Free Range on Food

May 25, 2011

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. Chef Barton Seaver, author of the book "For Cod and Country," joins the chat today along with Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetigns, all, and welcome to Free Range, the chat that today brings you advice on making championship barbecue sauces, unfussy and appealing ways with fish, and other summer-is-upon-us topics such as the muddled cocktails of your dreams.

We have a special guest today: chef Barton Seaver, whose "For Cod and Country" book Bonnie writes about today. Ask Barton any and all seafood questions -- and if we run out of those, I'm sure he could weigh in on just about anything else. We'll also have Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin in the house to talk about barbecue, the spirited Jason Wilson to address the booziest of booze questions, and I've got Dave McIntyre an email's reach away to help with wine questions.

And then there's little old us: Bonnie, Tim, and myself.

We'll have book giveaways for our favorite chatters today: a SIGNED copy of Barton's "For Cod and Country," and, to celebrate summer, "Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved ice and Aguas Frescas" by Fany Gerson.

Let's go!

I was really interested to read about the Cod and Country cookbook. I was always nervous about cooking fish at home and have just recently taken the plunge. My question is if the book helps identify which fish are similar to each other. One of my greatest challenges is finding a recipe that looks good with a specific type of fish and then I get to the store and that fish either isn't there or doesn't look great. When that happens I find that I just scrap the whole recipe because I don't really know which fish are similar enough to substitute in. Or are certain fish paired with a recipe for a reason?

I certainly address the issue of seafood substitutions. This is an important topic not only for sustainability resaons, but also for the quality of your meal. Many species of fish are a easy stand in for each other. And most fish fall into a few categories, i.e. flaky white flesh fish, orange flesh fatty fish, etc......Once you understand that snapper fillets cook nearly the same as barramundi, bass and mackerel then your purchasing should be a lot less stressful.

90% of cooking a good fish meal is buying good quality seafood. No recipe can ever make up for the initial lack of quality so my advice is to be a little open-minded. When you go to the store with a recipe in mind, ask the fishmonger what is most fresh and best fits your budget.

Now armed with a great piece of fish then you should figure out the recipe around those flavors.


YAY! a refreshing looking cocktail with honey! Tanks, Jason. I asked about honey in cocktails a few weeks ago. Can't wait to try it.

If you like honey, here are two more rum-and-honey cocktails from our archives: the Honey Fitz (rum, honey, grapefruit juice, Peychaud's bitters) and the Honey Spiced Punch (below, with rum, cachaça, falernum, Angostura bitters, and honey syrup).

If the weather stays nice, I hope to go out hiking on Saturday. I'm looking for some tasty vegetarian food (sandwiches probably since I wouldn't need to worry about utensils). I have a few ideas, but I'm looking for something that won't get crushed in a backpack or wither in the heat. I imagine we'll be hiking for 90 minutes before eating. Thanks!

I  like this one, a version of a pan bagnat, because it benefits from being tightly wrapped in plastic. You can make it a few hours ahead and refrigerate it; by the time you've hiked for that 90 mins, it'll be poifect.

Is Dave there? My wife and I follow what we believe is the #1 rule on wine -- drink what you like. We drink rose all year long! We wonder if he tried two of our favorites -- C. Grande Cassagne (another Kacher import from Costieres de Nimes) and Tres Ojos from Spain. Both around $8. We've got cases of each at home now!

Dave's not here, technically, but thanks to the magic of email, I've got an answer from him anyway!

Chateau Grande Cassagne is one of Bobby Kacher's extensive line of roses, and yes, it is always one of my favorites. I could easily have filled my list of six recommendations with Kacher roses, including that outstanding Cordier Beaujolais. This year, however, in my quick tasting, I felt the Mas des Bressades held a slight edge. And yes, Tres Ojos is also delicious, in the big, fruity style.


One thing to remember about Spanish rosados - they typically are drunk two years after the vintage, which would put the 2009s on sale now. However, because the US consumer tends to think of rose as a wine to be consumed quickly while it's fresh, many Spanish producers have begun making their rosados accordingly and releasing them earlier. This is neither good nor bad, but I would encourage everyone to ask your retailer if he or she has a traditional Spanish rosado from 2009 . These might be heavily discounted, and likely  very good.

Barton -- I enjoyed the spinach and parmesan crusted tilapia from Cod and Country last night. What are some of the best aquaculture food choices we can make? Cheers, Tom

Clams, mussels, oysters, arctic char and US farmed catfish are among the very best options that we can eat.

Not only are they enviro-friendly (in fact bi-valves actually help to restore eco-systems) they are high in omega-3s, low in toxicity and are highly economical.

And thanks for the nod on the Tilapia recipe.

For more info visit

I have a recipe for couscous salad but want to try it with quinoa to boost protein an nutrition values. Will this work ok?

IMHO, you should try whole-wheat couscous and sub in quinoa for maybe a quarter of it, rather than the whole thing. I have NO DOUBT that I'm about to stir up a firestorm with the following comment, but: I don't love quinoa on its own, as the main "grain." I find it too small and, well, seedy, which is what it is, but I recognize the nutritional benefits, so I like sprinkling some in with other grains. Even couscous I find a little too wimpy, preferring things that are more toothsome like brown rice or farro.

i would like to cook a tuna loin using indirect heat on a weber charcoal kettle grill keeping the temperature at about 200 degrees . . . the one time i tried this the tuna turned out drier than i would have liked it . . . is there a way to slow cook a tuna loin on a charcoal grill that keeps the meat juicy ?? . . . thanks for your help . . . craig harris

Tuna is a a difficult fish to cook through without drying it out. Given the method that you descibe you are doing everything right but well done tuna is just that, well done and dry.

A nice way to get the results that you are looking for might be to smoke the loin over the grill for a few minutes using cold smoke and then slowly simmer the loin in oil in a confit-style of cooking. This should result in a more moist and flavorful dish.

