Free Range on Food

Mar 09, 2011

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary, including this week's stories: Beer Madness, poppy seeds, African cooking and more.

Greetings, all, and welcome to BEER BEER BEER! -- Oh, sorry, got ahead of myself a little bit. Indeed, it's Beer Madness week here in the Food section, and we have Greg Kitsock, columnist, and Greg Engert, Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer director, in the room to help answer all your questions about our crazy annual tournament, which this year is going All American, and ALL CRAFT.

And we have Vered Guttman here to talk about her poppy seed story! Of course, Bonnie, Tim and I will help answer any and all of your other questions, and I believe we'll see Jason in the room to tackle cocktail stuff.

We'll have giveaway books: "Grilled Cheese, Please!" by Laura Werlin, source of today's DinMin recipe, and "Sara Moulton's Everyday Dinners." But beer people, don't fret -- you don't have to ask q's related to those things in order to be eligible for those books.

And who knows? Maybe I'll surprise a beer drinker with a special surprise. Stay tuned.

Let's chat!

I am one of the panelists of this year's Beer Madness, and I would like to submit a few lines to express how I enjoyed being there. It was so fun! All the beer we tasted was very good, and Greg Engert did a wonderful job selecting those for this event. The staff of ChurchKey/Birch & Barley did a great job hosting us, too. My conclusion after participating Beer Madness... Life is good. Life with good beer is even better! Thank you for everything!

That is so nice to hear...we really put a lot of thought and effort into the tournament and I am glad that it was well received! I can't thank my amazing staff at BBCK enough for their help and passion for the event (and craft beer generally).

Which panelist do we have the pleasure of having in the chat room today? Unveil yourself!

How did you pick the beers for the competition? Is there really no other hefeweissen in the country that could have competed in the Beer Madness? That pick alone makes me want to discredit the entire bracket! I'd rather drink a Bud Light Golden Wheat.

The selection process was not easy...and there are sure to be many beers that many do not favor. I was trying to represent 64 different beers from 64 different craft breweries to cover roughly 32 different styles across a range of 4 flavor categories (I am getting confused again just thinking about it). The other kicker was attempting to select brews that are somewhat readily available year-round. This did not leave a lot of options for some style matchups, and plenty for others (we could have easily done a 64 beer matchup with all hop-driven beers alone). So with Sierra Kellerweisse, it was my way of seeding Sierra in a way that most drinkers may not expect, and to make sure the categories were well-covered...

I'd like to praise Greg Engert for the job he did selecting the beers. It's not easy to find such a diversity of styles and to pair similar beers so that in the first round at least, there are no mismatches. The problem with hefeweizens is that most breweries release them as summer seasonals, and they wouldn't have been available for our contest.

What's your problem with Sierra Nevada Hefeweis? I certainly think it has a lot more flavor than an American wheat beer like the example you mentioned.

I sometimes come across recipes that call for Vermouth or Schnapps. Is there a substitute for these that I could use in cooking?

I am especially dense today -- must be the weather. Do you mean you want a nonalcoholic substitute, or replacement ingredients because you don' t happen to have either of those?

For starters, you can use Shaoxing wine or dry white wine or dry sherry instead of dry vermouth or Lillet Blanc instead of sweet vermouth.  For schnapps, it depends what flavor was called for.

Thanks for fixing the early-submittal links!

You're welcome!

Several years ago my grandfather told me about an Iranian eggplant dish that completely submerges the eggplant in oil. He's 95 now and no longer remembers the recipe. Do you think you could ask Najmieh Batmanglij if she knows of this dish please?

Did it have sun-dried yogurt or could you give me a few more details? She's got something in her latest book that's similar, although she's reduced the oil.  It's an eggplant kashk (casserole).

So I tried the parmesan brulee recipe over the weekend. It was good though I think I would cut back on the amount of cheese a bit and maybe add nutmeg. I had a bit of a scare when I went to use my mini-blowtorch. I couldn't get it to turn off. Fortunately we have a concrete patio and there was no wind or rain so we let it run itself out of fuel. Any guesses as to what happened? Any recommendations on a better torch so that this doesn't happen again?

Oh, man! That's like being in a car whose brakes stop! Well, not quite, but you know what I mean. So I have to say, if you don't mind the extra bulk, I highly recommend just getting a blowtorch from the hardware store. A fraction of the price, holds much more butane, is much more powerful, and -- I'll go out on a limb here -- I bet much more stable, too.

Do you know when any of the new breweries in and around DC are going to be in production?

Port City in Alexandria is already in production and should be bottling soon.

Washingtonian's Brewing Co. in Fort Washington hoped to have its bottle-conditioned triple on the market by now, but they ran into some problems and now are talking about June or July.

The last time I spoke with DC Brau, they were reluctant to give me an exact date, but they've got their equipment in place, they've got over 100,000 cans stacked up, and I suspect they'll make their debut in late March or early April, draft first, then cans.

The others, Chocolate City and 3 Stars in DC and Lost Rhino in Ashburn, VA, are  a little further down the line.

I'd like to mention that Baying Hound Aleworks, a nanobrewery (i.e. miniscule production) in Rockville, MD is already in production as well...but these brews--while delicious--are extremely scarce. Worth searching out...perhaps this will be one of DC's local cult breweries?

Beer Madness. How does one apply to be one of the taste testers? Do you need my beeresume?

The Post Food section ran an a blurb several weeks back looking for tasters, and selected them. I would keep reading the paper next February to apply for the 2012 Beer Madness.

All the tasting is done for this year, Alex!

I love the annual beer madness--and this year looks to be the best yet. Speaking of great beer, Greg, do you know if Churchkey will have this year's Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout after it releases next week? Thanks!

Thanks for your enthusiasm...we are all pretty psyched with how it turned out (and the panelists were not to upset that we expanded the field-and the tasting of beers-from 32 to 64 beers!). We are indeed getting draft and bottles of KBS, and just for kicks I am featuring KBS 2009 at our Whiskey & Beer Tasting coming up on March 21st...

