Free Range on Food: Rosh Hashanah and more

Aug 28, 2013

Need help planning your Rosh Hashanah meal? Blogger Vered Guttman and Susan Barocas, director of the Jewish Food Experience, will be here to offer tips.
Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! In these waning days of summer (say it ain't so!), what's on your mind, in your pantry, on your stove, in your fridge and freezer? And what are you going to do with it?

We're here to help. In anticipation of Rosh Hashanah, we welcome for question-answering assistance two sources of recipes in today's piece by Bonnie (who's on vacation) about a RH open-house lunch: Susan Barocas, director of The Jewish Food Experience, and cater and writer Vered Guttman.

We can handle non-RH questions, too, of course: We're on deck for anything. Cocktails, spirits, barbecue, vegetables, you name it, we'll try to tackle it. So fire away!

For the source of our favorite question or comment, we'll have a giveaway book: "The Washington Post Cookbook," edited by Ms. Benwick herself. She'll even sign it!

Let's do this.

Dear Susan, dear Rosh, I am an Italian girl who is really interested in discovering the secrets and tastes of the ancient Jewish food. Could you kindly reccomend me a recipe for a challah to prepare next week? I noticed the Jewish new Year will start on Sept. 4th and would like to bake it for that celebration. Thanks a lot

Making your own challah is so satisfying and delicious!  A couple of ideas to help you. Check out Paula Shoyer's story on the Jewish Food Experience website for a great basic challah recipe and information about how to make round shapes for Rosh Hashanah.  Also, check you the Tribes-A-Dozen website for Leah Hadad's ideas and her mixes to get you started if that helps.  Happy challah-days!

We have a couple of nice recipes in our database, including Joan Nathan's Pain Petri (Anise-Flavored Challah With Sesame Seeds).

Pain Petri (Anise-Flavored Challah With Sesame Seeds)

We have some good ones for you, too!

Challah for a Crowd.

High Holiday Challah.

Quince Honey Challah Knots.

 

Just had to share that I have found my official go-to drink for the Fall as well as a signature cocktaill/shot for any Halloween parties. Last week I got some honeycrisp cider (I think Crispin brand) and on a whim added some cherry vodka leftover from a friend visiting a long time ago. It tasted like a less-sweet version of a candy apple, and would be perfect for a "signature drink" or shot this Fall. Also, I (literally) ran into a stack of Pumpkin CIDER at WF yesterday. For someone who can't drink beer, these are exciting developments!

I'm sometimes disappointed by "beertails," but "cidertails" sound worth exploring. Seems like a crisp, dry cider could be a great substitute to play with in drinks that usually call for prosecco or champagne. The pumpkin cider, if it's not too sweet, might be a great base for an autumnal variation on a Kir Royale. Thanks for the ideas!  

I asked a question a few weeks ago about "re-crisping" soft pickles. Voltaggio said that there was nothing I could do to save them, so now I'm wondering...is there anything I can do with them (besides relish)? I love the flavor of my husband's grandma's pickles, and even though I know they're fine to eat, I just can't get past the soft texture. So, Rangers...is there anything I can make with pickles? I feel like a contestant on Chopped right now.

1. Get out the food processor, and puree them with a little mayo for a quick sandwich spread.

2. Add some oil, vinegar, Dijon and garlic and puree them into a vinaigrette.

3. Chop up fine and add to potato salad (with some of that liquid, of course).

4. Make a dip by pureeing with cream cheese.

5. Blend into egg yolks for deviled eggs, and save a little chopped to put on top. 

6. Add to pimento cheese.

Hi Susan and Vered, please recommend your choice of signature menu! Simple, easy to put together with a lil bit of effort and lots of love :) What is your most comforting signature menu?

Comforting and easy, a winning combination. I always start with a ceviche dish, for Rosh Hashanah it always has a pomegranate (both fish and pomegranate are symbolic foods of Rosh Hashanah. Read here). For main course you can make a short rib and lamb shank stew. Those can, and should, be made in advance so you only heat them up on the day of the meal. A simple salad next to it is all you need. And as for dessert, the traditional honey cakes you need to make up to a week in advance, so the flavors develop by the time you serve. Easy!

I can attest that Vered's ceviche is delicious!  For me, real comfort for a holiday is starting with a soup, usually warm. I like a gingered roasted squash with a dash of curry, topped with a it of chopped candied ginger.  Then chicken--an easy one for Rosh Hashanah is a sweet-savory with slices of onion on the bottom of a large baking dish, topped with chicken (with some salt and pepper) and then a sauce of honey, orange juice and maybe some orange marmelade mixed in.  I love roasted veggies on the side. I agree that the honey cake with some fruit is a great finish.

I bought a cantelope that is pretty tasteless. I don't want to throw it away. Any suggestions?

Sounds like your blah cantaloupe could benefit from getting mixed in with a few more flavorful ingredients. I like the sound of these drinks:

Folic Fizz

Caribbean Smoothie

Caribbean Smoothie

Thanks for taking my question! I'm spending one night of Rosh Hashanah having dinner with friends, but the other night, I'll be solo. Do you have any suggestions of local restaurants/grocery stores that might be doing prepared foods AND be willing to sell them in individual portions, instead of "family meal catering" sizes only?

Several area restaurants are doing Rosh Hashanah meals including DGS Delicatessen, Mon Ami Gabi, Equinox, Soupergirl, Dino, and The Parkway Deli. Most have pre-fixe meals for the holiday.  Check out the JFE website tomorrow for a new story with more details on eat-in and take-out options for the holiday.

