more control and variation if you cut by hand. If you have a good knife and keep it very sharp (so sharp, it just grabs right into an onion or apple with almost no pressure from you) you will love chopping and look forward to it. Trust me!

– January 08, 2014 12:48 PM
Q.

Apple Allergy Tip

Obviously double check with his allergist... I know two people who have a reaction to raw apples. If you microwave the apple for a little bit, it kills the offending protein. It should still be crisp though.
Q.

Vitamix and circuit breakers

Not an electrician, but you may need some rewiring/new breaker box. *Everything* in our kitchen (plus an out let in the garage where the washer is) runs on the same circuit! So, if we need to use the microwave, we have to stop the dishwasher first or we trip the circuit. And, no washing clothes and dishes at the same time, although the microwave and washing machine get along fine.
Q.

Crazy good lentils

My meat-eater spouse adores these Lentil Tacos. You can eat them as stew or burritos, or over pasta, or with eggs, etc.

Q.

Juicer pulp

I finally got a juicer that handles hard veggies such as carrots as well as soft ones like oranges, but there's a lot of pulp left behind after the juice is extracted. Should I discard the pulp, or does it have as many vitamins and minerals -- and calories -- as the juice?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Compost! Or soup stock.

– January 08, 2014 12:50 PM
Q.

Hi Mollie!

Moosewood's spanikopita was the first grown up dish I ever cooked, decades ago. And it turned out perfectly. My favorite of the series is the under-appreciated "New Recipes" volume, including the unbelievable roasted Greek potatoes that rival those in any Greek restaurant.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Nice! Glad.

– January 08, 2014 12:50 PM
Q.

Disadvantage of cast iron?

Why would you have to hold it in one hand? I use my large one all the time (better than non-stick in my opinion) and I can't think of a single dish you'd use a cast iron pan for where you'd need to hold it up. When it's time to plate you bring the plate to the pan, not the other way around, and my large one has a handle on one side so it's easy to use two hands to bring it to the sink.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Well, you don't HAVE to, but I get the chatter's point that it's nice to have pans that you can indeed pick up easily. To swirl a bit of oil, to shake the ingredients around, etc. I know, I know, you'll say you can use a spoon, brush, your other hand, whatever, but still. I love my cast iron, but lightweight pans do have their advantages.

– January 08, 2014 12:50 PM
Q.

fatback

Jowl would be a close substitution.
A.
Tim Carman :

Because I wasn't so sure about this claim, I checked with Nate Anda at Red Apron. He issues caution.

 

He said, "You need to look for jowls . . . that have a significant amount of fat on them and have been cleaned of all the glands."

 

Red Apron, of course, has such jowls. But if you can't get there, Nate says to look for jowls from a pig that has foraged for its food. Also look for jowls with the skin still on; that way, the cut will be larger, with more fat.

 

But even with that, Nate says jowls are not as fatty as fatback. He ballparked some numbers: Fatback is about 95 percent fat; jowls are, at best, 75 percent fat.

– January 08, 2014 12:51 PM
Q.

Salting eggplant

The only time my mother/grandmother/mother-in-law ever salted eggplant was when they were frying it for sandwiches or other preps when they wanted it to remain "meaty." So, that's the only time I salt it and the only time I ever had a bitter one was when I grew my own and didn't see one until it was too mature.
Q.

Collards mystery

I do not like collards, at all, but I dutifully made them for my husband for New Year's Day. I cooked them with some salt pork, and probably undercooked a bit because I was thinking of how spinach cooks. Thing is, they weren't bitter at all....still not my favorite, but not bad. Was it the salt pork, short cooking time, the particular batch of collards? Any ideas?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Best collards I ever had were made by a southern cook, who cooked them with no salt pork at all - just a long, slow exposure to heat with olive oil, a little garlic, s & p - and then, just before serving, drizzled them with the vinegary pickling liquid from some pickled sweet-hot peppers. Divine!

– January 08, 2014 12:51 PM
Q.