You helped me so much by letting me know the Washington Post aggregates all the food truck twitter feeds so I can easily see where they are since I don't have access to twitter. After reading the review last week about the Pork food truck I was hoping to see them added to the list but haven't seen them. I hope you can help me out as this is so helpful. Yesterday I was able to enjoy a lobster roll b/c of the WP aggregator.

I'll check into adding the PORC mobile to the Food Truck Twitter Aggregator. And if you haven't read the PORC truck review, here it is.

Mmm, smoked pig! Can we get the PORC mobile to stop at the Post while we're chatting?

Thanks for the great recipes for poppy seeds! I picked up a huge back of them the other day and needed some new recipes for them. While I got them, though, I also picked up a big bag of sesame seeds, figuring I'd making some bagels, adding toasted ones to salads, maybe try to make tahini...but is there anything else I could use them for?

Try adding it to any Asian dish that uses sesame seeds. BTW, Using the Mediterranean tahini with Asian noodles works well too.

I'm making a thank-you dinner for some friends, and I thought I would try making a whole fish. Is Whole Foods a good place to get a whole fish, or should I go to a fish market? Also - do I need to actually de-bone the fish or can I just stuff it and pick the bones out after it's cooked?

You can get decent whole fish from WFM, especially if you call ahead to order and it's not an unusual one. If your recipe calls for a whole fish, then you'll probably cook it whole and then it's fairly easy to remove bones just before serving.

I have up beer for Lent and thus I really, really, really crave it right now (even though it's only been about 14 hours since my last one)! What's a very special beer that you really love that I can plan on breaking my Lenten fast with on Easter? I'll research it and think about it and build up the whole experience for 46 days so it better be good!

There is no shortage of tasty craft brews to savor following such a dry spell...but let's keep it historical and seek out some strong German Lagers, or Doppelbocks. Many agree that this style originated on account of Lenten fasting that was practiced by monks; they'd brew stronger, i.e. more sustaining brews, to stand in for the lack of solid food (liquid bread!). The Paulists--who would eventually evolve into Paulaner--brewed Salvator first (and this is readily available around town in bottles). We featured 2 Doppelbocks in Beer Madness: Samuel Adams Doppelbock and Troeg's Troegenator...perhaps you should face them off as a post-Lent match up?

I'm looking at buying a pair of BuiltNY potholders and I was wondering if it was easier to use a potholder or oven mitt to pull things out of a hot oven. I'm thinking more on grip and control of motion. I find sometimes my fingers get lost in those things and I can't grasp anything. I had an extra long pair of potholders that went up to my elbow, but in the winter, it was too bulky with my sweaters on, so they kept sliding down on my hand. Just wanted to see what others thought about this.

I did a test of potholders several years back at the Globe and found that, indeed, some of the ones that offer the most heat protection (I'm looking at you, Orca) are the most slippery, because of silicone, etc. I really liked the Oxo Good Grips ones, which give you, as the name promises, a good grip on things, and I bought some and have enjoyed them for years, but here's the thing: They were the longer version, which I liked because I tend to burn my upper arm on the hot oven rack otherwise.

Otherwise, this might be a matter of personal preference. I do sometimes just use potholders (or even a folded kitchen towel) to grab things, but that sometimes doesn't go so well...

My favorite main dish poppy seed recipe:


Salmon in Good Company (from an old Cooking Light magazine, I believe, but mine is via my friend Deb)


1 1/4 lb. Salmon fillet

Your favorite seasoning (I like a dill blend)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vinegar (I usually use rice wine vinegar but have used white & white wine vinegars)

1/3 cup orange juice

1 or 2 oranges, peeled, sectioned and chopped

1 clove garlic minced

1/4 cup chopped red onion or sliced green onions

1 Tbsp. cracked black pepper (yes, tablespoon)

2 tsp poppy seeds

1/2 lb. linguini or soba noodles


Season the salmon and bake at 350 for 20 min or nuke for 4-5 minutes. Break up into small flakes.

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, oranges, garlic, onion, pepper and poppy seeds.

Cook noodles according to package directions. To serve, place flakes of fish on top of noodles and ladle on a scoop of the sauce.

sounds delicious, thank you!

When I make linguini pasta, it all clumps together, even though I stir it and put oil in the pot of water. This doesn't happen with penne. What can I do to prevent the longer pastas from sticking together?

You know, I don't really think oil in the water keeps pasta from sticking together.  I think the key is LOTS of water. Add the linguine to LOTS of boiling salted water and stir after a few minutes to separate the noodles. (Is the linguine particularly eggy, or fresh?)

I used to be a huge fan of the Old Dominion Brewing Company and Dominion Ale was my regular drink at home beer. I was saddened when they sold to Dogfish Head and even more saddened when the new owners decided to remove every last trace of Old Dominion Brewing from the Old Dominion. What's the point of maintaining the brand name if it has zero connection with the geographical location it purports to associate with? On top of all this, the quality of the beer has suffered. I think the ODB brands are the red-headed step children of DFH. Bring it back to VA or kill it. Your thoughts?

Hold it a minute! Dominion did not sell out to Dogfish Head. They were acquired by Coastal Brewing Co., a partnership between Fordam Brewing Co. and Anheuser-Busch (as a minority investor).

I think removing production of the brand from its northern Virginia base hurt its reputation, but I also think you think you need to separate the beer from the business decisions in making an evaluation. The last time I tried their pale ale it was pretty good (a little hoppier than it used to be). Their spring seasonal, a pale bock, was also on style and very drinkable. What might be hurting Old Dominion is that they don't do the big, over-the-top experimental beers that many other breweries do (they've never done even a regular IPA, for instance). Also, letting go of the Tuppers brands was a mistake. They might have been the brewery's most distinctive beers.

I'm currently taking a cooking course, which I love, and I'm always dismayed to hear the Chefs speak of Food Porn and belittle those with cooking shows. This always surprises me because it wasn't until I first saw Rachel Ray on the Food Network tv show that I became interested in cooking, and later lead me to take a cooking class. I'm sure that must be the same for so many people. It's true that many of the tv cooking show hosts do not have a formal education, but were instead taught by their mothers or grandmothers. However, French classical cooking that is taught in all the best culinary institutes was originally derived from someone's mother or grandmother's cooking. Just wanted to get other's views on this matter.

