Free Range on Food: The merits of frozen food, Japanese home cooking and more.

Feb 22, 2017

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

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope you're enjoying this week's food coverage, including Tamar Haspel's call to consider the freezer, especially when trying to fight food waste; Charlotte Druckman's ode to simple Japanese cooking; Carrie Allan's funny take on Mardi Gras cocktails (baby included); Dorie Greenspan's cheesy-bacony quick bread; and more, more, more.

We've got three of the aforementioned four writers with us today, so make your questions good. Charlotte, in case you didn't know, is a cast-iron cooking expert, too, having recently published "Stir Sizzle Bake: Recipes For Your Cast-Iron Skillet," so any questions along those lines will be met with lots of great ideas and tips, I'm sure.

We will have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today: "Share" by Chris Santos, source of this week's DinMin recipe; and "Naturally Nourished" by Sarah Britton, source of this week's Weeknight Veg recipe.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR7422 . 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.

And don't forget, you don't have to stop the food talk at 1 -- because right after our chat, Dorie Greenspan takes up for an hour of her own question-answering. Feel free to ask q's of her now at this link, and then head back there when we're done here!

OK, let's get going.

I loved the article on Japanese cooking and wanted to share my go-to cookbooks: My Japanese Table: A Lifetime of Cooking with Friends and Family by Debra Samuels ---Written for the American cook, the American author lived in Japan on & off. The tofu & vegetable scramble and the Okonomiaki recipes are my favorites. Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu --Simple things you wouldn't see in a restaurant, by an American who married a Japanese farmer and lives there. Lots to read in this one, besides the recipes. (I won this from you guys a year or two ago. Thanks!) Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond by Tadashi Ono --Great & easy recipe for Omu Rice in this one, which is basically a rice omelet. I keep meaning to try more in this book and coming back to the Omu Rice.

Thank you for this! I am a big fan of Nancy Singelton Hachisu and love that book. Japanese Soul Cooking taught me all about Japanese curry--its history and how to make it. Such a fun book. Lots to try. I think you'd like the 4 cookbooks mentioned in this story too. They're a bit different from both of those other two in that I think they get closer to actual Japanese home cooking as opposed to restaurant-style food (even though that is wonderful and some of it can be made at home) or that more Chez Panisse-ish sensibility Nancy has (which is so wonderful but its own departures). I can't wait to check out Debra Samuels' cookbook. Great tip!

ARTICLE: Finally, Japan can feel like home -- at least in my kitchen

I made the breakfast oatmeal with caramelized bananas and it's a winner. I loved it. I eat a lot of oatmeal (almost every day) and it's nice to change it up a little. I do have a question about the red quinoa: Is it supposed to kind of pop open like regular quinoa or stay mostly intact? I normally cook my steelcut oats for only five minutes and this recipe has a total time of 25 mins so I cut back the time. I was just wondering what sort of effect I was really supposed to be getting from the quinoa and did I screw it up?

RECIPE Breakfast Grain Bowls With Caramelized Bananas

You do see some of that same grain separation with red quinoa, too -- looks like a thin white outline, almost, around the edges of the grains. The color will change from red to more of a reddish-brown. It gives this porridge an earthier flavor and a bit more body, I think.  Looks more interesting too (but you can use reg quinoa). 


P.S. I think you could put caramelized bananas on a shoe and I'd eat it....

Just thought I would share. Had submitted the request for blade replacement In December like many. First email was it would be coming soon. Obviously they cannot make them fast enough as the latest apologizes for it not being shipped yet, but watch for it sometime in July-August 2017. Oh well.

Oh my! That is crazy. I'm sure plenty of people are still using the recalled blade, and while the official line is "don't do that," if you decide to, just check the blade before and after each time you use it. Hand wash, too.

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

The Food section is starting to get really boring. I like interesting stuff, don't get me wrong, but today was emblematic of where it's going of things that I'm just not gonna make or eat...and thus stop reading. Much of it seems centered on being just too vegetarian heavy these days. Beans this, lentils that, cous cous here, whole grain there. I'm not asking for the general meat + potatoes dish every week, but at the same time when the recipes are all some vegetarian thing from Morocco, Cyprus, or Cambodia, you're losing a segment of your readers. One or two are fine, but man, today's inside B2-B3 was just the pits, and it seems to be going this way more and more. Yes, I saw the Japanese recipes in the back, but just from B2-B3 made me stop reading, thinking, "This crap, again?"

Sorry you feel this way, and we'll certainly keep in mind, as we always do, to try to give a nice variety, but ... I'm a little confused. This week on B2 and B3 there are four recipes, and yes, two are vegetarian, and one of those is an oatmeal breakfast bowl, so really there's just one dish (mine) of the type you describe! Glad you noticed the Japanese recipes, at least! One of them is the definition of meat and potatoes, but with a little twist...

Joe, I made these over the weekend and they are AWESOME. I used cocoa nibs since I didn't have mini chocolate chips. I tried to give this 5 stars online, but the rating system didn't seem to be working.... I keep clicking 5 stars and nothing seemed to change. Anyway, they rock, thanks for the recipe!

So glad you like these! (But ... I don't see any ratings or comments on the recipe, which means you should do that!) The cocoa nibs are a great idea. I make these regularly to take on hikes. So much better than bars with goodness-knows-what ingredients, IMHO.

RECIPE: Peanut Butter Chickpea Energy Balls

Assuming you measure out your ingredients before cooking ...Where do you put them? I end up using lots of tea cups for spices and seasonings that need to be added to a stir-fry (ginger, garlic...) or other dish one at a time, even if there's only a spoonful in each. Then they all have to be washed. I suspect there's a better way but I can't think of it.

Yeah, if you prep things, you're going to have to put them in something that needs to be washed. There are little glass prep bowls made for just this purpose, but I've never bothered to get any. I mostly use little bowls or even plates, sometimes this little plastic dishes that came with an olive-oil dipping kit. Doesn't much matter to me as long as I can toss them in the dishwasher when I'm done.

I noticed that japanese restaurants with the best teriyaki seem to cut the vegetables, bread the tofu or meat, and pour house made teriyaki sauce over the cast iron plate. Then the plate is broiled until things are golden and sizzly. Could i recreate this at home with a 12" cast iron skillet? Instead of cast iron plates? My main concern is that the cast iron is needed for the right caramelization, but cooking it this way may leave teriyaki very hard to remove from my skillet without tin foil or ramekins.

You have just warmed my heart because I love cast iron and know a lot more about it than I do Japanese cuisine, which I'm only just beginning to scratch the surface of. You can and should use the cast-iron skillet for this, YES. But, make sure it's well-seasoned, because that will reduce your changes of sticky-gross teriyaki aftermath significantly. But what I think the real trick to this would be is adding the teriyaki at the very end. If you look at the tsukune recipe in my story, you'll see that the chicken meatballs are made then set aside, and the glaze for them (not so unlike a teriyaki) is made in a few moments (2 to 3 minutes) in the already-hot skillet, and then the meatballs are just quickly coated in them, in the pan, at the last minute. That's what I'd do here. 

over the weekend (different combination of veggies) and didn't have any milk. So I used some cream. It was past its date, but it didn't smell bad and it tasted fine, just a little thicker than cream usually is. A few bits looked suspiciously like clotted cream. Is that what I had? Or was it just cream with some of the water evaporated out along the edges? Or is that what clotted cream is? Thanks for any input. The frittata is delicious and the recipe worked exactly as described. ( P.S. I have seen milk that has gone all bad and chunky - years ago in a group house. That isn't what this was like at all.)

Yes, this pretty routinely happens to me with heavy cream. In fact, this weekend, I used a slightly thickened cream in scones and ganache -- no problems. It has a tendency to clump thanks to the higher fat content -- not in the same way spoiled milk does. You did the right thing in smelling and tasting. As long as those check out, just use the cream as is or shake it up a bit to try to reconstitute it as best you can.

It's not quite clotted cream, in the sense that traditional clotted cream is made by heating the cream. But I do wonder what those curds would be like spread on something, a la butter or clotted cream. Something to try on my next pint!

So glad you like the recipe, btw. Did you take time to comment and rate it, by chance? Please do!

RECIPE: Ricotta Frittata With Spring Vegetables

Just made the Kinpira and it is truly delicious! Love the philosophy of drawing out the natural flavors of the vegetable, and this came together so quickly (it will be difficult to let it sit for an hour..) Question; I had all the ingredients except for Japanese soy sauce, so I used regular soy sauce instead. Not knowing what this is supposed to taste like, is this substitute ok, or should I pick up Japanese soy sauce? Thanks!

Oh I'm glad you liked it! When you say you used regular soy sauce, what kind was it? I'm just curious. Was it Chinese soy sauce? They tend to vary from one country to another. And that's not to say you can't substitute them. My advice there is just to start with a little less than the recipe calls for, to account for one soy sauce being saltier than another. You can always add a bit more. There's a really cool new e-commerce site for specialty Japanese ingredients if you want to geek out on soy sauce. It's called the Japanese Pantry. If, like me, you find yourself totally taken in by this style of cooking, it may be worth investing in a few special ingredients and experimenting with them.

RECIPE: Stir-Fried Parsnip and Carrot (Kinpira) 

Hi all, I needed some fresh rosemary and parsley for a recipe I made on Monday and now I have a ton extra. What should I do with it all? I also have some extra tarragon from a different recipe too. Hate to have it all go to waste!

When I have fresh rosemary I tend to dry it for a later use (a sprig is great tossed in a pot of beans, chicken soup, or braised or roasted potatoes, for example). To dry it, just tie it in bundles and let it hang upside down in an airy spot (i.e. not right by the stove, but somewhere with some air circulation). It takes maybe a week to dry, and then you can store it in a zip-top bag or glass jar for at least a year.

With parsley, make taboulleh! 

Autumn Tabbouleh

RECIPE: Autumn Tabbouleh

For the tarragon, try one of these: 

Tarragon-Roasted Celery

RECIPE: Tarragon-Roasted Celery

Whipped Buttermilk With Horseradish and Tarragon

RECIPE: Whipped Buttermilk With Horseradish and Tarragon

Tangerine and Tarragon Smash

RECIPE: Tangerine and Tarragon Smash

Or for almost any herb (saying "almost" because I haven't done it with every herb, but I assume it would work), you can finely chop the leaves and mix with some olive oil, then freeze the herb-flecked oil in ice cube trays. Use the cubes in sautes, in roasts, or...wherever! 

This one's for Tamar, from a fellow crusader for the freezer as a method of preservation and against the culture of "fresh is always best". I'm really interested in the role of small intermediate businesses, especially packing and aggregation facilities, in revitalizing our regional food systems. Do you see a need for some small or regional flash freezing lines to be able to preserve local harvests on a greater scale? Or do you think there wouldn't be a market? Everything in the grocery store freezer case seems to be California or Mexico-grown.

An excellent question -- just what I would expect from a fellow crusader!  The answer is probably not. Produce grown for freezing is grown on contract, specifically for the purpose, and the logistics of picking, shipping, processing, and freezing are a well-orchestrated ballet.  Freezing doesn't lend itself as well for small batches (you have to set up the line for each kind of produce, so you want to do a lot once you're set up), and it makes sense to put the plants (which are expensive) in places where lots of people grow vegetables in quantity.  I'd look to my local growers for fresh. But keep the faith on frozen from afar. The supply chain is very efficient, and the miles shipped are a small fraction of the energy used.

UNEARTHED: We think fresh is best. But when it comes to food waste, we need to think again.

Hi! Just received a cast iron pan (for Danish pancakes, ableskivers), a family heirloom, that hasn't been used in 4 or 5 years. How do I clean it and season it? I assume only hot water, no soap, for cleaning it, but not sure about the seasoning.

How's it looking off the bat? Does it have any rust or has it been well-preserved? Either way, you're going to want to re-season it, which is EASY, but if there's rust on it, or it's covered in any kind of gunk, you're going to work just a little harder. I'm going to assume it's in good shape and clean. If so, to re-season it, you will rinse it with water and some dish soap (yep! dish soap is fine--nothing with bleach, but anything like Dawn or Ivory or Seventh Generation is fine) and give it a little rub-a-dub-dub with a gentle cleaning brush. After you've rinsed it, dry it completely with a kitchen towel or paper towels and then set it on your stove over low heat for 5 minutes. You're doing this to make sure it's 100% dry (great tip in general for avoiding rust) and to open its cast-iron pores so it's more receptive to the oil you're about to add. Now, you should add 1 teaspoon of oil to the pan  (i love flax seed but you can use a neutral oil like canola if you'd rather) and use a paper towel to coat the entire surface of the pan with the oil. Still with me? From here, you should put the oiled pan into your oven and set it to 450 degrees. The pan will heat gradually in the oven, which is better for your cast iron. Once the oven, with the pan in it, reaches that temperature, leave it in there for an hour. Then turn the oven off and let the pan cool in there. Take the pan out and repeat that process two more times. Your pan will be re-seasoned and ready to go. 

Now, if it the pan needs a bit more intervention (i.e. it has The Rust), before you go through that process outlined above, you'll want to take steel wool to it and scour off the rust (or gunk). 

I love this recipe from you guys, but roasting the pecans in a 375 oven for 8 minutes isn't working for me-- they're dark and bitter. So... would you recommend 350 for 8 minutes, or 375 for 4 minutes? Or something else? Thanks for all you do!

Savory Pecan, Parmesan and Thyme Shortbread

Sounds perhaps like you're oven is just a bit hot. I toast most of my nuts at 350, so sure, try that and start checking sooner. Most of the time it's in the 8-10 minute range for me, but I open the oven about halfway through, shake the nuts around and smell to see how they're coming along.

-- steam-cooking eggs? My life has been changed.

[Insert grinning emoji here] We never do them any other way here at WaPo Food. 

VIDEO How to steam eggs to hard-cooked perfection

I've been making egg salad the same way for a long time and while I like the taste, it recently occurred to me that the texture is very dense and pasty, for lack of a better descriptor. My ingredients: hard boiled eggs, mayo, Dijon mustard, garlic salt, smoked paprika. Any thoughts?

Hello! My "trick" with egg salad is to use minimal mayo and let the yolks do most of that binding/enriching/thickening work. I combine the yolks with the mayo separately before then folding in any other flavorings, then I fold in the egg whites last. You can use a fork to mash the mayo into the yolks, adding a small amount of the mayo to start and then adding more incrementally as needed. I know of one NYC chef who uses a 2:1 ratio of yolks to whites--so he uses twice as many cooked yolks as he does whites, and again, that means he can add a lot less mayo and still get that creamy effect while keeping it fluffy. The only problem I see there is that you're left with extra cooked whites and you don't want to waste them. You've got to find them a home, then you're golden. 

Another thought: I wonder if you're perhaps just overworking the egg salad and pounding it into being pasty. I took a cue from Serious Eats and started using a potato masher in mine, minimally. Leaving a mix of larger and small chunks, so that it's not so uniform. Still plenty of bigger, more tender pieces but not everything is huge.

And even another thought. I add a splash of rice wine vinegar. It lightens and brightens.

You sent me The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook from America's Test Kitchen. They even had a spot where they explain how to massage kale. I've heard of it before. Guessed at what it meant, but was never quite positive. Such a good resource. Thanks again.

Glad you're onto the kale-massaging. Works well doesn't it? The only thing: A lot of recipes, and I bet theirs is no different, call for you to add oil and/or salt, but trust me: You don't really have to add anything to the kale if you'd rather not. The breakdown takes a smidge longer, but not much...

I was watching a recent episode of America's Test Kitchen and they were featuring a tasty looking tomato and cheese lasagna. As a vegetarian I was really hooked, but one of their "key" ingredients is anchovies. I used them in cooking a lot before I stopped eating meat, so now I'm wondering if there is a good substitute to capture a similar flavor. I could just leave them out, but I'm thinking there must be something that can produce a similar quality. My initial thoughts were some nutritional yeast or maybe mushrooms, but I don't want to overwhelm the rest of the dish. The tomato sauce part of the lasagna features onion, a tiny bit of sugar and red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1 ounce of grated Pecorino Romano. Thanks so much - love the chats.

Ah, I think I know what recipe you're talking about, as I believe it was also in a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated. Perhaps a little Parm added to the sauce would up the umami/glutamate factor you're missing out on without the anchovies. I like your idea of mushrooms, but not necessarily fresh. I'm thinking you could experiment with some ground mushroom powder (shiitake or porcini) -- you can buy or make your own -- to give you a bit of that savory, almost fishy flavor. Maybe even a splash of soy sauce, too. The ATK vegetarian book has a good recipe for a fish-less fish sauce that uses dried mushrooms and soy sauce, and it does a pretty good job mimicking some of the qualities of the real stuff, which is why I think something like this might also work in the lasagna.

I watched this Midnight Diner series on Netflix a while back and they have a piece at the end of each episode about the featured dish (such as omelette rice) but it doesn't go into enough detail. It seemed simple enough so is there any website or e-book that elaborates on the preparation of these dishes?

The cookbooks I wrote about in my article this week all include recipes for those exact kinds of dishes (including omelette rice, which you will find in at least two of them; I know Kimiko Barber's Cook Japanese at Home and Maori Murota's TOKYO definitely both have recipes for that dish. Morimoto's Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking might  too. His cookbook is available as an e-book. So is Tim Anderson's, which is also fantastic. 

I keep kosher & used to be able to purchase Mothers & Migdal margarine for all my parve baking. Purim is coming & I need to make hamantaschens (cookie dough with filling). However, when I went to find these brands -- they don't exist in our stores anymore -- I am thinking because of their transfats. What is a good substitute for these brands are that kosher & parve? I have used Fleischmann brand -- but it doesn't taste good. Any clues?

It IS coming -- March 11. I've made hamantaschen with Earth Balance Baking Sticks, but this Pareve Poppy Seed Hamantaschen recipe from Faye Levy uses canola oil, and that works swell. 

I wanted to say that the greater focus on vegetarianism is something I LOVE about the trends in your Food Section these days. I am also so delighted with many of your other writing trends, which I would categorize as: Sense-memory stories like Druckman's today. I found the story incredibly affecting and really liked the approach of thinking about Japanese home cooking, and food culture as an insight into life. I live 2 blocks from Hana Market on U Street in DC so plan to try all of these recipes in March. Also, Greenspan's intro on her Parisian food life was spot-on today. Food economics like Tamar Haspel's story today and others of late. Thinking about how our consumption patterns affect agriculture, the ecosystem, and the economy is not always easy to write about, but in general you all nail it. Narrative "recipes," which Dorrie Greenspan and Joe Yonan regularly capture. I think Yonan's cook-along Greek soup recipe was the first I'd seen in this motif in a newspaper, and I thought it was great. Druckman does a nice job with that today as well. I love just using my brain in different ways when thinking about feeding myself and my loved ones. In short, you keep hitting it out of the park! Thanks very much.

Wow -- thanks so much!

you're exciting and elating a segment of your readers, who have thought for decades, when it's boring old meat & potatoes every week in the Food Section, "this crap again?" Seriously, the Food section's wide-ranging coverage is the very best thing about it. "Vegetarian things" are so incredibly varied that you're really limiting yourself if all you can see is "but where's the animal protein?"

I sent mine first week in January. Other than the spam-like e-mails of their 'cookbook', which only add insult to injury, I can't get an answer for when I will get a new one. I've pulled out my mother's old 1970s Robocoup which I think was the first one of these on the market and have been using it. It has a smaller bowl, stronger motor but still works well and am only sorry that I didn't purchase an updated one from them instead of the newer, recalled cuisinart

Glad you have something that works! It's not been a pretty recall, that's for sure.

I want to make Potatoes Dauphinoise - basically sliced potatoes, milk, cream, garlic, bay leaf, nutmeg, & gruyere. Needs to bake for 45-50 minutes at 400. Can I prepare and bake it the day before and reheat it? Or should I freeze it? In either case, should I cook it first, then freeze or refrigerate, or can I let it set in fridge or freezer uncooked, then cook the next day? If frozen, how much longer to cook/reheat from frozen state? Keep oven at 400, or maybe cook longer at lower temp?

I'd stick with the refrigerator if you're making it in advance. as the freezer might do wonky things to the cream involved. You can assemble and hold it for a day, or bake it, cool completely and reheat -- it might be creamier if you wait to bake it. Straight from the refrigerator, it shouldn't take that much longer in the oven. And no need for high-heat reheating, which might just evaporate/dry out some of the luxurious moisture. I'd say 325 or so would do fine.


Speaking of, check out this Fifteen-Layer Potato Gratin. It's not quite as decadent as a true Dauphinoise but it's more spectacular, and can be baked in advance; refrigerate for up to 2 days, bring to room temp and reheat, covered, in a 300-degree oven.

Thank you for the feature on harissa. My favorite way to enjoy it is on toast. I love Cava's but it seems rather easy to make it myself. Is it worth the effort? Joe's risotto recipe calls for fresh sage; can I use dried instead? I have a big jar of Penzey's rubbed sage.

re harissa: You might like to have 2 kinds on hand -- the more spreadable/spoonable stuff in a jar, and indeed easier and less expensive when you DIY it; and a thick paste from a tube or small can, which works so well as a concentrated flavor base as in the case of this week's #DinnerInMinutes.

ARTICLE With harissa paste in hand, you can spice things up 8 ways (at least)

re the sage: Editor Joe says yes, you can, following the typical herb conversion (1 tablespoon of fresh = 1 teaspoon dried). I will say it  smells lovely when the fresh herbs and garlic mingle, though! 


RECIPE Butternut Squash and Sage Oven Risotto



I have two containers of turkey gravy in the freezer and as part of a "use what's in the freezer before I buy more food" campaign, I would like to use one or both. It's 3-4 cups of gravy. Maybe a pot pie?

I'm a huge fan of leftover gravy, because it's a great thing to add to soups and stews. Don't use it all at once -- add a cup or so (depending on how flavorful and thick it is) to a pot of beef burgundy or mushroom-barley soup. Works wonders.

Also fab:  Heat up leftover meats and/or veg in the gravy, then serve over thick slices of toasted bread. Old school. 

I also submitted my request for a replacement in mid-December (the 14th, to be precise) and have heard nothing beyond that sorry excuse for a recipe book. I emailed last week and got the standard, canned "we're trying" response. I also stated that I was displeased to find that my info had clearly been co-opted for marketing--and sold to other lists, based on the influx of cooking-related junk messages I've gotten lately. The response to that was that I would have to submit a written complaint "on company letterhead" (their words) to the marketing department. Seriously? The whole thing makes me want to just buy a new food processor from a different company.


Is there a difference in brand for cast-iron? Do they all perform the same? Is there a different technique necessary for enameled coated vs. seasoned?

There are differences between brands, but it has more to do with age than brand. The vintage pieces are the dreamiest to cook on. If you can find old Wagners, Griswolds or Lodges, there's nothing like cooking on an oldie. Lodge makes skillets today, but they are a bit different. They're not as smooth and they come pre-seasoned. They're also a lot less expensive than the old ones were and are. They're highly functional and will serve you well. But you'll notice a difference. My first choice, as you can tell, would be a vintage skillet. My second choice would be investing in one of the newer "artisanal" cast iron pans being produced now from small enterprises like Smithey Ironware in Charleston, S.C. or FINEX in Portland, Ore, or, a little less expensive and lighter-weight, Field Company in NY. I started on a contemporary Lodge, and once I felt like I'd found my groove, I upgraded. Now I cook predominantly on a vintage Wagner or else on a Finex. 


Enamel-coated cast iron is not quite the same. It's less prone to rust because it's coated, BUT, you can't heat it at very high temperatures because the enamel will crack. If you wanted to pre-heat your pan and get it really hot for cornbread, say, to get that exquisite crust... you can't really do that on an enamel-coated pan. 

Joe do you think I could do this in a slow cooker? My oven is not that reliable. I will eventually get a new one but tight now all my oven needs are handled by a toaster oven.

Yep, it's worth a shot. I haven't done it, but it seems reasonable. Just keep in mind that you'll probably need less liquid, because of the lack of evaporation in a slow cooker. In their piece about converting recipes among the different functions on an Instant Pot (or between stovetop and pressure cooker and slow cooker), Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough suggest starting with half the liquid. Give it a shot and report back, please? (And share your experiences with other readers by adding a comment on the recipe about how the slow-cooker experiments went!)

RECIPE: Butternut Squash and Sage Oven Risotto

This week's Weeknight Vegetarian recipe looks amazing. However, there are just two people in my house who would eat it, and it would take forever to eat it all. Would I be better off cutting the recipe in half or freezing some of it? Thanks!

Butternut Squash and Sage Oven Risotto

I think it would freeze perfectly well. But it's also easy to cut in half, thanks to our scaling function in the Recipe Finder!

I discovered French onion soup not long before I went 100 percent vegetarian and vegan as much as possible. I haven't found a restaurant that does a vegetarian or vegan version as good as the ones I had made with beef broth and have decided to try and make my own. Any recipes to recommend? What are good cheeses to top it off, both dairy and non-dairy versions?

Did you see last week's recipe for onion soup? 

Onion Soup With Porcini and Thyme

RECIPE: Onion Soup With Porcini and Thyme

It's so good you won't need cheese to top it off. 

I don't eat a lot of meat so I don't cook a lot of meat. Recently for a family dinner I made a recipe that called for sauteed boneless chicken breasts. It took a lot longer to saute the chicken breasts than the recipe called for. The breasts were pretty big, plump in the middle, not so much on the ends. Should I have pounded them down? And the recipe said to cook "until firm to the touch" which is meaningless to me. The dish was alright, but the meat not as tender as I hoped because it took so long to cook all the way through. I'd like to try it again some night. Any tips?

Yes, your instinct is correct. For quick-cooking, juicy breasts in the skillet, it's a good idea to pound, about to 1/2-inch thick. I get what you're saying about firm to touch -- especially as I'm kind of paranoid about making sure meat is cooked. If it's too much of a vague/moving target for you, no reason why you couldn't check the temperature, which should be about 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be sure to remove any tenderloins, too -- those double-thumb-wide, 4-inch strips that are often barely attached to the underside of the breast halves. And if you don't feel like pounding, you can turn them over and make a few shallow slits in the flesh; this has about the same effect of evening out the thickness. FYI: "Firm to the touch" means that when you press with a finger, there's not much give, and no lingering divot.

My sister is coming to visit and I need a couple dinner ideas. While I wouldn't classify her as super-picky, I'm a vegetarian and she has an aversion to many things that are staples in my diet (e.g., tofu, tempeh, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, brussel sprouts) so for whatever reason I always struggle to come up with dinner ideas, particularly in the winter. She used to not like beans either, but is more open to those now, so I was thinking black bean/veggie enchiladas or a quinoa enchillada bake one night. Any suggestions for one more meal? Bonus is it isn't too involved!

Hi, something I haven't figured out yet - when shaving bonito yourself (with a katuso kezuri-ki), how you finish it up completely? I always end up with smallish pieces that are quite impossible to finish. Thanks!

This happens to me all the time. With grating cheese too! You are not alone. And this is a great question. I am wondering if you could use a chunk of it as a flavoring/salting agent and steep it in a broth, fishing it out at the end. I would also take a knife to it and slice it into thin pieces and put it between two very thin, crisp crackers with some butter and red chili pepper slivers and a drizzle of olive oil, the way April Bloomfield does her carta da musica at a restaurant called the John Dory in NYC. Or, similarly, slice it and toss it into pasta. You can, at some point, treat it to a more Western-style chop, I think. Why not try and see?

can you estimate how a pod (or a few) of cardamom translates into ground cardamom?

Aaaah, I just did this the other week. I needed a teaspoon of cardamom, and I believe I had to grind up the seeds of about 15 pods to get that amount.

Where can I find a place to buy good fish that doesn't involve trecking to southwest. (I live in Upper Northwest and even in an cab that's a long ride for fresh fish to be out.) I can be flexible on price since I'm only buying for one and it's usually to turn a salad or small side into a main dish. Anywhere you can point me towards?

I gotta plug the market at Ivy City Smokehouse. It's where I go for fish when I'm in town -- it's sourced through ProFish, which pays a lot of attention both to quality and sustainability. 

There's also District Fishwife in Union Market.

In NW DC, you've got the Fishery on Connecticut Ave (just below Chevy Chase Circle); Pescadeli in Bethesda (a fave of mine); and Black's Fish Market in the Palisades. 

Not a vegetarian either, but I do take the veg recipes and think of them as a starting point to add chicken or other meat to, or make smaller amount as a side dish (which is completely opposite of the article this week to turn side dishes into mains!). Many of the veg recipes have a great spice base, and I admit, I sometimes cut back on the amount of veggies. Happy to see a good balance between veggie and omnivore recipes.

Thanks! Balance is what we're after.

Thanks again for another enlightening article - always wondered about the "previously frozen fish." Do grocers think I can't thaw it on my own? My question is about meat- trying to not eat much of it, but if it is listed as "fresh," how to interpret that? Has it never been frozen, does that matter, do I need to use it right away, can I then freeze it? Thank goodness, I have several freezers.

If it says 'fresh,' that means it's never been frozen. And, yes, you can freeze it yourself.  I freeze meat all the time (we eat venison, which we get it all at once), and use a vacuum sealer.  If you don't have one, use a freezer Ziploc, and try and get as much air as possible out of it. Should be good for months (although, in an unguarded moment, I'll confess to using venison dating back to the Carter administration, and just cutting it small and spicing it up).

Back when I ate this sort of thing, I would always wrap meat in plastic wrap and then put it in freezer zip-top bag. Helps guard against freezer burn.

On a related note, do folks know you're supposed to open that vacuum-packed fish when defrosting it, to reduce the risk of toxin formation? This link has the deets.

Hi, what are your best recipes for pan-fried or baked crab cakes. Some recipes fall apart or the has cracker meal on exterior and too bready. At $27 /lb. of American crab there is no room for experimenting. Thanks.

I am of the less-binder-is-better school, but that does make your cakes more likely to fall apart. I use egg as the binder and I always refrigerate them after I've mixed them so they firm up; it makes it easier to dust them in whatever meal you're using and helps them adhere. 

I've had a set of glass custard cups for decades. I haven't made custard in years, but the cups get used all the time to hold bits of spices and small quantity ingredients.

Good thought. This would at least give me another way to use the ramekins I bought years ago for creme brulee.

We were a bit addicted to some desserts at our local grocery and they came in cute little glass bowls. So now we have a lot of them. They still have to be washed, but they take up a little less dishwasher space than tea cups.

At the end of the fall, just before frost, I harvested some of my lemon verbena and dried it. I use it for tea, but just wondering if anyone else has ideas for using it. I know this is a little off topic, but you've got a great panel today so thought I'd ask!

Mmm, love lemon verbena. I haven't done it, but I think steeping the herb in some cream to then use in ice cream would be lovely. Something along the lines in this recipe for Lemon Basil Buttermilk Ice Cream, but use a little less since you're working with a dry herb. You could also try it in a simple syrup and then make your own soda or add to cocktails. 