To the person who doesn't want a food processor:

Try a mandoline. Fewer parts to get dirty (or, um, lose), easier to set up, takes up less room... They're not as all-purpose as a food processor, but when I have a lot of chopping/slicing to do, it's the mandoline I turn to.
Q.

re: Buffalo sauce

Take sweet potatoes and cut them into fries. Cook on 400 for 20-30 minutes, until crispy. Move into a pile, douse with buffalo sauce, and cover with cheddar or colby and then broil. Buffalo sauce is also excellent to dip your pizza into (especially the crust!)
Q.

Rib roast thanks!

Thank you for the great rib roast prep suggestion in the Dec. 24th chat! I'm not the OP, but I used that method for our New Year's Eve roast and it was perfect and so easy. Thanks again!
Q.

Sausage-white bean-potato stew

Today is a good day to talk about stew. I'd like to share a simple recipe that I threw together, it contains sausage, white beans, and potatoes: 1 lb. of sausage, crumbled, cooked in a frying pan and drained; 4 or 5 red potatoes, unpeeled & cubed; two onions chopped; two cans of cannelini beans including the liquid; 1/4 cup of water, a teaspoon of salt-free chicken boullion powder. Throw it all in a pot, add your favorite spices (oregano, basil, cumin, pepper, whatever) and cook on low heat for about 40 minutes until the potatoes are very soft. This is fast and easy and you can freeze the leftovers (if there's any left).
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks!

– January 08, 2014 12:52 PM
Q.

HACCP plans

many if not most HACCP plans for meat processing approved by USDA require the use of antimicrobials. No one process can insure that a carcass is free of pathogenic bacteria. Rather, USDA rquires a hurdle process of a number of different steps, including antimicrobial agents. Chlorine is typically used in all chill tanks for poultry. Other antimicrobial agents are used as part of HACCP include things like organic (in the chemical sense) acids. Why the need to call them "nasty" chemicals? That bias is rather offputting.
A.
Tim Carman :

Because these chemicals have killed workers?

 

Again, I haven't done the research on chemicals for  chicken processing, so I cannot speak authoritatively on the issue. I suggested Bell & Evans mostly as a launching point for the chatter to check out the company further.

– January 08, 2014 12:53 PM
Q.

Small Jar on Blender Best For Grinding

I use a 4 ounce canning jar that fits my blender (an old Oster) to grind spices, nuts and hard things. It is easy to wash so I don't have spice oils tainting the next thing. My mini food processor is great for making bread crumbs, mayo, grating cheese, and coarsely chopping nuts. I can get a fine powder from hard spices (like pepper) best using the wee jar on a blender.
Q.

Roasted chestnuts

I saw some roasted chestnuts (bagged) at Trader Joe's. The package contained a recipe for stuffing but no other ideas. I've never eaten chestnuts. What could I make with them or should I eat them as is?
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Chop and mix with red rice, toasted walnuts, cooked carrots & onions.

– January 08, 2014 12:55 PM
Q.

Winter soup

I want to make a healthy winter soup with kale and white beans, perhaps also sausage. That seems rather tame though. Do you have any suggestions for other ingredients to add a "wow" factor? Maybe something unusual? Thanks.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

Again, a dash of vinegary pickling liquid from pickled peppers can perk things up greatly. Also, a mash of roasted garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice = very nice.

– January 08, 2014 12:55 PM
Q.

deli meat

I bought a one-pound resealable package of thin-sliced chicken breast and another of turkey breast the Friday before last. Both were opened within a few days but only a little meat was removed. What are the chances they're still safe to eat? Both are marked as good through February but I don't know if that's only if they're unopened. Thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

The FDA suggests 3 to 5 days after opening, so, um, I wouldn't go there. Here's the chart.

– January 08, 2014 12:55 PM
Q.

Why would you have to hold it in one hand?

I have the problem with lots of heavy pots and pans: I can't hold it with one hand while pouring, spooning food into a bowl without fear of dropping spilling it all.
Q.

