Free Range on Food: Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and more

May 14, 2014

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you enjoyed this week's food coverage (so far): Tim Art'z ode to Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, Bonnie's report on David Lebovitz's new cookbook, Tamar Haspel's explainer on monocrops

We can talk about that, and more! Tim A is with us today, and Carrie "Spirits" Allan will be on hand to handle any boozy queries, and you've got us regulars. (Tamar can't join us today, and Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin is a maybe.)

So fire away! We'll have a little cookbook prize (or maybe prizes) for our favorite chatters, so make your questions/comments stimulating, and you'll have a shot.

I was recently gifted a few bars of 100% Venezuelan chocolate, but most of the recipes I come across either call for bittersweet or cocoa powder. I made one batch of brownies that called for about 3 oz. of the stuff in addition to about a pound of bittersweet, but I'd like to find a recipe that only or at least mostly calls unsweetened chocolate bars. It's of such great quality, it seems a shame to not highlight it. Instructions for how to substitute it for other types of chocolate would be equally helpful. Thanks in advance!

Triple Chocolate Bypass:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/recipes/triple-chocolate-bypass/13635/

Thank you for the piece on Pennsylvania Dutch cooking! I think I'll have to make a shoo fly pie this weekend. My dad's side of the family is from that region of PA, so I grew up on things like shoo fly pie (wet bottom all the way!), though I never developed a taste for scrapple. At every family reunion back at my great-aunt's, shoo fly pie and funny cake HAD to be on the table. (For those who don't know, funny cake is a cake baked in a pie shell. A drizzle of chocolate becomes the "funny" layer that sinks to the bottom as it bakes)

We always had shoo fly pie at family reunions, too.  I also remember a potato cake my grandmother made; a chocolate cake with potato in the batter and a stiff home made caramel icing.

I just started brewing my own and I only drink about 4 oz (diluted 1:2 with milk) a day, but my recipe brews resulted in about 20 oz of liquid. Is this OK in the fridge for 5 days? If I can't, does it freeze well?

Joel Finkelstein from Qualia Coffee in Petworth says, "The simple answer is yes, if it's brewed properly. . .if it's filtered properly, it should be good for two weeks."

If cold-brewed coffee is not filtered well -- and Joel recommends a multi-step process -- you can end up with a muddy mess at the bottom of your coffee. Here is Joel's recipe for cold-brewed coffee.

Every year for my birthday, I request a cake. Most of the time, I do not get a cake. Not to complain too much because I usually get something sweet (creme brule when out to dinner, cupcakes from a friend, etc.), but I cannot seem to get the message to my husband that I want him to buy me a Real True Birthday Cake. Turns out that this I will be home alone for my next birthday and I am SO EXCITED about the prospect of making myself a quintessential birthday cake. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a baker and am intimidated by complicated recipes (and lack a lot of baking equipment). Can you or the chatters recommend a simple but delicious cake recipe? I’d probably be happiest with something in a chocolate variety, but open to any suggestions!

My go-to birthday cake is Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake. Simple, moist, delicious. I like to pair it with King Arthur's Fluffy White Buttercream Frosting. Or you could go for our Soft and Luxurious Chocolate Frosting. Other cake options from our database: Tender White Cake and Buttery and Soft Chocolate Cake for a Crowd. This Texas Sheet Cake is pretty darn good too.

Texas Sheet Cake

Hi there - not sure if you can do this, but I had an amazing Vegeterian dish at Ceiba in DC last week. It was "ACHIOTE SPICED GNOCCHI - seasonal vegetables, goat cheese, pepitas, wild ramp butter", and I, a devout carnivore, saw someone order it at the bar and those roasted veggetables looked so lovely I to try it as well. I've been talking about it for days. Any chance you can get the recipe? It sounds like it would be easy, but I've tried.

I've sent in a request to Ceiba for the recipe. Fingers crossed!

This sounds like a job for Plate Lab!

I was always a huge fan of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine and was sad to see that magazine stop publishing a few years ago. I also used to really like Cooking Light, which changed its format and content a few years ago, for the worse in my opinion. I have yet to find any replacement magazines that provide tasty, fresh, and most importantly fast (30 minutes or less hands on time) recipes. I need to refresh my recipe repertoire but no longer have any go-to sources. Suggestions for magazines/web sites would be very welcome!!

