Free Range on Food: Versatile spring cooking, recipes for Passover and more.

Mar 29, 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 today's chat! Hope you're enjoying all our recent coverage, including Tim Carman's gorgeous profile of the inimitable Joan Nathan; Julia Turshen's outstanding selection of recipes using our favorite spring ingredients; Paula Shoyer's take on pies for Passover; and more.

We have a real treat today: The wonderful Joan Nathan herself is joining our chat! Now's your chance to hit her with any question you might have related to Jewish -- or any other -- cooking! And the fantastic Julia Turshen will be joining us, too, and she can handle anything. 

And we regulars are no slouches, either, but you knew that. ;-) 

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters: a SIGNED copy of Joan's new book, "King Solomon's Table," and "Everyday Seafood" by Nathan Outlaw, source of this week's Dinner in Minutes.

For you PostPoints members, here is this week's code: FR6226 . 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!

Hi! I bought a bag of shredded red cabbage to put on fish tacos last night. Made the tacos, but totally forgot about the cabbage until after dinner. Now I have a bag of unopened, nicely shredded red cabbage in the fridge and I have no idea what to do with it. Thoughts?? Thanks!

Sounds to me like a good excuse to make more fish tacos! You can also make a lovely, easy slaw or try substituting it for the radicchio in this 'All Red Salad'.  I also love tossing shredded cabbage with olive oil and salt and then roasting it at 425 until it's wilted and charred and then serving it as a side dish or folding it into an easy rice pilaf (there's a recipe for this in Small Victories).

When I saw the article on spring vegetables and then saw asparagus, I immediately thought of risotto. Unfortunately I seem to be risotto challenged. I've tried multiple recipes - stir constantly, almost no stir,etc., and I've spent the money for real risotto rice but none seem to end up with the kind of creamy delight I can find in restaurants. Do you have any suggestions for my next batch? What are your favorite methods for making it?

Oh an asparagus risotto would be wonderful! I learned to make risotto from the great chef Jody Williams when I worked with her on Buvette cookbook.  Here's her recipe which describes her technique.  I would follow those instructions and then fold in thinly sliced asparagus at the end with the components of the Italian version of my Shaved Asparagus Salad (so, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese).  I bet it'll be delicious.  You can also stir in a big spoonful of creme fraiche or marscarpone at the end to make it extra creamy and really stir it in aggressively to get all the starch in the rice to make itself known.

ARTICLE: Cook your way through spring with these 5 main ingredients

Many, many thanks to Post staff and readers who answered my question last week about which models of kitchen aid mixer to purchase. I'm still pondering the possibilities and aspects I had not considered (such as whether a mixer will fit between my countertop and cabinets,) and your advice is more helpful than I can express. Free Range is more than an online discussion - it is a community for which I am both grateful and proud to be a part. Thank you.

Aw, group hug!

There's so many spring and summer recipes I want to try but everything calls for Pesto. I don't remember what pesto even taste like because I'm allergic to the nuts used in it. What is a good substitute for pesto on things like a summer pasta salad for example.

Can I suggest that you use pumpkin seeds (a.k.a. pepitas) in pesto, instead of nuts? Thinking of two that you might try -- pumpkin seed arugula and one with ancho chiles. But also know that you can make a simple one-to-one swap in whatever pesto recipe you come across. (Pesto is one of those versatile, adaptable, swap-able recipes!)

Yes I agree with Kara, swapping the nuts for seeds is a great choice.  Or just leave out the nuts all together and call it salsa verde! 

I came across whole nutmegs cleaning my spice drawer, They look fine, but I know they've been around for years. Like four years or maybe longer. Should I toss?

Four years is about the max I know of, assuming they've been stored without exposure to extremes of heat. Best way to tell would be to buy 1 whole nutmeg from a bulk bin setup, like at Whole Foods. Grate some of it, and grate some of yours. Compare the aroma of each; if it's the same, I'm thinking yours might still be good to go. 

I recently returned from Anguilla and had some very good, and not so good, rum punches. They varied in color from light to dark, some were golden and others reddish. I know the basic recipe--1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong, 4 parts weak--and liked the drinks that included a sprinkle of nutmeg and a dash of bitters. My favorite had amaretto as well but I can't find a recipe that includes this. I plan to experiment using some amaretto to make up a portion of one of the parts, but would you consider amaretto sweet, or strong...or maybe even weak?

Lucky you! Rum punch on its home turf! Amaretto would definitely fall into the sweet category. Depending on other components, I'd plan to have some amaretto on hand, and then be able to supplement with a demerara sugar syrup ... I say that because while amaretto is definitely a sweetener, it's also adding a strong almond flavor and you may find you want more sweet, but not necessarily more almond! And if you have a little pimento bitters/allspice dram around to use in wee, wee doses -- I suspect that'll do some nice work too.

