Free Range on Food: One-bowl baking, Father's Day, how to use a grill pan, this week's recipes and more!

Jun 12, 2019

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

Greetings, food lovers, and welcome to today's chat! Here's hoping you're enjoying what we've been publishing, including:

And more recipes and how-tos galore!

We have two very special guests today -- Dan Souza, EIC of Cook's Illustrated; and Jessie "The Vintage Baker" Sheehan. They can answer all SORTS of questions, you know. Dan is especially well versed in food science, and Jessie in baking, but hit them/us with anything, and we can handle.

We'll have SIGNED cookbooks to give away to our favorite chatters today: "Vegetables Illustrated" from Dan's team at Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen, and "The Vintage Baker" from Jessie!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR1288 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's get going!

I don't know if you did it on purpose, but I enjoyed today's food section with more articles and fewer recipes. I'm sure I spent more time with the section this morning than I did for the last month combined.

We like to shake things up. Glad you liked it!

Why is the temperature of the water bath warmer than the temperature one would want for medium rare? For example, desiring a rare steak but the water bath is circulating at 130.

Good question. With sous vide cooking there is no carryover cooking--meaning that the temperature  of the steak won't climb after you have removed it from the water bath, with the exception of whatever temperature increase you get from searing the steak (which is usually quite small with a rapid sear). If you were cooking traditionally in a skillet you'd pull a medium-rare steak at 125 degrees, but the big heat differential in the steak means it would carryover to 130 degrees. So you end up in the same place. 

I am throwing a post-church brunch for about 15 people. I am thinking I should have some items that can be put out immediately upon return from church and while breakfast casseroles are baking. I'm looking for any brunch "appetizer" ideas that will keep people from being hangry but won't fill them up too much. Fruit? A blueberry coffee cake or selection of pastries? I'm sure I am missing some obvious ideas!

Hello! Might I suggest my One-Bowl Jumbo Cheesy Prosciutto Muffins - you could make them into mini muffins - or even regular sized ones - and they'd be perfect for munching on pre-casseroles. You could also make the One-Bowl Blackberry Cobbler with Easy Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits - these WOULD require small plates and forks, but each biscuit is small and would be a nice little sweet treat pre-brunch.  

I have a gas range top that runs very hot. When searing meat in cast iron, I always burn the oil or rendered fat. Is there a way to know when it’s hot enough to get a crust but not hot enough to burn the fat to a useless black sludge?

Lucky you! Many folks struggle with underpowered burners, so this is a good thing, generally speaking. We always advise putting oil in the skillet before heating it up so that you can use the oil as a visual indicator. When it shimmers it's good for sautéing, and when just starts to smoke it's ready for searing meats. I would recommend getting your pan to the smoke point, adding your meat, and then turning the heat down to btwn medium and medium-high. You can hear if the pan is hot enough by the rapid sizzle. If that sizzle sound starts to fade, turn that heat up. I also recommend flipping the meat frequently--as frequently as every 30-40 seconds for a steak. This not only cooks the meat more evenly, but it gives you a peak at the crust consistently so you can see how it is progressing. 

My muffins never seem rise like muffins from my local bakery even when the muffin tins are almost full of batter. Does this have anything to do with the leavener I am using, the oven temperature, or both?

Well, getting a muffin to rise properly can be tricky, no doubt. My first suggestion would definitely be to fill the cups generously and I would also suggest starting at a higher temp, like at 400, and then dropping the temp to 350 halfway through baking - the hot oven helps the muffins rise when they initially begin baking. Also, if you are looking for a muffin that is guaranteed to rise, might I suggest my Jumbo Cheesy Prosciutto Muffins with Chives

What brand of Frozen shrimp do you recommend that I should purchase?

Frozen shrimp is a great buy. Nearly all shrimp sold at the supermarket was once frozen so it's best to buy while still frozen and do the thawing yourself. The best way to buy frozen shrimp is to turn the bag around and look at the ingredient list. You want it to say, at most, shrimp and salt. If lists other chemicals, which are used to plump the shrimp, put it back. Those chemicals change the texture of the shrimp and can leave soapy, off flavors. 

Thanks for taking my question. My nephew tried to make Kouign Amann. He's made croissants before (as have I,) and the dough rose and intially looked good. But after he shaped it and put it in the often, it did not rise while it baked - just stayed flat. At that stage the lift comes from the laminated dough, correct? What might have gone wrong and how should we prevent this from happening again? Any advice appreciated.

Homemade Kouign Amann and croissants? I want to come to your house! Yes, the leavening in each of these is thanks to the lamination. As the layers of butter melt and the water in the butter turns to steam, it puffs and separates the layers of dough. One of the biggest reasons that laminated doughs don't rise is that the layers have become compromised. This can happen when the butter gets too warm and dough gets too wet. If the layers are not separated by butter before baking, they will remain stuck together in the oven. I recommend making sure you are working with very cold dough and butter while forming your laminated dough.

