Free Range on Food

Apr 27, 2011

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. Today's topics: bread making (with Steve Luxenberg), barbecue, and anything else edible.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! We've got celebs on the brain today, thanks to Tim and Bonnie's funny charticle eval of five recent cookbooks by Gwynnie, Eva, Alicia (should the subtitle have been "The Clueless Cookbook"?), Teresa (oy), and Sheryl. Wanna weigh in on any of those, or ask us anything about them?

We'll have Steve Luxenberg in the room to talk about his knead-with-the-machine breabaking exploits, and Jim Shahin to give any details you may want on 'cue and on the first Smoke Signals Barbecue Sauce Contest. (Have you entered yet? Amazing prizes await.)

We'll also have some backup in the form of Stephanie "Nourish" Sedgwick, who is always good for some off-the-cuff recipe ideas, and you never know if Jason "Boozehound" Wilson may show up.

Let's do this thing!

Can you help me out with the ultimate recipe for breakfast scones to celebrate the royal wedding with? Thanks!

You bet.  Jane Touzalin provides maximum sconeage in her Chat Leftovers blogpost today on All We Can Eat -- including an archive recipe from official Friend of Food Lisa Yockelson that allows you to make the dough the night before. We've got an early wakeup call ahead of us for wedding watching.

Love Bob's Mill! My toddler eats nothing but bananas and bread products, so I've been trying to get healthy stuff into the bread and muffins. I have a bag of flax seed meal that I've used for banana peanut butter bread -- any other suggestions for how to use it? Thanks!

I throw a tablespoon of flax seed into pancakes, which I make with a couple of tablespoons of yogurt. Our little ones (no longer little) loved those.

I throw em into smoothies, and a little into oatmeal.

Greetings. I bought a big bag of organic lemons that I'm mostly using for juice -- but I'd like to save the zest for later. What's the best way to do this? Right now, I've simply placed the squeezed-out lemons back in the refrigerator. Thanks!

Zesting spent lemon halves is a bit of a tough assignment! Next time, you may want to zest first, then squeeze for juice. Anyway, the zest freezes just fine. I usually zest right over a piece of plastic wrap; if I'm being very, very Martha, I'll wrap it up in tablespoon-size increments and place those little bundles in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag.

I'm making homemade mini quiches this weekend for a brunch. Do you think I should bake the crust before the custard, or is that only for pies?

I would bake them first. The quiche battercooks quickly in small cups. If you don't prebake, the crust won't get done. Good luck.

Hi. A bunch of my friends get together every month or so for dinner. We each are randomly assigned a course and that course has to include the "secret ingredient." In the past we've done things like pistachio or nutmeg. But this month it's my turn to pick the special ingredient and I wonder if you have any good suggestions. Thanks!

How adventurous do you want to get? Will your friends hate you if you toss out, say, beef tongue? Uni?

OK, maybe that's not so nice, right? But you want to push them a little bit, don't you? How bout hibiscus? Not so crazy, but a lot of people wouldn't have worked with it...

I got my copy of the Southern Biscuits book I won in last week's chat--thanks! I wanted to say the book looks amazing. The photography is beautiful with nice step by step photo guides that reminded me of Williams Sonoma cookbooks. The recipes look great too, with a biscuit for every occasion and even a full biscuit-based dessert section. There are main courses too, including a biscuit/sausage/apple casserole that will be on our menu soon. It's definitely worth picking up a copy.

Thanks for that update, winner! I happened to be in Charleston last week and saw Nathalie. She's the best. The book's already in its second printing.


Rustic European Breads is far from my favorite bread machine book, as it can be eccentric and unreliable. But there is one glorious, perfect recipe in it: the chocolate bread is outstanding. Great chocolate taste and texture; easy toshape and bake. Don't miss it.

Chocolate makes almost anything taste great, unless you're not a chocolate lover, as I am. I haven't had any reliabilty issues with Rustic European Breads -- my problems seem mostly of my own making!

We're shortly moving out of a very miserable apartment, and are hoping to do a little oven repair before we leave. I was baking some bread and accidentally poured some water on the inside of the oven door (trying to make steam for the bread). The inside window on the door cracked and is in a lot of pieces that are still partially attached to the door but not to each other anymore. Is there anyway to easily replace this or repair it, even cosmetically? It still works fine for baking, but our greedy landlord is looking for any excuse to take security deposit so we don't want to give him an actual reason to charge us. Any advice on a fix would be much appreciated!

My colleague Jura Koncius (Local Living; nee Home section) says it sounds like a fatal injury to her, and not something a handyman can do.  She suggests contacting the manufacturer to see whether the company can send you a new door. (Well, then maybe the handyman CAN attach the new one.)

