Free Range on Food: Nachos for the Super Bowl, cooking with what you have on hand and more.

Feb 01, 2017

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

Welcome to today's chat! Hope you're enjoying this week's coverage, including Bonnie's fantastic take on building the perfect nachos; Jane Black's spotlight on a new Chesapeake oyster that's gaining lots of chef fans; Julia Turshen's call to spend a snow day (or any open day!) cooking with kids; our 5 Diets project Week 4 update; Cathy Barrow's latest Bring It! idea (a lamb stew for those in need); and more.

Julia, author of the great "Small Victories," will join us today. Bonnie, on the other hand, is vacating!

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today: "Live to Eat" by Michael Psilakis, source of this week's DinMin recipe; and "Farm to Table Asian Secrets" by Patricia Tanumihardja," source of this week's Weeknight Veg recipe.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR3315 . Remember, you'll record and enter it into 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.

Let's do this!

I found a half-bag of carrots back in the fridge. A few have split, but none are mushy or slimy. But they are all hairy, with the fine roots growing out of them. Will it be ok if I peel them, then roast, or is the taste horrible by now?

I have a feeling they'll probably be just fine (and most likely prized in some parts of the world?).  So long as there's no mold or anything, you're likely safe.  I would definitely peel them and then roast them and then dress them with something assertive to compensate for whatever flavor they may have lost.  Perhaps lots of fresh lime juice and a shower of red chile pepper and cilantro? Or salsa verde!

Any uses other than fish & chips?

I've doused freshly roasted potatoes with it (which is basically the same as the 'chips' part of fish and chips, I suppose) and also dashed it into soups (...especially potato.) But it's also good in vinaigrettes or really anywhere you'd want a boost of acidity. 

Here are two more ideas:

Kale Salad With Pecans and Preserved Berries Dressing

RECIPE: Kale Salad With Pecans and Preserved Berries Dressing

Pan-Fried Cheese With Potatoes and Cauliflower in Vinegar Sauce

RECIPE: Pan-Fried Cheese With Potatoes and Cauliflower in Vinegar Sauce

I am the LW from a few weeks ago who asked about cooking brown rice so that it doesn't get mushy. I was very surprised that my question turned into a whole article! It was very informative and I followed your instructions on treating the rice like pasta. It worked! I got perfectly fluffy and beautiful rice that was not mushy at all! I feel much more confident about cooking rice now and can't wait to make more! Thanks again!

Glad to hear! "Chat Leftovers" queen Jane Touzalin will be, too.

CHAT LEFTOVERS: The best way to cook brown rice? Treat it like pasta.

I would love to make Aunt Sophie's Yum Yum cake. I have a springform pan, and I have a Bundt pan, but I do not have a tube pan with removable bottom. I saw a hack for making a tube pan where you invert a ramekin in the middle of the pan. Do you think that would work? Or can I just use my springform pan without the tube?

Cathy Barrow is traveling, but responded via email: 

I saw that same hack after another reader told me she made Aunt Sophie's cake in a standard round cake pan (not springform), lined with enough parchment to lift the finished cake out, and centered a ramekin to make a temporary tube. Let us know how it goes!

Aunt Sophie’s Yum Yum Coffee Cake

RECIPE: Aunt Sophie’s Yum Yum Coffee Cake

Does all margarine contain animal fat? Many prepared foods, such as puff pastry, declare "margarine" among their ingredients but do not say whether animal or vegetable fat. I am entertaining vegan friends and would like to use pastry in some part of the meal. Thanks, MJ

Margarine hasn't been made from animal fat since, oh, the 1800s. But that doesn't mean it's all vegan: Most are made from vegetable oil, water, stabilizers -- but some include trace amounts of whey or lactose, which are dairy products. 

Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan.

Hi all. I volunteered to make dinner for friends (at their house) who just had their third kid (Other two are aged 2 and 4) in lieu of bringing over something because I know their freezer is full. It's in two weeks, so I'm thinking something...meaty, (brisket? stew? spaghetti and meatballs?) that toddlers wouldn't hate. Crock pot or make ahead would be ideal, since I want to make them this too and that'll take up some time that day. Suggestions for a relatively easy winter dish that the whole family will like?

That's so nice of you! I think you can never go wrong with meatballs for kids (and adults) so my vote is for that.  How about my Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs? You can make a day or 2 ahead and just bring them over in their pot and set it over a low flame.  Good with pasta or rice.

This dish is a WaPo classic for a reason -- well, multiple actually.

