Free Range on Food: Stress-reducing foods and drinks, feeding a multicultural family, how to make pan sauces, and more.

Jan 16, 2019

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope you've been picking up what we've ben throwing down this week, including:

Maura's deep dive into the trend of foods/drinks that purport to reduce stress.

Martha Holmberg's primer on building quick and delicious pan sauces.

Jamie Schler's essay on her multicultural family and how it's shaped her thinking on cultural appropriation in the food world, with a couple of great recipes.

Becky's great recipes for Cuban beans and rice, stellar hot chocolate, her how-to on homemade broths, and more.

Bonnie's latest DinMins: a Thai-style coconut chicken soup that comes together in barely a half hour.

My own veg recipe for a game-changing tofu.

So much more!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR2422 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

As always, we'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters: One will be "The High-Protein Vegan Cookbook" by Ginny Kay McMeans, source of that tofu recipe I mentioned. The other will be our good old standby, "The Washington Post Cookbook." 

Let's do this!

Any thoughts on the fast food "buffet" offered by the White House to the Clemson team? I was concerned about food safety, as it doubtless had been "off the griddle" for at least an hour before it was served. Who wants cold french fries? Nutritionally, this was a poor choice full of sodium and empty calories. Surely there must have been some restaurant that would have been able to cater a better quality meal on short notice!

Many people clearly had feelings about the gathering, including own our Maura Judkis, who wrote this terrific piece


Personally, I thought the president's decision was tone deaf on a number of levels:


As you note, no one should feed elite athletes nutritionally empty food. What's more, the Clemson football team has an "executive performance chef" on staff who customizes each player's diet to his needs.


Now, I don't want to make too big a deal about a one-off junk food indulgence, but given these factors, I thought the president's food choices showed little respect for the players and their own expectations and desires. They were arriving at the White House, expecting pomp and circumstance and maybe something delicious to eat, food befitting a national championship team that, no doubt, sacrificed a lot to reach this level.


Instead, they were treated to lukewarm junk food and a predictable speech about the government shutdown. They were essentially used by the president to indulge his love of fast food and to make political points. The team deserved better. 



PERSPECTIVE: What it means that Trump served Big Macs in the State Dining Room

Thanks, Tim. I agree that the players deserved better, but what did we expect? As I said in the piece, the president's supporters are going to look at these photos and see a man of the people -- someone who is just doing something fun for the players and making the best of the shutdown. Detractors are going to see the Big Macs as something crass and boorish and unfitting of its distinguished setting, and entirely preventable (like the shutdown). I guess the only surprise here is that he didn't recruit the chefs from the Trump Hotel -- only a few blocks away! -- and use it as a PR opportunity for the brand. 

I was surprised that the word "garlic" never appeared in Becky Krystal's helpful article on making your own broths. I've always thought of garlic as one of the basic soup-making ingredients along with the onion, carrots, celery. What's up with that?

If you like garlic in your broth, great. But I think it can be a bit strong if you're looking for a neutral broth. If the flavor will complement the soup you're making it with, go for it.


ARTICLE: Homemade broth is the key ingredient your bowl of soup deserves

Don't forget: Just because you don't have garlic in the broth doesn't mean you can't put it in your soups. Just saute it with whatever other aromatic vegetables you might want in the soup, before you add other ingredients, including the broth.

Joe, I can't wait to make the hoisin tofu with peanut noodles--looks delicious! Just last week I had zucchini noodles for the first time at Noodles & Co. (in spicy thai peanut sauce) and it was so good. I commend them for offering vegetarian and low-carb options. Do you think zucchini noodles would work well in your recipe? Second question--I'm headed to Iceland in March and I know there has been mention in the chat of a can't-miss bakery there, but I can't remember the name. I'm hoping one of you does. Thank you!

Thanks! Glad you like the look of this one. Absolutely, you can sub in your preferred noodle of choice here; zucchini would work just fine!

Second, the bakery that Kara has mentioned loving in Iceland is Braud & Co. I'm sure she can tell you more!

RECIPE: Fried Hoisin Tofu With Peanut Noodles

I'm reading the amazing Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and am loving it. I've learned a lot, even though I considered myself to be a pretty decent cook. I do question one thing, though - Samin Nosrat talks about the importance of keeping your salt in a salt cellar. I've always been concerned about using one, though, because it seems like it would be so easy to accidentally dip my dirty hands into it and contaminate the whole lot with raw meat juice or something else. I do always try to pick up my salt canister/shaker/box with clean hands, but I also know that if I don't, I can just wipe it clean. Any tricks on making this work? Do I not need to be quite so fearful other than if I've touched raw meat?

I have a salt cellar that I love -- it's wooden, with a little swing-open lid and even a little wooden scoop inside (although I do usually use my fingers). I think it's pretty easy to always be in the habit of wiping your hands on a dish towel before you pick up the salt -- or, for that matter, grab a jar of spices, right? -- and to thoroughly wash them after you handle raw meat, before you do ANYTHING else.

As of Saturday, 41% of the FDA workers are off the job. How does this impact food safety? I understand that seafood, soft cheeses, and bakery goods are among the items that are having reduced or no inspections. How can I make sure that the food which I prepare and serve my family is safe? Is there anything that I should avoid?

I don't know if you saw this story, but about 150 FDA food inspectors returned to work yesterday despite the government shutdown. 


The inspectors will be focused on high-risk foods, such as seafood and soft cheeses. The inspectors, I should note, will be doing their job without pay.  


