Free Range on Food: Food-safe gloves, summer soups, the Fancy Food Show and more

Jun 13, 2012


We talk about how safe food-safe gloves really are, give you a preview of the trade-only Fancy Food Show and cook some soups appropriate for warm weather.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Welcome to another hour of food power, fellow Free Rangers! Today, FOF (Friend of Food) Aliza Green will be taking your comments and questions on the yin and yang of food-service gloves -- a topic she knew much about even before she began researching for her informative article. Jim BBQ Shahin's here, and my Food section colleagues are in the house -- Tim, Jane, Becky -- so we can cover the bases for you, including summer soups, organic candymaking and just about anything in the ballpark. We have lots of questions already, so we'll hop to it.

 

On the chat prize block today: Levana Kirschenbaum's chock-a-block "Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen," source of today's Dinner in Minutes, and "Top Chef" alum Angelo Sosa's "Flavor Exposed," because he was in town over the weekend and hung out with Jane for a bit. (It's autographed, did I mention? We were thinking of keeping it for ourselves, but that would be wrong.) We'll announce winners at the end of the chat.

 

I am so glad you brought up food safety. Do it again and again, please. We have to eat to live, but we seem to know so little about food safety. Don't believe me? Go to Costco and look in people's carts or cashier counters and you will see raspberries or blueberries, that will be consumed raw, placed on top of the package of chicken breasts or ground beef. I would love to find out about the cleanliness of the cashier counters in the grocery stores. How do I know that I am not placing my container of demi-greens on the very spot that a previous customer may have placed a bloody steak wrapped for him by a butcher in bloody gloves?

Food safety is a big problem and we definitely need to do more to keep our food safe. As far as that steak, most supermarkets sell steaks either on styrofoam trays overwrapped with plastic film or, if custom-cut, they'll be wrapped in paper so that shouldn't be an issue.  You can't change the behaviors of others but you can protect any purchases like raw chicken by placing it in a second plastic bag often provided now in the meat department. If the bags are not provided (along with hand-sanitizer in various places) contact the manager and ask for it to be done. Supermarkets are eager to keep your business and will respond but only if we ask.

I made the cilantro lime chicken and pineapple skewers last week but the chicken's texture was really off - mushy. I used organic chicken breasts from Wegman's - I made the marinade the night before, but only mixed it with the chicken a few hours before grilling. Could that have made the chicken mushy? I really couldn't eat it because the texture bothered me so much, but the flavor was good, so I'd love to figure out if I did something wrong. Thanks!

Cilantro-Lime Chicken and Pineapple Skewers

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, the source of that recipe, says:

It might well have been the chicken breasts. The regular breasts are pretty hearty and can take a lot of marinating. Breasts from smaller, younger birds might not do so well. If you use them, marinate for only 30 minutes.

I have 3 tablespoons of canned pumpkin puree leftover from a pumpkin bread recipe. Can I throw it into anything?

Really, just 3? If you own a dog, mix it in with his/her/its food. Or you can stir it into a risotto, some polenta, a vegetarian burger mixture, a pasta sauce.

I like to stir it into yogurt with some honey and cinnamon. A little like pumpkin pie without all the guilt.

Just wanted to pass along a follow-up from last week's chat, regarding the reader who said they've been struggling with photo galleries. We heard from a helpful fellow chatter who suggested turning off your browser's ad blocker. Another reader said this worked for them, but said they had to turn off the ad blocker for the entire Post site before clicking on the gallery link. So we hope that helps!

Re AWCE article: I sometimes first peel back the husk, run the cob under water (to help it steam), then close the husk again. And I never nuke for more than 2 minutes for one ear, sometimes 90 secs or even 60. But I guess that's a matter of taste. Also, just to be safe, I'd trim any really long stems or protruding silk, to make sure neither one catches fire or smokes up inside the microwave. Also, I don't remember the last time I had trouble with cornsilk, and wonder if the problem gets worse as the corn ages, so that fresh corn has less-sticky silk than older corn?

 

Interesting! Sounds like I have some more experimenting to do.

I use the Betty Fussell technique: Remove a few outer layers of husk, toss into boiling water for a few minutes. The husk and all the silk comes off easily and cleanly -- and there's no nuke factor.

Would love ideas to use pesto other than with pasta or soup. I know you guys like soup in the summer, but it makes me sweat!

Maybe you're slurping too fast? :) Stick with cold soups, then!

 

Re the pesto: Spread it on thick tomato slices. Use it as a condiment in your favorite panino. Stir it into eggs. Slather a pizza dough crust. Bake it inside rolls of puff pastry.

In my quest to eat healthier I am now eating more salads and making my own dressing. I made a simple, but tasty lemon and olive oil dressing with oregano and garlic. My question is, how long would a dressing last in the fridge?

You can count on a fresh salad dressing keeping well in the fridge for up to two weeks. Any dressing made with olive oil will congeal in the fridge but will turn liquid again if you let it come to room temperature. The lemon acts as a preservative because it's an acid. So much better to make your own and avoid the additives (gums for thickening and preservatives to keep them shelf-stable). Try grating the lemon zest (yellow part only) and add that to the dressing--it's free and fragrant.

I can never tell without cutting into them when a bosc pear is ripe. It never softens on the outside. Any tell tale signs?

The riper they are, the more easily they bruise (as with most pears, in fact). Look closely at the skin; a ripe pear has a matte finish, and the flesh right near the stem will yield a bit.

I just saw a recipe where it is used as a marinade/rub/spread on grilled chicken.

I am having a farmers market themed dinner party in a couple of days and am planning to grill up a butterflied whole chicken. I have seen several tasty recipes for this kind of thing, but unfortunately they all call for lemons (not very local). Any suggestions for substitutions? Or should I just go with a different recipe and plan? Thanks!

Lemons are always an issue for local foodies unless you live in California or Florida. You could marinate the chicken in (local) buttermilk (I like to add minced garlic and chopped fresh thyme and a little hot sauce or minced fresh chiles). That would provide the acid like lemon, which helps to flavor, tenderize and moisten the chicken.

Maryland farm Next Step Produce was selling their locally grown lemons last fall at some of the FreshFarm markets. I couldn't get anyone on the phone to see how they do it or if they planned on doing it again, but good to know, right?