Mahogany Short Ribs

RECIPE: Mahogany Short Ribs

I feel silly asking this question because it's hard for me to even articulate what I'm looking for .. but here goes: I'm trying to find a recipe I can make every Friday to sort of celebrate the end of the work week and be thankful. I want it to be like a ritual. And I'd like it to be under the general heading of Nourishing as opposed to a straight-up Dessert, but sweet things are still welcome. The closest I can think of, because I'm Jewish, is a loaf of challah. But I dread making challah because I hate how sticky everything gets. Also, there's only two of us and we would eat the whole loaf in a day and a half. My hope is find something that doesn't require too much clean-up and that I can make year-round. Any ideas?

As a fellow gastronomic Jew, I totally get this and love the idea of a ritual.  For me, it's making a roast chicken on Friday night and then making broth with the bones so we can have soup over the weekend...I love how it stretches that ritual meal into many.  For something vaguely sweet and baked that doesn't take a whole day to make, how about a batch of  my Spiced Whole Wheat Carrot Muffins? You can cut the recipe in half since it's just two of you.  

I have a bag of tart apples that have been sitting in my refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and they are no longer crisp enough to eat. Looking for suggestions for something other than a pie.

Hello, Free Rangers -- I'm hosting a brunch, and on account a confluence of guest preferences need to make a strata or a fritatta tho I cannot eat eggs. I'm willing to do this, but can you please direct me to a recipe that's truly no fail, assuming an oven thermometer, since I can't really test run or taste-test it?

I love the idea of this Persian Zucchini Frittata.   But what will you eat??

The Persian frittata is a great one! 

So ... what, in general, is it good for? I bought a bottle for a reason I no longer remember, and have used about 2 tablespoons. Also -- how long is it good???

For this very reason I wrote a recipe for Molasses Barbecue Sauce in Small Victories. I always get annoyed that it lives in the back of everyone's cupboards and doesn't get used.  It's also delicious drizzled on pineapple with a bit of lime zest sprinkled on top (trust me) and you can also make a refreshing drink by combining a tablespoon each molasses and either fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and then dilute with water (regular or sparkling).  In my experience molasses lasts pretty much forever...

You can make some really nice cocktail syrups out of it, also. For this time of year, cooking down a little molasses with ginger to add to a whiskey or applejack-based cocktail -- good stuff.

I have such fond memories of my late stepfather in West Texas ending just about every meal by pouring blackstrap molasses onto his plate, whisking in some margarine, and swiping cornbread or toast through it as his dessert.

I have an iron cast pan but Im looking for a pan more manageable (less heavy) and safe (no leaching materials) to do crepes, omelets etc. I read that X-trema cookware are good but I think those are -not- non-stick. Are there any other material besides teflon that I should be looking for? Any suggestions?

I've been using Zwilling's new line of nonstick cookware lately and I really like it...sturdy and super non-stick.  And I believe the material is environmentally friendly.

I love that Tim's picture is of a cute dog!

That's sweet Lucinda perched on my shoulder. It's her way to signal me that it's time to eat!

We routinely use leftover vegetables and other odds and ends in making frittatas or farmer's scrambles for diner. I'm wondering if there is another method for using eggs and leftovers to make quick dinners?

Well, there's the time-honored tradition of roast-vegetable hash that you top with an egg! And of course the good old "bowl" (grains, veg, protein) can be topped with a fried or hard-cooked or poached egg, too.

Fried rice, too.

How do recipe copyrights work? I am co-authoring a cookbook with a friend. Most of our recipes our own original creations, but some were derived from a recipe elsewhere, and then changed and modified so much that they don't really resemble the original recipe in either the ingredients list or directions. It's hard to know where to draw the line with creative rights of food. I know that if I get a dish at a restaurant, and then determine the ingredients, and cook it at home without a recipe.... that is perfectly acceptable. However, I would not ask for recipes from chefs in restaurants; I would prefer to create dishes from scratch. Since you guys have all published recipes, what can you tell me about creative rights and ethics (also etiquette) regarding recipe rights?

It's a really interesting question.  I always cite my sources/what inspired my recipes because I think it's (a) good etiquette and (b) I think the story behind the dish is just as important/interesting as the dish itself.

Right. A recipe itself -- the instructions/proportions/ingredients -- can't be copyrighted, actually. But it's good karma -- and, as Julia says, often interesting reading -- to give credit where it is due. 

My 96 year old friend has a diary from her grandmother. Periodically the grandmother wrote "We had black potato soup for supper." We're wondering if anyone has suggestions about a recipe. Thanks

Maybe it had black beans in it? Do you know where the grandmother is from or where she grew up?

What about the no knead bread. You can start it on Thursday night and throw it in the oven on Friday night. You can top it with butter, nutella, nut butter, or something else delicious.

Absolutely. We've got some good takes on this from Nancy Baggett.

Slow-Rise, No-Knead Light White or Wheat Bread

Slow-Rise, No-Knead Rustic Caraway Beer Bread

I tried to use spray oil, sprayed it onto a cold pan, got a face full of oil mist that bounced off the pan's surface. If I spray from further away from the pan, I'll get oil all over the stove. Is there a right way to do this?