I am attempting to re-season my cast iron pans using organic virgin coconut oil. I wipe the inside with a light layer, put in a cold oven and leave in for one hour after the oven reaches 425. I then leave them until they are cool to the touch. The pans are coming out with sticky residue. What am I doing wrong?

Next time, try these tweaks: Be sure to rub the oil into the pan as much as you can, then wipe thoroughly after you distribute that light layer, so the pan looks practically dry. The temp you are using seems high for an oil with a smoke point of 350, so reduce the oven heat to 325.  

After using some brown sugar back during cookie season, the rest of the bag has hardened. I looked on the internet and found a number of ideas for resoftening: bread, apple, microwave. Do these all work, and is any one of them better than the others? But more importantly, can the sugar actually go bad, in addition to being hard, and what would that look like? Mold, bad smell, something else? This bag has a "best by" date later in the year, so it's probably still good, but for future reference...

In my experience, brown sugar has definitely turned into a brick but it's never gone 'bad'....of course if it smells off or you notice mold, get rid of it...but if not, you should be good to go.  I've always tried to prevent the hardening by storing it in an airtight sealed bag in the refrigerator...but to rescue it, I've had success microwaving it in 15 second intervals and stirring in between.  Or you can always use it in a recipe where it gets melted anyway like butterscotch!

Good morning, Free Rangers, and thank you for the awesome Carrot Hummus recommendations. I finally made the recipe, as a vegetarian side for a St. Patrick's Day party, and it was a huge hit ... alongside the colcannon and Irish cheddar and soda bread, it was a perfect light bite. Interesting variation: I substituted 3 kumquats and a little water since I had no orange juice on hand, and the extra citrusy pop was great. Heading over to the Recipe Finder to post my review now... you're the best!

Yes, Carrot Hummus is a winner.

Carrot Hummus

RECIPE: Carrot Hummus

Are there any local meat or fish CSAs that deliver to the DC area?

Yes, indeed. Ones that come to mind are Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, Sycamore Spring Farm and North Mountain Pastures. And be sure to check our CSA map to check out more options.

Map: Find a CSA in the Washington area

Since Tom's not chatting today, I figured I'd try you guys since you all love food! Any good restaurants in Springfield besides the Afghan Bistro?

You might want to try Marib for Yemeni cuisine. And sometime this year chef Victor Albisu will be opening a location of his very good Taco Bamba there. I'm also a sucker for the pancakes at Bob & Edith's, which is in the same shopping center as popular New York import Halal Guys.

Good morning. I have to make a side dish or salad to go with the Thai entree our host is making for our supper club. Thinking Green Papaya Salad but I thought I read that green papaya is different than unripen papaya. Doubt that I can get a green papaya where I live so any suggestions for a substitute or a totally different dish. Thank you so much in advance.

While not the same thing exactly, I've had much success substituting matchsticks of unripe mangoes and tart green apples for green papaya salads.  I once worked as a private chef in the middle of nowhere and was tasked with making a Thai menu and the green apple salad was such a huge hit.  Or there are so many other wonderful side dishes like grilled eggplant or noodle salads...check out Andy Ricker's Pok Pok book.

Love the apple idea, Julia! I was also thinking that jicama could work well here, although you may have as tough a time finding it as unripe papaya. (And, it's true -- green papaya and unripe papaya are exactly the same thing!)

Here's a fantastic recipe for it, btw:

Green Papaya Salad

I recently came across an article on how to make your own coconut milk. It sounded fun so I thought what the heck, I'll try it (for use in cooking, not drinking). But then I remembered my horror the first time I looked at the back of can a cononut milk and seeing upwards of 75% fat in a single serving. Zoinks. When I buy canned coconut milk, I get the low-fat. My question is, if you make your own (using shredded unsweetened coconut and hot water), is there any way to control the fat content? Would I be making the full fat version, and in that case, not worth the effort? Does most of the fat (coconut cream?) come out during the first pressing to extract the liquid? Everything I find online is about how to make coconut milk, but I'd like to know if its possible to make a lower fat version. Thanks!

I've never made my own so I'm not really sure, but I bet you diluting the fresh coconut milk with water is probably the easiest way to control the fat content.

I can't even remember when I submitted to Cuisinart for the blade recall. But I do have two emails from Cuisinart; 12/22 "Thank you for your patience...." and then again on 2/4 "Thank you for your ongoing patience..." and here's some downloadable recipes. I'm feeling quite forgotten at this point. Are others still out there waiting for a replacement blade like me? Un-impressed, Cuisinart.

