Free Range on Food: Planning family meals, chain restaurants, FreshFarm Markets lunches and more

Aug 21, 2013

Aviva Goldfarb of the Six O'Clock Scramble joins us to answer questions about how to sanely plan family meals. Ann Harvey Yonkers of FreshFarm Markets shares insight on using local products in dishes, based on the nonprofit's experience with its monthly lunches.
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! We're here to take your q's on any and all cooking/food issues, with a special emphasis on seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients (for that we have the fabulous Ann Harvey Yonkers, cofounder of FreshFarm Markets -- subject of David Hagedorn's piece on their monthly lunches today -- joining us); and quick family dinners (for that we have the also-fabulous Aviva Goldfarb, she of the Six O-Clock Scramble, source of a series in Bonnie's DinMin column).

David will also be in the room, as will Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin, author of today's piece on grilling bread.

We'll have giveaways to entice you: One is "The Washington Post Cookbook" edited by Bonnie (who's on vacation this week and next so not joining us). The other, from Aviva, is a six-month membership to The Six O'Clock Scramble, her family-menu-planning and recipe service. Wow!

Let's get started!

I am getting a weekly CSA during the summer - what is the best way to incorporate these (sometimes unexpected) veggies into my family dinners?

After I get my weekly CSA delivery I find it really helps to plan a few meals that will incorporate them and shop for the remaining ingredients so I can make quick & healthy dinners during the week without wasting what I bought. At the end of the week before the next delivery try to use up what's left in a smoothie, stir-fry or pasta dinner.

I'm obsessed with my new Vitamix--this thing is amazing. But so far all I've made are smoothies and pesto--what else should I be trying? (besides peanut butter/almond butter, next on my list). Do you have a cookbook you recommend? What are your favorite things to blend?

I'm obsessed with my Vitamix too! Have you tried making simple vegetable soups or gazpacho? Coconut milk? Frozen coffee drinks? Here's a recipe I created for homemade blended iced mochas.

Have you tried the instant "ice cream"? That's a fun one. Frozen fruit and milk or cream, little sugar. Also soups -- keep the thing on, and it heats it, too.

I have a busy schedule. The other week, I thought I would have time for a few nights of home cooked foods. I bought a variety of fresh vegetables from the farmer's market. Untimately, things came up, and a week later, I still had some corn on the cob, carrots, and other items left over. How long will the foods last? I wasn't sure if it was too late to enjoy or not.

Vegetables from market are very fresh so mine, forgotten at the back of the refrig, are usually delicious even if they have been temporarily abandoned in a back drawer.  Cut the corn off the cob and add to a stew or a tomato salad.  No need to cook.

My favorite homemade granola is from Eating Well - it has very little extra "stuff" in it like berries nuts etc. I enjoy a good, clean oat filled granola. I'd love to make a chocolate version to go with my Fall homemade oatmeal with bananas. Do you guys have a recipe? Here's the Eating Well one http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/lisas_granola.html

We don't have any granola recipes in our database that suit your needs, but this banana-Nutella version from Sally's Baking Addiction looks and sounds perfect for you: Few ingredients and full of the flavors you want, save for one thing: Nutella instead of chocolate. Personally, I think the hazelnut flavor of Nutella would be a nice addition to a nut-oriented granola.

Pinot N., Cab. S.? Other?

Resveratrol, according to the Mayo Clinic, has been shown in animal testing to reduce bad cholesterol and prevent blood clots, among other minor miracles.  Rice University published a study that measured resveratrol levels in various wines. It found that levels varied not only by grape but also by growing season. Ugh!

I received my very first CSA box last night (I made the decision to sign up late in the season!) and it included two small (think baseball-sized) eggplants. Joe, your eggplant "meatballs" look amazing, but will there be enough from my little eggplants? Is there something else I could use them for instead that might be more size-appropriate?

Love eggplant, of course! You could absolutely use the smaller ones for the "meatballs" (which are Domenica Marchetti's, to give credit where it is due) as long as the weight adds up to a pound (or maybe a smidge more, taking into account that a collection of smaller ones will result in a little higher skin-to-flesh ratio). But there is much you can do with them. In celebration of their diminutive size, how about Baby Eggplant Parm?

I wrote in last week asking for cooking suggestions for the bone-in goat meat cubes that I'd bought. I browned them, then cooked in a pot with water and lots of curry powder for several hours, until the meat fell off the bone. Then I had to pick out all the bones and peel off the tough membranes. I strained the broth and cooked rice with it. After all that, it was tasty, milder than lamb, but way too much work for me to ever do it again.

Yes, I had a similar experience recently cooking lamb short ribs. Delicious, full of flavor, but a good amount of work for a small amount of meat.

Hello, canning experts. I made peach freezer jam last week for the first time. I was horrified at the huge amount of sugar in the regular recipe, so used this "low sugar" one directly from Ball. It turned out fine. I used real sugar (I don't object to sugar in general, just the quantities.) My question is, is there a chemical reason that the liquid needs to be apple juice or white grape juice? Could I have used water, or a combination of peach juice and water, or is there something very specific about apple/grape that affects the jelling? Here is the recipe I used.