Another possibility is grilling it over medium-high direct hardwood or charcoal fire on both sides, giving the tuna nice grill marks and light char flavor, then moving it to the indirect side for just a couple of minutes, flipping it once. It will come out rare. If you like it med-rare or medium, leave on the indirect side another couple of minutes. 

Hi Rangers! I've enjoyed participating in what's more or less a farm share for the past year, but have run across a few items that I'm not exactly sure what to do with. My current obstacle is four large Vidalia onions, and I can't figure out how to best use them (or how to use them at all, really). I'm sure I could fry them into onion rings, but that seems both potentially painful/ a hassle and unhealthy. Also, we do not have access to a grill, otherwise I probably would have tried something with one already. Do you have any ideas how I can best use these beauties? We enjoy all kinds of cuisine, so any direction you nudge us is absolutely fine. Thanks so much!

I'd caramelize them...having them on hand is lovely for creating sandwiches or topping flatbread or tossing into sauteed vegetables or a sweet potato salad or  even into pasta or a couscous salad.

Speaking of COs, check out this Whole-Grain Spaghetti With Caramelized Onion Sauce.

And then, of course, you could get creative with any kind of filling -- say pistachio nuts, a litle olive oil, chopped parsley and mint. Maybe a little bread crumb action on top. Hollow out the center of your big onions and fill, then roast until tender.

Bonnie beat me to this answer, but since we have practically the same palate, she pretty much said what I would've said. But I will add that I did a chili-caramelized onion as one element in a taco (with mushrooms, shredded lettuce, goat cheese and salsa verde), and have come to love making these on their own to throw into things.

Here's a quick recipe based on the quantity of onions you have: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over med heat, sprinkle in 2 teaspoons ground ancho, chipotle or other chile pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and cook until the spices sizzle and are fragrant. Then toss in the thinly sliced onion, stirring to break them apart. Cook for a few minutes until the onion starts to soften, then sprinkle in 1 teaspoon  salt and 1 teaspoon sugar, decrease the heat to low and continue cooking them, stirring, until caramelized. It could take 20 minutes or longer depending on the onions.

I bought some beautiful crab meat on sale, and want to make a big batch of crab cakes and freeze half. Am I better off freezing them before I cook them or after? Thanks!

You are best off freezing the crabmeat itself and then making the cakes batch by batch. Assuming a normal style recipe, the breadcrumbs that you use in the mix will absorb too much liquid during the freezing-thawing process and leave you with a soggy and difficult to cook mess.

Plus, crabmeat freezes pretty well on its own and the cakes are not too hard to throw together in just a few minutes.

I briefly saw Chef Todd English on QVC last night, selling his new line of pans. Good grief, it was painful to listen to. He doesn't do well without a script. Anyway, he kept talking about green, and I was wondering if this new trend is about the material used in the cookware (regardless of celebrity or manufacturer) and what is so environmentally friendly about green pans, or is this just a gimmick?

This is a complicated subject and easy to gloss over with glib promises. I'm not saying that's what Todd English did. But I am saying you probably need to do more research on any claims about green cookware.

A couple of years ago, Green Planet did a fairly comprehensive story on what makes a "green" pan. It's a good read.

I see that Chef Seaver wrote a book with "Cod" in the title, so maybe he can help with this question. For grilling fish, is it advisable to use a fish boat? That's a metal pan with holes in it that supposedly allows the fish to cook more evenly and slowly. We use ours, but I'm never sure we're getting the best end result. The fish pieces are usually quite thin and would fall through the grill if we didn't have the fish boat, or some similar pan. What's the best way to cook thinner slices of fish on the grill?

Grilling fish is an artform due to the highly delicate texture. I don't use a boat or any other grilling device when cooking out, but honestly I have never tried one so  I can't answer to that directly.

Cooking over live fire is an excercise in controlling heat. Cooking on the stove top is as easy as turning the knob, but grilling requires a lot more patience and a lot more details.

In short, here is my simple method for grilling seafood.

Start a good fire and when the coals are burned to embers, push them all to one side of the grill. Place the lightly oiled and seasoned fish fillets on the opposite side of the grill grate, away from  the fire. Cover the grill with the lid and let the embers create a slow, smouldering flavorful oven where the fish slowly cooks while it absorbs all the rustic sexy flavors of the grill.

Do not move the fish! It will cook as though it were in an oven and when it is done, transfer it to the serving plates and enjoy. The less you touch it while grilling, the better off you will be.

Friends are coming to town this weekend and have specifically requested a "great crab place." They lived in Baltimore years ago, but I don't think they'll have time to go too far afield. Any recommendations?

Wild Country Seafood in EastPort, just five minute walk from downtown Annapolis.

The owners there are the last working crabbers out of EastPort and had to open up a shop in order to make ends meet and get a better price for their crabs.

Fun and gracious people and a great story to boot!

also, I did a video with them that is available on

Sorry, lets clarify, what does it taste like? Is it similar or tequila? Or is it a distinctive flavor of its own? What is the price point for cachaca? I will have to see if anywhere near where I live carries it, because those drinks look SO SO GOOD! I'm a vodka and tequila fan -- I adore kamikazis and margaritas on the rocks.

As I wrote in my article: "Just to refresh: Cachaça is rum’s Brazilian cousin. It is made with fresh sugar cane juice distilled at a low temperature, which gives it a bit of wild, vegetal character along with the balancing sweetness." You can find cachaça everywhere -- if your liquor store doesn't carry any, find a new liquor store. The nose can be agave-like, but there is usually a raw-sugar sweetness. Some brands to look for are Leblon, Beleza Pura, Cabana, Sagatiba, and Boca Loca.