You mean other than us?! Do make sure you keep tabs on Bonnie's Dinner in Minutes, which are all fast (see recipes for 30, 25, 20, 15 and 10 minutes). I always find myself drooling over the recipes in Bon Appetit, and the chatters here like to give a lot of love to Smitten Kitchen. Other recommendations?

Invest in Donna Hay magazines and special issue publications....there are always quick recipes and fresh ideas. 

I'm so happily surprised that the chilled radish soup can be frozen. Is there no change to its consistency and pretty color?

Nope. It might separate a little bit on thawing, but that's nothing that a quick whisking couldn't fix.

Posting early because of work. I just got back from a lovely trip to Barcelona. I'd love to recreate some of the amazing food I had there. Do you have any suggestions for Spanish/Catalan food cookbooks? Thanks.

Penelope Casas has several good books on Spanish cooking, from tapas to paella.  La Tienda in Williamburg (or by mail order) is a good source for authentic ingredients.

I'll heartily second both those recommendations, and add some more: Jeff Koehler's "Spain," Jose Andres's "Made in Spain," Colman Andrews' "Catalan Cuisine." I'm probably forgetting some -- I wish I were standing in front of my cookbook shelves at home right now!

Joe in your most recent cookbook, you have a recipe for celery soup. I would like to prepare this soup but I do not like blue cheese. Could you recommend a milder cheese please.? Your recipes for smoothies and baked sweet potatoes with coconut, dates, and walnuts are delicious.

How bout feta? You could use a nice mild, sheep's milk one that's not too sharp. And glad you're liking the recipes so far!

Please explain what Devon Cream is and what are its uses. Thanks!

That's short for Devonshire clotted cream, and if it's the real deal your container should say it was produced in that English shire. It's basically the butterific fat layer that forms atop heated raw milk that thickens as it cools. It has a lighter, creamier flavor than butter, and performs a trifecta when served with scones and jam. It's top-hole as a dollop on fresh fruit, too. 

I noticed Bonnie's comment in her review of David Lebovitz's new book about her selection of recipes to review. Do you get to choose which recipes to test (and print) or does the publisher give you a pre-approved list of possible recipes?

Good q!  We do the choosin' around here. Sometimes publishers do promote certain recipes -- maybe to bolster what's being promoted in other forms of media. Thumb's up on David's duck fat cookies, btw. #didntsharewithcolleagues

That hurts, Bonnie.

When is kumquat season? Have I missed it?

Yes, you missed it by a couple of months. The prime growing season ends in March. I say that, but in fact, I had kumquats at Sushi Taro just a couple of weeks ago. I called H Mart in Falls Church and it still has fresh kumquats for $3.99 per pound. The guy of the produce department had no idea where they are from. 

Just that--thanks for this chat and the food section! I *finally* can be here live and had a great (to me anyway) question for you. But, by the time I was able to submit it, it completely left my brain. Arrgh!

Maybe you need to make Stephanie's Cookie-Topped Blueberry Mini Pies for the berries' brain-boosting abilities, and holler as soon as you think of that q!

Know of any good recipes for a 3 lb rack of baby back ribs that does not call for a grill or a large amount of sugar? I really don't like my ribs sweet - make mine spicy and tangy, please.

I sometimes make them with just a simple salt and pepper rub, roast in convection oven until they start to look brown and the fat gets crisp, then place a layer of sauerkraut in the pan and lay the ribs over the kraut to finish cooking.  Serve with mashed potatoes.

I grew up in California but have been in DC for the last 12 years. Just for fun I used my airline miles to purchase Southern Living and am really enjoying the recipes.

SL is doing a great job. Always has had an appeal, but particularly liking the work of new food editor Hunter Lewis. They've got a big food-themed issue of the mag coming out in June that I can't wait to see.

Good for you for making your own cake! I do that too, which some people think is strange, but I love baking, so it's a treat for me (and it's my birthday, so I think I should get my way on this, even if my husband thinks it's strange). It will taste better and cost less too. I love Regan Daley's simple chocolate cake recipe from her In The Sweet Kitchen cookbook. It's a very easy and satisfying recipe.

Yes, you and the OP rock for taking things into your own baking hands!