I wrote in a couple of weeks ago about looking for a way to make vegetarian pasta sauce with protein- I ended up using lentils, kind of like a vegetarian bolognese. It was really good, and perfect for someone who hates fake meat products (me).

Love that! Care to share your recipe? When did the lentils go in?

As a vegetarian for most of the past 4 decades, I want your recipe, too!  Lentils are a favorite, so let us know.

There's a classic Italian lentil and pasta dish, where you cook the lentils in tomato sauce and about an hour or more. Really delicious. Especially if you're using the Umbrian lentils.

I have too many dates (of the food variety kind...alas). Other than adding them to muffins, oatmeal or wrapping them in bacon, any ideas for healthy recipes? Thanks!

Somehow I can never have too many dates!  I love just eating them plain for a sweet treat.  Also stuffing with whole almonds or your favorite soft cheese and maybe a drizzle of honey on top - so simple and delicious as appetizers for a party or even as part of healthy dessert.  You can throw them in a food processor with some nuts, cinnamon and a dash of allspice and process until smooth, adding a splash of water, orange juice or wine to the consistency desired.  Then you have a great date jam for breads, to spread on dough before adding fruit and rolling into a strudel or a simple galette.

I like dates -- well, good ones. (Medjools are a favorite, of course.) I have a recipe in the new book that uses them to sweeten an eggplant dip: You roast the eggplant, scoop out flesh, puree with dates, walnuts, vinegar, garlic, s&p.

The best dates are from Yekta in Rockville, these are extra large medjool dates called also Rotab. I like to stuff them with Bucheron, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 5 minutes in 350. If you have enough dates, you can also soak them in water, then make them into a paste using your food processor and bake a cake.

I can't remember if I've asked this is the past, so my apologies if I did and you answered. I have a giant box of Bisquick that my fiance got from Costco, despite my warning against it. I've tried adding things to it and making a pancake mix, but it tastes gross no matter what I do. Please help!

I just have to answer this one because Bisquick was a huge part of my childhood in the 1950s and 60s. I think I made everything on every box my mother ever bought.  Who knew??  We used Jell-o and Campbell's soups like manna as well! Now I'm inclined to use the mix for paper mache...  I'm wondering if you made (very) cheesy biscuits with some diced smoked jalepenos if that would cover the manufactured flavor?

There's a classic 70s-era sausage cheese ball recipe that uses Bisquick. Google around, and you'll see lots of options. My mom made them a lot when I was a kid and I loved them. Then again, my palate wasn't QUITE as developed as it is now, but I bet the flavor of the Bisquick is hidden here, too.

A recipe for frying squash called for a deep skillet. How deep is considered deep for a skillet?

Funny, I've never really thought about what depth is required before a manufacturer deems a skillet "deep." A quick Google search indicates skillet manufacturers have little consensus on the matter: I found some "deep" skillets that measured 3.5 inches deep and others that measured 5.5 inches or deeper.

 

Bottom line: It appears you need at least 3.5 inches of height to earn the "deep" descriptor.*

 

* Not a guaranteed correct answer.

Should I stop consuming them considering that the following article from last month said:

In March 2013, researchers from the Stanford University Hopkins Marine Station issued a report on Bluefin tuna caught off the California coast and tested for radioactive cesium. The report found that Bluefin tuna were 100 per cent contaminated, that not one was cesium-free. The report did not address such questions as whether cesium would continue to accumulate in tuna or whether it was appearing in other fish species...On the coast of California, there is a deep sea kelp forest at Corona del Mar that now contains concentrations of radiation that are 250 times higher than levels found in kelp prior to the Japanese nuclear accidents. A research article published in Scientific American reports that radiation accumulated in fish that ate near the kelp.

If it concerns you at all, I would say, yes, you should stop eating tuna and kelp, particularly if it was caught or harvested in the Pacific Ocean, where there remain issues from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Knaffeh is a delicacy! I understand that there are many variants depending on the region one is from. What's your favourite? And how would you make this?

I agree! My favorite recipe for making at home would be actually in a skillet (in stores in the Middle East it is baked in the oven). I mix the fatayif (shredded phyllo) with butter, arrange half of it in a skillet, top with goat cheese, and candied orange peel and then top with the rest of the katayif. you just cook it for a few minutes on each side and pour sugar syrup at the end. It's really delicious. Here's a recipe from my blog for Haaretz.

For health reasons my doc told me to cut back on "white flour". Can you use a wheat flour as a one to one substitute or does it depend on what/how much you are using?

If you're working with recipes that originally call for all-purpose flour, you can replace about 1/3 of it with whole wheat. More than that, and your recipe will suffer. That being said, there are plenty of recipes out there than only call for whole wheat (or white whole wheat) flour. King Arthur Flour has a ton in its recipe database online. It even has a cookbook dedicated to whole grains.

Hi! My partner and I had corn on the cob off the grill recently, and I stared sadly at the remaining cobs which I just couldn't even dream of eating I was so full! In my depression, I was about to throw them out, when my partner said that the corn could be rejuvenated! The next day, he put the corn in some boiling water for a couple of minutes and it really worked! It was delicious! For future reference, did we just get lucky that night or is this something that usually works for wonderful corn? Thanks!