I read last week's comment about pizza being an unhealthy food and I am inclined to disagree. Maybe the chain or frozen store pizza is bad but how can home made pizza be so evil? It's all a matter of what you put on/into it. The crust can be whole grain and anything goes for toppings. Tonight I will make whole grain crust pizza with eggplant pesto topping and it will be wonderful Served with a fresh salad, what's wrong with that as a meal? I just don't get it.

I'm with you, which is not a surprise, given that I have confessed my obsession with pizza -- and even have a chapter full of pizza recipes in my own book.

The thing is, of course fast-food pizza, loaded up with way too much of everything, isn't going to be all that great for you, no, especially if you eat it every day. But pizza doesn't have to be that way -- and you don't have to eat it every day, either. So I'm with you.

And your pizza plan sounds fab, btw.

Now that summer is right around the corner, I am really missing my frozen margaritas with salt. Do you have any ideas for refreshing summer drinks that are non-alcoholic and easy to make?

I do! Here is a pregnancy-perfect mocktail called...the Folic Fizz, which calls for strawberries, canteloupe, and lime juice. It's from a book called "Preggatinis," which I wrote about a while back.

An old favorite of mine is to make onion soup. Caramelize the onions in butter or olive oil until they brown. Deglaze with some red wine. Reduce. Add in beef stock (I often have a quart or two in the freezer, but you can use low sodium beef broth from the store), season to taste. Yum!

How long are home made muffins good for? I made some very tasty banana muffins Monday night and am realizing that I will not be able to finish them before heading out for a long weekend. Will they still be good when I get back on Tuesday? They are currently in a large tupperware container in the fridge. Is that ok? Or could I freeze them?

Banana muffins tend to stay more moist than some other kinds of muffins. I think yours would be okay in the fridge for up to a week. Next time, I'd freeze, rather than refrigerate.

Dave ought to try (if he has not) the Parados Rose of Malbec from Argentina as something new from a different region. Also, we love a Rose Sangria to serve at a summer party. There are a lot of good recipes online, but we like this one from Emeril.

Dave says:

We are seeing more roses from South America as those wines continue to impress in value and quality. I have tried the Parados in years past, and agree with you - it is delicious.

Oh, and thanks for the link to that sangria recipe!

OK, so this is a really basic question, and I'm sorry. My husband doesn't care too much for fish, he's a vegetarian at home and he'll eat salmon at a restaurant if he has no other options. But one thing he really likes is fried fish, like you would find in a London fish and chip shop. I don't know if it has a special name (fish without the chips?). Anyway, my only reference is what I see in the frozen section of the grocery store and usually the frozen fried fish comes in haddock, flounder, and cod. I was wondering the differences in the fish. And I was hoping for a fairly simple recipe that I could use to recreate this dish as he might find in a restaurant. Can this be pan fried or is it important to deep fry it? Is the flavor supposed to be the fish itself, in the batter, or the dipping sauce?

Fish and chips has goe through a number of variations and also has some regional availability that comes into play. While for centuries the recipe was based on Cod, now it can be a mixture haddock, hake, plaice, flounder, and the most common now is dogfish.

I think that most of the joy of this dish comes from the batter and the sauce. Look for MSC certified Pacific Cod or East Coast Flounder and try to this; brush the fillets with egg yolk and then pat on a layer of breadcrumbs. Place the fish in a lightly greased pan under the broiler and cook until golden brown.

Serve with the mushy peas if you like but make sure you have lots of tartar sauce! It is a nice, easy and more healthful version of the pub classic

Is there any way to get feedback on the bbq sauce recipes that were submitted? I had hoped to see a little more discussion on the blog about the entries and why they did, or did not, make the final cut. Any guidance on how I can make my rhubarb mango bbq sauce award winning is greatly appreciated.

As the nominal editor of the All We Can Eat blog, I'll take a stab at this one. For starters, I think there were too many recipes for Jim or Bonnie to give feedback on each one. But I think it might be worth doing a blog item on the sauces that were close, but just missed the cut. Jim?

I plan to do a bbq sauce wrap-up for my Smoke Signals blog, which appears every Tuesday on the Food website. I will provide some rough, general thoughts about what we/I look for. 

If you want to email me directly, I will answer you with my thoughts about your specific sauce:

Good Morning All! I have a client at work who said she was bringing me fresh eggs from her chicken/hen. I have never eaten any egg that does not come from the grocery store. Should I be concerned about sanitation? I don't know what kind of enviroment they are coming from, I am assuming she has a few chickens in her yard. They do not live on a farm. I really want to try them, but want to know if there is anything I need to know? Thank you for all of the chats, I have learned a lot over the years from you guys!

I say: Lucky  you. Can you politely ask her about her chicken setup? Chances are very good that all is well. Obviously she/he is eating them and still well enough to obtain your services!  Google "eggs natural coating" and you'll see testaments to their hygeinic properties. In fact, some folks think that when commercially packed eggs are processed and washed, they're at a disadvantage.

Am excited about your book thanks to Bonnie's story! My question: I can confidently grill all kinds of shellfish, but somehow am afraid of placing fin fish on my outdoor grill: It always sticks, falls apart, etc. Or maybe I'm too timid. Any tips?

Hi there, thanks for the question.

See the post above for step-by-step on indirect heat grilling- the best way to cook seafood on a live fire.

And yes, nearly all fish does well on the grill, especially shellfish. Nothing in the world better than a few grilled oyster s and some fresh spicy sausage washed down with cold beer!!

seriously want to leave work right now and go home to make that. what kind of fish would be good with it? tilapia? or maybe with ground turkey tacos. mmm.

Thanks! You know, I don't see it as being that great with fish, actually. I do it with mushrooms etc. as I described in the book, but it's also great with meats -- ground turkey, sure! Or not-ground turkey or pork.