I am in the same boat. I can say that I like Eating Well and their web site. Also Real Simple recipes. And finally, the cookbook "Keepers" has become a favorite in our home because it focuses on weeknight cooking that is fresh, simple, and fast.

Yes, both very good suggestions! Thanks!

I have enjoyed a lot of the recipes in Real Simple magazine. They are uncomplicated and tasty, and easy even for a novice like me to modify as desired.

That's two votes!

I adored Tim Artz's article on my own personal brand of soul food: PA Dutch. It was nice to see it recognized. I think a follow-up article should be done, though. You remarked about the wonderful seasonality of PA Dutch cooking, but did not mention the wonderful farmers' markets in the area. Nothing brings me a sense of happiness like stepping into one of those cavernous warehouses filled with stall after stall of my favorite food stuffs. I go to the farmers' markets around here (I live in MD now), and I try so hard not to be disappointed! :-) Thanks again from another displaced Dutchy type with a last name ending in -tz. ;-)

Thanks! I could spend the summer just wandering around Dutch Country and browsing the roadside stands to see what's new and what's good.  In fact, we did spend some time doing that a few weekends ago, buying seeds and plants for our garden.

Was wondering what methods chatters use for brewing up Thai iced tea?

To get the conversation started, here's a delightful and informative video from Thirsty For about Thai iced tea.

I have a wonderful bottle of bison grass vodka that I'm having some difficulty finishing. I don't like plain vodka, but I'm not sure what would be a good mixer--so any suggestions for cocktails I can make? Also, I put some in penne alla vodka, and it was amazing. Do you have any other ideas for recipes I could use it in? Thanks!

I would give this one a try. And you might try other general experiments with apple and pear spirits and juices/ciders, where it tends to mix very well. Try some fresh ginger with it, too -- tends to play well with the vanilla notes in Zubrowka. And if you need some more ideas (how big is your bottle? :) ), give this list a shot!

so, is that a column where you find restaurant recipes? If so, I would like to suggest the Piyaz from Zaytinya. Pretty please?!? It might not sound like much, giant beans with kale and tomatoes in some kind of lemon dressing, but it is AMAZING. I would buy it by the pound if they would sell it to me.

Yes, it is. Bonnie and I have been have fun working on Plate Lab for the Sunday magazine. So far we've had:

Celery, Walnut and Pecorino Salad from Etto

Creme Fraiche Chicken Wings from Maple Ave

Burnt Romaine With Avocado and Cotija from Rose's Luxury

Cavatelli With Braised Sauerkraut from Red Hen

Cherry Sambal from DC Coast

 

Nice collection, don't you think? With gorgeous photos from Renee Comet -- with styling by Bonnie!

We've got much more to come, so hope you're reading.

We'll take a look at that piyaz recipe, and if it makes our cut (we need things to be able to be pretty streamlined for home-cook friendliness, and tight space), we might just do it! (At first glance, I wonder how easy it is to get those gigantes, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.)

Thanks!

I visited my parents this weekend. My mother has type 2 diabetes and she refuses to cook unless there is a family visit and even then she won't nine times out of ten. Dad won't either. They eat out nearly 14 times a week and it is terrible for her. I can't fix their refusal to cook, but they live right up the street from a Whole Foods. I have to believe they could eat healthier by subbing in "take out" from the grocery store for 10 or 12 (or all) of those meals. I know you guys concentrate on cooking which I appreciate, but is there a story in how to "eat healthy" when you just can't or won't cook? Whole Foods is one place where you can do it. Could you do it from Walmart too? My digestive system is still a little upset from eating their way and I only did it three times! Plus, I'm not diabetic.

 

It's an interesting idea. The problem with some of the hot bar options at supermarkets is that you don't always have a nutritional breakdown of the dishes. Whole Foods, I know, has kiosks in some stores to provide the info, but you have to track down the kiosks and look up each dish. It's not a simple process.

 

Here's a story I did on hot bars at supermarkets last year.

Is Mr. Shahin in the house ... or any other bbq expert?! Would like his take on whether the Big Green Egg is worth the price or whether some of the cheaper options (knockoffs?) are just as good. Would like to make a purchase for a lover of slow and low bbq'ing. Many thanks.

