Free Range on Food: Cardamom, Cooking Channel, Top Chef DC, Post wine column, perfect blueberry muffins, spaghetti frittata, Asian cookbooks, more food and recipe advice

Jun 16, 2010

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way.

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat. We're on the hook to help you figure out what to cook, why to cook it, and how to eat it. Well, that last part's pretty easy, but you get my drift. Between Bonnie's take on the Cooking Channel and Hank Stuever's on "Top Chef DC," we're ready to take on anything TV-related, too.

We'll have good prizes for our favorite posts, so let's do it.

For last week's chatter who didn't want to buy a whole bottle of cardamom for just one recipe: he should also look into local Asian supermarkets for smaller, less expensive spices. The small Sri Lankan grocery store in my neighborhood sells good quality spices at prices better than the large supermarkets, and usually in smaller quantities. Also, I think that once the poster buys cardamom, he'll find all sorts of uses for it. Two of my favorites: "Thai" coffee - coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and cardamom, and also roasted pears with balsamic vinegar, honey, and cardamom.

Thanks for the tip.

How's about one column a month on wines East of the Mighty Mississippi? And one column a month on local wines? Actually there are enough wines East of the Mississippi to only talk about West coast and European wines once a quarter. The lefty biases of your wine columnist and editors is showing! But you are no worse than mages like Food and Wine who barely acknowledge Va wines exist. They spent more column inches on Long Island and Finger Lakes wines than VA wines. VA wines are far superior to anything from NY state. Bias you bet.

You really need to read the section, and the wine column in particular, more closely. Here's what Dave McIntyre says -- I couldn't have said it better myself, actually.

What newspaper have you been reading and what have you been smoking while reading it?
I have done two feature articles on Virginia wines and several columns on local wines. I've written about wineries at local farmers markets and called attention to a local food festival at a major DC hotel that excluded local wines (they included a token local winery after my piece appeared.) In fact, I have probably written more about local wines than wines from the West Coast. I have also co-created and helped organize a conference on local wines in Leesburg less than two months ago - all covered in the Food section or the All We Can Eat blog.  You can also find me in the current issues of Flavor and Virginia Wine Lover magazines.
I don't believe I have written very much about New York wines for the Post (the San Francisco Chronicle a few years back, OK), though I have one in mind now that more New York wines are making it to this area. I don't agree with you that Virginia wines are necessarily superior to New York's - they each have their strengths. In fact, an afternoon spent sipping a Finger Lakes Riesling and a Virginia Viognier would be a very happy day indeed.

Hello! I am having a summer cookout for about 30 people in a couple weeks and would like to make some real lemonade. Would it be possible to squeeze the lemons a day or two in advance without sacrificing the flavor? Thanks!

I think  you could make the lemonade at least a day or two in advance. What kind are you making?

A small bit of bragging, and a related question. After repeated failures that led to pretty much giving up, I actually managed to make an edible (even good!) fritatta yesterday. And I am a decent cook who loves eggs in all forms, so my fritatta handicap has always bothered me. I used the recipe from the Greens Cookbook (Deborah Madison) for summer squash fritatta. I think what did the trick was (1) my Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet and (2) actually keeping the heat on the stove as low as possible, which was easier now that I have a gas stove and (3) watching carefully while the fritatta was under the broiler. It didn't even stick to the pan -- yay!! My question is -- now that I can hopefully repeat this experience, what are other vegetarian ideas? Obviously, I can just substitute different veggies, but are there other interesting additions or variations?

The sky is the limit. I like: Swiss chard, tomato and feta; roasted peppers and mushrooms; asparagus, goat cheese and mint. Potatoes always add heft and make it more of a meal.

I like a mushroom-green garlic one, which I make when both are available at the farmers markets at the same time (spring).

I missed the chat last week, so couldn't post this. For ground cardamom or cardamom seed, MOM's sells both in bulk so you can buy a teaspoon if you want. They have just about every spice I have needed in bulk, including black mustard seeds and other unusual ones. Another resource is They send you ridiculous free stuff with each order. I just got a pound (!!!!!) of cayenne with my last order of true cinnamon. Anyone need any cayenne?

Nifty. Thanks!

I'm blessed [cursed] with an over abundance of rhubarb this week from my CSA. Already planning the pie or cobbler, but what the heck else can I do with it? I live alone and though my co-workers are more than happy to eat what I bring it, I may even push their limits. Also, potatoes - how do I store them properly? Everything I did growing up isn't working. Is that b/c they're 'too fresh'?