In today's bread recipe. Not sure what this - vital wheat gluten? High-protein flour? Please specify as after 15 years of breadmaking I've never come across that ingredient.

Vital wheat gluten flour is available at Safeway (at least, mine has it) and other stores. It helps promote the rise in a whole-wheat bread. It's not necessary -- most recipes do without it, especially those that use bread flour, which has a higher gluten content.

Of course, I'm lucky enough not to have a problem with  gluten, as some do, so I've never tried a gluten-free recipe. I think I should!

Last year, we had a disasterous attempt at making gnocchi - it was dense and tough. I think we didn't get enough moisture out of the potatoes before we milled them. I have a bunch of sweet potatoes and would like to try again. Any tips? I read somewhere that baking the potatoes rather than boiling them helps?

The bad news: I think you're going to have a really hard time with sweet potatoes. They're naturally higher in moisture and much more sensitive when drying than white potatoes.


Good news: They make great ravioli filling for exactly the same reason they are difficult to turn into gnocchi. You don't need to add much to them. You can mix with some ricotta, chopped sage, even sauteed apple. Sounds like you're up for making fresh pasta but if not, store-bought lasagne sheets or even dumpling skins work.

Make it seasonal. Something you can only get in April/May.

Like ramps, maybe, or green garlic. I love me some GG.

Is the rosemary fresh or dried? I have dried on hand ...

Glad you liked the recipe. In this one I've called for fresh tarragon. It has a sweet flavor that really compliments the turkey. You can buy it most supermarkets. If not, add dried tarragon to the vinegar and let it rehydrate before adding to the salad.

I enjoy making my own pitas rather than buying them from the store. Currently I use the dough from Peter Reinhart's Lavash Cracker recipe in Bread Bakers Apprentice and a technique I found in a comment string on the King Arthur website. I roll balls of the dough out into pita sized rounds and put them directly on the rack in a 450 degree F oven until they puff up, then stick them in a plastic bag to sweat and get soft, then let them cool. They come out fine except the air pocket is never centered. One side is always paper thin and the other thick, so the pocket won't hold any food. This seems to happen no matter how thick or thin I roll the pitas. Any ideas where I might be going wrong?

Wow, this is beyond my expertise. Any other Free Rangers have a suggestion?

Do you really only have one response or am I missing something? It's almost 12:15 with just one answer/question? Hope my computer is working.

Must be your computer -- we've got 13 responses and counting. And you're in the right place cause you got a q to us. But this is a moot response because if you see only one q and one a, then you won't see this!

Submitting early...on several occasions you or readers have suggested adding club soda to pancake batter. Does it have to be real club soda, or will seltzer water have the same effect? And how do you adjust the amount of milk or buttermilk accordingly? (I'm not using a mix.) Thanks...eager to try this but need a little more guidance.

Hmm, I see from a quick tour of Web recipes that the total amount of liquid is more buttermilk than club soda, like this one. Honestly, I use club soda for matzoh balls but not for pancakes. Chatters, how about you?

Rhubarb! Extra points for savory preparations!

Love it.

I've got a bread baking question. I've got a recipe for a white bread sandwich loaf but the top crust is always hard. Is there any way to ensure that the top crust is softer so I can bite through it easily?

Have you tried to brush the shaped dough with milk before you put it in the oven? That's something that has worked for me.

For Passover last week I made a sponge cake using my Bubbe's recipe. She had written at the bottom, in capital letters, "DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR BECAUSE IT'S NOT GOOD FOR THE CAKE." Indeed, as a child, I remember her and my mother hissing, "Ssh! The cake's in the oven." Anyway, after I finished and closed the oven door, the phone rang, a truck sped past outside, a jet flew overhead, and our neighbor started trimming his hedge. The cake turned out fine, but is there a science behind the slumbering cake?

This same superstition abounds about souffles, which makes sense because her recipe was probably a variation of a souffle. Yes, you can possibly cause the cake to fall by slamming the oven door. Likelihood of you slamming the door: minuscule. Go easy on Grandma, clearly she was a worrier!

Love the recipe, but I have seasoned rice vinegar (sweetened) and wonder if there's an adjustment that will let me use it. Thank you.

Moo Shu Vegetables, today's Dinner in Minutes. You have my permission! It's a flavor thing, mostly. If you like the taste of the vinegar you've got, use it.

I got a 6.5 lb frozen turkey the other day at the grocery store, and honesly I'm not sure what to do with it. I don't want to make a heavy thanksgiving-style feast with it, and I'm also unsure about how long to cook it since it's not a full-sized bird. Also- do all turkeys need to be stuffed while cooked? I'm thinking of just roasting it and then using it for salads, sandwiches, etc., but I'd really love other ideas. Maybe BBQ turkey??