I think the term "food porn" goes way beyond TV-driven shows hosted by Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis and the like. But I get your point, and I a degree. I think there's something of a false dichotomy between professional chefs and home cooks, as if the former can't somehow connect with the average bumbling home cook. Great chefs have a long history to teaching average folks how to cook. The late Pierre Franey, to use just one example, was a food columnist for the New York Times after serving as ex. chef for the famous Pavillonin New York. I think much of the reason these food shows get derided is because they trade on sex appeal as much as food knowledge. I suspect if Mario Batali looked more like Jamie Oliver he still might be a regular presence on the Food Network.

I've had recipes call for "Rice Wine Vinegar" but when I go to the store all I can find is "Rice Vinegar". What's the difference? Thanks!

No difference -- could just be a translation issue (made from fermented rice). Rice vinegars can be clear or an amber color but both are pretty mild. You'll probably want to look for the unseasoned kind.

Now, rice wine is another matter: sake, mirin, Shaoxing. Hey, I've gotten to mention that last one twice in the same chat. Shouldn't a duck come down or something?

I bought a frozen pie crust last week because I knew I wouldn't have enough time to make my own (I know, shameful), but when I went to take it out last night, it looks like things got a little too jammed in the freezer and it's now broken up. Is there anything I can do with it? Try to cook it in pieces and crumble it over something?

If it's not in too many pieces, try defrosting it entirely at room temp and then use a little water to patch/push the pieces back together. Be sure to refrigerate to firm things up before you bake.

Unfortunately, all the lemon recipe links take you to a login page for the Post's VPN. Any way to get those updated?

So sorry about that! All fixed now...

Suggestions for vegetables that aren't colored green, but have similar nutrients to green vegetables? My toddler figured out he doesn't want green colored vegetables ... with a couple exceptions... for some reason the Vefa's recipe for Greek spinach+rice -- spanakorizo -- is always acceptable while every other spinach preparation is rejected with disgust. Who knows what mysteries lurk in the mid of a toddler. Anyway, cauliflower (white) goes right down and so do pureed beet greens (purple). For the time being I am willing to indulge him... Thanks for any suggestions.

If he is into crunchy food, my kids used to love plain peeled cucumbers when they were little. Add a little olive oil and salt if he’s not convinced. It’s not “scary” green.

Do you have any inside information on how the remaining local chefs, Mike Isabella and Carla Hall, do in the finale? Or if no information, any predictions?

Sadly, if we had inside information (that we actually got from the inside), either we or our source would face a hefty lawsuit from Bravo if it got out. But predictions, sure! I think they're both going to do well...

I love to see the list of interesting beers. Where in DC can I go to buy interesting beers? Calvert-Woodley, which is near my home, while wonderful for wine, doesn't have a good selection of beers.

There are many great retail spots for craft beer in DC! DeVines and DeVinos (sister shops, w/ great wines as well), Whole Foods does fantastic work all over town (P St. in Logan is one of my locals), and Chevy Chase Liquors is still championing a huge list of delicious brews (and has been for as long--if not longer--than anyone else). Dupont Circle is burgeoning w/ outlets nowadays, with Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor and 1 West Dupont Circle leading the charge!

Read last weeks discussion after the fact - this is in response to that... Two of My family favorites are cranberry sauce on almost any meat based sandwich (not so good on cheese based), and spinach/artichoke dip spread on a sandwich on the rare occassion that there is any left over!

Well, we'll add those to our list. Thanks for circling back around.

(Sorry if this has already come in before; I kept getting errors when I submitted the question early) The article today on poppy seeds was great. While Vered is here, I wanted to ask what her take was on other fillings for hamentashen. I've always liked the idea of doing more non-standard fillings. For example, last year, a friend of mine challenged me to make a hamentashen with cumin. I ended up making a pumpkin-filled cumin hamentashen. I doubt I'll make it again, but I'm open to some more interesting suggestions.

Hamantaschen with cumin... sounds interesting. While my favorite filling remains the poppy seeds one, you could always try the chocolate, nutella, cheese with sugar and raisins. And a real special one will be meringue filling. Whip egg whites with sugar (try adding ground almonds or cinnamon) and use as any filling for hamantaschen.

You make bagels successfully? I tried - a couple different recipes - for a while, but mine were too dense and otherwise disappointing. Not a problem I have making other yeast breads.. Got any tips for making these at home? Thanks!

What's the definition of "locally grown"?

Hooboy. There is none. Open to very much interpretation and debate. Some people talk about a 100-mile radius, others about a larger region. Some are into hyper-local, an even tighter radius, but I think that's easiest to do if you live in, say, California.

These from Crate and Barrel are by far the best. They are thick enough to withstand the heat but still flexible enough to grab stuff. I bought my first one over 10 years ago and I still use it. It, um, even caught fire once while I was grilling outside. Still works like a champ.

Thanks for the vote! (Although the geeky tester-type in me things you can't QUITE say they're the best unless you've tried the rest, right?)

I went to a Belgian beer festival recently, and now I have a taste for Belgian sours. The trouble is that it is hard to find one let alone a good selection. Do you have any suggestions of where I might find them around Northern VA or DC?

Try Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits on upper Conn. Ave. in DC (check them out on line - they list the brands that are in stock). Westover Market in Falls Church, VA. also has an excellent selection of beers. Greg Engert mentioned some additional DC beer destinations, but let me add Norm's in Vienna, VA and Rick's Wine and Gourmet in Alexandria.

I find the Whole Foods markets also have an excellent selection of beers, including many Belgians.

So is someone brewing tuppers hop pocket ale? I loved it at Two Amys - perfect with pizza but haven't seen it since Dominion stopped.