I like to open my dishwasher (not full of clean dishes, please) and hold the pan in one hand and the spray in the other and go for it.  This way excess spray gets in the dishwasher where it will get cleaned instead of all over your stove (or face, yikes!)

When kids, we would sneak out the molasses and have bread and molasses. Yum.

Hi Bonnie, I'm curious if you made a bunch of pots of soup and froze portions or if you ate commercially prepared soups? You seem to have a different soup each day. Joe you seemed to maintain a variety in your diet as well. It seems that all the diets worked to some extent, but 30 days is easy. The boredom of 365 would either turn me into a martyr or depress me. You all did great, thanks for the feedback. I'm thinking of doing something similar for lent. And then perhaps do one month a quarter where I reduce and restrict the fats, sugars, and meats and up the veggies. Thanks again for just the idea of mindful eating for this new year.

Glad you enjoyed our project. As for your question, Bonnie's on vacation, but she was eating SouperGirl soups and then making her own as the month progressed. I think your one month a quarter idea is a great one!

5 Diets, Week 4: The home stretch

Thanks, Joe, for pointing me to Pepperidge Farm for vegan margarine. I never buy margarine, so I am truly out of touch with ingredients. I have been around the bend a few times, but not since the 1800s!


Just so we're clear, Pepperidge Farm makes vegan puff pastry, not vegan margarine!

You could make the tomato and pepper part of shakshuka in advance, store it in the fridge, then on the evening you want to eat it, heat it in an ovenproof skillet, add the eggs, and bake.

I have a shout-out for Julia Turshen's Small Victories cookbook - not only are the recipes easy and delicious (hello turkey ricotta meatballs!) but I really enjoy her writing and the way she introduces each recipe. It's the first time I really stopped and noticed a cookbook author's writing; and the "small victories" element is so clever. Looking forward to more from her.

Well this made my day— thank you so much!

Any suggestions of health nosh that will be a crowd pleaser for the upcoming event? Possibly cheap and easy?

Did you see Ellie Krieger's take on spinach and artichoke dip? 

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

RECIPE: Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Or for something cheaper, these baked beans are AWESOME and would also make a good dip, served with tortilla chips or carrot sticks (you could puree them a bit to get a smoother texture; use whatever honey you have on hand.)

Honey Baked Black Beans

RECIPE: Honey Baked Black Beans

 Or shameless plug for Molletes, which definitely get a bang for the buck. Serve with salsa or guac for people to top as they like.


RECIPE: Molletes

Yes, Joe, sorry for the typo, I meant vegan puff pastry. MJ

No worries -- just wanted to be sure we were both clear!

A few weeks ago Plate Lab had an Asian-style pork meatballs with spaghetti. I haven't made it yet but it is in my "queue." It has me thinking, though, about other alternatives to this classic Italian dish. Do you have any other recipes or suggestions for variations? Thanks!

Hey! I love meatballs.  I wrote a recipe for Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs in my cookbook Small Victories and a number of variations on the recipe including substituting sausage removed from its casings for the ground meat and a Moroccan riff with ground lamb and feta.  Hope you'll consider checking it out! The world's your...meatball! 

I believe that Fleischmann's makes a vegan margarine (I have relatives who keep kosher, so I've needed to find pareve margarine before). It's is harder to find, but I think it's out there!

Oh, yeah -- there are great vegan margarines. I like Earth Balance. (That wasn't the OG question, but thanks...)

Hi Food Gurus, I'm having several friends over on Sunday for the entire morning and afternoon. Can you suggest some vegetarian (cheese OK) recipes for lunch I can make on Saturday and leave in the fridge overnight that would need just the minimum of at-the-moment prep the next day? If I made a vegetable & feta frittata on Saturday, would it be OK cold from the refrigerator or would it need to be warmed up. You've never let me down!

A frittata is a great idea and I like them at room temperature rather than cold from the refrigerator.  You might also want to throw in a salad that can withstand a day in the fridge to round out your spread (might I suggest this All-Red Radicchio, Radish + Pomegranate Salad?). 

I received a jar of cantaloupe preserves/marmalade/jelly in a big gift basket. It seems weird enough that I don't want to just open it and eat on toast....any ideas?

Oh interesting! I would try it spooned over pound cake and/or vanilla ice cream.  Almost like a dessert sauce rather than a toast topper.  Thin it out with a little lemon juice if you need.   Or perhaps spread toast with a generous amount of ricotta and then some of the preserves on top.

I spatchcocked a chicken this weekend. When the meatiest part of the thigh was 165, the breast was still 145. I kept cooking until the breast was 145. Did I need to? Everything I've read says just to check the thigh. Does that only apply if you haven't butterflied the bird?