Story: FDA restarts some food, drug inspections halted by shutdown

I signed up for the Meal Plan of Action newsletter series early last week and received an email saying that every Thursday I'd receive the weekly meal plan. Thursday came and went without the newsletter. Who can I contact about this issue? Thanks!

Sorry to hear this! It's such a great newsletter, we can't wait for you to start cooking from it.

Email us at, and we'll make sure this gets to our newsletter team.

Recipe calls for Fish Sauce (as many do), what can I substitute? Given an allergy all fish/oyster/clam sauces and stocks are out of the question, but are there any that would be close? Or just drop entirely? Yes it would change the over all flavor profile, but might still be worth it. Thanks!

I'll let Bonnie weigh in if she has additional thoughts, but I swear by this mushroom- and soy-based sub from Cook's Illustrated.

That is a good one, Becky!  For this recipe, I'd use soy sauce instead -- the fish sauce adds a nice saltiness here.

RECIPE Coconut Chicken Soup


I've found a delicious-looking cream of leek soup but it serves 8 and there's just my husband and me. It's hard to split (calls for three leeks, one potato etc.) but if I make a batch, can I freeze at least half of it in soup-bowl-sized portions, or will this lessen the reheated quality?

Sure, go forth and freeze!

I've found a relatively fast, convenient method for homemade pizza or focaccia on a work night using yeast dough. The weekend before, I mix the dough, knead it, let it rise in an oiled bowl until doubled, punch down, knead and let rise again. Then I divide the dough into one-pound blobs, form each into a ball, roll in a bit of oil in the bowl, then let each rise very slowly in the refrigerator in its own zippered one-gallon plastic bag for at least two days. /// When ready to make pizza or focaccia, I set the oven to 600F (optional: set baking tile on a lower shelf), grease a half-sheet pan, then spread a bagful of dough thin to cover the pan (dough needs to rest a few minutes during the process in order to stretch sufficiently). /// For focaccia, I spread olive oil over the dough, then sprinkle with chopped onions (I salt lightly AFTER it’s baked). For pizza, I spread spaghetti sauce over the dough, sprinkle 8-12 oz. grated mozzarella mixed with a couple tablespoons of grated Parmesan, then scatter desired toppings over the cheese. By now the dough should be room temperature and rising nicely. When doubled, set pan in the oven (on top of the hot tile, if using, in order to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom), then reduce heat to 400F. Watch carefully until the pizza or focaccia is done baking.

The focaccia I ran the other week is also fast and easy! Bunch of readers have already made it, which is exciting.

Fast Focaccia

ARTICLE: This fast, no-knead focaccia is a gateway into the world of baking bread

Is there a culinary use for an unpeeled head of garlic that was in the refrigerator for a while and now, when I press on a clove, it gets a dent? I hate to have bought it just to throw it out.

Are the cloves inside the skins actually soft, or might they have shriveled and dried so much that they've shrunk? The best way to story garlic is in a cool, dry place with air circulation (that's why people use baskets/etc.), but you can put it in the fridge, in the crisper drawer, which SHOULD have less humidity, one of the things that can cause garlic to start to sprout prematurely. 

Anyhow, if it's soft or dried out, it's time to toss it.

I tried to replicate grilled chicken thighs in the oven, cooking at high temperature and finishing under the broiler, but the results were definitely meh. What would you recommend, besides waiting for grilling season?

Even though I don't eat them anymore, I cook chicken thighs for the husband fairly frequently, and love using the broiler. The thing about the thighs, though, is that they cook pretty quickly, so I don't think you need both the high-heat oven AND the broiler. I think you could just go straight to the broiler. Rub with a little oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and maybe some smoked paprika, broil on both sides until they feel firm throughout and take on some nice color, and then take the pan out, pour on your favorite barbecue sauce, and put it back under just long enough to get the sauce bubbling.

Because the thighs can vary so much in thickness (and are you cooking on or off the bone? skin-on or skinless?) and if you have the time, I'd go low and slow for to get them cooked through (say, 300 degrees for 45 mins?), then while you are preheating the broiler, brush the chicken with whatever saucy thing will help promote color and crisped edges. 

In Becky Krystal's "Homemade Broth" article, she quoted Ivy Manning as saying, "if (after cooking) the meat tastes like water, you're good." Does that mean that the meat should be discarded? I made a broth out of chicken legs and thighs, intending to use it for your Mushroom Oat Risotto with Gruyere recipe- (a winner, by the way). The broth turned out well, but the meat had zero flavor. Should I just discard it or give it to the cat? It really is flavorless!

Absolutely, give it to the cat! The meat has given up all its good stuff to the broth.

I loved the chicken pan sauce piece in Voraciously last week. I was immediately reminded of a piece from way back when (I think 1992-96) that was similar - the basic technique of cooking the chicken, and then how to build sauces. There were several sauce recipes included, chief among them an orange balsamic sauce. In my mind, they were more simple. I cooked them in high school to help out my working mother when she was stuck at her job. I was SURE she would still have the aged newsprint as this particular cut out lived on the windowsill in the kitchen for quick reference, but a thorough search by us both through her extensive recipe collections yielded no result. I would dearly love to see that collection again. I sent my BFF the Voraciously link and referenced the old collection I was that certain my mom would have the old article, but alas no. Is there any way to check the archives? I checked the recipe finder link and came up dry.

Glad you like the recent piece!