Yes, it's pretty crazy. We may try to follow up on this, so you and other readers should feel free to shoot me a note so I can collect frustrations and horror stories!

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

In last week's chat there was a link posted to a video of Julia Child and Martha Stewart making croquembouches. I think the suggestion being made was that Julia was just too cool to care. My observations: 1. Julia was pretty old in this video so honestly, she probably really didn't care about much of anything. 2. Martha had all the balls. She totally took them all and didn't leave Julia enough to do much. Thank you for posting that link. I enjoyed it.

My pleasure!

Our daughter's baptism is in a few weeks, and my husband and I plan to invite people over for brunch after the service. Do you have menu ideas? We're looking for things that can either be prepared the day before or assembled very quickly at the last minute, since we'll be arriving home at the same time as our guests. I'm planning on having an assortment of bagels, muffins and fruits, but I'd like an easy recipe or two that are festive beyond, "I just ran to Safeway and dumped some stuff on the table."

Here's one that's just right for spring, and needs to be assembled and refrigerated for at least 8 hours (a perk, here!). The only trick is it needs to bake for a little over an hour, so you could assemble it two days before, bake it partially one day before, then store in the refrigerator and pop it in the oven when you get home to finish baking. 

Breakfast Strata Primavera

RECIPE: Breakfast Strata Primavera

If the vernal flora (some of which has been subjected to enough artistic license to make it unidentifiable) and fauna decorating the cover to today’s Food section whets your appetite, be aware that lurking in that group is one you definitely don’t want to eat: daffodils are toxic. Even if you are using them only to decorate food, the cut stems of daffodils exude a thick sap which should not be allowed to come into contact with food. And carnations (upper left hand corner of the illustration), whose flowers are edible, have leaves which can be mildly toxic when ingested or cause a rash when handled.

Very good to know! Like rhubarb leaves!

Similar to the chatter with the shredded cabbage, I have a bag of shredded carrots that needs to be used for something other than salads. I am also heading out of town soon - can I do anything with shredded carrots that can then be frozen? Carrot cake, maybe? (ha!) I hate to just throw them out!

Well, these are meant to be frozen (although the recipe does call for finely grated)!

Carrot Cake Ice Cream Sandwiches

RECIPE: Carrot Cake Ice Cream Sandwiches

I think this cake would freeze well.

Carrot Almond Cake With Ricotta Cream

RECIPE: Carrot Almond Cake With Ricotta Cream

Julia, my family really enjoys these recipes of yours--I'm making the Patatas Bravas tonight. Thank you for sharing them!

Oh I'm so thrilled to hear this, thank you so much!! My dad will be so pleased to hear about the meatloaf love :)

Some of my seder guests are vegans. Any suggestions for recipes for vegan Passover entrees and sides dishes? I am limited for the holiday and can't use grains, rice, beans and leavened products.

I bet Joan has some good ideas here, but tzimmes is the first thing that comes to mind! Delicious, traditional, and vegan.

Quinoa is great for vegans.  I have a wonderful recipe for quinoa salad with squash and pecans in King Solomon's Table.  I actually do not worry about vegans because I make sure that there are lots of salads on the Passover table for them.   There is also a delicious Georgian spinach salad with walnuts and cilantro as well as many eggplant dishes.  I think of a vegan entree as a medley of delicious dishes instead of one roast meat.  Hope this helps.

Just thought of another spectacular dish from Morocco that would make any vegan seder the best!  It is a vegetable tagine with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, whatever you want.  It is delicious, a showstopper, and is easy.  I picked it up on my last trip to Morocco.

I'm the chatter from last week whose truly wonderful grandmother went into great detail on why the photo on the box of cake mix her 3-year-old granddaughter selected looked nothing like the finished product. I just wanted to explain that she was not the stereotypical warm, doting grandmother and that's one of the reasons I adored her. She smoked like a chimney, swore like a sailor and resembled sultry actress Lauren Bacall. She didn't have the temperament to speak to children like most adults do and that's one of the reasons I still love this story after nearly 60 years. She spoke to me like I was an adult, or at least old enough to understand what would have been needed to produce a picture-perfect cake and even though I didn't like the result I did respect the honesty.

I still adore your grandmother from afar. I've never been much of a fan of adults who speak "baby talk" around the young ones.

Agreed, I like her even more.

What's your take on air fryers?

I've never used one but I know from her Instagram that Oprah is a fan so that's gotta mean something, right? 