I have never used a BGE, but the folks I know who have them certainly love them.  A good all around grill is a standard Weber.  It is used for indirect smoking, direct grilling, and can be enhanced with a rotisserie and other attachments.  I have had one for 20+ years.

The Big Green Egg is convenient and perfect for those who don't want to deal with the hassle (or the heroic struggle! :) to build and maintain a proper fire over a prolonged smoking period.

 

Personally, I would start with a cheap off-set smoker first, like a Brinkmann. It helps you understand the mechanics of smoking. It also gives you a more intimate relationship with fire, which can be both satisfying and frustrating. The cheaper versions are leaky and complicated, but if you can master that machine, you can master anything.

I love Bon Appetit and Food & Wine. They aren't always "fast" recipes, but sometimes are, and I get a lot of inspiration from them. I also love reading Lucky Peach, which is a very different sort of food publication, but quite entertaining.

Yes. And we can't go without mentioning Saveur! Again, not always fast recipes, but definitely inspirational. And well-tested!

My darling mother-in-law (she really is!) mentioned that she has a bag of shrimp shells in freezer and is looking for a good shrimp bisque recipe. Any suggestions?

You lucky duck. 

First make the broth:  Saute a pound's worth of the shells in a little oil in a saute pan until they are opaque, then add chunks of  1 medium carrot, 1 small onion, 1 rib of celery, 1 small fennel bulb; a bay leaf, a few stems of parsley, a few black peppercorns and 1 1/2 teaspoons of tomato paste. Stir all that up and let it heat through, then add 5 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup dry white wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30  minutes. Remove from the heat and cool/steep for 15 minutes, then strain. Voila! Broth for this bisque recipe and beyond (which you can freeze flat, in a zip-top bag).

And here you go, bisque-wise. This one's from the American Cafe circa 1982, which DC old-timers may remember: 

American Café Shrimp Bisque

4 servings

 

2 1/2 cups shrimp broth (may substitute fish stock)

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil leaves

4 ounces mushrooms (of your choice), stemmed and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup tomato sauce

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup sherry

1/2 cup heavy cream

8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined

 

Bring the shrimp broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour; cook, constantly whisking, for 5 to 10 minutes, so the roux turns a light brown.

Whisk in the hot shrimp broth in several additions to form a smooth soup base, then add the tomatoes and their juices.

Combine the mushrooms, basil and tomato sauce in a blender; puree until fairly smooth, then add to the soup base. Cook (over medium heat) for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Stir in the sherry, cream and shrimp; cook for about 6 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through.

Risotto is a staple in my house (as an entree) and we typically make it with sweet potato and cranberry. Do you have any ideas for lighter spring/summer fillings? Mushrooms and asparagus are out and it should ideally be vegetarian.

How about Swiss Chard and Spring Onion Risotto? Just swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth.

Swiss Chard and Spring Onion Risotto

Also, Risotto With Fresh Greens and Basil.

Risotto With Fresh Greens and Basil

I enjoyed reading Bonnie's article about David Lebovitz's new book. I don't read his blog regularly, although I have friends that do and they often recommend it. I'm wondering, as Lebovitz has lived in Paris for some time now, do his recipes reflect ingredients available there that aren't here, and is that something he's aware of? I wonder if over time that's something you'd lose touch with.

Thanks!  I think the author's got  a pretty good handle on what's available in the States these days, from his blog pals and occasional trips back here. The recipes in the book do not call for ingredients that are unobtainable for the likes of you and me, if that's what you're asking. What I found really interesting and helpful was his knowledge about what's in the shops over there -- especially the changes he has noticed in the decade or so he's been in Paris. Because one day, we're all going to rent/own a flat in the fourth arrondissement, right? 

I love that dish!!! I've had it elsewhere and it's nowhere near as good.

OK, but read what another chatter has to offer...

https://food52.com/recipes/10519-gigante-beans-a-la-zaytinya

Oh, we HATE not being first, you know that, right? Thanks!

Howdy Food Rangers - I read the "Leftovers" article about growing herbs in pots, and wept with despair. I cannot even keep the pre-potted, happy-looking basil I buy at the grocery store alive for more than a week. Why does it die so quickly? I keep the little plant on the kitchen counter, where it gets sun, and water it if it's dry, but it withers and dies before my very eyes.