So the corn had been grilled, and then sat around for, what, a day or two before the boiling? It makes sense that boiling would get some more water back into the corn if it was shriveling/drying up -- you have a smart partner! I'm working on a piece about resurrecting wilted fresh produce, and I haven't played around with corn yet, but sounds like I should.

Reminder to everyone that leftover Fats, Oils, and Greases should be emptied into the trash (using whatever jar works for you) and never go down the drain. They clog up the sewer lines just like your arteries! Even saute pans or butter knives should be wiped with a paper towel before tackling with a sponge.

Our condo board always reminds us of this.

can dry rubs be used on chicken or meats inside on a grill pan? How do you keep from them burning? Should some of the cooking be done in the oven?

    If you stay away from sugars, you'll be fine. Try a dry rub of, say, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, cayenenne, or some variant.

    Depending on the capabilities of your particular grill pan (and it should have come with instructions and probaby even recipes), you should be fine to cook your meats and chicken inside the pan. However, if you're uncertain and want to make absolutely sure that your food comes out like you want, then grill it in the grill pan for a few minutes, then put in the oven. 

What can be substituted for ham hock, when making braised greens like collards?

Most vegetarian collard recipes that want to mimic the smokiness of bacon or ham hocks rely on smoked paprika. But you might also try smoked salt, which you can find at Whole Foods. I have some smoked salt at home  and,  wow, that stuff smells like a brisket after an 18-hour smoke.

I also like smoked pepper! From Bourbon Barrel Foods.

Hi Free Rangers! I've an interesting dilemma. I've agreed to host a group of 4 visitors from Afghanistan. The one request is that the meal be halal. We've plenty of sources for Halal meat in the area, but was wondering if you might have any ideas. I was thinking of firing up the grill as it would give us a chance to serve a classic American meal. Any thoughts?

As long as the meat itself is halal, there are no limitation to what recipes you can make. A classic American BBQ sounds like a great idea. Don't serve alcohol.

There's only two of us in my family (three if you count the dog, which he wishes we would when meal planning...) and I have one of the 6-qt. crock-pots. I rarely use it because it's too big for a two-person meal, even with leftovers, but in the interests of life and time I have purchased a couple *big* cuts of meat. I was thinking to cook those on the weekend and use the cooked meat for various quicker dishes during the week. How to season the meat so it's versatile, but still tasty? Say, a giant Boston butt. Thanks!

Congratulations on moving forward with your crock pot. The Boston butt can present some problems when cooked in a crock pot. Nothing that can't be overcome, though. Here are a couple of forums in which home cooks assist each other with the preparation of a crock-pot Boston butt. The takeaways: Make sure to remove the gland, don't overcook it and use some vinegar to break down the meat.

 

Chatters, other suggestions?

"Crock-pot Boston butt" sounds like the makings of an insult, doesn't it? I'm going to have to file that one away.

Any word on who will have them and when?

Hatch chiles are available at Haris Teeter stores around town. I don't know if there have been sightings elsewhere. Chatters?

I see that iron is omitted from multivitamins for women over 50 (I am 55.) I will ask my dr. about my specific needs, but it got me thinking: what are good sources of iron? Spinach has surprisingly little. Ideas? Esp. for those of us who don't eat much red meat?

This page from the NIH has a good list. For those who don't each much meat, lentils and beans have a decent amount of iron.

You are always so helpful. I've started making apple and berry mini pies in muffin and mini muffin tins. They look beautiful when they come out of the oven, but the next morning they look deflated. I'm using fruit (fresh and frozen), sugar, and cornstarch. Is there something that I should add to make the fruit look better? Thank you!

It's just because the fruit cooks down and further settles as it cools. The best bet here, IMO, is to put way more fruit in there than you think you need -- really mound it tall.

A classic American BBQ without alcohol is a contradiction in terms!

Okay, then. 

Any ideas for what I should make for a Jazz in the Garden picnic this week ? Stipulations would be that it would keep for up to two days (I'll probably make it wednesday or thursday night) and I'm vegetarian. I think we are all just going to bring different appetizers/picnic foods, etc. Looking for some new and creative and seasonal ideas! Thanks!

You might like Aviva Goldfarb's recipe for Light and Fluffy Cheese Strata on our website.  You can make ahead, pre-cut it in wedges or squares and serve at room temp.  Mini-muffins with shredded carrots, apples and/or zucchini are a favorite of mine for make-ahead finger food. I find the veggies help keep them moist and a dash of cinnamon is a nice touch.

nice recipe for this on food52.com. I've made this for both vegetarian and meat eater and both liked!

Thanks!

looking for a savory, parve, kugel. Hopefully no margarine. Also, if i make it Monday, can it stay in the fridge till Wed and be ok? thanks!

If you're making any kugel on Monday, make sure you wrap it really well so it won't dry out in the fridge. But let me suggest making the Jerusalem overnight kugel (if you don't ming cooking on Tuesday instead of Wednesday). It is parve, margarine-free, and comes out from a night in the oven all caramelized-brown and super delicious. Here's a recipe from my blog for Haaretz.

While salads in any combinations are tasty, I also believe that it's like wine & cheese pairing! Food science is crucial to understand flavours. So, the question I have for you is: 1. Ideal vegetables and salad dressing pairs, along with relevant nuts, lentils and cheese. For eg: Feta, pine nuts, lettuce with olive oil dressing. Will be great if you can share the pairing because most food sites and books only have recipes and not pairings.

Have a look at our salad spinner. That might help some.