I'm trying to make my own Italian dressing with the herbs from my garden. I figured it's olive oil, vinegar, salt and some herbs, but it's not coming together.

Not sure what your ratio of oil to vinegar is (ideally, 3:1), but maybe all you need is an emulsifying agent to bring it together, such as honey or agave nectar or garlic puree or Dijon mustard (my fave).

Love his stuff, but believe it belongs in the STYLE, not FOOD. As it is, WP devotes less and less space to cooking, and his articles make it even less. Don't you guys understand that people who are not interested in cooking don't read FOOD and that not all of us who cook are interested in what people he interviews do or food shows we can't attend.

Of course Tim can answer for himself, but I feel compelled to say what the heck are you talking about?? His monthly Immigrant's Table columns include recipes. It's about cooking and culture. The section produces the same, consistent number of recipes (online and in print) -- and for the past few years we have added several recipe-focused issues to the annual lineup (no-cook; family dinners;  healthful dishes). In the matter of your opinion vs. his organic candy article, he actually explained what goes into the making of it, instead of previewing all the cool Fancy Food show things you, as a non-blogging, non-tradesman, non-buyer, non-media member of the public, won't be seeing. And I suppose I even challenge the notion that people who don't cook don't read Food.

I would suggest our semi-generous reader doesn't pay attention to everything I write. I contribute almost daily for the All We Can Eat blog, which I edit.

Just last week, for example, I wrote about two home-cooking experiments: Smoking pork ribs with silverskin on and off, and a taste test of the new Ripken Gourmet Burgers.

This week, I'll be writing about some homemade wine-oriented Popsicles I made.  Next week, the Immigrant's Table will take a look at another international dish, complete with recipes.

Not that I feel like I need to be defensive here. I think the Food section is for all sorts -- those who want to cook and those who want to learn more about the many other aspects of food besides home preparation.

A company I bought flavor-infused foods from pierces the chicken breast with hundreds of tiny holes on both sides of the protein. Then, they use a water-based solution to infuse the flavor in a vacuum-based cement-like mixer for hours. At the end of the day, they add about 20 percent weight volume to the product, which means I'm only getting 80 percent of the meat I'm purchasing. The meat and the flavor are both AWESOME! But it this procedure consistent across the food-service industry? (And it was water and spice; no phony stuff or poly-sylabic words that you can't pronounce, nor would you eat ...)

The process is known as "jaccarding" after the company that invented the Jaccard tenderizer--a series of rows of thin blades that pierce the meat. This is quite a common practive in the food industry used to tenderize tougher cuts like sirloin of beef and to get flavorful marinades to penetrate. Some companies that I know of have stopped using the Jaccard because of the potential for transferring bacteria from the outside of the meat into the middle. You can buy a Jaccord butter for home use and get similar results but it's important not to marinate for too long or the meat will get mushy. 

Hey foodies! I finally ditched the BF a few days ago, and I am going to get the girls together for a fun meal and some wine on Saturday! The centerpiece is going to be grilled salmon (chilled) and pesto. I will probably do a pasta salad as well - and I'm also baking my famous cheese bread (his favorite - ha!). I did buy a few cucumbers of various shapes and sizes the other day and will probably put some of them in the pasta salad, but I still feel like I need a fun vegetable dish though (preferably one that doesn't have to be served hot). Or, would this be a great spot for a summer soup? Thanks - it's going to be an awesome weekend!

Seems like something green in order. How about a green bean salad with feta and lemon? Or a green bean, orange and olive salad? If you want to deploy those cukes, I recommend this Sichuan salad.

I'm very excited to have finally found a CSA-style program that works for me (Greenling.com if you're in TX!), but I'm stuck on a couple of ingredients: romaine (3 heads), and fresh peas (1/2 a pound each of Lady Creams and Southern Peas - the Lady Creams have a purple "eye" and the Southern Peas are just small and green). Suggestions please?! For the lettuce, anything besides salad I can do? With the fresh peas, I don't love them as a side dish, so I'm wondering about a pea "hummus"/dip? Kosher house, so no bacon or shellfish ideas, please. Thanks!!

You are lucky to get those fresh Lady Cream and Southern Peas--they are so delicate and creamy when they're fresh. You could simmer them in an aromatic broth (water plus herb sprigs, garlic cloves, lemon zest, peppercorns) until tender, then mix them with diced tomato, and diced red onion, saute together in a little olive oil and serve as a topping for grilled or broiled fish (I'm thinking mahi mahi, striped bass, or even young bluefish) or grilled chicken. Add chopped fresh herbs like thyme, marjoram, basil, or rosemary if you'd like. It would be a shame to puree these little beauties. Or you coula add them to a summer vegetable soup or cook separately in that flavorful broth and add to a dinner salad. Also, cooked and served over rice with a fresh salsa chutney or even just hot sauce would be good and simple.

I had to laugh when I read in the All We Can Eat article that Chicago's Goosefoot Restaurant eschews pork "in part, because of a clientele that includes the large Jewish population in nearby Skokie," yet the same article shows lobster as an ingredient in the sunchoke soup, and a look at the menu turns up more lobster and even shrimp. Or maybe it's about the smell of pork?


Ah, well, the thing is, whenever someone makes a reservation there, they're asked about dietary restrictions. I assure you that no lobster would be hiding at the bottom of a bowl of soup for someone who didn't eat shellfish.

Ladies and germs, Jason Wilson has just checked in! Unload your cocktail baggage forthwith.

Can you explain what the process of Jakarta is in food processing? A friend told me, but I didn't understand.

See Aliza's very thorough previous answer! Nice to have an expert in the house.

Any thoughts on a bbq sauce that does not contain "added" sugar? I typically use a sauce recipe from Land O' Lakes that includes catsup and onion-soup mix. I've been advised the catsup is problematic for a diabetic who will be in the group. I have found recipes for no-added-sugar catsup (tomato paste+vinegar+water+spices) and I can approximate the onion soup mix with onion flakes and no-sugar beef stock. (I was amazed by how much sugar is suggested in N.C. "vinegar" sauces.) But, if you have a better idea, I'm all ears. The pork butt is smoked (wonderful!) and pulled. It will be warmed in the sauce in a slow cooker for the shindig. Anyway we do it, it will be good, but I'm always open to the wisdom of the Rangers.