Learn to make quick pan sauces, and you can turn dinner into something special

And funny, you are not the only reader to reference an older chicken with sauce article! A few years back someone emailed asking for this piece, from the great Pam Anderson: "First, You Take a Chicken Breast -- One Way to Saute and 13 Ways to Sauce a Weekday Dinner Favorite." Is this by chance the one you're referencing? There's not an orange balsamic sauce, but there is an orange-Dijon (and also a separate balsamic one). I have a PDF of it is you'd like to see it as it appeared in print. Shoot me an email at

I was just watching Maangchi (an incredible YouTube channel on korean cooking) making fried rice and noticed that nothing seemed to stick in her pan even though it was a traditional stainless steel pan, nothing non-stick or anything like that. I feel like my food sticks all the time as soon as it hits the pan, even in something like my enameled cast iron pans. No matter what type of pan I use it all ends up with a layer of brown at the bottom that requires a soaking to get out. What's the usual reason for that? Heat too high? Heat too low? Not enough oil? Not enough movement? I just made a lovely dish with fregola which stuck to the pan something awful.

Maangchi is so much fun to watch! The thing is, though, I see two fried-rice videos by her: One for kimchi fried rice, which must be the one you mention because she uses a stainless-steel pan; and another for plain fried rice, for which she uses -- a nonstick pan! When I watched the first, it looks to me that there's certainly some sticking going on there -- see those brown crusty bits on the sides of the pan, and even the bottom when she stirs? So don't kick yourself too much here; some sticking is going to happen with regular stainless steel, and that's OK -- it makes some tasty crunchy bits!

Having said that, there are a couple of steps I think people don't always think about when stir-frying -- or pan-frying, or really making anything on the stovetop. For the most part, the pan should be hot before the oil goes in, and the oil should be hot before the food goes in. That will help immensely. You definitely want the heat to be fairly high, and to keep things moving, especially for something like fried rice.

But all rules are meant to be broken. You know what I found most interesting about the videos? For the kimchi fried rice, she did something I was always taught never to do -- she used freshly made, still-hot rice, instead of using leftover cooled rice. But it looked like it turned out beautifully anyhow...

I'm not a daring cook, so I doubt I'd notice if they lost their oomph, but is there a drop dead life for my bottles of various spices? I'm sure if it's yes it isn't the same for all of them, but is there some place where I can look them up? I wonder sometimes if something might actually taste better if I replaced some of them.

Rangers, if I'm going to make beans in the Instant Pot, do I add salt and other seasonings at the beginning of the cooking time or after they are cooked? Do I use dried or fresh herbs? Any suggestions for what to use if I'm making cannellini beans or black beans? I received an IP for Christmas and figure if I'm going to be furloughed, I'm going to make use of my time. Thanks for the advice!

I make beans in my stovetop pressure cooker all the time, and I add about a tablespoon of salt at the beginning (it doesn't make them impossible to cook, contrary to myth, and it seasons them really nicely), along with a strip of kombu (dried seaweed, which helps soften the beans and maybe even reduce their digestibility issues), an onion (just peeled and cut in half), a few garlic cloves, maybe some dried oregano. I tend to go pretty neutral on the seasonings at the beginning so my options for using them remain open, but with black beans I'll sometimes throw an orange in the pot for a little Cuban-style flavoring, and sometimes a dried chile or two. 

The broth article didn’t list my favorite way to freeze the finished broth—in ice cube trays! I can take out only as much as I need. Really handy when the recipe calls for just a little.

Yes, of course! Good tip.

What can you use instead of fennel for those of us who don't like it? Also, where does one find fish stock?

Cod Stew With Fennel, Olives and Orange Essence

RECIPE: Cod Stew With Fennel, Olives and Orange Essence

You could add a four or so small baby potatoes (cut them in half or quarters), or just leave out the fennel and proceed as written. Fish stock should be available in most grocery stores, either in shelf-stable boxes or frozen. (Swanson makes it, and Better Than Bouillon makes a concentrated version.)

I made this soup last weekend and am generally lazy when cooking at home, so I just used water and a spoonful of Better Than Bouillon vegetable base, and it was great. Or, make your own fish stock like Bonnie does. Here's what she said about that in last week's chat

I typically use shrimp shell broth when recipes call for fish stock these days. I buy shell-on, wild-caught US shrimp. After I peel and devein, I toss the shells into a small pot of water with a couple green or white peppercorns and maybe a slice of onion if I have one in the fridge. Twenty minutes after it comes to a boil, I strain the mixture and have a nice broth. 

That fennel gives the dish a nice textural element, so I'd go with celery or bok choy, tossed in just long enough to heat through yet stay somewhat crisp. 


Fish stocks are just where Kara says they'd be! Also, good fish markets typically sell them.

I know you don't eat the rind on Parmesano-Reggiano, I guess mostly because it's too hard. Or the red wax rind on Gouda, because it's ... wax. Which cheese rinds do you eat? I bought some Leonora Pure Goat Cheese from Spain (best I can make out the label) and since $22/lb is expensive for me, I've been eating the rind, which is totally different in texture and taste from the rest of the cheese, but not unpleasant. Usually I get Capricho de Cabra, which doesn't have a rind.

Definitely you're good on that goat cheese rind. I eat the outsides of most cheese, save for the types you mention. Bloomed rinds and soft cheeses (brie, Camembert, etc.) are some of my favorites, thought I know some people aren't fans.

Making a batch of soup right now - tomatoes, beans, celery, onion, garlic, broth, oregano etc - and as I was rinsing the cannellini beans, I wondered if I could use it the same way you use aquafaba from chickpeas? Or for some other use?