Lots of ideas in the spinner, it's true. I also like to take cues from global cuisines. So, Spanish = sherry vinegar, olive oil, almonds, potatoes, tomatoes. Japanese = rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, sweet potatoes. Mexican = lime juice, vegetable oil, avocados.

I've been requested to make a birthday cake with "magenta and really orange" frosting, and I want to get deep colors without artificial products. I know there are tons of blog tips and products out there--any tips from the experts in this chat? Seems like carrot juice and beet juice might be my best bets unless I want to purchase natural dyes. Thanks!

Try frozen fruit juice concentrate. We got that tip from baker extraordinaire and Friend of Food Nancy Baggett. We wrote about this technique for last year's cookie issue.

fry them up! Frickles!

Thanks! Not sure these would be as good with soft pickles as they are with crunchy, but worth trying!

I've also read that cooking food in uncoated cast iron pots and pans adds iron to the food, but I don't know how much.

If I'm just cooking the meat to use later, I generally just do a neutral liquid (usually water) and maybe some basic seasoning and maybe some onions. I then use it to make meals where it's best to season later. For pork, I'll whip up some BBQ sauce and then throw the meat in to heat up. Crock pot pork is also great for making carnitas, since the shredded meat needs to be finished in the oven anyway. I also just would like to sing the crock pot praises generally. I used to just do beans, soups, and stews, but recently have branched out into pasta dishes and even desserts. Love. It.

So I left a knob of ginger on my kitchen counter...for a week or more...and it looks like it is sprouting. Can these new shoots be used or should I discard them along with hurrying up and using the ginger in a dish?

You can certainly eat the shoots.

I was eager to try this recipe, but ran into problems finding the 10-ounce package of saffron rice: my local grocery had two brands, but both contained some form of chicken as a flavoring ingredient, so they wouldn't work for my vegetarian teenager. I know Bonnie said the recipe was flexible, so I ended up with an 8-ounce box of "New Orleans Style Yellow Rice," and hoped that would be close enough. Since Bonnie tested the recipe, though, could she guess what spices (and rough quantities) I would need if I just started out with plain old regular rice?

Saffron Rice and Bean Salad

We went back to the source of that recipe, Aviva Goldfarb of the Six O'Clock Scramble. She says:

This recipe is really flexible and you could definitely use the New Orleans Style Yellow Rice. Alternatively, you could use plain orzo or rice and cook it in some vegetable or chicken broth and add a pinch of saffron and 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. garlic powder and you should still have a delicious dinner.

For the person who is cutting back on white flour, try different types of whole wheat flour for different purposes. For baking, use whole wheat pastry flour (Ii use it pretty much one to one instead of white). White whole wheat flour (which is whole wheat, with the bran, it's just a different strain of wheat) is good for pizza dough. I prefer to do this rather than use some white and some whole wheat.

Got some wonderful pickled cabbage, very garlicky and vinegary, with a Mediterranean takeout order a few days ago and have lots of it left over. I put some into some soft tacos yesterday and that was great, but am thinking of chopping it finely and putting it into something else. What should that something else be? It's pretty strong.

Grilled cheese? Kind of like Joe's Grilled Kimcheese.

Grilled Kimcheese

I also think it might be good in an omelet.

I originally thought I'd put it towards a covered skillet that would go in the oven (I have 5 that don't). That hasn't happened. Even though it's a gift card, I have buyer's resistance when I go in the store. I'd spend it on Saigon cinnamon if they ever had it in stock.

Go into the store or online, and every time you look at a price, subtract $50 from it. Does anything seem like a good deal now? I bet it does.

Now for a specific suggestion: Do you have enough paring knives? I feel like one can't have too many. (Well, I suppose more than 5 or 6 might be too many, but ...)

Don't do that to us! Recipe, please? Or at least the name so we can find one for ourselves? Thanks!

Here's one example I've found online.

The recipe I usually make starts simply with making a tomato sauce with onions and garlic, adding lentils and cover with water, then cook for 1-1.5 hours. Cook pasta and mix with the lentils. That's it.

Hi there, I'm sorry that this is not Rosh Hashanah-related but I hope I can get some advice. I've just inherited an air popper so I can make homemade popcorn and not have to rely on the microwave kind, yay! I love the white cheddar kind so I bought some shake-on cheese that is supposed to be for popcorn, but when I read the instructions, it said I needed to buy a spray that I would spray on the popcorn so the cheese would stick. ?!? Is that really necessary? Is there something homemade I can use instead? Thanks!

I've sprayed on olive oil, including flavored ones, with some nice results as long as you use a light touch.

You can also just shake, shake, shake, as I recommend in my recent recipe for Herbed Popcorn.

How long do they last?

They can last for months, but if you need them to last long you can keep them in the fridge. 

I loooooooove eggplant! It is endlessly adaptable and nearly always incredibly delicious. It's even my favorite color! There used to be a Middle Eastern restaurant on Thomas Jefferson Place just off Dupont Circle that made the most amazing baba ghanoush. Wish I'd gotten their recipe! And I'm still trying to replicate the eggplant with garlic sauce that City Lights of China makes. Can you help?

I'm not sure how City Lights of China prepares its dish, but here's a Sichuan version of eggplant with garlic sauce from Saveur. I'd eat that thing!

Hi! I'm looking to get out of my routine of a sesame/soy/ginger etc. stir fry for quick dinners. I am a very strict vegetarian and like my meals to consist of grain (preferably whole grain), vegetables, and protein (beans, lentils, or tofu). Any new ideas that I can put in rotation? They really do have to be quick because I have an autoimmune disorder and can't really stand in the kitchen for more than 20 minutes so. If it helps, the veggies in my fridge right now are broccoli, carrots, and green onions. Giant thanks if you can help!

