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April 23, 2014

12:02
P.M.

Free Range on Food: Beer Madness finale, Neopol Savory Smokery and more

Total Responses: 72

About the hosts

About the host

Bonnie Benwick

Bonnie Benwick is deputy editor of the Food section; joining us today are staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan and Beer columnist Greg Kitsock.

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.

Bonnie Benwick :

Good afternoon, Free Rangers! Which eats/drinks are you most interested in today -- the hot-smoked hits of Neopol Savory Smokery, as detailed in Jim Shahin's Smoke Signals column?  (Their smoked salmon salad's pictured below; you can make it at home.) D.C.'s prolific online beer rater? Diego Rivera's daughter's take on the tables set by Frida Kahlo? Or the spring ingredients showing up in farmers markets? 

And how 'bout that Beer Madness winner? Greg Kitsock's here to field your questions about the competition this year, and why Devils Backbone was crowned. 

Editor Joe's away, but Greg, Jim and the rest of the Food sectioneers are at your service. As usual, we've got a couple of cookbooks to hand over to the hour's most helpful/interesting chatters. We'll announce who they are at the end of the chat.  Here we go....

Q.

Asparagus stems

I have a really large bag of frozen asparagus stems that I have been snapping off all winter. Now that the good stuff is coming in, I'd like to use these stems as a flavoring - but they are woody, relatively flavorless, and possibly freezer-burnt, so I can't see actually eating them. Any suggestions?
A.
Tim Carman :

 

You could thaw and use them as part of a vegetable stock, as Joe did for his Scrappy Vegetable Broth. (Pictured above.) But I would not use as many asparagus stems as I would use other scraps. Asparagus, as you know, has a strong flavor.

 

 

You might also toss them into a soup, along with fresh asparagus. You could try the stems in Jim Shahin's Smoked Asparagus Soup. (Pictured above.) I suspect they'd work perfectly in this dish.

– April 23, 2014 12:03 PM
Q.

basil overload

My mom was given an AeroGarden for Christmas (it's awesome and I'm jealous). As a result, she has tons and tons of herbs. I was given a lot of basil (weighed it on the kitchen scale and it came to about 2 ounces) and I'm kind of at a loss as to what to do with it. I love basil, but my husband is on Weight Watchers, so I'm looking for something healthy that I can make. Is there a way to preserve it if I can't use it all up? I thought about just chucking it in the freezer but then thought that maybe I need to put it in ice cube trays with some broth or olive oil. Thoughts? I've kicked around the idea of a basil tea, but I don't know if that would even be good.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Here are some ideas from Susan Belsinger on how to preserve them. You can use your basil to make a paste or syrup. As to a beverage, how about Blueberry Lemonade With Ginger and Basil?

Blueberry Lemonade With Ginger and Basil

– April 23, 2014 12:03 PM
Q.

Cold soup

I found a recipe on the internet for a spicy mango soup for two. It called for 1 large mango, peeled and seeded. I like to use frozen mango chunks because it easier. In cups how much frozen mango chunks do you think would equal to one large mango?

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

According to the "Chef's Book of Formulas, "Yields and Sizes," a 12-ounce mango yields 3/4 cup flesh. Hope that helps! 

– April 23, 2014 12:04 PM
Q.

Smoked Paprika

I've been seeing more and more recipes calling for smoked paprika, but few if any of them specify which type. I bought a set of 3 from La Tienda a while ago - sweet, hot and bittersweet. Any guidance? (I tend to use the last two much more than the first, mostly in dishes involving pork or pork sausage).
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

When we call for it in our recipes, the default is sweet. If the hot stuff's required, we include that detail. Honestly, I'd go by how much gets used. A little of the smokiness goes a long way. And you,  better than anyone, know what level of heat you can take. So taste the kind you bought before you stir it in, then measure accordingly. 