The liquid from all canned beans shares the basic quality that makes aquafaba so cool -- as an egg white substitute, particularly. But the chickpea version seems to be the mildest-tasting (which is helpful for desserts, of course) and the most stable for those purposes. But you can certainly use the cannellini liquid to add body to the soup. I'd only do that, though, if the lining is BPA-free and there's little to no added sodium. Try a little bit and see what you think! 

Hello I have a very well stocked pantry and freezers, and due to furlough I am sitting at home. I'm looking for fun ideas for recipes, especially those time-consuming dishes I don't usually have the time to make when I work every day. Restaurant quality and old school favorite ideas are needed. Your thoughts?

I'm going to a pot luck party this weekend. I'm also furloughed, so trying to eat from the pantry and freezer to the extent I can. I might splurge and just bring what I always do, but maybe I can find something new? I have a pork tenderloin in the freezer and also a brand new instant pot that my brother and sister-in-law decided I needed to have, but I haven't tried out yet. Any suggestions for those together? Or just using one or the other?

Just buy a bunch of Big Macs! (I'm kidding, I'm kidding.)

I just made this last week and it was stellar. It's not done in an instant pot, but it does have very few ingredients, so it'd be easy on the pantry/freezer -- and you've already got that pork tenderloin. 

Fresh Orange Pork Tenderloin

RECIPE: Fresh Orange Pork Tenderloin

That might not be the best for a potluck, though... maybe these sliders? 

Paprika Pork Sliders With Fennel Slaw

RECIPE: Paprika Pork Sliders With Fennel Slaw


Bacon-Roasted Pork Tenderloin With Caraway’d Cabbage and Apples

RECIPE: Bacon-Roasted Pork Tenderloin With Caraway’d Cabbage and Apples

Sticky Barbecued Pork With Asian Greens
Or if none of those sound good, tell us what else you've got in your pantry and we'll come up with something!

I have a 12 inch cast iron skillet, and I'm inspired to use it make desserts (like the Skillet Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies mentioned in last week's chat). The problem I'm running into is that many of the dessert recipes I find call for a 10 inch skillet. What do you suggest I do? As I see it, my options are to just go with the larger skillet and adjust the cooking time downward - although in some cases that might produce an overly thin product. Or, I can increase the recipe by maybe 25%.

Skillet Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

ARTICLE: Chrissy Teigen’s peanut butter-chocolate chip blondies are warm, gooey bliss

Totally, I think you could go either way. The blondie is fairly thick as it is, so it would be fine to go a bit thinner with a shorter bake time. For something like a cobbler that could start getting too thin, for sure, just scale things up a bit.

I've noticed in roasting chickens that they are cooking faster than the recipe says. I've calibrated the oven, so that should not be the problem. I have a Calphalon nonstick roasting pan, which is dark. Could that be making it hotter and thus cooking things faster? Thank you!

Dark pans do tend to absorb more heat, which will bounce off your bird in the pan and might cause it to brown and roast more quickly.  You could reduce the oven temperature a bit if the timing is an issue....

I've often wanted to try using tofu more in my cooking, but a vast majority of the recipes seem to include ingredients and tastes that I don't like: soy sauce and overly sweet sauces (I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so my bar of too sweet is a lot lower than most peoples'). Can I just take the techniques Joe mentions in his column and use tofu in other recipes in place of meat? I'd love to try it in some pastas, for example. Also, if you do have suggestions for cookbooks/websites that have a broader variety of flavors in their tofu recipes, I'd appreciate it.

Sure! You can make your own marinade without anything sweet in it -- like how about miso and mustard? Or you can absolutely go with something that's not Asian at all, like pesto -- frying the tofu without a marinade and then tossing in pesto and pasta. For recipes, I think you'd like "The High-Protein Vegan Cookbook" that just HAPPENS to be a chat giveaway today, just sayin'.

I don’t relish clearing off the grill and standing in the snow! How do you use a good old cast iron skillet to turn out a super burger?

Yes, I love a burger from a cast-iron skillet, particularly if yours (like mine) is well-seasoned. I just reviewed a number of recipes online, and I think this one is the closest to my approach at home. (Ignore the part about pulsing your beef in a food processor to create your own burger blend. I suspect you'll be buying good ground beef instead.) But the rest of the recipe is solid.

We had none. Neither grandmother cooked. My mother said her mother could ruin Jello They were poor and any food was welcome. My mother taught herself to cool from free pamphlets from food companies and later when she could afford cookbooks, The Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Yet I remember delicious food. The only loser was the lamb roll she made to try something fancy.

Thanks to Jamie Schler for this fascinating look into her family's travels and food experiences. I love reading about this kind of thing. It reminded me of one of my favorite chapters in "Christmas Memories and Recipes," where the former Red Diaper Baby wrote of her upbringing by Irish Granddad who took them to Sunday Mass, Russian-Jewish grandma who did the Friday Sabbath dinner, and Italian Nonna who shared the kitchen with the Russian grandma although neither spoke English. (They all lived together and the parents were too busy organizing unions to raise the kids.)

Hello! Unrelated to the awesome recipes that we have really been enjoying. I have an 8 month old who has recently decided that he hates being spoon-fed. Any ideas or recommendations for safe but adventurous solid foods to put on his high chair tray? (This is our first baby and my husband and I can use all the advice we can get!)

Enjoy it while you can, haha. My toddler started off as adventurous and then . . . wasn't.

When he was eating more, though, we gave him little pieces of frittata, soft bits of enchiladas, stir-fried noodle dishes and our favorite curry (smaller pieces of potato and at least halved the chickpeas).