Have you gotten into quinoa?  I love the stuff for it's texture and protein boost, and use it in many ways.  I like to make a big batch on a weekend and either make a few dishes with it right away for the fridge and/or freezer, or freeze it in small 1-2 person batches.  One of my recipes for a quick quinoa salad is included in the Post's Rosh Hashanah lunch story.  Quinoa can be substituted or combined with other grans in tabouleh and other salads.  I also like stuffing peppers with it mixed with some sauteed onions and garlic, shredded carrots and whatever other veggies I have lying around, all chopped up and mixed together including the broccoli and green onions in your fridge now.

I always eat at Joe's Noodle House when I'm in the Rockville area, and see Yekta. Now I know to go in and grab some dates - thank you! Anything else good there I should add to my basket?

Oh, my answer for this would be too long! Make sure you get the huge ones (they keep them by the cashier). And while you're there, grab some freekeh, date (or carob) molasses, zaatar and sumac, frozen fried onions, artichoke bottoms, canned fava, dried fava of all kinds, the best baklava and halva and so much more.

this recipe looks delicious, Vered. Any sub for dried favas, though, or would that change the dish too much? Would it be OK for a home cook to use frozen added later? Another type of dried bean?

Thank you! Any other type of DRIED bean would work well. And that's how you make a recipe yours. Shana tova!

Hi gang--any suggestions for a vegetarian, gluten free Rosh Hashana? We have a variety of guests and want to be sure everyone has some kind of main to enjoy. Thanks!

Lots of great gluten-free Rosh Hashanah options including challah, apple cake and even a "kugel" make from shredded zucchini on jewishfoodexperience.com. You can search our recipe datebase for more gluten-free for every holiday and everyday meals.  All of our recipes are tagged, so gluten-free shows up plenty.  Also, we're giving a gluten-free Jewish cooking program on October 8, so keep an eye onour calendar.

With so many back-to-back holidays and days off from school, do you have any kid-friendly recipes that are easy to prepare and everyone will enjoy? Thanks!

The series of recipes from Aviva Goldfarb that Bonnie is doing in Dinner in Minutes is a good start. So far we've had Saffron Rice and Bean Salad and Grilled Steak and Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches.

Grilled Steak and Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches

You can also search our database for fast, kid-friendly main courses. And you get 172 results!

We always go to a vegetarian relatives' home for holiday meals. What would be a good dish that can travel about an hour? She usually has a salad and roasted vegetable.

It sounds like you should be bringing a grain. How about a quinoa (high protein) or farro salad? If you can find pomegranate (which is hard since the holiday is so early this year) add them to your salad for their symbolic value. There are many recipes online. Shan tova!

Joe, I was at the Dupont farmers market on Sunday and I almost bought your book. The almost is because it didn't have nutritional information. What can you tell me that would make me change my mind and buy it? It's a beautiful book and looks like great recipes, but I feel like nutritional information ought to be part of the equation these days. Thanks!

Glad you like the look of the book! Sorry that you find the lack of nutritional info a disappointment, and if I were writing a health-oriented or diet book, it would definitely be in there. (I took a quick survey of the 12 or so cookbooks on my desk at the moment, and not a one has the nutritional info, btw. So I'm not alone!)

I can tell you that I am certainly trying to manage my own weight, so my recipes are definitely on the healthful side: not more than an ounce or two of cheese per serving, no more than a cup of rice, that kind of thing. And generally, cooking at home is so much more healthful than getting takeout/etc., which is what I'm trying to get people to avoid.

The idea behind the book is vegetable inspiration that results in smaller portions. I don't pack my recipes with tons of cheese and eggs to "make up" for the lack of meat, so nutritionally, they're on the good side.

I need to use up last week's fennel bulb. I can include other CSA things like potato, onion, baby spinach, microbasil, padrone peppers, green pepper or carrots. I was thinking of a fennel risotto with crab meat and parmesan, whereby I saute the fennel separately and add to the risotto near the end, along with the crab. This would also use an onion as per normal risotto. Any better suggestions?

Good ideas!  Since it's still summer, how about a quick and easy fennel salad? Slice the bulb thinly and toss with lemon juice, zest, olive oil and some s&p. 

This chat usually recommends olive oil, but I much prefer either grapeseed oil or corn oil. I don't bother with a spray, I just drizzle it on the popcorn. For "cheese" popcorn, try nutritional yeast flakes and salt. I also like to use coconut oil when I make chocolate popcorn (a blend of cocoa, powdered sugar, salt, chili, and cinnamon) sprinkled on top.

"Recipe" is a strong word. I cooked pre-soaked lentils until almost done and set them aside with some of the cooking water. I made a basic, slightly chunky tomato sauce (diced tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots, onions, garlic, olive oil, wine, herbs, a dash of cumin), simmered for about 5 minutes then added the lentils+water and simmered for about 30-40 minutes I used regular brown lentils this time, but I might try red lentils or pureeing them after cooking and using crushed tomatoes next time.

Sounds delicious!  I am going to try it and will let you know how it goes. Thanks!

Wegmans has the roasters every year at the end of august beginning of September. They are going to be at our store in Gainesville/Lake Manassas this weekend. We usually buy an entire case, divide them into portions and use them all winter in everything. They make the best chile ever.