I like to make a simple rhubarb compote by cooking the rhubarb down with some sugar. (Add a vanilla bean if you have one while you're cooking.) Then I add it to yogurt for morning breakfast or a snack. Or this Baked French Toast with Rhubarb Sauce that we ran about a month ago sounds amazing.

Oh and for the potatoes. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.

What is the difference between regular paprika, Hungarian paprika and sweet smoked Spanish paprika? Can they be used interchangeably? Thanks!

Ixnay on the interchange-ay. Basically, they are made from different aromatic red peppers that may be sweet, spicy or hot.

Spanish smoked paprika has an intense smoky flavor. Hungarian can be sweet, mild or hot and has been the go-to paprika for years, in terms of quality.  It's Hungary's national spice.  "Regular" paprika may be a blend of nonspecific dried red peppers.  And  hey, you forgot to ask about my current fave, piment d'espelette. It's fruity, not spicy...made from the Basque espelette peppers of France. (It's featured in next week's Dinner in Minutes recipe and is available at La Cuisine  in Alexandria, so there's a head's up for  you.)

Hello, I was lucky enough to score a tenderloin from locally raised, grass-fed beef. The directions stress that this beef is much leaner than supermarket beef. They suggest marinating it for 24 hours, which seems excessive to me. I've always been a minimalist where steak is concerned (salt, pepper, grill). What do you suggest? I'd like to treat this (very pricey) piece of meat respectfully, and keep it tender, but don't want to overpower the natural flavor. Thanks!

That natural flavor might take a little getting used to. Grass-fed beef has a distinct taste. Have you tried it before?  You can marinate without getting too fussy -- olive oil, a little acid, a little garlic, a little herb.

I have an adventurous eater for my 21-month old and his favorites are Asian food: Chinese, Japanese (even sushi w/wasabi), Vietnamese, etc. I'm much more comfortable with Western-style cooking, but I'd really like to branch out. Do you have any suggestions for cookbooks that aren't too intimidating for starting with? I'm an experienced cook, but am about to be a mother of two, so fast and simple are pluses as well!

I recommend "Stir-Fry to the Sky's Edge" by Grace Young and Kylie Kwong's "Simple Chinese Cooking."

I have a recipe that calls for maybe a tsp of espresso powder to be mixed into whipped cream. I don't drink espresso. If I ground regular coffee beans finely, would that be an effective substitute? thanks

I think your recipe needs to be made with instant espresso powder, even if it doesn't say so. Even finely ground espresso-roast beans or lighter-roast beans aren't going to dissolve in that cream, and you'll get grit.

This will sound like a dopey question, but it's sincere. How do you fold/roll a wrap/burrito so that one or both ends are closed? And STAY closed?

OK, here's what you do. You spread the filling close to one end of the tortilla, the end closest to you, leaving plenty of room on each side.

You pick up the end of the tortilla closest to you and you lift it up and forward, over those fillings, to enclose them. Then you roll forward just a tad, tucking the tortilla under so as to keep everything tight, but before you roll much more, you fold both sides over from the left and right. Then you keep rolling.

Getting those sides tucked in early is the key.

I seem to have lost my flank steak mojo. I remove membrane if there is any, score, marinate in soy, honey, ginger, garlic, a little oil, scallions. Pat dry and grill at high heat (gas grill). It comes to temperature well before the outside is crispy -- and what's the point if you can't get that? Is it because I've started buying cheaper meat at the Asian supermarket instead of directly from a boutique farmer? Marinating too little, or too much?

I'm not a grill expert but I'm going to take a shot anyway. Perhaps your grill isn't hot enough to get the char you like. Heat it up high, throw on the steak to get a nice char and then move to a cooler area of the grill to continue cooking.

For the parent of the 21-mo with a penchant for Asian...I recommend the Simply Ming web-site. Ming Tsai has some great and not-too-difficult Fusion "East meets West" recipes...and it's free.

I love Ming Tsai. Super chef and great all around guy. Good suggestion.

I'm really excited about Top Chef! I never watched the show, which surprised all my friends, since I love the similar Project Runway and like to cook. Finally I decided to give it a try and bought the first season from iTunes a few weeks ago. Now I'm hooked and ready to see it set here. Did the Food Section get to participate at all? One would hope that the producers wouldn't have neglected the staff of the nation's premier newspaper food section when doing a show in their home town.

You can chat with tonight's losing chef tomorrow at 2! We're hoping to do these weekly throughout the season.

You'll just have to wait and see whether we participated, won't you? Read my live Tweets tonight: Follow me on Twitter @wapofoodlive. I'll also post a blog entry tonight that may illuminate a few things.

Thanks for answering my question about berry foraging in the blog! I've been berry picking in thorny, buggy, and messy conditions before so I think I can handle that. Hope there are still berries out there for me to pick!