– April 23, 2014 12:04 PM
Q.

electric kettle

My trusty Krups electric kettle has started dripping badly when I pour water. Does anyone have a favorite brand for replacement? Also, to the OP from last week who has to replace her Osterizer, please don't throw out the mini attachment. Just buy a new Osterizer, which is what we did -- good price at Bed Bath & Beyond.
A.
Tim Carman :

Are you determined to stick with an electric kettle? Because if not, I'd recommend this stovetop kettle, which is far cheaper than a Hario Buono kettle (and it pours like a dream). You can get one here for about $23, plus shipping.

 

Here are some other recommendations from Serious Eats.

 

Chatters, other ideas?

– April 23, 2014 12:06 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I have a Capresso; can't live without it. 

– April 23, 2014 12:06 PM
Q.

Ramps

I know that I recently read an article in the Post about where to find ramps in a restaurant, but do you know where I can find them at a farmer's market/store in the area? They have a short growing season and I have a recipe that calls for them. Last year I made it with a substitute -- I'd love to try it with the real thing!
A.
Tim Carman :

FreshFarm Markets have ramps at several locations. You can find them at:

Bigg Riggs Farm, which sells at the FreshFarm markets by the White House, at Dupont Circle and at Crystal City.

Spring Valley Farm & Orchard also sells them at the FreshFarm markets by the White House, at Dupont Circle and at Silver Spring.

 

Chatters, have you seen ramps anywhere else?

– April 23, 2014 12:11 PM
Q.

leftover pasta

I have about 2 cups of fresh (cooked) fettuccine I would like to have for lunch, not in soup. Ideas?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Throw it in a pan and saute until it sports crispy edges. Then pour beaten egg over it and some vegetables and/or herbs. 

– April 23, 2014 12:11 PM
Q.

Leftover rice

I can never finish the white or brown rice I get with Chinese takeout. Can I repurpose it? It seems to just get hard in the fridge overnight, but it'd be nice if I could re-use it for another dinner.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Absolutely, repurpose that rice. Prime candidate: Fried rice. Here's Joe's recipe for Thai Fried Rice With Soft-Yolk Egg.

Thai Fried Rice With Soft-Yolk Egg

Or Napa Cabbage, Shiitake and Pork Fried Rice.

Napa Cabbage, Shiitake and Pork Fried Rice

And maybe this week's Arroz Con Pollo Burgers?

Arroz Con Pollo Burgers

 

– April 23, 2014 12:12 PM
Q.

potentially weird question about cantaloupe seeds

I usually roast, season, and snack on seeds from pumpkins or acorn squash. I was cutting up a cantaloupe last night and was wondering if the cantaloupe seeds would be any good roasted. Have any of you tried it? Am I just a nutter?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Hulled melon seeds seem to be standard fare in other countries. Roasted & salted, crushed and stirred into stews as a thickener, tossed into crunchy snack mixes. Go for it, and report back!  

– April 23, 2014 12:12 PM
Q.

Ramp track mind

Ramp time is my favorite time of year. I got 5 bunches on Sunday and have made pesto, pizza with the pesto, pickles and a fritata, so far. What are your favorite ways to use them?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I like to pickle them; they hang around longer. I use Noma chef (and former 1789 chef) Dan Giusti's recipe.  Chatters?

– April 23, 2014 12:13 PM
Q.

Ramps

They've been at the Falls Church farmer's market for the past two weeks. (Saturdays, 8-noon)
Q.

Ramps in Alexandria

I've seen them at the Old Town farmers market for the past few weeks.
Q.

Cantaloupe Seeds

Hi there! I can totally vouch for toasted cantaloupe seeds. One of my favorite snacks! 

Q.

Grow, lil veggies!

Arugula and radishes are trying very hard to get big in my garden so they can jump into that salad. Kapow! peppery and sweet. Looking forward to it. Speaking of healthy things, do you ever think of collecting your Nourish columns into a book? could be good, perhaps in time for holiday season and next crop of New Year's resolutioners...

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

The Nourish recipes from Stephanie Sedgwick are perennial favorites -- although at times I feel like we're tying her hands when it comes to the amount of shrimp/cholesterol she can deploy.  It'd be great for her to do a book, of course. For now, though, you can click on the Nourish link in our Recipe Finder and print out your own favorites: More than 200 and counting! 

– April 23, 2014 12:20 PM
Q.