Why don't you ask the Ball folks? They're at 800-240-3340.

The juice is used to provide some sweetness so you can use less sugar.

In your August 8th edition of the Post you gave suggestions for "Breakfast Do's and Don'ts". One of the "do's" was Oatmeal Pancakes. Do you have a good recipe for those? I've been systematically trying to add whole wheat flour and other whole grains to my kids favorite snacks and I would LOVE to be able to add an Oatmeal Pancake to our favs!

You're talking about the package on breakfast that ran in Local Living. The oatmeal pancakes referred to in there are actually these Whole-Wheat Toaster Pancakes.

Whole-Wheat Toaster Pancakes

This is nothing but a love letter for Stephanie. Your recipes are our family's favorites. So many of them have worked their way into our weekly meals. It's fantastic to find a cook whose work I know we'll love. I always love to see your articles because I know it will be delicious, fast, and healthy. You have a huge fan and you've really made our lives better! That's all!

She will be thrilled to hear this!

Tim - I've never heard of any of the Barracks Row restaurants you listed in your article. Are any of them worth a visit (maybe after the dust settles from the latest change)?

If you haven't read it yet, I reported late yesterday about the management and ownership shakeup with Barracks Row Entertainment, which recently bought the Hawk & Dove, among many other Capitol Hill and Navy Yard restaurants.

 

I haven't visited any of these places in the seven months since they were sold to the new group (and have, apparently, gone downhill rapidly), so I can't give you any recent intel. The $20 Diner keeps me focused on other eateries!

 

I would suggest this, though: In a few weeks, give Boxcar Tavern, Hawk & Dove and Chesapeake Room a try. Their aims are modest, but they're all decent neighborhood haunts. I also think that Park Tavern will be good if Barracks Row Entertainment does hire Brian Klein, the former executive sous at Brasserie Beck.

Hi Aviva! My family has joined your Family dinner challenge but I have an extremely picky 4 year old eater. And when I say picky I mean PICKY. He's never eaten meat - not even in homemade baby food. We worked with a food therapist for two and a half years to no avail. The consensus was that his will was stronger than most incentives for long term change. He literally eats key lime yogurt, apples, orange bell peppers and sweet Hawaiian rolls EVERY day. Do you have any suggestions for simple items to try to incorporate into his diet?

First, thank you so much for taking the FamilyDinnerChallenge.com. Ugh, I know how frustrating picky eaters can be, I had one too (currently he's 16 and drinking a green veggie smoothie with me, though). One key is to keep offering him new foods when he's hungry but try not to get emotionally involved in whether he eats them, just put them on his plate/tray with the other foods he likes. My picky eater really liked avocado and plain yogurt and cantaloupe. If you need more help, two great books by RDs are Give Peas a Chance and Fearless Feeding. Good luck! 

In his July 24th chat, Bryan V. said he'd give up his bacon jam recipe. Has that happened yet? I'm trying to wait patiently.

I will check with his publicist and see if Chef Voltaggio will give up the recipe. I suspect he's been a little busy lately. Here's my profile of Bryan V.  from July 23.

Hi crew, Joe, I know you are a coffee roasting/brewing aficionado so the one is for you: we are upgrading to a fancy Technivorm Mocchamaster coffee maker and figured it's also time to upgrade to a burr grinder. Any favorites? I was looking at the Breville smart grinder, which seems to be well reviewed. Or do you lovingly grind each individual bean by hand? Thanks!

I have this Capresso model that's worked well for several years. I haven't had cause to try others -- at least not yet.

I have a Baratza Maestro burr grinder, which serves me faithfully. I love the ease of the Maestro: Just throw the beans in and turn the knob (no holding down the switch to keep the cheap coffee-grinder blades whirring). I also love the even grind of the beans, which gives you a better extraction. Burr grinders, while more expensive,  just make a better cup of coffee.

Cold pasta salads are one of our favorite go to summer meals. Quick to make, uses fresh summer vegetables and makes great leftovers for lunch. We use different types of pasta and vegetables depending on what we have in the house. However, I am noticing recently they have been kind of blah. Any ideas for adding some zing but still keeping the salad relatively easy to bring together? Thanks!

I find that some flavored olive oil or great vinegar really steps up the flavor of pasta salad. Also consider adding flavorful ingredients like olives, capers, roasted tomatoes, sausage, and even some fresh lemon juice, and of course lots of fresh herbs.

Artichoke hearts. Feta. Nuts!

I saw these at the farmer's market last week, but don't know what I would do with them. Any suggestions?

Here's a recipe in our database for Tomato-Braised Romano Beans. Other thoughts?

You can use them anywhere you would use the more conventional green beans, just making sure to adjust the cooking time so they're the texture you want. (I like these when they get a little more tender, as in that braise Becky suggested.)

Soup! There are a lot of recipes for soup that you just blend up and it heats itself from the speed of the blades.

There's an echo in here! ;-)

Hi! I have tons of lettuce and kale in my garden, but I'm away next week on vacation. Since we are staying in a house, I was thinking of bringing the greens with me, but wasn't sure whether the greens would travel well, either in fresh form or cooked (kale chips?). We are staying in a hotel the first night, before taking up house residence. Any thoughts on whether traveling greens are a good idea?