Can I leave it out or sub with something else? For both caffeine-free and not-wanting-to-buy-something-only-need-a small-qty-of reasons.

RECIPE: One-Bowl Chocolate Snack Cake

You can absolutely leave it out. I only include it because a little espresso powder helps bring out the flavor of the chocolate - and actually adds no "coffee" flavor. Hope you make the cake and hope you enjoy!

@jessiesheehanbakes They always say you should read a recipe completely from start to finish. With baking recipes, I often find myself re-reading at every step because I can't m remember the next direction and I'm worried about screwing up. However, I'm also worried about the time sensitivity of the batter, eggs, etc. Do you have any tips for having a recipe run smoothly while I'm baking?

Ahhh, such a good question. I, too, am a worrier, and sometimes even a screwer up of things, so you are not alone. But in this instance, I think you can cut yourself a break - of course there are instances when you do need to move quickly and rereading a recipe might cause you a delay you can't afford, like when making caramel for instance, but in general, your batter can afford to sit for the minute or so that it might take you to reread a step in the recipe, etc. , as can your whipped egg whites, or beaten yolks.

Where can I buy Cajeta (Mexican caramel sauce) in the DC area? I tried a market in Mount Pleasant but no luck. I plan to use it in a recipe for Mexican caramel ice cream.

We were JUST talking about this recently! Love the stuff. The last time I bought it I believe it was from Catoctin Creamery, found at a farmers market. I can't quite tell from their website what markets they're at, but looks like they're at these at the very least. And more, I'm sure, because I must've gotten this at Dupont or maybe White House? Hmm... You could contact them to check!

Another thought: Get yourself some goat's milk and make your own! Our friend Pati Jinich has a recipe, and she's the best, so it must be good!

Food-adjacent question here: we are in the market for a new gas range. A) What features can you all not live without? B) We've seen ranges ranging from 5.0 to 6.0+ cubic feet of space. How much space do I actually need/what does the difference actually mean in terms of what I can or can't put in the oven? We are currently a family of 3 who generally host up to ~15, but we don't do things like cook a Thanksgiving turkey.

I'm sure you'll get many perspectives on your question, but here's one thing I love about the oven we inherited when we bought our new home: It has two ovens, a smaller one on top, and a larger one on the bottom. I don't cook much these days, save for holidays, but having two ovens, that you can set at two temperatures, is a godsend. It makes large cooking projects SO much easier.

No question, just a shout-out to Kari Sonde’s piece about her dad’s omelets. I was born in the Subcontinent. As kids, my brother and I would often eat a meal of fully-cooked “desi” spicy omelets, thick-cut french fries, and ketchup. This was a heavenly combo. Those were much happier days when my family all got along, so thinking of the omelet meal brings fond memories. Oh, and to those who may be making a moue of distaste right about now (omelets with ketchup?) , I say: Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

This is so kind, thank you!!! Yeah ketchup and eggs belong together, sorry not sorry to the ketchup haters.

ARTICLE: For my father, making his masala omelet is an act of precision and love

Hello. I recently purchased some bamboo skewers at a well known kitchen store. On the package directions it says to hand wash. It also says they are eco friendly. Are bamboo skewers reusable? I am planning to use them on the grill with chicken and vegetables. It does not seem to me that one could reuse them so I am looking to the experts. Thanks.

Hi! Bamboo is a great material for kitchen items because it is highly renewable and actually has some antibacterial properties. That said, I can't think of many uses for bamboo skewers where they aren't loaded up with fats that will go rancid, charred beyond use, etc. They are a good disposable, biodegradable item. 

This  was fun but my daughter claims that Kari must have stolen the story from her mind :-)

Haha thank you! Love that others have similar omelet +family connections :)

Question 1: If a recipe calls for four pieces of meat and maybe ¾ cup kosher salt or 6 tablespoons table salt and 6 tablespoons granulated sugar to 3 quarts of water for a 1 hour brine, can you cut the brine ingredients by half for just two pieces of meat? Question 2: Sometimes ATK recipes use kosher salt and sometimes table salt for a brine. Does it really matter as long as you know what amount to use?

Good questions!

1: Yes, you can definitely halve everything in the brine. We've also found you can double the amount of meat going into a standard brine and still get the same results. 

2: No, you can use either. The key is know that 1 tsp table salt = 1 1/2 tsp Morton Kosher = 2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher. They are different densities and so measure differently volumetrically. 

My wife loves Fireball Whiskey, mostly just drinking it straight from the bottle. I'm hoping to add a bit of refinement to our lives by using Fireball as the base for a nice cocktail. Any suggestions on what to make to elevate our Fireball game?

How bout this cake, plus shots?