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

ARTICLE: These easy chicken enchiladas deliver cheesy, saucy satisfaction

Easy Chickpea Curry

ARTICLE: Anyone can make Indian food at home, and this chickpea curry is how to start

My husband is doing Whole30 this month (we've done it together in the past, but I hate it and so I'm being supportive but am not fully participating). My major issue is the moratorium on legumes because I am not as carnivorous as he and I rely on beans, etc. for protein. Is there a reason to eliminate vegetable protein aside from the fact that some people are sensitive to it? Or are there other major health reasons that a person should avoid legumes?

At the risk of stirring up the W30 crowd against me, I'll say: The thing about legumes and W30 is, well, misguided at best. It seems to be about their level of phytates, which can interfere with some nutrient absorption. But reasonable nutritionists say that it's a non-issue, because many other foods (including some recommended on W30) have high levels of phytates, our absorption of nutrients is really complicated and affected by a whole host of other factors, and, possibly most important, phytates are important antioxidants.

I'm biased here, as a bean lover and the author of an upcoming bean book, but I say: EAT YOUR BEANS IF YOU WANT THEM.

I bought a can of brined jackfruit at Trader Joes. I've never had it before. I found the WaPo recipe for bbq jackfruit which seems easy enough but here's my question: it's kind of cold and messy to be smoking food outside. Is there a way I could do this indoors without smelling up my house or should I just wait until the spring thaw?

I bet you could convert this to an oven recipe. I made canned jackfruit into a taco filling by marinating it in an al pastor-ish concoction and then baking it -- marinade and all -- uncovered at 400ish for 20? 30? minutes, then breaking apart/shredding the jackfruit into smaller pieces. They were nice and saucy from all the marinade. Oh, I also had some cooked beans on hand, so I tossed a cup or so of those into the mixture while it was baking.

For this recipe, I'd try draining and patting dry the jackfruit, coating it with the spice blend, letting that sit for an hour or so, then baking it in a shallow dish with some of the barbecue sauce. It's done when pieces of the jackfruit pull apart very easily. Taste that and then add more sauce and/or seasoning as needed.

Jackknife Sandwiches

RECIPE: Jackknife Sandwiches

I've made it twice already, and I love it. So easy and fuss-free. And easy, too, to change up the flavors. BUT -- why does my focaccia always turn out lumpy and uneven? While it bakes, some parts rise a lot, others don't, and so it ends up looking like a lunar landscape, with big hills and valleys. It tastes great, but it doesn't look very nice. What might I be doing wrong?

Hm! You might just be getting some bigger air bubbles? Also be sure it's patted into a fairly even layer. I had a few that looked lumpier and others, and *shrug.* It's character!

Glad you love the recipe, thank you!

We have several small breweries in my town and there are no inspectors to check the product so the owners are just giving it away to furloughed workers. I'm kind of surprised they can even do that but that's what they said. So, so many people hurt by this stupid shutdown.

Where do you live? I know some furloughed workers who might be thirsty.

Just know that it might separate - it'll taste good, just look bit ... different.

I tried a recipe I found on line for sauteed sea scallops, but it said "cook for several minutes on each side until opaque" -- but the scallops were already opaque, and "several minutes" was no help at all. Is there a chart for scallops that has heat levels and times for thicknesses? These were very large scallops, at least an inch thick.

I love scallops.  Re their opacity, what you are looking for is that subtle shift from a rosy or beige milky color to a brighter shade, almost white. Your inch-thick scallops should take about 2 minutes per side in a pan with a little hot fat -- lately, i like to pat them dry, then lightly dust the tops and bottoms with flour (Wondra if you have it) and season them, which helps evenly brown those surfaces. 


Look for a damn good and quick recipe using a miso marinade and soba noodles in the next weekly Recipes newsletter! (You knew we had one of those, right? Link here.) 

Just a shout-out/endorsement of Joe's way of using up veggie scraps. Has changed my life, really. I can't remember the last time I bought store broth. Thank you! <insert raised hands emoji>

<insert praying hands/thank-you emoji>

BTW, feel free to go rate/review that recipe! Helps others find it...

RECIPE: Scrappy Vegetable Broth

Loved Jamie Schler's article on raising her multicultural sons! Thank you! I think the discussion of appropriation occurs close to home, too, especially when discussing US southern cooking. There seems to be some concern when non-African Americans cook "soul food", but honestly, a family can be poor, caucasian sharecroppers, too, like my grandparents, and the food is identical. Honestly, isn't food more nuanced than just cut-and-dried "ownership"? I think Jamie's article speaks to this!

THANK YOU ALL FOR RECOGNIZING THAT SHAKING COCONUT MILK IS RIDICULOUS. I was making red Thai curry last night and went off on a mental rent about how it's impossible to shake the dang can to fully reconstitute it. I really appreciate the note in Bonnie's Thai soup recipe :) (also, I use a whisk when getting the immersion blender out is annoying)


You decant to another container to whisk, right? There's just not enough room in that can! 

My stress-reduction technique to deal with being furloughed has been to mainline carbs, so I am making a healthy veggie (and bean!) loaded soup right now because my favorite jeans feel a bit snug. Maybe having comfy jeans again will help lower the stress.

Worth a try, yes! Although, you can always switch to the drawstring sweatpants. That works, too -- and is a little faster. ;-)

My husband is a meat eater and I'm not. I often make the same sauce/marinade etc and sub in tofu / tempeh / TVP in my pan (depending on the texture I want).

I'm the person who asked last about subbing chickpea flour. I did that and wow they are so good. I didn't think they were gummy, but I've nothing to compare. I tried to rate it but the stars wouldn't light up.

So glad to hear! Did you add a comment to that effect? (Commenting and rating are separate, sigh.)