I use a large cutting board and push each item into its own spot before prepping the next. If I turn on all the lights in my brain before I start, I even remember to do this in the reverse order of how I'll need them and to push things to the left (I am right handed) so that I have space to continue working. In the end, I have one large cutting board to scrub and usually only one chef's knife, which isn't much. (No dishwasher here.) That said, I typically cook for two, so if you are making a meal for 10, you're probably going to need more space than a single cutting board affords you.

I do this quite often, too. I go with the little dishes when I'm recipe testing, though, because there are too many things to track for me to remember...

Quite by accident I've discovered that Picardie glass tumblers made by Duralex in France in the espresso size (3.25 size) are prefect for ingredients. They stack beautifully and take up very little room, among other qualities. I got mine through Williams Sonoma for about $12 but you can get them lots of places.

I would love to use my freezer more (though it's horribly laid out). My problem is finding a labeling system that works. The squares on the bags never work or smudge and labels fall of. It's kind of hard when you're trying to find pork cutlets and take the turkey ones instead. Any tips?

Maybe try Bonnie's chef-acquired tip of that handy blue painter's tape. Should stick pretty well and you can write on it with a Sharpie. If there are containers you reuse, very easy to peel off.

Make Green Goddess salad dressing!

Absolutely. I have this one that I love -- you can sub in your favorite herbs. Very flexible.

RECIPE: Cilantro Goddess Dressing

It became creme fraiche is what happened.

I think creme fraiche is a bit more soured than those heavy cream clumps, but maybe kinda?

I'm planning a Polenta Party dinner on Friday for about 10 people. My menu so far is a big pot of polenta... and for the toppings that's where I hope you can help me! I've got a few vegetarians, so I was thinking of doing a lentil dish along with some sort of ground turkey/tomato sauce. Any other ideas? Polenta prep tips? And most importantly... what to serve for dessert!

I have a dessert thought for you. What about trying Dorie Greenspan's Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake in Baking: From My Home to Yours? Dorie always knows!

I requested a new one after reading about the recall here (maybe in December?), and my new blade came in the mail about a week ago. In the interim, I used the old one and checked it after use. I figure if I had been using it for nearly 20 years, why stop now?

is so much easier, too, than is vegetarian-ifying a meat or fish recipe!

Writer from last week, I checked the webpage and buried deep deep was a recommendation to boil milk for a half hour. Not anywhere on the packaging, which I read thoroughly for prep instructions. No damage appears to be caused. Since then I have cooked: ox tail, pork shoulder, short ribs, turkey with dressing, duck breast, and a meatloaf! This is a wonder stove top slow cooker, I cannot stress that enough. I can even sear first, remove meat, sauté the aromatics, then return the meat with whatever, put on the lid and ignore for 3 hours. Goodbye oven this summer!

Thanks for the update!

Really! If folks want to add meat, go ahead. I'm glad for all the non-meat recipes. For stews, casseroles, etc, I have to figure out what to substitute to take meat out, if the recipe is otherwise appealing. So thank you. For the most part, going out to eat means ethnic restaurants with delicious food, since "American" is so meat-heavy.

I like them, too, but I found that the cute little wasabi dishes I am addicted to collecting (whenever I visit San Francisco's Japantown Mall I end up with several more) are perfect for small amounts of ingredients. Particularly handy in Indian cooking, where you have to throw in and saute several batches of different spices at different times.

Even before I ever thought of going veg I enjoyed trying vegetarian recipes since I have always loved vegetables and grains. Nothing boring about them at all! Regarding cast iron skillets, I inherited mine from an uncle and grandmother and use them every day. More often than not, I eat out of them too. Food stays hot longer, saves dishwashing and my mother always claimed iron from the skillets as a healh benefit.

Please do keep up the wide range of vegetarian offerings. Some of us recognize that "some vegetarian thing from Morocco, Cyprus, or Cambodia" actually represents a wide range of flavors and cultures, not just some generic foreign vegetarian "thing." I appreciate the mind and palate expansion.

Joe's piece on roasted mushrooms earlier this month made me realize just how long it's been since I roasted some! This past weekend, I finally got around to picking some creminis up at the store. I roasted them last night using this method and OHMYGAWWWWWWD. I need this every day for the rest of my life. I didn't include the herbs simply because I forgot to pick some up (and didn't want to use dried). Doesn't matter. Still amazing. Now I'm dreaming up all sorts of ways to use roasted mushrooms... (last night's ended up getting eaten right off the baking sheet)

Thanks for this great article! I went to Japan with my husband and DD in October to meet his family. His mom made out of this world, but simple, food. A lot of one pot veggies and fish or chicken. I wanted to stay there and eat dinner every night. Appreciate the recommendations from Charlotte and other readers because I'd love to be able to make more Japanese food for myself, errrr, I mean my husband.

This makes me so happy! 

Encourage her to buy and cook whatever she wants while you stick to your usual diet. I always assume when I'm staying with someone that they are not obliged to cook every meal for me. In fact, it's a great "hostess gift" if you cook what you want and then wash the dishes.

Tuscan shortbread recipe from the Post, with rosemary and pine nuts. People love it. It's easy to make. 


Costco sells little mousse/custard thingies which come in individual glass ramekins (approx. 6 oz-ish) which are perfect for spices and prep. And it gives me an excuse to buy more custard from Costco.

I've never been a lover of mayonnaise, and have been making my egg salad with sour cream instead of mayonnaise ever since I came across the idea in a weight watchers pamphlet (they used a combination of low fat mayonnaise and LOW FAT sour cream, of course). The low fat is actually fine for the purpose (do avoid FAT FREE) but I just use whatever's open, and I cut out the mayonnaise altogether. I second mashing the yolks first with the sour cream. You won't need the vinegar since the sour cream provides its own tartness.

Sent mine December. Got an email this week saying May June for the replacement. Posted in their Facebook page that I understand they're overwhemed but this wasn't helping me feel warm and fuzzy. A gift certificate would really help. It garnered some likes but no response.

Last night I made a Georgian Chicken Soup (much like avgolemono) featured in the latest "Milk Street Magazine". It made more than we can eat. Do you think I can freeze some of the leftovers or would that cause the eggs to separate and/or curdle? Thanks.