Do you mean that you kept cooking it until it was 165? If so, you didn't need to. The government recommends heating the bird to 165 degrees F to ensure all potentially harmful bacteria are killed off.


I won't get into the argument that many cooks and chefs make: that the temperature is too high. What I will say is that you could have also held the temperature at 145 degrees F, for about 9 minutes, and achieved the same goal as raising the internal temperature  of the chicken to 165 and (likely) drying out the breast meat.


In other words, it's not JUST temperature that kills bacteria. It's time AND temperature.

I know that some people have received their replacement blades already. but I have not. I did get an acknowledgement on the blade replacement Dec 15, but 6 weeks later still no blade. I've searched online around for any updates from Cuisinart regarding the replacement schedule but come up with nothing. Can your reporters find out what is their plan to get the blades replaced, and when?

I called Cuisinart's blade recall hotline. (I didn't identify myself as a reporter, alas, because I didn't want to risk being sent through the media channels and wasting everyone's time, including yours.)


Here's what the woman with Cuisinart told me: The wait time for replacement blades is 6 to 8 weeks due to back orders. What's complicating things is that the warehouse was closed during the holidays, further causing delays. It reopened on Jan. 4. 


So, I'd give it another couple of weeks. If you don't receive the blades by then, it'll be time to raise pitchforks!


ARTICLE: 8 million Cuisinart food processor blades have been recalled. Yours may be one of them.

The french onion soup recipe I use calls for yellow onions. The other main ingredients are beef broth and a splash of dry white wine. The soup is a bit sweet for my taste. Would using another type of onion result in a soup that would not be so sweet? If so, what type of onion would be best? Is there something else I can do to make the soup less sweet? Thanks!

Long cooked onions tend to be very sweet (and the type doesn't matter too much in my experience with the exception of Vidalias which are incredibly sweet).  You could try doing half yellow onions and half shallots, which to me have a bit more bite.  And then finish with a splash of vinegar to help offset/balance the sweetness. 

I loved the article, but don't want to make sweets or baked goods. Anymore ideas for savory pantry recipes? Also, What are your suggestions for what to have in the pantry?

Did you see the recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi? They're really fun to make.  I also recently did a piece for Food & Wine about how I stock my pantry.  Hope it's helpful!

My French bread recipe calls for a trifold knead with a quarter turn 850 times? I figure I can do about three turns in a minute, until I get worn out, than it goes to about 2. My calculator is coming up with 4 hours and some minutes. HUH? They offer a short rout of regular kneading for 3-8 minutes with a reduction in texture and quality. I like the recipe and have been doing regular kneading for about 13 minutes, I am not getting the chew I want for a banquette. I don't own a bread maker and don't want to. Any hints?

It's a little hard for me to answer this really well without seeing the recipe, but it sounds like you're being instructed to turn the dough similar as you would with, say, a puff pastry. In that sense, you do a kind of letter fold -- fold one third in, and then fold the other third over that. That's one turn. Then rotate the dough 90 degrees. Repeat.

I don't think you're supposed to do it 850 times. My guess is that it wants you to get something like the equivalent of 850 layers. Maybe??? Puff pastry recipes I've found say that 6 turns gets you 729 layers, so that's pretty darn close. Does that make sense?

I'm trying to get in the habit of doing meal prep for breakfasts and lunches on Sunday for the week in an attempt to eat healthier and save money. Are there any recipes or strategies that you recommend? Also, cooked proteins and quinoa cooked on Sunday would still be good for Friday or do you recommend freezing? Side note: Julia--I love your book!

Oh thank you so much!! Really appreciate that.  I try to do the same thing.  I feel like cooked proteins and quinoa would still be good within 4-5 days, but a week might be pushing it.  Freeze individual servings in freezer-safe plastic bags that you lay down flat in the freezer so you can pull them out whenever you need and they'll defrost quickly since it's a thin layer.  Grains freeze beautifully this way, as do beans which are great for healthy/economic eating.  I also like to make a jar of salad dressing and keep it in the fridge so it's really easy to throw together a salad all week or dress some quinoa or beans.  It makes healthy food more interesting!

Try these--kids will love, as will adults!

Please let us know if going off your diets brings weight back quickly, or not. I'm thinking of the famous "water-weight" claims and my own yo-yo experiences. Regardless, congratulations to all of you for your work and for being brave enough to chronicle it for us.

I'm hoping to update readers about our experiences in ... a year! Then maybe we'll rope in another group of 5 staffers to take this on again.

Hi, I have a recipe from Cooks Illustrated to make a layered shortbread cookie, with a basic shortbread on the bottom, a filling, and a simple chocolate coating on top. The suggested filling is caramel, which I don't like -- too much pure sugar. I was thinking peanut butter, but do you have any suggestions for how to cook/process the peanut butter before spreading it on top of the cookie base? Mix with sweet and condensed milk over low heat? Whip with cream? Any alternative suggestions for the filling, like something with jam? Thanks!