In the future if you make a batch of homemade muffins and want them to last a long time freeze them individually wrapped in aluminum foil. Defrost in a toaster oven at 350 degrees until warmed through. They'll taste like they just came out of the oven. Great for making on the weekend and then taking to the office (if your workplace has a toaster oven or you can bring one in).

Do you have any recipes for ice cream that don't require an ice cream machine? I'd like to make some every once in a while but don't have room for any extra equipment in my tiny, tiny kitchen. I've had some success with an espresso granita but would like to branch out a bit. Thanks!

Yep. I immediately thought of one of the most delicious frozen desserts that I've had in a long time: Barbara Black's apricot-almond semifreddo. Wow.

Hi there! I'm thinking about getting a plain old charcoal grill - we've had a gas one in the past. Two questions: One, would a "flat bottomed" one or a concave weber-style grill be better? (Better for what? I'm not sure!) Second, my brother-in-law said "don't do briquets - do wood!" How do I get started with the mysteries of cooking over wood? Thanks!

   The tried-and-true kettle grill has stood the test of time. I use one myself. 

   As for wood, it definitely has its place, and I use it all the time. But I often start my fire with charcoal, then add either chips, chunks, or  (in my offset-smoker) split logs. 

   Using wood is a lot of fun. Here is a very rough guide: Use chips for light smoking, with, say, fish; chunks for medium smoking, with chicken; chunks or logs for deep, long smokes, such as with brisket. 

Have had the best fish of my life on vacations to Hawaii (cheaper from the west coast!) Now that I live in New England, what would you substitute in recipes for mahi mahi, ono, opakapaka and opah? I'm befuddled.

Mahi is available on this coast, and the season opens in the Carolinas quite soon so be on the lookout for pole/troll caught local fish.

Opah can replaced by Halibut or my favorite, Sablefish. The meaty texture  is also similar to a game fish from  these parts called Amberjack.

Opakapaka is Snapper so look for farmed Barramundi from Western MA as a sub.

And Ono is known as Wahoo on this coast, and is available from sportfishermen although there is a small commercial fishery for it.

Hope that helps!

I love me some avocados but there seems to be only a 24 hour period when they are delightfully squishy without being brown with rot? Should I start keeping them in the fridge when I suspect them are ripe? Or does that cause them to lose flavors like tomatoes?

There are 2 ways to buy them, and I speak of the Hass variety:  Ripe, darker in color, for you to use right away, as in when you press with a thumb there's a slight indentation. Or quite firm, perhaps looking a bit greener, to  have on hand for 2 to 4 days;  let them ripen at room temperature. I wouldn't refrigerate them unless they were already ripe.  Brown doesn't always mean rot -- can be caused by bruising. The softer the avocado the more likely there might be some bruising, I think.

In case anyone asks where exactly to find pomegranate juice, I've bought Cortas-brand pomegranate concentrate at Shemali's at 3301 New Mexico Av NW., in the building next to where Balduccis used to be and Chef Geoff's still is.

Thanks! Pomegranate juice has become very widely available.

If I use brown rice instead of white, what recipe adjustments should I make? Or will the recipe not work with brown rice?

If you want to make this quickly, try instant brown rice (which I happen to use all the time). Follow package directions rather than boiling it a la lots o' water.

I love seafood, and I LOVE all things ginger, so I'm excited about the tilapia recipe, but I also love to grill. I'd be worried about grilling tilapia and having it fall apart. Could I grill it on a piece of aluminum foil?

See my earlier instructions for indirect heat grilling.

The simple answer is go for it! Tilapia can be great on the grill.

Tester loved that recipe.

So often cookbooks on smoking/grilling are hard to follow. Shahin makes it seem easy - would he be writing a simple cookbook sometime soon?

     Aw, shucks. 'Preciate the compliment.

      You want simple? You got the right guy. 

     Here's the thing. There are a zillion bbq cookbooks out there. Maybe the last thing the world needs is another bbq cookbook. 

     That, however, is not to say that the world does not need another bbq book. As it happens, I have an idea for a book and have been looking into whether I think it has legs. Will let you know if I think it does. 


Thanks for the semifreddo suggestion, it looks delicious. Can I halve the recipe? Again, it's a very small kitchen...

Absolutely, you could. We also have this strawberry yogurt semifreddo, which might be nice cause you can get such good local strawberries right now. And you could halve this one, too.

Jason-- do you have a cocktail suggestion (or wine) to go w/ my fave summer salad (arugula, cilantro, rare grilled tuna, fresh mango or peaches, cashews & sweet & sour dressing)? many thanks in advance!

Hmmm. That's a tough one for cocktails. Normally, I'd just drink wine with that, maybe a flavorful, aromatic white like a good Soave or Friulano or a light, fruity red like a cru Beaujolais or Bardolino or Zweigelt. Or you could also go with just a chilled fino or manzanilla sherry.

But let's give a couple cocktails a whirl. Maybe something bright and gin-based, like a Vesper (below)? Or perhaps one of Adam Bernbach's awesome artisanal Gin & Tonics?


Asking early because I'll miss the chat. Just how bad of an idea would it be to use a 9 inch cake pan when a recipe calls for an 8 inch pan? What if it's the same dimension, but a square instead of a circle or vice versa? Yes, I'm cheap and don't feel like buying more pans to take up space that I don't have in my kitchen. I will if I have to, but I am beginning to feel inundated with pans. Help!

It's not that big a deal if you keep in mind that a 9-inch cake made with batter designed for an 8-inch pan will be squatter and therefore will bake more quickly, so start checking it much earlier than the recipe calls for. If it's the same dimension but different shape, you can swap without difficulty. I always start checking for doneness much earlier than recipes call for, cause an overdone cake is a very sad thing -- and not really able to be corrected, although you can always soak it real good afterward, in a sugar/liqueur syrup. Or you can make tres leches cake or a trifle.