Yes, Tuppers' returned last year! St. George Brewing Co. in Hampton, VA is brewing the Tuppers' beers now, and doing an excellent job (I think the hops are a little fresher and more pronounced than they used to be). They're doing both the ale and the pilsner (renamed Tuppers' Keller Pils - it was one of the beers in Beer Madness).

Also, the Tuppers worked with Bill Madden of Mad Fox Brewing in Falls Church, VA to make a black IPA called India Ink. It's well worth checking out.

Rodman's on Wisconsin has a pretty serious selection.

I've also heard definitions based on the radius that it takes to feed a given population - for example, "locally grown" could be farther away for a place such as NYC where there is a large density of people, but the radius would be smaller in places like DC.

So slowly but surely, I'm moving to a point in my cooking and baking where I make more and more things from scratch. One thing I haven't made, though, is stock, and to be truthful, after looking at recipes for it, I just can't believe that it is worth the time and money to make your own than to buy it. I know, I know, I hear all the time, in almost every recipe I have, that homemade is far superior. And I'm sure it is - but is it really so superior to spend money on all the ingredients plus hours and hours and hours to make it? Sure, I just found a recipe that says you can make stock in as little as two hours. But that requires a pressure cooker, which I don't have and thus would have to spend more money on. Is it really the worst thing in the world for me to stick with the store-bought stuff? I am open to arguments, although to be honest, I couldn't care less about preservatives - it doesn't really matter to me.

It's far, far from the worst thing. There's so much competition for that title.

I think Kitchen Basics no-salt-added chicken broth is fine to use. Some store-bought stocks are cloudy and salty and will inject off flavors. Homemade doesn't have to take hours and hours. This one, from chef Ris Lacoste, might take you 1.5, start to finish (you can omit the ham hocks).  You'll also have lovely poached chicken for making sandwiches and salad and adding to casseroles, etc. 

I think you should do your own taste test. Make it, and then slurp it warm alongside the store-bought kind.  Report back!


OK, not a cooking technique question, but an interesting one anyway, I hope: What do you think our current obsession with food says about our culture? Does the emergence of an American cuisine and technique indicate we are maybe maturing as a culture? Are we distracting ourselves from our many problems by focusing on something we *can* control? Or something else? You are a thoughtful bunch, and I thought it would be interesting to get your perspectives.

America has a lot of obsessions, like football (guilty as charged!) and shoes (not so much), which strike me as more frivolous than food. I think, generally speaking, that America made the decision to sacrifice its food culture in the name of technology and business and other pursuits in the years following WWII, which led to promoting efficiencies in the kitchen over pleasures and long-term viability of our food systems. We're catching up in a big way, though. Frankly, I think, by and large, it's a good thing. Yes, there is a lot of silliness in our obsessions with food, but it is also filled full of thoughtful people who want to build better and more sustainable food systems, which are better for the environment, better for the animals and better for our bodies. All pluses in my book.

Hey guys, I've got a curry recipe that calls for unsweetened coconut milk, but I can't find it at my grocery store (don't live in the D.C. area). Can I just substitute in normal milk?

I wouldn't substitute regular milk. That has a complete different flavor. Cococut milk, after all, is not really milk. Your dish will taste completely different without the coconut milk. I think I'd go with another recipe until you can find some.

Also, I'm surprised you couldn't find it in your grocery store. It's become such a common ingredient. Did you look for any Asian section, or for a Latin section? Could be in either/both of those places.

I went into the kitchen to work on making dinner for tonight (and my husband takes the leftovers for lunch the following day) and I couldn't come up with anything. I have potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini and just nothing is coming to mind. Any inspiration would be appreciated.

Hmm. Here are two things:

Slice the vegetables very thin. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with dried herbs or fresh if you have them. Stack on a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap tightly/seal. Bake on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to 1  hour.

Or, if you can find a bit of white cheese in your fridge, make your own layered casserole, using the herbs and cheese in between. You can add a little chicken broth to keep things moist. Bake at 375 till tender throughout. Chatters, how about you?

As Verd Guttman noted in the pasta recipe, eating poppy seeds can lead to a positive-for-opiates drug test. So, I'm wondering, is there any way to make the recipes but NOT test positive? Thanks!

The quality of the poppy seeds, and how much opioid it contains, depend on many factors. But since eating even little of the poppy seeds will lead to a drug test positive (as the TV show Mythbusters proved) there’s nothing you can really do about it. Just don’t eat it the day before your test…

Hi there - we're taking a knife skills class tomorrow night (Culinaerie), and I was wondering if we should bring a knife or two with us, so we're learning with what we have at home. If so, which ones? It doesn't seem like it would be worth the effort, but I'm not sure. Thanks.

If you like your knives, then yep, I think that's a great idea. I'd take your favorite chef's knife and a paring knife.

Have you had their beer? If so, how is it? The Fresh Fields in Old Town sells growlers of the stuff, but I think I may go do the brewery tour one Saturday instead (perhaps when my wife is out of town as she doesn't drink beer) because it's cheaper to pay $5 for a tour that includes samples than it is to buy a growler of something you may or may not like.

I liked their wit. It's a solid example of the style, a little chewy but very refreshing.

Their porter was one of the entries in Beer Madness, but we tasted everything blind and I'd have to go back through my notes to tell you what I thought.

I completely disagree, Bonnie. I use almost no water to cook pasta (barely cover it per McGee), add a tiny dash of oil, and stir a lot, and it never sticks.

Make sure the water is salty enough (like sea water) and is boiling heavily. I have seen many people boil water at medium or low which clumps the pasta. If it is boiling visibly it separates the strands.

OK, I don't expect you to know the answer, but I've wondered for years and years, <<why>> do poppy seeds stick to the teeth? And the front teeth in particular? No other seeds are so likely to settle where they are least wanted, namely, the exact part of your mouth where everyone you talk to will see them and focus more on them than on what you're saying. Do they have some sort of filaments or oils that affix them? Or is it just bad luck that they're both sticky and dark, so destined to embarrass after a meal as well as taste good during?

I think it's just our bad luck plus the fact that they're dark and more noticable. Same as parsley...