Greens are pretty hardy.  I would bring them in a big with a cold pack.  And don't forget to pack olive oil and garlic and hot pepper flakes to use when you cook them.

I have TONS of awesome fresh corn and zucchini and other squash from a friend. Any ideas for ways to use some of it up? I was thinking something with bacon perhaps, for my meat-loving husband. Meat and non-meat options would be appreciated, as I am vegetarian.

I love to saute diced zucchini, corn kernels and diced onions in a little butter and olive oil and bacon would also be a delicious addition. I like to season it with curry or chili powder and a little salt.

Hello, Rangers! I posted several weeks ago about getting my enameled cast iron pans cleaned and I wanted to thank you for the suggestion of the denture cleaner. It worked! I use the tablets to clean vases (as another poster had suggested) all the time, but never thought of it for the pan. It didn't get things back to the showroom shine, but the pot is definitely cleaner than when I started. Thanks again!

Great! Glad to hear it worked out.

I love having people over at night for dinner and drinks, but the cost is getting to me. Although my guests bring something to drink and maybe an appetizer, it seems like I spend $100 pretty quickly. Do you have any tips on how you keep your food costs down? I'm not willing to serve food of a lesser quality, but should I just invite friends over for drinks and appetizers even if they'll likely stay until 11pm?

This time of year it is pretty easy.  Stick to veggies and grains.  Make salads, slice tomatoes, serve corn on the cob with basil butter, etc.  I am crazy about french style potato salad made with a vinaigrette and lots of green onion and celery.

My son starts kindergarten at the end of the month and for the first time, I have to start packing lunches. He's pretty limited in what he'll eat (which drives me crazy). He does well with fruit, cheese, crackers, grape tomatoes and such--he doesn't much care for sandwiches. Any ideas for what I can include?

My kids love it when I pack homemade soup or store-bought ravioli in thermoses. There's an awesome new book just out next week by food writer J.M. Hirsch with ideas called Beating the Lunch Box Blues, or you might like this Pinterest board with lots of school lunch ideas. I also have a chart with some simple suggestions that you can print out.

Hey, Rangers! I'm having trouble finding pickling cucumbers this late in the growing season. I've never actually made pickles with regular cucumbers - can I? If so, is there a particular kind that's best to use?

Cathy Barrow, a.k.a.. the extraordinary Mrs. Wheelbarrow, maker of all things pickled and preserved, has graciously agreed to answer your question:

 

"The rainy weather this summer has brought on cucumber wilt, a drastic fungal disease that kills the vine. That's why pickling (Kirby) cucumbers are harder to find. There are still some available at Norman's Farm Stand with locations in NW DC and Bethesda. Several of the farmers I've talked to have started late-season Kirbys. They should be available in about three weeks according to Haroun Halak of Redbud Farm, selling at the Broad Branch Market (Saturday 9-1 at the Lafayette Elementary school, Chevy Chase).

 

Why not throw it into a slow cooker with bones and all, tomatoes, onions, minced ginger/garlic and various spices. Let it go for at least 4 - 6 hrs and it will fall off the bone on it's own.

the recipe you published for cornbread is identical to one my wife's family has used for decades, minus the peppers. At least when cooked in a 450 degree oven, 12 minutes is usually enough be cooked through. Also, this style of cornbred goes really well with sorghum molasses. Slightly sweet, slightly bitter with a very deep flavor.

     Great minds. 

     I'll have to try the sorghum molasses idea. I had the cornbread the other day with an over-easy egg on top, a tomato salsa atop that, and some queso fresco sprinkled over the whole shebang. Pretty nice way to start the day. 

I was surprised by the requirement of dry brining pork chops for 1 to 2 days in the fridge prior to cooking. How much movement of moisture out and then back in with the accompanying salt and spices occurs. I understand why several days for wet brining may make sense. But that seems like overkill for a dry brine which is more about creating a crust texture and flavor.

Not sure of the physics but the pork is delicious.  Dry brining  is not a requirement but an enhancement.  And the mule foot pork is beyond compare.

Is there a simpler one? I don't need a timer and 16 settings. We make drip coffee every morning and I grind the (excellent) beans, and really do not need anything more than that. We have a Krups--is there an equivalent in simplicity for a burr grinder (I know it will cost more, that is not the issue. I just don't need bells and whistles)

The Capresso one is very simple; the "timer" is just a knob that you turn -- and I always turn it all the way up for it to grind what I put in it. And I think all burr grinders have adjustable-grind settings.

Help! I have too many ripe peaches. What is the best way to freeze them? Do I need to make a syrup?

someone i know just juiced a lot of melons and froze the puree.  You could try this with peaches but add lemon juice so they do not turn dark. Or make Ice cream now!  Yum.

My family beach week is next week. Since there are now two kids under 5, we don't go out and eat as a family much but have been doing some family dinners. My brother's family is taking one night and I have another. I'd like to buy some fresh seafood and fruits/vegetables but don't know the area well. Do you know where I can find the fish and farmer's markets? Thanks!