RECIPE: Mushroom-Walnut 'Meatballs'

This article is from 1996. It has separate sauces using orange and balsamic, not together. But perhaps they substituted orange in the sherry balsamic one?

Maybe! This article isn't so focused on pan sauces, but it does offer some good-sounding suggestions. OG pan sauce seeker, is the one I linked earlier what you're looking for, or is this closer to it? 

What if you laid a baking sheet on top during the first several minutes of baking?

I think I'd rather have the lumps! That might affect the crust and cause other unintended defects.

There is a recipe for BBQ jackfruit in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. No grill required and I can't wait to try it myself.

I have a small open bowl of kosher salt right next to my stove. I do wipe my hands before dipping in for salt. So far I haven't made my family sick. As far as contamination: remember we have been preserving food by salting it for eons. Yes, there are halophilic bacteria but they really aren't going to set up housekeeping in a pile of salt. If you really worry clean the container out on a regular schedule and refill. I think we are safe!

The Montgomery county library systems subscribes to a complete searchable database of the Post going back decades. Other papers too. If you have a card, go to the Research area and find the newspaper archive, and search away.

I dump mine in the vitamix and off I go.

There is no scientific basis for excluding beans from your diet. The Whole30 argument in general makes no sense: beans are prohibited but red meat is fine (even though there is no evidence beans cause long-term health damages while there is a plethora of scientific evidence that high levels of red meat consumption causes all sorts of damage to your body). While I'm on the topic, Gundry's "Plant Paradox" which considers beans all sorts of evil, has also been soundly dismissed by the scientific community. Moral of the story: EAT YOUR BEANS. But don't take my word for it, folks; you can do your own research!

Thank you for mentioning Gundry. So frustrating, I wrote a one-pager on it in my book. 

My British grandmother was a singularly lousy cook. But she did make incredible Brit chips. These were old school with the basket and everything. My grandfather and I went through many mornings of 'sharing' a boiled egg. I was going through a stage of only liking the white so I would sit on his lap and he'd eat the yolk and I'd eat the white. We demolished quite a few eggs ... .

I feed my 8 month old whatever we are eating, just watch the salt. His favorites are halved blackberries, smooshed blueberries, quartered (lengthwise) grapes, chunks of squash from risotto, pepper strips from paella, noodles, and avocado toast. If you don't have allergies, scrambled eggs, cold quesadillas, and shredded cheese are hits. Check out the #blw tag on instagram for lots of ideas!

All good ideas!

Yeast-based breads, including desserts! One of my favorites, from the December 2000 issue of "Sunset Magazine," is for Almond Paste-Apricot Bread (you could easily halve the recipe to make only 1 wreath-shaped loaf, if you prefer).


2 packets dry yeast

1 cup milk, lukewarm

2 eggs 

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon pure almond extract

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup (= 1½ sticks) soft butter

ca. 5 cups bread flour (or AP flour + 5 teaspoons vital wheat gluten)


9-12 oz. dried apricots, chopped (mixed with raisins, if you lie, but I don't)

1 lb. almond paste, crumbled


1 egg, beaten


2 cups 10X (powdered) sugar

3 Tablespoons orange juice


Sliced almonds


Mix yeast, liquids; add sugar, salt, butter. Add flour; knead dough, let rise till double (ca. 1½ hours).

Divide in 2 or 3 pieces, roll out each ca. 10"x 17"; sprinkle with almond paste, apricots.

Roll each along long side (jelly-roll style), place loaf seam down on greased pan to form a wreath.

Cut slits every 1½" crosswise into loaf ¾-way through, brush top with egg; let rise till double (ca. 1½ hours).

Grease the baking sheet before laying the dough on it. Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake the risen wreath-shaped loaf for 45 minutes, or until done.

Let cool before glazing. Sprinkle with almonds.

Thanks! Love Sunset -- very sorry to see its recent struggles.

Do people really think that owners of a company that sells food would in any way want to harm their customers?

Regarding beans/no beans... Life is short. Overindulging in anything is bad for you. I live by the motto of eat what you enjoy, just don't overdo it. Also, I should probably eat less, but that's another issue completely.

Hear, hear.

Do you know if the recipes Jose Andres' World Kitchen is using for the furloughed government workers are the same as those served in any of his restaurants? Are these efforts separately funded by donations or is Jose Andres using some of his restaurants' earnings to pay for this?

When I spoke to Andres on Monday, he specifically mentioned that his restaurant business (ThinkFoodGroup) and his nonprofit (World Central Kitchen) are two separate entities, even though they share one important person. The funds are not commingled. All of the WCK efforts are funded by donations and grants. 


As for dishes at the #ChefforFeds kitchen at 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, I don't know for certain what they will be serving. Andres did not know on Monday when we talked. But based on the need and scope of the relief kitchen, I suspect the food will be simple and easy to produce, much like it was in Puerto Rico. You don't have time or the money to make restaurant-level food in a relief kitchen. 


ARTICLE: "This is an emergency." Jose Andres to open relief kitchen for federal workers during shutdown

Make sure you make your holes go all the way through the dough across the entire surface before the second (final) rise. That helps even out the dough.

I never did it that way, but sounds interesting.

My dear friend just had a health scare and needs to focus on a low sodium diet moving forward. I'd like to make a few dishes to drop off that he can enjoy throughout the week. Do you have any recommendations?

Nice of you! Remind him that restaurant food tends to carry more sodium than home-cooked, so less dining out -- or a careful watch on that intake -- might be part of the approach.