From La Cuisine in Alexandria, they're especially great because if wet, you don't get burned, and they're really thick. Washable too.

Yep, these are standards in barbecue circles. I find them a bit too warm for my hands.

Joe, I did not try those - didn't even think about it! I was in the baking aisle, which did have sweetened coconut milk, so I just assumed they didn't have the unsweetened stuff. Thanks for the tip!

Sure thing -- I bet you'll find it.

I'm sure that most people already know, but if you are subjected to random drug screening for your employment or sports, please be aware that poppy seeds can cause false positives for opiate derivative drugs. And for those who think this is only an urban legend, the urban legend web-site Snopes ( has confirmed this. So, please be cautious.

Not only do we know, we also wrote about it in today's story!

I only ever seem to use 1-2 Tsp of tomato paste, and then the rest goes bad. Does it freeze? If not, do you have any suggestions on what I can do with the leftovers in a timely manner? Thanks.

Gets an A+ in the freezer department, yes. Why does it go bad -- you transfer it to plastic wrap or a resealable plastic food storage bag, right? Don't just toss the open can into cold storage. Maybe it'd be less hassle for you to buy the tubes of tomato paste. I've also seen tomato paste in small jars now, so that makes for easier refrigerator storage.

I had trouble finding a recipe that made them dense enough. If you want puffier bagels, choose just about any recipe by a non-Jewish author that uses more than 1 teaspoon of yeast for a dozen and calls for a lengthy rising period. Or find a recipe for Montreal-style bagels.

Not the original poster, but...when a recipe calls for coconut milk, can I use the same kind I drink? Or is So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk not the same as the stuff in the cans from the international aisle?

I wouldn't. Your first clue: It's actually called So Delicious Coconut Milk "Beverage."

so who is selling it, including restaurants?

I just saw both the ale and pils at the Whole Foods in Clarendon, Virginia.

I love beer. I love cheese. Greg, do you have any favorite beer and cheese pairings?

Beer & Cheese is one of my major infatuations!

Some quick pointers:

Be careful with bitterness...extremely hoppy brews and roasty brews need some intense richness and drying-sharpness for balance...hard/sharp/firm cheeses wil become softer and bitter brews a touch sweeter and creamier in each other's presence. IPAs and Stouts are excellent with the more aged cheddars, emmathalers, gruyeres, goudas etc. Also w/ asiago, parmigiano. Mimolette is an amazing cheese for the beers as well...

Other ideas...I like aromatic, yeast-driven and often  funky or wild brews w/ cheeses that go through a sort of secondary fermentation (bloomy rind, washed rind). Think Belgian ales with fruity spicy compnents for the milder ones (Camembert, Brillat Savarin, Mt Tam, Humboldt Fog, La Tur, Robiola) and boldly aromatic and/or tart & funky ales for the more intense-stinky-washed rinds: Red Hawk, Epoisses, Tallegio...).

Mad Fox in Falls Church, too.

Thanks for the brackets! They look great-- I've heard of many of them but this gives me a list of more things to try based on my preferences! Way better than last year's somewhat... esoteric... brackets.

Glad you approve!

I have in the past few months been trying to brine meats for recipies after reading so much about the moistness you get from brining. I've tried it with chicken, pork, and an turkey breast. Even though I follow the recipie, measure carefully and watch the time, the meat when cooked always seems too salty. None of the meats had been pre-salted/pre-brined by the processors, I checked the labels carefully - and the chicken and turkey were free range. What's the secret and what am I doing wrong? Is there some obvious step the recipies don't mention? I'm about to finally give up, so help please!

What formula/ratio are you using for the brine?

I use welding gloves or my flame and heat retardant driving gloves as part of my safety suit for racing cars.

A race car driver who is also a cook. Be still my beating heart. ;-)

I'm a huge fan of grilled-cheese sandwiches and finding new takes on them, so the crab melt is right up my alley. Question on it: I'm not a huge fan of Swiss, so what would be some other good cheeses to substitute in? Provolone, maybe? What about a mix of provolone and mozzarella? I just love how mozzarella melts.

I was so happy to have found this recipe. Love it (except for sodium numbers). Provolone or Monterey Jack would be fine. It kind of keeps things together under a cheesy blanket. But you might get by without it all.


If you also have eggs, you can make a frittata or a Spanish tortilla.

OK, so that's one of the things i never knew about making stock. In most of the recipes it seemed that the meat wasn't good to actually eat after making stock. But if I could repurpose the meat into an actual meal, it would definitely make it more economical to make my own stock. Is it just for this recipe or can I use the meat from any stock recipe? Thanks for the feedback!

For fish stock, you can use bones and shrimp shells; no flesh required. And when you do meat/veal, you wouldn't necessarily repurpose those poached meats in the same way (or want to-- blandness might be an issue).  I forgot to mention roasted bone stocks and smoked turkey wing stocks -- the former gives you deep flavor and the latter's a cheap way of getting a different flavor in the mix.  And vegetable broth is simply great to  have around -- it's a good way to use that celery or onion or those mushrooms that are on their way out. I've been sitting on a really good blogger's recipe for a kind of vegetable stock base. So, so good. Thanks for reminding me to post it! 

I too was a stock skeptic but I found that part of the problem is that I had bad advice/recipes. Get necks/wings/bones (chicken) from a butcher which can cost as little as $1/lb (I got mine for $1.50). For 3 - 3 1/2 lbs of chicken, you add one good sized quartered yellow onion with the skin on, a couple of stalks of celery cut in half or into thirds, 3 - 4 carrots (not peeled with the tops still on), some peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, some fresh thyme if you want to, and then cover with cold water so that the water comes to no more than an inch over the veggies and chicken. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 45 minutes, strain through cheese cloth and you have about 2 quarts of unsalted fresh chicken stock. You get to control the salt in your dishes, it tastes good, you can freeze it. You can vary the herbs and veggies that you ad to the stock to change its flavor. Some recipes call for 3 hours or so of cooking - don't do it or call for too much water which results in dishwater stock. This has a clean chicken taste that no box/can can replace. That said, I still use boxed types sometimes too.