Check localharvest.org for listings of farmers markets all over the USA.  Search for Ocean City and it may also show farm stands as well as markets.  We have some FRESHFARM Market farmers from Maryland who participate in these shore markets and say they are lively.

I've had some basil in a vase on my kitchen counter for a week and it's ROOTING! I suppose I could take it out and plant it a pot, yes?

Better yet, make some pesto or use it in a grain and veggie salad.

Yes! My grandmother used to steal clippings from plants and grow roots on them this way. Definitely plant it and keep trimming away at the leaves (to make pesto, lemonade, and everything in between). IIRC, basil produces more if you clip leaves often!

The one you prefer to drink.

Hi, I don't have the ability (or really, the time) to smoke things in my place. Is there a way in which you can impart a smokey flavor without actually smoking things? I have a trader joe's smokey spice mix that is good and smells super smokey, but I can't really taste it much when I put it in my food. Maybe a smoked paprika or liquid smoke (no idea where to find that).

     Liquid Smoke is available at most supermarkets. You can also try pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) or, for less cost, basic smoked paprika. You can also try hay smoking; here's a story I wrote about it.

      You can also buy a Cameron's stovetop smoker. It's made for use in apartments and the like. 

Why oh why are whole black peppercorns so much more expensive than ground pepper? Are there places to buy whole pepper for less?

Have you tried Trader Joe's? They're not too expensive there and they last a long time. 

Prices of peppercorns vary based on what kind of peppercorn it is, where it's grown and how it's processed.  Whole peppercorns cost more, I suspect, because they are perceived, rightfully so, as more valuable by cooks and chefs. Peppercorns lose much of their flavor, spice and complexity within days of being ground. You have no idea when those peppercorns were ground in that shaker sold in the supermarket.

Where can I find a delicious risotto in the DMV? Bonus points if it's in Loudoun or Fairfax. Thanks!

The Jerusalem artichoke risotto at Trummer's on Main in Clifton sounds pretty good. I haven't eaten it, but given Tom Sietsema's generally positive feeling on the restuarant, I'd give it a shot. Anyone else?

Hello! How are you? I am really trying hard to become a vegetarian for health and environmental reasons. I know I can do it but I am struggling with the one big problem that I just don't really like vegetables. The three vegetables I like the most (potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms) aren't even vegetables! Other than the occasional zucchini I enjoy with my partner I can't even remember the last time I had a green vegetable. Anyway, last night I spent 45 minutes in the produce section at Whole Foods going bin to bin trying to envision if I could like that one and if I could incorporate it into my life. I even tried communicating with some of them who looked to be friendly. By the end of my visit I ended up with some kale, a red pepper, and a bag of baby carrots. I also picked up some apples and I had one for breakfast today! So, I guess my question is how do you slowly incorporate more vegetables into your diet so you can learn to love them as much as you have loved the meats your whole life? I am planning on actually being more of a pescatarian - so can you recommend some good vegetables I can pair with salmon and the like? Thank you so much for your help!

Potatoes and tomatoes are vegetables.  So you are on your way.  I would suggest shopping at a farmers market as everything is so fresh and delicious.  Try eggplant.  many people think it is the "meatiest" of veggies.  Slice it and saute it in olive oil.  Try fresh melons and watermelon for fruits.  Try a ripe peach.  A simple saute of peppers and squash and cherry tomatoes and some olives is so delish.  If you add olives and feta and some hard sausage it enhances it.  I would say eat slowly toward your goal.  Changing your diet takes some time.  But it helps when everything is delicious when you begin the process.

I found this recipe intriguing. Can the chops be grilled successfully? That's how we usually cook our bone-in pork chops.

Sure.  Just don't overcook them.  

Soups! Fresh veggies, leftover grilled veggies ... flavor any way you want. Add a few at the end for texture. Great for coffee drinks, too. I freeze leftover coffee (I know, I know) in ice cube trays and then blend with almond milk (or cow's milk), a few tsps of cocoa powder and agave nectar ... Spiking it for a grown up shake works, too!

Every time I see the name "Vitamix," for some reason I think of I Love Lucy's Vitametavegimin ...

We make panini on the grill ... just use a foil-wrapped brick for the smoosher. One of the best is a Cuban using smoked pork. We also grill and rub garlic on our bread when making panzanella. Not sure it qualifies but homemade calzone can be grilled too ... Tasty stuff. Thanks for the article.

      Great tip about the foil-wrapped brick for grilled panini.

     I just made grilled/smoked panzanella the other night. I really like the added flavor. 

    As for homemade calzone on the grill, me, I count it. Me, I want it!

I ran into the issue of too many peaches so we canned peach conserve with cinnamon and nutmeg as well as some plain peach preserves. The poster should act fast because all of the peaches I have purchased directly from orchards this year have begun molding and turning bad far more quickly than in past years.

I live in a country that keeps producing some vegetable or the other through the year and at all times there is a fairly wide variety. And also our backyard gives us enough produce! However, sustainable produce is challenging especially in a country like America during winters. Just to understand, what are the core challenges that you face given that 360,000 shoppers embrace fresh produce annually?