I'm cooking for a family party and one of my relatives is on a "low FODMAP" diet. I'm doing some research but the big thing I'm struggling with is omitting onions and garlic. Any festive recipes that are still tasty without those flavors?

Hope your relative is okay.  Whenever I cook for folks with restricted diets, I always try to approach it from the list of what IS allowed rather than trying to substitute for what isn't.  Might I suggest this festive All Red Salad?  I think it fits all the requirements and is really adaptable if not...it's also something everyone can enjoy!

Tom - any books that chronicle the culture and history of food in and around Washington DC? I've done a cursory search on Google and Amazon but come up empty. Any insights are appreciated!

I'm not Tom, and this is not exactly what you're looking for. But, I would suggest looking into the detective novels of George Pelecanos. I haven't read as much Pelecanos as I should, but his books are set in and around the District and often revolve around diners and soul food joints. Pelecanos used to be a dishwasher and line cook. He's familiar with how these places operate. Here's his website.

I need to buy some pine nuts, but have not been successful in finding pine nuts that are not from Russia or China (trying to avoid that metallic taste!) Do you all have any ideas? I've looked at Mediterranean Bakery, Yekta Market, Whole Foods, Yes!, Giant, Harris Teeter. Thanks!

You can try ordering online from the great Kalustyan's in NYC.  

I'm pretty sure I've seen pine nuts from Spain sold at WFM. If you're in DC, try Rodman's as well. 

I keep a marshmallow in the brown sugar bag. I know it sounds funny but it works and you get to eat the rest of the bag of marshmallows.

Oh I love that tip!

Much more fun than the piece of bread that's often recommended!

Hi - Bringing a support meal on Friday for a family with young kids, must be gluten free. Any suggestions?

Is this a meal for them to enjoy right away, or stash?

 

If the former, good corn tortillas + fillings + toppings would be easy to package up. (See recipe suggestions below). If the latter, a casserole made with rice or some of the many GF pastas would be an easy thing for them to reheat.

FOR EATING ASAP

Soft Chicken Tacos With Smoked Paprika and Sour Cream

Family Favorite Minestrone (use GF pasta)

 

 

 

Coconut Chicken Fingers

 

FOR STASHING

Meatloaf Muffins (be sure to use oats labeled "pure" or GF)

Carrot Juice Chicken

Dorie Greenspan's Ginger-Basil Turkey Meatball Soup (use GF bread crumbs)

Crispy Chicken Drumsticks

What are your favorite make ahead sauces and condiments that can be used to add flavor to veggies and greens? I am looking for ideas for sauces and condiments that can last at least a week in fridge and which are healthy, seasonal and adaptable to a variety of cuisines. Thanks Ellen

I love combining equal parts mayonnaise and juice from a jar of kimchi (like in this recipe).  It's so simple and delicious and great on greens and veggies.  The creamy mustard dressing from the crab salad is also really versatile.  Both of these can last a while and are really adaptable.  Also never under estimate the power of good pesto!

RECIPE: Crab, Spring Potato + Watercress Salad

A question for Joan Nathan - I have a cookbook on Syrian Jewish cooking which I love (great soup recipes). How much does Jewish cooking differ within a region? In other words, would Jewish cooking in Syria essentially be the same as Jewish cooking in Turkey or Iraq, or are there differences among communities that are relatively close? I realize I may just need to wait to read your book.

Great question.  Syrian Jewish cooking differs from that in Turkey and Iraq.  It is definitely in King Solomon's Table.  Syrian Jewish cooking uses more tamarind in it --- make the Syrian meatballs in my book,  while Iraqi Jewish food has lots of cardamom, allspice, etc. and Turkish includes more pine nuts, baklava, etc.  In many ways they are similar however with stuffed vegetables and the like but nuanced regional differences.  All good and delicious.  

ARTICLE: Who connects Jewish cooking the world over? The whirlwind named Joan Nathan.

I have to recommend, and offer my appreciation, for the Mazzagna Verde recipe. It was the hit of last year's seder! Everyone loved it - the vegetarians, the die-hard carnivores, and even the children who had never willingly eaten spinach before in their lives. I've been making matzoh lasagna for 20 years, typically making one 8x8 inch pan for me and the two other vegetarians, and typically coming home with more than half a pan leftovers. Last year I doubled the Mazzagna Verde recipe and came home with a clean pan. Unfortunately, however, I have earned a (undeserved) reputation as an excellent cook. Two hints: 1. don't be tempted to use frozen spinach; it's actually more work than if you buy triple-washed packaged spinach, and you can REALLY taste the difference; and 2. don't be tempted to skimp on the cheese, even though it seems like a lot.

