Free Range on Food: Summer picnics and desserts, cooking with beans, tackling lengthy recipes

Jun 27, 2012


Still working on your Independence Day plans? We have picnic suggestions and more.
Past Free Range on Food chats

So much going on today! Welcome to Free Range, where we speak the language of food.  In the house:  Virginia Willis and her picnic prowess; David Hagedorn and his Process way of making a 6-inch cake with 5 components; Joe Yonan and Crescent Dragonwagon, who both know from beans;  plus Tim Carman, Jane Touzalin; Becky Krystal; Jim Shahin and maybe  Jason Wilson, too.

 

In honor of the great Nora Ephron, who died yesterday at age 71, and, according to the New York Times, ended her "what I'll miss most list" with one word -- "pie" -- we'll award prizes to two chatters with the best memories of her and her work.  They are: a copy of "Jeffrey Saad's Global Kitchen" (source of the Dinner in Minutes recipe) and Crescent's "Bean by Bean" of course! We'll announce two winners at the end of the hour. Are you ready? We are.

We have a large amount of blackberries and wild raspberries from the garden. I am interested in making jam or preserves but I don't want to go through the trouble to can it. I have seen mentions of freezer jam. Do you have a recipe to share for that? Thanks!

We have a trio of quick-cooking freezer jams using a variety of fruits in our Recipe Finder. Check them out!

In addition, if you use commercial pectin, in the boxes there are plenty of recipes for freezer jam. (But, I have to say, when you get into the groove, canning is not that much trouble. Plus, you have gifts, something that looks beautiful on the shelf and will not spoil if the power goes out. Just sayin,...)

Not to dissuade you from jam-making -- it's one of my favorite pastimes -- but I've also been playing around with berry sorbet recently. Pretty amazing if you have amazing fruit. 2 pounds of fruit, start with 2/3 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of a fruity liqueur (framboise would be great with raspberries, natch), taste and see if you'd like it sweeter or add lemon juice to make it tarter, and freeze in an ice cream maker. Oh, you can strain it if you don't want the seeds, but I confess to never ever doing that with berries. 

Food was central in her writing. Like Laurie Colwin, she saw the humor, irony, and little tragedies and triumphs in daily life, and the enormous role played by what we ate. It's too easy to underestimate a writer like that; she was always speaking directly to you, a rare gift. Started reading her as a teenager and always appreciated that she was there ahead of me in life's stages. So grateful she made Julia and Julia.

It's a great loss indeed.

 

If you want to understand how gracious and kind Nora Ephron was, just read Ed Levine's essay on Serious Eats today. It's a moving tribute to one of America's great auteurs, a woman who could seem to do everything and do it well.

I am so sorry I won't get to check out today's chat until later. Crescent Dragonwagon's Soup and Bread cookbook became my soup bible. Her Cuban Black Bean Soup is an absolute favorite for me and my family and friends. I have created countless bean soups since buying this cookbook and always use her Black Bean method of cooking onions, garlic, etc. separately in olive oil (a lot of oil!) and adding during the last 20 minutes or so of bean cooking. I also started ordering all my beans from Rancho Gordo (sounds like Joe does too) and they make any bean recipe even more outstanding.

 

Thank you, Crescent Dragonwagon. You always receive credit for the Black Bean Soup when I'm complimented.

Oh boy! THANK YOU! Yeah, I love that soup... it has been, I think, in every single one of my books. So increduible simple and so delicious. Ned and I served it as part of our wedding brunch! And, Rancho Gordo *rocks*.

Yep, I'm a Steve Sando devotee -- not to mention a Crescent Dragonwagon devotee, too! I still get beans from there, when I'm not cooking up the beans my sister and brother-in-law grow. I know Crescent grows a lot of her own, too...

Thank you so much for the thoughtful piece about making a Momofuku layer cake! I've made Christina Tosi's corn cookies before (which are insanely good) and I'm interested in attempting one of those cakes. Your piece actually gave me inspiration for something else I'm now planning to make this weekend: a baked Alaska with cereal milk ice cream (I'm thinking it will Cinnamon Toast Crunch) on top of browned butter cake.

You know what, I think that corn cookie is the best cookie I've ever tasted. That was the first thing I made from Tosi's cookbook, but I couldn't find freeze-dried corn that day. (And you know I didn't want to wait to receive them by mail.) So I tried to make them with cornnuts. Awful. Not completely disgusting (meaning I still managed to eat a few of them), but definitely not the same. The freeze-dried corn makes all the difference.

Your baked Alaska sounds terrific. Let us know how it turns out. (I have Tosi's grasshopper pie on my radar.)

I am resubmitting my question to find out where to buy the WaPo Beer Madness winner this year. I want to make that Coconut Porter cake and have not been able to find it anywhere! I live in MoCO, so I haven't even checked there since I'm pretty certain I won't find it. But I work downtown and have checked several local shops, including Bell, to no avail. Even requesting it to be brought in has not surfaced it yet. Also checked both Whole Foods, which usually does carry Maui Brewing Co, but not the Coconut Porter. That cake is on my short list to make for the 4th--please help a gal out?

Small brewery, big demand! It's going to be a haul for you, but we just tracked down a case of it last week at Planet Wine in Alexandria.  Whole Foods Markets do carry but have been out, out, out of it.

Absolutely no idea what to do with them, but heard they have great health benefits. Help!

First off, ALL beans have great health benefits and great lasciviously good eating benefits. Anasazis taste a little like pintos... great in chili, in soup, or, for first time use, to experience their anaszaitude, cook them very simply and taste them plain. Then marinate and use in a salad. I often do them in a bean soup with sweet potatoes; a fruit based salsa as an accomp.

A group of us girls went to the Mandarin Oriental for high tea over the weekend and aside from their tiramisu cake, the best thing treat they had to offer was a rich egg salad wrapped in a tortilla. I thought if anyone had the connections to get the recipe for that egg salad it might be you guys.

 I called Eric Ziebold to see if he'd cough up the recipe for us. But alas, he's not responsible for the egg salad. That falls on the hotel and Chef Anupam, who is supposed to give me a call later.

 

Stay tuned.

Joe's article on beans is timely! I have a pantry shelf full of Rancho Gordo beans of all varieties (white, red, even lilac) but I usually use them in soups and stews which don't feel very summery. I'm also not a fan of cold bean salads. Besides baked beans, what are some good warm bean recipes for the summer?

Well, while there are 'heavy' bean soups there are also vegetable-rich ones like minestrone, which is MADE for late summer...think about it. Base of dred cooked beans (usually cranberry or canellini) , but loads of tomatoes, sauteeed onion, garlic, green beans, squash, basil out the wazoo... You can also slightly warm a bean puree in gratin dish (say, white beans with garlic,olive oil, rosemary)  and serve it as a spread... as is, or sprinkle with a little chevre or feta and gratinee it. Nice crisps of one sort another a go with...

Hey, Jim, I just made andouille from Michael Ruhlman's book, Charcuterie. It came out great, but not like the andouille I've had in Louisiana. I'm going to try a new recipe from another writer. Any thoughts?

       Ruhlman's book is a go-to for far more than just standard charcuterie. He's good on smoking, too. But as I have found with lots of cookbook writers, even those specializing in barbecue, a book, even a good one, is often just a basis for further exploration. 

      That, I think, is the case here. Use what you can from Ruhlman's (or any writer's) book, then tweak to what you recall, prefer, or know. 

I have a quart bag of frozen peaches that I treated with fruit fresh last summer/fall and froze. Its time to use them up. Suggestions for what to do with the peaches? Should I just make a crisps with them since that's what my family likes? or something else (note: must be gluten-free or easily convertible to gluten-free) Thanks!