...and just about as interesting, educational and entertaining. I'm with you, Bonnie. The Cooking Channel is just a boring recipe of old Nigella, Jamie Oliver, Flay and PBS reruns, with a bland dash of Gen-Y cooks that have no presence, no true insight or skill, in one inextricable, continuous loop of monotony. Each of the "new-ish" shows all look the same - same lighting, camera angles, sets. What a crashing bore and waste of time. Kudos to you for having the fortitude to weather this pabulum for as long as you did. I threw in the dish towel after only a few hits on the channel. To its credit, at least Cooking Channel isn't infiltrated with a series of mean-spirited, formulaic, pandering-to-the-lowest-common-denominator challenge shows that have sprung up all over the place; especially the Cooking Channel's parent company, Food Network. Years ago I used to be a real fan of The Food Network. Not anymore. For an entertaining and educational experience about food, food cultures, and how those foods and cultures affects one's world view, give me Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" any time. Everything else pales in comparison.

A missed opportunity, no question. I almost always pick up a little something from watching Jacques Pepin, don't you?  Wonder how Bourdain would do with recipes on camera....

I agree that Jacques is amazing when it comes to instruction. I remember so many little tidbits: don't worry about washing off mushrooms, just don't let them sit in water, and rinse right before you use -- stuff like that.

I make slow cooked tomato sauce every summer. In the past, I always take out the seeds because I once read somewhere that seeds will impart a bitter taste in a slow cooked sauce. Is this true?

I've never experienced that.

Hi, I finally made a chocolate TSC using a WaPo Food section recipe from several years ago. The recipe looked fairly told me to "combine" the melted chocolate/water/butter with the flour and sugar when making the cake batter. I didn't think at the time that when you combine a hot liquid with a starchy solid, major lumps ensue. I combined until my arm hurt from stirring but still there was huge floury lumps. Same problem w/the icing....the recipe told me to "stir" the melted chocolate/butter with a good pound of 10x sugar. Well once again I stirred till I could stir no more....once again confectioner sugar lumps all throughout the icing. Then, the icing soaked into the cake even though I followed the recipe to pour the icing over the hot cake. So even though the cake tasted good, I couldn't serve it at our party because it looked funky and had no icing! Plus I wasted a lot of good, not-cheap ingredients. What did I (or the recipe) do wrong?! Please tell me so I can make it the right way next time!

Sorry about that, TSC. I will edit the recipe to insert the word "gradually," which is the way to go when you are combining flour with just about any blend of  liquid ingredients. Just you have a mixer or do you prefer to do these things by hand?

For Father's Day, my dad has requested we visit a few Virginia wineries. We'll be in Harpers Ferry in the morning, so I'm trying to find a a couple we can swing by on the way back to D.C. Any thoughts on what's the best combo of atmosphere and wine in that area? (And we're all adults so it doesn't need to be kid- or pet-friendly.) Thank you!

Since you're going to be in Leesburg, I highly suggest Tarara. But first, read this piece by Dave McIntyre (you know, the wine columnist that another chatter said NEVER writes about Virginia wines!) about Loudoun County wineries.

Hi all - I had a lot of ripe mangos that I couldn't eat, so I decided to put them in the juicer. I kept the pulp for a smoothie, but I didn't know what to do with the juice - there wasn't a whole lot of juice from 6 mangoes. So, I decided to put them in the mini-ice cube trays. Any ideas on what I can do with the frozen mango juice? My one idea was just to have them as snacks when I wanted a cold treat.

One thing I'd do is pop some in a pan and reduce it by  half. The concentrate would make a nice sauce base for grilled fish or vinaigrettes.

You could also toss them in a blender, with cachaça and a tiny  bit of sugar, for a makeshift batida.

Hello and Happy Wednesday! I'm hoping this is a relatively simple father absolutely loves blueberry muffins, so I would like to bake some for him on Father's Day. I baked some last year and while they turned out "fine", they were nothing special. Does anyone have a great recipe to share for classsic blueberry muffins? Thank you!

Blueberry yogurt coffee cake might be a nice change. This was a good, healthful recipe we ran a while back.  Does this look good to you?

I made these for mother's day and really liked them. The recipe is from Magnolia Bakery.

3 C. flour

3/4 C. sugar

1 1/2 T. baking powder

3/4 t. salt

2 large eggs, beaten

1 1/2 C. buttermilk

6 T. unsalted butter softened

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 1/2 C. Blueberries lightly coated with flour

1 T. sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease well a 12 cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, making a well in the center. Stir in the liquid ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Batter may be lumpy. Gently fold in the blueberries into the batter.

Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Lightly sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 20 - 22 minutes until lightly golden or a cake taster inserted into center of muffin comes out with moist crumbs attached. Do not overbake.

My kids (both toddlers) love canned soup, especially the ones with fun character pasta, but I worry about the sodium level for them. If I make it myself, would it be healthier? Any healthy kid-friendly fun soup recipes that you'd care to share?

Making it yourself would certainly be healthier because you control everything that goes in. Not only sodium but stabilizers, preservatives, whatever. To get you started, here's a recipe for Nana's Fideo and Chicken Soup, a chicken-tomato-noodle mix that's good for kids and adults.

My office's annual summer picnic is coming up and every year we have a dessert contest--a major competition for those of us that like to cook. Any ideas for a showstopper? It has to be something I can easily transport, doesn't need to be frozen and doesn't require any last minute cooking.

Define "easily transport." I am not stalling; just trying to narrow the field.

I have read the wine column every Wed it has appeared in the WP since I was 14 yo back in 1973. Sorry the the WP does not devote enough columns or reviews to wines East of the Mississippi and please your reviews of anything from VA are token in comparision to column inches devoted to Cali, other West Coast wines and French wines. Get over yoursleves please. You are biased.

I'm sorry, but you haven't paid attention to what Dave's doing. I don't care about 1973. I care about now, and you're just wrong. He's a champion of Virginia wines, and I'm frankly very surprised that you haven't picked up on that.

One of my favorites has always been the spaghetti frittata. Whenever you have leftover spaghetti in tomato sauce (smooth), use the leftovers as filling, supplementing if you'd like with some diced mozzarella or fontina or a grating of parmegian/grana.

Do tell. You add egg to it? Sometimes the crisped noodles in the pan hang together and create the same thing, just about.

I have lentil/brown rice pilaf sitting in a tupperware from exactly a week ago. Is it still good? I would hate to throw it away but also hate to consume something unsafe- help!

I'm sure it's fine. Just give it a good sniff before you eat it. If it's smells funny, pitch it.

for the chatter with an abundance of rhubarb, how about this lovely rhubarb soda?

That looks amazing! Good suggestion. Also, you can use my compote idea and put it on waffles. (I'm on a waffle kick at the moment. A few weeks ago I made strawberry buttermilk waffles that were so darn good.)

With pumpkin production problems, honeybee hives disappearing, and now basil blight, I'm getting increasingly concerned since I'm really accustomed to finding ingredients I want when I want them and "shortages" scare me. What other crops or products have been significantly affected by weather, oil spills, or pollution with near-term supermarket repercussions?

No crystal ball here, but as we find out about things we will make them known!

I recently prepared Pealla for my wife's bonko party. It was perfect with exception of a slightly bitter after taste. Could this be that I substitued sherry in place of white wine? Also I should have removed the shimp tails. Any suggestions on making the perfect paella??

Doubt your sherry's the culprit, unless it was old/off. What kind of pan did you cook it in? No need to remove the shrimp tails, really.

Every few weeks someone complains that you guys don't have enough Virginia wine coverage, and I'm tired of it! We read the column to read interesting commentary about wine, not for a geographic bias. If a column is about syrah, and there aren't notable Virginian syrahs, then don't include one. I can't imagine how hard it must be to write a column each week that says new things about wine, introduces new bottles, makes new points, and keeps us interested. Surely forcing yourself to focus specifically on one region would make that nearly impossible.

It's frustrating, because if anything Dave is always looking for legitimate ways to write about Virginia wines, because he believes so strongly in supporting them -- not blindly, and in fact he hasn't pulled punches with his assessments, but to give credit and attention where it's due. But I hear you -- I don't want to do just one region all the time.

Frozen mangoes -- let thaw, and mix with softened vanilla ice cream, then refreeze. My (Indian) father used to do this with mango pulp to make mango ice cream.

Asian cook book -- World of the East Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey is great. Covers a wide range of Asian countries. And you could probably incorporate meat into some of the recipes if you wanted to. I've owned it for over 20 years and still turn to it.

Blueberry muffins -- the Gourmet cookbook that came out a few years ago has a recipe that is very good and basic. You can probably find it on epicurious. The only thing is that it has a crumble topping, which I never make. You just have to shorten the baking time by a few minutes.

Jacques Pepin and Ming Tsai -- love them both!

Yes! (You could also add a little chopped candied ginger if you've got it.)




