Free Range on Food

Jun 19, 2013

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 Free Range!

Today we have our new Spirits columnist, M. Carrie Allan, joining us. She wrote today's great take on gin and tonic and fathers and "the finer things."

We'll also have Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin in the room -- author of today's Baltimore pit beef immersion -- along with us, your humble regulars. Jim can take the meaty q's, and I, as author of today's exploration of vegetable stock -- can handle the veggie ones. (Actually, we can all handle most things, so fire away.)

As usual, we'll have giveaway books for you! One of our favorite chatters today will get "The Washington Post Cookbook" -- signed! -- and the other will get "Taste of Honey," source of today's DinMin recipe.

So send us your best q's!

except eggplant. Do you have any good recipes to convince me otherwise? They are pretty not to mention, abundant at the market so I would love to give them another try.

One of the best ways to cook eggplant is on the grill. So have a look at this week's Mindful Makeover, Grilled Ratatouille Salad.

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

Other variations on that theme:

All-American Spice Rub Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille

All-American Spice Rub Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille

Arugula With Grilled Vegetables

Grill-Sauteed Ratatouille With Toasted Garlic and Thyme

Grill-Sauteed Ratatouille With Toasted Garlic and Thyme

I like to grill 1/2-inch rounds until the eggplant is soft and has nice grill marks on both sides and serve it over rice with a peanut sauce. I also use the grill to cook eggplant to make baba ghanoush (which I talk about so much I ought to just put it in the database already...).

Also tempting -- Dry-Fried Eggplant.

Dry-Fried Eggplant

I am really excited about the weekly vegetarian section. I am getting more into salads as it's too hot to eat cooked food. I've never used quinoa and I wanted to know what the grain to water ratio is, and should it be cooked like rice? Next, what do I mix with it? Would I use it as a substitute for couscous?

I'm not the biggest fan of quinoa, as I've written, but I get the appeal from a nutrition perspective, so I explored various ways of making it, and like this one the best: Combine quinoa with twice as much water and soak for at least 15 minutes (or up to overnight), then drain. Combine 1 part quinoa with 1 1/4 parts water in a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and has absorbed the liquid, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

What do do with it? Well, you can certainly, yes, use it anywhere you would use couscous or even rice, but my quibbles with quinoa have to do mostly with its teensy size (it's a seed after all), the fact that I can't really bite into it. But those cooking instructions left me with the best, fluffiest result. My favorite recipe that uses it: Curried Barley and Quinoa Cakes. They're pretty great.

 

I liked Joe's article today on vegetarian broth. I used to freeze stock but a power failure cost me a full season's stored bounty, so I switched to canning. In summer I eat a lot of corn, and I usually cut it off the cobs and freeze them. At the end of the summer I make a huge batch of broth with a corn cob base and aromatics, reduce it by half, and can it with a pressure canner. For one evening's work I have a year's supply that takes up no freezer space. Are you going to have a canning chat or canning advice again this season? I'd suggest an article on pressure canning, as it intimidates people more than water bath canning. Thank you.

Thanks! Indeed, we'll have canning coverage, absolutely. And I agree it might be time for us to delve into pressure canning. BTW, speaking of corn broth, have you seen my take on it? I use the husks and silks too -- try it!

The red ones are ripening, and the black raspberries won't be far behind. Can you give me some ideas of what to do with the bounty (we can only eat so many of them fresh, and they don't take well to either freezing or canning in syrup). Thanks so much!

You might consider doing some infusions of vodka for summer drinks. I think pairing raspberries with some citrus rind (avoid the white pith as much as possible), some mint and/or thyme, maybe summer peaches once they start ripening up? Depending on how huge your bounty is, you could end up with just enough for summer party cocktails -- or bottle it for gifts later in the year, when we're all craving something fresh.

Just read your article on herb dilemmas solved. I just wanted to say "I love you guys." It's everything I've ever wanted to ask and more.

Kudos to Bonnie for her idea and expert curation and execution!

I am trying to make myself cook more fish. I don't love salmon because it is too fishy to me, so I tend towards mild white fish. I made talapia last night and thought it should be mild, but it wasn't. Is that a problem on my end, how I am handling or cooking it (I cooked it in a foil packet with some penzey's seasoning, lemon and olive oil and some slices of zucchini and shallot), or could it be the source of the fish (frozen from Trader Joe's)?

Tilapia is fairly mild in flavor, though some compare it to the muddiness of catfish. I can only assume here that your tilapia had a fishy aroma? It could be a bad piece of fish. I would check with your fishmonger or just go somewhere else for tilipia. They sell good specimens at the Maine Avenue fish market. You can buy them whole or in fillets. You might also try flounder or halibut, both of which are mild whitefish too. (Just for fun, read Walter Nichols's 2007 story about tilapia, "the fish that chefs love to hate.")

Picking the third gallon bag of sour cherries from my Annapolis yard, I am perplexed. The delicious fruit is glowing like red Christmas tree lights with sun shining through. The healthful trees require no spraying and appreciate only dormant season pruning and compose feeding. My relatives and close friends covet my lattice fresh cherry pies. Cherries freeze and thaw beautifully after pitting. An occasional Cardinal joins me to claim her share as I pick my rubies. Why don't other local gourmets pop a semi dwarf sour cherry in a sunny spot?

Excellent question! I'm not sure why we don't see more. I'm breathlessly awaiting their appearance at farmers markets, so the fact that yours are coming in gives me hope.