For Jim - is there a way to smoke chickpeas - I don't want to start from scratch and soak, but can I use canned chick peas, rinsed then smoke them somehow???

      Yes, you can use canned chickpeas. Most folks do. 

      As for smoking them, me, I use smoked garlic to flavor chickpea dishes, such as hummus. (Speaking of hummus, did you know that they recently had a big chickpea gathering in Beirut to celebrate the chickpea harvest, with lots of, shall we say, unconventional dishes - chickpea frosting on chocolate cake, anyone?)

      You can smoke chickpeas by simply setting them in a vegetable basket or, with their water, in a pot, setting on the grate away from the fire (indirect heat) and adding a handful of hardwood chips to smoke for about 10 minutes or so. I'd recommend something light, like applewood. But if you like a stronger smoke, go with cherry or pecan.

I'm confused. The note for the recipe says not to use shredded cheese, but the recipe has four cups of cheese. Do you mean don't buy pre-shredded cheese?

Yep, we meant buy a block of cheese and shred it yourself. The already-shredded kind can have stuff on it that keeps it from sticking together. We'll add a note to the headnote of that recipe online, thanks!

I can't remember where I read this, but I saw an article that mentioned that hot potatoes are harder to digest and "healthier" when they've cooled. That seems ridiculous to me, but is there any sense in that?

I've not heard that potatoes are "healthier" when they're cooled, but according to this exhaustive document on the potoato's chemical structure and its best cooking methods, some people find boiled potatoes difficult to digest.

Thanks to Joe for the article on beans. My legume cooking tends mostly towards lentil soup and black bean chilis, but I enjoy beans of all types. I was surprised that he said that he had not eaten beans for desert. One of the most popular sweets in Japan is called an or red bean paste, a paste made of azuki beans and sugar. The bean paste is usually served as the stuffing inside buns, rice cakes, or taiyaki (pancakes usually cooked in molds shaped like fish). I have seen some good recipes in Japanese cookbooks.

Hi, there --- recipe for sweet bean paste in Bean by Bean, as well as a pretty rockin' red bean ice cream. Also, chick pea flour is a magical ingredient to bake with --- the Rose of Persia Cake in BbB is fairly incredible. But Joe's mistaken --- if he's ever eaten a peanut butter cookie, he's eaten beans for dessert. Peanuts are beans!

Oh, I've had sweets made with beans. Very fun -- loved them on my trip to Japan. What I said was I haven't made bean desserts here in Maine... but now I must, mustn't I?

My boyfriend invited 6 people to our house for the 4th of July. Normally, I love hosting but I'm a little worn down energy-wise and also don't have a lot of funds to put out my usual food spread that people have come to expect when they come over. I was thinking of making some stuffed mushrooms and a "fruit pizza" and calling it a day. Even though 8 isn't a crowd, are there any foods that are relatively easy and cheap to make for a small group? Or a polite way to say "we're not serving a buffet, so either bring something or eat beforehand"?

Honeychile, think BEANS! Really! Not just because I wrote a book about them! Easy, inexpensive, best way to fill many people for not much money. Don't mess with fussy stuffed mushrooms. Make a big pot of chili and then farm out the fixins --- ask one rfriend to bring grated cheese, another cornbread or tortillas, another guac, and so on. As a bonus: most beans (except chickpeas, lentils, and soy) are native Americans and perfect for fourth of July. 

No sugar in this recipe?

Big yikes - my bad. There is a 1/2 cup of sugar in the Individual Cobblers recipe. I am so sorry for the error. They are really good and I hope you try them! Bon Appetit, Y'all! (The corrected recipe's online; give it a few minutes to re-load. Sugar goes in right after the milk.)

Let me add, though, that the cobblers tasted perfectly good even though the tester didn't add any sugar! A little sugar, however, might have made ours a little more golden brown on top, which is desirable.

What is with this type sugar lately. I finally found a sugar from one store that doesn't turn to muck by the end of the week. I make snack cakes for my husband using biscuit pans, then put frosting on top. No matter what I do it turns to gooey muck. I've been doing this for almost 40 years. It isn't me who changed. Are they using the sugar to cut the street stuff? After all despite any protests to the contrary most of the big corporations have cashed in and bent to the drug trade. Thanks Mary R

What brand are you using?

Can I make a suggestion for the online Food page? Would it be possible for you to add a full list of all new recipes published in that issue? Often, I am only able to scan the page on Wednesday mornings; I never have time to read every article. And currently, individual recipes are scattered throughout the page, and I'm never sure if I'm seeing all of them. You have wonderful writers, but your new and inspiring recipes are what bring me back each week. Thanks for considering this!

We appreciate your interest! And your good taste. The list is there. Four of the recipes are in the "Featured" slot near the top, but if you scroll down about a half a screen you'll find the "More Recipes" section, and that has links to the rest of the new ones for the week.

Hi Jim - Over the last couple of weeks, I've done pulled pork and smoked some sausage (on my Weber grill), but I just can't seem to get temperatures right. When I'm doing a short-to-medium smoke (maybe up to 6 hours or so), should I wait until the charcoal is all gray before putting on the meat, or a mix of gray and black? Maybe I'm putting on the meat too soon, while the heat is still rising? Thanks!

     Whoa, I love that you consider six hours a "short" smoke. 

     Wait for the charcoal to turn all gray, then add your wood chunks or chips. Prepare to replenish the coals roughly two and a half hours into your cooking.

      Especially on such items as pulled pork, you'll cook indirectly - fire on one side, pork butt on the other. But, then, based on what you're saying, that part you probably already knew. 

OK, the baby is two months old now, it's been almost a year with no alcohol, and the 4th of July seems like the appropriate time to partake in an alcoholic beverage. Any suggestions for easy, easy drinks to make. Something summery and fruity? or refreshing? preferably with rum or tequila.

Couple of options -- Here's something that'll work either way (alcoholic or not): Backyard Blackberry Soda; you can make the fruit syrup part and then add to seltzer water or something stronger.

 

In the something stronger department,  how about a Blackberry and Red Wine Caipirinha?

A Silver Mint Julep? A Ginger Peach Julep?

Jamaican Punch?

 

We're rookies at this. What would you suggest we start with for grilling vegetables, Jim? Can I do whole sweet potatoes?

I'm not Jim, but I have thoughts nonetheless. Have you tried grilling cabbage? Everyone I know who has tried my suggestion here (see pic below) has fallen in love with the idea. I'll let Jim tackle sweet potatoes, but if you're doing them whole he's going to suggest a lower approach than grilling, I'll bet.

 

 

    I second Joe's grilled cabbage love. I've been doing it this summer as a side dish and also as a coleslaw. It has been a fave around the house, besting the other vegetable contenders, like zuchini and onion (though last night we had some fab grilled eggplant that gives the cabbage a run for its money).

       As for sweet potatoes, what I do couldn't be simpler: I scrub the skin (leave it on), wrap in foil, poke a couple of times, and put directly into the fire. Takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how hot your fire is. But it you wait till its about medium-hot, you will get a nice, soft interior and the exterior will have a light char.

      You could also oil the sweet potato and let is slow-smoke on an indirect fire. But I'd be careful about the amount of wood chips you use. Could overpower the spud.

      By the way, a great summer side dish: grilled or smoked sweet potato salad. (To grill, boil till just tender, then chop and place in a vegetable basket over direct heat for about 15 minutes, turning now and again.) Add a little diced serrano pepper, some cilantro, olive oil, some lime juice, and salt and pepper, and you have your new favorite cookout potluck dish.   

I love lentils! My favorite recipe is inspired by Breadline in DC. You cook a batch of lentils, squirt with some lemon juice and let cool. Then add some diced red onion, garlic powder, salt, crumbled feta and parsley or cilantro. It is always a hit!