    The recipes you've already found seem on the mark. You can also experiment a little with the basic idea: replace the tomato paste with tomato sauce, or, for that matter, pureed actual tomatoes, and, for sweetness, use spices such as cinnamon.

      You can also use a sugar substitute, such as Splenda. Or you cook down some (peeled) apples and add some of thoese; for a smooth sauce, you'd want to give it a whirl in the food processor, of course.

     For adding some additional flavor notes, you might put a dash of crushed peppers or a sugar-less pepper sauce.

     Have fun! 

Brush it on grilled chicken or meat. Toss it with steamed potatoes for a different potato salad. Stir a spoonful into a cold tomato soup, or toss into a tomato salad.

I have a few ears in my crisper drawer, wrapped in plastic from last week. Still good to eat? Suggestions to mask the less-than-fresh-picked taste?

I think that corn is a prime candidate for today's recipe for Soupergirl's White Bean and Corn Soup.

Soupergirl's White Bean and Corn Soup

Do any of you have a really large wood cutting board? Can I ask how you clean it? I bought a large, thick Boos months ago, but haven't used it yet because I won't be able to lift it to clean it regulary! If I'm only cutting veggies, bread and other non-meat items on it, how would you recommend I care for it? Would a wet wipe-down daily with weekly trips to the sink be sufficient?

Don't worry. A wood cutting board is not hard to clean and wood actually kills bacteria, unlike plastic. Here's some information about wooden cutting board from my latest book, The Butcher's Apprentice: "It turns out that the best work surface for cutting meat is the traditional close-grained maple cutting board such as your Boos board. Dangerous bacteria can contaminate any work surface, but scientific studies have shown that bacteria found on a wooden cutting board won’t multiply and gradually die." Here's how to clean and disinfect a wooden cutting board:

"Scrape the board with a baker’s flat-edged bench scraper or the side of a spatula, then wash the board with a clean sponge soaked in hot water mixed with a little liquid dish detergent. To disinfect, wash or rinse with a mixture of 1 tablespoon bleach and 1 gallon  water. Let stand 2 minutes, then air-dry." 

Submitting early so you can look up the link and insert the pic; every time she posts about her unsuccessful cookies, I think of these photos, which also can serve as a metaphor for life in general.

cookie monster cupcakes

Too funny. And so true.

Last year I made a batch of Cherry Bounce (1lb sour cherries, 1 cup sugar, 5 cups bourbon...4 months of waiting) and it turned out great mixed in drinks or even just over ice. This year I'm thinking of making it with vodka. Do you think I should use the same ratio? Also, are there other summer fruit/liquor combos you would recommend? Thanks

Have to ask: Why would you replace the bourbon with vodka? You want those rich, caramel/spice/honey/vanilla notes that a bourbon develops in the barrel. Vodka will only give you proof. You might try an aged rum instead of bourbon, but I wouldn't go with the white spirit.

I couldn't disagree with the previous poster more. Please keep the Food section just as it is, and thank you.

Happy Wednesday!! I want to make the Shaved Celery and Sardines on Blue Cheese Toast recipe from your archives, but celery is one of only two vegetables I can think of that I don't like (the other being radishes). What do you think would be a good substitute? I was thinking seedless cucumber, scallions or red onions...or maybe go in entirely different direction and caramelize some onions or fennel? Or an even more distant direction: jarred Branston Pickle or Piccalilli relish? What are your thoughts? Looking forward to your ideas...thanks!

 

You don't want to lose the crunch factor. Maybe jicama, or kohlrabi? Fennel would be good with the fish.

Do you know of anywhere in the area, preferably NoVA, to get good sourdough bread...something really sour? Or, how hard is it to make sourdough bread? Where can I get a good starter (is that needed?)? Thank you!

I'm hoping your fellow chatters can suggest a good sourdough bread source in N.Va.

To answer your second question, making your own sourdough bread is easy once you get a starter established. There are two ways to do that. First, you can take the guaranteed (but less adventurous!) approach by buying a starter; King Arthur Flour sells one. Second, you can do what I did and make your own starter with nothing but flour, water and a little yeast (some people don't even use the yeast; they think it's cheating) left out on your kitchen counter for a few days until it takes on a life of its own. I had a great time making, fretting over and eventually bragging about my starter. And yes, I became a neglectful sourdough mom and it eventually perished. If I were a more constant bread or pancake eater, though, I would never have let it die. It was great, if I do say so myself. So worth trying!

I disagree with the chatter who criticized Tim's coverage. This is the "food" section, not the "cooking" section, and I think an expansive view of what constitutes food coverage is a great thing, including stories that veer toward the political, social, cultural, etc. (Food has been with us from day 1, there's A LOT to say and poke into). Granted, not everything Tim writes is something I'm personally interested in, but I appreciate that he pushes the boundaries of what the Food section covers.

As do we.

My friend and I are doing a kid-swap where they come to our house for baking every week. I consider myself a good baker but I'm looking for some fun things to do for 5 & 6 year olds. I have homemade cinnamon rolls on the list as well as cookies, but any suggestions for other fun baked goods? The only requirement is that each girl should be able to take home her own creation (there are only 2 girls). Any suggestions would be great!

Muffins and mini-breads are possibilities. The fillings and flavorings are almost endless.

Rice Krispies treats would be perfect too. I'd offer you some recipes from our database, but it is currently misbehaving!

Try it later, however. You can search the Recipe Finder here.

Can I make a cheesecake cooked and all and then freeze it whole? Does the answer change if I use an aluminum pie tin in which to bake the cheesecake?

Sure, generally you can freeze a baked/cooked cheesecake. Same answer for aluminum....

Just be sure to defrost the cheesecake overnight in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.

Having studied and worked in the animal slaughter sector, gloves are only worn for the protection of the person, preventing or reducing the severity of knife wounds with one exception. If a person had a wound or scab on their hands, they had to wear a latex or nitrile glove. But not ust one, they had to double glove. With double gloving, the dirty glove is frequently changed without exposing the hand to prevent any contamination. Frequent changes of the double glove are required.