We actually have two FRESHFARM Markets that operate year round, Dupont and Silver Spring and have extended the season for many of our other markets such as Penn Quarter.  here are some things the farmes grow year round or sell year round:  greens, potatoes apples squash, radishes, meat, dairy, poultry, apple cider, onions, beets, etc., etc,..

I'm not the OP, but I was intrigued by your suggestion of Strawberry Risotto. Oh, my YUM!! I tried it over the weekend and am enamored. It was also my first attempt at Risotto and fortunately it turned out well.

Excellent!

I am moving into a new house (yay!) and have a teeny, tiny back deck on which I'd like to grow some herbs/veggies/anything, really. It gets a lot of sunlight...what would do well in a pot? The deck is right off of the kitchen, so I'd love to be able to dash out and pick some basil or something.

Yes, herbs such as basil will be quite happy there. If you get a larger pot, you can put in a tomato plant, basil plant and hot pepper plant. They'll grow nicely together.

For a while I've seen Cupcake wines. Recently new label called Layer Cake wines has appeared. When did Duncan Hines start growing grapes?

Yes, those wines are everywhere. But my favorite offbeat wine brand continues to be Goats Do Roam, a cheeky reference to Cotes du Rhone.

those things are amazing. I haven't tried soup yet--but will! that iced mocha looks great, Aviva. I am intrigued by all the smoothie-add-ins I see around (bee pollen? are we really on board with that?) chia seeds? flax seed? are you believers in these?

I do love some of those smoothie mix-ins! We reguarly use chia seeds, whey protein, orange or lemon flavored fish oil, green veggie powder when we don't have enough veggies, shredded coconut, cocoa nibs...probably others I'm forgetting. Not sure about bee pollen.

My family with 2 kids under 5 and my wife's brother's family with 2 kids under 5 spent a week the Outer Banks. We stopped along the way at farmer's market to buy some fresh fruit and picked our veggies before leaving to bring fresh vegetables. We then made breakfast, went to the beach, came back for lunch, took naps and then hit the early bird specials with the kids for dinners. The kids appreciated going to restaurants yet it was early enough not to disturb many other people and there were no lines.

You are wise and courteous parents and diners. Thank you.

About 2 weeks ago at a restaurant I won't name because the issue has since been resolved, my party of 5 encountered a roach on our table. We immediately told the manager on duty, who moved us to another table, and apologized profusely. Much to my surprise, the manager did not offer to comp our bill. She asked "whether there was anything else we needed right now." I kept on waiting for her to offer, but I let her leave our table before calling her back and asking for a discount on our bill. She obliged and took off two (non-alcoholic) prix fixe brunch meals off our bill. I was shocked that I had to ask for this, especially since just the week before another restaurant I visited comped a large bill because we waited a very long time to receive our meals, i.e. parties who had come in way after us got their food before we did. What should have happened? I kind of wanted to leave the restaurant, but my party did not want to, and having been a past customer I wanted to believe it couldn't be this bad, both the bug issue and the management. I also realize these things can happen in every restaurant.

I'll weigh in as a former restaurateur, even though you may not like what I have to say.

You buried the lead here, which is the last sentence: I also realize things can happen in every restaurant. 

You should have left it at that, then.

Up front I will say I am very much against the now commonplace notion that a diner begins subtracting from their bill for every infraction that occurs during their meal in a restaurant. It used to be that profuse apologies, which you say you received, were accepted at face value and that was that. That is how polite society works. 

These days it seems that if a glass of water is spilled or a hamburger not cooked to right temp, the diner is due some sort of recompense other than an apology or the simple attendance to the problem. A round of drinks, a discount, a comp--whatever.

I also think the diner has to accept some responsibility for how they handle mishaps. You say you kept waiting for the manager to make an offer when there was something in your mind you clearly already wanted: a comped meal. I don't really understand how getting the meal for free you already ate  somehow negates that you saw a cockroach.

That being said, I do think that it would have been appropriate in this case to offer a round of drinks along with the apology. If you feel the need to dicker beyond that, so be it.

From experience, I know that one cockroach sighting does not necessarily a "bug issue" make. (Sometimes they come out after an exterminator has been there, for example.)

In short, my suggestion is that you accept the profuse apology and then decide if you want to return or not.

My grandma recently moved into a small apartment and let the family take a bunch of her stuff. I saw she had several box sets of knives and, even though I had a pretty good idea they would be cheap and bad, I took one just in case. My first reaction was right - these knives are awful. Incredibly dull, especially considering they've never been used before! I would feel bad giving them to someone else to use, but I also feel silly tossing them. Are there any uses for bad knives other than the trash can?

Have you tried sharpening them with a hand held sharpener? I like the ones where you can pull the knives through the slot (in between professional sharpenings). It might make those old knives very usable again, then you can use or donate.

Or take them to a professional -- I agree that they very well might be able to be rehabilitated.

There is a new Italian place in the Centreville Crossing shopping center just down from Honey Pig that my neighbors rave about. They are both former sous chefs from big time NYC restaurants who are now trying farming. They say the risotto is killer. I just cant remember the name of the place.