Nice! I'd be tempted to swap in minced or pressed fresh garlic instead of that powder for a little extra punch... 

David, I want to thank you for your piece in today's paper; it was as if you were speaking to me directly when you wrote about home cooks reading recipes and why they decide not to make them. And here I thought it was my lack of experience and confidence in the kitchen that I read recipes and then end up not making them! It doesn't help that my kitchen style and my hubby's differ greatly--he is a "by the book the first time" and an excellent baker, while I like to substitute and make it an adventure.

 

That being said, the cake looks fantastic, but I am allergic to raspberries. My husband thinks the cake will not taste the same with any substitute (well, he's right in that regard) but I think it still can be done with another fruit, just not sure which one to select. Can't be a stone fruit or berry, other than a blueberry. Do you think it would be too much blueberry to use that in the topping as well? Or would another tart/sweet fruit be better, such as Mango, Passion Fruit, or Guava? Your thoughts are much appreciated for this hesitant cook...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this piece. I say you should mix and match the way you see fit. www.justtomatoes.com has all sorts of fruits that can be pulverized for frosting or dusting of the milk crumb (which is just fine naked and very dangerous to have lying around in your freezer). They have mango and pineapple, for instance. 

I love passion fruit and would not hesitate to use passion fruit curd as a filling. (Tosi does in her book.)

Peach or nectarine filling would be wonderful. Here is a link to how to make various fillings, including stone fruits, but also peaches and blackberries. Blackberry filling and passion fruit curd with blueberry frosting and mango crunch? Sounds like a winner to me.

I loooooooooove those freeze-fried fruits from Just Tomatoes that David mentions. Among other things, I've been on a kombucha-making kick while I've been at my sister's in Maine, and my favorite way to flavor the stuff after the first fermentation has been with those freeze-dried fruits. The peaches are incredible -- they release so much flavor into the booch, and then their texture from being rehydrated in the stuff is is very interesting, almost like they've been pickled.

Last week a poster asked about diluting half and half to use as milk. This week I found myself needing whole milk in a recipe. Do you think it will matter if I just use half and half? I'm thinking it's not that big of a deal but wanted to check first. I'm making Vanilla Cupcakes if that helps any. Thanks =)

Do you happen to have low-fat milk on hand? I think it'd be better to use that than the half-and-half.

I'd say just go ahead and use the half-and-half. It'll just be creamier and richer. Remember, until milk was homogenized, and then divvied into percentages, it was just... milk. When we get raw local milk here in Vermont, we shake it up and just use it --- cream and milk and everything --- and all made with it tastes So. Much. Better.

What can I make with fresh dill bouquet besides salmon or pickles?

Throw it in the food processor with silken tofu, a clove of garlic, some olive oil, a little dijon, if you have it some umeboshi plum paste (tart-salty-bitter umami magic), lemon juice, cracked pepper. Voila: use instead of mayo, on potato salad, etc.

Our neighbors gave us some beef from their pasture. One of the roasts they gave us is labeled "face roast."It doesn't look like it came from the cow's face, and the neighbors admit they don't know what part of the cow it came from (which is why they gave it to us, natch). Any ideas on the best way to prepare a face roast?

You're stumping us, but we'll give it a try. Our butcher pal Don at the Organic Butcher in McLean gave his best guess: a top round roast that has been cut in half to create a "face" for slicing (as in, slicing for sandwich meat). Anybody have other thoughts? If there is a butcher near where you live and you can take it to him, perhaps he can identify it. Please let us know!

I am getting a bushel of crabs this weekend with a bunch of friends, and since they typically don't fill you up I was hoping for an idea for sides. I don't want anything that needs to stay hot or has to be eaten with a utensil since our hands will be covered in Old Bay. Any ideas? Or should I just wait until we're done eating the crabs to put out sides?

I comment in my video this week that everyone loves food on a stick! How about boiled potatoes, sausage, or even corn on the cob. I say go messy and relish the finger food!

Hi, there--we recently moved into a home with a fairly updated kitchen. It has one of those long narrow pull-outs, with 3 shelves, next to the stove. I think it's supposed to be for spices, but that seems to me like a bad place to keep them. Right now it has various oils and lots of salt and pepper--which probably shouldn't be there either. What can I keep there that won't be affected by the heat from the oven?

I'd recommend kitchen tools, towels, pot holders, etc. Actually, I think that would be quite handy. I have to spin around to another counter to get my spatulas, ladle, etc., while I'm cooking. Would love to have them in reach.

I'm guilty of putting those into my last kitchen makeover.  I think it'd be good for storage containers with dried pastas, rice and beans.

Crescent, many of the recipes in your Bean By Bean cookbook call for soaking beans overnight. if canned beans are available, is it acceptable to substitute those for beans that have to soak overnight?

Sure --- just work out the measurements as if canned beans were cups of COOKED beans. (Soaked are still raw, and will continue to swell as they cook). I do offer many canned recipes as well. That said, soaked and slow cooked a) taste so much better, b) are way less expensive c) leave smaller enviro footprint d)can be cooked with seasonings so samy really soak in. That said, canned beans are great when you are in a hurry,

For some medical reasons, I'm off alcohol, tea, coffee (or anything with caffeine), and fruit (all of it) for the next while (and tomatoes and avocados. Bah). Since it's going to be a zillion degrees here this weekend, do you have any suggestions beyond iced mint "tea"? I'm feeling a bit stuck. Not sure why the cool drinks thing has me stymied more than the "what the heck do I eat for breakfast?" problem, but it does. And yes, I do drink water (lots of it). I just want to be able to mix things up a bit!

What about a tisane, or herbal tea that has no caffeine. 

Mint, lemon verbena, and even chamomile would be lovely iced for tea. Refreshing! 

I love Italian sodas. You can mix club soda or seltzer with a flavored syrup (I had a real weakness for the almond and hazelnut ones at my college library).

I'm getting a lot of both yellow and green zucchini in my CSA box. Is it better to dehydrate or freeze them, after I've eaten as much as we can!?

Dehydrating sounds cool. Freezing is really going to take the oomph out of such soft vegetables. They'd really only be appropriate for soup or casseroles, certainly not for a crisp stir fry. 

You have the best names -- both of them!

Here is the link to the ridiculous story of how I got this ridiculous name!


That said, I'm glad you like it! It kind of more fits my life as a children's book writer (which I also am) than as cookbook writer... but there it is. (Of couyrse dragons can do the BBQ thing merely by exhaling... but don't let's go there...)

The link for the food chat under the Live Q&A's sidebar goes to yesterday's Weingarten chat.

Thanks for noticing. It's fixed now.

I used half a head of a (very large) Napa cabbage yesterday and am looking for inspiration for how to use the rest. Particularly interested in vegetarian ideas that aren't salads (what I made last night). Thanks, I love this chat!

Slice thinly. Saute quickly in butter-oil combo  over high heat, not overcrowding the pan, stirring contantly. You want the slices to get a little browned, and be crisp tender and not sodden. Salt and pepper. You will be amazed at the sweetness and simplicty.

Of course, if you want a v main dish: onion sliced veritically and sauteed in oil, carrots on an angle, maybe a chile, the cabbage, and some pre-baked tofu --- glaze with your fave stor fry ingredients (tamari, honey, mirin, stock, etc)

After replacing our Tupperware for the first time in a decade, I think it's now time to do the cookie sheets too. But I thought I'd ask for recommendations first. Have any? Just something simple and not too costly. Thanks!

Rimmed aluminum sheet pans are IMO one of the most useful kitchen tools -- cookies, roasts, vegies. Get a good sturdy one. I've seen at restaurant supplies as well as a wholesale store like Costco. Great value. 