Thanks for that insight into practices in animal slaughterhouses where food safety is critical. As you can see, the gloves do a great job of protecting the pswson that is wearing them but not necessarily to protect the consumer. The double gloving makes a lot of sense but doesn't change the fact that wearing close-fitting gloves creates a bacteria-producing factory inside that moist, warm environment.

I bought a bag of pea shoots from the farmers market over the weekend because I wanted to sprinkle a few over a beet salad. Well, it was a pretty big bag and I used but a handful for the salad. Any ideas what to do with pea shoots? There's like 3-4 cups left.

Y ou can saute them quickly....they really wilt fast. They also make a decent pesto/puree.

I'm going to be back on my own again after living with relatives for a while. Hoping that you might have a cookbook or website to recommend for cooking for 1 or a few people. Thanks

Well, of course, we have to mention our own Joe Yonan, who writes our Cooking for One column and published a book last year on the topic.

Our recipe database is being a bit grumpy right now, but at some point later today go to www.washingtonpost.com/recipes and search for "cooking for one" (no quotes) to get all his great recipes.

The lead-in paragraph to the article on organic candy got me to thinking about the sweet tooth. I tend to think that I don't have one. I mean, I do like ice cream on occasion, and I like dark chocolate, but I rarely think that I want a sweet treat to finish a meal. Do you think that this tends to be nature or nurture (I grew up in Italy for a few years and with newly immigrated Italian parents while here). I know many people who have the "dessert compartment" for after dinner. Me, I tend to "taste" dinner again as I put away any leftovers. :)

This is an intriguing question. Those from other cultures tend to accuse Americans of having a sweet tooth the size of Texas.

It's also good to remember what often happen when spicy food migrates to the States: It gets tamped down. Things are starting to change for the better (and spicier), but I think the general theory holds true: Americans like sweet foods more than those from other countries.

Put them in omelets reminiscent of vietnamese pancakes, put them on sandwiches instead of lettuce. now if I could just figure out how to grow them myself!

And not pumpkin pie filling but just plain old canned pumpkin helps settle intestinal distress in a dog's tummy. Works quickly and the ornage color helps when you are doing a visual check. I always keep at least 6 cans on hand for my herding dogs

Just wondering if you Food staff are as into classic cookware as you are in classic cooking. I've developed an obsession with vintage Pyrex, which no doubt is related to my increasing time and interest in the kitchen. Do any of you sigh at the sight of Butterfly Gold cinderella casseroles? :)

Ouch, I had to look that casserole up on eBay and wasn't surprised to see that it looks like the stuff my mom used to cook in. I guess that makes me vintage, too?

I have a yellow Dansk pot and a yellow/gold small spouted pan that I dont let ANYONE ELSE IN MY HOUSE EVEN TOUCH. So yes, I think I'm in sigh territory with you.

Jaccording is a tenderization process. The commenter asked about needle injecting brine and flavors. Most wet cured hams and bacons are "cured" by injecting the wet cure this way deep inside of the muscle, rather than the very slow dry process in which the cure is drawn into the muscle from the outside. Some steaks, marinated pork loins and many forms of poultry are processed this way before they are sold. This has been done because meat is much leaner now (drier) and because consumers tend to overcook meat at home.

It's mainly about speed: Jaccarding greatly speeds up the time that it takes to cure a ham or other type of meat. Marinating through Jaccarding also increases the weight of the meat item by about 20 percent--and marinades are a lot cheaper than meat!

Is there a way to make chili con queso with real cheese, not velveeta? It seems like cheating if I'm opening a jar or tub.

Sure. And it's not cheating; you can just do better. Are you familiar with how a bechamel sauce is made -- that basis of many good mac and cheese recipes?  Here's how Lisa Fein, a k a Homesick Texan blogger, does it.

Pesto! That's a great idea. In fact, I'm planning to make garlic scape pesto tomorrow, so perhaps it will become garlic scape-pea shoot pesto. Very seasonal!

This is sort of an anti-cocktail question (so maybe not Jason's forte), but I am interested in developing a virgin cosmopolitan, thus no vodka or cointreau. For the latter, I'm thinking a bit of freshly squeezed orange juce and angostura bitters. Replacing the vodka is more challenging though. For some reason, I'm thinking muddle cucumber might be interesting, but do you have any thoughts?

Hmmmmm. I do enjoy figuring out mocktail alternatives, but you might have me stumped here. I don't know that orange juice and Angostura bitters is going to approximate the Cointreau. You might be better off with some kind of orange peel-infused simple syrup. Replacing the vodka (usually citrus vodka) isn't that challenging actually -- you can experiment with a mix of lime/lemon juice. With mocktails, I think using all fresh juices is one way to get more flavor. You might consider making your own cranberry juice?

I'm currently going through chemo, which has left me tired. I'm still able to cook and eat, but my energy levels are pretty low so I'm not able to do the same sort of dinner I was before. Any thoughts on some easy dishes to pull together? (Also, I'm afraid my 3-year old is going to get a lot of hot dogs in the next six months!)

     I've had a little experience with this, so although I generally do the bbq stuff, I thought I'd throw a couple of ideas out there. I'm sure the Rangers will have lots more. 

     You have two things going on. One, your own healthy eating. Two, preparing food for your 3-year-old. 

     First,take people up on their offers to help. They want to be there for you. Let them. Especially in the beginning. Depending on how often you get chemo and your reactions, you can even develop a schedule. Susie brings a kid-friendly casserole the first Tuesday of the month, Jack brings a meatloaf the first Wednesday, or whatever. (Alternate friends; no matter how well-meaning, they will get burned out.)

     There will be times when you feel up to cooking, and want to. You may have reactions to certain foods. Find out. Then, dig in. Making chicken broth is easy, and you can freeze the broth and eat the chicken. The broth makes for lots of soups. 

    If you can tolerate fresh produce, have some around for salads and easy, quick cooking methods, such as steaming.  Have fresh fruit around for snacks and desserts. 

     There are lots of things you can do. So much depends on your circumstance. Whether, for example, you work outside the home. Your chemo schedule and the reactions you have. Whether you have care-giveers around to help out. Go to cancer.org for more ideas and check out Cook For Your Life, which helps provide ideas for cancer patients who need/want to cook. 

     Rangers? Thoughts?