Well, that's just a big roaster, isn't it? Treat it as you would a chicken in the oven. You certainly don't need to stuff anything inside the cavity of your bird (in fact, food safety worriers wring their hands when this is done, with some justification). But I like to throw a lemon and some sprigs of fresh herbs in there, as well as a good salt/peppering. Also, use a trick we learned from Jacques Pepin: Use a sharp knife to make a shallow slit in the inside joint between the drumstick and thigh, to get those spots evenly done.

If you're slow-roasting at 325 degrees, it should take in the neighborhood of 2 1/2 hours. Or you may want to spatchcock that bird; it would cook more quickly and it's just fun to do. When Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin comes aboard, maybe he can offer bbq thoughts....


Smoke Signals is now aboard and he is here to say that he loves barbecued turkey. There are lots of ways to do it, but, me, I like it simple. Brine it (or not), then start an indirect fire (fire on one side of your grill, meat on the other), add some wood chunks to the fire (for turkey, I like pecan, but any mild hardwood will work), then butter the turkey inside and out, season with spices and/or herbs you like (salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage, maybe a little cayenne), put the turkey on the grill away from the fire, close the lid and let smoke for about 3-4 hours. Depends on your grill. A Weber will cook it more quickly than, say, an offset smoker, because of the proximity of the meat to the fire. 

Make sure to check your fire from time to time, adding coals as needed. Use about four wood chunks or a cup of wood chips, soaked for an hour beforehand. Add about two more chunks or a half-cup (also pre-soaked) roughly two hours into the cooking. 

The turkey will be great for sandwiches and dinners. 

Very long story, but I somehow wound up with a bottle of "almond flavored" sparkling wine. Don't get me wrong -- I love all kinds of bubbly from cava to champagne, but I really don't have any interest in popping the cork to taste this. Any chance you guys have an idea of how to use it in cooking or baking? Or maybe some large quantity mixed drink that would use the bubbles to its advantage while masking the almond flavoring? Any ideas would be much appreciated -- thanks!

I'd do what I do with any lesser-quality wine (or leftover wine): Boil it down into syrup, which you can then use on desserts. Recipe here for mulled red wine syrup, but you could instead use the same proportion of wine to sugar but leave out the spices I called for until you taste this stuff and then decide what might go with it. Maybe nothing, frankly.

Three things: Where can I find Greek Seasoning in NoVA? Or alternatively, do you think a citrus-y herb mix would be a suitable replacement in most cases? And while we're on the subject of spices, is there any kind of spice bulk food store around? Thanks!!

Penzey's in Falls Church is your place. They have a wonderful Greek Seasoning mix that I rub on pork before I grill it.

I saw the celebrity cookbook comparisons today, but the unanswered question is: Were any of them worth buying?

Hate to use the standard, but that Depends. Overall, I found that the books offered basic recipes are a lot like others you've seen. But if  you're a fan of any of those particular stars, you might want to collect their books.  If you're looking for a different source of healthful recipes, you  might like the Sheryl Crow book. Gwyneth's book as a certain vibe and is lovely to look at. Eva's book has fewer Mexican/ethnic recipes than you might expect. Do you want to make meatloaf the way she does (which, btw, is a fairly standard recipe)? Then you know what to do.

 I'm a cookbook hound. I buy them even though I get to see them at work (yes, what a great job this is). I won't be buying any of these -- but that's just me.

Hi Rangers! I missed last week's chat, but noticed in the transcript someone's question about crispy Brussels sprouts. I'm not familiar with Zaytinya's sprouts, so maybe this isn't the same thing, but my sprout method results in a really lovely crisp, so I thought I'd share. Actually it's not MINE; believe it or not, I got this recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow (not personally, but through her ridiculous online newsletter), but it is seriously delicious; I'd never touched Brussels sprouts and now this is one of my favorite sides. OK, anyway. So first you steam the sprouts whole, maybe 7-8 minutes, or until they're mostly tender. Let them cool a bit so you can handle them, then cut them in half. Heat olive oil in a skillet and place the sprouts cut-side down in the oil, and let them cook -- don't touch them! -- for a few minutes until they brown. Then flip them and do the same on the rounded side. Remove them to a platter and garnish them GENEROUSLY with salt and lemon juice. Crispy, salty, tart goodness.

Thanks! Makes some sense to pre-cook them. I'd be tempted to play with the broiler instead of the skillet, too, after pre-steaming. Hmm...

Any suggestions for some healthy, after work snacks? When I get home, it is usually another 2 hours to dinner. I gravitate toward cheese and crackers, but realize this isn't the healthiest option....

Fruit, especially fruit that's already cut up. You'd be surprised how much better those strawberries look when they're all quartered or sliced in bowl.

Wow, what a great idea! Do you have to prepare the barbeque sauce for judges at the contest and, if so, where and when? Thanks.