I don't see why just plain peanut butter wouldn't work well on its own.  I bet if you whipped it with some room temperature butter it would be even creamier and smoother.  Also I like your suggestion of jam— maybe a dab on top of the peanut butter for a PB&J effect?

Any ideas about a deli or other source of a good Reuben sandwich in Northern Virginia, preferably Loudoun County or near there?

How about DGS in the Mosaic District? I think people also like Chutzpah Deli in Fairfax, though I've not been there.

Lashings on top of cheese

Hi! I moved to Eastern Europe for a few years, and did not bring my slow cooker with me. I don't want to buy another for the short time I'm here. Sort of related, I can get a really nice tagine in this area, and will be buying one soon. So, twofold question: most tagine recipes I see online assume you don't have one, and they offer instructions for oven cooking. How do I get started using it? And, can the tagine make a reasonable substitute for a slow cooker?

I definitely think the tagine might be the original slow cooker! It can definitely substitute.  That domed lid lets steam drip down and keep food from drying out.  First find out if your tagine is safe to use in the oven (some are just stovetop). And then make sure it's not cold before you put it in an oven (or on the stove) will likely crack if exposed to extreme temperature changes.

I use my tagine from time to time, but honestly, not as much as I probably should. Indeed, it's the OG slow cooker! Not that you can translate recipes exactly from one to the other, because I think a slow cooker has less evaporation than a tagine. Anyhow, check out this recipe and column.

WEEKNIGHT VEGETARIAN: For a dose of warmth, make a stew in the original slow cooker: A tagine

RECIPE: Prune and Turnip Tagine

My son has asked for chocolate pudding and brownies for his birthday. I have discovered that I have a bag of whole wheat pastry flour in the fridge and another in the freezer. Please tell me you have a recipe that will let me utilize these?

Not for the pudding, but this recipe calls for whole-wheat pastry flour.

Dark, Fudgy Muscovado Brownies

RECIPE: Dark, Fudgy Muscovado Brownies

And you could substitute WW pastry flour for the regular flour in these brownies, too!

How about a batch of applesauce? It's really easy, and I like my homemade version way better than anything storebought.

Yup, for sure.

I've brought a few dinners over to new parents in the last few weeks, and one thing that surprised me is that they wanted healthy food. I thought they would want some comfort food to go along with the sleep deprivation, but I think it's harder to prepare fresh food when you're chained to your house with a new baby. So, I would recommend bringing a salad in addition to the meatball or whatever you decide. You can prechop everything and put it in a ziplock, and put the salad dressing in a jar on the side.

That's a really great idea.  Reminds me of this great post Jenny did on Dinner: A Love Story recently.

After reading about it for weeks, I finally go around to cooking it on Monday. I'm going on a vacation with a few couples in two weeks and I thought it would be an easy breakfast option for the group. It's so good (and I did star it on your website). I have a bad habit of not making time for breakfast at home and then picking up a bagel sandwich on the way into work. It's so easy to scoop a portion and put it in the microwave for only a minute. It's so delicious that I've been looking forward to it starting the night before. Thank you!

More raves for this Ellie Krieger recipe.

Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal

RECIPE: Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal

I have a variety of people coming over for the superbowl and I need a meatless main dish (I think) I have a veggie platter, chips and dip, fruit platter, cookies and brownies along with the standard superbowl beverages. We don't have a slow cooker and I don't want to spend the whole day in the kitchen so I'm thinking a stew of some sort? Is that my best bet when I have some definite vegetarians and people I'm not sure about?

I would suggest a big pot of bean chili and then you can set out things like grated cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, and cilantro for topping.  It's great because it's one of those things that's even better if you make it the day before and then just warm over a low flame.  And it's friendly for vegetarians and satisfying enough for anyone who isn't.  

made a frittata with just egg whites. Doesn't make any sense to me. The yolks are what tastes good (and that is where the vitamins are anyway). So just 8 eggs instead of 16 egg whites?

It's just a recipe from Michael Psilakis's new book. I don't believe he's claiming every recipe is the height of authenticity. You're right, of course, that frittatas usually use the whole egg -- this is just another way to do it, for those who are trying to cut their fat down. Don't knock it till you try it -- I tasted this in the Food Lab (actually, I did more than that; had two servings) and thought it was great. Does it mean I'll never put a yolk in a frittata again? Of course not!

RECIPE: Egg White Frittata With Roasted Tomatoes and Feta

I recently made a recipe that involved only roasting marinated chicken breasts and veggies on a sheet pan. It took about 30 minutes total, was healthy, and provided leftovers for lunch. It got me thinking - what other proteins cook at about the same time and temperature as veggies? Would it work to do cubes of beef and broccoli? I assume fish would cook too quickly.