Hi Foodies. I have two questions about the oil we use to cook with. I typically use olive oil to cook with and use corn oil for when I'm making popcorn in my stir-crazy popcorn popper. Is that the best oil or should I use canola? I ran out of the oil i use and couldn't remember if one is better or not. Also, how long can oils (olive, corn, canola, etc) keep? I have a couple bottles in a cupboard but am wondering if I should keep track of an expiration date. Thanks for your assistance!

I see some cooks on the ol' Internets who use olive oil to make popcorn, but it doesn't have quite as high a smoke point as peanut oil.  You could blend the olive oil with some canola or peanut oil. Storagewise, unopened cooking oil, particularly a refined oil like peanut oil, can last about a year. Some manufacturers recommend keeping opened bottles in the fridge, particularly if you don't have a cool dry place to keep them.  So yes, check those expiration dates.  Nut oils go bad fairly quickly, say 3 to 6 months, and those should be refrigerated once opened. Just take them out to sit at room temperature for a while before you use them so they return to a pourable state.

Hi there - Last night I made a very yummy strawberry and blackberry qastrique to go along with a gorgonzola-prosciutto stuffed chicken breast. It went really well with that, but I wondered if you all might have some other ideas to use up the extra cup or so of sauce I have left. Also, do you think it would freeze well if I can't use it right away?

It should keep in the fridge for about two weeks but I believe it will freeze as well. For immediate uses, how sweet is it? I know this might sound nuts but would it work on ice cream? Otherwise, for strawberry blackberry I think you need something substantial. (It would probably overwhelm a piece of fish or scallops.) How about a nice pork loin with some fresh blackberries on top?

A 14 year old kid was reading the wine column every week? Gee, somehow I doubt it. That it was back in 1973 and they remember to this day the types of wines that were featured - I doubt it even more. This wouldn't happen to be the know-it-all chatter with the herding dogs would it...?

Ha! Maybe it is Clifton!

What's with all the vitriol about Va. wines? And, really, does this guy think no one here wants to read about wines from other places? I'm sorry, but some of your readers do think there's more to wine than Viognier.

Yeah, I think I've been clear about how I feel about it. That person Does. Not. Get. It.

I am a little weary of the Top Chef formula, but will watch opening episode at least. I've learned not much about cooking from the show -- not its intent -- but have learned something from the critics who've appeared and a vocabulary for parsing a dish/plate. My two cents.

Does that mean you imitate Gail, Tom, or Padma when at a restaurant with your friends? And they tolerate it? ;-)

Did you actually read my original post? I was talking columns devoted to wines East of the Mississippi and local wines 10 weeks out 12. Read my original post again. Reading comprehension is fundamental if you are going to slam me. I have read every wine spirit column in the Food section for since you took over. I miss Ben. You could do 9mos of columns on local wines and not mention Cali, WA or Europe. Now do you get my point. Typical liberal bias.

Yeah, I read your original post. Go away now.

I want to buy a carbon steel pan for crepes. Once it's seasoned, can I use it for fish, or will the crepes pick up a fishy taste?

I'm told that yes, there's a good chance your crepes will forever afterward be of the seafood variety.  So best to keep the pan for crepes or crepe-like creations, only.

Hello! I need a good side dish to go with a flank steak rolled with spinach and mushrooms. I'm not sure my mixed green salad will make the plate appealing. Thanks, I appreciate your help!

Well, roasted potatoes are the easy option. But! How about a room temperature whole grain salad. I just had this amazing wheatberry salad with cherry tomatos and artichokes. It was rich and really satisfying and feels like it would go with your meal. You open to a whole grain?

also please tell me why my icing did not look as delectable as in the picture!! it just soaked right into the cake and there was nothing on top to harden as it cooled.

As I recall, the frosting wasn't really that thick, but be sure to let it cool for a while; pour when it's barely warm and has obviously thickened. Hope that helps!

I just mixed by time, should I drag out the trusty kitchenaid? it really was a yummy (though lumpy) cake!!!

I go to the machines for fine-textured cakes, and do the quick-bread ones by hand.

Jason-- What should be my summer pool cocktail? Last year you suggested the "Santa Maria" I believe. And while I purchased the ingredients, I am embarrassed to say I never got around to making the drink.

Well, you missed out on the Santa Maria. I think what probably kept you from doing that was the 3-day recipe for making your own falernum. Luckily, you can now buy John D. Taylor's falernum (which has only been on the market here for about 18 months). But for this year's pool cocktail, I'd say try today's Rum Swizzle, last week's Chambery Fraise, or one of the cachaça pitcher drinks from a few weeks ago. And if motivation is lacking? Just get a nice moderately-aged rum like Flor de Caña 7-year or Pampero Anniversario and pour a rum and tonic with a squeeze of lime.