Hi Rangers, Thank you for taking my question! This Friday, I am having a few people over and am trying to decide what to make as a side dish with my bbq chicken. I'll be marinating chicken in bbq sauce and grilling it on a charcoal grill. I plan to serve a simple green salad, but am at a loss for a starchy side. I have lovely little round yukon gold potatoes, and all I can think of is roasting... which is so boring. Any suggestions (doesn't have to be potatoes) is welcome! Thank you!!

Potato salad! Great for a barbecue.

I am a fan of David Hagedorn's German Potato Salad. Check out the many other options in our database, including our recent recipe for Austrian Potato Salad.

Austrian Potato Salad

We are taking part in a supper club this Friday, and need to provide the appetizer as well as a few nibblies to accompany the cocktail hour (and possibly the cocktail, too!) The hitch is that this will be a Turkish-themed supper club - the hosts are preparing eggplants stuffed with onions and tomatoes, lamb shanks with egg and lemon sauce, and rice pilaf for the main portion of the meal. Any ideas for what might work well for an appetizer (vegetarian friendly, or at least with a veggie-friendly option, required) and for nuts, cheeses, charcuterie or other nibblies to have during cocktail hour? Also, any ideas for Turkish cocktails? That last one seems like an especially tall order to me!

How bout this Walnut and Red Pepper Spread? Right in the zone, don't you think?

I'm going to leave the cocktail question for our new Spirits columnist, Carrie Allan. (Other that rimming the glass with sumac, I'm drawing a blank.)

It's funny -- I thought at first you were asking for cocktails to go with turkey :)

Actual traditional Turkish cocktails are beyond me -- maybe a chatter who's been there would have some insights? But so many of the countries around the Mediterranean seem to have a beloved local liquor, often licorice/anise flavored. There's Ouzo, Sambuca, Arak, and Raki, Turkey's local. Usually those turn up after dinner. BUT, having gin and tonics on the brain right now, it seems like you could take that flavor note -- the anise -- pair it with some citrus and incorporate it into a light highball? 

Barring that, I'd look for beloved Turkish fruits and herbs and see where they lead you!

I'm curious - what do you guys cook, or bake, to eat for comfort food? Brownies? Soup? Big pan of lasagna?

I was going to say Texas barbecue, but it takes so long to smoke it that the only comfort I feel is falling asleep after everyone goes home for the night. Personally, I love making soups in the winter. I love the chopping, the building and layering of flavors and the simple joy of slurping it with hunks of fresh bread. I really love making my own pizzas and pastas too. There's something about working with dough that I really dig.

Hi. Any suggestions for a breakfast that I can make the night before that can be refrigerated or frozen and then taken for a road trip the next day (nearly four hours). There will be a refrigerator available at the destination, but the cooking tools are questionable (a stove and refrigerator/freezer for sure, and a grocery store nearby). Vegetarian preferable. Or is this a lost cause? If so, any suggestions for a breakfast I can make on site that doesn't rely on too many tools (I can bring some, but within reason, of course) for four people. Thanks in advance for your help!

I think this screams for some kind of coffee cake. They can be made in advance, travel well and you won't need to worry about it going bad on the car drive.

My favorite, as I've said multiple times here, is Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake.

Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake

Other tantalizing options from our database include: 

Avocado Coffee Cake

Avocado Coffee Cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Nancy's Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake

I was given a jar of barbecue sauce from a restaurant on Sunday. However, before it was given to me, it sat in a hot car for a couple days and the previously sealed canning jar is now unsealed. I put it in the fridge but have not touched it yet. Is it possible to salvage it by boiling, or should I dump it down the sink? Thanks for the advice!

    A little story: I once put a jug (yes, a plastic jug) of housemade bbq sauce in the trunk of a car on a hot day and traveled a few hours. When I got to where I was going, I opened the trunk and the heat caused the sauce to combust. The sauce spattered everywhere. It looked like Goodfellas in there. But I loved the sauce so much, I scooped up what I could and had the bubblin' stuff that night on ribs.

      The good news is that it was a really bad idea. (I won't go into the physical consequences.) Nowadays if I have a question about whether the sauce is edible, I answer by (however reluctantly) tossing it. 

Hi Rangers! Thanks so much for all that you do. My fiance purchased some maple flavored whiskey (Log Cabin brand) on accident last weekend. We didn't care for it, but are remiss to waste a whole bottle of whiskey. Any way you would suggest incorporating it into cooking or baking? I was thinking about maybe a glaze for grilled peaches, but that is the only idea I have. If there is a particular cocktail that works well with this, we are open to trying new things. Thanks again!

I think the grilled peaches idea is great. You also might work it into a reduced syrup for a boozey-flavored pecan pancake brunch, or--if the main issue is that it's too cloying?--trying incorporating it into a cocktail that contains other, less sweet, ingredients for more balance.

Another thought on this -- specifically, I'd look for flavors that highlight the maple but also cut its sweetness. Something smokey? A tarter apple note? Even something that has an element of salt in it might be worth playing with -- bacon is creeping into a lot of drinks these days.

Doctor told me that it is time to lose some weight, exercise more and see if that improces the LDL cholesterol enough to not have to go on medication. OK, but I'm not eating that badly to start with. Any resources, recommended cookboooks, strategies, etc. that the free rangers or the chatters can recommend? Warning - I don't have access to grilling outside, so that isn't an option.

I hear you. My doc has told me to keep the saturated fats in check as well. (I tend to have a tin ear when it comes to recommended diets, I must admit). The Mayo Clinic, one of the few sources I would trust to steer you right on matters of dieting and cholesterol, suggests more fish (for Omega 3s), nuts and oatmeal. To be honest, I think Mark Bittman is on the right track with his Vegan Before 6 strategy, which Joe wrote about recently.