Well, if you remember the name, email me at tim.carman@washpost.com. I'm curious about it.

Were those green and wax beans steamed first, or used raw?

They were parboiled, i.e. cooked briefly in boiling water until crisp-tender.  Then i cooled them immediately in cold water and patted them dry.  The salad tastes best when you dress the beans when they are still warm as they absorb the vinaigrette.

Cornbread is one of the few items I will still make from a box mix. I always hated cornbread growing up until I discovered Krusteez Kornbread (or some similar spelling). This would also be when I discovered I'm a true northerner at heart and like my cornbread sweet. I would love to try and make it on my own, but I'm a little wary of making cornbread that resembles Jiffy, which in my opinion is too dry. I like how Krusteez's is slightly sweet and nice and moist. Would today's recipe fit the bill or do you know of another one that would?

    This recipe comes out moist, but not sweet. For the sweetened version, look for sugar in a recipe. 

     I've made this Paul Prudhomme version; it sounds like what you are looking for.

Only on the cooking shows do they look showroom-new all the time and that's because they are using a new pan all the time. Very few cooking shows use used Le Creuset dutch ovens. I think Lidia's show does. I always wondered if the shows had sales on slightly used dutch ovens and the like. America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country are the worst offenders.

Are you sure about this?

I finally made mozzarella for the first time! It was interesting - I ruined the first batch and I got pretty scared during the second that it would fail, too, but I did it! I now have a big bag of citric acid, though, and while I plan on making more mozzarella, I was wondering if there were other uses for citric acid. Any ideas?

We have two things in our Recipe Finder: homemade blackberry soda, and tonic water!

My Vermont CSA (Localvore pioneeers Pete's Greens!) sends an e-mail newsletter the night before our pickup. It tells us what we will receive, and includes recipes that each use several CSA items. In use up things in stir-fries, Thai curries, tomato sauces (with peppers, carrots) breakfast hash browns, roast veggies like green beans for snacks, and of course once it cools down, the ubiquitous CSA soups! I used to have a CSA that gave us way too much mesclun and lettuce, and it was a real challenge to eat that many salads each week (after week, after week). Treat your CSA like a therapist - if it's not working for you, find another one!

You sound like someone who would appreciate our story from the other month on farmers market newsletters.

Another  resource is the FRESHFARM Markets' online recipe files at www.freshfarmmarkets.org

 We have 15 years of seasonal recipes from our own community of terrific chefs as well as many accomplished cookbook authors such as Joe Yonan, bloggers and nutritionists.  Check it out.

Get Kim O'Donnell's cookbooks...vegetarian cooking for meatlovers.

roast them with lemon!  I just found this recipe that looks great too.

Hi- I am participating in a progressive dinner party next week (the appetizer house!) and was wondering what is the proper amount of food to make. There will be about 9-12 people, and I am hosting the first house with one other person. Is it proper etiquette to make several appetizers where each person gets about one taste? one big appetizer? Two different appetizers with enough for each person to have 2-3 pieces? I know there is probably no one right answer, but I was just wondering in general about amount of food. I find that when I have participated in things like this in the past, people tend to make too much food, and since we are the first house I don't want everyone to fill up and neglect the other houses! I was also just interested in general to hear what the experts thought was the proper amount of food for an appetizer course for a dinner party. Thanks!

i agree that progressive dinner, in fact, a lot of communal or pot luck dinners, feature TOO much food.  Also you are making the hors and everyone still has lots of eating to go.  BE conservative and fresh.  So many good fresh things this time of year.

A good way around this is to offer a few spreadable things (maybe chopped liver, caponata, pimento cheese) along with an assorment of olives and maybe something like peppadews stuffed with goat cheese. This gives the guests the otion of availing themselves of as much of the nibbles as they like. Otherwise, I would make 3 things (1 meat, 1 veggie, 1 seafood maybe) and three pieces for each person. You have to give the appearance of abundance. If you only make just enough for 2 per person of each thing, no one will take a second one. Let there be leftovers, I say. People love to be sent home with something!

Is there a good simple recipe for tomato jam?

How about Mama's Tomato Preserves from last week's Top Tomato Contest?

Mama's Tomato Preserves

Or Sweet and Savory Tomato Jam.

Sweet and Savory Tomato Jam

And Agave Tomato Jam.

Agave Tomato Jam

Also consider smoked paprika (pimenton), it will give a smokey, meaty flavor to your dishes. I eat meat but I eat a lot of beans. Consider them too!

1) Find a cookbook author whose recipes you like (e.e., Deborah Madison) 2) Because protein is so important, focus on incorporating vegetables into bean- and grain-based meals. I love vegetables, but I sneak lots of them into things like stir fries, burritos, etc., where you can easily overwhelm them with flavor as your taste buds adapt.

We received a gift of cucumbers from a friend and I made refridgerator dill pickles from Marissa Meyer's dill recipe. They tasted the same as with pickling cukes, but weren't as crisp, but nearly.

You just named one of the main complaints about  slicing cukes vs. pickling cukes: the former are less crisp when pickled. The slicing cukes also tend to have thicker skins than Kirbys and other pickling cukes, so the brine doesn't penetrate them as well.