In this case, I don't think the yolks would curdle, as they've been whisked into a seasoned broth. Next time, though, if you wanted to make this in advance, you might take it all the way up to the yolks and chicken addition step, then complete the recipe once the brothy parts have been reheated. (Also looks like that recipe could be easily halved, and a big hmmm: I'm wondering whether the accompanying pix is really the dark meat that's called for.)

I appreciate your vegetarian recipes very much. Please don't stop due to one negative comment.

Yeah, I live in the 'burbs and often have to ask at the customer service desk about "special items," which never works out - sometimes another shopper will point me in the right direction. Can you help me on these items - maybe which sort of aisle to look? Don't want to resort to buying a Chia pet and trying to extract the seeds.


What stores do you have in your area? I've found that Giant markets tend to have "health" items like chia seeds or quinoa in a random special healthy foods section (also close to gluten-free goods and "artisanal" snacks). Harris Teeters, I think, have quinoa near other grains (you could try asking if they carry Bob's Red Mill products -- they'd probably be near them). Ditto to Safeway, although in a few stores I've seen random health or bulk items near the produce section. 

In any store, though, I'd start with the aisle that has rice/grains in it, or the cereal aisle (like near the rolled oats, perhaps) or bulk items, if the store has it. 

Or if all else fails, there's always online ordering.

Was that a typo above about the dried sage (3 T fresh to 1 tsp dried)? I'd always understood the equivalence to be 3 fresh/1 dried (3 tablespoons/1 tablespoon), not 9 fresh/1 dried.

Oops, I'll fix. 1 tablespoon fresh equals 1 teaspoon dried. thanks! 

Hi Charlotte, Thanks for a wonderful reminder of Japanese food. I've tried making my own dashi, but as my Japanese friends would say, "Ma, Ma," which I think is a polite way saying "So, So," which really means, "Not good." Great, I'll give up - what off-the-shelf concentrates do you recommend.

I had a similar realization. It's not that my dashi wasn't good (Tim Anderson's recipe is solid), it just seemed as though it could be more flavorful. I went with what I'm told is the standard in Japan: Ajinomoto (brand) Hon Dashi, which you can find easily here in the U.S. at any Japanese or Asian grocery store or online. 

I'm happy to consider whatever recipes are featured (vegetarian, whatever), but I will say I miss Joe's gardening column from a few years ago. I started our garden at about the same time, and that column really helped and changed the way we cook and preserve food. We rely heavily on our freezer to freeze individual tomatoes until we have enough for sauce, freeze our garlic as garlic butter, etc. I think those columns helped me realize the intersection between growing, preserving, and cooking.

Ah, so nice to hear this! I wish I could've kept it up, but I'm just too busy editing! My front-yard garden is going strong, although perhaps not QUITE as organized/thoughtful as when I had to share monthly updates with the world. Go figure...

I would like to make these soon. However, I am having trouble determining how many balls the recipe is actually supposed to make, and how many balls are in a serving. Please help. Thanks!

The recipe says "10-16 servings; makes 32 balls." So about 2-3 balls per serving.

the weather is starting to warm up and I am starting to think of starting my summer garden. I like to grow watermelons but am always giving them away or letting them go to waste because I have so many. what can I do to eat watermelons in different ways or preserve them for use later in the year. I am not opposed to a watermelon drink of some kind either. p.s. orange watermelons are the best, hands down- no contest.

I'm with you on the watermelons, up to the point where you say you end up with too many. My problem with watermelon is I can't stop eating it when I start. Entirely possible for me to eat a full watermelon at one sitting. I'm not even talking about the "personal" watermelons. So if you have too many, just send an address: I'll come help.

Anyway ... I think they're hugely underused in drinks. If you've got summer tomatoes, try this recipe. It's hard to go wrong with watermelon and tequila, full stop, but I think it goes really well with some of the white spirits as well. Muddling a few slices up with some mint, basil and vodka or gin, maybe a little sweetener if you want it, is simple and totally delicious.


Ice cream means David Lebovitz recipes. This one uses fresh lemon verbena, but you can use the standard conversions for dried herbs.

We freeze a lot and try to portion properly when we can, but not always. So what can you refreeze after thawing just enough to portion out what you want? I'm thinking of packets of chicken from Costco and i lb packages of smoked sausage. I don't dare try it with veggies. and then there are the containers of frozen soup. Is their some basic rule of thumb?

There aren't any rules -- except keep cold food cold. As long as the food doesn't get above fridge temp (about 40 degrees), it's perfectly safe to refreeze. The texture of the food may take a hit, so it probably won't work well for things like fish or vegetables.  But soups, and even most meats, should be OK.

Roasted mushrooms! I recently made this Food52 recipe that came out well.

The article about Japanese cooking is very informative. Thank you for writing it. I usually do not have sake or mirin at home. What can I use as a substitute?

I'm going to be that annoying person who tells you that substituting mirin isn't recommended. If you are in a bind, you can combine 1/2 cup dry white wine with 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar (I believe you can use vermouth or a dry sherry as well). That is the equivalent of 1/2 cup mirin. And those same beverages (white wine, vermouth, dry sherry) could be used in place of sake. But I want to encourage you to get some mirin because you can find it in loads of grocery markets now--not just the Asian ones. And it's readily available online... and it's excellent. I love cooking with it. You can use it in marinades and vinaigrettes too. 

Even though we're not vegetarian, my husband prefers vegetables. I really enjoy your recipes. You are my go-to guys for vegetarian, grains, etc so please keep it up. I need you!

I mean this in the nicest of ways, but kind of surprised that people have to share all of their stories. Starting to feel like a group therapy session. No affiliation with the company, and I understand frustration, but agree with chatter who previously posted - if it worked for 20 years . . .

Someone on this end of the chat just made that same "group therapy" remark!

Thanks Bonnie -- but the recipe that I have been using for the past 40 years is the BEST -- I guess I must switch recipes then... Most of the other ones that people give us, my family (including all my daughter-in-laws) tell is doesn't rate as good as my old favorite. Thanks for responding to me.

Nothing like a trusted old recipe. :)

I have tried repeatedly to make dashi, but it doesn't taste right. Is it just one of those things that tastes better when it's commercially made?

Struggle no more! The instant stuff works just as well (if not better...  I know!). The Ajinomoto brand's Hon Dashi is my choice; it's ubiquitous in Japan. 