When I bring home a bunch of basil from a store (when I don't have any growing myself), I cut the stem ends off with a sharp knife and then put the bunch in a jar of fresh water in the kitchen window.  Change the water daily.  The basil will last several weeks like this.  Some may take root, and you can plant them in a pot; I do this is the store-bought basil is especially aromatic.

Just saw the super cute video. Wasn't sure the tea mix to water ratio. Why is a tea sock necessary?

The sock has a fine mesh, which is helpful when filtering large batches of loose-leaf teas (which tea experts prefer over the bagged variety). Plus, you can reuse the sock over and over. But you could also use a tea infuser for smaller batches.

 

As for ratio, I'll have to toss that out to chatters. Any ideas out there on proper ratio of Thai tea mix to water? Or should one just experiment to satisfy their own taste buds?

Today's PA Dutch article was great. Often times these articles are written by people who are not intimately familiar with the cuisine. I went through the photo gallery and named off each uncaptioned photo correctly, with the exception of the chicken corn rivel soup - I thought it was just rivel soup. The article inspired me to dig out my grandmother's handwritten recipes and start cooking through them. I think it's worth mentioning the feature you ran a few years ago on the chef who is taking this food and elevating it into something special. There is huge untapped opportunity in rural PA for the farm-to-table movement and for localvore cooking. I have seen more CSAs and more local ingredients on restaurant menus each time I am in the area, so things are changing, however slowly.

Just to clarify, if you're talking about the photos that were on the story, there are captions -- you have to hit the "CAPTION" button on the right side of the flipper.

Can you tell me more about some of the heirloom veggies in that cookbook? My CSA moving into higher gear, and I'm always looking for things that show off, say the multi hue of the carrots.

The fabulous boys mention varieties here and there in headnotes, and they include a source list for heirloom seeds, but their recipes don't depend on particular varieties, nor do they call for such -- which I think is smart. But there are plenty of things that will help you show off your own produce. Those carrots, for instance, would look gorgeous in the roasted carrot and cauliflower salad.

I bought a small tub of Creme Fraiche at the farm market the other day. My Creme Fraiche ice cream recipe wants a LOT more than I bought. So, other thoughts on delicious things to make with this?

Tim Ma's Creme Fraiche Chicken Wings! #PlateLabwin

or,  you could just stir it into your favorite pot of marinara  for a light, tangy sauce. 

 

I have to admit my first few experiences with quinoa have been dreadful, but I recently tried a pre-packaged quinoa and brown brice mixture from Seeds of Change, that you just put in the microwave for 90 seconds. I think I prefer this because the quinoa is brown and doesn't have the popping feel that the lighter quinoa does. I still don't care for it plain though. I made a bed of the brown rice/quinoa mixture on my place, topped with avocado chunks and drizzled (heavily) with tahini sauce. So delicious and a great way to overcome quinoa.

If you have quibbles with quinoa, you and I are kindred spirits. Read this.

The chilled radish soup looks sooooo good. It makes me think of the chlodnik at Domku (Chilled buttermilk soup with carrots, cucumber, beets, and egg.) Are they related?

I see no evidence that they are, but I would have to interview coauthor Sandy Gluck's mother, who apparently made a version of the soup with green beans instead of radishes, and chart her heritage (Scandinavian, maybe) to know for sure.

My late father-in-law came from a very old PA Mennonite family. According to him, everything tasted better baked in a pie crust. His favorite dish, served to him on special occasions, was potato pie--essentially, scalloped potatoes baked in a double pie crust. A hot wedge of pie was served in a soup bowl with fresh-ground pepper and light cream was poured over it. My husband and his brother, understandably, love this dish, but it is carb overload to me. Has Tim heard of this?

I have been told that my first word was "pie."  I went to the oven, pointed up, and said "pie."  We used to have a chicken pie, baked in a 9" pie pan.  It had a double crust and contained chicken, potatoes, hard cooked egg, and parsley.  It was served in a bowl with peas and light gravy.

Ooh, I almost forgot, we also had an oyster pie done the same way.  Yum!

That Triple Chocolate Bypass looks delicious, but like so many other recipes I've found, calls for semisweet chocolate. The bars I have are unsweetened, 100% chocolate.