I love sheet pan dinners!! I make them all of the time and it's all about how large you cut things and prepare them so everything is done at the same time. I would suggest medium cubes of beef with small broccoli florets and then after they're cooked, splash some soy sauce on them and sprinkle with chopped peanuts and cilantro.  Also remember you can add things to the pan at different times, so for example if you wanted to do fish and vegetables...I would roast a tray of vegetables and then when they're just about done, add the fish so it all finishes at the same time.  Same thing for shrimp!

There was actually a pretty good Judge John Hodgman podcast dealing with this. Ingredients and quantities aren't copyrighted, but the background story and description of the process are. 

Yes, that's exactly right -- thanks!

By the way, the caramel and chocolate topping you see is standard in the UK - it's called millionaires shortbread.

Please, how do I convert frozen blueberries into blueberry pie? I will be using premade pie shells. No artificial sweeteners, please, very important due to allergies and long term health concerns from artificial sweeteners. I have organic sugar, light and dark brown sugar, molasses, cocoa powder, fresh off the farm pasteurized whole milk, chocolate milk, and chocolate syrup in case those ingredients help, although I don't have to use them. I do like chocolate covered strawberries, however, so blueberries may not be too far afield? Thanks.

When I bake with frozen berries, the biggest thing to be aware of is the excess moisture which can make things like pie crusts soggy.  I would let them defrost in their bag and then drain well in a colander (even give them a little push with a spoon or your hands to get excess water out).  Then toss them with some of your organic sugar (or dark brown sugar, yum!) and a little flour or cornstarch and pile them on your crust!  I would top with a little streusel mixture of equal parts brown sugar, oats, and butter.  I've never combined blueberries and chocolate...

Dorie Greenspan scatters 2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs on the crust before topping with blueberries for her pie, so I imagine that would be extra helpful when starting with frozen berries!

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Blueberry Pie

Whenever I make hummus, I try yet another tip to get smooth hummus from canned chickpeas using a food processor. I finally tried one that's easy and worked for me. I dumped the contents of the can into a saucepan, added a scant 1/2 t. baking soda, boiled it for a couple of minutes, drained and rinsed them then continued in the food processor as usual. It turned out the creamiest ever while retaining all the fiber. The two of us ate the whole thing in a sitting which we've never done before.

Yes that works so well!!

Fascinating! I have used baking soda when cooking chickpeas from scratch, as per Maureen Abood's recipe, but never thought to try it with canned. On my agenda, thanks!

RECIPE: Whipped Hummus

I stopped drinking coffee about a month ago, when I realized my morning stomach upset might be due at least in part to what I was drinking and not only because of what I was reading in the A section of the newspaper. For the past month, I've been drinking caffeine-free teas instead of coffee. My question is, will I ever feel fully awake again?

No. No, you won't.

I took Tim Carmen's advice from a couple of weeks ago and bought a Baratza Encore burr grinder. Thanks! Now what about beans? Do you have any favorites that don't cost as much as white truffles?

I hope you are liking the burr grinder! That's a great start to good, home-brewed coffee.


Beans are the most important element, of course. You can't have good coffee without them. I live close to Vigilante Coffee in Hyattsville and have grown to love the way they roast beans (and source them). They're not cheap, though. A 12-ounce bag will run you $15 or more, depending on the beans.  I have also liked the beans I've purchased at Qualia Coffee in Petworth, Swing's Coffee in Alexandria, and Rare Bird in Falls Church.


I wrote a story on local roasters a couple of years ago. It may help you.


ARTICLE: How to decode D.C.'s coffee roasters.

During a new-year cleanout of my pantry I found a vacuum jar of peeled, cooked chestnuts. I think it's about a year and a half old, but the jar/label have no information about when it was produced or how long it's good. I'd like to use the chestnuts in a chicken stew ... will my sweetie and I survive?

I would say if the jar 'pops' when you open it (meaning the seal didn't break) and there's no sign of mold and they smell fine, you're probably a'ok.  Chicken stew with chestnuts sounds lovely!

I'm making Nutella Puffs (puff pastry and nutella, can't go wrong) for a Super Bowl potluck on Sunday. I've never made anything with puff pastry I need to make them on Sunday for peak puff/flakiness, or will they still be delicious if I make them Saturday?

Puff pastry is usually best day-of, but should probably be fine the next day, too.

I'm one of the many people using pinterest to find recipes and meal ideas. One of the problems I've been running into is a lot of the meals seem to lack any flavor, even when I doable up on the seasonings. This is especially true for things I'm making in a pressure cooker or slow cooker. Any suggestions on how to address this other than adding a ton of salt and pepper when we sit down to eat?

I find pinterest to be really useful for getting inspiration, but since it's not always clear where the recipes are coming from, it's hard to rely on for flavor/tried-and-true recipes.  Things prepared in pressure and slow cookers tend to be really rich and satisfying, but sometimes need a little something at the end to 'perk' them up.  Salt and pepper can do this, but so can things like salsa verde, tahini sauce, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh herbs, or horseradish.  Think assertive and bold!

This may be an oxymoron, but do you have any ideas for healthy recipes for a Super Bowl party?

Can I come to your party? As much as I love the opportunity to indulge in some greasy food, I sort of resent that the Super Bowl and sports watching in general feels so tied to processed junk food. And I don't even like sports that much -- I literally just show up for the food. Why must I feel like a football deflated of its good vibes after eating? /rant.

Here are a few suggestions, and check the Food section online tomorrow for a recipe roundup highlighting more.

Chicken Posole Verde

RECIPE: Chicken Posole Verde

Oven-Baked Chicken Tenders With Pineapple-Apricot Salsa

RECIPE: Oven-Baked Chicken Tenders With Pineapple-Apricot Salsa

Green Apple Relish

RECIPE: Green Apple Relish

Baba Ghanouj

RECIPE: Baba Ghanouj

I bought Limburger not realizing that it's just the worst stinky cheese. Should I throw it? I'm guessing there's no way to use it without getting its full effect.

I'll take it! Lol...

Yes like puff pastry recommendations. 4cps flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbs yeast, 1 1/2-2 cps water. Throw into hot oven, toss in 1/2 cup water, turn oven down to 350. I'm using a spritzer instead of tossing in the water. I don't want to have a puddle form under my stove!

You can still do the water. Just put it in the broiler pan or even a cake pan or cast iron skillet.

Just wanted to mention that I will be making the amazing ribs straight from the Small Victories cookbook for Sunday. What's leftover will put into fried rice on Monday. What else can I make for the masses on Sunday?

Oh fantastic! So happy to hear that.  And the fried rice idea sounds delicious...  To go with the ribs, maybe an Korean-style slaw to complement them?  I would do equal parts shredded cabbage and romaine and add some grated carrots if you'd like and dress with equal parts sesame oil/rice vinegar/soy sauce.  Maybe a splash of fish sauce and a pinch of brown sugar too.

More a comment than a question: I did the Whole 30 so I followed Kendra's progress in particular and found that my journey tracked pretty similarly and have learned a lot about my preferences. As someone who cooks a fair amount, the adjustment to my lifestyle wasn't terribly difficult, I just made recipes I already had that fit, but I didn't expect this feeling of boredom! And my inability to eat pretty much any Asian food was surprising as I didn't expect to miss that cuisine in particular - I actually feel motivated to for a more focused exploration of Asian food! Right after I eat a giant slice of buttercream frosted cake of course :-)

Interesting. Will pass it along to Kendra!

The stomach issues may have been caused by the acid rather than caffeine. You could try experimenting with low acid coffee and/or cold brew to see if you really need to give up caffeine.

One word: Matcha.

To make a stock, I've heard that you should let the meat and water heat up slowly in order to maximize the amount of collagen that is released by the bones. I've also seen many recommendations that you should roast the pieces of meat first to deepen the flavor. It seems to me that roasting would prevent the collagen from being released into the stock. So, to roast or not to roast?

Depends if you're looking for collagen or browned flavor...I like not roasting first because (a) I am lazy and (b) I like the more clean/pure flavor you get from raw bones rather than cooked ones (that said, whenever I have bones leftover from a roasted chicken or meat, I always make stock with them just to get some more life out of them and not waste them).  Could be fun to do a side by side and see what you think! At the end of the day it's just personal preference.  

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream book has a recipe to use up that molasses! (OK, some of it anyhow.)

Yes! I love me some Jeni's. Thanks for the reminder -- I, too, have a bottle of blackstrap languishing in my pantry that needs to be used.

I love the writings of M.F.K. Fisher, Rex Stout, and other great foodies of yesteryear, but I notice one thing in their recipes that I'm reluctant to use: large amounts of soy sauce. For instance, baked fish coated in soy sauce. Was this just a salt kick, or was soy sauce that exotic, like tarragon? My question is how to adjust such recipes to reduce or eliminate soy sauce -- any recommendations?

Love reading their work too.  I would just cut in the soy sauce down (in half or more) and maybe use a low sodium soy sauce.

My favorite technique: subbing in some black vinegar for some of the soy sauce. 

WEEKNIGHT VEGETARIAN: A new technique for defusing those soy-sauce sodium bombs

Is there a rule of thumb I can follow to know when a recipe will turn out OK if I omit nuts altogether, or when I am better off finding another recipe? I frequently see a savory dish I'd like to try, or a baked good, then find that the recipe calls for nuts. Never sure when I am OK ignoring them.