That name always makes me chuckle, too, Tim. I bought the red once a few years ago and thought it was a very good 8 or 9 dollar wine. I should try it again.

Yes, I haven't had one in years either. Maybe it's time to roam to the wine store and pick up a bottle.

Sorry i missed the dicussion concerning what to do with an over abundance of jalapenos. But since they are still out there i thought i would add my two cents. Besides the very easiest...packing them into freezer bags and freezing for additions to your fall and winter stews, chilis and soups i had fun with more complex solutions. With the ripened red peppers i made harissa. One batch with deseeded peppers and one with the whle shebang. The green ones, i made Thai chili paste. All excellent. I made a fried rice last night with somw left over rice and leftover steamed shrimp, and veg i had on hand and threw in some garlic, ginger, soy, sesame oil and a good dollop of the paste. Excellent.q i live in an area where you cant find these two products so i thought i would give it a try.

You are quite resourceful! Way to go. I've been wanting to make harissa myself. Soon...

My husband detests the taste of mint. I know, right? But when there's a recipe I want to make, I usually replace it with basil, which has a similar zing even though it's in the anise family flavor-wise. This recipe seems like an ideal place for the substitution, given the summer produce. I'm assuming roughly the same amount? Would it help if I pound it a little?

Basil would be great--same amount or more if you love it. I suggest rolling the leaves and gently cutting them into thin strips. Do not ever pound basil; that releases the oxalic acid that turns it brown. Pretty much any herb would be good in this salad, or a combo: cilantro, tarragon, oregano, thyme, lemon thyme or basil...

Yes Joe I am because I wondered how you could keep a La Creuset dutch oven so pristine when you are using it. They are using brand new pans and PBS seems to be the biggest user. I have a new 4k front projector for my home theater from Meridian and it upconverts HD so I can see it even clearer now. You can buy a very nice Aston Martin Vantage for the price of this front projector.

Well, I emailed Jack Bishop himself, and here's what he said:

Yes, we have a set of pots and pans that we save for TV. They are not necessarily new every year….but they are set aside especially for video and photography use. No one wants to see close-ups of old, grungy pots. 

That said, we have many Le Creuset Dutch ovens in the regular (and heavy) rotation in the test kitchen and they look pretty good. (Better than mine at home.) Here's the suggested method we published in the magazine for keeping them clean. The staff in our dish room is much better at keeping pots looking new than I am.

From Cook's, 2005: "We took a couple of stained pots from the kitchen and filled them with Le Creuset's recommended stain-removal solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach per 1 pint of water. The pots were slightly improved but still far from their original hue. We then tried a much stronger solution (which was OK'd by the manufacturer) of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. After standing overnight, a lightly stained pot was just as good as new, but a heavily stained one required an additional night of soaking before it, too, was looking natty."

Howdy folks! I opened a bottle of Bar Harbor clam juice last night, and am wondering how long it will keep in the fridge? It has a cap like what is on a non-twisty beer bottle, so it's hard to re-secure the bottle once it's open. Should I freeze the remainder? Seems a waste to use a bit and throw it away. Thanks!

Freeze it in a film wrap-lined ramekin. Once it's frozen, remove it and wrap it completely. Then store in a ziptop bag.

I went to a new to me market last week a hour after opening. One of the vendors was still fixing the white board with what was available (all of it in coolers), so I didn't even consider what was for sale. I spent a fair amount of money for not buying tomatoes, which were nearly all that was for sale.

That's why we have published hours for our FRESHFARM Markets.  Everyone is supposed to be ready when the bell rings.  But things happen, weather intervenes or a flat tire and a farmer might not have arrived early enough to set up fully.  He was not attending to you which is a mistake if you want to make sales but if that happens again you  might learn something intersting if you ask him what time he got up that morning.  

Timmy Boy google it.

Such condescension without information, a hallmark of the Internet age. 

 

Yes, I tried a quick 'Net search and found nothing other than Carrabba's Italian Grill. I was hoping the reader wasn't referring to Carrabba's, so I threw it back out there.

I would suggest you explore ethnic cuisines. Most of us grew up with European-influenced meat and potatoes food, and vegetarian meals that follow that style are not very exciting. I tried a lot of new things via a vegetarian Indian restaurant's Sunday buffet, or even the prepared salads at Lebanese Taverna or Whole Foods. Once you try things that are made well and figure out what flavors you like, then get in the kitchen and do your own experimentation.

If it's not too far away, I got some 2 weeks ago at the Baltimore Sunday Farmer's Market. If you haven't been to that market before it's really awesome. Lots of farmers, Zeke's coffee, excellent "street food" stands, and South Mountain Creamery.

I'd like to try making a breakfast version of a meringue. Think along the lines of chocolate chip walnut meringue cookies, but change out the chocolate chips for bacon bits, and reduce the sugar. My question is, how much can I reduce the sugar without compromising the meringue?

I think there is a reason you haven't come across this before. I don't see how you can make meringue without sugar or reduce the sugar enough to ever make it feasible as a truly savory dish. 

You should peel the peaches before you freeze them (use the quick boiling water method.) Buy some Fruit Fresh to sprinkle on them along with the lemon juice. I freeze them in single-serving containers and use them on oatmeal all winter.

I wrote in last week about buying smoked maple syrup. I also have smoked olive oil (order online, and they also sell a smoked brown sugar that I have yet to try). You can get smoked salt in alderwood, applewood, and hickory, and liquid smoke also comes in pecan (?!), apple (?!), hickory and mesquite varieties. I love pimenton too but it's too mild when you really want that chimney essence.

    Thanks for the additional suggestions. The smoked olive oil and brown sugar (which I've tried; it's terrific) may be from the Smoked Olive. Here's a story I wrote about smoked olive oil that might be helpful.

Every food festival or specialty store I go into seems to have a plethora of Olive oils of all kinds which I always inevitably buy, however I never seem to find a really good use for them besides a drop here or there on a Caprese or to dip really good bread in. Given the topic of tomatoes the question seemed to go hand in hand, what can you do with an expensive bottle of olive oil to really expand upon its uses as an ingredient, vice just a finisher?

Slice tomatoes and dress with olive oil,  Forget the cheese.  Make a vinaigrette with lemon juice.  Make a vinaigrette with a mixture of vinegars including apple cider vinegar and dress a fruit salad.  For me it's one of the essentials to happiness in the kitchen.  

Check out the Smoking Gun from Williams-Sonoma. I made delicious hickory-smoked sea salt with mine.

If you don't want to jump into cookbooks and recipes, you might try choosing one new vegetable a week and try cooking it in a few ways: fresh, roasted, steamed, grilled, etc. This way you get to see how the flavors change. Try seasoning differently (none, salt and pepper, cayenne, garlic, etc.). Really give it a good try. Almost every vegetable tastes good roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Wait! Why shouldn't I let my tomatoes ripen on thw windowsill? It's the most convenient place honestly and we don't have a lot of extra room in the kitchen at the moment. I'm referencing this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/chat-leftovers-picking-tomatoes/2013/08/20/9ed23b2c-09ed-11e3-b87c-476db8ac34cd_story.html

Jane Touzalin responds:

"Tomatoes ripen best in low light – even in the dark. Direct sunlight doesn’t speed ripening and in fact is thought to make the skins tougher. The Virginia Cooperative Extension folks advise storing tomatoes in a closed container with an apple to encourage them to ripen faster."

I have some that are over 40 years old and look almost brand new (on the inside). I've always found them extremely easy to clean, even though some foods can stain them.

I pointed out a large cockroach on the adjacent table to the manager of a small restaurant in NYC. He said "So what?" and didn't even remove it! Of course I left immediately and was not comped either. I like to think the place went out of business soon after but I've forgotten the name and have not been back to that neighborhood. Ugh!

Hello Rangers! I am having some friends over on Saturday morning and would like to make a quiche. I'm thinking maybe a roasted tomato, bacon, zucchini one. I have two questions for you. 1. what is the best way to make this ahead of time? Could I make it the night before and reheat it in the oven? Or, should I make the parts (custard, crust, veggies) the night before and assembly it and bake it in the morning? 2. What is the best pan to use for a quiche? Should I use my 9 inch deep dish pie plate? a tart pan? Thanks for any help!

 

Prep the custard the day before, roll the crust, line the pan with it and freeze it (I use a deep-dish pie plate or quiche pan with a removable bottom), prep the solids. Then bake the day of. Quiche is generally meant to be served room temperature, by the way.  You can make and reheat it, but it's best  to make it that day you want to eat it.

My friend came back from a stint abroad with a fiance who does not speak or read English and would like to learn to cook. Can you recommend a beginner's cookbook in French or with so many illustrations a non-English-reader can understand? Thanks!

The first book that comes to mind is Jacques Pepin's "Complete Techniques," a photo-heavy book on how to make many classic dishes.

I just want to thank David for that excellent response!!

Actually tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables.

Oops.  Of course you are right.  But that still leaves one fruit and one vegetable on your starting list. Of the whole delicious world of fruits and vegetables. 

Unlike the song, I don't want peaches from a can! Can I freeze peaches to have/use through the sad, peach-less months of winter? Do I just slice and freeze or should I take the skin off first? (how?) Is it worth the work, or will it just taste like store bough frozen peaches?

Yes, you can. The National Center for Home Food Preservation tells you how.

Working in batches, you've seared us until nicely browned (without crowding the pan), so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks to Aviva, Ann, David, Carrie and Jim for help with the a's!

Now for the giveaways: The chatter who wrote in with love for Stephanie Sedgwick will get "The Washington Post Cookbook" (which features several of her recipes). The one who has 2 kids under 5 and wrote in about strategies for beach house food will get a six-month membeship in The Six O'Clock Scramble! Send your info to Becky at becky.krystal@washpost.com, and we'll get it done.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are staff writer Tim Carman, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, Food section contributor David Hagedorn and editorial aide Becky Krystal. Guests: Ann Harvey Yonkers, co-executive director of FreshFarm Markets; Aviva Goldfarb of the Six O'Clock Scramble.
Recent Chats
  • Next: