Free Range on Food: Making cannoli at home, 'The President's Kitchen Cabinet,' how to brew better coffee with a Keurig machine and more.

Mar 01, 2017

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to your food chat! Hoping you're enjoying all our coverage this week, including Tim's piece about coffee experts trying to get a better cup out of a Keurig pod machines; Domenica Marchetti's persuasive call to DIY you cannoli; an excerpt from Adrian Miller's great new book, "The President's Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas"; Cathy Barrow's brilliant new slab pie, which takes a childhood favorite of mine, the Frito Pie, and moves it into serves-a-crowd territory; Becky's look at a Virginia pasty company's efforts to compete with the world's best; and much more.

We've got high-powered guests today -- the aforementioned Domenica (who can answer just about any cooking question, but with a specialty in Italian), Cathy (ditto), and Adrian (a leading expert in soul food, in addition to presidential history). And you'll have us regulars to quiz, too. 

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters: Adrian's amazing "President's Kitchen Cabinet"; a SIGNED copy of Domenica's latest, "Preserving Italy"; plus Jessica Murnane's "One Part Plant," source of this week's Weeknight Veg recipe.

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR9787 . 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.

OK, let's do this!

I just watched the video for Lillian Hellman's No-Stir Mac and Cheese. I'm always looking for good mac and cheese recipe, but still haven't landed on one I really like. What's your favorite recipe in the Finder? And I made the Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto this weekend--so good and easy! Thanks.

Thanks for watching! That was fun to learn about, so I give props to Arena Stage for including WaPo Food in their LH festival offerings.


I'd say mac and cheese recipes are like chocolate chip cookie recipes to me: Lots of fine options so it depends on what and whom you're making it for. This particular recipe's darn easy and quite cheesy, as is our Rice-Cooker Mac and Cheese. Michael Twitty's Soul Food version is old-school and very rich. This vegan one is surprisingly satisfying.


Butternut squash is simple to work into this mac and cheese as well. A few years back, the now-retired Jane Touzalin created this Mac-and-Cheese-O-Matic, which is such a handy guide.

But of all the ones I've had in the past couple of years, the mac and cheese from the "Poole's Diner" cookbook is the most decadent and terrific take. As they say, you could hurt yourself with it. :)

VIDEO No-stir mac and cheese

Just wanted to give Domenica Marchetti a shout out for mentioning one of her linguistic pet peeves, which happens to be the same as mine - adding an "s" to make plural the Italian word "cannoli", which is already plural. I have the same peeve for "panini" and "biscotti". As for making cannoli, I'd love to try but I have such an aversion to deep frying at home. Not sure why, I'm a good home cook, but it's just one of those things I never do. I hate using that much oil and not knowing what to do with it afterwards, from re-using it to ultimately disposing of it, somehow becomes a barrier I don't cross. I think I just need to work with someone else doing this a few times to become comfortable, but haven't had the chance. Anyhow, thanks for the great looking recipes!

Thank you. I understand why people who don't speak Italian might make this mistake. But I've also seen it perpetrated by people in the food world (restaurateurs, chefs, cookbook authors) who should know better. So I try to correct folks (nicely, sort of) when I can. I encourage you to give deep-frying a try. Like any kitchen project, it gets easier each time you do it. And remember, you don't have to fill a big vat with oil ~ a high-sided saucepan will do. Fry one cannolo (or whatever you choose to fry) at a time and see how it goes ~ though I admit cannoli might be an ambitious first project. The dough is dark to begin with, so it can be hard to tell when the shells are done (they fry quickly). As for the oil, I try to keep a stash of coffee cans on hand. Once it has cooled, I pour it into the can. When the can is full I dispose of it. Now be bold; go forth and fry!

ARTICLE: Why make your own cannoli? Because they'll probably be the best you've ever had.

Hi! I loved reading the article about cannoli in today's food section. However, I see that all of the recipes make about two dozen cannoli. As a pregnant woman who is now craving a cannoli very badly, I simply cannot be trusted with having two dozen cannoli anywhere near me. Can you recommend a place where I can buy one or two to satisfy my craving? I live in Arlington and so have seen them at the Italian Store, but have never indulged there. Any sense of if theirs are worth it?

I have never tried the cannoli from the Italian Store, but would welcome input from readers who have. If you can get to Casolare, in Northwest, you might satisfy your craving with their pizzelle cannoli. I can say from first-hand experience that they are delicious.

I've seen lots of folks suggesting cooking bacon in the oven, instead of frying it in a skilled on the stovetop. Intrigued, I put the bacon on a rack over a paper-towel lined baking sheet, and cooked as directed, but there was just an enormous amount of grease splattering everywhere. Did I use the wrong method? Is the grease splatter inevitable? If so, I'll probably go back to stovetop- it's easier to clean grease splatter from the stovetop than clean grease baked into the oven.

At what temperature? I typically go with 375 degrees, laying the bacon on an ovenproof wire cooling rack (like for cakes, etc.) that's seated in a rimmed baking sheet. I bake on a lower rack and don't get that much mess at all. Not sure you need to put a paper towel on the sheet; just drain the bacon afterward.

I bought a Keurig for my elderly mother for Christmas. I thought it was a brilliant idea because it would be easier for her than her Bunn. I was wrong and the Keurig came home with me after about two weeks. I tried the various coffees that came with it and most of them were terrible. Blech. Part of my problem with it is that I realized I would be buying a lot of pods just to find one flavor I liked. So then what do I do with the all the rejected flavors? Too much waste and it was taking up valuable real estate on my counter so I never even tried the extra filter thingy. I boxed up the whole mess and I'm going to give it away.

I hear you. I now have TWO Keurig brewers cluttering my countertop. One looks like the Queen Mother from Alien, and sometimes its coffee bites as hard. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)


I understand convenience is what drives the Keurig. Busy families feel as if they don't have time to spend 10 minutes to make a better cup of coffee in the morning. (Now, whether that's true is another question. I feel like the smartphone, with all its distractions, has made people feel like they have less time.)


I'll probably hold onto one of the machines. It can produce a fairly decent cup, if you use your own fresh beans and invest a little time with it. But personally, I still love the quiet morning ritual -- it's almost a meditation -- of making pourovers for Carrie and me.


ARTICLE: How much better can coffee from a Keurig pod machine get?

For the poster who didn't like washing up all the teacups used to hold small amounts of ingredients (conceive that s/he may not have a dishwasher!), how about paper muffin-tin liners? Or for even smaller amounts of seasonings, the little paper cups used for bonbons?

It's a thought! I know I'd go through more disposable stuff than I'd want to, considering how much I cook, but maybe there would be the opportunity to reuse.

Hi - have you all tried these ceramic copper pans I see advertised on various cable stations? They show actors using forks, whisks, beaters in them with no harm to the surface, food sliding off amazingly well. Too good to be true?

Like this one? Some relatives-in-law gave us one and we used it for a while (maybe up to half a year). It worked really well  until it didn't: The coating wore off pretty quickly, things started sticking. So yes, too good to be true, I think!

One of my greatest fears is that Donald Trump will humiliate the people of the United States by insisting that White House chefs serve well-done steaks (with or without ketchup) to visiting dignitaries at State Dinners -- or at the least he'll serve them decent food while eating well-done beef himself. How much control do White House chefs have over the menu, and can they veto Presidential tastes?

Ha! Well what the president wants usually goes, though I'm not sure President Trump will be that engaged with menu planning. The U.S. State Department informs on the dietary restrictions of the guest, and then the White House kitchen staff gets to work in consultation with the Chief Usher and typically the First Lady.

Hi gang, I know I am not supposed to use soap to wash my cast iron pan, but isn't there concern about bacteria or remaining burnt bits in the crevices of the pan? I have a grill pan that never seems to be quite clean enough. I wipe it with a paper towel when I am done scrubbing it with hot water (no soap!) and there is always black/brownish stuff that comes off.. ugh!

How seasoned is your pan? If the answer's "well-," a little soap won't kill it. But a very good way to get at those crevices is to use coarse kosher salt, a scrub brush and a little water. Heat over med-low heat and keep scrubbing and re-applying till your rinse water runs clear.

So I'm in the process of growing my own basil for the first time, and they are at the seedling point. There are too many plants than my pot can handle, so soon I will have to thin them out. I hate the idea of wasting these little seedlings. Are they edible and if so, are there any ways that I can use them as a garnish or a recipe that requires only a small amount?

Of course, they're edible! They'd make a beautiful garnish for anything, really, but particularly I'm thinking salads. Or you can just throw them into a sauce or a smoothie, or just pop them in your mouth as a gardener's reward.

I love this cake but I have a problem when I make it. I can't get the topping to stay on the cake. Is there some secret that I should know? Thank you so much.

Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake

RECIPE: Pecan-Chocolate-Espresso Coffee Cake

Ah, yes, one of my all-time favorites from our Recipe Finder! I've made it more times than I can count, so good news/bad news. My experience is pretty much the same. I always lose a bit of the topping that is not close enough to melt into the cake. But if I feel like it, I just pile it back on the slices and/or scoop it up with a fork or spoon (cook's reward, you know?). It's never so much falling off that it looks skimpy on top. Still tastes fantastic too, of course.

I made this recipe a couple weeks ago. I realize now I should've canned them, but used most of them after a few days just as a quick fun thing in a birthday drink. Are they still good since they're just soaking in liquor? Could I still can them? If not, about how much longer would they stay? I strained out all the spices when making them except two cinnamon sticks.

The cherries will last in the refrigerator for a month or more, so if you've devoured most of them and the rest are likely to go in just as quick a time, there's no benefit to canning them. But cherry season isn't too far away now, so start planning to can and gift some of those cherries next holiday season.

I appreciated the point about making the smaller size cups with your Keurig. My mother-in-law bought me the one-size-cup Keurig a couple of years ago, and it makes only the 6 oz cup. I was disappointed at first, but found that each cup tasted much better because of the water-to-coffee ratio made for a much better tasting cup. Now, when I visit my mother-in-law, I set her larger, multi-size-cup Keurig to the 6 oz setting, and sometimes add a second pod at 6 oz or 4 oz to fill up her large mugs. Tasty!

Thank you!


The multiple-pod approach does provide more coffee, but it does have limitations. Because the Keurig brews coffee so quickly, the machine doesn't extract all the flavors you need for a balanced cup: acids first, sweetness second, bitterness third. In other words, with extra pods, you're getting more coffee, no question, but you're also getting the same unbalanced extraction with each pod.

As a Brit and before becoming vegetarian, I adored pasties. When visiting Cornwall, I ate a lot of them! They're available in London, but sitting in a Cornish harbor, eating them is delightful. As I still enjoy pies, do you have a good (easy) recipe for vegetarian ones with a good store bought pastry?

So envious you've had the full-on Cornish pasty experience! It's on my bucket list.

Reuben Pasties

ARTICLE: Virginia bakers travel 3,000 miles to prove their prowess with a British hand pie

Here's a veg recipe that uses store-bought pie crust.

Spiced Green Pea and Potato Pasties

RECIPE: Spiced Green Pea and Potato Pasties

Not even going to try making my own shells. Can you tell me some places that carry them in Northern VA?

I believe the Italian Store in Arlington sells them, though I have not tried them. Please don't write off making your own. They are worth it, and make a great weekend kitchen project.

Same issue, different ethnicity: the plural of bagel is bagel. Or bagelach, for a group of little bagel.

Similar feelings about tamales. I ate three tamales, then decided I wanted more so I ate one tamal. (Not one "tamale.") I don't care what wiki says. It's wrong.

We're purists over here, at least about languages we know. But there's a school of thought that says that once a word has become thoroughly Americanized, you follow American rules of grammar. Kindergarten is a good example. Pizza, too! We don't order two pizzi, although maybe we should. Having said that, I'll confess that it hurts my ears to hear "cannolis" and "paninis."

Adrian's book sounds intriguing! I'm guilty of not reading the review yet, so is it mainly a history, or is it also a cookbook? Years ago I found a cookbook that had some of Martha Washington's recipes (or more probably, her cook's recipes) in it, and found her creamed celery with almonds was just as good nowdays. And, I think the first cheesecake I ever attempted to bake was Pat Nixon's recipe, from a GOP cookbook of politicians' favorite recipes, to raise money for the party. It's interesting to see what recipes withstand history, and which don't.

It's more of a history with 20 recipes--some from actual presidential recipes, some from chefs who fed our presidents on a special occasion, and others inspired by our presidents. You've got a great point about recipes standing the test of time.

For things like small amounts of, say, chopped garlic and herbs, I just put them all in little mounds on a single large plate. For small amounts of dry ingredients for baking, I use a modified mise en place system where I have the ingredient containers on the counter, along with my measuring spoon set, then measure each item into the batter or dough as called for in the recipe.

Sounds like you've got a system that works for you!

Cannoli are Italian. ;-) Language changes when it moves overseas, folks.

That Frito Slab Pie looks delicious. It may be on the menu at my house this weekend. I've got three boys who are eating me out of house and home. This may satisfy their hunger for a meal and maybe leftovers. How does it store for leftovers? I'm glad I'm not the only one who still hasn't received their cuisinart replacement blade. I read the chat after the fact last week and had a laugh at the group therapy session.

The Frito pie is delicious! The leftovers reheat really well. Start with the pie at room temperature, cover with foil so the pie won't dry out, and 10 or 15 minutes later, you've got more food for those growing boys.

RECIPE Tex Mex Frito Slab Pie


My preschooler loves meat and bean dishes -- things like gumbo and chili. She's fine with strong spice and spiciness. I've fallen into a rut with pepper/onion/bean/tomato combos with "warm" spices when I have more time to cook on the weekends. Any suggestions for alternatives that might let us use more of the spice rack? Thanks!

How about some kind of green chili? These are two great ones.

Everybody’s Chili Verde

RECIPE: Everybody's Chili Verde

Chili Verde

RECIPE: Chili Verde

Or something like this?

Paneer and Butternut Squash Kashmiri Chili

RECIPE: Paneer and Butternut Squash Kashmiri Chili

It seems like most of the recipes I make these days begin with: dice a whole onion and saute. However, diced and sauteed onions often seem to get lost in the dish. What is a sauteed onion adding? Also, I find an entire onion to be an excessive amount of onion, and I usually just use 1/2. What am I missing here?

When you start with sauteing onions, the longer and more liquidy you cook , the more they'll disappear or "melt" into the mix. You could a) saute them to the desired consistency and then transfer out of the pot, adding them back in near the end of cooking or b) increase the onion flavor by augmenting the fresh/sauteed with some onion powder or even freshly pureed onion at some point in the cooking that works for you.


Keep in mind that some onions are more assertively flavored than others, too, and differ in moisture content. A yellow onion, for example, has more water in it than red or white onions, so the yellow ones tend to break down faster in a pot (and yield less flavor). 


One more thing to try: if you love the flavor of onion and are looking to ramp it up, shallots and scallions provide a good pop. On a related note . . . .


WEEKEND KITCHEN Know your onions, or why the look of a bulb can be deceiving

I'm hosting an out-of-town family member for dinner on Friday -- I won't have a ton of time to cook, and need to be meatless because of Lent. For some reason I am drawing a blank. Some inspiration please!

Did you see Bonnie's Dinner in Minutes recipe this week? I can personally vouch for its tastiness. Plus it's quick to put together. 

Tomato Galette With Savory Oat Crumble

RECIPE: Tomato Galette With Savory Oat Crumble



This Smoked Fish Pie  could do nicely, too, and can be assembled in advance.

Why not set up a taco bar with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and all the fixin's (pickled onions can be made the night before)? Crisping and reheating tortillas is a great ice-breaking activity.

I got into an argument with someone about whether or not good cannoli can be pre-filled. I'm firmly in the "no way" camp. My mom is going in for surgery and I'd love to make some for her as they are her absolute favorite. Can I pre-fill and if so, how far in advance?

You are in the right camp ~ cannoli really can't be pre-filled without suffering in quality. Here's a thought: Can you fill a pastry bag (disposable or reusable) with the filling, and fill the shells right before you give the cannoli to your mom? Filling them this way is really fast. I just put a filled pastry bag (knotted at the top with a twistie) in a cup or container to prevent spillage and bring it with me when I transport cannoli. Then I fill them right before serving. Hope this helps, and best of luck to your mom.

I should probably send this to Barbara Damrosch or Adrian Higgins, but a couple of years ago when I was injured and couldn't clean out my garden beds in the fall, I found that leaving my dead basil plants, which had bolted, in place over the winter meant that I had basil seedlings coming up all over the plot in the spring! I carefully weeded around them and moved them to the old plant's spot (which of course I'd pulled out by then) and I ended up with a square foot of healthy basil plants. I've let the basil go to seed in the fall ever since.


Just had a friendly and animated conversation about "true" southern cornbread here at work, as I was heating my lunch. My Maryland friend says it should be sweet-- but I thought (having family in the Carolinas) that cornbread was one of the few things we DON'T add sugar to. We all also discussed how to eat it-- with jam or honey (no, in my book, but that's not rigid), with butter (yes). Your all's thoughts?

As "The Soul Food Scholar," I frequently get into this argument. Most cornbread, whatever the form, made by African American cooks (even those in the South!) tends to have some sugar in it. I think it's legit either way!

It's in Baltimore, but I've always been partial to Vaccaro's Cannoli

For the chatter who was looking for local cannoli. Thanks for the suggestion. I look forward to trying them on my next visit.

About to start a 10 week kitchen renovation, we will have access to a frig, toaster oven, microwave, and grill. I'd appreciate any tips/advice/recipes people have!

A four-letter word: S-I-N-K. As in, access to one that's large enough to handle your cooking implements.

I love Italian food and just recently bought a pasta sheeter attachment for my stand mixer. I have never made homemade pasta before and would like to try making my own ravioli maybe. Do you have any suggestions for the maiden voyage of my pasta machine? With Lent beginning, I would rather eat pasta on Fridays than fish!

My advice to first-time pasta makers is always this: relax. It is easier than you think, and very rewarding. I'm including a link here to my basic pasta dough recipe, which ran in the Post awhile back, along with a piece by David Hagedorn on how to make homemade pasta. This recipe is really good, all-purpose egg dough (my mom's recipe) and it makes fine ravioli. For this type of stuffed pasta, you'll need to roll the sheets thin enough to see the shadow of your hand through them. The reason is that the dough is doubled-over and if the sheets are too thick, your ravioli will be heavy. Another tip, make sure the ravioli filling you make is not too soft/runny. I usually seal the edges with a little water and by pressing them down with the tines of a fork. Good luck and enjoy.

ARTICLE: What took me so long to make fresh pasta?

RECIPE: Basic Pasta Dough

Hi Tim - One of our fun weekend traditions is going to a new "cheap eat" almost every Saturday. This works really well for us, as we get to try food that we don't often cook at home, and many of these restaurants have atmospheres that are perfect for a toddler. However, we found Queen Amannisa to be a little too fancy for our purposes. Are there any meals that you'd say are can't-miss with a toddler in tow?

I love your weekend tradition! I wish all families followed your example.


I think there are a number of things to look at here: Is the restaurant comfortable for young children? Can you navigate a stroller into the restaurant? Is the food approachable? Is it explosively spice? Will you feel as if you're disturbing other diners if your toddler starts crying?


Most of the restaurants I write about are perfect for families. They're informal. They're family-friendly. Sometimes they're even run by families.


Here's my favorite places from 2016. I think, with the exception of Straw Stick & Brick (which doesn't have much seating), every one of these places will take good care of families with young ones.


COLUMN: The $20 Diner's favorite cheap eats of 2016.

I've not had their cannoli but have never had anything bad there. Now I need to go to try them! :)

I have an inherent bias against bakery cannoli because my mom's were so good. I'll have to give them a try, too.

Do they fill them to order, or pre-fill? Crucial question.

Can you please pass along some ideas on how to use miso that are not soup or salad dressing? Thanks!

When making a stir fry, I tend to cube chicken, cook it with aromatics (onions/garlic) and seasoning, then will add in more veggies and sauce. The chicken tends to get dry. Any way to prevent this? Other times I'll fry chicken up like nuggets with a light coating of oil on the bottom of the fry pan. Having taken the chicken cubes and lightly flouring them with seasoning. These aren't as bad, but get soggy if adding sauce.

Re stir-frying: Cook them, then remove temporarily from the wok/pan while you get the other components stir-fried and sauced. Pop the chicken back in and stir-fry just until it's warmed through. Sort of the same with the nuggets -- fry, remove, cook the sauce and add the nuggets back in just till they're warm and coated.


That said, this stir-fry leaves the chicken cooking till the end, and it works so well!


Sorry for asking again because I know you provided some guidance a few weeks back, but can you recommend some cooking and baking classes in the DC Metro area? I'm a reasonably experienced cook and an aspiring baker who is comfortable in the kitchen, but I'd love to take some classes that expand my technique. It's a plus of the cooking classes would focus on meatless eating.

It's high time you took a spin through our easy-to-navigate list of area cooking classes.

Don't forget "Fajitas" which is singular, not plural, despite having an "s" on the end. There's no such thing as a "fajita"!

You bring back fond memories of a childhood weekend trip with my family from the San Francisco Bay Area up to Grass Valley and Nevada City, in California's Mother Lode, where many Cornish miners had settled. We went into a local dinner for lunch where Pasties were on the menu, and they were so delicious!

Sounds lovely. You're right that there are strong pasty traditions where Cornish miners settled. Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Butte, Montana, are two other areas.

Just wondering.

Panino if you're being correctly Italian. But you're not, are you? I see references to one panini all the time.

I have a recipe for Peanut Butter Bars that I love. It's very simple and not fussy. I recently tried almond butter, cashew butter, and sunflower seed butter and I was wondering if substituting them for peanut butter in my recipe would be a 1:1 ratio. Would the differing fat content affect the outcome? Would I need to add more flour in order to account for the wetness of some of these butter?

This is trial-and-error territory, I'd say. You can start with 1:1 substitution, but because of the different levels of fat, as you say -- and the higher level of unsaturated fat in almond butter, for instance, compared to peanut -- the texture and size/shape can be affected. Tastes also vary; peanut butter has a very pronounced flavor that comes across well in baked goods, while cashew butter is pretty mild. What was your experience, since you tried the other butters in your bars?

The whole Keurig article was interesting but in the end so labor intensive. What's a recommendation for the best/quickest coffee solution for the office?

Yes, the advanced recommendations are more time and labor intensive.


Frankly, I think there are great batch brewers available for offices. Some shop owners believe batch brewers make coffee every bit as good as pourover methods. The Curtis brand is regularly singled out for its performance. You might try that, depending on your budget.

Also, 't give the person who cooked your meal a "kudos," not "a kudo," because "kudos" (from the Greek) is also singular.

Seems to me there are two basic types of recipes: bechamel-based and non-bechamel. I have tried making mac and cheese without going through the extra step of making a bechamel, and I end up with broken cheese and a greasy mess. Since other people clearly are getting a satisfying result without the roux base, what am I doing wrong? I like to use a variety of cheeses: cheddar, comté or emmental, petit basque, etc. I avoid so-called American cheese.

With a non-bechamel mac, there are several ways to go, but the cheeses generally need to be freshly grated (not the pre-shredded/coated stuff in bags) and not of the particularly oily/hard variety (unless you've got a good blend of other melty cheeses going). On the stove top, warm milk (dairy or nondairy) over low heat, then gradually stir the grated cheeses, making sure they're incorporated with each addition before adding the next. That ought to do it. 

Hi - I need to get a gift certificate for a very deserving guy (who loves his burger) and was planning on BGR (Burger Joint), but think I read recently that the founders had sold out a few years back, and online reviews don't seem as great as my last experience. Any suggestions for Chevy Chase or DC area? Your help would be appreciated.

Have you tried the offerings at Burger, Tap & Shake? They're among my favorites. Check out the menu and see if it appeals.

A friend moved from NYC to DC this weekend. He had some perishable foods in an insulated tote bag that got lost while unpacking. When he found the food, a bag of previously frozen cooked chicken had defrosted. He put the bag back in the freezer. Do you think it is safe to eat since the chicken was cooked?

This screams AVOID to me. Even foods that have been cooked can be rendered unsafe by sitting at room temp. Don't risk it.

I learned how to make pasta from Domenica Marchetti's book, "The Glorious Pasta of Italy." It's delicious. I wonder if you ever make pasta using all durum wheat or do you always incorporate white flour? Which do you prefer?

Thank you, and great question. There are pasta recipes that call for just durum wheat, which makes a fairly rustic dough. I might use it to make hearty noodles, such as maccheroni alla chitarra or hand-shaped orrecchiette, but not for ravioli or lasagne, which really require a more refined dough. In general I like to mix durum and soft wheat (00) flour because together they make a good all-purpose dough.

I got home Sunday after a loooong trip and a mostly empty fridge. I was too exhausted to make it to the grocery store (the Giant on a Sunday may have actually killed me) but had no idea what I was going to do for lunch for the week considering that I work somewhere with no takeout options. Freezer to the rescue! I found some of your delicious chorizo carrot soup (which I have rated five stars on your site!) and some savory tartlets--voila. Just enough to feed me until I had the energy to go to the store. And another reminder of what a good idea it is to make even just a little more of anything you're cooking and throw it in the freezer because someday you may be scraping for just one or two meals to get you through.

I like the way you think. I just wish I did it more consistently! Most of what's squirreled away in my freezer consists of baked goods, not dinners.

Spicy Carrot, Tomato, Chorizo and Cilantro Soup

RECIPE: Spicy Carrot, Tomato, Chorizo and Cilantro Soup

Thanks for the cornbread answer! As poor white sharecroppers, we were influenced by our African-American neighbors who are (still!) also our best friends. Duke's mayo in pimento cheese spread, or Hellman's? Onion, or no onion? Wish Adrian could be here today, we're a lively group (we're also reading the chat, so thanks again for the cornbread answer)!