I appreciated your article on vegetable broth today, which was a good reminder about both how easy it is to make and how versatile it's flavor can be---there are so many different options! I also thought it was interesting that you pointed out that store-bought vegetable broth tends to be sub-par. Any thoughts on why that is? Are there any that you think are at least passable in a pinch? My mom was complaining to me about not liking vegetable broth and I suggested that she try another brand (since they are unlikely to be similar) or try making it herself with vegetables of her choice. I'll be sending her your story for sure.

Thanks -- You know, I'm not entirely sure why store-bought broths are so bad. They seem worse than the meat ones -- although, well, the meat ones aren't so good either, are they? In a pinch, I use Kitchen Basics, which is a pretty good brand overall. But mostly they just taste blah to me, not fresh in any way -- but I guess that's because they're not!

I'm taking this Friday off from work to have a "mental health day" and am hoping to spend part of that day in the kitchen making some rosemary bread with the fresh herbs I got in my CSA this week. I've done foccacia before, and, while delicious, am looking for something a little different (but still "comforting"). Do you have any favorite recipes, or basic ones that I can add rosemary to? I also have some leftover gorgonzola that I was thinking about topping and toasting the bread with.

Black Olive Rosemary Fougasse from Marcy Goldman is a winner.

Black Olive Rosemary Fougasse

You could also try Olive-Rosemary Bread or Potenza Tomato-Rosemary Focaccia.

Potenza Tomato-Rosemary Focaccia

Parmesan-Pine Nut Biscuits sound like something different.

Just a quick "thanks" to the chatter a couple weeks ago who gave a great tip to a "too many CSA radishes" chatter: Blue cheese and yogurt topping on grated radishes. I wound up in the same CSA radish place and love your combo. Yum. Don't see enough follow-up thankyous here, but we are all reading and cooking!

Appreciate your follow-through!

HI! I've been on an egg yolk custard ice cream making kick... yum! Would you suggest some savory things I could make with the whites? There's enough sweets already in the house with all that ice cream! Thanks.

Check out this roundup I did the other year on how to use your leftover egg whites. There are sweets in there, but also savory options.

My husband was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago. We are both doing pretty well with adjusting the diet, but I would love a couple of recommendations on cookbooks. I desperately miss rice and potatoes!

Have a look at our diabetes-related recipes for some inspiration.

I am a fan of local cookbook author and cooking instructor Amy Riolo, and we have featured her book "The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook."

Others we have checked out include "Asian Flavors Diabetes Cookbook: Simple, Fresh Meals Perfect for Every Day" by Corinne Trang, "The Essential Diabetes Cookbook" by Antony Worrall Thompson with Louise Blair and "Diabetes Fit Food" by Ellen Haas.

You talk about using neutral flavors for the broth, but aren't asparagus stems going to make asparagus broth, or are they not very flavorful, or am I thinking of broccoli? I love the idea of using scraps.

It's a matter of proportion -- I find that the asparagus ends, when combined with the onion tops, celery trimmings, carrots, etc., don't make something that tastes all that asparagus-y. But you could certainly do an asparagus broth by using a lot of them -- and use it as the base for asparagus soup.

Funny you should mention it -- I am eating a lunch at my desk that consists of quinoa, black beans, roasted carrots sweet potatoes and zucchini, with dressing (and hot sauce) added. As for cooking the quinoa, I do not bother rinsing it, and I use a rice cooker, with a 2:1 water to grain ratio. Trader Joe's organic tri-color quinoa is the best. Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks.com has a really good recipe for quinoa vegetable patties as well.

I was so excited to see that you've brought on a new spirits columnist. I'm so glad you did that rather than letting the column lapse after Jason's department. That she picked my favorite cocktail for her first column--and did research with smart choices like Estadio and Gin Joint--makes me excited that we'll be getting some excellent stories. Any hints as to what we'll be seeing in the near future?

Hey, thanks! I'm excited to be doing it and am reading reading reading and drinking drinking drinking. My liver is already filing complaints with Liver Protective Services. I have tons of ideas for coming columns -- don't want to give too much away -- but generally I would say I'll aim for seasonal and fun, sometimes more culinary, sometimes more historical, and I'll be doing my best to keep talking to all the terrific booze slingers we have in town. If you have ideas, send them my way? :) I love exploring this stuff.

I made the recent Baby Beet Tarte Tartin and when I turned it out, I was amazed by how adorable it was (and tasty too). I don't have kids at home, but I wondered if something this cute would convince kids to try beets. Also, I learn something new each week from your features. When I made some egg salad a few minutes ago, I used a potato masher on the eggs as suggested and it worked great!

It's worth a try on the kid appeal! Although they might be more into the Carrot Hummus...

Yes, the fishy taste the chatter is complaining about is probably the TJ fish. I've experienced this many times. At the risk of infuriating loyal Trader Joers here, I have to add that I personally believe TJ's reputation for quality is entirely due to their very slick marketing. I've been burned on quality too many times there (not a single location, I'm talking TJs on both coasts and in between).

Interesting. In your experience, does this cut across all species of fish? Or just particular ones?

Question for Dave if available-I'm purchasing a lovely carafe for a special couple off of their wedding registry and was thinking I'd like to include a bottle of red wine-something special and wedding gift worthy, but not crazy expensive-any recommendations? thanks so much in advance!