But those are hours you can be sitting and reading a trashy novel while it simmers away, right? I mean, it only takes a few minutes to throw a carcass and some veggies in a pot.

If something innocuous like poppy seeds can mess up drug testing it makes he wonder how reliable drug testing even is. Sounds like it's time for some reform.

The nourish recipe today reminded me of a question of been meaning to ask. I know chicken and fish are healthy, but what are some healthy cuts of other meats? My grocery store doesn't have a butcher, but does have a wide variety of already packaged cuts of meat, and types of meat available. Should I also be looking to see whether there is a lot of visible fat on the meat?

If you're looking for lean cuts, you'll want the ones that do not have marbling (lots of white snaky streaks of fat). You'll want to remove all visible excess fat. Turkey breast and cutlets, pork tenderloin, eye of round are also lean ways to go.


I love beer, but not sweet beer. It seems that almost every beer I try is too sweet. I tend to like German and Czech beers, but almost everything brewed in the states proves too sweet for my palate. (I typically like stouts, but some of those can trend too sweet for me as well.) I've tried lots and lots of beer, but if you have any nonsweet recommendations, I'd love to hear them. Thanks!

I think you are going to look for beers with pronounced hop bitterness, or roasted malt/grain bitterness. Obviously, seek out American Pale Ales and IPAs, as well as some dryer Stouts and Porters (staying away from Milk or Oatmeal Stouts which tend to be sweeter)...

But also find dryness in sttyles not typiccally imagined as dry: Belgian Saisons are typically dry and hoppy (Saison Dupontis standard), as are Belgian Tripels from time to time (Chimay White will fit the bill). And many of the German/ Czech beers you like are probably hoppier Pilsners, not the wheat-based Hefeweizen...For bold dryness, check out classic North German Pilsners (Jever, Bitburger) or American versions that are outstanding: Victory Prima Pils...Tuppers Keller Pils...even Avery Brewing out of Boulder just released Joe's American Pilsner: crisp and lively...perfect from draft OR can! Cans being like little kegs...keep the aromas and textures fresh and beautiful with out any chance of light-striking of oxidation!

Please settle an old argument: cans or bottles? I say bottles and when asked if I want a glass say that it comes in one. If I must take a can it has to go in a glass.

I prefer to pour the beer into a glass regardless of what container it comes in. You need to release the carbonation to get the aromatics.

That being said, I have to admit that cans, long considered fit only for mass-market suds, do have their advantages. For instance, they let in no light, which is the great enemy of beer. The cans' interiors have a plastic lining, so you shouldn't get any metallic taste unless you put your lips to the rim of the can.

I'm trying to sneak some more fiber into my kids diets (4 & 2). I was wondering if I could use flax seed mixed into the cinnamon sugar? Is it ok to use flax seed as a topping vs. as a substitute/modification to flour? How much flax seed would really add more fiber to a diet (generally speaking of course)? Thanks!

I use flaxseed meal on top of yogurt with fresh fruit for my kids, and they love it. You don’t need to bake  it.

I had this problem. Answer: Stir more. Seriously. I now give my pasta a good stir every 1 to 2 minutes, and I haven't had a problem since. I'm sure more water works, too, but you have to wait longer for it to boil. I'm too impatient.

Check out this ( set of answers to the question on how to keep pasta from sticking to itself for lots of links to well-researched information that totally backs Bonnie up.

I would advise against trying to use oil to keep pasta from sticking. As you point out, there is a better way to do it, and I've read that coating the pasta with oil, besides adding unneeded calories, will keep sauces from clinging to the pasta too, so it actually detracts from the dish. Get one of those plastic pasta spoons with the long tines and holes, which helps separate strand-type pasta when stirring.

I realize this may not be relevant for all of your readers, but I need help with packing lunches for my elementary schoolers. I just feel like I am in a sandwich rut! I am tired of making them and they are tired of eating them. Any resources you could provide for thinking outside of the proverbial lunchbox would be greatly appreciated.

I like the little-of-this, little-of-that approach because it's  how kids eat. Think of a smorgasbord of flavors and crunch and color they like.  Rice salads are good and customizable. I also saw Nigella make a crustless "pizza" on TV the other day, which looked like eggs, flour, a little milk. She baked it a pie plate and added a little sprinkled cheese in the last few minutes. Little wedges of that would not come back home in the lunchbox, I bet.

You can make homemade stock in a slow cooker. Put your bones, vegetables, meat if you are making a stock-broth hybrid, some vinegar, bay leaves, and a bit of tomato paste for color and flavor all in. Turn on low. In about 12 hours you will have stock without having done much work. Some tips: cleave your bones to release more gelatin for the trade-mark mouthfeel of stock and some good for you minerals too. If you don't have a fat strainer and you have any parts of the chicken other than bones in there you can chill your stock in the refrigerator and remove the fat after it has chilled easily because it all floats to the top and hardens. Freeze in individual serving-size portions such as 1/2 or 1 cup. Think of it as reducing the cost of your bone-in chicken by about $.35 per cup of stock/broth.

Most are sweetened, not to mention thinner than regular CM. Don't cook with them unless, maybe, as the basis for a sweet-ish tomato-based seafood stew. Hmm, I might have convinced myself about tonights dinner.

And then there's coconut water, which is a different thing entirely. Really good for you -- and often it's not sweetened -- but behaves differently than the milk in cooking. However, I've been using it to make a lighter version of coconut rice, which is fun.

Not sure if it'll be good with crab, but I love Fontina for my grilled cheeses. I think that some of the cheeses from VA dairly Meadow Creek (mountaneer, appalachian) are also good options. Fontina is very common in Panini that you get in Italy.

DON'T use this in your curry recipes. This is supposed to be a vegan/lactose-free milk substitute, but doesn't have the same flavor as unsweetened coconut milk in the can.