Trader Joe's has them

But the question was ... where?

Hi All! Question, suggestion - Is there a way to bookmark/favorite recipes in this tool so I can come back to them later? Perhaps it could be linked to my Washington Post user account? It's such a great resource but sometimes the recipes get lost in my browser bookmarks, etc. I would love to be able to refer to old favorites and such. Thanks.

We used to have this function, provided by an outside vendor, and I'd love for it to come back. Will push for something.

When I pack food for the freezer I generally double wrap it - either in plastic or wax paper depending on the food and length of time I expect to store it, then put it into a heavy duty freezer zip lock bag. But I slip a piece of paper inside the bag with the contents, date (just month and year), and any brief cooking instructions. For example my label might say "pesto base, 8/17, add 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil". Short & sweet. By double wrapping, I can reuse the freezer bags, and since I haven't written directly on them, there is no confusion as to contents.

You are organized!

Given the recent spring-like weather, I thought I'd pass this along for the tomato-philes on the chat. Rutgers University is offering for sale four varieties of tomato seeds with, as they put it, "the delicious tangy old time Jersey tomato flavor that New Jersey farmers grew from the 1930s – 70s." I live here in New Jersey and missed out on getting the Rutgers 250 when it was introduced last year. So I got on their mailing list and have ordered all four varieties to try in my garden this year. I'm assuming that they should also grow in the DC area and possibly in other places where chatters reside. More info and the order form can be found here.


My toddler has bad food allergies and I feel like I am in a rut trying to make a meal the whole family can eat. Gluten, milk, soy, and eggs (unbaked) are off limits. We have ton tons of risottos, paellas, rice pasta, and sweet potatoes with grilled meat, but I'd love some new options. Any ideas?

A few from our database that I think will work, unless I've missed something in skimming ingredients:

Lebanese Vegan Moussaka

RECIPE: Lebanese Vegan Moussaka

Kale and Chickpea Stew

RECIPE: Kale and Chickpea Stew

Everybody’s Chili Verde

RECIPE: Everybody’s Chili Verde

I have a wonderful 10" cast iron skillet that I bought at Bruce Variety when I got my first apartment some 40 years ago. Now I have a new glass top stove which I also like. But the skillet (name or markings on it) has a ring around the bottom of the pan, which is raised up about 1/16" maybe even 1/8th inch. I have not measured this. This makes the pan sit a little higher on the burner. With the old electric coils I never gave it a second thought. But what about using this on the glass top stove? I've seen comments that say the stove has to work harder to heat to account for the air space under the pan, and could blow out the burner? Seriously? I have used it a couple times on the stove top for things that cook quickly, but normally save it for the oven. Any thoughts?

I haven't cooked on  a glass top stove myself. But, with cast iron, it's best to pre-heat it slowly no matter what, and I think this would be especially useful and safe here. It's better for your pan (helps you avoid hot spots). In this case, I think it will be better for the stove, too. Start the pan on low heat, for at least 5 minutes and up to 10, then gradually increase the heat. It should get very hot, and you probably won't need to crank it to the maximum heat if you've given it enough time on there to accumulate the lower heat more slowly. 

Understand Joe is busy, but for the record, his column was much more helpful to me, a local gardener-want-to-be, than the typical gardening-type articles that appear in other sections of the Post. Hoping someone on that end can make people aware that in the DC area, many gardeners who don't have lots of acres would love to see more about yard or patio gardening.

I will pass it along!

I bought my bag at Giant. It was in the "healthy" aisle.

with all the talk about vegetarian food, the roasted mushrooms, and the risotto today, I just wanted to shout out to Joe (and the chef!) for one of my all time favorites from this section. I always roast or saute over high heat) mushrooms for this! Everyone loves this when I make it.

RECIPE: Five-Grain Risotto With Broccolini and Brussels Sprouts

I prefer to get my chia seeds and so on from my local independently owned health food store, although I'll go to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods if I can't find them at the indie.

I just want to thank you all for being here. Makes me feel less alone.

You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!

Thank you for providing it!

I do the same thing, but I also add tasting notes if I am halving a meal - like a sweetness/spicy rating, viscosity, etc.

In the aisle that has all the crackers and baking stuff. NOT in the nut section. TJs is too small to get lost in, plus those ever-cheerful staff people will walk you right over to it if you ask.

My friend's parent died and I'd like to make her some nourishing food. Ideally something that can sit at her door for a few hours as she doesn't want visitors when she gets home from the funeral parlor. I feel like almost everyone gives food on the dessert end of the spectrum like banana bread or cookies or candy, so I was thinking instead of a hearty soup but the weather's gotten too warm for that. Ideas? Thanks.

There's a soup for any season (says the person whose faith in soup has been recently reenergized), and you might as well forget the seasonal aspect with the inconsistent temps we've been having. You could get a cheap disposable Styrofoam cooler and pack it so the stuff would be good for several hours. Some recipes that might work best for your purposes: Roasted Red Pepper and Orzo; Apricot and Red Lentil; Portuguese Kale Soup.

How long does a refrigerated raw egg stay edible once it's removed from the shell? Does the white last longer than the yolk?

The Egg People say: 2 days' refrigeration for whole eggs and for egg yolks, 4 days' max for just the whites.

I always double-wrap the items in my freezer (first in plastic wrap, then in a zip-loc bag. I have a stack of old business cards from a previous job, and I write on the back of the card and stick it in the bag. I re-use the zip-locs many times since the food doesn't actually touch it.

Clever tip on the cards! I just threw out a stack of old ones from my first newspaper while cleaning out the home office -- oh, well.

Well, you've sprinkled us with sesame seeds and togarashi, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Charlotte, Tamar, Carrie and Jim for helping with the a's. 

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about seasoning a cast-iron skillet will get a bonus book -- a SIGNED copy of Charlotte's "Stir Sizzle Bake." The very first chatter to come to the defense of vegetarian recipes in the section -- whose comment was headed "Vegetarianism and Interesting Writing" --  will get "Naturally Nourished." And the one who wrote "All hail harissa!" will get "Share." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books!

Don't forget to head on over now to Dorie Greenspan's chat!

And 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.
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.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Charlotte Druckman
Charlotte Druckman is the author of “Stir Sizzle Bake: Recipes for Your Cast-Iron Skillet.” She wrote this week's article about Japanese home cooking.
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