 

I feel for you; been there.  Risottos are quick and easy for you to handle.  Lots of things to do with eggs:  in tomato sauce, frittatas with vegetables tossed in. When you do have the energy, try to prep and puree some vegetables so you can use them in a soup.

Just a quick reminder to cat/dog lovers: a lot of the spices in marinated meats can make cats/dogs sick (garlic for example). Also check the sodium levels. This is particularly true if you feed your pets raw. PS: good tip for using up pumpkin--can add to cat food for same purpose (um, let's just say Grandma called it roughage).

Excellent advice about marinated meat. Garlic can be iffy for some dogs, and onion can be deadly.

How do you chop/fine dice an onion? Do I have to cut in three dimensions? Or can I use the structure of the onion for one direction and only cut in two? And if I am only cutting in two, don't I have a problem with the ends that the structure of the onion won't handle? And if anyone know a way to chop mushrooms that doesn't take forever, I would love to figure that out too. Slicing doesn't take too long, but after that I get stuck.

It's not embarrassing. We all had to learn how to chop vegetables at some time. I learned at L'Academie de Cuisine, and it has made chopping onions so much easier.

 

Here's a video on YouTube that shows you the proper technique.

Not glove-related, but a Sunday picnic left me with a badly upset digestive system the next day. I assume it was the prepared mussels from a supermarket deli section, which -- like everything else we ate -- sat out for at least an hour if not two.

Picnics are a perfect place to get food-borne illnesses. Prepared food can generally safely stay at room temperature for several hours without a problem as long as it was chilled first and never allowed to go above 70 degrees while it is being served (this from the Sixth Edition ServSafe Manager book). However, I have found that many people are especially sensitive to shellfish and mussels are among the most perishable. You also have no way of knowing how old that prepared mussels salad was from the supermarket. Perhaps it was very close to its sell-by date. I would avoid eating any shellfish in that situation unless it was being kept cold.

my rosemary plant is exploding and i am looking for fun stuff to do with it. years ago in vegas i had lemonade with rosemary infused vodka. so good. i'd love to learn how to recreate it.

Herb-infused vodkas are fairly easy. Slip 4-5 sprigs of rosemary into the vodka bottle, cap it, and let it sit for about 3 days. Taste it, and if it's not rosemary-y enough for you, let it sit a few more days. Strain it through cheesecloth so you're left with liquid only, and you're good to go.

I read in this chat several months ago about freezing pre-prepped veggies. I must have missed something. When I froze sliced peppers and onions (separately), when I defrosted them, there was so much liquid in the bag. I used sandwich bags with the air pressed out. Should I have double-wrapped? And what do you recommend for freezing fresh herbs? Thank you - as a working mom, I need all the help I can get in expediting the dinner process!!!!

Fresh herbs freeze best when mixed with some kind of fat, either butter or olive oil, ideally. I chop the herbs then mix them with just enough olive oil to coat them (this protects them from oxidation--reacting with oxygen and deteriorating--and freeze them in a small container. When I want to use the herbs, I just scoop out a tablespoon or so. If you freeze them on their own, they will discolor and pick up that oxidized or old flavor.

I want to have a go at sticky rice's tater tot dip,and from reading the link and reviewers' comments you had posted a couple of weeks back, it seems like the solution to the recipe would be kewpie mayo. But where could I find it in the city?

Hm, I'm blanking on in the city, but you can check with your nearest Asian market. If you can get out to the 'burbs, H Mart would be a safe bet. Just FYI, it might be labeled as QP instead of kewpie.

I loved Angelo. He is my favorite Top Chef out of all the seasons. Did he include his phone number in that book? Now let me think about a winning question...

He was a lot of fun to talk to and was nice to share his time with us when he was getting ready for a big book-promo dinner that night. Whoever wins that book will like it.

Jason - what seasoned rice wine vinegar would I use in this cocktail?

Hmmm. I think you're going to have to give me a little more to go on? Have you had this somewhere?

I didn't see any recipes for these in your database, but do you guys have a good soft pretzel recipe? I've been craving those lately.

I see that Alton Brown's recipe looks okay and has a video. If you're craving soft pretzels, have you tried the Dutch Country farmers market in Laurel, Thurs-Sat? I've had some fine, warm specimens there.

Greetings from our vacation in the lovely Lancaster, PA! Posting early since we've brought the kids up to enjoy Dutch Wonderland, but what kinds of delicious local finds should I be on the look out for? I know there are lots of jams/canned foods, but what else would be something to try and get/find while here? Thanks!!!

How about pretzels? Or anything from the Carriage House Market at Sheppard Mansion.

I make guacamole once a week and it seems it only tastes good every 3rd time I make it. I have tried removing ingredients to see what the problem is but I can't figure out why the guac is tasting bitter. All I add to the avocado is salt, lemon or lime juice (a tiny amount), minced garlic, and minced onions. It seems like it has to be the avocados that are the problem. But I have used ripe to very ripe and I'm still not sure. Any suggestions? Thank you.

My only thought is that you may be using older garlic, which can start to taste bitter. There is some disagreement over weather "sprouted" garlic (you know, with the green interiors) tastes more bitter than fresher garlic, but my general feeling is that older garlic does take on a bitter flavor.

I've noticed a trend towards labeling olive oils, at least extra-virgin ones, by country of origin. Isn't that much less important than, say, what sort of olive is used?

There are excellent and poor olive oils from many countries, though each country does have its individual style and its varieties of olives so they do differ. Note though that a lot of "Italian" olive oils (for example) are actually produced in other countries, such as Morocco or Turkey, and simply bottled in Italy because an oil with an Italian label can be sold for a higher price. Freshness (was it produced from this year's crop with a harvest date), type of container (was it packed in a tin or dark green glass bottle to keep it out of the light), and storage (was it kept cool and away from the light) are the key factors. The best oils will be quite low in acid and high in antioxidents, which tend to "burn" the back of the throat.

Manufacturers are beginning to label more specifically, with regard to types of olives, I think. But I suppose the average olive oil consumer doesn't know the range of buttery to bitterness in all the types of olives....

Hey Jim, I heard you were in New York recently for the big barbeque gig. How was it and what's on the horizon for grilling?

     This past weekend was the 10th anniversary of the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, held  in Madison Square Park. The setting is absolutely lovely, in the way that only NYC can be. Magnificent, big trees providing a beautiful respite from the city, with all those tall buildings soaring behind them as a backdrop. The smoke hovering over the park made the very air intoxicating with its aroma. 