Dave says:

That implies a wine worth decanting - perhaps a vintage Port that could be a fitting end to one of their first dinner parties? These can be pricey ($50-$100 or more, especially for older ones). Another idea might be an older Bordeaux, though obviously not one of the top ones because those are definitely crazy-expensive.

 

You might even think local - a bottle of RdV from Virginia would cost you about $90 and a nice trip to the winery. Easier to find - at least in some stores in Virginia - would be any reds from Boxwood, Glen Manor or Linden Vineyards. Barboursville's Octagon is priced around $50 and is quite good. The 2010, which will be released at the winery in July and in distribution in August (if I remember correctly - see my column from February!) won the Virginia Governor's Cup this year, and is the best Octagon yet. Earlier ones are no slouches though and will have the advantage of bottle age.

 

A local wine might be especially nice if the happy couple are not from this area. You can give them a bottle of Virginia's finest and offer them the chance for more when they come to visit.

I am making some infused olive oil for dipping for dinner tomorrow night with friends. I put some fresh rosemary and two bulbs of roasted elephant garlic in a big bowl with the olive oil last night, and sealed it. I don't want to completely overpower the oil, but still want the flavor to be strong. Should I take out the rosemary and garlic tonight, or just the garlic? Or just continue to let it infuse until dinner time tomorrow?

Infusing olive oil is a tricky business. I trust you read up on the subject before you started the project. The risk of botulism is real and should not be taken lightly. Our own Jane Touzalin addressed this topic a couple of years ago. Take a look.

Both of those bread suggestions are great, but if ypu can look further afield, the Post published a superb tuscan pine nut and rosemary shortbread recipe in 2009. Great use for leftover rosemary.

Thanks for the reminder!

 

Three basic and pretty much fool-proof strategies: 1. Eat lean protein and veggies. Cut back as much as possible on sweets (completely, if you can). Limit carbs, and make sure any carbs you do eat are whole grains. 2. Track your calories for a few days, if you are trying to lose weight. It is often eye-opening to see how it all adds up! 3. Exercise. This one is non-negotiable and you have to be religious about it.

I don't know if it's a Wisconsin thing or a northern European thing, but my mom cuts up radishes and mixes them into cottage cheese, along with some green onions. Somehow this is a delicious combination and the only reason I ever ate red radishes as a kid!

Kim O'Donnel gave us this recipe, and the OP who has too many radishes might like to try it: Slice radishes thinly (I use a cheap mandoline), mix with lime juice, minced jalapeno to taste, chopped cilantro, and a little olive oil. (I may be leaving something out.) I love it on its own, but it's a great accompaniment for lots of things instead of a relish.

I used to enjoy Kraft Mayonnaise, but these days I try to avoid eggs. So I've been experimenting by replacing mayo with cream cheese in, say, tuna salads. Still, the miss the taste of Kraft. Is there anyway to create a mayo product, without eggs? P.S. I've tried the store egg-less products and haven't been able to acquire a taste for them.

Try David Leite's Milk Mayonnaise. Fabulous stuff.

Someone gave me this same kind of whiskey as a gift, and I have just used it as a substitution for vanilla extract in many baking recipes that would benefit from a bit of a boozey-maple kick.

Love it. And how about over a spicy ginger ice cream, with crystallized ginger on top?

excited to try this. I have been collecting scraps since I wrote in a few weeks ago asking about how to do this. I didn't know you could use the onion paper...next time. Also, I am a little worried that my scraps might not be neutral enough, there's fennel tops, dill and mint in there. Hopefully it works out!

Great! I think the fennel tops and dill might be nice in Scrappy Vegetable Broth, but mint? Hmm. If I were you, I'd pick those out before making it. (Although if it's not very much, you'll probably be fine.)

First, thanks for the universe of shrimp slideshow! I always have a big bag of frozen raw shrimp in the freezer so it's great to have an arsenal of recipes. Second, I have a question about putting things in the garbage disposal. I've heard both sides of the argument where on one hand people say you should put egg shells in there to help "sharpen" the blades, or lemon to have your kitchen smell nice, and the other hand people saying at best it doesn't do anything and at worst you're ruining the blades. I was hoping the gang could provide the final verdict. Or maybe, does it depend on your disposal?

You are welcome (ace shrimpaholic here). No eggshells. You can do it, but the people who sell disposals have told me it's a no-no. 

I'm looking for a good one, there are so many out there, can you suggest your favorites to me? thanks!

Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" is a classic. And her newer "Vegetable Literacy" is gorgeous. I'm also enamored of the recent "River Cottage Veg," and "Plenty" is a keeper.

There's many more I'd recommend: "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen" by Jack Bishop; "Vegetarian" by Alice Hart; "Herbivoracious" by Michael Natkin; "World Vegetarian" by Madhur Jaffrey. Mollie Katzen's collection (watch for her next book, "The Heart of the Plate," which looks stunning).

I ordered a quarter of a pound of vanilla beans (the smallest amount offered from the website I purchased from!), and tomorrow afternoon I am going to have no fewer than thirty beans sitting on my porch with little idea what to do with them! I was planning to make vanilla extract and a couple of beans for a cake, but what are some exciting and innovative things I can do with all my beans?

Just the other day Joe was waxing poetic about this Strawberry Vanilla Jam. It uses 12 vanilla beans, so that should help put a dent in your supply.

Strawberry Vanilla Jam

We have some other recipes that you might find intriguing. None use massive quantities of beans, but you probably don't need to be in a huge rush, so you can gradually work your way through them.