You're welcome! I have to say, I'm not much of a pimento cheese expert though. I didn't have it much until I was an adult.

Seriously, what's the difference besides the fillings? Any idea which one came first, historically?

You're right, they are pretty similar. I'd say one difference is that empanadas can be fried, whereas I don't think that's as common for Cornish pasties. I have not dug into their comparative history to know which came first! But my guess is that like many other foods, both have probably been around several hundred years, having developed on parallel tracks in their home regions.

Joe - I think you meant "pizze" for the Italian plural of pizza. :) I'm the poster who gave Domenica the shout out. I will say that I have no problem in general taking the Italian singular and adding an "s" at the the end. So, pizza/pizzas are OK to my ear, and I think I'd be OK hearing "cannolos" or "panninos" rather than cannoli or pannini. Not that it's likely I'll hear either of those...

Yes, of course! 

Your book sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading it. What was the status of being cook when Washington was in office? Now, cooking for the president has prestige but was it unusual to have an African-American chef/cook working for the early presidents?

Thanks for the question. During the 8 years of President Washington's time in office, the kitchen had a mix of free African Americans, free whites, enslaved African Americans and indentured whites.

In terms of status, it was a prestigious position, but one sees that African Americans desired freedom more than fame, and there were some high-profile, successful escapes. Most notably, Oney Judge (Martha Washington's maid) and Hercules (the main cook).

Not unusual to have African Americans cooking for the early presidents. In fact, a significant number did for all of our presidents.

ARTICLE: The man who fed the first president -- and hungered for freedom

Made the Baked Garlicky Parmesan Chicken that was in the Sunday WaPo Mag, and while it was tasty - it was too greasy for my (ungrateful) audience. The crust was not exactly crunchy, and not sure whether too much butter or the skin on the chicken added to the grease-ness. I will try again because day after I took off skin from leftovers (keeping those tasty bits of breadcrumbs) and made a salad, and finally got some compliments. Any ideas? Think it would work with skinless chicken?

I have some thoughts but I'm also sure that #SundaySupper author Sara Moulton would like to weigh in. Send us an email to and we'll get you two connected. 


RECIPE Baked Garlicky Parmesan Chicken

If you're going to be that strict about the original meaning, then you cannot make fajitas out of anything but skirt steak, since that's what the word actually means. See how silly that's starting to get?

Comment: Pasties allow for alot of flexibility of ingredients. I make pasties on a regular basis and find that while most of the pasties purchased have meat in them vegetarian ones are easily done. Just a suggestion, when making them, if you are using only vegetables, use a good mix of root vegetables. This will give a wonderful aroma and pleasing to the pallate. Fillings that just have items such as celery, onion and mushroom have a tenancy to taste bland.

I can vouch for them - they are delicious and filled to order. I believe you can buy shells there and also at the Italian store by Union Market (I'm blanking on the name).

I think you're referring to A. Litteri. Thanks for vouching, and for the suggestion.

Vaccaro's also sells cannoli kits, the shells with a tub of filling, so you can make them at home when you're ready.

Good to know, thanks!

Sacrilege, but this soup is worth a try (and try to use Rancho Gordo beans).

I'm sure it's great, but IMHO you don't need to get quite that involved to make a great black bean soup. The beans are so incredibly flavorful, even just cooking them with a little salt and onion gives you gold. I LOVE Rancho Gordo, so second that suggestions, indeed.

Long ago I met a friend's elderly Aunt Ida, the daughter of Italian immigrants and her family's go-to cannoli maker. She was legendary for using a (clean) broomstick around which to form the dough into tubes before cooking them.

Interesting! I assume she would shape the dough and then slip them off the broomstick and into the fryer. I wonder how they kept their shape during frying...

The singulars of panini, ravioli, cannoli etc. are panino, raviolo, cannolo, etc. That Italian "i" denoting plural comes down from Latin (second declension masculine plural, thank you Mr. Mulholland!).

And thank you for the explanation. Makes me wish I'd taken Latin in H.S.

Besides the french press, what other method would you recommend to get a good cup of coffee at the office? I have an electric water kettle and would love to have something like an induction cooktop to use my Italian espresso maker.

You could try a pour-over? Or an AeroPress? Tim has a nice breakdown of those methods and more, here:

ARTICLE: Coffee-brewing methods: Pros and cons

I think the Aeropress is the most office-friendly. It's small. It doesn't require a pourover kettle. If you buy an Aeropress and a small hand-crank grinder (and have access to water that's 195-degree-plus) you can make really good coffee at work.

I don't own a Keurig, because at my house we make two half-pots of coffee every morning (one stronger brew, one weaker). I can't imagine going through all the effort described in the article about hacking the Keurig - especially at 6:00am. I have a Bonavita 8-cup machine, which cost $110, and makes a fantastic cup of coffee, and does it quickly.

The Bonavita is among the best home brewers on the market. I'd pick that machine 10 times out of 10 if I had to choose between a Keurig and a Bonavita.

Some of the common foods and drink given up during Lent include meat, sweets and alcohol. Here in South Texas, a bread pudding called Capirotada is commonly served throughout Lent and especially on Good Friday because each of its ingredients has religious symbolism. Whether or not you observe Lent, do any of you have any favorite dishes associated with this season?