Here are the rules for your reading pleasure! We're just looking for the recipe, not the actual sauce. We'll test.

Oh, and email us the recipe at with "SAUCE CONTEST" in the subject hed. Deadline: May 1. 

Hi Rangers. I'm sure you've talked about it in past chats but where can I find some pimenton spice in the area? I wanna experiment with my rubs and sauces for the upcoming grill season.

I'd like to know the answer to that question, too. I went to Penzey's and all they carried was smoked paprika (a weak substitute for the real thing). So, I order mine online at If there is a store around that carries it, I'd love to know. Rangers?

I find Spanish pimenton at the Whole Foods Market on P Street.

Thanks for the bread info! I like the article on Bob's Red mill (although I admit I got caught up on King Arthur's Flour blog, so they're my main flour provider now). I really love making my own sandwich loaves, but also am pretty busy and don't like spending much time on it. I purchased a cheap, old bread machine off craigslist in December and since then have been making a 100% whole wheat loaf every Sunday, which lasts me through the week. Two questions. First, does the type of bread machine really matter? Mine was cheap, but it seems to work, although the loaves are pretty short. Would a more expensive or nicer bread machine really make a difference? Second, can you offer advise on making a lighter 100% whole wheat loaf in the bread machine? My current recipe calls for 100% whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat), honey, water, butter, dry milk powder, salt, and yeast. I'm trying to keep the recipe 100% whole wheat and using natural or organic ingredients. Thanks!

Two-part question, so let's take them one at a time, in reverse order:


  • A lighter loaf: Have you tried using "white whole wheat flour"? It's available from King Arthur, and perhaps other manufacturers. It's lighter, and I notice a difference in the bread. I like 100 percent whole wheat breads, but when I make one, light isn't the adjective I would use to describe it.
  • If you're using the bread machine for kneading and not baking, I don't think an expensive one is necessary. You're not after bells and whistles as much as a sturdy mixer. If you're using the bread machine for the entire process, there might be features that you want that cost a bit more. I read reviews of the various models (there aren't that many), and I came away believing this is not a consumer purchase that needs to be expensive.

Hi - I have several recipes that ask for a 10 oz box of frozen spinach. I hate to use it because the draining it is such a pain. I would prefer to use fresh - but I can't get a straight answer on how much fresh spinach to substitute for a 10 oz box - especially since I squeeze so much water out of it. Also - would I need to cook the fresh spinach first? thanks!!

A 10-box of frozen chopped spinach equals a very generous 1 1/2 cups, and I think 10 ounces of fresh spinach yields about 1 1/4 cups cooked. Not sure what your recipe calls for, in terms of whether or not you need to cook it first. If the spinach is going straight into a casserole, probably cooking first would be a good idea. If you're stirring the spinach into a soup or stew, I don't think you'd need to.

Scones are not morning breakfast food, but late afternoon tea food.

Aw, c'mon now! I want to say to you what I would say to a particularly heavy batch of scones: Lighten up! And I say that in a caring, loving way.

I may or may not have purchased almond sparkling wine yesterday and added chocolate gelato to it for dessert. If I did, it tasted pretty darned good as a dessert.

And it tasted so good it affected your memory! Or maybe that was the alcohol level... ;-)

A family friend whose mother made him be very quiet while she was making popovers believes it was less for the popovers than for her own sanity. The food was merely an excuse to keep the kids quiet for a while, which they would do for the anticipated treat!

A variation on the time-honored "quiet game." Let's play, everyone!

I am in desperate need of some new ideas for easy lunches to pack for work. I've been doing the soup, salad, sandwich thing for a while and I just need something new and vegetarian to rock me out of my Monday blues. As easy as possible too, please!

Next Wednesday, I have a recipe in the Nourish column for Lemon Couscous with Tomato and Asparagus. I'd eat that for lunch, in fact I have.

I made some Kalamata olive bread a few weeks ago, and had a bit of trouble when adding the olives. I added a little bit of flour ahead of time so they wouldn't clump together too much, but they ended up doing that anyway, and smushing together. I ended up just forcing them into the bread by folding it, which was time consuming. Is there a better way to do this?

Did you add the olives after kneading the dough and letting it rise? I couldn't tell from your description. I haven't made olive bread, but from what I've read, the olives need to be dry when you start, otherwise the olive juice will spread and darken the bread. if you're not using a bread machine, I think you can add them, dried and chopped olives, a bit at a time as you knead.  If using a bread machine, you can add midway through the kneading, about 10 minutes into the dough cycle. Here's a link to one discussion about the challenge.