You perceive the WP and Dave perceive you are giving locals wines enough coverage but you readers perceive it differently. I have to agree with the original poster the WP and the Food section does not devote enough time to local wines and wines East of the Mississippi. Just like local restaurants that shout about using local ingredients but have only token respresentation of local wines on their wine list. Like the Food section stafers they are missing the point. Your competition Todd Kliman agrees with us and the OP BTW.

Nice try, but we know you ARE the original poster. Think we can't see your IP address? Well, we can.

Hi all, This is a little off topic, but I want to get a head start on next spring. Looking to rent a community garden plot. Specifically, I was wondering if there was an article done in recent past with a listing of community gardens in the vicinity that don't have resident-only restrictions. Googling didn't come up with much, but I've heard that sometimes local farmers will rent out land. I'm in Arlington, but willing to travel. Thanks!

I don't know of ones that don't have resident-only restrictions (I had to wait three years to get my plot), but you should go to DC Urban Gardeners for resources. The Home section also wrote about a Web site that connects people with land they're not using to people who want to garden but don't have space. I'm blanking on the name and trying to find it.

Happy Wednesday Free Rangers.... going camping this weekend (camper type) with friend and were asked to bring a salad type dish. My daughter likes the tuna pasta peas salad..would love to zing that up; any suggestions? We're also bringing homemade bagels for Sunday breakfast. Going up north (we live in Minnesota). Thanks love reading the chat each week.

Love this tuna and rice salad. And this one uses chickpeas, lemon juice and parsley. I might sneak in grated carrots.

I have a suggestion for chatters who are dealing with an abundance of summer berries, as I am lucky enough to: slumps and grunts. Each consists of mixing a simple batter in a matter of seconds, and either pouring amid the berries and baking (slumps) or spooning in dollops and cooking over the stove (grunts). My other favorite summer dessert is a trifle, which you can take to any level of DIY that you please. Layers of fruit, cake and custard, whipped cream on top, let it soak in fridge. Sometimes I make every bit from scratch; sometimes I buy a pound cake and pudding and do it that way. This is a crowd-pleaser, especially when it's red, white and blue for July 4.

Here's a good recipe for a Fruit Slump if you've never made one. From the great Ann Amernick.

I don't understand how enjoyment of wines from particular regions of the world has any relationship to political leanings. Do you?

Er, no. But obviously that's because of my liberal bias. ;-)

Yes, you add egg. The process is basically as follows - I always eyeball the amounts and since I live alone I use a 6 inch cast iron pan (for one or two servings): beat two large eggs. Add salt and a small handful of diced cheese. Some diced herbs are OK too. chop up about a half cup of cooked spaghetti (not strictly necessary, but makes heating it easier). heat your pan to medium, and when hot, add oil to coat. saute the spaghetti until heated through. Add the egg mixture and then do your favorite frittata thing (I tend to push things around until the mixture is mostly cooked, then turn to very low for about 5 minutes, and finish in the broiler for 2-3 minutes). The end product is a thin (about 1/2 - 3/4 inch) frittata. Eat hot or cool. I find that it makes a nice sandwich filling with ciabatta or another rustic italian bread. In this case, an herb spread such as pesto is nice.

Nice. thanks.

Thanks for the 'soda', I was also looking for a drink for the BBQ I'm hosting for my birthday next week, and I think you've hit the nail on the head. It'll be different, and pink, but fun. Though, I'll probably sub prosecco for the soda water. You guys rock!

Well, that was a chatter's idea. So thank YOU.

Is available at the Fairfax Wegman's for $1.99 a can. Its organic and the price is reasonable.

Right, we said there was some organic canned pumpkin out there. But I made a pie with it and the stuff was more watery than Libby's brand. I'm just sayin'.

One of my favorite quotes from Top Chef came from Padma while talking about Carla's peas...."the peas were perfection" said in an airy, haughty voice.

At least it wasn't James Oseland from season 1 of Top Chef Masters issuing his star ratings in ... yes ... rhyme.

well, not really re paella, but a question to the poster: What's a "bonko party"?

I was afraid to ask...

I recommend the great PBS show "Diary of a Foodie"--excellent companion website. I got Ruth Reichl's apricot pie recpie there and use it every summer when I get fresh peaches. The show has a different theme every episode and is about the FOOD, not the host.

I like that show.

I would make a risotto with chopped spinach and mushrooms so that it pairs well with the steak. The creaminess of the risotto (lots of cheese!) should match well.


That blueberry muffin recipe you posted above - two questions. Can I sub strawberries for blueberries? And any chance I can sub yogurt for the buttermilk, or will that just not work? (Trying to work with what I have in my fridge!) Thanks!!