I will have to look up Capirotada ~ thanks for the tip. There are lots of Lenten dishes in an Italian home cook's repertoire. I, for one, love hearty soups, such as lentil soup and Tuscan ribollita. I also like to make vegetable frittatas and vegetarian quiches during Lent, and pasta with meat-free sauces. There are also recipes for "meatless" meatballs, such as the eggplant meatballs  from one of my books that the Post ran a few years back.

RECIPE: Eggplant "Meatballs" in Tomato Sauce

I'll weigh in with a "presidential history" angle. Cheese dishes are one of the most enduring things on the presidential. One sees lots of references to macaroni and cheese, cheese straws and cheese souffle. Sounds like great Lenten eats to me!

Having a sink IS key! We cut away most of the old countertop around the sink, removed the old cabinets underneath, then propped up what remained with two by fours on an angle underneath. Had a sink all the way through, except for two days. Helped me keep my sanity.

I know this has probably been answered before but... what brands should I be looking at for a dutch oven in the 4ish quart size range? I'd like to keep the price on the less expensive end since I'm not sure I will use it enough to make a really high end one worthwhile. Similarly, do those plastic/rubber knobs come off to be swapped for a stainless steel one? Otherwise I forsee a dangerous melted mess in my future.

Dutch ovens are usually in the 5 quart range, a size that is compatible with recipes for soups, chilis, sauces and, of course, the no-knead bread that set off a surge in the Dutch Oven's popularity a few years back.

It's possible to find simple cast iron dutch ovens from companies like Lodge, or even the enamel coated Le Creuset or Staub, at discount retailers like Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Home Goods. While the price may seem steep, I can report that I am still using Le Creuset pots I first purchased in 1978. (the dark ages.)

Any experience with peanut powder? Can it be reconstituted into a paste with water? Would you get peanut butter minus the fat? I am not a fan of peanut butter but my husband is, and eliminating the fat would be a big plus. How would one use it in recipes?

I've only put it in smoothies, which works well. Yes, you reconstitute it with water -- that was the original idea, before people started using it as a flavor/protein boost in smoothies and other recipes. You should try it, but if your husband love peanut butter, he might not find that this quite lives up to his standards, once it's reconstituted. That's my two cents, anyway. 

Oh, and yes -- the whole point is that it has much less fat. They process it in a way that removes, in the case of PB2, 85% of the fat.

I'm can be a stickler for language generally, but I could not care less when Americans don't pronounce words from foreign languages correctly--especially when they pluralize them wrong, for goodness sake. I for one have no idea how to pluralize a word in Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Amharic... but I still want to eat the food, and I don't think that calling a connolo a connoli is going to confuse my server. The proper way to say pho may be fuh, but few of my friends would know what I'm talking about so I just say pho. I don't have a problem with Italian-Americans saying "pro-zhoot" for prosciutto or a regular Joe saying "brushetta" instead of "brusketta."St. Louis isn't pronounced "San Lou-ee" either and I don't use courgette or aubergine, even though those are closer to the root. (For some reason "expresso" really gets my goat though. Who know why?) When I actually go to a foreign country, it's a totally different story and I make concerted efforts to learn their pronunciations. But in the U.S., I use American-English. It's just who we are.

Can we discuss other singular vs. plural nouns? Subject/verb agreement? Please don't ask - this is a group of impassioned people!

I always have to get two biscotti at the coffee shop, because I can't make myself say "a biscotti" but I know I'll get a funny look if I ask for a biscotto.

My favorite post of the day. Maybe you could say something like, "Could I have two biscotti?" And then, "Wait, could you put one of those back? I'll just take one." ;-)

When I grew up way back in the Dark Ages, Mrs. Paul's fish sticks were served most Friday nights during Lent (as if giving up chocolate wasn't enough). Trying to do more meatless during Lent, so thanks for so many great meatless recipes. Keep 'em coming!

Glad we can help!

How long can I safely store food in the freezer? I have seen tables showing cooked meals shouldn't be saved more than 2-3 months and raw meats 6 months to a year. The FDA gives guidelines, but they even say, "Because freezing 0° F (-18° C) keeps food safe indefinitely, the following recommended storage times are for quality only." So, if I have a raw steak, wrapped in foil and frozen since 2015, is it still safe to eat? What if it was 2014? 2013? While cleaning my freezer, I realized I never seem to dig all of the way to the back or the bottom and some items were older than I had realized. I tossed most things more than 2 years old, but wasn't sure if that was necessary or if I should toss more.

Chances are good that your foil-wrapped, 2- or 4-year-old steak may have suffered some amount of freezer burn and long exposure to other food odors. So if you were planning to defrost, season simply and slap that steak on the grill, the quality referred to by the FDA guide would not be up to par.  You can cut off/discard the parts that show signs of freezer burn, which generally happens when air gets into the packaging. (Meats shrink-wrapped atop foam trays from the store do not meet this airtight standard, FYI.)


THE BIG CHILL A freezer guide

In my experience being born and raised in Tennessee, cornbread does not have sugar added and that is the way I prefer it.

My mom is from Chattanooga, and she made hers with sugar (not a lot).

Are there shapes or types of pasta I can make WITHOUT a pasta machine? (No, I don't have a KitchenAid mixer and thereby don't have the pasta attachment.) I am reasonably good with doughs -- pies, bread, etc. --- reasonably good with a rolling pin, have a 12-inch square marble slab, and a fair amount of patience.