Using up basil

How about a basil-based chimichurri? Maybe I'm just hitting my spring craving of fresh green stuff, but I'd think it would be great on grilled chicken breast or veggies.
A.
Tim Carman :

Sure thing. Chefs like Emeril have used basil in their chimichurri sauces.

 

You might also try it in this mouthwatering Basil-Cashew Pesto from Laura Genello of FreshFarm Markets.

– April 23, 2014 12:20 PM
Q.

Spring entree for entertaining

I'm hosting a dinner for eight people. I'd like to make a vegetarian main course but I'm having trouble coming up with something to make for spring that isn't too time-consuming and won't keep me in the kitchen much once guests arrive. Any suggestions? Thank you!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Some of Joe's Weeknight Vegetarian recipes come to mind.

Green Bean, Artichoke and Hazelnut Salad

Green Bean, Artichoke and Hazelnut Salad

Ricotta Frittata With Spring Vegetables

Ricotta Frittata With Spring Vegetables

– April 23, 2014 12:20 PM
Q.

used cookbooks

I love getting new cookbooks but am on a budget. Have you or any chatters ever bought used cookbook from amazon with success?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I have. It's a good option. Chatters?

– April 23, 2014 12:20 PM
Q.

Is Tom Okay?

As a regular chatter, I just want to say, all you chatting folks are great, and I worry about you when you have to cancel! Have a great week!
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Well, you're like family! Tom's fine; on assignment for the upcoming Magazine dining guide. 

– April 23, 2014 12:21 PM
Q.

Egg leftover from last week

Sorry to have missed the chat last wk. I didn't see mention of 2 other things to do with yolks- Egg noodles just flour and egg yolks -works fine without the whites if you've used them elsewhere. And babka - recipe in Bread in 5 Min a Day calls for 16 of them and is AMAZING.
Q.

Q for Carrie: Gin recommendation

Carrie: Can you recommend 2 or 3 mid-priced gins. I want to make Bee's Knees (and one-offs from that) and the occasional gin-and-tonic. Since these are cocktails with so few ingredients, this might be the place to try a more expensive gin with a little personality?
A.
Carrie Allan :

Hey, sure thing! One that I would definitely recommend especially for this cocktail (though it's a little pricey) is Barr Hill, because it actually has honey added to it. It's gorgeous and would be great in a Bee's Knees. Should be locatable at good booze stores like Ace and Schneider's, though I'd call ahead to check. I really like the citrus notes in Tanqueray 10. And you might try mixing things up a little by including an aged gin--when I wrote about these, I did some testing via Bee's Kneeses (!) and some of them turned out beautifully. Assuming you've got a classic London Dry to start with, you could go with Ransom's Old Tom or Citadelle's barreled gin.

– April 23, 2014 12:23 PM
Q.

Extra lemon grass

I like to put any leftover stalks in a glass of water. They'll send out roots and you can plant them in a pot. Sadly, they're not outdoor hardy in winter here in the DMV but you can overwinter inside or in a greenhouse. Or tom yum soup!
Q.

Craft beer - when is it going to be too much?

I was in Cookeville, TN recently - a college town - and the local Gulf gas station was advertising craft beer on their billboard. They stocked 3 TN breweries by the growler - Old Shedd, Fat Bottom (of Nashville) and Calfkiller. Greg, how many of these can the market sustain? And how can a hardcore beer drinker find them. (I'm not a beer drinker, but I brought 6 growlers for friends back to Arlington).
A.
Greg Kitsock :

These operations sound like nanobreweries - very small operations that sell beer strictly in their locale. If they they're permitted to sidestep the distribution system, and sell beer directly to the public via growlers or in their tasting room, there's no reason why there can't be as many of these as wineries (which, I believe, number around 6,000 - over twice the number of breweries currently operating). It's hard to keep up with the number of openings, but go to www.craftbeer.com and you'll see a find-a-brewery feature that will help keep you up to date. Or look for the local beer publications, like Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, the one I edit.

– April 23, 2014 12:24 PM
Q.

Ways to use ramps

OP could make a ramp vinaigrette. Redbook posted the recipe that Chop't uses here.