RECIPE: Fireball Whisky Cake

If you like Fireball neat, I'm not sure how much you're going to want to adulterate it with other flavors -- BUT you might try a Fireball Manhattan. If you try that, I would probably say split the Fireball base with another, unflavored whiskey and tinker with the amount of sweet vermouth, because otherwise you may end up with something REALLY sweet. Another option: Fireball and a zippy ginger ale, so you get spice on spice -- I'd add a wheel or two of lemon and see where you get. 

(I'm withholding all comments and judgment about the "straight from the bottle" aspect of this question, and am now patting myself on the back for my maturity.) 

I was intrigued by the book title "The Vintage Baker," so I went to take a peek. Jessie Sheehan -- you've warmed my heart with your introduction featuring your grandmother first thing! My Nana was the first one to let me into the kitchen and encourage and nourish my love of baking. I'll cherish those memories forever. Speaking of Grandmothers, there's a recipe floating around the internet for "Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie Cake," and for those readers out there who like the idea of "pie," but aren't fans of traditional pie crust, do yourselves a favour and check it out! The original recipe is paired with apples, but it also works swimmingly as a vehicle for an open faced peach and cream pie (one of my Nana's recipes)! -- A link to the recipe, if it's allowed.

So pleased to hear this! Yay! You have made my day. Also, the apple pie cake you mentioned sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing. 

What foods should you never make for Father's Day? What are the "do"s and "don't"s of Father'd Day dinner? Is there any traditional Father's Day fare?

Gosh, I am not sure if there is a dish that you should NEVER make for Father's Day, or even what dishes are "traditional," but I can tell you that I always make my dad fudge, a recipe from my cookbook, The Vintage Baker - he and I do not live near each other and so fudge is the perfect, easily packaged-up sweet that I send every year. 

I can't think of a single thing you shouldn't make for Father's Day outside of foods your father actually dislikes. In fact, I think what you should make, if you plan to cook him dinner (which is such a lovely gesture,) is to make him his favorite foods, and then share the meal with him!

I'm looking for a fool-proof oven fried green tomatoes recipe. I love frying them in a cast iron skillet but am trying to be "healthier". Any suggestions for how to transition a recipe from stove-top to the oven would be greatly appreciated!

One of the best tricks we've ever come up with here at Cook's Illustrated for baked "fried" items it that you need to pre-toast your breadcrumbs in a skillet in fat before applying them to the food. That fat and toasting goes a long way to getting gorgeous fry-like browning all over. Would highly recommend for fried green tomatoes. Man I want some fried green tomatoes right now...

I'm trying to hold off on putting my window AC in for at least another week or two, which means I want to keep the cooking/baking to pretty much zero. Any suggestions for simple no-cook meals that maybe aren't the typical sandwich or salad? I recently made your curry chickpea salad sandwiches and liked those very much, but wouldn't mind expanding my repertoire a bit.

Would you consider a recipe using hot water and no other heat? You can make couscous by pouring boiling water over it and letting it stand, then throwing in chopped cherry tomatoes, tons of fresh herbs, onions, chickpeas, salt and whatever spices you feel like. 

Well, since you did mention "baking" I thought I'd chime in with a suggestion for a no-bake dessert - how about an icebox cake? I actually wrote a book on Icebox Cakes and am a huge fan - and they are THE best in the summer (or even spring!) when turning on the oven is exactly what you do NOT want to do. 

To build on what Kari suggested, I wrote about a couple grain recipes awhile back that use soaking, not cooking. Check it out!

Kari's article on her father's omelets was lovely, a sweet tribute. Thank you for recipe, will try it. Embarrassed to say, can't make an omelet to save my life. What is the trick? Do I need an in-person demo?

Thank you! So this kind of omelet isn't like a French one where you have to pay attention to it to fluff it up. This one you just pour straight into the pan and flip like a pancake. It's not fluffy like the French ones are; you sort of drape it onto bread like you would sliced turkey. If you rip or tear it, no worries! It'll taste just fine

In terms of making those fluffy rolled French ones...I screw those up all the time. Still taste good. Anyone else want to weigh in on making those right?

I grabbed it from my parents' kitchen when they downsized. I admit that I did it without any particular use in mind, but I am in an apartment so an actual grill is impossible and it is fairly flat, so storage isn't a problem. Any veggie forward options for using it. I have a lot of broccoli I was going to roast this weekend, but I could be persuaded to do something else. It does seem kind of small to handle food for a crowd or for keeping around for eating during the week.

My FAVORITE use for a grill pan is to grill bread to serve with, well, everything. I make nice thick slices of a hearty rustic boule, drizzle with olive oil, and lay into a nicely preheated grill pan. 60-90 seconds a side and you have plush bread with crisped bits, and some lovely char. Oops, that's not a veggie. I love love grilling veggies that I want to keep nice and crisp-tender, as you only really have heat coming from the pan itself. Asparagus is great, as are green beans. Also, no risk of veg falling through the grates!

Kraft is trying to get children to eat more salad by relabeling ranch salad dressing as "salad frosting". "Kids will eat anything with frosting, right?" is their argument. If you compare nutritionally the same amount of "salad frosting" and Betty Crocker frosting, Betty Crocker's icing is much healthier, with less fat and way less sodium. So why should parents attempt to trick their children in this way? Many products are nutritionally questionable, but this crosses the line, to my mind. Why should the chidren believe anything their parents say after this? Sign me, Irritated.

That is exactly the message I tried to convey in this weird humor piece I *just* published about salad frosting. Enjoy!

I was deleting random emails too quickly and accidentally deleted my week one newsletter of Plant Powered before reading it (and didn't realize that until I got week 2 this week). Is there a place these are archived? Thanks!

Email us at, and we can forward you one.

The veggie vendor at my farmers market has these really small, light purple eggplants- I'm talking 2-3 inches long. Are these just young purple eggplants, or are they a different kind of eggplant? Is there any advantage to cooking them? They look cute but I'm not sure how I'd prepare them!

These are fairy-tale eggplants -- aren't they adorable? You can do anything with them you do with other eggplant. I like to roast them whole and serve them with a sauce, like romesco, cause they're so great-looking that way.

We are a (mostly) older ladies book club in Virginia that has been meeting since 1993. My favorite cakes to have for hosting have been hummingbird cake, apple butterscotch and chocolate sheet cake. Can you all think of any other classic type cakes (of any sort!) that I could add in to the rotation? Any help is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

I wish I was a member of the club and could eat all those delicious cakes you mentioned! What about an angel food cake? Perhaps served with whipped cream and fresh berries? Or a bundt cake?

I can't tell you how much I love this article. I've been saying literally for decades that our dualistic and conflicted relationship with food is unhealthy. I wasn't brought up that way and it made such a difference. I am thrilled we are finally talking about how teaching people that the food they eat make a them either saints or sinners is not helpful.

I thought eggs with ketchup was only an Irish thing.

I thought this was just an Indian thing to be honest, please let me know how you pair them!!!

good interview joe! miso-roasted asparagus will be happening tonight to go with rainbow salmon stir-fry.

What are some of your favorite Portuguese recipes?

My family is from the Azores (Terceira) and alcatra is a BIG there. My family uses white wine which is just under-used with beef in my opinion. Our recipe is killer. And I love bacalhua a bras very very much. And red potatoes with masa de malageta!  


Well, for my father, that would be any food that's been anywhere near beets, cucumbers, and cloves. Other than that, anything goes. What does your father hate?

Kidney beans and biting into whole coriander seeds.

Cocoa in chili? Just found a few recipes that suggest it - thoughts?



Voraciously's recent bean taco recipe calls for including the liquid from the canned beans. Thought canned beans should always be rinsed and the liquid discarded?

It's really personal preference. I usually do, especially if I'm not using a BPA-free can (although I almost always am) and/or I'm trying to cut down on the sodium if the beans aren't no-salt-added (although they usually are). Sometimes I do like having that moisture -- and if there are spices/etc., I'm fine w/the taste.

Of course they go together. Duh.

I know! I always thought so, too.

I think Becky might officially be my girl crush. Her tahini blondies recipe was amazing (addictive!) with so much room for variations (I veganized it). Tahini tip: I keep the wire ball from my BlenderBottle in the tahini so all I need to do is shake it up before I use it.

Aw, thanks, I'm blushing! Glad you liked it, and this recipe has gotten a bunch of rave reviews so far. I'm thrilled. It really is pretty flexible. Feel free to share your vegan tweaks with the rest of the class!

Chocolate Chunk Tahini Blondies

RECIPE: The key to these gooey, chocolaty blondies? Open sesame.

BTW, is everyone else as obsessed with that wall of blondies as I am? Credit goes to our wonderful art director Amanda Soto for that. It was more than a little nerve-wracking watching her put it together in our photo shoot!

along the lines of the eggplant question... are baby zucchini at the farmers market just the young version of "regular" zucchini? or a different varietal entirely? thanks!

I think those are usually just babies, yeah.

Use your pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Soak legumes in them before pressure-cooking; use for rice dishes -- won't heat up the kitchen the way an oven would.

Sure, but you really don't need to soak your legumes before pressure cooking...

We hosted a Filipino college student who always put ketchup on her breakfast eggs.

I do it too! 

I learned about ketchup and eggs in high school, where we all did it at the school cafeteria. Since my school was fairly international, I assumed that eggs/ketchup was sort of the universal love language of breakfast :) I'm glad it's widely done!

I'm tired of seeing dark looks when I put ketchup on eggs. It tastes good.

Living for all this ketchup-and-eggs love!

Patty pan squash is so cute I can never resist purchasing it. But regardless of how I cook it, it always tastes bitter. Are there tips on removing the bitterness, such as letting it sit cut and salted for awhile such as eggplant? I always buy it in season from local farmers.

I haven't really noticed this! I wonder if you're getting particularly big ones -- with eggplant, that's certainly a factor. Definitely try the salting technique; don't see why that wouldn't work!

You don't need to, but it does cut down on the cooking time, even in a pressure cooker.

Yep, I'll do it just as insurance in case I don't know how old the beans are (which is often), but the time savings is pretty minimal. If you like it, do it!

You guys are amazing! Thanks for these chats!! To my question... The other day we were grilling and realized we were out of our go-to cans of 'baked' beans. I had a can of white kidney beans, so I tossed them into a pot and added stuff (onion, molasses, worcestershire sauce, tamarind paste, apple cider vinegar, assorted spices as inspired, and a bit of butter) to come up with something similar. It wasn't a disaster, but we did throw out the leftovers. I cannot eat tomato (or any nightshades), so ketchup was not an option, nor was adding bell pepper. Do you have any quick bean go-to recipes that could substitute for commercially available 'baked' beans? I like the idea of making my own rather than the pre-processed stuff and the hubster prefers his beans to be sweet rather than full-on savory (which I could have pulled off in seconds). This darn allergy just makes things more difficult. Thanks for the assist!

Well, the best baked-bean recipes are when the beans are slowly baked -- cooked first on the stovetop, then baked in a low often with sweet-sour seasonings as you mention. I'd try doing what you did, but add some dried mustard to taste, and actually bake the beans!

Hi Food gang! I've tried several times to make cacio e pepe pasta, which seems to simple but...just isn't. I always seem to end up with up clumps of pecorino romano even though the recipe promises a "silky" cheese sauce. Any thoughts on this? Any recipe you really like? I've been using a microplane to grate the cheese really fine. I'm wondering if perhaps a little cornstarch might help the sauce come together better? Taking a page from fondue, for example. or maybe going the béchamel route a bit (using pasta cooking water for liquid instead of milk), but I don't want to use a lot of flour, since that seems wrong for the dish.

Aaron Silverman, the chef and owner behind Rose's Luxury (which serves my go-to bowl of cacio e pepe), has some good advice on how to avoid clumpy sauce with your cacio e pepe.


Although he obviously doesn't know the specifics of your recipe, Silverman says that clumpy sauce usually occurs because of two things:


1. The sauce is cooked too long, causing the cheese to turn stringy and clumpy;


2. The cheese is grated too fine, which then melts fast in the pan and quickly moves into the clumpy/stingy stage.


Silverman suggests that you start your cacio e pepe by emulsifying equal amounts of butter and water in a pan, along with LOTS of coarsely ground black pepper. ("However much you think is too much, you should add more than that," Silverman says about black pepper.)


From there, add your pasta (he recommends spaghetti or rigatoni), either partially or fully cooked. If partially cooked, finish cooking the pasta in the emulsified sauce; if fully cooked, toss the sauce with the noodles.


NOW is the time to add your pecorino romano. But don't grind it too fine. For a single serving of cacio e pepe, Silverman recommends adding about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cheese, with a little more as a garnish (the cheese used as a garnish should be even coarser than the stuff you tossed into the sauce, so that it "pops" with flavor as you eat). 


Add more cracked black pepper and serve.


I hope this helps!


Shouldn't you also be concerned about where the shrimp comes from? Especially for farmed shrimp? I remember reading something about certain countries not having the best environmental/farming practices. But then I also ready about the dead zone we'll have in the Gulf as a result of flooding in the Midwest that will kill off plenty of shrimp so maybe US shrimp isn't even that great.

In terms of sourcing, I highly recommend consulting often with Monterrey Bay Seafood Watch for most up to date recommendations. As you have hinted at here, seafood sustainability is an incredible complex issue and things change as nations, producer, etc. adjust practices, stocks recover, etc.  

Loved the article and especially that it makes baking accessible. Using a kitchen aid mixer I find helps in with the one bowl idea - but not sure whether it " counts" Also a mystery to me - I've been making sponge cake to use up egg yolks. the recipe I have calls for flour, sugar, egg yolks, baking powder,lemon and ICE water. I came across one that is essentially the same but specifies for HOT water. Thoughts on how they would differ, if at all. Both seem very adamant

So pleased you liked my article! Yay! In my one-bowl baking world, the bowl of a stand mixer absolutely counts as your one-bowl - now I only use the stand mixer bowl (in other words all of my ingredients go into it - no additional mixing bowl or small containers for holding bits of ingredients) - and for me, that is one bowl baking at it's finest! As for the mystery, wow - I have to say I am not sure. I have definitely used hot water in chocolate cake recipes, as the heat blooms the chocolate and makes it more chocolate-y, and I have used ice water in white cakes, as it contributes to a tender crumb, but not sure why you should find some sponge cakes calling for cold water and some for hot . . . 

Maybe this is too obvious to mention, but the first possibility I thought of was too-old baking powder.

I received honeydew melon in my veggie/fruit box delivery this week. I never buy them, and only think of them in a mixed fruit salad as taking up space. Any ideas on ways to use them for someone not all that keen on the big green melon. (and heck, even open to drink ideas).

Drink ideas: I absolutely love honeydew with lime, and as far as a spirit goes, a smoky mezcal works great as a contrasting note. 

Found some honeydew recipes that do AREN'T fruit salad (we know everyone will avoid them...)

Prosecco-Spiked Melon With Basil

Honeydew Muscat Granita With Red Grape Relish (for something a little fancier)

Tuna Tacos With Lime Aioli and Honeydew Jicama Slaw


I struggle at planning recipes for camp cooking. I need recipes that are kid friendly, nut-free, easy-ish to make on a cook stove, and don't require a lot of pots, pans, and utensils, or any electricity. Any suggestions, either for recipes or websites for said recipes?

Here's a piece last year I did on camp cooking. 

camp cooking

ARTICLE: How to ditch the boring trail mix and eat well while camping out

My first thought of where to find kid-friendly recipes would be resources aimed at Girl and Boy Scouts. Here are two examples.

Some of us need to eat healthier (sigh-sob) and would love advice from those who know, about using sugar substitutes in baking and frosting. (In search of a healthy cupcake...)

Oh, gosh. I wish I could help, but I never use sugar substitutes in baking or in frostings . . . Sorry!

Because my kids hate ranch and it has nothing to do with the name. They can call it by any other they want (ranch frosting = blech by the way).

If we follow Kraft Heinz's line of thinking, this means that when you don't want your kids to eat cookies and junk food, you can just tell them it's ranch.

My father talked about ketchup sandwiches--from his time in graduate school where all that was left on the Sunday night table at the place he ate was ketchup and bread. This was during the Depression and in the South, so Sunday supper options were thin on the ground. As a result, we didn't keep ketchup in the house.

I did something similar, but with something ... whiter.


I just bought an electric pasta maker from Philips and I'm so excited to start using it! In their recipe book, it says I can use "spinach juice" to make green pasta, but there aren't instructions on how to make the juice. I know I could get frozen spinach and squeeze the liquid out, but I'd prefer to use fresh.

You want to puree the spinach, I'd think!

I have never had ranch dressing!! What does it even taste like???? I have had Cool Ranch Doritos, if it tastes anything like those.

I don't know you.

Hi there! I'm a little behind the 8-ball when it comes to deep frying. I don't do it often so a dedicated appliance would be a bit much, but I put the oil in the pan, then put a thermometer into the oil, so I know when it's up to speed. Here's the problem: when I first put the food into the hot oil, the temperature registered on the thermometer shoots WAY up. And since I'm using an electric stove, backing off the heat doesn't work right away. But then as the food cooks, the oil temp drops to something like 275 degrees and takes forever to recover. What to do?

Welcome to the world of wonderful home deep-fried food! You bring up lots of good issues here. First, I would you should ignore that temperature increase you are seeing on your thermometer when you add the food. Adding cold food to hot oil will always decrease the temperature of the oil. So I recommend keeping your burner on high to help battle against that temperature drop. The second thing is that it's okay for the temperature to drop some. Good recipes have that drop built into them. For instance we might heat our oil at 375 degrees, knowing that when you add your chicken, it will drop to about 300 degrees and slowly recover to 325 over the entire frying time. And that will give great results. If we wanted it recover a little faster we might start at 400 degrees. You get the get idea. The temperature drop and recovery is a natural part of home frying. And the really interesting bit is that even at 275 degrees, you are driving off water and browning the surface of the food. 

I think Dorie Greenspan shared that recipe in her book, Baking:From My Home to Yours...

She did! Just checked my copy!

I'm having my family over for a breakfast to celebrate Father's Day this year. It'll be eight adults and 2 children. No food restrictions, but not too sweet since I'll be serving dessert. I'd really like stuff that I can make ahead or comes together quickly, so I can visit with my family instead of staying in the kitchen. I did quiches last time, so I'd prefer no to have baked eggs. I'm thinking maybe waffles that I can make before they come over with bacon and sausage and fruit. Any other ideas? Also, I made the Chocolate Chunk Tahini Blondies last week and they're sooo good. Thanks for the recipe!

Might I suggest my Jumbo Cheesy Prosciutto Muffins with Chives? They are not too sweet and you could make mini ones or even regular-sized ones, if the jumbo-size is too much - they are wonderful warm from the oven with salted butter . . . 

Hi, I usually use boneless chicken breasts for pasta salad but thought of trying thighs because they might stay moister and more flavorful. What's your recommended no-fuss preparation for cooking chicken thighs for such a purpose?

This recipe for roasted chicken thighs looks delightful and pretty simple. And I agree on using thighs over breast for salad - you get a ton more flavor!

Please, help, this squash is haunting me.

I love Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese! It's also good roasted in a salad (with a honey dijon dressing, dried cranberries, pickled onion, a little cheddar or feta). 

Jose Andres' gazpacho recipe that was posted a couple of weeks ago! A little heat if you want to griddle the croutons, but otherwise no heat and delicious.



Bon Appetit recently featured some wonderful-looking melon salads that are not just bland hunks of melon, but more savory. Am still waiting for melon season to pick up here to try them, but check them out: I love it in agua fresca!

Poblano peppers are my food obsession of the moment. What I can't figure out is how, in the process of charring them, to get at the valleys or folds that don't touch the grill pan. I can smoosh them flat with something heavy but then the pepper cracks open and isn't good for stuffing with cheese. All my appliances are electric so holding the peppers over an open flame isn't an option unless I light a candle. Should I light a candle?

I think you can roast poblanos in the oven until they char, and that should get you the result you're looking for. A few years back the Post did a round-up of ways to use up your poblano peppers, and here's an example: nachos (who doesn't love those?)


Nothing better than apple crisp cooked in foil over a campfire.

Not sure why brine recipes always seem to have something sweet in them - sugar or maple syrup being the two I see most frequently. But I brine pork and poultry all the time (well, birds tend to get a dry brine from me) and take it from me, you don't need or want sugar in a pork brine unless you want the finished product to taste like honey-baked ham. My brine ingredients for pork are garlic cloves, a rosemary branch and/or thyme branches, fennel seed and peppercorns - and of course salt. And the garlic, once flash boiled in the brine, is great cooked along with the meat.

Totally agree that sugar in a brine can go overboard and get hammy. One of the primary reasons we add sugar (in relatively small quantities) to some brines is to improve browning. Some dissolved sugar on the surface of the meat will aid in super flavorful maillard browning reactions. 

Is it worth it? Or better to buy?

My answer will be extremely biased (full disclosure, I co-authored a book about making kimchi), but I highly highly recommend it. It is SO easy and so much fun, and you will feel amazingly accomplished, not to mention, it's fun to play with fermentation. A quick trip to a Korean grocery store, should get you what you need (Korean chives are amazing, btw, don't miss those). And should you find yourself unsure of which ingredient you might need (like the teeny tiny shrimp lots of recipes use), you can ask a store clerk - they LOVE to show those ingredients to customers :) Have fun with it!!

OK, it's a fruit salad, but for St. Patricks Day one year I made a fruit salad from honeydew, green grapes (sliced in half), the juice of one lime, the zest of one lime, and sugar to taste, and it was a big hit.

What´s up with "massaging" kale? What does it accomplish? Do you do it? Intrigued but not quite a convert yet. Muriel in Chevy Chase

The primary purpose is to soften the leaves and make them more pleasant to eat raw in a salad. Interestingly the act of massaging and crushing the leaves produces more bitterness as well. You can use that to you advantage by massaging and THEN rinse the kale. You strip away some of the bitterness and make a milder kale. I find that helpful sometimes when you want to use a lighter dressing that can't stand up to kale's intensity. And you don't have to do it all by hand meticulously. I throw a bunch in a zipperlock bag and roll a rolling pin over it until its bruised. Then rinse, spin dry, and dress. 

My Baltimore raises Grandmother used to serve a wedge with lemon as an appetizer at dinner. It was quite refreshing. Grandma was born in 1898.

Heinz, I think, makes it. That would make an awesome sandwich, maybe add eggs it it's a special occasion.

Yes! We taste-tested mayochup -- which is also known as mayoketchup and fry sauce, depending on where you buy it -- when it came out last fall. Read the story and watch the video here!

As someone who has struggled with this for ages, I found the Smitten Kitchen recipe (backed up by the wonderful Elizabeth Minchilli) to be the one thing that works.

I enjoyed the grill pan tips from the article, but what about a no stick grill pan? I am under the impression that no stick cookware should not be heated to the same temperature that would be optimal for a cast iron grill pan. Do you have any advice???

Toss it! That is my advice, and I'm mostly serious. I hated my nonstick grill pan, as I mentioned in my post. And, no, you're really not supposed to heat nonstick much above medium to medium-high, so I think if you're looking for a good sear, you are pushing it with a nonstick coating. Lodge makes a cast-iron grill pan that can be had for pretty cheap. If you want something you can really crank the heat under, that would be the way to go, in my book.

grill pan

ARTICLE: How to use a grill pan, inside or outdoors

Can you taste it? Does it add something/ I will try, but wondering how much

Nah, you can't taste it, it just deepens the flavor -- kinda like espresso powder in a chocolate cake!

Start with just a tablespoon or two in a pot, taste, and add more if you'd like.

@dan souza: i think atk/ci is doing so well in the post-christopher kimball era. obviously, your marketing strategy and brand expansion has gotten pretty bold (especially when compared to virtually none in years past), but your single subject magazines and books are just terrific. yours is the only magazine i get now (food or otherwise) and several of your books are way up on my list of "first responders." i'd just like to thank you and everyone at atk/ci for helping to make me look so good, so often, year after year after year.

Wow, I really appreciate your feedback. I work with an insanely talented group of people and we love doing just that--helping folks make amazing food. I'm going to share your comment with the Cook's Illustrated team (who is currently tasting pea salads and schnitzel as I write this!!). Thanks again. 

You are slaying me today. Loved response to person who had never tasted Ranch Dressing, but had eaten Ranch Doritos - I can't stop laughing.

Thank you!

How about a spice cake or gingerbread cake? Or my grandmother's specialty, which she called date pudding but it was really a rich moist date-&-nut cake.

Last week's chat had several entries on the topic of saffron; most emphasized the cost. True saffron, botanically Crocus sativus, can easily be grown in local gardens here in the Washington, D.C. area. The corms (bulbs) are readily available from most mail-order firms which sell bulbs and often appear in local garden centers. In this area they typically bloom in November.

Doesn't it take a LOT of crocus blooms to get much saffron, hence the cost?

What do you prepare for dinner when you want to impress but not spend a lot of time on prep?

If impressing includes dessert, might I suggest my One-Bowl Blackberry Cobbler with Easy Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits? Or my One-Bowl Chocolate Snack Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting? Both are easy to prepare and only dirty up a single bowl - so very few dishes to be washed!

Not sure if this is impressive, but my partner and I make enchiladas every Valentine's should make enchiladas. Becky has a recipe here

All of you ketchup lovers are just plain ol' crazy. Next I suppose you're going to tell me that you don't like Marmite

I like to hand write my recipes rather than reading them off of a computer, tablet, or phone screen (I don't bake from cookbooks often). I find this helps me remember the steps a bit better, especially long, complicated ones, and not miss anything in the wall of teeny text. You can also underline and star important steps you don't want to miss.

At CI and ATK, is there a minimum or a maximum of different ways you try preparing a dish?

I can tell you from experience that there is definitely not a maximum! In my decade here I've never seen a Cook's Illustrated recipe tested less than 25 times. The average is more in the 40-60 range. Some hit the absurd 100 mark. And some never make it out of the building if our home testers don't deem it worthy of publication. 

DO IT. If going to a specialty store feels like too much work, you can easily make it with items purchased at giant/harris teeter/etc. Sometimes I use a touch of miso in place of fish sauce or shrimp paste because it's easier to find - you can modify recipes as you see fit! All you truly need for kimchi is vegetables, salt, sauce/seasoning, sugar, and time.

And choked . Can you explain why I dislike mayo on just about anything other than tuna salad? It's just eggs and oil, right?

It might be a texture thing! A lot of folks LOATHE the texture.

I'm so sorry! I LOVE IT.

Well, you've transferred us to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes (we sank as we cooled, I'm afraid), so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and many thanks for Dan, Jessie and Carrie for helping with the a's!

Now for the cookbook winners: The chatter who wrote about book club cakes will get Jessie's "The Vintage Baker." The one who asked Dan about massaging kale will get "Vegetables Illustrated." Send your mailing info to, and she will coordinate!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

Thank you all for the wonderful questions. And thank you Joe, Becky, and the whole Post staff for having me! - Dan

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables," "Serve Yourself" and the upcoming "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Dan Souza
Dan is editor in chief of Cook’s Illustrated. He’s an on-screen test cook and science expert for America’s Test Kitchen and the host of the popular YouTube series What's Eating Dan? He is also a regular contributor to the public radio program The Splendid Table. Dan has contributed content to a dozen America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, including the New York Times best seller The Science of Good Cooking and Cook’s Science.
Maura Judkis
Jessie Sheehan
Jessie is a cookbook writer, recipe developer and baker and author of a recent article on one-bowl baking for The Post. She is the author of The Vintage Baker (one of the Washington Post’s best cookbooks of 2018) and the co-author of "Icebox Cakes." She has contributed recipes/and or written for the Washington Post, Rachael Ray Everyday, Fine Cooking, Epicurious, Food52, TASTE, and Little Sous, among others; and and can be found on Instagram at @jessiesheehanbakes and on the web at
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor of the Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Becky Krystal
Becky is a staff food writer at The Post.
Tim Carman
Tim is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining for Weekend.
Olga Massov
Olga is a food editor at The Post.
Carrie Allan
Carrie is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar writes Unearthed, a monthly commentary for The Post in pursuit of a more constructive conversation on divisive food-policy issues. She farms oysters on Cape Cod. Find out more about her at
Kari Sonde
Kari is the food editorial aide.
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