So, like everyone else that couldn't get out of work this Friday, I'll be stuck in traffic while driving to the beach during dinner time. Is there anything that I could bring that won't feel greasy? I don't really want to bring a sandwich, and I don't want to eat before I leave. I was thinking hummus and veggies since those would be easy to eat, but it's not exactly a filling meal.

Eating well in the car is hard. Fast food restaurants have perfected meals that you can eat with one hand on the wheel, but for those of us who want something tastier (while safe to eat on the road), the options are more limited.

Don't overlook cured meats. (Does that fall under your "greasy" category?)  I like snacking on prosciutto and jerky and dry sausages, which are almost like candy to me. You could also have some sliced bread and cheese ready. If you have a passenger with you, he/she could slather some nice brie or other spreadable cheese on slices of fresh baguette. You could also have slices of apple ready to dip in some soft brie-like cheeses.

You could also buy a bag of chef David Guas's "porkorn," which is caramel corn mixed with bacon bits and peanuts. It's so addictive you may need to buy two bags.

I was taught that chocolate is best kept cold, but eaten at room temperature. While chocolate cakes, brownies, frosting, and mousse are best stored in the refrigerator, why is it that good quality chocolate bars get that grey color on them when put in the refrigerated?

That gray or whitish coating on the chocolate might be due to cocoa fat or the crystallization of sugar.  The chocolate might be old or just exposed to extremes in temperature, or maybe even not tempered correctly.

I think chocolate's best kept (short-term) at a cool room temp (60 to 70 degrees), not necessarily in the colder climes of a fridge. For longer-term storage, I wrap dark chocolates in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.

Why, I happen to have some nice chocolate right here, at my desk....

I'm getting over a bad cold, any suggestions for a warm boozy drink that will help knock me out for bed? Bonus points if you can claim it will help with a sore throat/cough. Thanks!

Well, this is rather coincidental, but a few years ago, I sat down with Barton Seaver, who was not feeling well at the time. He told me about a "medicinal" hot toddy he had created to deal with the bug. I asked for the recipe and Seaver generously forwarded it. You can find it here.

It's non-alcoholic, but it also includes a suggestion to booze it up.

If you're truly going to cure that cold, you'll need a toddy with booze. You can check out my meditation on the hot toddy that we ran last winter. My personal favorite is the Apple Toddy.


Hi! I am hoping to make a Tres Leches cake for my boyfriend's birthday party. Do you have any recipes you recommend or any fun alternatives to the traditional? Thanks!

Hmm, maybe infuse the milk separately with a favorite spice or herb? Make individual cakelets instead of one big one? Seems like a natural for thin slices of your favorite fruit/berries.  FOF Pati Jinich's recipe looks pretty scrumptious.

Enjoyed Jim's blog yesterday about how winner of the barbeque contest is decided. Look forward to seeing who "won" the contest for barbeque sauces. I was shy about submitting a couple of my recipes. Hope you have another one so I can share a couple of my recipes.

    Glad you liked the blog. The winners (led by Zora Margolis, below -- shout out to Zora!) are in today's section, in my column.


I have been brining pork and poultry for many years, but I've never heard about brine for fish mentioned in Bonnie's article. I cook fish at least twice a week. Would you elaborate please? Also, is this true that buying frozen fish is preferable to buying fresh fish in DC area?

Brining fish acomplishes the same moist and tender result as when you brine meat. The timing and the intensity of the brine is different, but the results are worth the added 20+ minutes.

As for the frozen question. Here in DC we are blessed with a bounty of delicious fresh seafood from the Bay and points beyond. There are some great stores here that do a great job with the fresh product. But the technology of frozen seafood has increased tremendously.

Freezing used to be a last ditch effort by unscrupulous fishmongers, but now due to blast freezing, micro-misting, and at sea processing, fish an be caught, filleted, and frozen within hours. This results in pristine quality product that has benefits in the carbon-footprint of the fish, the quality, and also the price. Due to the decreased perishability of the frozen fillet, retailers don't have to charge you for the inevitable waste!

Chef Seaver assumes you're using charcoal. Do the same rules apply for a gas grill? And how thin is too thin for the grill? Searing marinated tuna steaks are a breeze, but I want to branch out this summer.

Indirect heat is possible on gas grills!

Turn one side on, and leave the other side off. Place the fish away from the flame and cover the grill to trap the heat. This does not yield the same results as a live fire due to the flavor associated with the smoke. This is achieved in gas grills by the dripping fat flaming up onto the product, so there will be a little less flaor than you are used to. Play around with it though.

And as for how thin is too thin, it all depends. Flounder with no skin- iffy. Leave the skin on though and cook with the skin down, you have a great product.

By and large anything works, you just have to 'read' the ingredient and think it through.

Jim, In the BBQ sauce competition, what type was the most commonly entered? Ketchup based? Mustard? Vinegar?

       The most common was, as you'd probably expect, ketchup-based. 

Slice them thick, 3/4 inch or more, then season with salt and pepper and rub with a bit of oil. Put them on a medium heat grill and brush the top side with a mix of honey and mustard. Flip and brush the other side. Let them cook for a while so they are mostly cooked through and super sweet. Awesome side dish!

Good one. I remember a Cook's Illustrated tip for easy/Anal Retentive Chef onion-ring wrangling -- use soaked bambo skewers to spear 2 or 3 at a time.

Sorry I didn't read the article too close...I was too busy looking at those drinks! I might like cachaca, I don't like rum (got sick from drinking dang near clear - rum and cokes once). LOL! Thanks.

If you don't like rum, give cachaça a try. It's pretty different. However, you should also give rum another try! You probably got sick on a bad, bottom-shelf white rum, so go ahead a try one with a little age.

love these for summer but am wondering if there are any fun variations on the original. any fun recipes you all know of?