Q.

used cookbooks on amazon

I've bought several. Just be sure to check out the seller's rating. I've only had one disappointment and it was my fault for not reading the seller's ratings.
Q.

Smoked trout

Smoked whitefish was a staple growing up but I've now shifted my allegiance to smoked trout. Great stuff. Is there any way to do this at home successfully or should I just head over to Union Market and patronize Neopol? Both?
A.
Jim Shahin :

      Simple answer: both.

      As for doing at home, you can do it through cold-smoking (traditiional) or hot-smoking. I actually prefer hot-smoking because it creates a less "slab-like" consistency; it's more moist and flaky. Basically, you season the fish as you like - a little salt is really all that's needed - and put the fish on the cold side of an indirect fire (fire on one side, fish on the far end, away from the fire) and use about a cup of soaked apple wood chips or other mild wood (oak is nice), then close the lid to your grill and smoke at a low temp (around 200). Check at 20 minutes for doness. Go longer if it isn't to your satisfaction, but check about every 10 minutes after the first look-see.

– April 23, 2014 12:26 PM
Q.

Seconding Fried Rice

I often order dishes that don't really need rice when I order Chinese takeout, so I always save the rice in the fridge without touching it so it gets a little dry and perfect for frying! One of the easiest weeknight meals!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Right on.

– April 23, 2014 12:27 PM
Q.

Beer Madness

Will you be making the contest local every year from now on? With so many thousands of beers available I think it helps to have a theme of some sort and local seems to be a good idea. Also was a good idea this year to tell us where to find the brewtestants.
A.
Greg Kitsock :

My preference would be to keep Beer Madness local, since we have more than enough beers (and probably will have even more choices next year!). I think keeping it local also helps to ensure that readers like you will be able to locate the beers and try them for yourselves. 

– April 23, 2014 12:27 PM
Q.

melon seeds

I have another cantaloupe in my kitchen awaiting its demise tonight. I'll report back next week...if I'm alive. :)
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

That's the spirit! :)

– April 23, 2014 12:31 PM
Q.

Keeping basil

I use Joe's method of pureeing it with a little olive oil and then freezing. Just break off a chunk when needed in a recipe. I'd post a link but I can't find it!
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Do you mean this basil paste, from Susan Belsinger? I think that's what Editor Joe was referencing.

BTW, here's a link to a handy bunch of herb tips, also from Susan. 

– April 23, 2014 12:31 PM
Q.

Diego's daughter

I loved the piece. How lucky to have a wonderful cook as a mother and Frida as a stepmother with her design sensibilities. I'm afraid for me, the food is the thing. Artistic setting is somewhat of an afterthought. Must. channel. Frida!!

Q.

Beer Madness

Loved seeing Riot Rye in the final four. While good bottled and draft the best way to enjoy it is from a cask. Has anyone had the winner on cask? I do enjoy the Vienna Lager bottled.
A.
Greg Kitsock :

Usually, it's ales that are served on cask. When a lager is served in a similar way, unfiltered and still in an active state of ferment, it's referred to as a "Kellerbier" or cellar beer. I'd have to check with the Devils Backbone brew crew to see if they serve the Vienna Lager in this manner. I'd love to try it!

– April 23, 2014 12:32 PM
Q.

basil

you can dry it. easy peasy! google it, but basically - put it in a paper bag and put a rubber band on the opening with the stems. poke a few holes in the bag with a knife. hang it upside down. takes a few months.
Q.

Re: Basil

Where to start?! Freezing it in ice cube trays works well. Not familiar with the WW rules but one of my favorite ways to use up a lot of herbs is a variation of greens and beans- eating it today for lunch actually! Sautee garlic and whatever green you want (spinach, chard, etc.) in olive oil, then add a can of cannellini beans and the fresh herbs (my current version is with my frozen basil and fresh dill, but other options are oregano, parsley, etc.). Warm through and finish with 1-2 tbsp. lemon juice, salt/pepper, and a few sliced kalamatta olives if desired.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Very nice.

– April 23, 2014 12:34 PM
Q.