I (finally) got around to making the chocolate-dipped marshmallow recipe you ran a few months ago. Not a huge peppermint fan, so I used a raspberry marshmallow recipe I found elsewhere. I shook off as much of the powdered sugar as I could before dipping the marshmallows in chocolate but still wound up with lots of sugar chunks on the surface of the marshmallow being coated in chocolate and producing an irritating crunch. Is this just normal or can this be avoided somehow? I had a dense covering of powdered sugar on top of the marshmallows as they set up overnight, but this seemed to be called for in both your marshmallow recipe and the one I used. One possible complication is that the recipe I used didn't specify how much to whip the marshmallow, so they might have been (very) slightly underbeaten. On a side note, both the marshmallow recipe and chocolate-dipping recipes take a LOT of time... Both took hours, so plan for a lot of work if you try these recipes.

Recipe author Nancy Baggett says:

There is a balancing act between adding too much powdered sugar and having the problem you mentioned and too little and having the marshmallow stick to the paper. I initially had the second problem, so have may then called for a little too much sugar. It can be scraped off, or sometimes brushed off, but I didn't mention that (though should have). Actually, we liked the little crunch you mentioned.  I really don't think the plain marshmallows do take a lot of time--other than the long beating required--although admittedly candy making is more trouble than many kinds of recipes. Maybe the prepping/melting of the candies seemed tedious? But this was done so that I didn't have to make readers go buy oil of peppermint--which people would have trouble finding. Adding a few drops of this oil would have simplified the recipe (extract can't be substituted as it doesn't taste good in the recipe), but I was trying to make it accessible.

Dipping candies is always a piddly process--if the marshmallows weren't s-o-o-o good dipped I wouldn't have included that part of the recipe at all. Perhaps the headnote needed to note that dipping takes time--though my grandkids really enjoyed doing it with me so it wasn't annoying for us. I guess the time involved is wy hand-dipped candies always seem so special to people.

Looks like Charlie Sheen has found a way to test "clean" even though he sure appears to be hopped up on something. Maybe he could figure out how to eat poppies and test clean. Anyway, now Charlie Sheen has worked his way into today's food chat, as you probably figured he would.

Does that mean that we are ... WINNING!!!! ?

Make a tart. Mashed potatoes with some cheese on the bottom, roasted slices of zucchini, then roasted tomatoes on top. Extra cheese to finish. Bake.

Do you recall Rappahannock Red Ale? It was a favorite, but the brewery didn't last. Is there anything close to it that you can think of.

Are you looking for  ared ale that has a nice specialty malt character without being overhopped?

You might try the red ales at the local Rock Bottoms (I believe it's Radio Towers Red in Ballston and Raccoon Red in Bethesda). I think Peak Organic does a nice amber ale.

For our wedding this year we are able to purchase and serve our own beer and we'd live to showcase 2-3 local beers for our mostly out-of-town guests. One that we've selected is The Love (perfect for a wedding!) from Starr Hill but are looking for a couple other brews for good variety. Any suggestions to highlight other local breweries?

Awesome idea! Some breweries to consider: Port City (VA), Heavy Seas (MD), Blue Mountain (VA), Flying Dog (MD), and Stillwater Artisanal (MD). If looking to pair with food, it might be best to follow the lead with The Love and bring in some more aromatic brews with little bitterness...Stateside Saison from Stillwater, or Port City Optimal Wit would be great for that. If you are looking to cover flavor profiles, you have a fruity/spicy brew for those who like German & Belgian Ales, so look for something crisp next (Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning, Blue Mountain Lager) and then hoppy (Blue Mountain Full Nelson, Flying Dog Raging Bitch, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon). 

Does that make a more crispy cookie or a cakey one? How hard is the dough to handle? The recipe I usually use is a pain - the dough cracks when I try to fold it.

This dough is more like a cake, but you roll it to very thin, so you end up with hamantaschen that’s mainly the filling, not heavy dough. It’s easy enough to handle. The problem with the recipe you have is probably that it’s too dry. Try adding just a little more liquid, water for example and knead it again.

Can you convert the lamb soup recipe for me for a slow cooker? I know it uses l less liquid, but not sure what else to do. Thx.

Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick says:

I would follow manufacturer's instructions for vegetable soup. In this case, I do not think less liquid is called for because the soup cooks covered and there's very little evaporation. If you're worried about it, start with less liquid because it always easier to add than to take away.

When I check the temperature on my whole chicken roasts and the thigh is at 175-180, I notice that there is still some blood by the joints where the thighs and wings attached to the body. Is having any blood acceptable or is my thermometer or placement thereof off?

I've gotten in the habit of doing what Jacques Pepin does with joints of roasted birds. He makes a cut right there so the area is exposed and cooked properly.

Thank you so much for the recipe for Chicken Yassa. A dear friend, born in Benin and who lived in Togo, used to make it for me. Sadly, she died before writing down the recipe for me. I know her version did not use olives--do you know any other Togolese twists on this dish?

Wish we had Jessica B. Harris onboard to answer. She did say she's done so many variations and that the recipe has appeared in a few of her cookbooks. Maybe check them out in the library?

So . . . is it true that if your cheese has mold that you can cut it off and the cheese is still good for cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, etc. (not for cream cheese, boursin, brie, etc.)?

Yes. The official rule is that you should cut an inch away from the mold and use it as new.

Thanks for taking my question, I had to go find one of the recipies I tried. It was for chicken and called for 2 quarts water and a half cup of dalt. Does that help you help me out?

A lot of times sugar is added. Look for brining recipes from Cook's Illustrated -- they work.

I just keep tomato paste in the freezer. For each new can, I use as much as I want, then spread the rest in a plastic container and freeze it. Next time, the block just pops out of the container and you can carve off a chunk!

Tuppers' Ale is on draft at Hard Times Cafe and Mia's in Bethesda (pizza is even better than 2Amys). Also both restaurants and stores in NoVa eg Harris Teeter.

i like to put 1T-ish sized dollops on saran wrap, freeze them for a few hours, then transfer all of them to a ziploc. Then when i need just a bit of paste i can just take out a little blob.