Vanilla Pork Chops With Grilled Peach and Fennel Salad

Vanilla Pork Chops With Grilled Peach and Fennel Salad

Nectarines in Vanilla Wine Syrup

Blancmange

Blancmange

Curried Duck With Vanilla

Curried Duck With Vanilla

Grilled Shrimp and Pineapple Salad With Sauteed Vanilla Bean

Grilled Shrimp and Pineapple Salad With Sauteed Vanilla Bean

Hibiscus-Vanilla Liqueur

Hibiscus-Vanilla Liqueur

I don't buy their fish, but I am a HUGE fan and ardent supporter of the store and its products. And if you are unhappy with anything, you can bring it back for a full refund. Their frozen vegetables made me a convert and get me through winter time. Their nuts and dried fruits can't be beat. And the prices are amazing.

My grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes over a decade ago and one of the things she did soon after her diagnosis was meet once or twice with the nutritionist on staff at the local hospital. She's recommended this to many other people - whether someone on staff at a local hospital or in the D.C. area, there are licensed nutritionists outside of the hospital - because she felt that was the most valuable information she got for managing what she could eat, information about managing her diabetes, additional reputable sources for recipes (particularly which ones had edible food and which ones weren't worth the time), etc. Would probably work well for both the person transitioning to cooking for diabetes and the person trying to lower their cholesterol.

Slice young eggplant into the thinnest possible rounds -- so there's as little as possible actual eggplant! -- then dredge in flour, dip in beer batter, and fry. Works for zucchini-haters as well.

I have buckwheat honey because I enjoy the stronger flavor, but have never cooked with it before. Given that buckwheat honey is black, how hard is it to burn the orange and honey glazed chicken?

It's pretty difficult to burn; you can watch within minutes as the sauce in the pan reduces to a glaze. Once the chicken goes back in and gets coated, it's up to you as to when to pull the pan off the heat. 

I think the Free Range staff have referred to a couple of books with good ice cream recipes. What are their titles? A friend recently got an ice cream maker so I thought I would get a book and highlight the ones I want to taste!

Haha, the gift that keeps on giving. Two good ones are "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" by Jeni Britton Bauer and "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz.

And, hey, make sure you check out the July 3 Food section. We have a bunch of ice cream content in the works!

You guys suggested herb salt for my Thai Basil and that's the plan, but didn't answer the question, how long will it keep? I've been googling and some people say a couple of months and others say a year. Which one is it.

If you really get it super dry, it'll definitely last a year, probably longer -- might not be as potent, but certainly not bad.

Hi Joe and Friends! I am totally craving a fresh dark pumpernickel and I think I'm going to have to satisfy my urge tonight! I imagine the bakery at Whole Foods would have something, but is there somewhere in The District (hopefully near Dupont) that is slipping my mind at the moment? Thanks - I can't wait!

Lyon Bakery has one of the better pumpernickel breads in town. It's the one Jamie Stachowski uses at his deli and market in Georgetown. You can order it fresh from Lyon at 202.484.2100 and they will ship it to either Union Market or Union Station for you to pick up. You can also get it at Stachowski's Deli and Market for between $5.50 and $6.50.

I saw your mushroom broth recipe came from the upcomng Vedge cookbook! I loooooove that restaurant, and I've already pre-ordered a copy. Care to give more of a sneak peak of what you thought?? I also loved the cooking they did at the former restaurant, Horizons. Planing on picking up those books sometime if I can.

Well, I'm a huge fan of the restaurant, too. So much so that I include them in an essay on vegetarian dining in my next book; included them in a piece on Philly dining for Post Travel; and said yes when they asked me to write the foreword for the book. I'll probably write more about the cookbook once it's out -- it's looking like September pub date. But the recipes look great -- lots of stuff from the restaurant, but made accessible for the home cook.

I understand if it would disrupt the flow of the chat to post this, but I thought it was a good way to contact the Food section with some local food news. I'm Heidi Splete, of Chevy Chase, and I want to invite the foodies of the greater DC area (and beyond) to vote my Peanut Butter Layer Brownies to the finals of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest at www.bakeoff.com. Thank you so much in advance! I'm so excited to be a semifinalist! I have been entering recipes since my college days!

Congrats!

Loved the article today on vegetable broth. We've been using the freeze the ends until they're need approach for a while now. I also like to add beet skin or stems for a bit of color and apple or pear peelings and core for some sweetness.

Fun! Thanks much.

I've never seen any website that requires you to buy half a pound. At King Arthur Flour it's by the two beans at a time in a jar. And very nice beans they are too.

Do commercial vegetable stocks add a thickening agent? I feel like they are always thicker than chicken stock. Not to mention they just taste bad.

I do see cornstarch listed as an ingredient in some, so that would certainly thicken.

How thin should this be sliced. In the paper, the pieces seem to be pretty thick. Are you talking the thinness of a Virginia cured ham slice?

     You don't want the beef shredded, as a lot of folks prefer their ham. You don't even want it paper thin. Rather, you want it a little meaty. 

     It is extremely to tell from a photo. But I agree, it appears that the beef slices are fairly thick in the picture. I don't know if the beef for the photo was cut to show better in a picture or if the purveyor simply cut it that way for some reason, but my experience is that it is cut a little  thinner than that. 

     Again, though, be careful. You don't want any of your finger in the sammie.

We did cut it a bit thicker than what I've been served at the Balto Farmers Market (at 7 am, such a breakfast). Mea culpa! Might have been because we were simultaneously snacking....

I've had bad frozen fish from TJs at least three times. I will only now buy packaged foods from there.

For why OP thought the tilapia wasn't mild, I'm leaning toward overcooked. Zucchini slices would take longer to cook in a foil packet than the fish, so if the squash was done, the fish would be overcooked. Or maybe how long it took to thaw? Generally, fish from my Trader Joe is pretty good, but you never know what happened to it before you get it home.

Yes, the fish could be off for any number of reasons, and bad handling on the consumer end is one of them.

I got an email this morning with Capitol Deal for the WaPo wine club. Do you know who actually picks those wines, and how? Do any of you get it, or get to taste the monthly samples?

The Food section isn't involved; the company is working with a company that puts these together, and they're responsible for the picking of the wines. Coincidentally, there's a tasting today for Post employees -- I might try to hit that!

For the other chatter: My dessert island vegetarian cookbook is Passionate Vegetarian.

Yep, Crescent Dragonwagon. Love her stuff. Thanks for adding to the list! (And, btw, love the idea of a "dessert island." Must go there.)

I really enjoyed today's summer wine suggestions. Do any of you (or readers) have similar suggestions for brands that are commonly stocked in grocery stores (Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joes) in the District? I'm looking to branch out in my wine selection but rarely plan ahead to make a special trip to a wine or liquor store. Bonus points for roses or whites under $15.

Dave says:

For rosé try La Vielle Ferme from France or El Coto from Spain. Good US brands are Woodbridge and Columbia Crest. You should also be able to find some nice ones from Chile - Cousino - and Argentina - Alamos, Maipe. 

I've been making more broth since the spring hit, what with the spring onion tops, fresh garlic stalks, and what not from what I've used from the farmers market being very plentiful. This past week I had more than a gallon in the fridge. About a week after I made it I extended one batch by bringing it to a boil for 10 minutes. At least I think I extended it (I'm not sick yet!). Is a 10 minute boil long enough to be safe? Also, if I'm going to do this, should I wait less than a week? Thank you!

I think it's fine for up to a week in the fridge. No longer, though. Better to get in the habit of immediately cooling, freezing in ice cube trays, and storing those in freezer bags.

Juice and strain them; the juice stores well in glass jars fridge for several weeks. Heavenly for making homemade frozen yogurt or ice cream, especially in fresh-peach season later in the summer (Melba-type dessert).

1. add to pancake or french toast batter, 2. make a whiskey cream sauce to spread over everything in sight, including but not limited to bread pudding and french toast, 3. put it into a candy form, like homemade caramels.

Because the trees that are bred for their blossoms aren't bred for superior fruit. Plus, can you imagine the mess at the Tidal Basin if all that fruit started falling on the ground (not to mention the pandemonium of those who come to try to pick free fruit from the trees)?

Absolutely -- thanks for making the distinction between the trees and the fruit, which we've done here before. But the OP's point remains: More people could be growing sour cherry trees in their yards.

Was thrilled to see broth article today as I only recently figured out that the boxed kind I've been buying tastes a lot like dirty water. My question: I've got a stockpile of these broth boxes, so now that I know how easy it is to make it at home, can I salvage the boxed stuff by using it in place of water in Joe's recipes? I'd hate to just throw it out, but it really does need improvement.

Sure! You can use scraps to doctor it up.

While you certainly can buy vanilla beans in jars of one or two beans, it's very expensive. There are several online sources, but my favorite is beanilla.com (NAYY), where you can buy just a few or tons. Their beans are very good.

Definitely fishy salmon, which I tried several times in an effort to eat more fish on the cheap. It was never good but at least it was cheap. I tried one white flesh fish as well but forget what kind. Eventually I got tired of the poor quality and economized in different ways but spent the money elsewhere for good fish (not TJs)!

Well, there are always two sides (or more) to every story. I wouldn't take one this person's experiences to immediately cast aspersions on TJ's fish program. Any other people care to chime in on TJ's fish?

I eat quinoa for breakfast most mornings. It's quick, easy and nutritious. But I use far less time -- and water -- than Joe suggests. Instead, I boil two cups of water, flavor it with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, ginger, or cloves (whatever I find first in the spice cupboard), then pour in one cup of quinoa. I reduce the heat to simmer and in about 12 minutes, voila! The water is absorbed, and the quinoa is done, or at least done enough for me. I bring this to work with me at the beginning of the week, so it definitely travels well. This amount lasts me three or four days. I eat it with dried cranberries, follow it up with a banana, and that holds me until lunchtime.

If it works for you and you like it, that's the most important thing!

I very much enjoy the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Dessert Cookbook ($8.57 on Amazon). The question got me thinking about the Butter Pecan frozen in my freezer right now... The technique in that recipe requires sauteing a cup of pecan halves in a stick of butter with some salt, straining off the pecans, cooling the nuts and now pecan flavored browned butter, and incorporating the butter into the uncooked ice cream base, then the nuts once it is soft serve consistency. When I first tried it, angels sang!

turn into "noodles"? I've made zucchini noodles with a light steam in the microwave and those were tasty alternative to noodles with gluten. What other veggies should I try? Carrots? Thanks

Sure. Carrots, asparagus, yellow squash.

We love to cook. We are in the process of buying a house that is great in many ways but on the down side has a slightly smaller kitchen than we were hoping for. However, the previous owners didn't really effectively utilize the space they did have, so we know more can be done and are planning to remodel to give us more cabinet and counter space. As cooks yourselves, do you have any tips for maximizing functionality in a small kitchen? If you had the chance to remodel your own kitchen, what would be your must-have features?