     Upside: a chance to eat the barbecue from various pitmasters from around the country. The pulled pork sandwich from Rodney Scott, of Hemingway, South Carolina, one of the best true pitmasters out there, was sensational.

        Downside: The lines. People waited at least an hour, sometimes two, to get an $8 sandwich. 

        On the horizon for grilling? The Block Party doesn't really answer that question. It's more about bbqing and pitmasters doing what they do. On MY horizon? Fruit! Lots and lots of fruit. Eating all that 'cue was, well, let me just say again, Fruit. 

 

I read that olive oil goes off if exposed to light, but all of the olive oil containers that I have seen are clear glass. I keep mine on the counter so it is easy to reach, but also because my cupboard shelves are not tall enough. I buy a large container of olive oil and refill my glass pour spout glass bottle every two weeks. How do you store olive oil for daily use?

In the dark, in a cool-ish place. If it's on the counter, especially if it's near the stove or a heat source, I'd move the oil away, as those factors can help break it down prematurely.

Well, I'm just one person, but I can tell you that nurture did not affect me as far as not having a sweet tooth. We always had a dessert after dinner growing up (maybe not of the home-made variety, but there were always cookies or ice cream from the store). However, the older I got, the more I realized I'm just not big on sweet stuff. I'm like the original person - sure, I like to have a dessert every now and then, but I never feel like I need one after every dinner. I don't like candy. I hate my entrees to be sweet. Actually, I've decided someone replaced my sweet tooth with a salt tooth - give me salty french fries any day of the week! And I'm a home-bred American with parents raised here too.

I've noticed that my sweet tooth has soured over time as well. But I've also noticed that I go in cycles. Some days I crave sweets as if my body will go into shock if I don't have one pronto. Other days, I never think about them. I suspect this may have something to do with my blood sugars.

Which oils do you recommend for various purposes? I use peanut oil for frying, but it's expensive. Is there a good alternative (other than canola oil which sickens my husband)? Which neutral-flavor oil do you prefer for salads or sauteing?

Try grapeseed oil, which has a high burning point and a pleasing fruity flavor (now sold at Costco). It's a favorite of chefs. Also good are sunflower seed oil (very common in Europe) and now sold by Trader Joe's), and rice bran oil (available in Asian markets).

I tried to use some bananas I froze whole and peeled for baking last night and had a lot of trouble thawing / mashing them. Any suggestions from the food gurus?

I'm completely stumped by your question. To my mind, there's nothing easier than thawing a frozen banana. Mine practically start to liquefy before I can mash them. Try peeling them and letting them sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes or so.  They should smoosh right up.

I have an electric oven range/stovetop. apparently the oven has a vent through one of the back burners. when i have the oven on, is it normal for that rear stovetop burner to get hot enough to boil water ?

I have that too -- I can see the steam slipping out the back. But hot enought to boil water? You might want to call the manufacturer to ask about that.

how about using those cucumbers for a cocktail instead? cool as a cucumber - st germain, vodka, mint, club soda and muddled cucumbers, or cucumber pureed in a blender, strained and mixed with cranberry juice, vodka, club soda and a little bit of simple syrup? no better way to get over an ex than with good friends, good food and good drinks!

The Pimms Cup is another great cucumber cocktail. Here are a couple of Pimms Cup variations, the Black Cup and the Sorta Fussy Pimm's Cup.

Summer is the best time for tomato soup. Cut home-grown ripe tomatoes in half. Place in a roasting pan with garlic, toss with salt/pepper/olive oil and roast on your covered grill, stirring occasionally so the sugars don't burn. Put through a food mill or processor, add fresh basil and eat, either hot or cold. Heaven!

Sounds delicious. I'll have to give it a try this summer, but with farmers market tomatoes, since I don't grow my own.

Hi Guys, thanks for hosting these chats. Love them. At the suggestion of my father, I saved the leftover broth from collard greens that simmered with bacon for two hours. At a loss of what to do with it though. Perhaps a good soup recipe?

    I've used it as a broth for risotto. Add a little smoked pork or the collards themselves, and you got yourself a little Old South meets New Italy - or maybe New South meets Old Italy. Whatever, it's perty derned good. 

I made a very simple guac: 2 avocados mashed, juice of one lime, 1 jalapeno minced, sea salt to taste. I never add tomato, garlic, or onion. I think it's delicious and it gets rave reviews whenever it's served!

Is that what we call Yum Yum sauce? 1 ¼ C. Hellman's Mayo 1 tsp. ketchup 1 Tbs. butter, melted, ½ tsp. garlic powder, ¼ tsp. paprika 1 tsp. sugar, ¼ C. water, Pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight MUST BE MADE THE NIGHT BEFORE ~ ENJOY!!!!!

I think the chatter is confused. This cocktail appeared in the New York Times Dining section today.

Ding ding ding.

My general rule of thumb for leftovers is 1 week or when they start to smell / look funny, whichever comes sooner, but I recently made a soup with some leftover pulled pork that was nearing the end of the week limit. What would your rule of thumb be for the lifetime of the soup? Does cooking the pork again reset the timer? Extended it, but not by another full week?

Accoding to food safety experts, cooked food such as soups, should last up to one week so your estimate is right on. However, its shelf-life would depend on how it was cooled to begin with. If you want to get the most time from your soups, cool the soup as quickly as possible. I usually place the pot in a sinkful of ice mixed with water and then drain off some of the water when it melts and replace it. You can also place some frozen gel-packs (the kind that come in a package of food that must be kept cool) in the water to help chill it. Do not put the hot soup in the fridge--wait until it is not much more than body temperature. Boiling the soup will kill bacteria and will give you a few more days but you've got to chill it quickly. Something that has been cooked a long time like pulled pork will last longer than a quick-cooking food like fish.

Gee, I'd go with a main course of (wait for it!) Jerk Chicken ; - )

Not sure it's in NoVa, or even still exists, but a friend from San Francisco loved the sourdough bread at Sutton Place Gourmet, later renamed Balduccis.

There are two Balducci's in Northern Virgina. Worth a try.

I was reading the question and thought about a friend of mine who is currently going through chemo. She signed up for mealtrain.com, which is a site where friends can sign up for play dates with your little one, rides to the doctor, visiting, and providing meals. It may be helpful for your friends to know what kind of help you need. Good luck to you.

    Thanks for the tip. 

Writing to second Jim's suggestion of having friends help with food. Several of my friends have had cancer in recent years, and frankly the rest of us really WANTED to help....and bringing meals was an easy way to do so, and actually helped the person. Ask a friend to organize the schedule for you, so if there's a problem you're not the one who has to deal with it. There are online tools for people to sign up, and you can specify preferences / dietary needs. Really, think of this as a means of building community with your social network. And when your chemo is over and you feel better, have a party and cook for everyone to say thank you.

And here's a story we had about one of those online tools.

Thanks for this info. Now I know why we're supposed to expose cut fingers to air rather than cover them with latex "finger protectors," as I've often done to keep band-aids from falling off.

My new obsession. I've sauted them with bacon. What next?!

Got two for you: Best Brussels Sprouts Ever, and Brussels Sprouts California Style. You'll be happy.

 

kewpie mayo is a Japanese mayo made with egg yolks

When recipes call for anchovies, I buy the little square tin of them available at Giant (not sure what brand it is), which seems fine, but not exceptional. I'm not a big anchovy eater anyway. However, while eating at Fiola over the weekend, I had a salad with the most amazing anchovies: meaty, tangy even and not too salty. Is there a product like that available for home cooks? They were amazing. Could turn anyone into a anchovy lover.

If you give them 24 hours notice, Cornucopia in Bethesda can sell you whole anchovies packed in salt, which are superior to those filleted specimens sold in cans.

Even faster, A & H Gourmet and Seafood Market in Bethesda has whole salted anchovies in cans. They are $3.95 per can.

I have seen plenty of employees at Safeway rub their nose with the back of their hand, wearing the gloves, and then cut my meat. So gross! Never know what to say.

Ask to speak to the manager and make a comment. If you don't speak up, they won't know how important food safety is to you. Safeway is a major chain and must be highly responsive to food safety issues.

Thanks for the info on herbs - I didn't know they needed a fat to stay fresh. But what about veggies? Should I double-wrap? Or use a different kind of container other than a sandwich bag?

As far as veggies, they will soften and give off liquid when frozen but you don't have to throw that liquid (like from the peppers) away. Just add it along with the veggie to your recipe. To freeze vegetables, I place them, trimmed and cut into smaller pieces, in a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and then squeeze the air out to prevent oxidation (deterioration from being exposed to air). Ideally, for best quality, and if you plan on doing a lot of freezing, invest in a home vacuum-sealer  and vacuum-seal your veggies. This way just about all the air has been removed--the main culprit in breakdown of frozen food.

Before I forget, the perfect gadget for summer is a serrated peeler (like a potato peeler but with serrated blades). Several manufacturers make them. They're great for peeling peaches and tomatoes when you want a few peeled but still completely raw.

I live in South Florida with no air conditioning... I *RARELY* cook but I regularly read the WaPo Food section, as well as that of my local paper, and absolutely love this chat, which if, for work reasons I am not able to read during the actual chat, I always make sure I read later. Shame on the person writing about Tim's articles and assuming he or she can speak for me!

There you go. I read the Sports section....

I'm the poster who asked about cocktails for a party of 100 a few weeks ago. Just wanted to say thanks to Jason for wisely discouraging me from trying to do a cocktail. We went with beer and wine, the event was great, and I was relaxed and able to enjoy it. You are wise indeed.

Glad to hear it worked out! I was a little worried for you. Can I quote you later on how "wise" I am? I'm not sure many share that opinion, so thank you!

I read the response about wine popsicles and am hooked for next week. In Roanoke at Table 51, I had some incredible red wine sorbet. I have attempted to make anything as good at home and failed every time.

I followed a recipe created by People's Pops, which features pinot noir and fresh blackberries. They are delicious. Everyone around the table agreed.

More to come on this.

I find that putting them in the microwave for a 10 seconds or so after peeling works well to bring them to room temperature. I think they are also much easier to peel with a sharp knife.

During the last two years the frozen foods in the local chain grocery stores where we live have got to have been mishandled. Everything looks and tastes like it has been thawed and refrozen. The frozen vegetables in one particular store are repeatedly freezer burned and inedible. The peas taste like cardboard. We have complained to the store managers who say they are handled properly and don't want to hear it. Unfortunately, this is a smaller town where we don't have many options for our food shopping. Is there a "higher power" to whom we can report this type of thing? And are the foods treated this way safe to consume?

I think you have this one right--if you see frozen liquid in the package, that's a sign that the food has defrosted and been refrozen. Also, a lot of freezers have a defrost cycle when they actually heat up to melt away the frost but also melting the food at the same time. The foods are probably reasonably safe to consume especially because you would be cooking them first but the quality will be poor. I would consider visiting a big box store such as BJ's, Walmart, or Costco that have large, up-to-date freezer sections. You may want to consider contacting the higher ups at the company beyond the store level as it's difficult for me to believe that they wouldn't care.

Absolutely try the fennel. Fennel and sardines are a match made in heaven.

I noticed a sticker on a Florida avocado at the store that listed it as lower calories/fat than other avocados. it got me thinking; can you tell me what differences there are between Haas avocados and Florida avocados with regard to taste, texture, etc.? Do you consider them interchangeable, or only for some things?

Florida or Caribbean avocados are indeed lower in calories than the Hass from Mexico. They are best used in salad but don't have the rich buttery character that works so well in guacamole.

Tomatoes and vinegar aren't fattening and I don't think spices are either, so why is BBQ sauce so calorie-laden?

    Depends, of course, on the sauce. But the thickish tomato-based ones have lots of high fructose corn syrup in them. My guess is you won't find that on a lot of weight-loss intruction manuals. 

Your article on summer soups is inspiring me to do something new with my yellow zucchini (and made me crave fresh watermelon juice, go figure). Thanks! On a more important note, BBQ guru Shahin, I'm trying to figure out ways to use our gas grill more (and kitchen oven/stove top less) this summer. Can I use my pizza stone on the gas grill? If so, any pointers?

   Yes, you can use your pizza stone on the gas grill. Put the stone on the grates, turn your grill on low, then after a few minutes to medium, and a few minutes to later, high. 

    When your stone is hot, it's ready. 

     You can also cook directly on the grates, no stone. Oil the grates and you're good to go. 

      Make sure you have a long-handled peel to pull the pizza off when it is ready. 

      And since you have the grill on, you might as well char some peppers for a little antipasto.

Love them! Please keep them there - it's the FOOD section, not the COOKING section, and I think it's fascinating to hear about how various food products and potential ingredients are made.

Thanks for the support, y'all.

I don't take the original chatter's criticism lightly. I love to cook, and maybe I should try to let that show more regularly. But I also think -- and thankfully my editors share this belief -- that food is a very broad subject, not reduced, so to speak, to home cooking.

I've never heard of Cherry Bounce, but it sounds like a great way to use some of the many sour cherries on my BF's tree. I love the sound of the recipe, and don't mind the 4 months of waiting - but what was it stored in for those four months? Would a cleaned and sterilized glass bottle work?

My mother made cherry bounce for years as a Christmas present for friends. She started making it in large sterilized glass jars but eventually bought a giant lidded glazed-pottery crock for the project. I believe glass or ceramic is the traditional way to go.

If you really want to make a virgin cosmo you'll have to stick clear of it.

Yeah, true, I meant to mention that. It's always surprised me that they sell it in supermarkets, even in places where you can't sell booze in supermarkets.

I made a vodka based sour cherry infusion last year and it came out great - it's got more of a pure cherry flavor than you'd get from using bourbon or rum. Rations look about right to me, although I added little to no sugar because I like the tartness of sour cherries. Great in cocktails too - make a brown sugar simple syrup, spice with cloves if you want, mix and top with soda - perfect in the fall.

As I said, if you're looking for cherry flavor and nothing else, then use vodka. If you want to make Cherry Bounce, use bourbon or rum.

Sounds like the avocadoes are over-ripe. Discard any brown areas. And BTW, Mexicans do not put garlic in guacamole. It's fork-mashed avocado with chopped onion, serrano chilies, and cilantro, plus salt and - if you want - lime or lemon juice (Mexican lemons are not like those found in the US). Skip the cilantro or chilies or even onion if you want but don't add anything else. ¡Fabuloso!

Just watch your sandwich maker at the local supermarket deli--they don clean gloves to make your sandwich, but then open the refrigerator, walk away out of your sight for a few seconds, punch the buttons on the scale, and then make another sandwich for you. Yuck! I think they hate to see me coming because I will tell them they have to change their gloves. And there's no sink in sight for hand washing!

It would be illegal for them not to have a hand sink nearby but that doesn't mean they actually use the sink! Part of the reason there are so many preservatives in deli meats is that they'll be sliced on a meat slicer that's been in use for hours. No place slices on a clean slicer every time. Perhaps you'd consider buying a home slicer  and cutting your own deli meats?

I love raw corn in the summer it's sweeter and crunchier than cooked. I've only eaten it raw on its own (I cut the kernels off the cob first), but do you or any chatters have a recipe that highlights raw, uncooked corn so that eating it plain doesn't get old?

Why not add raw corn from sweet young ears of corn to a salad or top gazpacho with them? Also, you can add raw corn to a fresh salsa like Pico de Gallo (diced tomatoes, minced jalapeno or serrano chiles, lime juice, diced sweet onion, and a little salt).

Americans like their desert *sugary*. The chocolate has more sugar in it and so do other deserts. I grew up partially in Europe and their deserts tend to feature more the other ingredients - say orange. They can have their own sweetness but they're not nearly as sugary. Americans also love cinnamon. I saw a documentary short a young Korean American did about his Aunt and Uncle's donut shop. His aunt was rolling out cinnamon rolls. He observed that she was making more of those than other things and asked if that was because they sold more. She looked up and said deadpan - oh yes, I've never known a culture that likes cinnamon so much.

And by cinnamon, you mean that Americans really eat a lot of is cassia, which may not be so good for rough-and-tumble lifestyle.

Would yogurt freeze if I made a smoothie and poured into popsicle molds?

It would freeze, but some people say that dairy-based smoothies don't have a good texture when frozen. (I've never noticed that.) I'd be afraid that if you tried to eat it as a popsicle, it'd melt into runniness before you got too far along.

Maybe visit the local library -- girls in tow -- to check out the "old" cookbooks. I remember fondly Betty Crocker cookbooks for kids from my childhood. Managable recipes, photos, etc. Could be a great experience for the girls: reference/nonfiction section of the library, non-Internet searching, reading through several recipes to pick one you think you'd enjoy, etc.

Have you ever considered having a chat marathon? Everyone's questions spark me to ask more questions myself. I just can't stop.

I know what you mean! Sometimes we get a bunch of questions right at the end of the session. Every now and then we'll do an extended hour. You're worth it! One way to extend that magic feeling is by reading Jane Touzalin's Chat Leftovers on All We Can Eat. Mmm, mmm good.

So, no more worrying about food that falls on the floor, as long as it lands on a wood floor?

I wouldn't go that far! It's just that plastic boards do not kill bacteria and wood ones do but not instantaneously.

THank you to the previous poster! You reminded me of this recipe, and the question I've been meaning to ask: what kind of sardines are used in this? I've always seen sardines oil packed in can (insert cliche) but recently saw them in the fish market in a plastic tub (fresh sardines?) I'd love to try this recipe but am hesitant to do so until I know what I'm getting into, as I've not had sardines before and am not sure how they'll taste (budget issue). Thanks.

Fresh sardines are fantastic, and not so pricey, as I recall.  You'll need them for that recipe. Try them, and report back!

Thanks all, for another lively hour -- especially to Aliza Green, Jim and Jason. I learned a lot today, and hope you did too.

Chat prize winners: The "Please help!!!" mom gets Levana's book, and the person who loves Angelo Sosa gets a copy of his nice new cookbook.  Remember to send your mailing addresses to Becky at krystalr@washpost.com. Till next week, happy cooking!

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is interim editor of the Food section; joining us today are interim recipe editor Jane Touzalin, staff writer Tim Carman, Food aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guest: Aliza Green, Philadelphia chef-consultant.
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