Great tip. I guess I know where many of us will be this weekend.

I am always on the lookout for decent table wines at the supermarket as I can't always make it to a wine shop. I hate to pay more than $6-$7 for basic weeknights. I prefer old world styles and am happy with the stuff that is delivered by tanker truck to wine shops in France (the first time I saw one with its giant hose stuck through a manhole, I thought they were delivering heating oil.) I really don't like that brightly colored marsupial stuff. That said, what can you tell me about that giant rooster brand from CA central valley. I've seen it for $5, but hate to pour even $5 down the drain.

Dave says:

I assume you mean Rex Goliath? Like most inexpensive wines from California,  I find it rather plodding. The brand that consistently surprises me is Robert Mondavi Woodbridge. Not sure what the supermarket price is but I believe they usually lost around $8 and are often on sale. 

 

I'd also suggest Black Box wines, which come in 3-liter boxes for about $20 - the equivalent of $5 for a standard 750 ml bottle. 

After having been a stay-at-home mom or 7 years, I am going back to wok this week when my kids go back to school. Of course the kids don't see a difference since they are in school all day. But now when I pick them up in the afternoon, I have to come upwith a dinner plan that doesn't utilze too muh energy or brain power. Please help me with some easy to put together meals. Preferably without meat

Growing up, my mom worked full-time with four kids, so I feel your pain!  Involving the kids in cooking and doing big batches of food as part of your weekend activities helps keep everyone on track during the week.  I love making soups, stews, crustless quich and other things that are easy to make, freeze and reheat.  Also, Aviva Goldfarb's Six O'Clock Scramble can totally un-scramble your weeknight dinners!

We are hosting a Mickey Mouse themed 1st birthday party for my nephew. We are doing cake and hor d'oeuvres/side dishes. The cake is being catered, so I don't have to come up with dessert ideas. Any ideas for what to make? All I can think of is a cheese plate (mouse, cheese...). and toothpicking grapes together to make the classic Mickey head.

My understanding is the Costco sells chicken nuggets in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

 

Call it interspecies love.

I'm making a cucumber lychee salad as a side for a Labor Day party. Any idea where to get lychee nuts - they are basically dried lychees in the same way that raisins are dried grapes. If I strike out one of the large grocery stores and Asian stores, do you know of a good substitute (don't want to substitute with raisins).

Great Wall Supermarket in Falls Church carries dried lychees. A 454-gram pack will run you $4.99.

I am wishing that article was this week instead! A well-meaning friend picked up my CSA for me while I was out of town and left everything out of the fridge for two days. Even the sturdy kale looked sad. The apples also did fare so well, so I'm thinking I'm going to have to make some applesauce or crumble, which I guess isn't a bad thing!

Well, here's a quick tip: For the kale and other leafy greens, discard anything that's actually turned brown, then for the rest cut a little bit off the bottom of the stems and put the kale in a big bowl of cold water. Within, oh, 20 minutes or so they should have perked up. This also works in a glass of water, standing them up.

In a fit of inspiration, I decided to buy a dehydrator and make my own jerky. While that was a success, I now have a rather bulky appliance and I'm not really sure what else to do with it. I'm approaching the end of hiking season, so my jerky needs are going to go away until next spring. Ideas to help me feel better about this purchase?

Dried fruit! Stay tuned for our story next week all about dehydrating. Suddenly I've become obsessed with trying to make fruit leather -- I only have my oven but a dehyrdrator is perfect for that.

I just used my $50 one to go online and buy the Cuisinart ice cream maker on sale, plus roasted garlic olive oil. I think I got my money's worth!

Great!

Hi! I received a new kind of olive oil from Nudo Italia: chocolate!! Do you have any suggestions for fun easy recipes I can make with it? Thanks!

ooohhh!  Sounds so interesting!  What about a flourless chocolate tort with the oil to deepen the rich flavor and add some complexity?

A request: Would you consider giving more space to recipes for Muslim holidays? Easter, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashana, and Christmas are VERY well covered every single year, but I rarely see recipes for Ramadan or Eid despite the fact that there is a sizable population of Muslims in the DC area. I'm not Muslim--nor am I Jewish or Christian--but I am a big fan of the Post's Food Section and the food of Muslim countries, and I've always seen this as a pretty glaring oversight (in all papers, not just the Post).

Thanks for the thought. We had a Ramadan recipe in July, but it's true, our Recipe Finder has just 7 Ramadan recipes in it. I'll discuss with Bonnie.

This is one of my favorites from Arthur Schwartz published in the Post AND...in your Washington Post Cookbook!! Pasta and Lentils, Sicilian Style. You make the spaghetti right in it! Delicious and can be made vegetarian/kosher without the pancetta.

Well, color me red! Bonnie would NEVER have overlooked this, so thank you for playing her part and calling it out!

Here it is: Pasta and Lentils, Sicilian-Style.

I can't seem to find a recipe for Taco's Nortenos. Do you have one? Thanks!

Guy Fieri (of course) visited a taqueria in Dallas, where the chef explained how to make tacos Nortenos. It's an unusual recipe that includes -- I'm not making this up, as Dave Barry used to say -- white zinfandel.

 

The recipe is clearly designed to feed many. You might experiment with it and scale it down to suit your personal needs.

The Poppi's Potato Pudding recipe says that Yukon Golds are starchy, which surprises me, as they make such good potato salad and roast potatoes. And we always used to use russets in our kugel in the old days. Why is starch bad for the kugel?