Thanks for your notes! When you have time, share them in the comments on that recipe in our Recipe Finder? More cooks will have the benefit of your wisdom! 

 

RECIPE Mazzagna Verde

Could I try it with chicken? Or is that just too far off the mark?

I have never tried it with chicken but you absolutely should and tell me about it!   Good luck.  

I was given a jar of wine jelly - grape jelly with enough wine to be quite noticeable. This is the second such jar. We ate the first in the usual way - spread on bread or toast, but weren't really wild about it. I'm thinking of baking a chocolate cake and using the jelly between layers. Any other ideas what to do with it?

Putting it on a chocolate cake sounds divine (and might I suggest my Happy Wife, Happy Life Cake from Small Victories— just substitute the wine jelly for the raspberry jam).  Or try it in my Brownies with Raspberry Jam Swirl.  I bet it would also be great spread on top of chicken pieces or pork chops at the end of broiling for a delicious glaze.

Hi everyone-- could you please recommend a cookbook or two that would be a good gift for a cook just starting out? She has basic experience in the kitchen making simple meals, helping with Thanksgiving, etc., but this will be the first time she's living on her own and responsible for meals every day. I've got The Joy of Cooking on my list but I remember receiving that as a newbie and being overwhelmed by the sheer number of tiny-font recipes, so I'd love to get her a book that won't make meal planning seem so daunting. Thank you!

My first A every time we get this is Q in the chat is "Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks" by Linda Carucci, which was just updated last year. There are easy recipes and ways to think about planning menus, but more importantly there are very readable sections on how to salt foods properly and how to choose fish, etc. -- lessons that can really stick with you. Carucci's a wonderful instructor in person but more of an "industry insider" name, so if you ever have the chance to take a class when she comes through  your friend's area, point her in that direction! 

I don't mean to blow my own horn, but I highly recommend my new book Small Victories— it's VERY beginner-friendly and all about empowering home cooks...each recipe has a 'small victory' which is a tip or technique that makes cooking more approachable and then each recipe is followed by 'spin-offs' which are variations...so the idea is once you know the small victory, you can make this one great thing and you can also make so many other great things...I hope she enjoys it if you select it for her! Feel free to drop me a line with your address and I'd be happy to send you a signed bookplate for her :)

I haven't used it but my kids love Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. 

Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101 is also a good one. In addition to thorough explanations, there are helpful photos and little gems of tips that you can take and apply to all your cooking. 

I highly recommend Joan's Mock Chopped Liver recipe from her *Jewish Cooking in America* cookbook. I treasure that book, and the recipe! I have served the "mock-chop" as I affectionately call it to vegans and non-vegans alike, and all rave. Thank you for your wonderful recipes, Joan!

Good idea!  I forgot about that dish.  I am so focused on my new book that I forgot about all the others!  

The Italian Store in Arlington carries them at least some of the time.

I loved these recipes, and I want to try them, but I have a question... what do you mean by "gently crushing" a soft boiled egg on top? Those two words don't really seem to go together. I picture a "hulk smash" sort of thing, and I don't think that is what you mean.....

Thanks, so glad you like the recipes! You bring up a good point here...love the idea of the hulk smash! By gently crush, my goal is for you to have the egg pushed gently into your toast so that it's not wobbling around on top.  So I essentially mean to do the 'hulk smash' on the without being too aggressive so that you don't end up with egg flying across your kitchen.  You can of course just slice it in half and then press down with a fork.  Hope that helps!

RECIPE: Soft-Boiled Eggs With Yogurt, Lemon + Za'atar

This is a question from a novice cook, but I recently discovered a very easy salmon recipe. I liked it a lot, so I plan to make it more often. But I hate the skin. When I buy salmon at the grocery store, can I ask the butcher to remove it? And would that affect how it cooks? (I roasted it.)

Your fishmonger can definitely take the skin off for you. But I would suggest, as J. Kenji Lopez-Alt does at the Food Lab, to cook your salmon with the skin on. It cooks the fillets more evenly and protects the delicate flesh from the heat of the pan. You can remove the skin after the salmon is cooked. Just place the salmon skin-side down on a cutting board and with a sharp (it must be SHARP!) boning knife, run the blade between the flesh and skin. It should separate easily.

This looks like a great recipe and I'd love to bring it to my parents for our seder, but my mom is not a fan of blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries. Any other fruit alternatives to substitute that could work?

Paula Shoyer's the best one to answer that, and she couldn't join us today. Would you mind sending your q to food@washpost.com, and she'll respond to you directly? (It'd be a shame to deprive your other guests of this dessert! How about some Macaroon Brownies for Mom?)