You can also put flax seed in cookies. I think it's used as an egg replacement in Isa's vegan cookies book. The treats were so delicious, my coworkers had no idea they were vegan! One hint: never try eat flax straight up--it tastes like grass. :)

It's possible that because it's on the rack directly, there's uneven heat so only one area is puffing up. Maybe try using a baking sheet. Alternatively, try making sure when you roll it out, you roll it evenly. You might be pushing air towards one side if you roll over it repeatedly.

I agree that zesting first is the preferred method. But if you're left with spent lemon halves, I'd suggest cutting off the zest in sections with a sharp paring, chopping them finely, then zapping them in the food processor to attain the necessary fineness, before freezing. When my aunt in California was still alive, she'd give me a whole grocery bag of Meyer lemons from her backyard tree to bring back East with me, more than any reasonable human could possibly use fresh before they'd spoil, so I'd squeeze them first -- freezing the juice in ice cube trays, then placing the cubes in freezer bags -- then doing the zest.

That's a good idea, although I'd add a note about trying to exclude/leave off as much pith as possible.

Lucky you, an aunt with a Meyer lemon tree.  I mourn the loss of my source in Fla.  I got a batch 2 times a year. Byproduct of a relative's divorce. Lemons did not convey :(

Ok - I asked for "breakfast scones" but I won't be serving them until noon, Central European Daylight Time. Still not afternoon tea, but close enough, isn't it?

Yes! It's afternoon somewhere!

Would you please post a link to a list of past follow-up columns to the "Free Range" chats? I'm still trying to get used to the new Post website. Thanks.

You mean Jane Touzalin's "Chat Leftovers" posts on the blog? Here you go. The last few (since we switched systems).

For Jim Shahin - when some recipes call for hot sauce, I find sometimes those marked "hot" are not while some marked "hot" are blistering. Is there a way to tell the difference before buying a cupboard full of unusable sauces???

Yeah, buy 'em and try 'em. I have found the same problem. If, that is, it's a problem. I have an entire shelf in my refrigerator door dedicated to different hot sauces. I have a spice shelf reserved for unopened ones. They're cheap enough that I like to experiment, see which ones I like. Some I find I especially like with eggs, others I prefer with tacos, still others with vegetable dishes. Me, I find that Caribbean sauces, often habanero and fruit, tend to be less hot than you might expect and are very flavorful. I tend to stay away from the ones that all but dare me to try them, the CRAZY and the HELLISH stuff. I love very, very hot sauces and foods, but I find that the "dare ya" sauces tend to be more macho contests for the palate than anything else.

Loved this article! A lot of the recipes I use tend to be dry (or it's my kitchen; who knows), so I've been adding a TBS of water here and there... time to take it to the next level, clearly!

Thanks! If your kitchen is dry, I'd like to visit -- in these parts, humidity tends to be our problem! How much water (or flour) you add is not the critical point -- it's the consistency of the dough. If you need more than a tablespoon, that's okay. (When I find that I'm consistently adding water for a particularly recipe, I revise the recipe, making a note on it so I remember).


A reader, Jeff Krauss, sent me an email about his bread-making experience, and included a recipe that he likes. I've pasted his email below. Remember, his recipe hasn't been tested in Post kitchens, so panem emptor! (Jeff, I trust you, but I had to add that.)

Hi Steve,

I've been baking bread using your general approach for the past fifteen years, but with some significant differences.


In the oven, I use a rack that I made out of a sheet of perforated aluminum that I bought at Home Depot and bent to shape.


My dough recipe is much simpler than yours:

3 cups of flour total (I use general purpose unbleached baking flour,

not any gluten or high-gluten flour)

add seeds, nuts, etc.

half tbsp general purpose baking yeast

half tbsp salt

half tbsp sugar

one whole egg

about 7/8 cup of water, more or less


I let the dough do a first rise in the bread machine, then take it out and put it into a bowl for an hour for a second rise.

Then I shape the loaf and let it rise for about 15 minutes, then turn on the oven to preheat.


I don't use a baking stone, just pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees and then turn it down to 375 when I put the loaf in.

Bake for 37-40 minutes


And when shaping the loaf, I use Pam spray rather than flour on the board.


My nephew created a great dish, we tested it on the family at Easter brunch and now I'd like to submit it to a recipe contest. He's SUCH a genius, lol!

The Pillsbury bake-off has a kids section:

I've watched the kids-it's charming and reassuring!

My son had to read this for school. We got it from the library. I'd ordered one, which I cancelled after the library copy. WE MADE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FROM THIS COOKBOOK. It was not only a waste of paper and resources but also a gigantic waste of time to read it .

For a child interested in vegetarian cooking, I'd check out almost anything by Mollie Katzen or Deborah Madison, both stars in their field of knowledge!

Don't get me started on it. Some of the writing and arguments are positively juvenile, and not in a good way. She starts an egg rant with "Eggs are weird." Totally ignores culture and history. I have respect for people who advocate a vegan diet, but I want more intellectual rigor than this.