Indeed, I used strawberries the first time I made it so no problem there. (Cut them into small chunks.) As for yogurt, I haven't tried it. You could probably use a mix of yogurt and milk -- you need a little liquid to get the right consistency.) I am 100% for winging it but given that it's fathers day, I might follow it so you're not left empty handed.

Funny the comment about not writing about eastern wines. I wished you wrote more about wines from California and Washington! I'm a fan of big reds (cabs, merlot, etc). I tried a cabernet from Maryland once--it reminded me of porter (the beer). I don't think anyone else in the US can compete on robust red wines like the west coast.

We always want to write about wines from a lot of different places; thanks for your vote!

Is there a local guide on how much one should expect to pay for grass-fed, free range, hormone free beef? I need a good quality round eye round roast, and I think I've found a reputable local butcher but since I don't buy a lot of beef, I'm not sure what is an acceptable price. Of course, it all depends on the butcher and also the market for the meat and the availability, but I want to make sure I'm not getting gouged on the price. Thank you very much!

I think it really depends where you are in the country and where you shop. An independent butcher or high-end farmers market is going to cost more (I'm thinking Dupont Circle and the Organic Butcher) but then there's quality control and service and...

The best way to find out is probably to go to the Eat Wild site, which keeps track of grass-fed producers. You can search by state and see prices for different cuts at various web sites. That should give you a sense at least.

For the chatter with all the excess rhubarb, if you're tired of sweet applications, there's a recipe in All About Braising for a brisket in a rhubarb sauce. Not exactly brisket season but it's at least an alternative. I've also read a recipe for a rhubarb-ginger cocktail somewhere online, so you might try Googling around for that.

Oh my goodness. I've been eyeing that recipe for years but have never made it. (By the time we get rhubarb, I no longer want brisket.) But if you do make it, let me/us know how it turns out.

For the poster that wanted a good blueberry muffin recipe...I love ATK and they have a good recipe.

Always reliable!

We don't get to sit down with the TV much, but since cooking shows are usually one of the first things we look for, we liked the idea of multiple options. I have DVRed a couple Drink Up episodes to get cocktail ideas (and be able to watch the techniques of mixing) but haven't had time to see it yet. Sometimes these shows teach us and sometimes they just give us ideas. Sometimes shows like Best Thing I Ever Ate make me wish I had a beaming machine. Regardless, I can tell you that in the last three years since we've been watching TFN (and I've been reading these chats), my willingness to try new things has skyrocketed.

That "Drink Up" show has promise. I like where the guy's been so far.  Willingness to try new things definitely counts for something.

I think Drink Up seems pretty good so far. They're at least visiting interesting places like Raines Law Room and Mayahuel in New York.

LOL at the chatter & Joe for surmising the wine grump is Clifton! (I was thinking the same thing) It's amazing how after years of reading multiple chats on this site one gets to "know" the other chatters. Even though I am way out in Boulder I still feel part of the WaPo community via your chats. They get me through my workdays when it's slow.

Funny, isn't it? Glad we can help you connect!

These are seriously amazing:

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups unprocessed wheat bran or oat bran [I used wheat germ]

1 cup white whole wheat flour; 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or fat-free milk [I used vanilla soy]

1/4 cup agave nectar or dark honey [I used less]

2 ripe medium bananas mashed with a fork

1 large egg

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract [I used 1 TBSP]

1 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries

1/2 cup pitted chopped prunes or apricots (optional).

Instructions: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a nonstick 12-cup muffin pan with cooking oil spray. In a medium bowl, combine the bran, flour, flaxseed, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl or in a blender, combine the milk, agave nectar or honey, bananas, egg, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in 1/3 of the liquid mixture. Using a spoon, stir until smooth. Add the remaining liquid mixture and stir just until combined. Add the blueberries and prunes, if desired; stir again, but do not over mix. Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each prepared muffin cup. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed gently in the centers. Do not overbake. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan. Serve warm, or cool completely on the rack.

Per serving: 140 calories, 4 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates (10 g sugars), 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 20 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 170 mg sodium

Thanks! Whose recipe?

Hello! I saw a recipe for canneles in one of Jacques Pepin's cookbooks. I've never tried these but they look tasty. Do you have any tips on where I might find cannele molds in a store? I've seen cannele molds online in copper and silicone. Is it better to get copper?

La Cuisine in Alexandria (703-836-4435) has them. But they also have Elastamolds (made from silicone), which store owner Nancy Pollard uses and recommends highly -- easier to get the little things out.

I just had some delicious cannele pastries from St Michel Bakery, which sells at the Bethesda Womens Farm Cooperative on Saturdays.