 

 

RECIPE Passover Blueberry Pie

 

one Sephardic and one Ashkenazi. Learned from both of them. Only problem was avoiding the cigarette ash the Sephardic one occasionally enhanced her food with. We would follow her around the kitchen saying "tap your cigarette, Grandma". Bizcochos, oil cake, Hamans' teeth (a Purim treat soaked in honey)...ah...

Lucky you!  These are the stories that should be written down for future generations...and her recipes.  Can I come over to watch you cook!???

OMG, I love the fact that you had to tell your grandmother to tap her cigarette, lest the ash get into the Shabbat stew.

I'm not Jewish, and have been invited to my first Seder-- I have some idea of all the rules about what not to bring, but is there a nice hostess gift to take along that's still okay to bring into the house? Wine?

My favorite hostess gift in general is a bottle of really great olive oil— every home cook will appreciate it.  And it's totally welcome for Passover!

During Passover there is a great variety of kosher for Passover wines at every store.  Try one from an unusal country.  The same for candy.  Or just coasters or a non food gift is always welcome.  

In reading the recipe, I realized there's no cinnamon or cloves in it, spices that scream linzer to me. I don't remember ever reading that the two spices were forbidden for Passover, but am surprised they are not in the Linzer pie. I presume I can add them, but would love to know if there's a reason they weren't included. Thank you.

If I were you I would just add cinnamon and cloves.  These spices  scream linzer.  This isn't my recipe but I am with you.  I LOVE linzer tortes and it looked gorgeous in the newspaper.

RECIPE: Passover Linzer Tart

Having tried all the alternatives, I really do suggest you give in and find a green papaya. Nothing else has quite the right crunch and (not assertive) flavor. Thai market in Silver Spring always has them, as do the large Asian markets that now dot the landscape.

Thanks. I agree that it's unique, but the OC said he/she couldn't find them in his/her area. Not sure where that is, but sadly, there are indeed parts of the world that aren't near Asian or Latino markets, as I mentioned.

The reader might also try an easy and versatile cabbage "stew": sautee some onions, add the cabbage and some sliced apple (to taste, or leave out altogether), add 1/3 cup any kind of vinegar, cover, lower the flame and let stew for half an hour. The vinegar protects color, so do not use water water or broth instead. You could add a very judicious amount of broth if the cabbage starts to get dry . Season with salt and pepper, allspice, cumin, your preference. Good with a soft poached egg or as a side to any meat (including andouille sausage, italian sausage, even hot dogs). For a vegan option, try with any kind of squash, sweet potato, white potato. Add some wilted spinach or swis chard, and the color contrast will make a striking presentation, besides having great nutritional value.

Well that sounds delightful.

That reminds me of another vegan recipe in my new book that could also be a show stopper.  It is a Cuban sweet and sour  red and white cabbage dish with red pepper.  

I have a cup or two of leftover croissant pieces after making Maggie Austin's brunch cups. I threw them in a Ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. Any ideas what I can do with them?

Maggie Austin's Brunch Cups

RECIPE: Maggie Austin’s Brunch Cups

If it's croissant dough, then fry them and make the most delicious, decadent beignets ever (you don't even need to thaw the dough).  If it's pieces of baked croissants, I would add them to your next bread pudding or blitz them in a food processor and use them wherever you would use breadcrumbs— they'll just be more buttery which is never a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

Those would never have made it into storage in my house. Snack for the cook! :)

The Quinoa With Dried Fruit and Honey-Lime Dressing can easily be adapted for vegans by leaving out the feta cheese (which I tend to do accidentally anyway). Use California, NOT Turkish (Mediterranean) apricots. I tend to make it with a greater proportion of fruit and nuts to quinoa than the recipe calls for (either double the fruit, or half the quinoa, depending on how many servings are required).

I am a *huge* fan of Joan's books (a tripled batch of her three cheese and spinach kugel literally had me elbow-deep in noodles during college). I'm curious if you have thoughts on the "new Jewish" trend that seems to be taking hold in cities around the US. Is it a shame that the old-school delis are closing or should we just be glad that anyone is making Jewish food these days?

I am glad you were cooking in college!  It is fascinating what is going on in America.  On the one hand most delis are dying but a new kind of restaurant is emerging with good deli food sprinkled with international Jewish food.  Take DGS deli and On Rye in DC,  Zahav and Abe Fisher in Philly, 2nd Avenue Deli and Balaboosta in New York, Shaya in New Orleans, several in Portland, and lots in LA and SF.  

I applied in early December and still have not received a replacement blade (and I only got one apologetic e-mail, so OP is ahead of me!). I just use the old blade "mindfully," checking to make sure it's undamaged before I consume the food or continue with the recipe. I mean, it's lasted 20 years with no problems; I expect it will hang on for a few more months.

Seems reasonable to me! Feel free to email me your contact info if you're interested in going on the record.

A friend hand-carried some fabulous hazelnut paste/crema from her visit to the Piemonte and got us all excited so we ordered a bunch. My plan had been to give them away at Christmas - but the box didn't arrive until January and so now I have all of these small jars and am trying to find uses for them. But my efforts to find recipes that make use of such a product have been unsuccessful. Ideas?

How is the consistency? If it's similar to nut butter, I bet it'd be good in Julia's brownies (picturing a Nutella sort of flavor happening!). Or maybe you could thin it out with milk or something...

Brownies With Raspberry Jam Swirl

RECIPE: Brownies With Raspberry Jam Swirl

Great idea Kara! I bet it would be delicious in the brownies, almost like a Nutella effect.  I would also try using it in your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe for a fun spin....or make a hazelnut milkshake with the paste, milk, and vanilla ice cream (or chocolate ice cream)...yum...now I'm craving a treat!

Clearly, you need to join forces with the chatter who has those leftover bits of croissants, and  go to town.

I make wine jelly - red and white - and there is nothing involved but wine, sugar, and pectin. We use it on cheese, to glaze roasted chickens or meat, on cheese sandwiches, on roasted meat/chicken sandwiches.

Joan, so thrilled you're joining the call today. I'm hoping you can help me reconstruct a Passover dish that my grandmother used to make but that's so far been lost to the family. It was a seemingly simple thing she called eggwater soup, and yes, it just appeared to be some combination of hardboiled eggs and water. But try as I might, I just can't quite get it right after numerous attempts. Have you heard of this and do you have any suggestions?

I seem to remember that recipe and perhaps it is in one of my books!  It was just that, an eggwater soup with salt.  This was the first thing many Polish and perhaps other Eastern Europeans would eat at the Passover seder.  We had that at ours until I discovered a spinach recipe with long cooked creamy eggs from Korfu.  Yummy.  It is in King Solomon's Table

My mother served it (cold) at our Seders every year, before the gefilte fish course. I think the key might be to break up a few hard-cooked yolks -- enough to turn the water opaque. The eggs were sliced like coins, sort of. 

Although I would not expect ground mace to last, I've got whole nutmeg which has been in the spice rack for decades! And it's still good. In the past I used it very sparingly (it used to cause a severe reaction) but have used some recently and it's fine.

Yeah, spices last a LOT longer when they're whole, and none as long as nutmeg. Decades, though! Wow!

Thank you, thank you for talking about this wonderful kitchen implement. Needed to replace a fleixble spatula and this was the perfect replacement! We may have bought 3...

Love it! We managed to use all three of ours yesterday over various cooking projects.

spoon spatula

ARTICLE: The two-in-one kitchen tool that has found its way into my kitchen — three times

I make mine in the slow cooker! I recommend all of Beth Hensperger's "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker" books.

That method would mirror the recent thinking on risotto: You don't have to slave over a hot stove and add the broth one ladle-ful at a time!

My mini procesor blade is broken in five places. I have called them but they say they are not replacing those, I have to buy a new one myself. I am not happy at the answer. Matilde

I wouldn't be happy either.

easiest is really a nice arrangement of spring flowers. It is easier to keep away from food since, depending on the strictness of the household, they can't eat it unless it is sealed and marked as OK for Passover. That being said, when I was a kid I thought that Jordan almonds (almonds covered with a thick layer of sugar) were supposed to represent eternal life because they could survive a nuclear apocalypse. Pretty sure that an adult made that assessment - it was the 80s. But check if you bring nuts. Peanuts are legumes and some houses can't have them. Plus Jordan Almonds might have corn starch too.

Flowers are a great gift but either come really early so the hostess can put them or, with so much going on, send them over earlier.  

I bit the bullet and made tri colored quinoa for my family (2 cups) and now I have plenty of quinoa but no takers. I served it with beans in a tomato sauce and sauteed zucchini but they just couldn't get into it. I think I didn't give it any flavor. Any suggestions for flavoring it? I wonder if tomato sauce or pesto might be a nice add in.

They won't even recognize it as such if you make these Crispy Quinoa Cakes. I love 'em.

 

My absolute favorite use for these matchstick carrots is carrot kinpura. Toss those carrots around a skillet with oil, soy sauce, and mirin. Add red pepper and sesame seeds. Done and done, and the leftovers are amazing room temperature in lunches or with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Sounds great, thanks.