Vital Wheat Gluten, what Steve in his whole meal bread recipe called "Gluten Flour" is great for making whole wheat bread lighter. If you really want to get into whole wheat in all its glory I recommend Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread Baking. Unfortunately almost all of his recipes require multiple days to complete, but he goes into extensive detail on little issues such as how enzymes impact the rise of whole grains.

Another chatter had asked about how to make a lighter whole-wheat bread, and I mentioned "white whole-wheat flour." I'm not familiar with Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Bread Baking," but it might be of some help on the lightness score.

Thanks for that link! I hadn't known you answered my honey question on the blog! I need to bookmark that page ...


I love getting garlic greens and scapes at the farm market. Aside from pesto for pizza, what can I do with them? (The pizza's great, I just want options!)

Try my old friend the stir-fry. Garlic scapes are amazing quickly cooked in hot pan.

I'd be tempted to spread the dough out after its first rise, after you punch it down, then scatter the olives. Roll it up and shape it for its second rise. It would be prettily distributed then.

Depending on where the poster lives, P&C Market (a fabulous gourmet store converted from a standard convenience corner store) on Lincoln Park on the Hill carries it.

use it to poach pears then drizzle them with chocolate

Hate the publishers for thinking anyone would want the recipes of stick figures like Gywnnie ...

I made the Passover Key Lime Pie on Sunday for the last days and it came out great. Thanks for the recipe. (I'll be blogging about it later this week; I'll be sure to @ you on Twitter)

Loved that nut crust.

Thank you for the article about Bob and his grains. My sister is gluten intolerant and the availability of his products has made family celebrations so much easier. Anyone of us across the Midwest and East Coast can pick up a bag or three and ensure everyone can enjoy.

So, this question is probably going to shock and appall, but...I'm looking for a good homemade BBQ sauce recipe for (gasp!) tofu. I'm a vegetarian and since BBQ season is gearing up and I don't want to feel left out, I wanted to come armed to the season with a good recipe. Thanks!

I favor the big-tent theory of bbq. You want to wood-smoke tofu (and that, in the end, is what bbqing is, wood-smoke), I am not appalled. I'm ecstatic. 

But, uh, the thing is, I have never tried it. I might sugest a couple of things. First, go lightly with the wood-smoke, as it could easily overwhelm the tofu. Second, as for sauce, hmmmm... tofu is so adaptable, it can take almost anything you can concoct. I don't have a good recipe for tofu bbq sauce. But Vegetarian Times has one that might work:

If you try it, let us know how you like it. (I love the grill marks on the tofu in the Veg Times pic, btw.)

Help! I'm a high school student trying to research WHEN the concept of culinary arts began, and WHY it's considered an art. Can anyone help direct me to sources?

Hello there, enterprising student. Have the names Auguste Escoffier and Brillat-Savarin come up in your quest so far? In addition to those avenues, you may want to contact a culinary institute such as the Culinary Institute of America, and, locally, the Culinary Historians of Washington.

so, celebrities are suddenly experts in the kitchen too, huh? i mean, my grandma made a mean chicken curry, but i'm not rushing out to write a cookbook "inspired" by it :) that being said, were any of the recipes tested out from these cookbooks by the Free Rangers? are they any good? the one that looks most appealing to me, sadly, is the chocolate salami :):)

We tested at least one recipe from each book; the ones we've included today were all pretty good. Aunt Didi's Carne GuisadaBrussels Sprouts Saute, Fried Udon Noodles,  that salami, Savory Rice Bowl.

Good Afternoon, I've been trying to find a good resource for locating local food co-op's, particularly some place I can buy free range/organic chicken and pork. I've not had much luck. Could you point me in the right direction? I live in Fairfax county.

Go to one of the Fairfax farmers markets, which start next week. I see vendors listed who sell pork, beef and goat, but not chicken, but it's a good start!


Is that title a joke? Sounds like Jon Stewart or (RIP) SPY magazine.

Unfortunate, isn't it? And her book might be the best of the bunch...

I cut up a giant pile of carrots and celery sticks each Sunday and snack on them the rest of the week. If you need a bit of protein a handful of nuts or some peanut butter with toast/crackers is a good fix.

Make lemon squares. Or gremolada - chopped parsley,/garlic/lemon zest garnish for osso buco, grilled shellfish/fish, asparagus soup ...

I have much more luck with "popping" my pita cooking them on a griddle pan over a burner of a gas stove. Once they're mostly done cooking, I slip it directly from the pan on to the burner for a few seconds, adn pop goes the pita. This method takes more time and involves flipping the pita midway through, but they pop perfectly nearly every time.

We have the best chatters!

Doesn't she have a song titled "If it Makes You Happy"? I thought this book title is simply a play on her song title.