Definitely open to a whole grain. Do you have a recipe suggestion? Thanks for taking my question!

We don't have a wheatberry salad in our database that I can vouch for but here's a basic wheatberry salad recipe from the wonderful Ina Garten. She uses carrots and bell pepper but I encourage you to use whatever you like in the mix.

For the happy camper...I love variations of standard ideas like this Asian style cole slaw.

Nice, thanks!

How about a barley, black bean, corn, cilantro, red onion, celery salad with lime vinaigrette? I made that with stuff I had in fridge last week and it was great. make and dress ahead of time, chill, and then bring to room temp to serve. Plus, it is a vegetarian main dish if you need one.

Another good idea for a whole grain side dish.

Easily transportable--We hold the event at an outdoor rec center and I have to assemble it in advance. So it can't be soupy, or it will make a mess in the car on the way there, or really brittle, since it could fall apart easily. In the past, I've done mostly cakes or pies.

Oh shoot, now we're almost outta time. Send an e-mail to and I'll take care of you.

or the world, as long as it's tasty. And as long as there is some cheese around.

I'm with you.

Don't blame us for this! Most of the folks you mentioned in your post aren't even Generation Y! And even if they were, they'd be put on there by Gen X or boomer producers! Everyone's cranky because of the weather, I think.

Convenient theory.

Ha! It's "Falernum Girl" and I had just made my own--prob why you suggested the Santa Maria. Don't suppose that falernum, which is still in my fridge, is any good?

Hey Falernum Girl! Where have you been? I think you should be okay if you used 80 proof rum. Why not try and use it?

Needs only to be cooked for for maybe 30 minutes at most. Not hours and the 30 minutes depends on the tomatoes. Sometimes 15 minutes is best. You want the fresh taste of the summer tomatoes to come through. Saute some onion and red and green peppers in the best olive oil you can afford. Then add some red pepper flakes and garlic though a garlic press to taste . Deglaze pan with a nice summer white wine. Add tomaotes and use back of wood spoon to flatten after about 5 minutes. Let cook after another 10 minutes check. Should be about done add basil and oregano. spices do not need to cook w/sauce. Take off heat and use as condiment on favorite pasta. Give pasta and sauce a drizzle of that olive oil and serve with a nice white wine,

More summer tomato sauce advice. Which sounds about right to me.

I've been enjoying the Cooking Channel because it's not as heavy on the obscure competition shows (e.g. Best Disney Cake With a Princess Playing Polo and/or Cribbage), but it's funny.... their initial marketing turned me off ("it's gonna be young and hip!!") while the actual content (i.e. shows I used to enjoy on the Food Network that they no longer have room for) is exactly what I'm looking for. So are they eventually going to phase out the part I most enjoy? And those Canadian hipster boys with the 3D pizza just annoy me. I want cooking info I can USE. I cannot USE a homecrafted pizza pan in the shape of a geodesic dome. (I mean, I could, but I won't.)

That show feels like it's in the lineup for demographic purposes. It sure isn't for the recipes.

I agree with the 'meh' assessment of this new Food TV spinoff. Already repeat after repeat, and very little actual - cooking - being shown. The best place to find real how-to shows anymore is PBS. The Food Network is almost entirely those silly competition/challenge shows, and this new channel isn't much better. They missed a real opportunity IMHO!

Wish I'd used the word "meh."

I had a friend in college whose one big recepie was spaghetti pancakes. Same principle, I guess. Use the noodles as filler to help bind the sauce together with the other ingredients and give it a different texture.

There  you go. Thrifty to boot.

Please tell me if it's a waste of money to buy anything other than "lump" when purchasing crab meat. Can all crab meat be "lump" or is, say, "backfin" or "claw" or another inferior? Should a price below $X amount per pound make me suspicious? Thank you!

"Special" can be good, especially for making crab dip.

Well, you've removed us from the grill and let us rest for at least 5 minutes before serving -- you know, so our juices redistribute -- so you know what means. we're done! Thanks for the great questions today -- well, thanks to everybody except the one that I don't feel like thanking -- and hope we gave you some useful stuff.

Now for the giveaways. The chatter who asked about grilling flank steak will get "The Tex-Mex Grill" by Robb Walsh. The one who asked for blueberry muffin recipes will get "The Big Summer Cookbook" by Jeff Cox. The grass-fed beef eater will get ... "Pig" by James Villas. The spaghetti frittata maker will get a CArla Hall "hootie-hoo!" T-shirt. Send your mailing info to, and we'll get you your stuff!

Until next time, happy eating, drinking (wine!), and reading...

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