We have a recipe for Kinpira -- this version uses parsnip, but you could adjust. Good stuff.

RECIPE: Stir-Fried Parsnip and Carrot (Kinpira)

We're having some non-Indian friends over and I thought I would try to make an American vegetable dish for them. What would you recommend please?

What kind of vegetables do you like to serve?

Some friends are going to London and are willing to get me a kilo of golden caster sugar. We don't have that here, and there's no equivalent. Are they going to get stopped because they have a sealed and labeled kilo of finely granulated white stuff? They will leave it in the original packaging.

According to this TripAdvisor board conversation, you should be okay. Customs may make you take a sample of it to confirm it's only sugar.

The texture is a little more runny than peanut butter. And I was hoping to get suggestions for a dessert I can make for a dinner party that really features the hazelnut flavor. I suppose I could do a mascapone/nut paste "pudding" (sort of like the "nutella di cappuccino" desert that used to be on the menu at Dino) but that seems so rich.

I think if you use it mixed into a sweet cream ice cream or gelato base, it would really shine. Or maybe folded into a pastry cream or whipped cream as a filling for cream puffs?

The market prices for previously frozen fish are of course lower than freash fish but my husband says he can tell the difference. He says the frozen fish is either mushy or mealy. Are there any kinds of fish that you think don't have a change in texture after being frozen? Not counting shrimp - I know the answer is go frozen unless you live next to a shrimp boat...

I live in the middle of nowhere so I don't always have access to great fresh fish and do rely quite a bit on frozen.  When I cook it, I try not to fight its texture and just embrace it...frozen fish, in my experience, will never be quite as flaky and wonderful as fresh.  So I don't try to pretend it will be.  Once of my favorite ways to prepare things like frozen tuna and salmon is to thaw it and then season it aggresively and sear it in a hot pan and then tuck it into a pot of spicy tomato sauce to finish cooking in that.  They big flavors help compensate and poaching it in the sauce helps its texture be an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

We used to speculate that the ash that must have been in the food is why her version of everything (chopped liver to tollhouse cookies) tasted better than anyone else's version. I never really saw it, but she didn't smoke quite as much in front of the grandkids as she did when she was younger. I still remember turning the hand crank for chopped liver. I especially liked watching the eggs get pulled in. And I think there were a few Ritz crackers in it too.

She sounds like quite a character.  What country was she from? 

The Sephardic grandmother lived to be 103, despite smoking for about 60 of those years. Her non-cynical sister also did, which means 95 years of active sibling rivalry. Non-cynical one was a slightly better cook not that ANYBODY would ever say that to either of them.

Here's hoping things are no stricter or stranger now.

The worst that could happen, I think, is that they take it away from you. I mean, one taste and they'll realize it's sugar!

As a Catholic kid growing up on Long Island, I had the pleasure to be exposed to so many wonderful Jewish traditions (both religious and cultural). When I was in first or second grade, some parents (they were all mothers, such were the times ), came in around Hannukah, told us about the holiday, made latkes (using an electric frying pan and serving them on paper plates), and taught us a few songs. I am very grateful for how those people shared their beliefs with us (and how cooking and culture are so intertwined). I still enjoy eating latkes and learning more about Jewish cooking and custom. While I have had fancier latkes, none of them are really as delicious as the ones that those Moms made for us back in the 1970s.

What a nice story.   J

any herb(s) or spice suggested to enhance asparagus?

I like to roast spears with a little oil, salt, pepper and whatever other spice I reach for first in my cabinet. Sometimes it's cumin, sometimes it's a Moroccan blend, sometimes it's togarashi. Really, the world is your oyster!

Any ideas for a hot cabbage side dish without meat?

I just gave one from Cuba from my new book, King Solomon's Table.  It is very easy.  You can either take one or two colors of cabbage,  cook them down separately with sauteed onions, a sweet red pepper, a little garlic and cook separately until golden.  Then combine the two colored caggages, with wine vneegar, brown sugar, and a little tomato sauce.  Delish 

Well, you've stirred us gently to incorporate, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and many thanks to Joan Nathan, Julia Turshen and Carrie Allan for the a's!

Now for the giveaway books: The first chatter who wrote in about the smoking grandma will get a SIGNED copy of Joan's "King Solomon's Table." The one who asked about fresh vs. frozen fish will get "Everyday Seafood" by Nathan Outlaw. Send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your book.

Until next time, happy cooking, reading and eating!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Julia Turshen
Julia Turshen is the author of "Small Victories," (Chronicle Books, 2016).
Joan Nathan
Joan Nathan is the author of 11 cookbooks. Her latest, "King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World," (Knopf) comes out April 4.
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