Wasabi

I just saw wasabi peas in the eastern market. What would I do with those in a recipe that wouldn't be too hot to eat? 

A.
Tim Carman :

Aside from eating them like M&Ms, here are some other ideas:

 

1. Use them as a bread coating for chicken.

 

2. Use them in a snack mix.

 

3. Use them in an Asian chicken salad.

– April 23, 2014 12:34 PM
Q.

frozen beans

I heard beans freeze well, but what is the best way to thaw them out?
A.
Becky Krystal :

In the refrigerator.

– April 23, 2014 12:34 PM
Q.

Freezing basil again.

The Susan Belsinger recipe is approximately what I do, but Joe said (somewhere!) to freeze in plastic bags. Fill a quart zipper bag, squeeze out the air so it's flat and freeze. When you need basil for a recipe you can just break off an appropriate size chunk.
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Ah, thanks for remembering that! 

– April 23, 2014 12:38 PM
Q.

re: Used Cookbooks

I've also received used cookbooks from Amazon, with no problem (the previous owners are obviously more careful than I am in the kitchen, since none of the pages are stuck together). You may also want to check garage sales, used bookstores, and library sale/giveaway tables.
Q.

SUGGESTIONS FOR ELECTRIC SMOKERS?

Hello, Foodies! Recent Texan transplant here who needs some help. Now that the weather's calming down I'd like to start smoking my favorites - brisket, pole, ribs, and the like - but my apartment complex doesn't allow charcoal grills or smokers. Do you have a suggestion for an electric that'd do a reasonable facsimile of down-home BBQ? Thanks!
A.
Jim Shahin :

 

Three companies renown for their electric smokers are Cookshack, Bradley, and Masterbuilt. The Bradley Original allows you to both hot- and cold-smoke.  At right around $300, it is a great deal. 

– April 23, 2014 12:38 PM
Q.

bringing the dijon flavor forward

Hi! I literally just returned from a wonderful trip to Paris where I managed to bring back, among other things, real Dijon mustard and lentils du puy. And as typically happens with me, I'm afraid of using them on just any recipe, but don't want these things to just sit there forever unused. Any suggestions for a recipe that highlights both? I'm particularly interested in something for the Dijon mustard. Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :
– April 23, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

Something missing

My paper this morning didn't include the Food Section. I all but wept! How am I supposed to get through Wednesday breakfast without reading about the meals I'll be preparing for the coming week?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Are you sure it wasn't hiding inside the USA Science and  Engineering Festival special section? Every now and then, we are, um, insulated by a multipage advertisement. 

– April 23, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

leftover rice

Similar to a chicken burger. i make veggie burgers. take leftover veggies from the fridge and put them in the food processor...along with beans or whatever you have. add some bread crumbs and eggs. and some cheese if you are so inclined. Mix with the rice. make burgers! broil on each side about 7-8 minutes.
A.
Becky Krystal :

I love a good veggie burger. I'm in a yogurt rut for lunch, and those may be the answer.

– April 23, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

Used cookbooks

check your library for used cookbooks! The DC public library in my neighborhood has tons of great cookbooks. Often I check them out and try out a few recipes before deciding if I want to purchase a copy. Sometimes a couple of week is all it takes to decide. Many libraries and schools hold used book sales in the spring and I've picked up a number at those sales at super-cheap prices.
Q.

Smoked Salmon Salad

Love that idea. My father was an avid salmon fisherman and used to make a salmon spread with canned salmon (not always smoked), cream cheese, scallions and other seasonings. I wasn't a big fish eater as a kid, but I liked this. How do you think the salad would work with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise?
A.
Jim Shahin :

    Not sure, really. It wouldn't have the same rich flavor and the texture would likely be a bit thinner, but if you are partial to a lighter version, it may well work for you. 

– April 23, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

Electric griddle

A new electric griddle is going to arrive today. Can you think of a dinner item I could cook on this?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Scallion pancakes; fish; latkes of all kinds; thinly sliced turkey cutlets; your favorite array of thinly sliced vegetables; slices of cooked polenta; a meat-and-potato hash. More?