Whole Hog

I just last night read a bunch of John Besh's new cookbook. There is an entire chapter on butchering. He has some whole hog recipes that use unusual parts of the pig.
Q.

"wow" factor for soup

A swirl of pomegranate molasses on top. A big pinch of Aleppo or Maras pepper.
Q.

mandoline

I second the mandoline! But be sure to use your guard. My husband has two nice scars in his fingertips from the "one more slice then I'll use the guard." When I have a lot to slice or julienne, I reach for the mandoline (though I love my Henckles knives)
Q.

Where to buy lentils

Not just an Indian Market... I find that H Mart and other Asian markets have a nice variety at decent prices, and the various Global/World Supermarkets in the DC area (Woodbridge's is massive!) have amazing selections at rock-bottom prices too!
Q.

Panna cotta separated

I made this panna cotta recently in ramekins, the only change being that I added half a teaspoon of vanilla paste and 5 or 6 strips of orange peel to make it orange-flavored. They tasted great, but when I unmolded them, there was a noticeable separation. The bottom (in the ramekin; it was the top on the plate) was deeper in color and much less creamy--it looked like a slightly cloudy gelatin. It was maybe a quarter-inch deep, and it didn't look or taste bad, but the creamier part was better and I'd like to avoid that issue in the future. Any suggestions? Thanks!

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

We just ran a lovely panna cotta recipe from Beverly Bates. She says if the panna cotta mixture (dairy + gelatin) get too heated in the pan, that can easily cause the separation you speak of. (It's even happened to her, and she's an ace.) So try reducing the heat to medium-low, if you make the recipe again. 

– January 08, 2014 12:58 PM
Q.

large bottles of beer

Why do so many breweries make their special beers in wine bottle size? I have one in my fridge waiting to be opened but I don't want to waste it and I can't drink the whole thing alone. Is there a way to close the bottle and save the rest for later?
A.
Tim Carman :

Here are a few tips on preserving the beer in those oversized beer bottles.

– January 08, 2014 12:58 PM
Q.

Apple allergy/substitutes

My apple allergy started with raw whole, but I could still eat cooked apples or drink cider. Then it progressed over the years, so that I reacted to apples in all forms. Is he allergic to pears, too? Those are my first go-to substitutes. There are so many kinds, and boscs are best eaten while still a bit crisp. Pears make great pies and tarts. Another cooked apple substitute is quince. For raw apple-like crisp y sweetness, a fresh young jicama, peeled and cut into slabs, slices or wedges satisfies my craving for a crispy, juicy, slightly sweet something to eat.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Sounds like the poster's husband is allergic to all raw fruits. Bummer, right? I developed a similar thing with raw bananas a few years ago, and I'm hoping it doesn't go any further than that. I love banana muffins and bread.

– January 08, 2014 12:58 PM
Q.

taste fatigue

I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich every day for lunch and look forward to it. On days when I don't I am disapointed and look forward to it that much more the next day. umami recpetors enhance the perception of other flavor receptor signalling. If umami recpeptors were becoming numb, all umami based foods would have reduced tastes.
A.
Mollie Katzen :

There are some things we never tire of, for sure.  I have peanut butter every day, too! 

– January 08, 2014 12:58 PM
Q.

Because these chemicals have killed workers?

I'm not the OP, but if that's true, I'd like a link
A.
Tim Carman :

I included this link in my original response.

– January 08, 2014 12:59 PM
Q.

Sour cream ginger cookies - BLISS

Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I made the sour-cream ginger cookies from your December cookie chat, and they were AMAZING. Super-easy, too. I will be making them again!
Q.

Joe Yonan :

Well, you've cooked us until we're perfectly soft and supple, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's today, and thanks to the great Mollie Katzen -- and Carrie Allan and Jim Shahin -- for helping us answer them!

Now, for our giveaway prize: The chatter who asked Mollie about "molecular veggies" will get a signed copy of "The Heart of the Plate"! Send your mailing info to Becky at Becky.Krystal@washpost.com, and we'll get it to you.

Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading!

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