Poppi's Potato Pudding

Stephanie says:

I experimented with Yukon Golds and they made the kugel gluey. They made for a kugel that held together better, but we all preferred the lightness of the one made with red potatoes.

I can understand wanting nutrional info there for a quick glance, but I approach health in a different way. If all the ingredients are healthy, I don't think the main concern should be calories. If it includes something fatty or starchy, assume you should eat less of it or modify. If you do research and know what is healthy, and most importantly, listen to your body, you don't need to follow an exact count. And if you have specific health concerns, than education is absolutely key.

Word.

I'm sorry but the phrase "end of hiking season" does not compute. It is hiking season all year long so keep that thing cooking!

I loved reading about the baker and her croissants this morning. They sound absolutely divine! I'd love to try one; however, I'm unlikely to find myself anywhere near H Street NE on an early Saturday morning. So, I was wondering if you can get her croissants anywhere else? Or, alternatively, do you know of other really good croissants in D.C., because now I'm really hungry for one? Thanks!

You should reach out to Erica through her website. She takes special orders and things can be picked up at Seasonal Pantry, looks like. (She has them there sometimes, but it's hit and miss unless you contact her, I believe.)

Wow! Sounds like my basket will be full. Now what to do with all of those ingredients? Any go-to recipes?

I forgot to mention earlier the pomegranate syrups, the sour grape syrup, the orange blossom water and rose water. Now your basket is fuller. I published many recipes using these ingredients here at the Post and at my food blog for Haaretz , but you can start by just opening a can of cooked fava (the Egyptian style, called full mudamas) heat it upo a little and mix it with chopped tomato, lemon juice, crushed garlic, parsley and olive oil. Then drizzle it all with raw tahini (which you better get from Kosher mart - their new Sum tahini from Israel is wonderful).

What are the guidelines following food for RH? Is it similar to keeping kosher? Please pardon my ignorance, I am just hoping to educate myself for friends.

There aren't really guidelines. Of course, kosher rules still apply, but Rosh Hashanah meals are often governed more by tradition. So you have the round challahs (circle of life, new year, etc.) and sweeter things, the most typical being dipping apples in honey for a sweet new year.

I agree, it's about tradition more than anything else. But there are so many different traditions from around the diaspora that you can adopt from, and many dishes have symbolic meanings, mainly for a good, healthy, prosperous year. Like the round challah, the pomegranate that symbolize the good deeds, sesame seeds or beans for a prosperous year. You can read about the many symbols here.

I agree - so many variations on traditions from culture to culture and family to family.  Read this story for some ideas about traditions like the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah seder with its 7 special blessings over symbolic foods as well as creating new holiday traditions of your own and more.  By the way, eggs are also traditional in nearly every Jewish family and culture as symbols of continuing life.

For the person who asked about this last week, citric acid is often referred to as "sour salt" and is popular in Jewish recipes from Eastern European, where it was used in sweet and sour things like borscht, stuffed cabbage, and the like. You could also use it to brighten anything where you might use lemon juice. The citric acid's brightness won't cook out the way lemon will, so you can add it earlier.

You're really not going to get much, especially in a European style, for that little, in the DC metro area.

Hi Free Range, I got the email last week about banana bread and subsituting one cup of flour with cocoa powder and adding 1/2 cup of flour. The recipe I use asks for 1 3/4 cups of flour. Does this mean I would still add 3/4 cup of flour or only use 1/2 cup? I made a loaf last night and want to make another one to compare the two. I'm also hosting a BBQ for this weekend. We're expecting about 30 people. What is the ratio of app/sides for this many people? People are bringing items so I want to make sure I have enough food...or not so much that it will feed this many people on Sun and a few days afterwards. Any fun suggestions for a dish? Thank you!

Can't answer the banana bread query, but I can suggest something for the barbecue - although I should note that I always have too much. So, if you are looking to end up with no, or even few, leftovers, well...

Generally, I try to keep the apps relatively simple and easily made ahead of time - chile con queso, guacamole, deviled eggs, those sorts of things. And I put them on plates or smallish bowls that I keep my eye on to replenish as necessary. That way, I also control the tempo and amounts. 

I don't know about ratios. For 30, you want to have plenty. My potato salad for a crowd that size would total about a third of a potato per person, so about 10 potatoes. A pound of beans, unless your crowd really likes 'em, then I'd make two. Coleslaw, I'd use two heads of cabbage. 

Let me just say this, if a barbecue doesn't have leftovers, you didn't make enough.

I'm guessing that banana bread tip came from Bonnie, who is on vacation today. Want to send an e-mail to us, so she can answer when she returns? We're at food@washpost.com.

When I was a kid, my mom used to make a meatball soup - it was clear (though my grandparents liked to add sour cream into their individual portions), and other than meatballs, it had potatoes, mushrooms, and sometimes carrots in it. Do you know of a recipe anything like that? Unfortunately mom is no longer with us... and she never wrote this down. "It's just soup."

When I was in Hungary a few years ago, my son had a soup like that. Part of what I find fun is playing food detective and trying to re-create recipes for favorite dishes where no written record exists.  Sometimes you hit it just right and other times not so much, but you find you have created something with new flavors that you also enjoy. So have a go at it!

While you must try the croissants (Erica), it is worth spending a day to make these flaky buttery croissants. You'll never regret them! Julia Child has nailed this beautifully!

Did want to mention before this ends, that this is a great site, Susan. Will check it often!