– April 23, 2014 12:39 PM
Q.

pucker up

The Chat Leftover about bitters go me thinking...I've had a bottle of green apple liqueur for years, bought on impulse after I'd had an especially tasty green apple martini. I'm off those now, so what do I do with that bright green stuff besides put it out on the bar every time I have a party and hope someone drinks it?

A.
Carrie Allan :

Reduce it to a syrup and serve it over ginger or vanilla ice cream with some fresh Granny Smith apple dice? :) Could be tasty, though if you've had it for years, it may have lost a little bit of oomph.

– April 23, 2014 12:42 PM
Q.

More Ramps

Saw them at the Fairfax Wegmans last weekend.

A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I think we're getting appropriately ramped up, folks. 

– April 23, 2014 12:42 PM
Q.

electric kettle

I have bought many Chef International electric kettles over the years at BB&B and really like them.
Q.

vegetarian for a crowd

Bummed that Joe is out of action for this question, yet I have total faith in the entire FR team. Need a cost-effective entree for about 15 to 20 people to eat sort of on the go (e.g., standing, or picnic table) during a lunch break at an event. Considering your lentil-rice sloppy joe but would LOVE other options. Thanks.

A.
Becky Krystal :

How about a giant batch of Tacos With Spicy, Smoky Lentils?

Tacos With Spicy, Smoky Lentils

 

– April 23, 2014 12:43 PM
Q.

Local Beer

I get Mid Atlantic Brewing News and Yankee Brewing News home delivered. Used to travel with a book called the Beer Lover's Guide to the USA, now I use Pubquest.com. I say always eat and drink local.
A.
Greg Kitsock :

Pubquest.com is another useful resource. The trouble with guidebooks is that they become dated quickly. Last year, according to the Brewers Association, new openings occurred at the rate of more than one a day. 

– April 23, 2014 12:43 PM
Q.

I'm the Osterizer!

I'm last week's whiner about the Osterizer. THANKS to the Free Ranger who suggested I hang onto the miniprocessor. Will do; good luck with the kettle search. There's nothing like the perfect tool.
Q.

these ramps everyone is speaking of

what are they? what do they taste like? and why is the season apparently so short??
A.
Tim Carman :

Here's a primer on ramps, which are part of the onion/garlic family.

– April 23, 2014 12:46 PM
Q.

Smokery hummus

I am still dreaming about the hummus and apple sandwich I had at Neopol at Union Market last weekend. I probably won't be able to recreate it at home, but can you tell me how it's done? Do you smoke the chickpeas themselves? I can't wait to go back!
A.
Jim Shahin :

      I don't have the recipe, but when doing the story I asked about the smoked hummus and they told me that, yes, they smoked the chick peas themselves (as opposed to the hummus). 

      In the hummus, you can also use smoked garlic, which Neopol sells, and/or smoked olive oil.

– April 23, 2014 12:47 PM
Q.

Upper West NYC

I'm heading up to a bridal shower in the City (I hate when people call it that, but they do have a point...). We are staying on the Upper West and want to eat some good food. Really good food. But not frou-frou or blow-a-month's-rent type of food. I am a firm believer that good doesn't have to be expensive. Meals free from ooh-ing and ahh-ing at dinnerware are dinner and breakfast. Any ideas? Many thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

My New York scene knowledge is not as good at it should be. For breakfast, you could pick up goodies from Momofuku Milk Bar. Other favorites in that area, gang?

– April 23, 2014 12:47 PM
Q.

Cracker Crust pizza

I'm grew up in the midwest and the pizza there is similar to a cracker type crust. Very thin and very crispy. Since the restaurants out here make thin crust and soggy I want to try this at home. Any good recipes?
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Check this out, compliments of theKitchn.

– April 23, 2014 12:48 PM
Q.

cocktail advice

What is 10 Cane Rum? Is there a decent substitute for it? I have a cocktail recipe that calls for it, and for Fernet Branca, which I'm also having a hard time finding. Any advice?
A.
Carrie Allan :

I've seen 10 Cane (a Trinidadian product that's a blend of sugar cane and molasses rum) around in a few places, but I think you'd be fine to substitute other light rums like Flor de Cana. Fernet is widely available so I'm wondering if you're in a VA or MoCo situation? But I've seen Fernet even at some of those ABCs, and it'll certainly be available at some of the good D.C. stores. 

– April 23, 2014 12:48 PM
Q.

B'More Cat and Food Lover

Thanks for the shout out to my local fave Neopol Savory Smokery. Their smoked salmon salad is truly to die for. For a quick appetizer, I make little cucumber cups and fill with a spoonful of the salmon salad. Hard not to eat them before guests arrive. I can also personally attest to the salmon crepe (with potatoes). It is hearty enough for breakfast AND lunch. Now I need some smoked salmon salad...
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

Or at least the makings for their recipe

– April 23, 2014 12:48 PM
Q.

If you were going to eat a lot more red meat than usual....

what cut would you get? We are going to steak house to celebrate my Dad's 75th, and I have no knowledge of steak other than filet mignon has less fat and therefore less flavor than the other other stuff. I think that I have a choice of rib eye, porterhouse, NY strip, filet, hangar and skirt. Tom didn't answer last week. You guys are my only hope for help.

A.
Jim Shahin :

      Me, I'm a fan of the big bone-in rib-eye. Huge flavor. Looks great on a plate. 

– April 23, 2014 12:49 PM
Q.

Herb garden

I'm growing my own herbs this year for the first time, which I'm excited about. I've never grown anything before and I live in an apartment (they're in little pots on the balcony). What I'm unclear about is when and how I can start harvesting them. I know one swift cut across the bottom is a bad idea--I want them to grow and provide for my herb needs throughout the summer. But how big should I let them get before I start cutting? And what's the best way to do the cutting? They're 10 days old now. The mint is definitely growing and the chives and chervil seem to be encroaching on each other. The others stuff--thyme, rosemary, sage, basil--doesn't look much bigger than when I planted it. I'd really appreciate any advice, as I'm a complete plant novice. Thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

I'm not a gardening expert, but I've been growing herbs fairly successfully (only because they're so hard to mess up -- so don't worry). You probably want to let the newbies grow a little more before you get going, although you can probably cut into the mint, chives and chervil whenever since they seem to be on their way. The rest will probably take off once it's a little warmer. For basil, pinch off the leaves. The other ones, I just snip off sprigs of what I need with my kitchen shears.

– April 23, 2014 12:49 PM
Q.

Eggs

Loved last week's egg feature, though I had two problems with the tips. First, the only water bottles I have are the kind that use less plastic, and when I squeezed one to try to pick up an egg yolk, it just collapsed when squeezed and didn't rebound. I'm going to buy a bottle of seltzer to keep on hand for the next time I need to separate a lot of eggs. The other problem was with slow cooked scrambled eggs. My teflon coated double boiler insert is made of thin aluminum. Even well above the water it got too hot so the eggs cooked very quickly. Then they left a film on the pan that even with a long soaking was a cleanup nightmare. But, the texture of the eggs was great!
Q.

Husband wants to cook

My husband has recently gotten hooked on "Chopped" and seems to be developing an interest in cooking. He wanted to try some recipes from the Chopped cookbook, but although I haven't seen the book, the recipes that people make on the show seem like they would be a bit hard for someone who basically knows nothing. I'm not sure he would like the normal go-to cookbook for newbies - Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything - just because it's so big. I think something that's smaller and has a fun flair would be good. Any ideas? P.S. I've given him some guidance, but he doesn't like it when I boss him around too much in the kitchen, so a book that also includes basic techniques would be great. Thanks!

A.
Tim Carman :

You might check out these titles and see if your husband might like them:

1. "Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cookbook."

 

2. "America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook."

 

3. "The Way to Cook," by Julia Child.

– April 23, 2014 12:54 PM
A.
Bonnie Benwick :

I've noticed that men who like to cook at home often have several America's Test Kitchen volumes on the shelf. The no-nonsense, fact-based approach seems to appeal. 

– April 23, 2014 12:54 PM
Q.