I don't think there's a single rule of thumb other than "read the recipe." How are the nuts being used? Are they more of a garnish or mix-in? Easily eliminated. Are they ground and used for thickening or stability? That's trickier. You just have to think about the larger context a bit.

Agreed. Also know that you can often substitute seeds (like  pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas, or sunflower seeds).

I did Whole30 for the month of January. Now that it's over for me, I'm mostly going to stick with the plan (low sugar, less alcohol, more veggies), since I feel so much better than I had been. I'm slowly reintroducing things in small amounts. Today I decided to have a piece of dark chocolate after lunch to celebrate and found that I did not like it. I cannot believe it. Could my taste have changed that much? I love (or loved) chocolate. Before my Whole30 month I put chocolate on the top of my food loves.


The written expression of a recipe can be copyrighted, but the recipe itself cannot. So, you cannot copyright lists of ingredients/proportions but you CAN copyright the instructions, as in a cookbook. If you are using the same ingredients/proportions as another recipe, that's fine. You cannot take the recipe word for word out of a cookbooks and publish it as your own.

I have always understood that to mean that if you have particularly expressive/unique ways of describing or, I suppose, instructing, then sure. So, standard instrux like "Saute the onions until tender" might not qualify, but "You want to make sure the onions are as tender as a cottonball" might. But I could be wrong! Here's the line I'm going by: "Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook."

I just got done browsing the Super Bowl Recipe Finder. Why are there five suggestions in the vegetarian category and only two in all the other categories? More than half (11 to 10) of the total recipes are vegetarian. Four of the recipes in the non-vegetarian sections are *by nature* intrinsically vegetarian (guac, salsa), and if you wanted to have vegetarian options at your party you could easily make any of the pizza, chili, or nacho recipes that way with minor changes. Really, only three of the recipes (wings, sausage bites, beef sandwich) feature meat as the central ingredient. What gives? I thought the Super Bowl was supposed to be about fun and friendship.

As you note, some party foods or snacks are vegetarian in nature: guacamole, salsa, even nachos (if you don't throw shredded meat into the recipe).


Regardless, we've also published some meaty Super Bowl recipes, too. Here's a handy list of many of them, both veg and meat-based. I'm particularly fond of the Potato Chip Nachos with Chipotle Beef, the Chili Con Carne and my own recipe (with chef Peter Pastan's help), Papa Peter's Super Bowl Pizza. All the recipes are found on the page below.


ARTICLE: These Super Bowl recipes will guarantee victory for your gameday party

Have you tried Beanetics in Annandale? I've been a fan of their iced coffee concentrate for several summers but recently converted to their beans for my daily coffee in the "hot drink" months too.

I haven't, but I'll check them out. Thanks!

For good coffee at a reasonable price go to Trader Joes.

Yes, but remember: You need fresh beans, too. They should not be older than three weeks.

Hello! Any ideas for things to dip in guacamole that aren't chips? Avocados were on sale at Whole Foods and I'm hoping for a slightly more healthful snack!

Sliced cucumbers and thinly sliced jicama are great! My wife is a Type 1 Diabetic so that's how we enjoy guacamole since tortilla chips aren't part of our pantry...

Yup, I was going to suggest crudites, too. Whole-wheat crackers would also do the trick. Not sure if you include pita chips in your "chips" category, but those could be an alternative, especially if you make your own.

Old age has made lengthy kneading of bread dough impossible, and I don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, either. So I've been mixing my yeast dough in the food processor instead, using the plastic blade. I find that this, plus making the dough a bit wetter than I used to, produces a nice dough for homemade focaccia and for French bread.

Right on. Plenty of recipes even call you for using the food processor to make dough. Although there are folks out there who say you don't even need to bother with the dough blade, that the regular one is just fine, too.

Will the tea-bag matcha work? Or -- where should I get it and what exactly? Thanks!

No, real matcha -- the powder that you whisk into hot water. It gives a nice gentle buzz.

Yes, it's the entire written package of instructions. Recipes are more like ideas in this way. You cannot copyright an idea, but you can copyright a particular expression of that idea. For example, you cannot copyright the idea of a fantasy novel involving a kid wizard, but you CAN copyright a novel about Harry Potter.

Well, you've toasted us until we're lightly browned and crisped, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and many thanks to Julia and Carrie for helping us with the a's.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about cutting down soy sauce will get "Farm to Table Asian Secrets" by Patricia Tanumihardja. The one who asked about cooking for new parents will get "Live to Eat" by Michael Psilakis. Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

A pleasure to join in! 

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.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Julia Turshen
Julia Turshen is the author of "Small Victories," (Chronicle Books, 2016). She wrote this week's article on pantry-friendly recipes for a snow day.
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