Here are a few low-so recipes that will hold up well: 

Aromatic Chicken and Chickpea Stew


Pasta Fagioli With Zucchini


Peruvian Chicken Soup


Georgian Ratatouille



Also, does your pal cook for himself? Maybe you could make a few sauces for him, using no-salt-added canned tomatoes (a red sauce), and/or prep vegetables (bag, label, freeze) he can use to make quick meals. 

I love it but outside of in a tuna or tempeh Reuben sandwich, veggie dogs and sausage, and mixed with scrambled eggs (don't knock it 'til you try it), I'm stuck on how else to work it into meals. I don't eat meat and I'm not big on salads unless they are the Cava type with more than veggies, so any suggestions would be appreciated. Maybe some kind of veggie stew?

We have a Chickpea Soup With Fried Sauerkraut! I haven't tried it, but it's been on my list to try for a while. 

Chickpea Soup With Fried Sauerkraut

I also put it on tacos, grain bowls, roast it with whatever vegetables, and so on. Also thinking it'd be good in a grilled cheese. Or in a bean salad. 

Also check out: 

Cavatelli With Braised Sauerkraut

RECIPE: Cavatelli With Braised Sauerkraut

On Friday nights when he was growing up my dad's mom would make chicken soup (probably matzo ball soup). And she would also serve the chicken, probably not making it so tasty. So my whole life my dad hated when my mom would make chicken, no matter how she would dress it up -- she NEVER served the meat that she made soup with (at least that I knew of! -- she was a great cook). but my dad isn't the biggest fan of chicken. But it was inexpensive so we would still eat it.

Kansas City. Here's the title of the article in the Kansas City Star: KC brewer can’t get beer canned amid shutdown, so he’ll give it away to federal workers. Read more here.

No, that's not a brand name... I had asked a while ago about cleaning baking and saute pans that had built up goo on them. Ended up googling the issue, and found a suggestion for using lots of baking soda, and pouring in hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Let it sit several hours, and use a nylon scrubber. Works a charm! It kind of bubbles some, and must bubble the goo loose.


I'm the person who asked about where to buy cardamon pods several weeks ago. Well, they were in my pantry when the snow hit on Sunday & I took the opportunity to make your chickpea curry -- my first foray into Indian cooking. Really delicious, complex flavors, and very satisfying! Thanks.

So happy to hear this, thank you!

Here's a tip - how does eating something make you feel? Not so much like do you get a rush like from sugar and caffeine and junk food, but does it make you feel sluggish after eating it? Headache? Burp a lot? Gassy? Maybe I'm just extra sensitive and can tell how I feel, but I just listen to what my body tells me and it told me to avoid meat, fast food, and coffee, and it's made me much happier. Beans and seafood will never leave my diet, but I'm thinking about seeing if I feel better without bread or dairy next.

Is this Gundry person a Pythagorean? The evil of beans was one of their weirder beliefs, and some have speculated that it stemmed from observation of favism, a pernicious anemia which occurs in the Mediterranean coastal countries.

I love history. No, I believe he's just a doctor who HAPPENS to sell, you guessed it, supplements to treat the very thing he is railing about! Hmm.

You should read the transcript of interviews with FDA inspectors at the National Library for Medicine History of Medicine Division. These are from the 1930s-60s. One food canning factory had a worker's wife changing her baby's nappy on the picking table ... . No wonder they we getting e-coli contamination ... .

But they do unintentionally and the safety inspectors are trained in this area so will notice things that the company might not. There's also the issue that sometimes company practices are ... curtailed without the upper management knowing.

But if he had gotten something nice and catered wouldn't people be saying he was tone deaf because of all those govt employees on furlough? You can't win, can you.

That's possible. Or, if he & the staff had chosen to be thoughtful about it, they could have struck a balance with a meal that was simple but still served on real plates, not cardboard boxes. Food can communicate a lot, when we want it to. 

I don't know about that. The office of the president has certain ceremonial duties that come along with it, like feting championship teams. I doubt any furlough worker would resent treating a college team well, and if the president would have used his own money on a decently catered meal, one that respected the team's roots and the ceremony of the moment, I'm not sure critics would have had much grounds for complaint. 

I threw a package of refrigerated corn tortillas in the freezer before going on vacation. Will they reheat ok for tacos? or baked enchiladas? Any suggestions for uses other than tacos?!

They should be fine for tacos! Thaw them in your refrigerator overnight, then when you go to reheat them, dip them in water before reheating on a HOT dry (as in, non-oiled) skillet.  That dip in water helps add lost moisture and makes the tortillas pliable. (I do this when reheating corn tortillas anyway, and it really does make a difference; see this post from Serious Eats for more info.)

But yes, they'd also be good for enchiladas. Or chilaquiles! I made a batch of chilaquiles just yesterday, as it were; check back soon for that recipe.

For finding the old pan sauce article. I thought it was a lost cause, but this is totally the one we had. Clearly I mixed a couple recipes from my high school mind. I so appreciate you getting this for me. Running to the printer now so mom will have it again.

Hooray, happy to help!

I came across sweet potato glass noodles in the grocery store. They look interesting. What would I do with them? Non tofu vegetarian.

I LOVE those, called japchae (made w sweet potato starch) -- chewier than other glass-type noodles. Reminds me that we have some in our Food Lab, just waiting for a new recipe to be developed for them.  

Pesto's a great way to sauce them; this recipe includes avocado in the mix, and it's very satisfying. They cook as quickly as any stir-fry you'd have going, so I'd boil a pot simultaneously, drain and add to the wok/skillet just as things are done in there. 