We made the fig-filled challah from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook a couple of weeks ago, and were amazed at how well it worked, given that the recipe sounded complicated.  But my son was concerned because the dough, which contained raw eggs, was unrefrigerated for more than two hours before baking. I think it's not at all unusual for bread dough to remain at room temperature for several hours, but does anyone understand why having raw eggs at room temperature for this long is not a concern?

Jews have been leaving yeast dough to rise on the countertop for centuries! But if you're worried about it, you can always let it rise overnight in the fridge, and just take it out an hour or so before baking. It takes longer, but you'll feel better about it.

This might sound boring but consider planning a certain type of food for each week night. For instance, soup on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, etc. I try to make two meals ahead of time over the weekend - say a soup and a pasta sauce (that red lentil one is gonna happen soon!). Prep veggies you can use to throw together a salad. That takes care of two nights. Use a crockpot one night for a stew or curry. Thursday often ends up being sandwich night - tuna, meatball (those eggplant ones from today's food section), grilled cheese. Then by Friday I still have energy for homemade pizza. Dough gets made in advance and allowed to thaw & rise. Planning is key!!

We had a Cuisinart with removable plates, but one of the clips that held the plates in place melted, so we need a replacement. Anyone have a model to recommend? And if it's one with non-removable plates, has keeping them clean been a problem? Also, for the chatter who wanted vegetarian sandwich recipes, our favorites (as panini) are (1) goat cheese + sundried tomatoes + basil on ciabatta and (2) goat cheese lemon zest + basil on raisin bread.

Here's a thought: Just use a cast-iron (enameled, or not) ridged grill pan, and put another cast iron pan on top for the pressing... Much cheaper!

I think I'm the opposite. I tend ot enjoy my wine more during the week when I'm just having a glass or two with dinner, and relaxing after a stressful day. I tend to leave the cheaper wines for the weekend, when I need to feed a group of people or I want to experiment.

I bought a giant, inexpensive, Aluminum pot from Sam's Club. It has been great when boiling large amounts of pasta, corn, etc. When I wash the pot, a grayish black substance comes off the pot. It seems like it is coming from the outside of the pot, not the inside. Also, the food we cook in the pot always tastes fine. That said, I am concerned about this. Are Aluminum pots and pans safe to cook with? Thanks for your help!

Aluminum and the amount that humans consume has been a point of concern for many years. There is still debate on the subject. I can't really speak to what the black substance may be, but let me ask a question: Is your aluminum pot anondized or not? Some say that acidic foods react poorly with un-anondized aluminum.

I've read that modern wheat flour is made from grains bred to have a high gluten content, which of course is good for baking, and that is why so many more people have problems with gluten -- they're being exposed to more of it than people were in the past. Does this mean that changing out flours in baking could help? Such as using spelt or kamut flour? Interested in any thoughts.

I often change out all or part of AP flour and now I'm lowering my gluten intake so using brown rice and others, often experimenting to see what works best and how far I can take it. I've had great success with Trader Joe's gluten-free flour in the pink bag. It's just brown rice and no additives, which I like.

I have seen two different recipes calling for fine cornmeal in galette dough, just this week. I did make one, though mistakenly used polenta, which was not fine ground. Is the addition of the cornmeal to the flour just for taste? or is there another reason for it?

How did it go with the coarse-ground polenta? Cornmeal in a galette is more about the texture than the taste, IMO. Coarse-ground might be nice! Did you like it?

Look up ideas for food for a Mickey Mouse party on Pinterest. There are tons of ideas on there.

And people have been leaving eggs unrefrigerated for millennia. The only reason it could possibly be a problem is that modern factory chicken conditions make salmonella more likely. Get organic eggs and you're in the clear.

The syrups are usually too sweet for me.

These are called either syrup or concentrate, They are sugar free and sour. The pomegranate is just a little sweet (but these are not the types that contain sugar that you're probably referring to)

Can you make a frosting suggestion for a 1-year-old's birthday cake? No known allergies, but looking for a white frosting that isn't buttercream and can be made ahead. I was thinking of just going with whipped cream, but would like other suggestions. The cake will be chocolate.

I can't think of anything better than real whipped cream, not too sweet, on a chocolate cake. Oh, okay, throw on a few berries, too. Yum!

Due to unusual circumstances, I will be starting from nothing to equipping my kitchen. I would like things to look coordinated. My colors are white and blue. Iinitially wanted everything to be white but could not find enough things so I have given up on that idea. Now I am thinking about all OXO items and all black. I don't like the stainless steel look. What do you suggest?

I say black is always the new black. Stick with it and you won't have to change your kitchenware every time you move!

Well, you've toasted us in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking us often to avoid scorching, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's today, and many thanks to Vered, Susan, Jim and Carrie for helping us answer them!

Now for the giveaway book! A copy of "The Washington Post Cookbook" will go to the chatter who reminded me that of course WE have a fabulous recipe for Sicilian pasta and lentils. (And if you already have one, you're ahead on your Christmas shopping, aren't you?) Send your mailing info to Becky at becky.krystal@washpost.com, and we'll get you the book.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

P.S. Shameless plug: If you want to hear moi reading from and answering questions about "Eat Your Vegetables," come to Politics & Prose tonight at 7. Hope to see you there!

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 and editorial aide Becky Krystal. Guests: Vered Guttman, who blogs about food for Haaretz.com; Susan Barocas, director of the Jewish Food Experience.
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