Ok gurus, our stove and microwave (directly above stove) have been neglected for WAY too long. There is a layer of grease/ick from all of the deliciously things we've made. However, enough is enough. Do you have any suggestions for getting that grease buildup off of our appliances? Do you think an ammonia/water solution would work or baking soda and lemons? We have standard black appliances. Thanks!

Points for delayed spring cleaning, and here's hoping you have a new set of gloves. Local Living/home guru Jura Koncius says she uses 409.  She  endorses dishwashing liquid and the lemon route as well. Not keen on ammonia (the smell).  My mother raised me in the distilled white vinegar school; mix it into as water that's as hot as you can stand it.

Just moved into a new home with a big yard, and am anxious to get started on a garden. But in the heat of June/July, what can I start growing?

Gardening columnist Adrian Higgins says:

Patience. Grow patience. Spend eight weeks building your garden and improving the soil, then sow lettuce, mesclun, arugula, kale, radishes and garlic. And then plan for next year. A garden requires at least six hours of afternoon sunlight to work. The flatter the site, the better, though drainage is key too. If that's a problem, build raised beds.

I can sympathize with the desire to make brioche in a breadmaker - the motor on my stand mixer has never been the same since it tangled with Thomas Keller's brioche! When I needed brioche recently for a fondue, I made no-knead brioche from the Ideas in Food cookbook, and it was stellar. What a perfect application for the no-knead technique. (I can't give a direct comparison between the two recipes because, since I wanted cubes anyway, I spread it into a rimmed baking sheet instead of a loaf pan - shorter bake time, less cutting later! But it was delicious.)

Sounds really interesting -- and much easier. Done in the traditional way, brioche can be a challenge.

I found two potatoes I'd forgotten about and wonder if either one is okay to cook and eat. One, a large white potato, has "eyes" growing. The other, an Idaho, feels a teeny bit pliant but looks okay. Thanks!

Potatoes, if cured for about two weeks at the right temperature and humdity, can be stored for almost a year.

 

The eyes indicate that your potato, after prolonged storage, has started to sprout.  The other potato, the soft one, has lost its nutrients.

 

The one with eyes should be safe to eat, as long as it's not soft, too. It could cause some mild digestive issues, but little more. The soft potato, however, should be discarded.

 

More information can be found here.

Thanks for the review, Joe! I love beans, and Crescent Dragonwagon's Passionate Vegetarian is, to me, the ultimate desert island cookbook. That said, I've been hesitant to buy the book, because I'm vegan and I've read that there are a fair bit of meat dishes. Do you think those recipes are easily veganizable? 175 bean recipes seems like a lot, but I'm willing to bet I have a fair number of them already in my repertoire, and don't want to be shortchanged any. Thanks!

You should make like a Mexican jumping bean and leap to get this book, especially if you love Passionate Vegetarian (which is fabulous). I'll let Crescent weigh in if she wants on the breakdown of vegan/vegetarian recipes, but I see a lot of vegan ones, and the veggie ones look very veganizable. (The lentil salad in the section today, for example, has a little cheese, which would be easy to leave out, and it would still be delish.)

My husband made some delicious apple and challah bread stuffing last Friday night. We had it with roast chicken. We had leftovers, so we had it a few days later with roast chicken. Again. We still have leftovers and are not sure if it will still be good in another day or so. What can we do with it tonight? (Tired of chicken, don't have time to make a turkey, and pork products/shellfish are out of the question.) Ideas? Thanks!!

It's 5 days old now so if it was made with the roast chicken, I think it would be the safest to toss it out. Sorry about that... It's best to keep it safe. Next time, make sure to finish or freeze in 3 days? If it was "meat and stock free" you might could freeze for later, now. 

I like to cook using beans as an alternative to meat, but my husband is not entirely on board (not used to eating lots of them, the gas issue, etc.). Any suggestions on making them a little more palatable for him? (the things I cook are like chili, bean salad, etc.--I don't believe that taste is the issue, as much as it is all so "different"). Thanks!

I've never met anyone who didn't like a good bean dip (but then again, I've never met your husband). I like to make mine smoky (of course), blending cooked white beans, pimenton (smoked paprika), anchovy (unless you're trying to stay vegan), raw garlic, perhaps some caramelized onions, salt to taste...

Soak sliced cucumbers in a pitcher of cold water. SO refreshing.

Recently I purchased some turkey bacon and the cashier told me that there have been reports potentially linking some forms of cancer to turkey bacon. Something about the process of using scraps to put the bacon together and what not. I can't find any information on that. Have you guys heard anything about this? I give my kids turkey bacon every day and want to make sure that's still ok.

I'm not finding a reference to any such study; do you have a link?  I don't think the "scraps" part of the equation possibly would matter as much as the processing involved, or the fact that it's a saturated-fatty meat.  Turkey bacon is leaner than regular bacon. Your kids eat it every day?

Question from Chilton, New York. Crescent, I'm sure you have some yummy gluten-free cornbread recipes to go with your chili... And will they give me the same "protein complementarity" you write about? Thanks!

I do, and OF COURSE they will give you protein complementarity. Traditional Southern cornbreads (to my knowledge, rarely if ever eaten in Chilton) rarely include wheat flour, and spoonbreads --- very succulent, souffle-like, leavened with beaten egg whites... gluten free and remarkable.  Don't forget, hot, hot out of the oven, and a big... dollop... of melting... butter...

I was recently at a relatively high end kitchen shop where I saw a special basket for grilling pizza. Is it really necessary or can we just use our pizza stone? Direct heat or indirect heat? Thoughts?

No, not necessary! The only grilled pizzas I've made have gone on the grates. See our recipe.

Tony Rosenfeld's Basic Pizza for the Grill

I'm going to partially blame my cheapo gas grill for the inconsistent results -- sometime it's just too charred. So I've been tempted to go stone, but neither of my two (I know) are grill-safe. Just make sure yours is.

One of my favorites! Mix it into chicken salad, stuff in pastry and bake. Make a pasta with peas, lemon zest, shallots and feta with a hefty heaping of dill. Toss white beans with olives, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and dill. Mix it into yogurt with diced shallots and a squeeze of lemon juice and use it as a grilled meat and veggie topping.

I want to attempt to make ribs, but need your help with a few questions. 1) Where should I get them? What size/type should I ask for for two people?, 2) I found a great recipe but it requires heating up the grill, which I have no intention of doing in the 100 degree weather this weekend. Would they be just as good in the oven? 3) Do you prefer dry rubs or sauce, or both?

I am pretty partial to my recipe for Coca Cola Glazed Baby Back ribs... In terms of how many ribs I think a half rack is a minimum. Please try the Roasted Green Bean and Potato Salad in today's WaPo food section today along with them! 

 

Here's a link to my Coca Cola ribs, too!

      I agree that a half-rack is a minimum per person. As to where to get them, there is a lot of debate about that, actually. 

      I cannot tell you how many times I have taken pork ribs back to a store on the same day I bought them because they were spoiled or clearly on their way. Oh, and I am talking about high-end supermarkets.

       I've actually had better luck at run-of-the-mill supermarkets, like Safeway and Harris Teeter. Their ribs often come frozen, and, when they do put them out, the turnover is fast. That said, the ribs generally carried there are only okay.

       I like to go to a butcher shop, such as Union Meats at Eastern Market. A butcher knows his stuff and, because they tend to have a more personal relationship with customers, is very careful in tending his products. Plus, a butcher stocks higher-end meat.

      As for dry rub or sauce, I prefer dry rub. But who cares what I prefer? Eat what you like. Or, better yet, make two racks, one dry, one wet, like in Memphis. Try both. If you can't decide, do it again. Worst thing that happens, you have lots of great ribs.