I like a cool, weird variation on the Pimm's Cup that's spicy. It's called the Cajun Lemonade, and it calls for **word of the day** cachaça! (along with the usual Pimm's, lemon, 7-UP...and Tabasco.)

The moisture will ruin the temper and might result in seizing. Gross. If you have a wine cooler, use that.

On the last page of the Post Food Section, it has a recipe for Tilapia with Ginger Glaze. However, at the bottom of the page, it states "on" there are 2 recipes, one of which is for Tilapia with Ginger Glaze. Typo or another recipe?

Oy. Same recipe. So nice we referred  you to it twice. :)

Leblon cachaca is definitely available at VA ABC stores -- that's where I bought my bottle. They may have a couple other brands too. At the store I was at, they were mixed in with the rums -- I asked an employee, who pointed out two or three brands scattered throughout the rum section. Ask if you don't see it right away. Anyway, those muddled drink recipes look delicious, and I hope to try some soon.

Thanks for the info! Yes, cachaça is almost always shelved with or near the rums. The most common brand is Pitú, which is fine, but a little..."rustic"? The brands I mentioned earlier are a little more premium, and probably a better introduction for someone who's never tasted cachaça before.

Do you tackle cod cakes in your cookbook? I'm trying to eat more fish, and I like the idea that cod cakes use potato instead of bread. But I can't get them to stick together in the pan, even if I refrigerate them for an hour ahead of time. Any ideas? And thanks so much to Dave for his article on rose wine. I spent a week in the Languedoc last summer and am addicted.

Cod Cake are delicious! So many great memories.

Try whipping in a few egg yolks to the potato before mixing with the cod. While it does add fat, it also helps to bind them and also helps to form a golden brown and deliciously crunchy crust to them.

Also, make sure that the cod is dry, the problem might be that as the cod cooks it exudes moisture that causes the cakes to crumble. Bread crumbs would absorb this normally but the potato will not.

I often pick up celery to make stock or a chicken salad and then I end up with a whole lot of celery left over! I wish stores would sell it by the stalk, but until then, any ideas for the left over?

Tell me about it. I've ranted about this very issue, which is particularly bad for single cooks but bad enough for anybody. And I've started playing around with some celery recipes for my next column, because I'm tired of complaining about it and planning to do something about it! The best celery dish I had recently was shaved celery on toast, which doesn't sound like much until you try it. Was at the fabulous Prune in NYC. Shaved (and very fresh) celery, lots of raw garlic, piled onto bruschetta that had been lined with a really pungent blue cheese. OMG, so good. I also made a huge celery-olive salad for my sister's Maine wedding many years ago -- just thinly sliced celery, really good olive oil, oil-cured olives, good sea salt.

But I'm playing around with others, so stay tuned, cause that'll be in the section in a couple of weeks. I can't help but think that a soup is going to be part of the strategy, because you could use up a lot of it that way. If chatters have other favorite celery recipes, please send them my way, either here or to

In the meantime, I've found (thanks to a hint by Cook's Illustrated) that the best way to store celery is to wrap it in foil before putting it in the fridge. If it wilts/sags, cut it cleanly and stand the cut end in some water to recrisp it.

I am the poster who ranted about frozen and delivery pizza served to kids every day, sometimes more than once. I hope one of these days Tim does an article on how much pizza is delivered to schools and college dorms in this area. We are bombarded with articles about dangerously obese kids, kids who would be a lot healthier had they eaten pizza every once in a while, not every day. As I recall, I made it clear that I have no problem with home made pizza, made with decent cheese, preferably preservative free homemade sauce and other fresh ingredients. Personally I love both the method and the recipe for pizza in Joe Yonan's book. I've never thought it was possible to achieve a crust like that at home. I have no problem with pizzas like that, but delivery pizzas that nowdays constitute "family meal" and in some homes eaten even for breakfast in my humble opinion is in the core of the health problem of our kids - future adults. I saw obese kids and their moms on yesterday's Dr. Oz show. Those moms had no clue, what they were doing to their kids. I hope that the WP Food readers know better,

I made pizza last week topped with carmalized onions, home-made sun-dried tomato pesto and fresh mozzarella. My kids are begging me to make it again tonight! However, it was a little dry...any suggestions for making it less dry without just topping it with oil?

Well, how about a thin bottom-layer smear of marinara sauce? Or, if you want to go in  a creamier direction, maybe a smear of fromage blanc or quark? A light drizzle of good evoo wouldn't hurt, as you seem to already know -- just go light!

Mmmm, memories of summer camp pb&j sandwiches on white bread that transformed, after a few hours in a backpack or picnic basket, into the essence of sugary summer deliciousness...

But quite squishable! (See chatter's original request.)

I'm originially from the northwest, and really miss the smoked trout I used to be able to get out that way. I tried making my own smoked trout on my grill, and it turned out good but not great. Any suggestions on how to make it better? I also can't figure out how to get it more "dry" in texture.

The dry texture comes from time in brine and the drying time before smoking.

Salt draws out moisture, and with it come water-soluable proteins. Once the fillet is removed from the brine, brush it with a little pernod or whiskey and let it sit overnight on the top shelf of your fridge uncovered.

The alcohol helps to lower the evaporation point of the water and adds great flavor. As the proteins dry out, they form a  tacky surface known as a pellicle. This is what the smoke sticks to when you go to cook it and what leads to that beautiful dark brown color.

There are recipes all over the internet for brines (and also in my book!) so try a few out and see which one works best for you.

I've joined a local CSA (community supported agriculture) and am looking forward to the weekly delivery of in-season veggies. Does anyone in the Chesapeake area do that for seafood? I can see getting rockfish, crabs, oysters from the Bay when in season and supporting local watermen. Ever heard of such a thing?

These are gaining populaity in NE, but I have not yet heard of anyone doing this in the Bay.

Some friends are working on it though so I will let the WAPO folks know if anything comes to fruition!

Yes, please do! We had a piece in 2009 about a CSF (for fisheries) in Maine that I was DYING to join.

Hi, there! Thanks for the chats--I love them! Question for you--Asian recipes often call for rice wine. I finally went to Safeway to get some (I had been subbing rice wine vinegar, and finally decided it wasn't a close enough approximation). I get the rice wine home, and it says "sweetened mirin." It said 8% alcohol, and I know mirin is rice wine, but sweetened? I have a bad feeling that I bought the wrong thing...did I? And if so, where to find proper rice wine? Thank you!!

Think you're good. Rice wine is low-alcohol, fermented, pretty much comes slightly sweetened. Seems like if the recipe wanted you to use sake  (also a rice wine) it would specify.

Just found out yesterday that Slavin's in Arlington is closed. Can anyone suggest a good seafood retailer in the Alexandria/Arlington area>

I called Bob Kinkead, who may be the dean of seafood in the Washington D.C. area. He said he many of the small fishmongers have died off in recent years, but that you can find good seafood at Wegmans in Fairfax, Balducci's in Alexandria and Whole Foods fish department, which has a location in Arlington. But, as Kinkead warns, "you will pay top dollar" for these fish.

Is there ever a way to smoke cheese on the grill? If so, what kind of cheeses would be used? I do get smoked gouda from a store, but I wondered about other types of cheese.

I smoked some cheddar cheese last summer, which turned out well. Though, as I suggested in this blog post, you might want to bore a hole in the middle of the cheese for better smoke penetration.

Its farm raised catfish by any other name. Its cheap awful and nasty. I spend a little more for cod, scrod or flounder. A tuna loin since it is so expensive should never be cooked beyond rare. Dont know why you would us indirect heat and cook through unless you were afraid of rare fish.

While tilapia may have a 'lesser' taste, it has been a great boon to the industry and for chefs trying to wean Americans off beef/chicken menu staples. Customers who would never have ordered fish are beginning to branch out and try new things because of the mild flavor.

While I prefer stronger-flavored fish to tilapia, it is a great product that can be farmed very responsibly. And the best part is that it is bringing good nutrition to people who otherwise would not ever touch fish to their lips.

The questions about grilling fish reminded me of this: I love how salmon tastes when cooked in a bamboo steamer but if I put the salmon directly on the bamboo, the skin sticks to it. If I put it on a plate inside the steamer, I feel like I'm defeating part of the purpose of the steamer. What should I do?

Put a few green onions under the fish in the steamer. It will prevent from sticking and add a nice aroma. Lemon slices will work wonders, too!

If you're going to have wa-a-a-ay too much celery left over and don't want it to spoil, chop it into a typical-size dice, blanch, then freeze for future soups, stews etc.

Yep, indeed.

I check in with this chat often and keep forgetting to say how entertaining I think your story headlines are. Today we have, Brush with Greatness, Fair to Muddling, very clever! Love the section.

Thanks for noticing! Those are usually the work of Bonnie Benwick (especially the big display headlines, like "Brush with greatness") and Jane Touzalin (the other heads and inside heads, such as "Let's be fair to muddling"). I'm lucky to have such a great team!

Yee-haw, you've made my day.  In an age of SEO-purposed headlines, as my old colleague Gene Weingarten laments, the fun ones tend to get outmoded. So there's one reason to save the fish-wrap edition: more wit! Sometimes Jane Touzalin (of Chat Leftovers fame) and I have a friendly competition week to week. . . she's almost always the one who writes the superior Wine and Spirits headlines. I bow in her direction.

I need to bring a dish to a large outdoor party. It's a really, really casual affair -- everyone will be coming and going all day, kids and adults alike, and it needs to be something that can sit out for a long period of time without safety concerns and won't require cooking at the host's house. And a lot of the guests (not just the kids!) are kind of picky. Please help!

Kind love this Asian-Style Cabbage Slaw, and it's a crowd pleaser. Not high-class eatin', exactly, but certainly fits the bill.  It passes the safety concerns test -- although it's never a bad idea for summer parties to seat a large bowl o'  salads like this  inside an even larger bowl with some crushed ice.

Mind your own business. What folks eat is none of yours or the govts business. Stay out of folks lives. They do not need you or the govt for a nanny/ Get a hobby or a job please!

A couple of responses have mentioned onions and mushrooms, and those make a great side for grilled steak (or on a burger). Saute the onions and mushrooms (roughly chopped) in butter until the mushrooms have lost their water, then add a good amount of dry sherry and fresh-ground pepper and cook down until the sherry and butter have become very thick. Simple and we've always had people ask for the recipe, such as it is.

Hi. I had an herb liqueur in Croatia called Travarica. It was so good: smooth, not sweet, nice for sipping. I haven't been able to find it anywhere in the US. Do you have any ideas? Thanks!

You have officially stumped the spirits columnist. I've never had it before. But now I would very much like to try it...

I have had great success with the following recipe from here ( put 10oz frozen raspberries 1/3C, (approx 2 1/2oz) sugar or to taste, and 1/2C heavy cream in a food processor. Whizz until the mixture is creamy and looks like soft gelato. Freeze for a few hours. It'll start getting tough if you keep it for a few days, but you can always thaw it out a bit, re-whizz in the food processor, and freeze again. You can use other fruits, too. A friend tried with mango and loved it. If you use banana you can probably cut down on the cream. The author of that blog has an entire post devoted to how to make ice cream without a maker here: Doesn't stop me longing for an ice cream maker, though...

blatant hint: my nephew just bought an ice shaver with the last of his Christmas money! He's only 9, but so curious about food. He invented an appitizer we served at my last cookout: chilie or black beans or cheese cube in a Tortilla Scoop (must be the bowl-shaped ones), cover with salsa and grated cheese and zap for one minute. The tortilla gets just soft enough to bite and the cheese is melty great.


My 2-year-old son is my favorite paletero. He has an oversized wagon that he pushes sort of backwards around our driveway, and he bears an uncanny resemblance to the Latino gent that squeaks around our neighborhood on weekends with his white cart ..... so whenever my son gets rolling, we call out "Paletas! Paletas!" No point to the story, just a cheap ploy for the cookbook. :)

OMG, that's so hilarious and charming. Cheap ploy or not, it worked.

Yes, "quite squishable" -- but IMPROVED by squishing!

What fish for the upper midwest do you suggest...the only thing local that I've found is walleye. (talking Minnesota/Wisconsin/Iowa).

I actually have a list of fish that substitute for more common coastal species in my book.

Many of the lake fish are delicious such as bluegill, yellow perch (most of the comercial catch actually comes from the Chesapeake), and catfish are all great eating species.

Great Lakes Smelt, the invasive Asian Carp, and Lake Whitefish can all be the basis of a great meal.

Uh, yes it is if a) the government is paying for it; or, b) the government is paying for the medical care for conditions resulting from poor diet.

For the second summer in a row it looks like I'll be stuck in a high rise apartment with no grill anywhere to be seen. What can I do with an oven, a range, and a crockpot to facilitate the sense of summer foods? I have ample access to fresh produce, but everyone knows that a broiler doesn't even come in close as a second to a grill.

Go buy a can of smoked paprika and mix it with a little butter or olive oil. The smoky flavors mimic that of a grill and can be used to enliven greens, fish, salads, sauces!

We did a story awhile back on getting the flavors of smoking and grilling without having to cook outdoors. Check it out here.

Hi! I'm going camping this weekend (for the first time!) and I'm looking for recipe recommendations. We will have access to a charcoal grill, coolers, hot water, and perhaps a camping stove. We have breakfast and lunch pretty much set, but dinner is still a question mark. There will be 10 of us, several who don't eat pork, and one who doesn't eat beef. Any thoughts?

Allow me to tout Jim Shahin's pecan-smoked beer can chicken, which you should be able to do easily enough.

Are they both really scallops? Which are better?

Absolutely they are both scallops!

I like the texture ad taste of the Bay's better, although I could argue that forever with most chefs.

A Scallop is a bi-valve much like an oyster or mussel. The difference is that with scallops w only eat the adductor muscle, the muscle which keeps the shell closed.

Look for the little white circle in Mussels next time you eat them and you will realize how much of a whole scallop that we actually eat!

Make a simple onion relish; slice them thinly and macerate (?) them in balsemic vinegar, paprika, honey, cider vinegar and lots of fresh cracked pepper. Keep them in the fridge and use them on steamed greens or whatever suits your taste. Yummy.

I saw a recipe (I believe it was in a Moosewood cookbook) that had you freeze an ice cream mixture in ice cube trays. When ready to serve, let it sit on the counter for a few minutes to melt, then blend in the blender. I imagine this would give more along the lines of a soft serve texture, but I've never tried it.

I make celery risotto. Also, if you have kids, or any guests, just cut it up and put some peanut butter or cream cheese in it and leave it on the table. Over time, you will have celery converts if they're not already celery lovers.

Celery risotto. Intriguing.

I made falafel for the first time the other day and it was tasty, but not quite thick enough. Is the most likely fix to add more chickpeas?

Should be quite thick -- enough to hold together in a ball or patty. If you add chickpeas or parsley, be sure to adjust the seasoning.

I bought two at the store last night since the broccali was gone. I picked two that seemed heavy for their size (people say that is good for lots of veggies so I guessed it couldn't hurt). What on earth do I do with them? They look intimidating.

I love fried artichokes. But if that's too heavy, how about Roasted Artichokes and Potatoes or an artichoke salad?

That is a blow. In addition to the chains (Whole Foods, etc.) there's always America Seafood in Arlington, but it's way north. I've found the stuff is mostly pretty good, though.

Thanks for passing that information along!

I had the same issue with needing a stalk or two and then being left with the rest. The package actually had a recipe for celery soup (might've said bisque), and now I make it all the time. It's even okay at room temp for you folks in warmer weather (i'm in San Francisco). Basically just chop up onion, celery & carrot and saute in butter til soft. Then add thyme and 5 tbsp white rice, cook for a minute, then add broth. Let cool and puree. You can then finish with sour cream or another dairy, though it doesn't really need it. I really like how the rice gives it substance.


No Barton tilipia is great for restaurants since its cheap at the wholesale level and you can charge your customers whatever they will pay. Tilipia gives restaurants a substantial mark up. And isnt tilipia bad for the environment with the fish farms?

White tablecloth restaurants- i.e. those that charge a great markup are typically not who uses Tilapia.And yes, restaurants are a business purposed with making money from whatever a customer will pay. But remember that restaurants must balance making money and getting customers to return becuase of value and good experiences. It is a fine line.

Restaurants such as Applebees, Fridays etc. need a low price commodity fish that they can sell and introduce their customers to the benefits of a seafood diet.

And Tilapia is raised both responsibly ad irreesponsibly, it s a matter of doing some homework and finding the right sources. Look for domestically farmed product.

Well, you've broiled us for about 6 minutes, until we are just cooked through and the glaze is lightly browned, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and to Barton Seaver, Jim Shahin and Jason Wilson for helping us answer them.

Now for the giveaways: The chatter who shouted "Paletas! Paletas!" will get ... "Paletas!" Duh.

And the chatter who asked Barton about a seafood CSA will get a SIGNED copy of his book, "For Cod and Country."

Just send your mailing information to editorial aide Tim Smith at, and he will get you your books.

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

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