You can make pasta without a pasta machine, but a 12-inch square of marble is not big enough to roll out the dough. Also, pasta dough should be rolled out on a "warm" surface, such as wood, rather than a "cold" one like marble, which is better for pastry (butter-based) doughs. There is an art to hand-rolling pasta dough, as you must not only roll but also stretch the dough as you go. If you've seen Italians do it, you'll know that they pretty much put their whole body into the effort; it's quite something to see. You could also make a shape like cavatelli, which doesn't require rolling the dough into a large sheet. Instead, you pinch off pieces of dough and shape them. These can be a little time-consuming, so patience is a plus.

What brewing method do you recommend for non-morning people with a long commute and who have to leave the house early? A friend gave me a Keurig and it does save me a lot of money since I use it instead of running to Dunkin or Starbucks when I arrive at work. I use a french press on weekends, but during the week I need something easy and fast.

Personally, I think that the time you spend in line at Starbucks would be better spent making a pourover at home.


The process is easy:


1. Heat water to boiling (remove the kettle from the stove and let it sit about 30 seconds).


2. Grind four tablespoons of fresh coffee beans, to a medium-fine grind. (The grind will vary depending on coffee, but let's stick with medium-fine.)


3. Place a Kalita Wave atop your favorite coffee cup.


4. Drop in a filter and add the ground coffee into the filter.


5. Pour the hot water in the grounds, just enough to cover them. Wait 30 seconds for the coffee to "bloom."


6. Add more water every 15-20 seconds until you've poured about 1 1/2 cups of water. You should brew the coffee for about 3 minutes to extract a balance of flavors.


7. Discard the filter. Drink.

I use a device that is between a pourover and a French press, and it's easier than either. It's made by Bonavita.

OP here. Domenica, you said what I was trying to say re the broomstick, only you said it better!

I've only ever used the metal tubes. But I'm going to search for those traditional bamboo molds on my next visit to Sicily.

So very glad you have written this book Adrian! And thanks to you (and Joe) for weighing in on cornbread and pimento cheese. Can't wait to try the recipes!

I think you'll enjoy it!

Does anyone know why I like the taste of peanut oil for frying potatoes, yet loathe peanuts and peanut butter. Similarly, I love using olive oil in cooking and salad dressings, but can't stand olives (yes, I realize it may be the curing).

I can't say for sure since it is your personal preference, after all, but it comes down to this. Peanut oil doesn't taste that strongly of peanuts and olive oil tastes different from olives (I'm kind of with you on this one), particularly since olives are usually brined and seasoned, with a more, well, pronounced olive flavor. Don't overthink it. You like what you like. It's cool. :)

Hi. I posted the question last chat about where to put all the prepped, measured ingredients besides my teacups. You Rangers, staff and chatters, have given me more good and creative ideas than my teacups and plates and sink could ever hold and I thank you! You also just taught me a new phrase, "mise en place." Love this chat!

. . . now I'm craving pimiento cheese! Whole Foods has an amazing smoked gouda pimiento cheese . . . not traditional in the least, but so yummy.

"Oh darn it, I dropped a spaghetto on my shirt front."

Thanks for the laugh. And the excuse to buy (and eat) two biscotti.

What's the best way to reheat leftover pizza? I never like the way mine turns out, and I'm getting really hungry after reading this chat!

I've read -- but not tried -- that the best way is on a cast-iron skillet, covered. Gets the crust to be slightly crisp, covering melts the cheese.

Toddler with not many teeth but plenty of food allergies. We are still remaking our recipe set and need more variety. Gluten free. Nut free. Easy to chew. We have too many tomato sauce-based go-tos already. Please help.

Make your own version of "plumpy nut"? (Used for starving children as when peanut butter powder and powdered milk are mixed the result is highly palatable and very nutritious). Kinda like Joe's smoothie?

Try Wegman's Far Superior to the Italian Store and you can get them in two's and four's!

This is a really good and different fish dish.


I wonder if she fried the circles then molded them around the broomstick.

I don't think that would work, as the dough becomes crisp and firm upon frying ~ unlike the pizzelle, which you can shape right after they come off the iron.

Hello! I tried making a smoothie last night (frozen banana, frozen greens, some pb, ice...) and my cheap old blender just could not handle it. It left huge chunks of ice and required way more almond milk than I would have liked to get it all moving around. Any recommendations for a more powerful, ice-crushing model that won't break the bank? Thanks!


3o secs plus the time to grind beans & set up filter? So more like 60-90 secs before pouring on the water? Thanks

I typed the directions too fast. I would grind the beans first and have the filter in place with the grounds waiting on the hot water. But grind the beans just a minute before you think the water will be ready. You don't want them sitting there too long.

Well, you've brewed us using the "strong" setting, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Adrian, Domenica and Cathy for helping with the a's.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked Adrian about the status of presidential chefs during Washington's time will get his book, "The President's Kitchen Cabinet." The one who said his/her bakery order always has to be for TWO cannoli will get "Preserving Italy." The one who asked about Lent-inspired recipes will get "One Part Plant." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your book.

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.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's first cookbook is "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton). She blogs at
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.
Adrian Miller
Adrian Miller is the James Beard award-winning author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.” He lives in Denver.
Domenica Marchetti
Domenica Marchetti wrote this week's article on making cannoli at home.
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