My kitchen is criminally small; in fact, I commandeered the back one-third of the adjoining garage and remodeled it into pantry space using Metro (steel) shelving. I'd say try to keep from loading up the walls of  with cabinets -- at least where you'll be facing them; think about stacking dishes in drawers fitted with pegs; an eat-in space is nice so lots of times people bust through to the dining room and open things up that way. The so-called "work triangle" of stove-fridge-sink" is not sacrosanct. A single big, deep sink is something you'll always be grateful for.  Since you love to cook, you might have a stove/range in mind -- so design around that feature. We must, as a nation, move beyond the Granite Countertop. 

Can the paste be frozen? It sounds as though it would be too salty, but you said to use the exact amount to get the right consistency.

Yep, you can freeze it in ice cube trays without salt. No curing needed that way.

Over-purchased at the grocery store before I remembered that I wouldn't have an opportunity to eat at home again until next week. Can I save the chinese eggplant I bought? Is it possible to freeze it? Should I cook it beforehand?

Yes -- roast until collapsed peel, and freeze the pulp. Then use to make baba ghanouj or another puree.

As a vegetarian for over twenty years, I would say hands down Crescent Dragonwagon's Passionate Vegetarian. A ton of options, always delicious. Some are more time consuming than others but yummy!! I would also suggest that you check out several from your local library to try out and see if you like the style, recipes, etc before you buy. Good luck!

I'm going camping this weekend and will have access to a fire pit--nothing else. There's a grocery store a few miles away. No real food restrictions, but we're all trying to eat healthier. Any yummy options? My fallback is burgers and dogs. Although that's great and I'm happy to eat them, I'm looking for something a little more...interesting.

 

How about kebabs, both meat and veggie? You could skewer and marinade them ahead of time, put them in a bag and on ice for the trip, then place them over the fire when needed. Simple and tasty. Here are a number of kebab recipes from our recipe database.

Please help! We have approximately 20 minutes to get dinner on the table once we get home from work for ourselves and toddler. We're in such a rut - keep making things like tacos, burgers, spaghetti, pork tenderloin (which I am SO tired of). Any suggestions on quick, interesting week night meals...or resources on where to find good recipes? I keep googling recipes and getting ho-hum results. Every meal MUST include meat of some sort, of my husband will whine about it. Bonus points if it can be done on the grill!

     One of my summer faves is Italian (or, really, any) sausage on the grill. Takes all of about 10 minutes, and you can also grill the green peppers and onions too. Makes a great sandwich. 

       I made this the other night and grilled some brocoli rabe as well, adding a little of the rabe to the peppers and onions and saving a good amount of the rabe for a side dish later. 

        You could also grill a ham steak very briefly (about 2 minutes on each side), perhaps with a side of grilled corn on the cob. 

         A grilled chicken breast usually takes no more than about 15 minutes. (You can marinade it in olive oil and lemon for an hour or so, or put a dry rub on it just before cooking.) Same with fish filets. 

        Oh, and cook your entire dinner out there. Veggies go great on the grill. 

And don't forget Bonnie's weekly Dinner in Minutes recipe. She has done Dinner in 20 Minutes and even Dinner in 15 Minutes.

A new one is published every day. Are there that many new things under the sun? Why do I need a 6th thai cookbook? Or a 10th vegetarian comprehensive book?

Only you know what you need and you don't -- and what you want! If you're looking for inspiration, a new cookbook can be just the ticket. If you're not, if you're perfectly happy cooking what you cook, then there's your answer, right? I always like seeing what other cooks are coming up with: combinations I hadn't necessarily imagined, tips and techniques that make cooking quicker, or easier, or more effective. The carrot hummus recipe from "River Cottage Veg" is a good example. The combination of spices and a little OJ makes it sing, and I never would've thought of that on my own. (I don't think.)

I'd love to find a really good honey to use to pair with cheeses, but am not sure where to start. I don't want to go crazy spending money on it, and also don't want to waste money on so-so ones. Do you have any brands like you like that help your cheese shine?

Not brands so much as I'm enjoying the wealth of local honeys available at the farmers market these days -- although I do have to say that on an Umbrian adventure some years ago, we got hooked on lime tree honey (tiglio) and I've had the brand that's on Amazon. It doesn't taste like any other honey I've had, and it's pretty darn fabulous.

 

Here are a few pairing ideas are from the same source as the Dinner in Minutes recipe this week: 

*Lemon blossom honey pairs well with soft, fresh goat cheese.

*Orange blossom or blackberry honey goes with fresh berries.

*Sunflower, avocado or tupelo honey's better against a plain background of yogurt or cottage cheese.

*Chestnut honey likes to hang with blue cheeses. 

Can you point me at a good recipe? I have chicken, veggies, and rice noodles. I want to make a simple peanut sauce to go with them. But I have no curry paste. Plenty of PB, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, coconut milk... Thoughts?

You can look at the sauces in these recipes for Chicken Sate With Peanut SauceChicken Stir-Fry With Mango and Peanut Sauce and Peanut Noodles.

Love your chats. I was wondering if you would be able to provide the recipe for the Brussels Sprouts served at Oyamel. I have tried recreating it at home but haven't had any luck with it. Thanks

I'll check with Jose Andres's team and see if they're willing to share it.

Thanks for link to article....Do any of you know what Barton Seaver is up to now? Saw him at last year's Cville Book Festival and he was finishing up a TV series, but haven't seen anything about him recently. Miss his cooking!

Yes, I do know. Seaver left D.C. to lead the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Harvard School of Public Health. Details here.

I also noticed how thick cut it seemed to be. Growing up in Columbia, we used to go to the Canopy on Rt 40 near Chatham Mall all the time for pit beef or get it at Boog Powell's at Camden Yards. It was always sliced very thin, I think to compensate for coming from a tough cut of meat not cooked in a tenderizing fashion. From making it at home, I definitely recommend slicing on the thinner side, piled high with a tomatoey vinegary bbq sauce or horseradish paste on a toasted kaiser. mmmmmmm

      Canopy on Route 4o near Chatham Mall, eh? Wonder if it's still around. 

 

I second kebabs Do you have a dutch oven? If so you can make so many things in that from baked beans to pineapple upside down cakes.

Here are some things we have done to make kitchens seem bigger: 1. Make a pantry elsewhere. We have a small pantry in the kitchen, but a larger one in the basement where we store most of our canned goods and dry goods. 2. Cook elsewhere. we try to grill outside as much as we can all year. By cooking outside, you just have to do the prep work inside. 3. A big sink is more important than counter space. Having a sink both wide enough and deep enough to hold big pots really helps with the space. 4. Avoid unitaskers. This is from Alton Brown. But there is almost nothing you need that can only do 1 task. It is better to have a few high quality tools, than many tools only capable of doing 1 thing.

Don't forget your cast iron skillet.

Super natural every day from the author of the blog 101cookbooks- such a good cookbook!

Word. Yes.

If you're still going to be ovo-lacto (i.e., eat dairy and eggs) and are willing to eat meat substitutes, then the late Linda (Mrs. Paul) McCartney's cookbooks have some tasty recipes.

I had this problem too, big-time. First I seasoned it like a cast-iron frying pan. Grease well (I use butter), then spray with Pam, then coat with flour. Whole wheat, although white would be better for some cakes. Pretty heavy-handed, but I have never had a problem since...

Thanks for following up! Just one of the many reasons why we love our Free Range chatters. 

I just got out of a meeting and look forward to scrolling through the chat as I do every week. I wanted to say this chat (and the Food section in general) led me to sign up for the digital subscription without hesitation, because y'all are wonderful and this community is great! (and this is for someone who tried every trick in the book to get around the NYT paywall!)

Thanks so much -- glad you think we're worth it!

I've tried the swordfish, mahi-mahi, and cod. They were no better or worse than any frozen fish. Okay in a highly flavored fish soup, not okay cooked in ways that exposed the taste moer Frozen fish is what it is. Loss of quality is inevitable. Why do you think they pave fish sticks with all that crust? You have to taste SOMETHING in there.

The thing is, freezing fish has become so sophisticated. They often flash-freeze them right on the boat. Chefs and fishmongers will tell you that there is very little diminishment with such fish. (Of course, your fishmonger also has to know how to thaw the fish properly.)

I LOVE Frozen Raspberries. Since they have the opening in the center, they're not hard like blackberries. I eat them like candy. Also, I throw some frozen raspberries (or blackberries) on the bottom of my Key Lime Pie, it make a tasty sweet surprise (they must be frozen or else the bottom of the pie will be goo.)

Fire pits do a fine job of cooking individual servings of aluminum foil packets of lean protein, onion slices, possibly citrus slices, and some nice farmers' market green (double layer set to the side of the grey coals). If you are avoiding aluminum foil, a dutch oven can boil up pasta or stews, make hot dish washing water, morning coffee water for the stainless steel coffee press, and even bake biscuits. Have a wonderful time!

I loved the article on gin & tonics. I'm a Bombay man myself (sapphire for martinis; regular for G&T). Any thoughts on what might pair with Hendricks?

Ah, Hendricks. That's a really pretty gin. You might start out playing with Fever Tree? And I'd consider the various aromatics in the gin when deciding on garnishes -- the cuke and the roses. I find Hendricks to be on the more delicate/elegant side of gins (at least, it's not a HUGE juniper nose-punch), so I don't think you'd want to overwhelm it, which is where I found some of the syrups and the recommended ratios get a little tricky -- some of the instrux called for what seemed to be a bit too much syrup to me. Adam Bernbach in all his wisdom suggested that, when fiddling with the tonics, start with smaller amounts and build to a taste you like.  Hope that helps!

Tossed left over chickpeas from our local kabob place on today's salad and had the best meal of the week. Any good recipes so I could make them at home - hopefully with less oil than I see floating in my carry out container. Thanks

I have two recipes, one a raspberry buttermilk cake and a vanilla blueberry cake. Every time I make them the berries sink to the bottom. I have dusted the berries with flour, I have scattered them on top-- they still sink. Both batters are thick. What am I doing wrong?

Well, sunken berries isn't the worst thing, really. The flour thing doesn't matter so much with thick batters; tends to provide a solution for thinner batters. You might try dropping the berries into the surface of the batter once it's spread evenly in the pan; the cake will rise around them. (There is enough leavener in your batter, yes?) Or you could try freezing the blueberries first -- I don't understand the science behind that phenomenon but I know it's worked for me. 

Well, you've strained us and discarded the solids, and cooled us to use or store as needed, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Carrie and Jim for helping us answer them. Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about cooking with buckwheat honey will get "Taste of Honey," and the one who asked about making the most of a small kitchen will get "The Washington Post Cookbook." Send your mailing address to Becky at becky.krystal@washpost.com, and we'll get them to you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, drinking and reading.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, new Spirits columnist Carrie Allan and editorial aide Becky Krystal.
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