This is a naive way of putting it. Food sellers have been known to cut corners, for extra profit, in ways that do harm their customers. That's why we have an FDA.

Thanks much for the Mark Bittman suggestion. Dinner tonight. I'm on it.

If Carrie's around, I have a gin question for her. A friend has introduced me to Drumshanbo gin, which was recommended to him by an ABC Store employee. He's underwhelmed, but he poured me some and I was instantly smitten with the stuff! Unfortunately, our favorite gin-review site - I only know one, so it's my favorite - hasn't reviewed Drumshanbo. Do you have a go-to review site for gin that you can recommend, regardless of whether it's covered Drumshanbo?

Hey there! When I'm looking into new spirits, I tend to search and read far and wide -- books and then broader web searches to see what's being said and by whom. That said, I do end up on The Gin is In site a fair amount.

I cut back on it when I'm not well, but I can't give up my scalded rye bread and cheddar cheese.

It's a balance, isn't it?

Another question is, with so many local restaurants including pizza parlors and hamburger joints, etc, even nearby the White House, why not buy the food from local eateries instead of chains?

In any other administration, this would be the way to go. But Washingtonian rightly pointed out that catering this meal would have been a disaster for any local business. If they did business with the president, they would be boycotted by Democrats. If they rejected him, they'd be trolled to death by his supporters. The Trump Hotel restaurants are really the only option. 

WHY didn't I think of this myself? Brilliant! Are there vegetables you would *not* recommend using, or is everything fair game?

I'd say you should stay away from the brassica family (kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.) -- a lot of those stems are really strong-flavored. Although, as I've mentioned I think before, my Maine-homesteading sister makes so many vegetable broths, she often has a lineup of fabulous individual-flavor ones in her freezer, like celery root broth and asparagus broth. Those are really wonderful bases for soups made from the primary ingredient -- you're doubling down on the flavor! But generally, I like to stick to milder aromatics for the scrappy broth: garlic and onion skins, celery trimmings, etc.

I cook it with onions in Vegan Magic and serve it as a side dish with vegan sausage (Tofurkey and Beyond Meat make excellent ones) or Tofurkey's ham roll.

Not to knock our cousins across the pond when they're down, but ... doesn't British cooking from your grandmother's era usually mean lousy-tasting unless it's a recipe from the colonies?

One day I was having plain hummus and bread for lunch. Very bland. So I looked around for something else to add - only had sauerkraut. VERY good. I have taken it to our weekly potluck several times and it just disappears. Much, much better than it sounds.

Hi, I haven't seen this as an issue with you all, but many other places post a photo with a recipe that clearly wasn't made with the same ingredient list. I made a cake from an older issue of Bon Appetit, and the volume of icing was nowhere near as generous as the thick layers in the accompanying photo. Why do you think they would do this?

If I am being generous, I might say that whosoever was photographing/styling the shot was working independently of the editors/authors of said cake recipe. In another mode, I might say some folks will do unprescribed things to make the food shots look as enticing as possible. Add a comment or feedback to the recipe, when you can! 

The last 2 times I've roasted duck, I've had trouble getting the skin uniformly dark, essentially the skin is much lighter over ever magnet. This has happened in 2 different ovens. What am I missing? Thank you!

We are all confused about what might be auto-correct in your q: Come back at us next week since time grows short! Head-scratching phrase -- "much lighter over ever magnet."

new kitchen to feed furloughed feds. Is there any chance he will let you "review" it now that it is up and running? I mean, beggars can't be choosers, but I'd love to know what they are serving, how they decide what to make, information about the food and recipes to be taken home, etc.

A food critic reviewing a relief kitchen? Wouldn't that be like an architecture critic reviewing a homeless shelter? The shelter, like the food at a relief operation, is practical and humanitarian in its focus. They're not goods and services designed to be analyzed for any public good. Plus, the food at a relief kitchen is not transactional. No one is paying for it, so no one needs to know if the food is worth the money.


With that said, I know the Post's Local team is covering the relief kitchen today. They will be reporting on the particulars of the operation, including, I suspect, the things you want to know about: what they're serving, the recipes offered, how they decided on the meals, etc.

Many many years ago I used to buy a frozen lentil/rice loaf. I can't find anything like it in grocery stores. Any recipes for a good lentil loaf?

Sort of!

Mushroom-Lentil Pâté

RECIPE: Mushroom-Lentil Pâté

I got a tortilla press for Christmas because I wanted to make corn tortillas. I'm having trouble with them being very crumbly. Is it the the type of cornflour I'm using. What's your take?

You need more moisture, I'd say. But yes, the masa flour is important, too. I used to use the standard Maseca, but recently switched to Bob's Red Mill, and like it better.

Tim wrote this great piece about techniques a couple years back.

Maybe Chef Jose Andres' pop-up DC restaurant for furloughed government workers could also offer to feed people invited to dine at the White House during the shutdown, like the Clemson athletes. Since he's offering carryout, maybe they could even stop by his place first and carry his good food to the White House, or would that maybe not go over so well?

I suspect the president might have feelings about this arrangement.

I bought a pre-seasoned pork loin that is labeled as meant for a slow cooker. Any reason I can't just cook it in the oven?

No reason I can think of. 

Well, you've divided us among individual bowls, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today -- hope our a's were helpful.

Now, for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about tofu recipes that don't involve soy or anything sweet will get, as hinted, "The High-Protein Vegan Cookbook." The one who asked about chickens roasted in a dark pan will get "The Washington Post Cookbook." Email, and she'll set you up.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Maura Judkis
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Recent Chats
  • Next: