Free Range on Food: Sprouts, ice cream, cookbooks

Jun 15, 2011

Today's topics: Sprouts sprout up everywhere (are they safe?), perfecting homemade ice cream, garden-to-table cookbooks and all other things culinary.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range, the chat that brings you an investigation of sprout safety, the keys to great homemade ice cream, and books that will take you from garden to table.

What's on your mind/menu/burner, in your fridge/freezer/pantry? For help with anything sprouts-related, we will have newly minted expert Kristen Hinman joining us today.

And we'll have giveaway books, of course, for our favorite chatters: "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" by Jeni Britton Bauer and "Bal's Quick & Healthy Indian" by Bal Arneson.

Let's go!

Thanks for writing about Jeni's! I'm a DC expat living in Ohio, and just want to say that $10 ice cream is totally worth it when it's Jeni's. Seriously. I love her committment to local ingredients (Snowville milk is amazing) and creative flavors. I love the Salty Caramel, Lime Cardamom Yogurt, and Cognac Fig and Goat Cheese flavors and have a pint of Dark Chocolate awaiting me at home! Next on my list is the beer & apricot...

I know you can get it locally, but if I lived near a full-fledged Jeni's scoop shop, I'd have a serious addiction going, I'm sure. The stuff is just gorgeously good.

So excited to see Jeni on the cover! I lived in Columbus when my son was born, and every day to get him to sleep, we'd go on a long walk -- to Jeni's! Jeni's ice cream is the one food product I really miss from Columbus -- I haven't found anything here that comes close. I want to get the cook book for father's day, but the recipe in the Post looks a bit complicated with lots of steps that could go wrong. Is it easier than it looks? That is, will my husband who loves making ice cream but isn't very detail-oriented in the kitchen do well? Thanks!

We heart Jeni's. The cherry pit ice cream recipe does have steps, because there's a sauce as well as the ice cream itself. But you could make it a two-part project:  You can do the sauce and he can crank out the ice cream. Or he can do the sauce on another day and refrigerate it till he's ready to make the ice cream. I think he'd like the hammering-the-pits part of this recipe! The book has l0ts of step-by-step photos as well, including one for the best way to incorporate sauce into ice cream....


Go-Go-Gadget Joe! Could you recommend a mandoline slicer that has a good safe hand guard? Years ago I used a little Benriner, and those are cool because they are so compact, but I'm growing more risk-averse in my old age. Hand protection, please! Thanks.

The Oxo model I use has a good hand guard. But you can also buy cut-resistant gloves like these.

Speaking of hand guards, I just saw this. It's like the doggie cone of shame for your hand! Seems a bit over the top, but ...

Bonnie, loved your reviews of the farm to table cookbooks. I'm picking up my 2nd CSA bounty of the season this afternoon and since joining (last year was my first time), I've really begun to rethink my eating habits, cook more adventurously, and just love food more. Nothing beats the taste and quality of super local, fresh produce. Unfortunately, I live in an apartment building in the city and I can't grow much beyond what I can fit on my kitchen counter/window sill. I've started to grow some herbs for myself. Any suggestions on some small veggies/fruits that might do well in a window pot? Or a book that might help me figure this out? Thanks.

Thanks! The multitalented Cathy Barrow, aka Mrs.Wheelbarrow,  suggests the following herbs for your windowsill: parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary and lavender. Basil can work if you've got a southern exposure with six hours of sunlight a day.

Also, chili peppers such as jalapenos, serranos, cayenne, and habanero; lettuces such as spinach, mache and arugula; and some new versions of patio-container tomato plants.

Here's hoping your windowsill is large enough!

Diane Welland's "Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Local" (mentioned in the roundup) does have some information on growing indoors.

Hi! Any cooking-for-one ideas to use up some ginger? Or will it last awhile in the fridge? My situation is more cooking for one (now) and one (later), since my partner works at a restaurant and gets home late, so something that can be made and reheated easily is a plus. Thanks!

It will last for a couple of months, if stored properly -- the best way seems to be in a ziptop plastic bag. But to use it up, one of my favorite ways is to make ginger syrup: Slice it into thick coins, smash each one with the heel of your knife (or with a meat tenderizer), and put them in a small saucepot over medium-high heat. Add water to cover by an inch or two. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain out and discard the solids, and add sugar to taste, if desired. Then you can store this indefinitely in the fridge in a glass jar, and use it as the base of hot ginger tea (3 parts hot water to 1 part syrup) or cold soda (same ratio with seltzer) or, of course, cocktails...

do you have any suggestions for tomatillos recipes, other than salsa verde? thanks!

Domenica, can't wait to try the cool noodle bowl recipe. I'm a vegetarian and want to substitute tofu/seitan for the shredded chicken. Do you think the soup has enough flavor for a plain or simply seasoned tofu? Or should I spice it up a bit more before adding it in?

For the benefit of readers who haven't checked into Domenica Marchetti's Family Dish weekly posts on our blog, here's the recipe. She says:

"I would recommend spicing it up, or maybe even pan-frying or browning it to enhance the flavor. The dish is not actually a soup -- the noodles are drained before serving, and the other ingredients are arranged over them, and then the dipping sauce is poured over all. So definitely yes to enhancing the tofu!"

Interesting article. Are any of the institutions listed in the article able to share their studies about sprouted foods? Most of the studies about sprouts are from the 1970's.

Indeed. You can start with the Whole Grains Council, a nonprofit with some good info about sprouted grains. They've got this page with some links to studies that were primarily done in Asia.

In terms of the U.S. research, most of what is available is in the academic press. I'm told there's a lot of research going on right now in the area of sprouted grains.

I was wondering if you had any suggestions for high quality containers to hold homemade ice cream. I currently have but they are terrible. The ice cream gets caught in the top making it hard to close and open and getting the ice cream out of the bottom is not always easy. Thank you!

I like to use Pyrex glass containers with blue plastic lids. But I'm sure other chatters have favorites!

Loved the Chat Leftovers on fruit soups. I love a good one during the hot summer months and I really like how simple the recipes are but produce complex flavors (guessing from the ingredients, I haven't made them yet).

Colleague Jane Touzalin does a first-rate job with Chat Leftovers on our blog every week.  A must read for Wednesday mornings. And I guess some credit must go to the readers for asking good q's!

years ago, I read in a Chinese cookbook that the best way to store ginger was in a jar of sherry, in the refrigerator. You can use the sherry in stir-fries, and I can vouch for the fact that it preserves the ginger almost indefinitely.

When Fine Cooking put a bunch of ginger-storage tips to the test, they found that vodka worked best among the submerge-in-alcohol techniques. Other spirits worked, too, including sherry, but they found that the ginger stored in sherry retained less of its flavor. But the ziptop worked for 8 weeks, too.

I've got a large amount of limes and no ideas for how to use them (other than the obvious limeade). Any suggestions?

Limes may be one of the most versatile ingredients around. You can squeeze them on almost any dish at the end to give them a bit of brightness: fish, salads, tacos, grilled chicken. And don't forget: You can cut 'em up and add a slice to your water to freshen it up during the hot weather. Teas, too.

What is the recipe for the traditional Pimm's Cup, which I find to be a very refreshing summer drink? Also, do you know of any local source for Kola Tonic?

Don't know where you can find Kola Tonic. A "traditional" Pimm's Cup is made many different ways. But a basic rule of thumb is two ounces of Pimm's, half ounce of lemon juice in an ice-filled Collins, topped with 7-UP.

Do folks who write about food actually go out to farms and see how livestock is raised? Have any of you all been to a local farm that raises cattle or sheep? No what one that advertises "humanely raised" Or do food writers just give into the propaganda spouted by PETA, HSUS aand the Vegan nation? Until I started training my collies to herd I may have believed the propaganda about the evil ranchers etc. However, as one gets more involved you learn that stressing the stock ie treating them inhumanely costs the farmer or rancher money. Stress means sicker stocker and stock that weighs less. Pennies count for these folks and mean the difference between a Chapter 12 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy and paying your mortgage and the notes on your equipment. Any stress that a steer or lamb undergoes any where in chain between birth and your plate means less weight and less profit. Food writers really need to get in the real world and leave their preconceived biases behind.

I'm sorry ... but what are you talking about? We've been to farms and the "real world."

Is there a good BBQ accessory store anywhere in the area? The big box stores leave a little to be desired and I have a hankering to buy some stuff but won't really know I need it until I see it in person. Thanks for the always great chats.

It's funny that, with the explosion in barbecuing, there isn't a better local or even chain store out there. 

You can always roam the aisles of local and national hardware stores, which carry a fair number of gas grills, ceramic (egg) grills, kettle grills, and inexpensive smokers. They also carry varieties of woods and implements. 

For a more in-depth selection, you can go to Fred's Music and BBQ Supply in Shillington, PA. Yep, it's a bit of a drive. But they carry a great line of ceramic and pellet grills, such as the Big Green Egg, Priimo, and Green Mountain. They also have an amazing array of supplies and sauces.

Would that a place existed to check out a variety of smokers. To familiarize yourself with quality smokers, you can visit Meadow Creek in New Holland, PA. They make top-end smokers.

I have a pint of fresh blueberries I can't eat before leaving on vacation (couldn't resist the 2 for 1 sale at HT). Can I freeze them as is, in a freezer bag, or do I have to give them a special treatment? And what can I expect texture-wise when they defrost?

Blueberries freeze well -- I don't even bother with that method of  freezing first spread on a baking sheet. I've not eaten them out of hand, defrosted; for muffins, pancakes, pie filling and syrup they'll do just fine. Chatters?

Hi, Jason! I received some Patron Anejo Tequila as a gift, and am not sure what the best use for it is. Would it be wasted in a margarita? (I usually make my margaritas with 1800 reposado.) Thanks for your help, and happy drinking!

The general rule is save añejo tequila for sipping neat. The reason for that is añejo spends a few years in oak, and so is more akin to an aged whiskey or cognac. You end up losing some of the vegetal and spicy notes of the agave which is what you're looking for in a margarita. There is, however, one interesting cocktail called the Nouveau Carre, that calls for añejo tequila. It's like a tequila Vieux Carre.

A lot of the recipes I've seen have you first cook the octopus in boiling water/wine/etc., THEN grill. Is that first step really necessary? Seems like I should be able to just put a little olive oil, salt, pepper on the octopus, grill, and then enjoy as-is or add some kind of sauce after it's cooked. Thoughts?

To answer this question, I contacted Enzo Fargione, chef and future ower of Elisir in downtown D.C. As usual he was exacting in his answer.

Octopuses from the United States or Chile require boiling, he says, to break down their chewy fibers. Fargione has discovered that if you boil, say, a 2-pound octopus for 1 1/2 or 2 hours with some wine corks (yes, wine corks) in 2 quarters of water, it will make the octopus flesh very tender. He has no idea why.

But Fargione adds that if you buy baby octopus, you can just season it and grill it -- but for no longer than 8 to 10 minutes. If you grill it longer, it will turn tough and then require even more grilling to turn tender again.

If, by chance, you can get your hands on Mediterranean octopus, Fargione says you can just freeze it for 15-30 minutes, then grill it. For some reason, the octopi from those waters don't require a hard boil.

Our own Gastronomer Andreas Viestad agrees with Fargione. His recipe for baby octopus calls for a short tour of the grill.

The Nourish recipe today looks great, but there's a lot of confusion about Quinoa and protein. Quinoa is a complete protein, but isn't really high in protein. As your nutritional analysis indicates, a serving of this dish contains 5 grams of protein. (That's from 1 cup of uncooked Quinoa at 8 servings.) Adult women need about 45 grams a day, and men need you'd have to eat a LOT of Quinoa to meet your protein needs.

It's all relative -- the idea is that quinoa is high in protein compared to other grains. So if you're trying to get more protein from a variety of sources, it's good to include quinoa in the mix. I try to sprinkle it in with other grains, because I don't particularly like it all that much by itself.

So, I ended up getting the pasta roller you recommended this week, and I can't wait to try it! I have a couple questions: 1) Do you lose the nutritional value of spinach, beets, etc., when you add it to pasta and cook it, 2) What do you think is the BEST flour, or combination of flours, that I could get when I want to make a really good pasta, and 3) Do you think I could use some almond or walnut flour to make the flavor of the pasta more nutty?

I went right back to Domenica:

I'm not sure about how much nutritional value is lost when you add spinach or beets to pasta. I would say you actually gain nutritional value by adding in those ingredients.

The best flour for making basic egg pasta dough is Italian '00' flour, which is very finely milled and yields a silky dough and noodle. I have frequently substituted all-purpose flour with very good results.

I've never tried almond or walnut flour, and worry about the oils in those, though why not experiment? As an alternative, you could use whole-wheat flour, or even white whole-wheat flour to add a nutty flavor and a more earthy texture. There's a recipe for whole-wheat pasta dough in "The Glorious Pasta of Italy."

Has anyone tried the ice cream maker for the KitchenAid? Is it worth it? Or are there good alternative, mabye more reasonably priced, versions?

You can't keep it on the counter and it does take up some fairly significant cabinet (or basement) space, but I *love* my old $16 Rival motorized bucket ice cream maker.

since we've heard so much about Germany's problems with sprouts - is there a safe way to tell "safety"??

As a Wash U. professor and gastroenterologist I quoted says, there's no such thing as 100 percent safe if you're talking raw fruits and vegetables. But the experts and the FDA say that when you cook your food, you're safe. Some of the bigger sprouts can go in a hot frying pan for a short spell. As far as the sprouted grains and flour, you're most likely going to be cooking anything in that category.

How about a key lime pie? Thai food--I love me some thai soups or noodle dishes with lots of lime squeeze on.

Sure, but if they're not key limes, it's not key lime pie. Just sayin'.

Hi Jim: Read your blog yesterday about Father's Day gifts. Any other ideas for dear old dad?

There are so many bbq-related items out there! Here are three other ideas; all are available on amazon and box stores:

A Smokenator, which is a half-moon shaped thingy with holes in it that fits snugly into one side of a kettle grill. You fill it with some charcoal and wood and it turns the average kettle into a fair facsimile of a smoker. Around $60-$75.

A rib rack, which allows dad to stack racks of ribs vertically, thus using less space on your grill than laying the ribs flat. With the rack, he can smoke/grill four racks as opposed to, say, two racks without it. They cost about $10. 

A grill pad for underneath the grill. When the occasional hunk of charcoal or fiery wood falls over the side, the pad protects against staining and - worse - burning your deck or yard. They generally run between about $20-$50.

Thanks for the tomatillos recipes. I always get them as a part of my CSA and never know what else to do with them!

You're welcome. In a pinch, you can always roast/freeze for later.

I can attest to the fact that Parsley, Basil, Mint & mache lettuce grow on the the window sill. Our lettuce is amazing, the basil is growing like weeds too. We started with tomatoes at the window and moved them outside in hanging pots on a shepherds hook. We still have 2 topsy turvys inside hanging at the window and they're looking great. I highly recommend the window sill garden if you don't have a yard.

Love this idea! You end up with lovely microgreens.

They can also be used as a fruit, with sugar, e.g., as pie filling!

That sounds great. Next year, tomatillo-rhubarb it is!

my favorite sprounts are pea sprouts. Is it true they have to be sprouted in soil, rather than rinsed in water and grown in mason jars like other sprouts?

Here's the thing: you can sprout any seed as long as you want to, but the length of time you sprout for will affect the flavor and nutrients. In the case of peas, most people prefer pea "shoots." They're a little older than sprouts, so sprouted for more like 2 weeks. If you've seen the ones at Trader Joe's then you'll know what I mean. So it's personal preference. You could do them at home in shallow dirt trays for sure and if you were doing the "shoot" route that's what you'd want to do since you don't want to be rinsing 3 times a day for 2 weeks and also increasing your chances of getting mold, etc. In terms of doing them at the sprout stage, so only for a couple days in water, I would point you to the website. It has a ton of information about growing for each seed.

Ohhh I've learned to love Indian food and am so excited about the recipe in today's paper - Love you Free Rangers! I bought a couple of squash blossoms for the first time to try out and I would like to know what can I stuff in them to get an Indian flavor. Thanks

How about paneer?

Thanks Joe for being such a stickler.

You're welcome! Sorry -- a pet peeve of mine. Key lime pie is so amazing because of the extra bitterness of those limes...

Are they freezable, and for how long? What if you add herbs or spices to flavor them?

Do you mean fresh bread crumbs? I probably have some panko (Japanese-style) that date back to the days of Genghis Khan. Depends....they'll start to pick up flavors in three months' time in your freezer if said freezer's full of good stuff.  (So use a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.) And herbs such as rosemary and thyme would be fine, while basil not so much.  Adding spices shouldn't pose a freezing challenge.

Also works in Indian cuisine when you're feeling a little lazy and don't want to make paneer.

Sure. You can buy paneer, too, though, don't forget.

Is Jason around? I'm taking a bottle of the Philadelphia made gin to England as a hostess present. Do you have any interesting factoids I can share with my hosts about the gin? I assume we will be drinking it with tonic.

I don't really have any interesting factoids on this, but Bluecoat was one of the first of the wave of microdistilled gins that came on the scene in the mid-to-late 2000s. I think it makes an excellent Negroni!

Chocolate Covered Bacon. It's the same idea as chocolate covered pretzels (salt & sweet) but with an added depth of smoke and caramelization. What do you think?

I think it's one more excuse to eat bacon. As if I really needed another one.

But, yes, the sweet/salty dynamic is a large part of its appeal.

I would like to try making Pesto this summer but where can I buy pine nuts? I don't want any imported from China.

That is a tough one. Apparently most of the pine nuts sold in the Metro area come from China. But Ibrahim "Ibo" Selmy, the owner of Cornucopia in Bethesda, says he will have Italian and Spanish pine nuts back in stock in about 10 days. But they're expensive. About $26 a pound.

It may not be "key lime" pie if not made from key limes, but better to use fresh limes (sub in a little lemon juice if you're using regular limes, since key limes are more tart than their larger & greener cousins) than bottled "key lime" juice in any form.

Oh, absolutely better to use fresh, always. The bottled stuff doesn't compare. But still don't call it key lime pie, please!

I eat frozen blueberries all the time, they're delish. I also use frozen blueberries in the bottom of a key lime pie, after the 15 min of baking they're perfectly defrosted but not burst and give a great kick to the key lime pie.

Do you use real -- OK, I'll stop now!

and you linked to an article, but there was no link there to a list of recommended wines. It was only the article talking about the growing popularity. I need names!

The link to the list accompanied the story. Here you go.

Food for Life Sprouted Corn Tortillas

I didn't try these. But I think they're a popular product that have been around for a bit now, with a good following. Sprouted corn in general is pretty intriguing. I did try corn shoots, so grown for a week or two, which were out of this world (though some people hate them).  I also heard that raw sprouted corn flour tastes super sweet.

I love to eat blueberries frozen, not defrosted, during the summer for a cool treat!

Loved the article on Jeni's ice cream this morning. I was particularly interested in learning more about her technique for making ice cream at home without eggs. I got an ice cream maker about a year ago and have made quite a few fun concoctions from basic vanilla to bacon-maple that have all been quite good. Except for the sorbet, everything calls for eggs. The results have been great, but I must admit to being very tempted by a non-egg process, since I think it would be faster (the cooking step means a lengthy cooling step, so often an extra day) and less messy, since doing the "temping" step always seems to result in some stick cream-eggs all over my stove or counter. What do you think about the non-egg approach? I think it was in this forum where I read that the egg method is recommended for home cooks for getting good results. My next planned ice cream is salty caramel, so I'd be interested in trying a non-egg version for that.

I think if Jeni says non-egg is the way to go, I'm going to try non-egg.

While I was evaluating my freezer contents I noticed that a pack of ground pork from one of the local farmer's markets had two blue spots on it. I can't tell if it's just, you know, standard parts that made its way into the grind or what. It's pretty darn blue, almost unnatural looking. The pork has been in the freezer for two months and there aren't any holes in the packaging. Any ideas.

My pal Pam the butcher at Wagshal's says most likely it's the USDA blue-inked stamp, which was on pieces of the meat put into the grinder. Two very blue spots indicates to her that the meat was ground twice, so an inkspot lodged in another place the next time around. (This would be different from grayish spots, which are caused by a lack of air -- kinda like the middle of a hunk of ground meat that looks quite red on the outside and less-so on the inside.)

Speaking of freezing meat, Pam says she wraps all of hers at home in foil, not plastic wrap, so the meat can breathe. You can also leave it in the waxed butcher paper it comes in, then wrap a layer of foil around that. If I can get over my fear/dread of biting into a meaty morsel with a shred of foil left in it, I may give that a try.

I am sure I am not the only cook who misses you. Some of us enjoyed your articles for cooks who cook at home, I've been missing them lately. Very interesting info about egg yolks & too much water problems in homemade ice cream. I've placed my ice cream machine cylinder in the freezer, as soon as I read your article, to see if it works. FYI: I have been am David Lebovitz's aficionado for years, I read his blog and enjoy his recipes.

We passed along your fan mail to Jane. Thanks!

I won last week's giveaway - a signed copy of "Cooking for One" and wanted to say Thank You! It came in the mail super-quick and I've spent a ton of time reading the recipies, blurbs, and essays enclosed. Its a wonderful book and I'm so glad to own it. Now, to actually cook something...can't wait! Thanks again

Thanks so much! Glad you're liking it. Let me know what you make and how it turns out.

Do like with lemons: squeeze for juice, which you can freeze in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a freezer bag or container. And zest the limes, then freeze it in a freezer bag too, for future use.

I want to grow some herbs on my windowsil, since I have no access to garden or backyard. My question is - I get a LOT of sun during the day since I'm in a high rise and there are no buildings blocking us. Do you think the direct sun and the heat of DC will kill the herbs?

Basil will like your full sun, right?

The cookbook Bal's Quick & Healthy Indian" sound intriguing! I've been trying to reproduce some dishes that I've had in Indian restaurants. I bought coriander, cardamom, ginger, and other spices. But all the recipes I've found are the opposite of quick and healthy. They are long and complicated and require a LOT of frying. I've tried to reduce the fat and simplify them, with mediocre results.

She uses much less oil and avoids much frying in this book.  Ingredient lists are some of the shortest I've seen in Indian recipe books! She sat at our table at the James Beard journalism awards in May; a lovely woman.

Did you happen to get the print edition of The Post today? So sad, that photo of  her Chicken With Almond Butter, running in b&w.



Bass Pro Shops have a wider selection of BBQ gear than the Home Depots, etc. if the OP doesn't want to drive all the way to PA.

I learned about Jeni's from a coworker whose mother sent her some last year which she shared with us and then this year sent Jeni's funny & delicious royal wedding collection (Prince William's Chocolate Biscuit Groom's Cake, Eton Mess, The Royal Wedding Cake, and White Stilton on Toast with Champagne-soaked Bilberries). The flavors are totally inspirational, especially because I like to make ice cream too. The same coworker is going to be having a tonsillectomy in August and I have volunteered to stock her freezer with homemade ice cream (great use for my pot of rampantly growing peppermint). I mostly use The Perfect Scoop, but am excited to hear about Jeni's new book as another source of recipes for my friend's recuperation.

The cherry pit ice cream sounds delicious! Incidentally, I had never seen corn syrup used in homemade ice cream until my new Cooks Illustrated came a few days ago. But that recipe calls for 1/3 cup of corn syrup in the ice cream base, as opposed to 2T here. I made the CI recipe and found it almost unbearably sweet (though it has stayed scoop-able after being in the freezer for a couple days), so I think the amount in the recipe here is much more reasonable. Can't wait to try it!

What is the best way to store fresh berries? I find that especially strawberries go bad quickly and I can't eat them all at once. (By the way, I could not access this site using Safari.)

Strawberries need to stay moist, but (and this goes for all fresh berries) if you wash them first or add extra moisture it makes them spoil quicker, it seems.  For strawberries specifically, clamshell produce boxes with perforations or a colander set over a plate tend to work well. If you've gotten your strawbs from a farmers market, maybe place the cardboard pint container inside a partially open plastic bag.  Realistically, the most you could expect is 5 days or so.

Shahin, you've written about the kinds of smokers to buy, but what would you suggest for a Dad who is late 80's in age and is just beginning to try smoking stuff?

Oh, jeez, that's a tough one. 

First, I don't think age matters. Whether he's 80 or 18, smoking can be a lot of fun. It can, though, be a bit demanding. There can be a lot of standing around and whatnot. If dad's in good shape, no problem. If he's a little wobbly, it could be a little tiring, because smoking takes more time than grilling. 

As for getting started, it depends on what he already owns - assuming he owns something. Gas grill? Buy a smoke box to put wood chips into, which helps turn the gasser into something a bit more smoke-friendly. A basic kettle? A selection of wood chips and chunks and a knowledge of indirect cooking (knowledge: fire on one side, food on the other). Smoker? Wood. 

And buy a decent cookbook. There are several out there. "Smoke & Spice" by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison is a pretty good primer. But, really, almost any book these days has a fairly solid overview of smoking. 

How do you get a ripple into homemade icecream. Every time I try, the two flavors blend together.

You need both flavors to be almost frozen, and then stir gently together, pack into containers, and freeze. If they're not solid enough, they'll blend.

I'm going to receive a bunch of ramps in my CSA this week. Any fun suggestions for what to do with them? Thanks!

Pickle 'em: They'll last longer.

I might be jumping the gun a bit, but I'm in full-on peach mode and looking for some inspired dessert suggestions on how I can use them. I love peach cobbler, but I'm looking for some new stuff, too. Thanks for any tips! Speaking of peaches, are you guys still doing the Cooking for One recipe challenge, where you try to take large recipes and bring them down? If so, I've got a great contender - a 12-in round peaches and pecan upside down cake. It's delicious but could easily serve 16, and, considering it's something best served warm, not a dish I can take to work like I do normally with my other desserts.

Here are 18 different peach dessert recipes from our database. You can decide how inspired they are!

I'm sure Joe would love to take on your peach challenge -- but only with good Central Texas peaches. If he could find them here, that is.

So excited to see that you are writing about a new food ingredient that I am using in my life. SProuted Flour has replaced traditional "refined" flour in our family. The difference in our overall health and feeling better has been dramatic. There are so many different lines out there and it is sometimes hard to navigate. I have found that Essential Eating is the best one out there and highly suggest others to check out the website to really get the company and what there are trying to do one step at a time!!!

Great to hear from you! Interesting comment about there being so many different brands out there. I only know of three mills producing it - and I understand that some mills produce for different clients/under different brand names. What brand names have you seen besides King Arthur, Essential Eating and To Your Health?

Or you can sub in walnuts for the pine nuts. We usually do this when we're making arugula or spinach pesto, but it works for basil pesto too!

Thanks for chiming in.

I'll try your suggestion (ziptop plastic bag) 'cause I've never had ginger last several months -- but do you know anything about another suggestion, which is to plant it in a flowerpot? Supposedly that keeps it indefinitely but I've no practical experience with this, including whether to water it -- or maybe refrigerate it, in the

Fine Cooking liked the in-soil technique, too: Indeed, water it, and you'll get foliage!

I've got a 25 dollar gift card to Barnes and Noble. I want to buy myself a cookbook, but don't know what I should get. I'm leaning towards either a general purpose cookbook or a dessert cookbook, since that's my area of interest. Any recommendations?

Dessert: Area of Interest. I like that.

David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert. (Okay,  you may have to chip in a few bucks.)  It's a fab recipe collection. You'll want to make everything in it.

Of course, in Detroit they just throw them on the ice!

Yes, but only after a hat trick! Who can wait that long for some good (over even Zamboni-tained) octopi?

Hey Jim, I'm hoping to buy a new grill, mostly for the basics (burgers, steaks, etc.) but also to do the occasional chicken and fish. I would like to know the benefits and drawbacks of gas vs. charcoal in taste and ease. Yes, I am looking for it to be relatively simple, but most importantly I'm going for taste. And I don't want my grill holding me back! For example, I like a nice char on a medium-rare steak. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Gas is easier. You turn it on, like an oven. 

If it's flavor you're going for, though, nothing beats a charcoal/wood fueled grill. For a steak, you can grill at very high temps using lump hardwood charcoal. For longer cooks, such as pulled pork and brisket, you can smoke more deeply than you can with a gas grill. 


I recently used berbere spice in the hopes of making an Ethiopian flavored dish. But when I used it, it just seemed like a curry not specific to what I like about Ethiopian food. I am sure I used to wrong. Any suggestions in what to make with it and how?

Check out Marcus Samuelsson's recipe for Berbere and look at the little links to the right for two things to use it in: Spiced Butter and Stir-Fried Beef Stew. Both are excellent.

You can also freeze ginger - when you thaw it out, the liquid gets released from the cells so you can then squeeze the juice from it into your dish to flavor it as an alternative to mincing or slicing up.

Joe, I read your book and loved it. It in turn led me to Grace Young's books. Anyway, you say that you prefer a full-sized wok because it gives you more room, but my space is small, and so if I am wokking for 1 and only 1....would a smaller wok be OK? How small can I go? Also, these chats are not always refreshing automatically for me today. Can you pass that message to your tech wizards?

I do like the full-sized wok because you can toss things much more easily. I'd encourage you to try to make room for it, because it will be a workhorse for you! I'm wokking for 1 and only 1, too, don't forget! I like the 14-inch one. If you MUST go smaller, I wouldn't go much smaller...

Also, yes, our tech wizards are working on the refresh thing, but could you do a favor and send an email to describing the problem? That way they can get more info from you about browser, etc., and it helps them diagnose and fix. Thanks!

I made a marinade for some shrimp last night with the intention to grill about 1 pound, but ended up only have about 1/4 of the shrimp I thought I had in my freezer. I used a little bit, but now I have a large amount of marinade that I'd really like to use still. Do you think it'll stay good until next week, maybe Tuesday? It contains lemon, brown sugar, olive oil and spices.

You can freeze the marinade itself, in a resealable plastic food storage bag. To defrost, submerge the sealed bag in a bowl of room-temp or tepid water.

After several years now, I would think Post columnists would be savvy enough to spot comments submitted by the crazy sheepherder guy who hates liberals, cityfolks, vegetarians, and pretty much anything but his dogs. Can you please start filtering these out? This troll was back at it posting things yesterday too.

We're savvy enough. I know it's him. I just enjoy tweaking him a little, I'm afraid.

doesn't work :(

Sorry bout that! Fixed now.

Can make a grilled margarita chicken or shrimp (lots of recipes on-line).

According to Cook's Illustrated, there is no discernible difference between pie made with key limes and pie made with regular Persian limes, and thus it's not worth the extra expense and labor. I've always just used Persian limes -- have you compared them both? Is it worth the time to track down and juice key limes the next time I make this pie?

Oh, those darn CI people. Hmm. Well, perhaps I have to conduct my own test!

Pine nuts are so pricey that we just use chopped English walnuts -- not a bad substitute!

Can you settle a bet for me? You are brewing regular coffee out of a regular drip coffeemaker. Is the coffee that drips down first any stronger than the last drop to come out? If I take the pot away halfway through, is that coffee stronger than the full pot after it's finished brewing?

There may be some baristas out there who can give you a more technical answer, but my understanding is that you should always wait for your drip coffee to run through all its water before pouring a cup. The reason, I think, is simple: The longer the water steeps in the basket of ground coffee, the more flavor it will have from the beans.

I made this the other day when it was too hot to turn on the stove, and it was unbelievable. I have been raving about it to anyone who will listen ever since. Just wanted to say thank you to Joe for the recipe, as I'd never have thought of it on my own!

So glad! Here's the recipe for those who missed it.

You could share them with me b/c they are so hard! Or, you could turn them into pesto which would go great with fish, chicken or pasta. They are awesome with eggs or you could make pizza use them as a topping. They are also great grilled alone or even with some romesco sauce. DELISH!

There are some great salsa recipes that use lime juice by itself as the liquid.

This past weekend, I fired up my charcoal grill and, for the first time, I grilled fish: a salmon fillet and two large cod fillets. I put the fish directly on the wire grill. The salmon was easy to handle, but the cod fell apart. I had to put down some aluminum foil and flip the cod onto it, because pieces were falling down into the hot coals. Are some varieties of fish just not suitable for grilling?

Thick steaks and filets, such as salmon, tuna, swordfish, and mahi-mahi are generally pretty easy to do on the grill. 

Whole fish can be dicey. For those, you might want to buy a fish basket. 

Fish that falls apart fairly easily, such as tilapia and catfish, will be easier to do if you use foil (poke a few holes in it) or a wire screen. 

In other words, all varieties of fish can be grilled. You just have to work with some a little more than others. 

When I was travelling in Israel, every grocery store had kefir and of such fantastic flavors. My favorite was dates, bananas and kiwi. It sounds odd, but my goodness, it was fantastic. Any idea where i can find such incredible flavors, or how can I make it myself?

I know some Russian specialty markets sell kefir, but they prob wouldn't have the Mediterranean flavors you enjoyed. Maybe start with the kind you can find at  Whole Foods or other organic markets and add-in? This blog has a how-to, altho I haven't tried it myself. Chatters?

One of our favorite "recipies" - it's really more of an idea- is to cube some potatoes and cook them(one minute in the microwave in a covered dish), chop up some ham,bacon, or proscuitto, chop up the ramps, saute them all together and then add beaten eggs for a type of Farmer's scramble. Ramps, eggs and potatoes were meant to be together. :)

It's a bit of work, but we LOVE the epicurious recipe for Chicken Chile Verde, which uses a lot of tomatillos. I make a huge crock pot of this, we use half and freeze half and we have it twice. A couple of NOT sub chicken breast for the chicken thighs. Did that once and it is not nearly as good. Also, I sub Poblano chiles for the green peppers. The poblanos add more flavor than bell peppers.

Everyone knows the only thing to do with peaches is to make Bellinis.

Thank you, Dorothy Parker.

Homemade peach ice cream, or frozen yogurt. Or fresh peaches served alongside raspberry sherbet or frozen yogurt, for a Melba-type dessert.

As another HUGE fan of Key Lime Pie, there is absolutely a taste difference when the pie is made with Key Limes or regular Persian limes. I think it is absolutely worth it to track down Key Limes and Key Lime Juice (not hard to find) for the pie. Joe is right to protest!

It's also a name thing to me. Key lime pie is called that for a reason!

You can find it at lots of stores in the DC area and on the Shiloh Farms website. They make hand-rolled sprouted flour pretzels w/chia seeds, too. And sprouted quinoa.

Bless you for being supportive after a friend's tonsilectomy! It's a tough recovery for non-little kids (I was 17 when mine were removed!). Note that milk-based ice creams are not always the best during recovery due to their, well, milkiness and creaminess - tends to get caught up in the throat and not go down well and cleanly (trying not to gross people out here, but I hope you get the idea). Sorbet might be better for the first few days until ice cream is more tolerable!

I have everything except grapeseed oil. Would olive, peanut or canola make an acceptable substitute? By the way, thanks so much for publishing this recipe, I have a one-pound jar of almond butter and didn't know what I was going to use it for!

Sure, I'd go with olive oil. Altho grapeseed oil's nice to have around...better for you than canola, some nutritionists say, and a nice neutral oil for vinaigrettes.

Re the almond butter: I've been eating a spoonful of it straight out of the jar each day since I tested this recipe. Reminded me how much more I like it than peanut butter.

I picked up some baby back ribs and have made Bobby Flay's 16 spice rub and his bourbon barbeque sauce (awesome on chicken I must say). I want to use it on the ribs tonight and am looking for some advice about doing the ribs on a gas grill. Is it better to start them low and get them cooked them finish with the sauce on high to crisp or should I start on high then cook them slowly.

Uhm...neither? I don't know what Bobby Flay recommends, but I would suggest that you want to cook your ribs on indirect heat (fire on one side, ribs on the other) at roughly 250-300 degrees throughout the cooking process. If you like your ribs a little crispy, then place them directly over the fire for about 10 minutes or so at the end of cooking. And add the sauce at the end of cooking, the last 10 minutes or so. Otherwise, it can burn. 


If you raise your own tomatillos, be forewarned that seeds from fruit that drop to the ground and rot will sprout the next spring and produce a bumper volunteer crop. There's nothing wrong with that per se, unless of course you were planning to use that spot to grow something else (i.e., rotating crops). OTOH, I don't even bother to plant tomatilloes any more, because I got wise and grew mine off to the side of the garden one year, so I could just got harvest the volunteers each subsequent year!

This is the kind of warning I can live with.

How about some info on how to sprout our own?

Since I didn't actually sprout myself for this article, I have to defer to the pros here. There are two places I can send to get you started: and

What an amazing article - thank you. I have a countertop ice cream maker, one of those with a freezing thing in it, so I don't have to freeze the bowls. But I don't use it as often as I would like to, as the ice cream seems best when very fresh, you know, made early enough to harden up in the freezer, but not so far ahead that it gets icy. It sounds like these techniques mean I could make ice cream a day or two before I plan to serve it?


I have tried all the flours you mentioned. And you are right- they are all different. I like Essential Eating products one because they have a testing process in place and two the results in my baking (especially cookies and bread) have come out much better then the other flours. There is just something different and better about the quality!

Good to know. I think our editor and tester Bonnie enjoyed experimenting, too. Maybe she will weigh in.

I was worried  that my 2-lb. bag had an expiration date of July 15 (must be refrigerated), but it's half-empty already. I've made scones and pie crust and choc chip cookies with it, as well as those very moist Sprouted Carrot Cake Cupcakes, all with good results. One-for-one swapouts.

Random question- I was in the Czech Republic recently and enjoyed some really lovely wines. I've never seen Czech wine for sale in the US- do you know of any local distributors or have any ideas on where I might find some in the DC area? Thanks!

Our wine guru, Dave McIntyre, was stumped, too. He writes:

"No idea. Closest I've seen are some nice wines from Slovenia."

Rangers? Any ideas?

Ugh - get dad "Low and Slow" by Gary Wiviott, instead, where you'll learn that about 90% of accessories out there are totally unnecessary. Also, most people that are serious about BBQ already have the few things they need and don't want the other stuff - it's like buying your dad who has been golfing for 50 years a range finder - most experienced golfers can sense the distance to the pin without a gadget and won't use it. Even though the book is really about smoking instead of grilling, a lot of the wisdom applies both ways, and it includes many different recipes for rubs, marinades, and brines which get asked about here a lot.

Boy, I agree about the gadgets! Just buy what you think you'll really use or need. 

Wood planks are also another way to avoid fish falling apart on the grill, and the flavor they add can be great.


Hi Guru's, this past Saturday I bought some basil at the farmer's market and was going to make pesto. I washed it and removed the steams and put it in the fridge but haven't gotten around to the pesto making yet. This morning, I noticed that the color is turning darker, is the basil going bad? Can I still use it for pesto and if so will this affect the taste? Thanks!

I think you'll want to pass on those basil leaves, unfortunately. They could be bitter and, perhaps worse, depending on the age spots, slimy.

getting in here last minute... I need a food processor. I would like for it to not be very large to accommodate my small kitchen. I will use it mostly make pestos and puree fruits. My current one is a cheapie model and it's ineffective. It won't chop up the pine nuts and the sun-dried tomatoes get stuck on the blades...annoying!

Is the one you have a full-size model or a mini? A good brand of the latter might be the way to go. Or do you have a blender? A high-powered one bought through e-Bay or Craigslist might be the answer.

The University of Wisconsin Extension have published a consumer piece on sprouts and sprout safety, based on recent U.S. research. Brought to you by your extension service (and the Master Gardeners of Wisconsin)

They're in the freezer at Shemali's on New Mexico Ave NW. They have them from two countries, one much more expensive than the other; I don't recall which countries, though ...

Well, you've frozen us until firm, at least four hours, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great questions today, and to Kristen, Jim and Jason for helping us answer them.

Now for the giveaway books. The chatter who asked about stuffing squash blossoms with something Indian will get "Bal's Quick & Healthy Indian." The chatter who moved from DC to Columbus and asked about the cherry pit ice cream recipe will get "Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home."

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!


I actually made her noodle bowl last night with seitan that I marinated first in wasabi, white pepper, toasted sesame oil, canola oil, and tamari. It was fab.

I was the original tomatillo poster, thanks for all the responses. Some how this is the first time for me to this chat and I must say I'll be here every week!

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