Hm... I'm not a huge fan of the Wit. Nothing wrong with it and I think it's within the style, but I think I like Wit's that are drier (or something I'm not picking up on). I tend to like the versions from Allagash and Unibroue. I enjoyed the pale ale - not as hoppy as many American Pale Ales. I'm looking forward to trying the Porter and IPA, neither of which was ready yet when I toured the brewery their opening weekend.

I think a very interesting thing to note about these new breweries, including Port City, is that they are working on their recipes as they produce the first rounds of beers. No matter how much one is happy with a prototype recipe, the fact is that the results are always different on a new--and much larger--system. So it is pretty exciting to know that each batch of Port City brew that is produced will--and should--have some subtle differences...we all get to taste the evolution of the craft, which is outstanding an one of the coolest things about drinking a new local brewery's beers...and we will get to do this 5-6 more times in the next 2-3 years!

As a female beer afficionado (which many people find odd in my experience) I LOVE the beer contest, but am puzzled in terms of how you selected those breweries. Is there a list where we can find the locations of the breweries in this contest ? I love to visit breweries when I travel and would love to see how many I can see this year. ps. I was in San Diego recently, and had no idea that area had more than 40 breweries - my trip was not long enough to cover even half of them so I hope to go back for more. My favorites were Ballast Point, Stone, and Coronado - I love their beers!!! While we are on the topic, a special hats off to Thomas at ALexandria Rustico, who patiently helps me learn more and grow my enthusiasm any time I go. It is my favorite beer place in town (Church Key is awesome too, but Rustico is easier to get in and free parking) Do you know of a website that lists the breweries in the area? I'd love to visit them. On poppy seeds - I buy mine (and other spices) at Mom's Organic Market or the Coop on Seven Locks and McArthur since I can buy as little as I need, that way it doesn't go rancid. Thanks again for beer madness!!!

Happy travels! The last time I checked, there were a little over 1,700 breweries operating in the country.

Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, the bimonthly publication I edit, has a centerfold listing all breweries from Pennsylvania down through Virginia.

The Brewers Association in Boulder, CO website (I think it's has an online list of all breweries in the country, as well as those in the start-up stage.



Growing up I was served more of a "toasted cheese" sandwich (2 pieces of white, mayo american cheese & tomato toasted open face and slapped together). Now that I make my own, I prefer the griddle version and like to experiment with the cheese, meat, veg & spread but I ALWAYS burn the sammie. I spread it with soft butter (thank you Butter Bell) and also melt some in the pan, but what am I doing wrong to keep bruning it?

Keep the heat fairly low.  Turn a few times till you get the color and meltiness you're looking for. If you've buttered the outside of the sandwich, you won't need more butter in the pan/griddle.

I bought a pack of Portuguese rolls a few days ago, refrigerated them, and saw this morning that the uneaten ones all have small mold splotches all over them. But other bread I've had in the refrigerator for longer -- those 100-calorie commercial-bakery "bagels," purchased weeks ago -- remains okay to eat, or at least look okay. Any idea why the newer bread went bad faster? Could it because it's white bread and the "bagels" are whole wheat? Should I toss the okay-looking bread even though it looks okay?

One possible word: Preservatives, or more specifically, the lack thereof.  Whole wheat might have something to do with it, too.

This one is for Vered - growing up in my Hungarian-Jewish home we often had makos teszta (poppy noodles) or dios teszta (walnut noodles) for dinner. Somehow I never thought to combine the two into one dish until reading your article this morning. Not a question, just a thank you for bringing back some happy memories and shining the spotlight on Hungarian food.

Thank you so much! That’s exactly what my husband’s grandmother used to make – either poppy seeds or the walnuts. Hearing the stories of those dishes I thought to combine them both.

If you are going with store-bought, I've found that Safeway's O "Organics" brand low-sodium chicken stock is one of the best with minimal salt added. For comparison, Swanson's low-sodium (1/3 less sodium!) has something like 570 mg of sodium per portion and the Organics one has about 140 mg. The Kitchen basics and the Wolfgang puck ones both have about 480mg. As for making stock, I've found it worthwhile. I get whatever chicken parts are on sale and cheap (chicken wings or thighs, sometimes a whole roaster, sometimes drumsticks) and for about $5 of chicken plus about $3 of veggies, I get a huge stock pot of stock. I can make about 2 gallons of stock. So although close, it is still cheaper (and tastier) than the store-bought. And it really only takes about 2-3 hours on the stove top. Generally, either right before or right after dinner, I put the stock on to simmer. About 2-3 hours later, I take it off the burner, scoop out the remains and toss them into old supermarket bags (triple or quadruple layered) to toss out. I let it sit until bedtime to cool and then put the pot into the fridge. The next day, I transfer to jars and big containers. About half in the freezer and half in the fridge to use. In fact, it's time to thaw out the second half of my last batch.

Thanks for sharing your technique.

Greg's... I currently have 20+ bottle conditioned bombers (22 oz.) that have been aging from anywhere from 1-3 years... Do you have any guidelines for how long a certain style should be cellered before opened to not dimish the natural aging?

Some barleywines will continue to mellow and improve for many years, as the hot, fruity flavors fade  and are replaced with a port or sherry-like richness. I've had Thomas Hardy vintages that were over 20 years old and still immensely enjoyable

But if you're buying IPAs and double IPAs and want to experience the brunt of the hoppiness, I'd drink these as soon as possible, as hop character diminishes over time.

Well, you have sipped us from 2-ounce tasting glasses and then scribbled down your thoughts and chosen which of us you like best, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks to Greg Engert, Greg Kitsock and Vered Guttman for helping us out today -- and thanks to all you chatters for good questions.

Now for the giveaways. The chatter whose pasta was sticking and started off that thread will get "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners." The one who asked about beer and cheese pairings -- yum -- will get "Grilled Cheese, Please!" Send your mailing info to us at, and we'll get you your books.

And beer people, keep an eye on the chat -- we'll have the Gregs back in the room a little later in Beer Madness, and I promise a suh-WEET prize or two just for you.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, reading -- and drinking!


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