      As for the oven versus the grill, no, they would not be as good in the oven. I hear ya about the 100 degree temp. But you know the old saying, Suffer for fashion? Same thing with barbecue. 

 

Saveur's Chocolate Caramel Tart. Hands down the best thing I've ever had. You have to cut tiny slivers because it is so rich. I have to say that although I need quick recipes during the week, I really appreciate ones that take a little more time or effort, such as homemade read or pasta. It relieves some stress to have a project that takes your mind off of work, etc., and it always seems to taste better. It's also a way of showing someone you care and is a much more productive use of time than sitting on the sofa and watching tv.

Wow. I don't know if I should thank you or curse you for introducing me to that. It's already gone into my recipe folder in my e-mail.

Hi. I feel so lucky there's a bean expert available for questions! First, I'd love to cook my own garbanzos (chick-peas) for hummus but the end product so far never turns out anywhere near as well as when I use beans from a can, regardless of brand. I've tried preparing dried (uncooked) garbanzos using a pressure cooker and I've tried a regular pot, and both soaking overnight and not. Any suggestions you have for getting this right would be great! Second, do you recommend tossing dried beans that've been in the cupboard for a year -- or they just a little bit less delicious than more-recently-dried beans, or maybe just take longer to cook? I've noticed the ones in plastic bags have expiration dates far in the future, but mine are from those big bins at whole foods markets. Thanks so much!

First of all, YES, toss old beans --- they will never ever soften for you lustrously the way they should. I suspect age of beans has been your chickpea problem. That said, chickpeas are a very slow cooking bean, but assuming you get recent-crop ones, once you get them tender there is simply no comparison with the canned. NOW: I haven't tried this (and am unlikely to, because it would destroy some of the b-vitamins) but a friend just wrote me that she had tried a Paula Wolfert method in which a piunch of baking soda was added to the cooking water, which she said greatly assisted in shortening cooking time to complete tenderness.   You are so welcome! P.S. You can try hummus with any kind of bean you like, too. I do a blackeyed pea hummus, subbing peanut butter for tahini... different idiom, but delish.

It's not a Nora Ephron memory (so no prize for me), but I bought the book How to Eat Like a Child by Delia Ephron when I was 11, and at the time, it was the most hilarious book I had ever read. The title essay was a great kid-like perspective on how to be as annoying as possible at the dinner table, but of course nothing a kid would ever dare try (at least not in 1979).

Well, it's Ephron-related. What a family of writers.

Did I see this in print somewhere, that sometimes skate is passed off and sold as scallops?! Is there anyway to know for sure if we are ordering scallops in a restaurant or purchasing them at the fish section of our local supermarkets? Is there, in fact, a similarity in taste?

This is a controversial issue in seafood circles. Some swear that a circular mold is used to punch scallop-like rounds from a skate wing. But Santa Monica Seafood says these are "unfounded rumors":

 

"Skate has a flavor somewhat similar to scallops - a fact that seems to support unfounded rumors that round pieces cut from large skate wings use to be passed off as "scallops". It's hard to imagine the unique texture and striations of skate wings fooling anyone who knew their seafood."

The recipe that David Hagedorn wrote about today sounds great, and I am not put off at all by the multiple steps and multiple-day cooking and assembling. But with a very small apartment kitchen, I'm just not committed to buying a quarter sheet pan, cake ring, and acetate. So, help me out. Can you advise on cooking times or recipe adjustments using my standard 9 and 10 inch round pans? Can I use square pans and cut with a knife instead of a ring? Can I get away with parchment paper instead of acetate? Thanks.

 

By all means use cake pans, but I'm not sure if there is enough batter to make three 9 or 10-inch layers. I calculate the area of three 9-inch layers (3.14 x 3 x 4.5 x 4.5 = 190) to exceed the area of the pan called for (10 x 13 = 130) So make more batter if you're making a larger cake.

Cooking times for layers depends on how mauch batter you spread into each pan. I'd start checking at 15 minutes, first by looking at the layers through the window of the oven and see if they have puffed and fallen yet. 

No reason not to use square pans if you want and make a square cake. Or use a knife to cut out layers, using a plate as a template.

I wouldn't use parchment paper for lining a ring or making a collar for this dessert; it is too flimsy. 

 

The pickling cucumbers in my garden are getting way ahead of me and I now have lots of very wide cucumbers ready for pickling. Problem is that I'll only be able to fit one-two whole pickles in a canning jar. Can I can them quartered and will they stay as a crunchy as a whole pickle? How long will pickles last without being canned? Any good sources for pickling recipes?

I go for former WaPo food expert Kim O'Donnel for canning recipes - here's her recipe for Bread and Butter pickles. Yum.... 

 

You are tired and he invited 6 people? How about HE cook then?

Right on.

On stainless and other metals such as brass try cub soda. Old bartenders trick. I use club soda to clean my stianless fridges, range and dishwasher. One day when I design my kitchen I just go all stainless with the counter tops with a raised edge sloping into the sink. Forget granite and ktichen cabinets. Give me stainless shelves and a commercial floor with a drain.

Word.

With the tomatoes coming into my garden, I was wondering if you had a couple stand-by salad dressing recipes you could pass along?

I've got a few in "Serve Yourself" that I love, and have been having fun working on new ones for the vegetable-focused book that's up next. In SY, there's a cashew-tamari one that's super pungent and great; parsley-garlic that's sort of like a vegan green goddess (uses silken tofu); and a cilantro vinaigrette I got from the fabulous Pati Jinich.

 

The latter one, if you're not a cilantro fan, is simple and brilliant: 1/4 cup each cilantro leaves, olive oil, canola oil and red wine vinegar, blended with 1 garlic clove, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

In my kitchen you walk on water, right next to Bonnie. You have never ever failed me. I question everything, but NEVER EVER any of your articles in FOOD. If you said it, that's the way it is! Everything comes out the way you said it would. :) This morning my jaw fell down and I almost spilled my coffee all over E6, as I read that you let your "grapeseed oil go rancid." Isn't it the healthiest oil that has a high burning point and is not overpowering the foods sauteed in it ? Please explain, I am not willing to give up my grapeseed oil just as I am unwilling to yank you off your pedestal on my Olympus

Ha! I failed you today, I'm sorry to say.  Left out the step of adding the spinach and tomato once the eggs have been poured in. It's been fixed online... So there! :(

Clean-up in Aisle E6!

I had foolishly bought an enormous bottle of grapeseed oil at Costco—too much to use up quickly enough. (Plus, I'm not sure it was all that fresh to start off with or stored properly there, etc.)

I do love the grapeseed oil. I'm starting to detect  slightly off taste in canola oil (is that just me?). The voscous quality of grapeseed oil makes it much better for cakes, as Tosi points out.

May I climb back up on that pedestal now?

Hi Rangers! What is the best / your favorite method for oiling grill grates before grilling? I'm a little ashamed to admit this practice has flummoxed me (before heating? after? if after, how without burning oneself? spray? brush? paper towel? ack!).

      Others here may have their own thoughts, but I don't oil the grates. And it is funny that this question comes up today because I just did a little experimenting last night. 

       Years ago I was in Tuscany where I was lucky to dine at a true master Tuscan pitmaster's rustic farmhouse restaurant. When I asked him later about grilling vegetables (his were divine), he said the secret was to never oil - not the grates, not the food. He believed that the foods should carry the flavor of the charcoal and wood and that the oil would not allow those flavors to pentrate properly or permit the food to cook right. 

       I've been going in and out of his method for years and never got it right. Just last night, I tried again. This time, I grilled half my zucchini strips and eggplant rounds without oil, and half with. My wife both agreed that the oiled vegetables were clearly superior. 

       Long way around the barn to say this: I don't oil the grates. I use a bristle brush on them, then wipe them clean with a rag. Then, if I am oiling, I take to heart an instruction I learned from another pitmaster years ago: oil the food, not the grate. Works for me. (Even if I do keep seeing if I can duplicate what I had in Tuscany.)

Though we met her once, briefly, my wife and I have always felt that we know Crescent because of her very personal, story-filled cookbooks. Who are some of the food writers you "know" because of their work?

Thank you, dear friend/reader who I met once... MFK Fisher is the first... Of course, Laurie Colwin. Lately I am so enamoured of Michael Natkin and his new Herbavoracious... a strong, natural voice that comes through so clearly. Also loved Classic Home Baking by the late Richard Sax --- a great cookbook, with subtle but clear presence and voice.

I feel I don't write about food as much as I rwite about life THROUGH food.

It was published in the Post in the 80s. Lentils plus quinoa plus fennel seed and a few other doodads. Smells good all along the way and is filling, taste, nutritious, etc. I still have the very yellowed clipping.

Good to know! I'll talk to my people (read: me) about including it in the Washington Post cookbook!

I'd love to see this too. But, just to be contrarian I'll add, that while there may be best anythings in the known universe... remember there's always the UNknown (so far) universe. A lot of people tell me, I never got past the Skillet-Sizzled Buttermilk Cornbread" in Cornbread Gospels because it was too good. Well, yeah, it's good... but there are so many many many ways and styles of good. Trick is to have favorites to which you return over and over but keep trying new ways. 

For the chatter that asked about corn bread, I just wanted to mention that the freeze-dried corn David mentioned earlier for the corn cookies, is also really really good in corn bread.

I was planning to do that with my next batch of cornbread! Can't wait.

Tired of burgers and dogs on the grill. What's anyone grilling or smoking for the 4th?

I loved to grill eggplant, marinated, glazed when flipped with a miso-based sauce. Also (when ambitious) do okra, marinated in India spices and threaded on a skewer. Unbelievable good. Paneer, marinated tandoori-style and grilled, also rocks.

...whom I have been following since the Commune Cookbook days. And I already have Bean by Bean so this isn't a fishing note. Besides that black bean soup and everything from the bread and soup cookbook, I LOOOOVE the masa-based cornbread in her cornbread book. People like it and never figure out why until I tell them it is masa harina in there.

Oooooh! Thank you! I just love that masa bread, and I don't know how many people find their way to it, since it's outside the realm of what most consider cornbread (for the reast of y'all, this is a yeast-risen bread). Maybe your kind words will guide some more folks to it. (Joe? Bonnie? Can y'all put up the recipes people are mentioning for later use?)

...if you reprinted Nora Ephron's Peach Pie recipe? (If it is illegal, then could you at least give us a hyperlink?)/ That way when peaches arrive at the farmers' markets, we'll be all ready to go, in order to honor her memory as she might've liked.

I like that idea. We'll track it down.

This year, I am finally having success using my charcoal grill to cook burgers, steaks, sausages, and lamb chops. The secret to my success is my computer. I use Google and type in something like "grill lamb chops thickness" and find out how many minutes to grill the meat, based on the thickness of the steak or chop. No more dried out, overcooked food!

That's awesome you are finding success. A work of caution -- make sure you google and find a trusted source. For example, if you aren't going to a trusted recipe source like WaPo food, epicurious, or cook's illustrated you might want to try say, the Lamb Board or the Beef Council. Sadly, a lot of recipes online aren't tested. Just like anything, you have to trust your source. Glad you are finding success! 

..I swear I remember Bonnie recommending a particular recipe from Gesine Bullock-Prado's new book Pie it Forward. But I can't find the reference! Please refresh my memory.

Hope someone can refresh it for both of us! I remember drooling at the photos...I've been in a pie phase of late. Details soon.

Crescent Dragonwagon, Love home cooked beans and Joe's article about beans. I am wondering if you have any advice about black chickpeas sold in Asian stores in my neighborhood and called "Black Ghana." My family loves them, we think their slightly nutty taste is superior to regular chickpeas. I cook them the way I cook regular chickpeas. Is there something I am missing? Thanks in advance.

I bought these recently, too, from the amazing Kalustyan's in NYC. I agree that I liked them even better than regular chickpeas, although only slightly because, well, I love regular chickpeas, too. If you love them, it sounds like you're not missing a thing! Although I bet Crescent has more specific ideas...

"High tea" is actually an early supper that the lower working classes would eat upon getting home from work. The swells would have just a light repast, known as a "cream tea"!

I once wrote a travel piece about "taking tea in London", and you're right. I'll just say, for the sake of repeating what I think may be the best throwaway line I've ever used in non-fiction, "And when it comes to caloric content, the traditional cream tea adds new meaning to the words, 'the dollar is weak against the pound.' "

Tartine country bread. The directions in the guy's book actually work and give fabulous results, if you can stay home all day. Two weeks to get a starter if you don't already have one, and then a day to make the levain, and then about eight hours of folding and and rising and such. Finally a bread recipe fussy enough for me!

If you are getting dayboat scallops the scallops should have a foot that needs to removed. that is the easiest way to tell. Fake scallops from skate will not have the foot. problem with sallops recently is they are bland. Weather related???

Of course, many will pull off the foot before cooking the scallop.

Wow - that Lemon Berry Crunch cake looks fabulous. But the recipe is pretty intimidating. How hard is that to make ? Even the tools needed are intimidating . . . .

I think you can, I think you can...

In the piece that goes with the recipe, I explain that the components are easy to prepare and in and  not that time-consuming, especially when spread out over several days. The actual assembly of the cake only takes a half-hour.

It's also worth investing in these tools, especially if you are a baker. Once you make a cake this way,I suspect  it will change the way you approach cake-making. Just order everything from amazon.com and let it come to you.

Not a food question per se, but I'm asking this here because of the wealth of kitchen knowledge you have. When you redo a kitchen on a budget, are cabinets or counters more important to do first? And does anything clean cooking grease off wood without destroying the finish? Thanks!

It really depends on the status of your current kitchen, I'd say. Which bothers you more, your counters or your cabinets? For me, the counter is a priority, and if I had Formica or the like (actually, I do have it in DC and I'm dying to change it), I'd be inclined to do that first, because you can always repaint the cabinets and put on new hardware for now and then get new cabinets later if need be. But if it's more than the aesthetics of the old cabinets that bothers you -- if, say, you don't have nearly enough storage space and feel like that's your most pressing issue -- then do that first.

As for cleaning grease off wood, do you mean butcher block counters? If you mean wood trim or cabinets, and it's stained from wood, then it wasn't properly finished in the first place, and you should sand/strip/stain or paint. If you mean butcher block counters, try something like Bar Keeper's Friend, and then after they're clean follow up with Tree Spirit honey/beeswax wood treatment to seal them. You should put that stuff (or mineral oil) on anytime your wood countertops (or cutting boards) seem dry. If they're sealed right, they'll repel grease.

I'm with Joe. Go with the counters, especially if you're thinking of selling before everything is overhauled. We had the ugliest cabinets in the place we rented before we bought our condo, and only after we moved out did the landlord put a coat of white paint on them (which is what our current home has). Would have made a huge difference for me.

I'd typically agree with Joe and Becky on this one, but the earthquake apparently cause our kitchen cabinets to become unhinged. Literally. They started pulling away from the wall.

 

In such case, fix the cabinets first!

Skip the cabinets. Rip out a wall and find room for a walk-in pantry.  Think about storing dishes in deep, undercounter drawers (with pegs to hold the stacked dishes in place). Makes for a nicer work space in the kitchen. Not sure why residential kitchens got away from them.

Hoping Jim can give me some pointers. We try to use the (gas) grill AMAP during the summer (no a/c in our house!), but I don't seem to be able to do much well other than hot dogs. I tried grilling zucchini and sweet potatoes--burnt. Hamburgers--too dry :-( (my husband likes them well done, but still...) Any suggestions on how high heat needs to be? Also, does the color of the flame make any difference in how hot it is? thanks!

      The reason for different colors in your flame has to do with gas pressure. If the pressure is inadequate, the color turns yellow (as opposed to blue with yellow tips).

       Always pre-heat your gas grill. Turn it to high for a few minutes, then cook at the temperature your food requires. 

      The heat depends on what you are cooking. Generally, you want to cook a burger over high heat for only about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare (depending, of course, on the thickness of your burger); obviously, for medium-well, you'll go a little longer, about 4-5 minutes per side. 

      For vegetables, use a lower heat. It not only will help the veggies cook more evenly, it will give them nice grill marks.

I've got about a cup and a half of leftover cooked lentils and a cup of leftover canned chickpeas. I feel they could be combined into a pilaf of some sort. Any suggestions?

Sure nuff! I LOVE having deja food... I think I might saute an onion in butter... add, say, 1 1/2 cups of converted rice (assuming I didn't have any leftover brown rice or quinoa or something) and toss it around... throw in 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons or so water or stock, salt, a few cardamon pods and corianger seeds, handful of raisins, dried cherries, or apricots. Bring to a boil; lower heat; cover. Let simmer maybe 10 minutes. Lift lid, add leftover beans. Meanwile, rinse some frozen peas in a strainer under hot water. When rice is done, let it cool for a few minutes uncover, fluff with fork to combgine everything, add peas and some toasted nuts and... invite me to dinner!

I bought two basil plants from the store the other day and put them in a pot. One of them is doing very well, while the other seems to be wilting. Any ideas of what's going wrong? Also - you guys mentioned this before - but basil does well in heat, right?

Plants need room. I'm learning this firsthand on the homestead this year, where my sis and BIL have been changing how they do things to follow principles of biodynamic agriculture, which call for planting things MUCH farther apart than they had before. Tomatoes are 6 feet apart! We caged them but aren't pruning them, and they're going bonkers. And on the smaller scale, I planted a few containers of flowers from little seedlings my sister grew from seed, and she kept cautioning me to separate them into individuals, put them in one pot unless the pot was really big and then MAYBE put two in there. I did a little experiment with the snapdragons. In three pots of the same size, I left one with several little seedlings clumped together, in one I separated them a little but didn't prune, and in the other I took them down to just the three strongest stalks, pruning everything else. Guess which is twice as tall as the others?

You go, farmer Joe!

Not sure what iced mint "tea" means, but muddled mint in ice water is a super alternative to ice water with lemon.

Thanks for the idea -- my mint plant is getting a bit bushy.

Sliced oranges, melon, and lemon and limes infused in water. I guzzle this when it's hot.

Curious: Do you use seltzer or still water? I'd almost go with the sparkling stuff.

Hi - is there any way David Hagedorn would please share the lemon curd recipe he mentioned in the cake article? After 14 years and all those splatters it must be worth something!

The lemon curd recipe is included with the recipe for the lemon berry crunch cake. It is the best lemon curd recipe I've come along and always get raves for it whenever I use it. A jar of it is always a welcome hostess gift.

Jim - If I wanted to increase one of your rib recipes to produce several racks, but I would need to stand them on end (in one of those rib rack thingies) to fit them in my smoker, is mopping totally pointless? I assume the answer is yes, but just wondering.

    Good thing to wonder because the answer is no, mopping is not pointless. Depending on what we mean by mopping, that is. 

     Granted, it can be a little tough fitting a "mop" between the vertically stacked racks of ribs. So, mist instead. Use whatever you want - water, beer, apple juice - and spray some onto the ribs. Although it, too, is a little tricky, it can be easier than mopping. 

Not sure what "too costly" means, but Williams-Sonoma has really nice ones. I think they are made by Chicago Metallic and are made in USA. A quarter-sheet pan is about $20. The nice thing is that they don't warp in the oven (my biggest peeve!). For really inexpensive ones, I scored some at Sur La Table for cheap during a sale. Not made in US and they warp a little though.

Ms. Dragonwagon, do you have a good basic recipe for hummus you don't mind sharing? Mine never seems to get the right balance between chickpeas and tahini. Thanks!

I will ask WP to post my hummus after this. Meanwhile, I'd mention the following tricks... Fresh lemon juice! Magic in bringing out the flavor. Also, try cutting back the tahini and adding a teeny bit of toasted sesame oil (not traditional but raises sesame-ishness hugely without making it too tahini-ish). I also love any hummus layered --- layer of chopped tomatoes, radishes, scallions, layer of minced parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, layer of crumbled feta; "ice" the top with yogurt... even a so-so hummus sings with this treatment!

They also can do double duty for rolling out doughs, to keep the flour from flying all over the place!

In a fit of refrigerator cleanout, I discovered two granny smiths that are not looking so tasty...not for snacking, but I thought I may be able to use them for baking or cooking? any suggestions that don't entail having the oven on for long, especially considering the sweltering temps coming our way?

Cook em down on the stovetop on low heat with a little sugar and lemon juice into applesauce. They won't break down as easily as some other apples do, but they'll be better. Then you can spoon them on yogurt, etc... That's what I'd do.

Not sure if you want to go grocery shopping again, but you could make some vegetarian fajitas/taco and top with cabbage.

I have a good dehydrator and an abundance of zucchini but I've never really been able to make use of dehydrated zucchini. I had an idea to make flavored zucchini chips (with garlic and salt, for example) and they never really turned out well - they were dismal and hard to flavor. If you freeze grated zucchini, on the other hand, it is easy to pull out to make zucchini bread, pasta sauces, etc. in the winter months. Just my 2 cents. I'd love to hear success stories about dehydrated zucchini.

Yep, zucchini and other squash get pretty bland in the dehydrator. My sister keeps trying it but not loving, either. But I think she's found them to be pretty good when rehydrated into soups.

Hi Crescent, it's Ronni Michelle Greenwood from IRELAND. I don't really have a question, but I think you are the best ever and I want to thank you for all the yumminess that has emerged from my kitchen because of your cookbooks. And I want to thank you for writing such wonderful cookbooks. With PV you really taught me how to love my home (Oklahoma) through food, as it's not that different from Ozarkian (?) Ozarkite (?) Ozwegian (?) cuisine. Love!

awwwwwww... Ronni! I'm so pleased! Blowing hugs and kisses across the pond to you... xxxxxoooo. Hey - you coming to Fearless this year? We'll talk on FB...

Help - I have a big container of these sitting in my pantry and NO idea what to do with them!

Beans, like human beings, look very different in color, shape, and size, and are somewhat different in individual qualities, but are all, underneath, more alike than they are different. While adzukis are often cooked, then sweetened and made into a kind of jam which is used in many Asian desserts, you can cook them any way you would a lentil (they cook in just about that length of time) --- for a salad, in a soup, etc. You can also use them in chiles, hummus... all the good bean tropes. 

A Cook's Illustrated publication had a useful tip for drying blueberries: Line the basket of a salad spinner with paper towels then spin the berries. Works great. Also works with cherries.

Sure!

Jim and Jason, a dual question: what would you pair (beverage) with smoked lamb (either chops or kafta)? We have friends coming, and we'd like to do this right.

    I'd go with a Pinor Noir.

Both of my boyfriend's brothers have just had babies, and I'd like to bring them some frozen, reheatable dinners. But it's the height of summer, and my usual go-tos (lentil soup, lasagna) seem too heavy. I did a recipe search (I wasn't able to search on just 'make it freeze it take it' - is there a way to do that?) and thought that either the Chicken with Rosemary and Lime or the Baked Pasta with Vegetables and Cheese might work. Do you have any other summer-friendly suggestions? Also, the Baked Pasta recipe calls for fennel seeds, which I don't have. Any alternatives that you would suggest, or should I go out in search of that ingredient? Thanks!

The Baked Pasta With Vegetables and Cheese, which I have made many times, is delicious but not what I'd call a light summer dish. (When you do get around to making it, buy the fennel seed. It's sold in any supermarket, so you'll have no trouble finding it.) The Chicken with Rosemary and Lime is a good choice, as is my perennial favorite, Mango-Cranberry Chicken, which is also a make-and-take dish. You might have to go to Whole Foods for the dried mango, but that's not a stretch.

I had a party last week where we served thinly cut roast beef with gravy for sandwiches. I have about 1 pound left. What could I do with it? I keep putting it over white rice, but that's a little heavy for the middle of summer.

Use it instead of cooking fillet mignon in David H's fabulous Asian Beef Salad. Gorgeous and summery, don'tchathink?

What exactly is that? Is that different than a baking sheet (a.k.a jelly roll pan?)

Rimmed baking sheets come in essentially 3 sizes.

Full sheet - big for commercial ovens. 18 x 26

Half sheet - about the same size as a jelly roll pan. 18 x 13

Quarter sheet - 10 x 13

Do you have a good recipe for refrigerator dill pickles? Just ordered some pickling cukes from my CSA.

David Lebovitz is a source I trust. Try his recipe, adapted from Arthur Schwartz's.

Hi! I just read the answer to my question, but my husband is a meat guy and doesn't like Indian spices. Any meaty ideas for the 4th?

     Man, I would love to know the answer, too, so I can steal some ideas. I hope others chime in. 

     As for me, I'm sorry, I don't know what answer to which question you just read, but I will say that meaty ideas abound, everything from the traditional burgers and dogs to pulled pork, ribs, pork chops. If you are looking for something phenomenal, slow-smoke a few beef short ribs. Amazing!

         For quicker stuff, maybe go with steak or a sausage that you either like or that sounds interesting.

I have a friend who has Celiac's and is craving Red Velvet Cupcakes. Does anyone have a good recipe for these that is gluten free? Thanks!

Start with one of the gluten-free baking mixes (in effect GF flours with leavening and salt). Follow any good Red Velvet cake recipe and use the GF mix in lieu of flour, salt & leavening. 

The pan-quiche is going to be our dinner tonight. I am glad you mentioned it, because it would have been a SNAFU time at 6:20 PM. I trust you so much, after checking the ingredients I did not bother to read the rest of the recipe. David, watch out, you are on the descending curve now! :( E6 is not an i"Aisle," it is the page number on which your article appeared. :)

Whew.

I actually use still, but that's because I've always had an aversion to sparkling water. No idea why.

If you want to spend the money (and you do) look up USA pans. Made in the US, heavyeweight, and have a harmless non-interfering nonstick coating. Not hard to find and worth it worth it worth it

We stopped using canola oil years ago because it sickened my husband every time I used it. He doesn't react to other oils that way.

A friend who was in the midst of a divorce picked up my copy of "Heartburn" while staying with me on an out-of-town trip back in the 1980s. As a former Washingtonian, I had enjoyed the book, the witty takes on Washington life, the self-deprecating humor, and (if I remember correctly) the way Ephron included recipes -- something I had never seen before in a novel (and possibly a trope she invented).

 

But for Lois, the marvel of the book was finding herself in a Sisterhood of the Rude Awakening: She and Ephron and Ephron's alter-ego Rachel all had in common the discovery that their husbands were cheating, that the other woman (or women) were people they knew and even socialized with, that other people knew about the affair, and -- if all that weren't enough -- now that they thought about it, realizing there had been signs they hadn't picked up on (in the book, something like, "She had had her legs waxed. For the first time. And it wasn't even summer!"). In my friend Lois' case, what sent her from angry and humiliated to screaming mad was that her husband had had sex multiple times with one particular woman in their home, in their bed -- "IN OUR BED!" -- and she would then get home in the evening and go to sleep with him in that very same bed. And think it was nice that he had washed the sheets! So when she got to the part of the book where the fictional Rachel realizes what a cad her husband is, and starts berating herself in capital letters for not having caught on sooner -- "TALK ABOUT A FOOL!" -- Lois adopted it as her own. Over and over and over again during the week or so she stayed with me, she would suddenly say, very loudly, "TALK ABOUT A FOOL!"

 

Sometimes she said it to my face, sometimes she'd blurt it out while looking in the refrigerator, sometimes I'd hear her through the wall at night, other times when we were out somewhere, always shouting when she said it: "TALK ABOUT A FOOL!" Now, when I realize something's wrong in one of my relationships -- professional, social, or romantic -- and that I should have realized sooner -- I too say to myself "Talk about a fool!" But I tend to mutter instead of yell.

Hi there! I'm a huge CD fan after years of cooking from Soup & Bread (which my sister is STILL trying to pry from my fingers) and having the thrill of participating in a Fearless Writing workshop last summer. Question re beans for guests: some party-goers may be hesitant to partake given the - shall we say - lingering effects. Any way to minimize this gastronomical phenomenon?

I devote eight pages to degassifying beans in Bean by Bean, dear Fearless One! Long story short... More water you soak 'em in, then drain off, the fewer of the indigestible sugars which cause havoc are left.

Is it hard to make? I've read some recipes, but I'm always afraid that I'll end up making something toxic...

Kristen Hinman did a story for the Food section in December 2010 on the subject, complete with recipe. Check it out.

 

Just remember: Don't try to start your own SCOBY!

Note, grass fed meat needs less time and should be cooked to a lower internal temp. We regularly get lamb from Lave lake Lamb and they gave us that tip. Makes a huge difference. (as a side note, it is wonderful company--they are deeply into conservation and sustainable farming).

Love that! No more leftovers!

Okay I can buy frozen beef to make a steak sub but I am having problems finding chicken for a chicken steak sub. Wegmans has decent sub rolls and I can make a steak sub to rival Genos but I would like to see what I can do with chicken?

Marinate some thinly sliced chicken cutlets (or cut your own from boneless, skinless chicken breast halves), then treat them as you do the steak stuff.  You can do it!

An ignorant question -- Is it possible to buy beans that haven't been dried? Besides string beans, that is. Or do they taste better dried and then cooked? I'd be particularly interested in black beans, pinto beans and garabanzo beans. Thanks lots -- several hills of beans worth!

Of course... such beans are called "shell beans" or "shellies" --- you husk them (remove pods) and then cook. They are exquisite --- starchier than green beans, less so than died breans. Usually certain varities are prized for their toothesomeness as shellies: lady peas, cream pies, black-eyed peas, cow peas, french horticultural beans, tongues of fire... go to your local farmer's market in the fall and ask around.

Don't you wish we could have a star-spangled panel like this every week? Thanks to Virginia, Crescent, Joe, David and Jim for their fab input.

 

Chat winners: The first chatter who mentioned Nora Ephron and Laurie Colwin gets the Jeffrey Saad cookbook; the chatter who asked about adzuki beans gets a copy of Crescent's "Bean by Bean." Send your mailing info to krystalr@washpost.com and she'll get the books out to you.

Thanks also goes to you, dear chatters, without whom the hour would be, well, a drag.  Next week we will NOT be chatting, as it's the Fourth of July itself.  Hope the holiday's food-friendly for you all! Until the July 11 Free Range chat, happy cooking and eating!

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, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Cooking for One columnist Joe Yonan, Process columnist David Hagedorn, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guests: chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis; Crescent Dragonwagon, author of "Bean by Bean" (Workman, 2012).
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