Yes, we get it! We just don't think it works. Cheesy, no? But if you like it, you may be a winner!

I think it has to do with the fact that we have electric heat and I usually bake bread in the winter :)

I feel drier in electric heat, so I suspect the dough does, too!

Wow, great idea. Do you have to prepare the sauce before judges and, if so, when and where?

Rules, people! Read the rules! We want recipes, not finished sauces.

He loves making pork ribs on either charcoal or the gas grill, but he always overcooks them. He says that he likes the char, but I find them tough and chewy ( mostly from the somewhat burnt outside layer). I've heard that you should watch the ends of the ribs and to pull the ribs when about a quarter of an inch of bone shows. Is this the best method or is there some other simple way to enjoy the fruits of his grilling?

Oh, jeez! The when-are-they-done ribs conundrum. Okay, so one basic technique is the 3-2-1 method, which is: three hours indirect cooking, 2 hours wrapped in foil (indirect), then one hour out of foil, also indirect. What you can do, if he likes char and you don't, is, at the end, slice the ribs in half and grill one of the halves over a direct fire on both sides for a few minutes. 

As for the watch-the-ends advice, yes, a lot of ribs snobs will comment on meat that is too far up the bone (a sign of cooking too fast or too long). Me, I just don't make that big of a deal out of it if they taste good - and sometimes, although the ribs may not be picture-perfect, they taste great.

One final thing. Ribs should not be tough and chewy, but neither should they fall off the bone. There should be a little tug for the teeth. So, if he is getting a little of that lovely pull, he's doing all right. 

I make a mix of trail mixes that works for me. A mix of nuts (for protein) and dried fruits (including blueberries for antioxidants) works pretty well for an after work snack. It's filling and healthy. I mix it up in a 1 quart container. If you want portion control, just put a 1/2 cup scoop next to it and just scoop out 1/2 a cup. That's a good portion for balance.

If you buy a sauce that isn't hot enough, you can always tweak up the heat by adding a little hot sauce of your choice to it. If it's too hot, then try playing a little jazz and mixing it up together with another sauce you bought that you thought wasn't hot enough. May not come out any good, or you may come out with a winner - either way it's better than having a bunch of "unusable sauces" in the cupboard.

Got any good tofu recipes? I'm the only tofu eater in my house, so I'm hoping for something I can make using a whole block of tofu that will then keep for a few days in the fridge to augment meals throughout the week.

I came up with this tofu  last month after cooking with a japanese friend who showed me all sorts of ways to use tofu.:

The interesting fact I picked up is that she thinks of tofu as another thing to add to a dish, say the way I might add broccoli to a pasta or chopped ham to potato salad and less of a starring ingredient.

loved your article on Bob Moore, what an inspiration. i love using whole grain flours to make pancakes, usually I do a mix of whole wheat and spelt flours. they're good, but i feel like they need some "oomph". any suggestions on a great whole grain pancake recipe? i usually make up a big batch and throw them in the freezer so my kids can eat them through the week.

I'm a Sunday morning pancake maker, and I like to add a few tablespoons of yogurt of the low-fat variety. Or, you could add a couple of tablespoons of cottage cheese instead. Adjust the liquid (I use buttermilk or skim, if I don't have any buttermilk) accordingly. If you're looking for "oomph" on the dry ingredient side of things, you could try a tablespoon or two of nuts, or wheat germ or if you want some crunch. (My kids were't fond of nuts, but the wheat germ went down okay.)

I recently was visiting my sister in Lyon, France and discovered brioche with pink pralines. I would love to make this at home, but I cannot find pink pralines anywhere in the US. Any recommendation on where I could find them, I would prefer a place that will ship since I live in New Hampshire.

Did you see this very good info on the Chocolate and Zucchini blog? It lists the shop in Paris, which may ship. Perhaps some of the substitutes blogger Clotilde Dusoulier mentions might suffice.

Can I use the liquid eggs without yolks?

Sure thing.

When I'm especially starving or home from a workout, I'll make a protein shake - some yogurt or fruit smoothie (only around 50 -70 calories worth) mixed with a scoop of the protein powder - 150-170 calories and will keep me from eating everything in sight until dinner is ready.

Hi free rangers, I'm looking for a cookbook recommendation for Japanese cooking. I'm not looking to make anything fancy like sushi or bento boxes, more home cooking style like miso soup, japanese curry, noodle dishes, etc. Thanks!

I like "Everyday Harumi."

More on adding the olives to bread dough: Baker Sam Fromart says:

Generally if using a mixer, mix the dough and add the olives toward the end and mix for 1-2 minutes until distributed. If mixing by hand, knead until moderately developed. Let sit for 15 minutes then fold olives in dough. Let sit 5-10 minutes, then continue. The resting time allows the dough to relax, easing incorporation of the olives.

I buy gluten at GNC, add 1 teaspoon per cup of all-purpose flour when making yeast breads.

the writer said s/he "mills them" when referring ot the potatoes. My northern Italian family uses a potato ricer. And mix ingredients BY HAND, which helps you adjust the flour for moisture. We boil our potatoes.

Hi Steve, You have no idea how excited I am to have a chat about bread machines. I have had such a hard time finding people who use their bread machines. Most of them are lost somewhere in the garage or laundry room. My kids love apple muffins and Jewish apple cake. Is there a way I could make something with a similar taste and texture in the form of a bread from my machine? I thought if it could be done with carrots, zucchini and blueberries, maybe with apples too?? Just not sure how to go about it, to be honest. Thank you again for being with us today!!

I'm using my bread machine these days for mixing rather than baking, mostly because I enjoying getting my flour-dusted hands on the dough. I haven't tried baking an apple/fruit bread in the machine, and while I suspect it's possible, I would wonder whether the result would be as good as mixing the dough in the machine, but then baking it in the oven.


That said, let me look at some of my cookbooks for a recipe that you might try. If you email at, I'll can email you back with it.


If you were marooned on an island with a smoker, a grill, and one barbecue cookbook, which smoker, grill, and one cookbook would you have? (there's a good butcher shop on the island...)

Wow, this is a toughie. If I could have any smoker, I might go for one of the Jambo pits. They are double-insulated and a lot of competitors have been getting great results with them. That said, there are so many high-end smokers out there that it would be really, really tough to choose. (Plus, one of the top Jambo pits is really expensive, so it would depend on whether I won the lottery before being marooned.) The main thing I'd want is a good offset smoker. 

The grill? Probably the Weber kettle. Those things are just plain well-made and adaptable to a lot of different types of cooking. 

The book? I can't say that I have a favorite. I scour different books for different reasons. If I absolutely had to choose, I suppose I might go for Steven Raichlen's "Barbecue Bible!" It has a lot of really clear, basic information so that if I should suffer from dementia while growing old while out on that island all alone, I'd be reminded how and why to do certain things. 

But, in the end, I'd take several smokers, a couple of grills, and a library of books. 

Skyrocketed. Paid $7.69 a lb for boneless leg of lamb at Wegman's. Bi gthanks to Ben at the Fed for driving down the value of the dollar, Barry at the White House for the driving up the price of gas and Congress for ethanol subsidies

Weeks ago, Border Springs Farm's Craig Rogers mentioned we'd be looking at price hikes. Not sure Big Folks are totally responsible.

Hi there, my chives are already coming back from last year's garden, thing I don't have to replant. Anyhow...what is the best method to dry them? Any recipe off the top of your collective brains to make with the first garden crop? (BTW I'm in snowed last week -- haha).

Chopping them into tiny bits seems to be the primary order of business. If you were living in a dry climate, maybe you could spread them out on paper towels. Otherwise, try preheating your oven to 180 or 200 degrees. Spread the chopped chives on a baking sheet. Turn off the oven and put in the chives. Let them dry in the oven for several  hours.

Jim, I've been using a Weber bullet smoker for a little over a year. My ribs always come out fantastic, but with chicken, I like it to be fall off the bone, but about half the time it comes out kind of rubbery, and I haven't been able to pinpoint if it's more the quality of the bird, or if it's related more to cooking time (would leaving it on longer or shorter result in more tender meat?), or the cooking process itself (smoking vs. grilling). Any advice? On the other hand, my failsafe method is to butterfly a chicken then do it over indirect heat for about 1.5 hours on the Weber kettle, which almost never fails in juicy, fall off the bone results (sometimes I beer brine, but the last couple times I didn't bother and the results were still outstanding). Any advice or insights? Next time I do chicken on the smoker I may do two and take one off when the meat hits the right temperature for doneness, then leave the other on for another 30-45 minutes and see what the difference is.

We're pretty much at the end of our chat here. But, I agree about the butterfly method. Always a winner. (I grill it, too, for a little crispiness on the skin.) 

I don't know if you are using water in your smoker. I wouldn't. I find it can add moisture to the detriment of the texture of some meats. I like your idea of experimenting with the time. Let me know how it goes.

Well, you've baked us until we sound hollow when thumped, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and to Steve, Stephanie and Jim for helping us answer them.

Now for the book giveaways: The chatter who just wrote in to make sure we understood Sheryl Crow's book title will get ... Sheryl Crow's book! The one who complained about the Alicia Silverstone book from the library will get what we think might be a better option: Eva Longoria's book. The one who weighed in with Gwynnie's recipe for crispy Brussels sprouts will get... Gwynnie's book! Write us at to claim them, with mailing address, and we'll get them to you.

Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading!

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