Fernet in NoVA

For the chatter looking for Fernet, I found some at an ABC store in Ballston
Q.

baking for 2

Any recipe for half portion cookies or muffins?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Find one you like and scale it down? Or freeze the extras?

– April 23, 2014 12:54 PM
Q.

Search help

I have a heck of a time locating articles that I remember reading (relatively recently!) in the food section. Is there a way to *only* search a particular section? A term such as "homemade pickles" results in a gazillion articles from all parts of the paper, including some having nothing to do with food e.g. congressional debate over defense budget. I get recipe search, that works just fine. Thanks, search impaired
A.
Becky Krystal :

Yeah, sorry. Our site search is, um, not great. I often find I get better results by going through Google. Such as 

"homemade pickles" food site:www.washingtonpost.com

It's a start, anyway. Play around with terms and quotation marks to see different results. Of course, for recipes, you can also use our database.

– April 23, 2014 12:54 PM
Q.

Ramps

So I see ramp frenzy has set in. I paid an awful lot for what I bought last year, which were tasty, but really not that much different from scallions once combined with other ingredients in a pasta. I know they only come briefly once a year, but are they really worth all the fuss?
A.
Tim Carman :

I understand the joy of seasonal ingredients, particularly this spring. The first ramps in the market were a sign that winter, a long and frustrating one, was officially over. It's the joy of renewal and abundance after a fallow period.

 

But if ramps don't do much for you, they just don't. No reason to fret.

– April 23, 2014 12:57 PM
Q.

Uses for ramps

For the person seeking recipes: I hate having a spring in which I miss a chance to make these biscuits: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/ramps-and-buttermilk-biscuits-with-cracked-coriander They're great on their own but also work well when stuffed with, say, smoked trout or salmon and some creme fraiche!
A.
Tim Carman :

Those sound (and look) heavenly.

– April 23, 2014 12:57 PM
Q.

pasta leftover help

A lot of time my only option is to heat it up in the work microwave. If the chatter who asked about the fettuccine is in the same boat, just toss it with pesto and cheese. If I am at home, I can get a little fancier, but for a quick work microwave lunch, it does the trick.
Q.

Men Cooking

Got mark Bittman's book as an app for the iPad and my formerly no cooking spouse uses it regularly.
Q.

Newbie cook

You could also look into getting him a gift certificate for a cooking class. If he likes the cooking shows, the ambiance of a participatory cooking class might be fun.
Q.

Re: Husband who wants to cook

Maybe see if you can find a cooking class you two could attend together that would introduce him to the basics. Kitchen stores like Sur la Table and even lots of restaurants host cooking classes; just try to find ones that are geared toward beginners.
Q.

olives

I love castelvetrano olives but find them really difficult to pit. My pitter just won't power through them and I end up using a paring knife to cut the olive away from the pit. It is very time consuming. Is there a better (faster) technique?
A.
Tim Carman :

Here's a video on three methods to remove stubborn olive pits.

– April 23, 2014 1:02 PM
Q.

baking for two

Cake, frosted or not, freezes really well. Cookies, most can be frozen before baking. Just scoop onto a cookie sheet and freeze, then package in zipper bags and bake only the amount you want. Pie..we don't eat pie often, but you can make them in small, individual pie tins. I think fruit pies freeze well before baking?
Q.

Upper West Side

Go to Zabars! It's not a restauarnt, but you can make a picnic for yourself and side in the park overlooking the river, if the weather cooperates.
Q.

Bonnie Benwick :

Well, you've rubbed us with something flavorful then smoked us to 150 degrees, so you know what that means . . . we're done! Thanks to Greg and Jim and Carrie for their expertise, and to you, dear chatters, for adding your invaluable experience. 

 

Cookbook winners today: The chatter who asked about cantaloupe seeds gets a copy of Susie Middleton's Fresh From the Farm" (source of the Weeknight Vegetarian dish). And the first chatter who asked about where to find ramps (looking for the "real thing" this year) gets "Eat What You Love," source of this week's Dinner in Minutes recipe. 

Be sure to send your mailing address to becky.krystal@washpost.com and she'll get the books out right away. Until next week, happy cooking and eating! 

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