I made it with unsweetened chocolate.  Served with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Since I'm the cook at home, I make, go without, or eat a boring store bought version. This year, I'm making icebox cake with whipped cream and fresh fruit. The poster looking for ideas might check out TheKitchn's suggestions for this easy, no bake option. Also, cinnamon crunch cereal cake/cupcakes have annoying come to my attention and I'm tempted.

Good thinking. We have some appealing icebox recipes too:

Blueberry and Lemon-Cream Icebox Cake

Blueberry and Lemon-Cream Icebox Cake

Raspberry Whipped Cream Icebox Cake

Raspberry Whipped Cream Icebox Cake

I made the freekeh and tomato salad you published recently, it was good but...the freekeh I used was so smoky it was a little hard to eat. That's clearly not a reflection on your recipe but the product itself. I'm not a huge fan of smoky flavor and this was over the top. I saw in your headnotes that freekeh in America isn't as smoky, so for those of you who want the smoke, you should look for the brand 'Ziyad', because this stuff was legit. Now I have a half of a bag left and I'm not sure what to do with it. Is there a way to mask some of that flavor?

Wow, I'd have to think about that. Maybe by cooking the freekeh in a vegetable or chicken broth instead of water and/or rinsing the cooked freekeh before you build the rest of the dish? 

I did a major search around the area for dried gigante beans a few years ago. I finally found them at Aphrodite Foods in Bailey's Crossroads, next door to Rabieng Thai market--a great double whammy for ethnic grocery shopping.

Thanks! This is good to know for our Ethnic Market Scout series, but also possibly an argument against including the recipe in Plate Lab. We want to avoid telling people they have very limited sources for one of the ingredients in that feature.

My poor fiance and i are going to Paris this summer - it's his first time, my second - and we have only five days there. He has no idea how badly I want to drag him around on an eating tour of the places in David's book the entire time! I confess that I did book our apartment near one of the cafes he wrote about in the sixth arrondissement - that was my compromise :) (though I really have no complaints about doing *anything* in Paris, I swear!)

Having eaten at many of the places David recommends (some of the time with the man himself; lucky me), I can vouch for his taste. Has never steered me wrong in the City of Light.

Yes, I love Smitten Kitchen blog, and she has some AWESOME cakes, inc. chocolate, that have me (not a big baker, or cake person) interested in making for my own birthday. Just search for "chocolate cake" and you'll get a lot of good things to look at-and eat!

Really, all I can think ow now is cake. Thanks, everyone. :)

This is my absolute favorite. The coffee makes all the difference--you can't taste it in the final product, but it makes the cake richer. It's so good that now, anytime I bake something chocolatey that calls for water, I use coffee instead.

I like to add some of King Arthur's espresso powder to a lot of my chocolate baked goods.

I have had such a craving for shrimp creole, but I want to try it at home. Do you have a recipe that is user friendly?

Yep, and it was a Dinner in Minutes

My favorite risotto to welcome spring is peas and pine nuts with lemon and lime juice -- some mint thrown in it great.

Nice.

One of our relatives would serve plain quinoa topped with a few unroasted pine nuts, totally tasteless. We called it "husks and nuts".

Wow.

I was commenting on the basil plant, growing in a pot with soil in it, that you can buy in the grocery store (usually near the tomatoes), not a bunch of basil that's already cut. The already-planted and potted basil gives up the ghost within a week at my house.

I think the trick is to recognize good quality basil to buy.  I have never been able to get the "potted" basil to last either.  I think it is grown in weak media with a lot of liquid fertilizer.  Best to buy basil that looks like it has been cut from a sturdy plant.  I look at the cut stem ends to see how fresh they look and at the leaves to look for brown or black spots indicating it has been sitting around for a while.  I grow my own basil either from cuttings or by scattering seed over a flat and then transplanting the seedlings into compost-filled window boxes on the deck (easy access for the kitchen).

Here's my favorite recipe for cold brew coffee... Brew a pot of coffee. Wait for it to cool down then, very gently, lovingly even, decant it into your favorite hand-blown artisan glass container (though tupperware will do). Ease the container into a refrigerator, and place your favorite mug or glass next to it, so the coffee will have a chance to properly bond with it. Then, close the door slowly, being careful not to slam it (some say blowing the coffee a kiss first yields better results). After at least 12 hours (not a minute sooner, this is a critical number), take the chilled mug or glass out of the fridge, add cracked ice (though regular old ice cubes will do), then take the coffee out of the fridge and calmly pour it into the mug (or glass) while reciting a Native American prayer. If you're in a pinch and don't have time to do this, Dunkin' Donuts makes a pretty mean iced coffee.

Funny! But really, you should've started with a trip to South America to harvest the beans, right?

the Mario Batali Spain cookbook is really good too.

for the person wondering about the healthy options at the Whole Foods hot bar - there is a healthy eating specialist at the store in Silver Spring who will do a one on one meeting to work with you on what you can eat depending on what your dietary restrictions are. I attend the classes there and it has been extremely helpful but one on one would be more beneficial for your parents it appears.

I called the market, and Whole Foods does indeed have a specialist. Her name is Ariane Radulski. You can e-mail her at ariane.radulski@wholefoods.com to set up a meeting. According to the person on the phone, there is no charge for Ariane's services.

Yes Tim, but have you had sauerkraut pie?

No, never had a sauerkraut pie, but I like the idea!  I have had sauerkraut and ribs cooked in a pig stomach though!

don't let the food52 post make you waver. I am sure you guys would do a better job and find out the real recipe, not just an approximation. See it as a challenge to do better, not a chance to come in second!

Yes, of course -- we'd go right to the source and then work on it. Don't worry, I haven't dismissed it altogether.

That author missed a couple of key points about why farmers choose to raise grains such as corn and soybeans instead of vegetables. Economics is not necessarily the driver as vegetables tend to be more profitable on a per acre basis. However, labor supply and weather are much bigger factors. Vegetables and fruits are highly labor intensive and highly perishable. Miss picking the fruits and veggies by a week and the crop could be lost. In contrast corn or soybeans can be left in the field for months with minimal loses. For places with great weather and a ready supply of cheap labor, vegetables make sense. For places with poor weather and little labor, corn and beans make sense.

Tamar graciously answered from home:

Thank you for adding that. The danger of writing about such complex issues is that  I'm always bound to miss something, & I appreciate your input.

Ill be in Ohio Amish country for a few days and wonder if there's anything I should stock up on in markets there? Of course it has to survive several hours in a car.

This is probably not the Amish market food answer you're looking for, but if you're anywhere near Columbus, OH, Watershed Distillery makes a nice gin I haven't yet seen in the D.C. area. 

I always travel with a cooler and jugs of ice.  I look for goat milk to make chevre, home made butter, cheeses, smoked meats (garlic ring bologna is a fave), locally made scrapple...

Smitten Kitchen's yellow birthday cake with her fudge frosting is amazing.

I'm guessing you mean this? Links appreciated!

Coffee isn't giving me the same caffeine boost it used to, even when I drink more of it. It doesn't seem to matter what coffee I brew. I'm brewing the same way I have for years: in a French press, with dark-roast beans. Has this happened to others, too? Any thoughts how I might regain that needed boost? (I can't do strenuous exercise.) Thanks so much!

Sounds to me like the issue isn't the coffee, right? If nothing has changed regarding that, I'd say something else is going on with your energy that I think is worth bringing up with your doc.

You probably know this already but there's a fairly large PA Dutch market here in Annapolis every Wed. through Sat. I can't allow myself to go often, but they have a wide variety of items.

Doctors orders, low carb diet that emphasizes vegetables, proteins and low total carbs to bring blood glucose levels down. Breakfast today: lots of sauteed spinach with parmesan and a fried egg. I already eschew junk foods, sugary drinks, etc. and I love vegetables but going without baguettes, sourdough, corn tortillas, is sad. Many of the low carb cookbooks smack of faddism. I'm looking for delicious, whole food recipes. Any ideas for me?

Check out the diabetes-centric recipes by Simon Hopkinson and Robin Ellis (online and in cookbooks). I find the dishes don't feel like anything's "left out." 

Is food lab where you make your version of a restaurant dish? Please do the sauces at Crisp & Juicy. I know aji amarillo is involved, but unclear how.

It's Plate Lab, and yes, indeed. We'll throw this into the hopper. We only get 3 of these a month, so have to be pretty picky, but always love ideas, so thanks!

I just cooked some quinoa last night. One cup of quinoa, 1 1/4 cups of water, 1 teaspooon of chicken bouillion, and a teaspoon of garam masala. Quinoa definitely needs some spices.

I love this chat. I am now on a mission to make the giant bean dish ... however, I could find mail order only (quite pricy after shipping). Bailey's Crossroads is a much better option. Thank you, poster!

I just got back from a trip to Italy that included a stop in Milan, the risotto capital of the world. My favorite was one with leeks, artichokes and speck (you could leave it out for veg). I had a delicious cuttlefish one as well. I was kicking myself, though, when I saw a bright green one chock full of herbs (and maybe arugula?) going by. Of course, the traditional Milanese saffron risotto is also delicous.

If you grow to like the taste, Kusmi makes a tea! http://us.kusmitea.com/our-teas/russian-tea/green-zubrovka.html

I think that Chat Leftovers question was one of mine from last month. Pleased to report my balcony herb garden is doing well! The first basil plant died, a victim I think of the cold weather we had mid-April. But I planted another one a couple weeks ago, and it seems very happy so far. The chervil, in particular, is flourishing, and the chives and mint are doing well. My next challenge is pruning, which I've been looking into. I want to be able to cook with these herbs but not cut the plants in a way that doesn't promote regrowth. So far the chives and chervil seem pretty easy to deal with, but I'm not sure how the rosemary and mint are going to go.

Basil is not cold hardy.  I would not put basil outside until later in May.  Chervil is cold hardy, as are mint ad chives.  The latter are both perennial.  Rosemary is hardy, but even in our area, it is best to keep in a pot and bring indoors for Winter.  For pruning, cut back to a growing branch node.

Why does it last longer than hot-brewed?

Joel says cold-brewed coffee loses "a lot of volatile oils" in the production, which makes it more shelf-stable than hot-brewed coffee.

The other Shrimp question reminded me that I have a full bag of dried shrimp in my pantry. I was going to use it in the Kim Chi I made last week, but decided against it. Any suggestions for about a pound of dried shrimp?

A little dried shrimp goes a long way.  For kimchi, I like to get a small jar of the fermented baby shrimp at Super H Mart.  Love Super H!!

I've probably subscribed, or been given subscriptions, to all the cooking magazines over the years. The only one I've made a point of renewing is Vegetarian Times. It consistently has good content.

Yes, good stuff! I have a little feature coming out in it soon, as a matter of fact. ;-)

Claudia Roden's encyclopedic "The Food of Spain" and Janet Mendel's "My Kitchen in Spain."

Yes! I love Roden's -- not as familiar with Mendel's as I should be, so maybe I'll change that.

Thinking of hosting a Russia-themed cocktail party for about 30 people. Most of the food or drink ideas we've come up with are labor intensive and not easy to eat while standing. Any suggestions?

A nice assortment of pickled vegetables would be good. You could use store-bought frozen puff pastry to make any kind of sweet or savory strudel-ly thing, cut into bite-size squares. And from our Recipe Finder, there's this: 

Dilled Salmon and Mushroom Cakes

 

I once attended a reception at the Russian Embassy, and the served Jello with olives in it.  Not recommending this per se.  You can, however, get an assortment of very good, and low cost caviars.  A caviar sampling is always a hit.

Is fine if you want to become one of those BGE people, and buy all the BGE accessories, charcoal, etc. Or, you could get a good old Weber bullet smoker or other similar low-frills make, and just learn a couple basic skills to keep a low even heat with any kind of charcoal you want, and you'll be just as happy. I recommend browsing over the book "Low & Slow" by Gary Wiviott before making a smoker purchase.

Well, I have good friends who are "BGE people," and they are lovely folk. They just have a different approach to smoked food.

Well, you've skimmed any visible fat from our surface, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's today, and thanks to Tim and Carrie for helping with the a's.

Now for the cookbook winners: The chatter who said she wants to drag her husband around to David L's recommended sites in Paris will get his book, "My Paris Kitchen." And the one who asked about the heirloom vegetables in the Beekman book will get... "The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook." Send your mailing info to Becky.Krystal@washpost.com, and she'll get you your books.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie S. Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan, and Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin. Guest: Tim Artz, home cook and fan of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.
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