Free Range on Food

Jul 13, 2011

Today's topics: The stinky appeal of durian, innovative Belgian brewers, summery Southern cookbooks and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range, the chat that brings you stinky durian, Belgian beer, an edible history lesson and so much more to your lunchtime Wednesdays.

Look forward to tackling your questions this week -- and we'll have help from Julie Wan, who wrote the fascinating durian tale today; and Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin, who is fresh off a fish-grilling session for next week's section and ready to tackle anything fire-related.

So fire away!

Oh, but first, a couple of announcements. Of course, there's the giveaway books for our favorite chatters. We'll have "Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen" (source of this fab bourbon apricot/sweet potato handpie recipe) and "The Women's Day Everyday Cookbook" (source of this summer chili).

The other announcement is that we'll have a special live chat tomorrow at noon with Jose Andres, the Spanish star chef behind the new America Eats Tavern that Tim illuminated today. Ask questions anytime by going here.

But let's get THIS chat started first!

"Tested by Bonnie Benwick" usually means SUCCESS in my kitchen. This weekend I made Mango Gazpacho from last week's FOOD. I wish Bonnie elaborated what kind of mango nectar she used. Google found a $23 bottle on Amazon, a trip to Grand Mart resulted in a 50 cent can. Thank God I tasted it before adding to the bowl. It had a strong metallic taste. The guests were already gathering. What to do? Kids got their gazpacho with coconut water (not canned) and adults feasted on Bonnie's gazpacho made with Prosecco. It was really good. The back of my mouth loved the interplay of mango and hints of garlic. I can still taste it. I just couldn;t take perfectly fresh fruit and vegetables and douse them with canned soft drink: PS: never heard of fig vinegar, will research, meanwhile used sherry vinegar. Under the circumstances Joe's Mango Gazpacho would have beat Bonnie's hands down, but jicama let him down. I love crunchy, juicy jicama, we devour tons of it every winter. The jicama I got last week had absolutely NO taste. (It is out of season.) So I added more hot peppers, serrano and Thai beaks and I guess I added too much. The back of my mouth was not pleased. I added more yogurt. Because I used Vita Mix Gazpacho turned out very creamy. I added just a dash of curry and served it as a dip surrounded with romaine leaves. Got lots of compliments and empty bowls. What I really am gratefull to you for this week is your Fava Bruschetta recipe. I've always wanted to, but never have made fava beans. Bought them on impulse. What to do? Got clear and useful instructions in your recipe file. Thank you. I wish you had a What & How column that we could refer to when confronted with unfamiliar food products. There are so many new fruits, vegetables, cheeses and grains available in our local stores especially the ethnic ones, but in order to google one needs to know their names. PS: I was unable to get any "Reader's ratings" in your recipe file. Is it me or WaPo?

It was an unintentional Joe-Bonnie gazpacho smackdown, but  you saw right through it! And we'll  ponder your idea about a recommended list.

And oh dear, re the mango nectar. But love your prosecco save for the Dinner in Minutes soup.

I used the kind that comes in aseptic (those soft boxes) packaging, paid less than $3 for it at Rodman's. Mango nectar's fairly common these days; I  have bought it at Giant and Safeway on the juice aisle in jars; also can be found at Whole Foods Market. Hope you get a chance to try it again sometime with the good stuff. Fig vinegar's a specialty item you can find at gourmet markets that I happen to love for its fruitiness; that's why there's an alternate option of distilled white vinegar (from original recipe).

Glad you liked the Cool and Spicy Mango Soup recipe (not a gazpacho, really)! I think you'd have been better off, with the jicama situation, to sub something like Asian pear or green apple, which would give the juicy crunch, if you didn't like the state of your jicama. But good for you for tasting and adjusting based on the quality of your ingredients!

On the recipe ratings, they're on hold for technological reasons, but they'll be back!

I have noticed as a few other friends that your other restaurants are suffering because you seem to have so many things on your plate now. I went to Jaleo's crytal city the other night and was very disappointed in the food. I was in a rush so I did not bother complaining at that time but I definitely will have second thougths about going back.

Jose's with us tomorrow in another special chat room, not this one. Follow this link and submit your question there!

In my ideal world I would have a set of monthly menus (maybe 6 different ones that I'd rotate through) that I'd use for each month, with a weekly shopping list to go with each. They would be editable, and allow input of my own or downloaded recipes. Bonus for coordination so that cooking a turkey over the weekend would translate into turkey sandwiches on Monday, turkey pot pie on Tuesday, and maybe freeze some cooked meat for next week, etc. Any thoughts on software that can accomplish this?

I'd love to find out if there's something that does it all too! But currently I like to use a combination of Google spreadsheets and Evernote, along with my to-do software (Things for Mac). The spreadsheets allow for easy scheduling, list-making, editing, and coordinating with other family members if you allow them access. You can also include hyperlinks [using the code =hyperlink("http://xxx"; "name of link")]. If you want to do something more text-based (like include full recipes), Evernote is useful -- it also has apps for mobile devices, as well as a desktop version, and you can insert photos, links, and other things. The to-do software (Things) I mainly use to input action items for myself and is also where I keep my grocery list. You may also want to check out food magazine and website apps for mobile devices.

My boyfriend accidentally picked up a bag of Bread Flour from the store instead of All-Purpose. The bag says it can be easily substituted for AP in any yeast bread recipes. Is there any other way I can use it? Or is that really the only option? Thanks for any suggestions.

He didn't do that to discourage his enlistment for shopping expeditions, did he? Well, you can freeze it for about a year; be sure to label properly and store in airtight plastic. It has a higher gluten content than AP flour (plus malted barley flour for yeast activity and vitamin C or potassium bromate for elasticity, according to Food Lover's Companion), so it's not good for baking cakes, etc.  Perhaps for muffins and quick breads, you could use a mix of bread and AP flours. There's pizza dough to be made, of course, and I use bread flour to make Alton Brown's chewy chocolate chip cookies.

Chatters, what kinds of non-bread ways do you use it?

I've wanted to make a big batch of chicken soup that the kids will like and that I can bring in for work lunches. But, I am trying to eat a lower salt diet and I know that soups tend to be high in salt. Any ideas for a tasty lower-sodium soup recipe?

Since you're willing to make big batches of homemade soup, the best way to control the sodium in soups is to start with your own homemade batch of chicken broth. I love a good chicken broth; always have some on hand in the freezer in small portions to help complete a risotto or add to a sauce. This recipe's basic; you'd simply leave out the salt and go from there. You could also roast chicken parts and use those instead of a whole chicken (for deeper flavor), if you like. Or  you can buy unsalted chicken stock; I like Kitchen Basics brand best.

Don't poblano peppers have an outer layer of "skin" that needs to be removed? Or does peeling only become necessary if you char or roast the peppers?

Q and A, all in one! Although the skin might be a tad tougher than, say, a red bell pepper, you don't need to peel them for this recipe. But if you were roasting/charring, sure you'd discard the skin.

I've got a couple questions about preparing shrimp. First, other than for aesthetics, is there any reason to keep the tails on? I hate dealing with them when eating and have come to just take them off when I peel my shrimp. Didn't know if I was committing some cardinal sin of cooking. Second, I once heard you're not supposed to rinse raw shrimp in water because it takes away from their flavor. I try to keep them away from water as much as I can, but I still like to give them a quick rinse after I peel them to make sure I got all the gunk off them. Is this a no-no or am I fine? Thanks!

Have you ever had shrimp in a cooked dish that didn't have their tails on? Of course you have! That means that, absolutely, you can take them off. I'm with you -- I don't like having to deal with them. (Although I like some dishes, messy as they are, where you keep them in the shell, too, like Cajun-style barbecued shrimp.)

As for rinsing, it's true that they'll have more flavor if you don't do it. Unless you're talking about the vein from deveining them, which you should take out (and wipe off if it's gunkified), that gunk you're talking about after peeling them is fine. But you're not killing the dish if you give a quick rinse, so if it tastes fine to you...

Hello Food folks -- Carolyn from the chicken contest here! Just had to report this :) .......when Walter Nicholls wrote his pupusa article back in 07, I asked him in the Free Range chat if he knew of a good place to get rice flour pupusas. Well, the husband and I have found a new pupuseria that makes great ones: El Comalito at the Takoma/Langley Crossroads. You can get any combo of frijol/queso/loroco/chicharron made with either corn or rice masa, and they even offer chicken and squash as options! They really are superior to any others in the area, stuffed thick and cooked just right. My husband said that the word has spread among Salvadorans -- and given how packed the place was when we went last night, I think it's true -- but I thought the gringos might want in on this place too!

I have eaten there, and I agree with your opinion. Comalito makes terrific pupusas. Caution for gringos in a hurry (that's me, he says sheepishly): The place takes its sweet time to prepare your pupusas.

Last week you mentioned ginger beer and the Moscow Mule at America Eats Tavern, I had it on July 4th and it is amazing! I would love to re-create that home but I am not sure where to buy ginger beer. I had never even heard of it before, is it common and I've been missing out all this time? Cheers!

You can find at least one kind of ginger beer at Giant food stores, on the international foods aisle. Fever Tree's ginger beer and the one made by Fentiman's are particularly nice, and you can usually pick them up at liquor stores. Rodman's carries Fever Tree as well.

Hi foodies! Maybe this is a question for the GoGs, but any restaruant suggestions for a good beef wellington? Thanks!

Funny, but it's increasingly hard to find this French classic in D.C. restaurants, even at the Old School French haunts. Le Refuge in Alexandria still serves it. But you might also try La Chaumiere's slightly less caloric version of the classic, featuring marinated salmon in puff pastry with a champagne/dill sauce. It's delicious.

I'm hoping to stock my pantry with more vinegars for cooking. All I have now are red wine and balsamic vinegars and I would like to experiment with others but I'm not sure where to start or what brands are good. I have come across a lot of recipes that call for sherry vinegar but I only see 'sherry cooking wine' in the grocery store, which is confusing b/c I live in MD and they don't sell alcohol in the grocery store. Should I assume that's vinegar? Thanks for you help.

Walk away from any "cooking wine" at the grocery store. Nothing good can come from it! Real sherry vinegar (vinagre de JerezJimenez; a splurge but worth it) is available at Whole Foods Markets and Rodman's and kitchen stores (again, a mention! Such things go in streaks). Love many different vinegars, including fruit ones like the fig vinegar I also mentioned earlier; champagne vinegar; a good white wine vinegar; a tarragon vinegar; a white balsamic vinegar; an unseasoned rice wine vinegar (IS available at the grocer); a malt vinegar. If you live in the area, check out the vinegars on tap at Whole Foods Market in Rockville. Some are from specific vineyards. Being able to taste them first is a welcome feature.

Speaking of fruit vinegars, did  you ever read this story by former colleague Jane Black? Should have come with a warning about excess salivation.


Our rooftop garden is doing great in spite of the ungodly heat. My problem? A glut of herbs that I never use in my cooking! Tearing through basil hasn't been an issue but my boyfriend had purchased several thyme and tarragon plants that are growing like weeds and, aside from the occasional sprinkle of dried thyme in chili or poultry dishes, I rarely use either of them. Any suggestions to prune back the beats this weekend? Thanks!

One idea may be to try using them to add fragrance to sweet recipes, like cocktails. There are some good ideas in this article and a recipe for a sweet basil cocktail here. If you can bear to turn on the stove right now, here's a recipe for orange peel- and rosemary-scented cookies -- a bit holidayish, but adding some herbs to breads, cookies, cakes, and other desserts may be worth a try. With leafier herbs, you can add them straight to salads.

I did find gooseberry recipes online finally; one was for an 'upside down' cake that turned out to be quite tasty. I used a different cake recipe, but it was quite good. My son has also been making a lot of gooseberry fool, which is good but artery clogging of course. We also canned some in a medium sugar syrup.


Do you have a favorite brand of soup/bouillion cubes?

I like Better Than Bouillon bases.

Just want to say I love the first comment - thanks for sharing your varied gazpacho experiences!

i've been adding more interesting aspects to my own sandwiches that I find at other delis and was wondering, how would I make my own pickled red onions?

I love pickled onions. I adapted a recipe from this one by Friend of Food Pati Jinich.

We also have this simpler one by Peter Pastan.

WaPo you are the only ones to ask and I have a mtg so am asking early if you have time to answer, I'd appreciate it. I got 3 copper pots some years ago when my parents sold their house - large covered oval, saute pan and gratin. All were bought in France in the late 60s or early 70s. I only recall the casserole ever being used - once. They are gorgeous.The gratin one does not appear to need to be retinned. The others do. All together it will cost about $200.00 . Should I have it done? What are the benefits/tricks of cooking with them?

If I inherited three copper pans, I'd hold onto them forever. Granted, they're harder to clean and maintain, but there's a reason that the world's best chefs use copper pans: They conduct heat evenly. Plus, let's just admit this now: They look great hanging in your kitchen.

Just a thanks for the shout-out to Rodman's (this week for vinegars and a few weeks past for wines). I love my neighborhood's little spot of gourmet, amidst the donuts and cheeseburgers...

Yep, it's a local treasure. Technically one of Washington's few shops that carries specialty ethnic products from many lands, all in one spot.

Here in southern NM we are about 1 month away from the arrival of green chile in the farmers markets. (Really, everywhere--even Walmart and Sam's Club has big roasters going outside during chile season.) My goal this year is to make green chile ice cream. I want to make a test batch with some of the end of our frozen roasted stash from last year. I would like to adapt a fruit ice cream recipe for my first try. What fruit would you think would most mimic the chiles?

Even we mid-Atlantic types get the benefit of your fab chili harvest; Wegmans stores in the D.C. area usually roast Hatch peppers out front as a special promotion.

What do you mean by "mimic," exactly? I'd think something like cucumber would provide a fresh yet neutral base for your chilies to shine through; I might go the complementary route and try mango or apricot or peach.

Here are a couple of recipes that you might find helpful to draw from. I haven't made either of them, just so you know.

Green chile-mint ice cream. It uses serranos instead of the larger New Mexico chiles (like Hatch), but I'm intrigued by the chile-mint combo and think you should try playing with that.

Green chile-avocado ice cream. Wow -- a great idea, right? From Splendid Table. Only thing is, the actual recipe is just for mashing up the avocado, chile, etc. into already-made ice cream, but again, the combination of the two might be worth your trying.

With relation to the ginger beer question earlier, I wanted to say that an excellent ginger beer (actually made from ginger and not "natural flavors") is made by Bundaberg, from Australia. You can find it at World Market and it's much better than anything sold in the local grocery stores.

I made a teriyaki marinade for some chicken we grilled this weekend but the recipe resulted in more marinade than needed. I saved the extra in some tupperware but was wondering how long it will last in the fridge. I was thinking of reusing it this weekend but is that too long?

If there was fresh garlic in it, I think you'll have to toss it by the weekend. When you say "reusing," I assume you're referring to marinade that didn't touch any raw food? In future, you can freeze flat in heavy-duty resealable plastic food storage bags.

Whew, I've got to get those last 7 words on a SAVE key.

I received a jar of this as a gift, no idea what to do with it. I don't like spicy food, but the label claims sweetness.

Try using it as you would a fruit jams: Spread it on biscuits or savory muffins with some butter. Or pair it with cheeses.

You can also use it as a dipping sauce for wings and wontons, instead of a sweet and sour sauce or a mumbo sauce.

You could even try it as a glaze while roasting ham or as a topping for grilled fish.

Step one: Taste it!

You can use 2 cups of tarragon instead of half a cup each of basil, dill, parsley and tarragon in the recipe below. That's what I usually do and it's delicious. The recipe (online through Saveur but originally from "The Georgian Feast") is incredible. It is sort of like pesto but even better. You will want to eat it with a spoon. -- MAKES 2 CUPS Sauces made with a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and nuts are essential to Georgian cuisine (the republic, not the state). This recipe is adapted from Darra Goldstein's The Georgian Feast (HarperCollins, 1993). We've substituted easy-to-find apricot preserves for the traditional apricot leather. Serve with crudites or grilled meats.

2 tbsp. apricot preserves

4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup fresh dill

1/2 cup fresh parsley

1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves

1/2 cup shelled walnuts

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup walnut oil

Pinch cayenne

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Place apricot preserves, garlic, scallions, cilantro, basil, dill, parsley, tarragon, walnuts, and lemon juice in a blender. Pulse until smooth. While processing, gradually add walnut oil. Sauce will be thick.

2. Transfer sauce to a bowl, season to taste with cayenne, and salt and pepper, and set aside for about 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Sauce will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Fabulous. Thanks.

I've been able to find ginger beer at MOMs and World Market

I was reducing balsamic vinegar last night to put on my salad (chicken/yellow grape tomatoes/blueberries/goat cheese/walnuts ) and went a little to far. The vinegar was so thick I could barely scrape it off the plate. What's a good method for making sure it reduces enough to concentrate flavors, but not so much that it turns too gooey?

Generally speaking, you want to reduce the volume of your balsamic vinegar by half. It doesn't take long, about 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how much vinegar you have in the pan.

they are open on christmas. perfect place for last minute gifts and a good place to run when someone utters the dreaded phrase "how did we forget to buy (insert necessary christmas food here)?!"

What I was looking to do was to get a recipe for say, strawberry ice cream, and replace the strawberries with the chiles. Obviously strawberries and chiles are rather different so I was looking for what fruit would be most reasonably replaced by chiles. And you would weep knowing the price we pay for the 30 lbs of roasted chiles we buy each year--and that is on the low end of what most southern New Mexicans buy.

You don't think starting with that serrano-mint ice cream is a better idea?

LOVE in Frederick! Lebherz Olive and Vinegar Emporium - wonderful vinegars. Market Street.

My mother used to make this from scratch all the time and it was perfect in baked brie.

HELP!!!! I feel like the meals I make have fallen into a rut and I'm facing NO creativity. I've been grilling everything that the flavors are all running together now - steaks, chicken, tuna, pork... I need a change I'm looking for something full of flavor but low on the ingredient list. I don't want to need 20 ingredients to make something. Also easy to make (no salmon) and can be thrown on the grill. It's too hot to start up the oven in my mind. What do you suggest?

   Okay, no salmon. What about other fish? Halibut, haddock, tuna all grill nicely. 

   Use seasonal ingredients for a topping - a salsa of tomatoes, garlic, onion, lime, and cilantro; a sauce of peaches and habaneros and brown sugar. Or use a simple fresh ginger, garlic, and soy sauce - it's light, easy to make, and works well on all sorts of seafood. 

    Summertime is the time to play with your food. Go to the market, pick up some stuff on a whim, then mess around. Your rut ends where experimentation begins.


Do you have a favorite brand of vegetable stock (for meatless soups)?

Kitchen Basics. But I tend to use up my own stash first. As the pros suggest, I toss vegetable scraps and peels, etc., in a heavy-duty resealable plastic food storage bag (SAVE! KEY!) in the freezer and after a few weeks, I simmer them in a pot of water with some herbs and sometimes white wine. That's all it takes.

There's an awesome app called MealBoard which lets you imput recipes, assign them to days of the week, and re-use a week's plan later on. It has REALLY helped me with my planning, and if you actually go through the steps of putting in the ingredients in the recipe area, it will generate a shopping list for you as well. (This is optional if you don't want to -- you can just put the name of the recipe and leave everything else blank). It synchs to the online site, too. I have an iPhone and don't know if it's available for Androids, but I HIGHLY recommend it.

This is a wonderful thing! I go through a bag every month or two, using it in no-knead bread recipes and bagels (at 3-4 cups each time, you'll go through the bag quickly). You can also use it to make strudel dough if you want to do things the old-fashioned way. It makes fantastic pretzels, too. You could use it to thicken soups the same as with regular flour, making a roux.

My mom used to serve pepper jelly poured over very soft, spreadable cheese (sometimes even cream cheese, if company arrived unexpectedly). It was actually really good spread on crackers or toast.

Hi, I have too much kohlrabi from my CSA. It is the kind like cabbage, not a potato. Most of the recipes that I find for kohlrabi are either for the potato-like kind (say, a soup! or roasted!) or coleslaw. We can't eat this much coleslaw. Other options for a cabbage-like vegetable in the July heat? I've already stir-fried it with sausage, and even that was too autumnal. Please don't make me resort to sauerkraut. On a side note, I love complaining about my CSA because it makes me feel privileged to have a personal farmer. But to be fair he's having a tough time with the drought.

Hi! As far as I know, the two types of kohlrabi -- purple and green -- taste virtually the same. (The purple is green inside.) So I don't know about this one-is-a-cabbage-the-other-is-a-potato phenomenon. Are you sure about that? To me, it tastes like both, really, or like cabbage and turnip.

So, for recipes, what about this one, in which it's cooked and then tossed with pecans and honey? Sounds good, don't you think?

In order to reduce his salt content palatably, my health-conscious father loved to add a little fresh or dried dill to his chicken soup while it was finishing cooking, then he would stir in some fresh-squeezed lemon juice -- yummmm!

Both of those are great flavor boosters for chicken soup. I seem to be in a lime phase, so I'd suggest subbing green fruit for yellow, too.


Personally, I love going to Indian restaurants to eat vegetarian. South Indian cuisine tends to be heavy on vegetarian dishes, but even restaurants like Passage to India in Bethesda, Rasika in Penn Quarter and Masala Art in Tenleytown all have excellent veggie dishes.

If you want something really different, try Elizabeth's Gone Raw, an all-vegan restaurant that recently captured Tom Sietsema's attention.

Wegman's Fairfax has fresh never frozen 2 days from boat to the store shrimp for $16.99.

Nice. Love that store. Wish they were on 14th Street. ;-)

I loved the idea of a summer chili - something normally thought of as a winter warmer but that fits the summer pallet. It made me think of my slow cooker which usually hibernates all summer minus the occational bbq pulled pork I make. Especially with the recent heat, using the slowcooker instead of the stove would be ideal. Do you have any summer-friendly recipes or ideas for the slow cooker you can recommend?

Thanks! I'm not a big tofu eater but it added nice texture to this fairly crunchy rendition.

In a quick scan of some slow cooker recipes in our Recipe Finder, I see some that might fill the bill:

Slow Cooker Vegetable Broth (hey, earlier chatter!)

Slow Cooker Chickpeas With Sunchokes and Chorizo

Orange Black Beans With Cumin

Pork  Tenderloin Braised in Milk With Fresh Herbs

Any ideas for lunches that do not need refrigeration? The kids are getting a little sick of PB&J, but at camp the lunchboxes just sit out there, often in the sun, and never refrigerated. Thanks!

The readers over at Serious Eats recently batted around this very subject. The Japanese bento box seems to be the clear winner.

As much as I love cooking and baking, I think I actually like looking up recipes even more. I think part of it is that when I'm just looking at the recipes, I can pretend that I can cook most of them. It isn't until I go to actually try to make them that I realize I'm in wayyy over my head. Anyways, being new to the world of cooking, I've really only focused on ones from the past decade, with the exception of Joy of Cooking. I'd like to try some of the older classics, but really didn't know where to start. I'd be up for most anything but am not into Chinese or Thai food. I do have a particular fondness for Mexican, Italian and anything dealing with pastries. Thanks!

For Mexican, try Diana Kennedy's classic "The Cuisines of Mexico." For Italian, Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cookbook." For pastries, try "Maida Heatter's Book of Great American Desserts."

Dump it over a brick of cream cheese and serve with crackers. Messy but delicious!

mix with a little soy sauce and crunchy peanut butter for a different take on chicken satay

I just (as in fifteen minutes ago) discovered, which lets you put in foods you have, foods you don't like, and foods you're craving at a given moment should you be stuck on something. It's pretty great, and the pictures are fantastic!

Unfortunately, chicken stock only lasts so long in the fridge. I make it and put into quart soup containers and freeze, only taking one container out at a time, but some times it's hard to finish the full quart before I toss it. So sometimes, it's canned. My mother always liked College Inn chicken stock, so I keep a couple of cans of that around when I don't have fresh. For the low-sodium brand, I like Safeway's Organics best because it has the lowest sodium content f the low sodium brands (even lower than Kitchen Basics).

Kitchen Basics makes an UNSALTED version.

You're destined to bake bread. It isn't all that hard. Try a no-knead recipe or make some pizza crust. Even bad homemade pizza crust is so much better than anything out of the freezer that you'll love it.

Peel young tender ones, slice like matchsticks, add to mixed green salad.

PUt them in a vase and Use them for a fragrant bouquet in the kitchen.

Yes -- even (or especially!) flowered ones are nice this way, along with bolted lettuce. Kuhn Orchards sells this at the 14th/U Farmers Market, but I make my own sometimes, too. I have a whole bush of flowering oregano.

I was interested in making a Nourish recipe, Chickpea, cucumber, tomato, and avocado salad, but the make ahead directions held me back. It says that it can be refrigerated up to 8 hours. I want to make it the night before and have it for lunch. Why only 8 hours? Is it the avocado? Could I put the avocado in last minute and then the salad would last for a couple days?

Your last-minute avocado plan should buy you that overnight time you're looking for. Maybe, just maybe, the other vegetables might weep a bit more with longer fridge time. But the flavors need time to meld, so I think it's worth the gamble.

So, recent reports show that the Wegman's in Lanham is EXTREMELY profitable which is great for PG county. That means higher end shopping than we normally have around here and don't have to travel quite as far afield to get higher end items (even if they are only the higher end of middle). Next up, Whole Foods in Riverdale.

My father lived in California, so got bagsful of free lemons from the mature trees of both his sister and his next-door neighbor!


Make some fish soup. Non-oily fish of your choice (not salmon), maybe some shrimp. Combine a can of good diced tomatoes, some wine or stock or even water, a bay leaf and your other fave Italian-ish spices. Cook some sliced onions for a while on medium heat, but don't brown, then pour the liquids over them. Add the spices. Stir together for a while. 15 mins before you want to eat add sliced mushrooms (if you like mushrooms). 10 minutes before you want to eat add cut=up fish. Bite size pieces, of course. 5 minutes before you want to eat add the shrimp. It's good and quick.

I make a white chili in the slow cooker: northern beans, chicken, turkey sausage, peppers, onion. (sorta like a quick cassoulet?) search for white chili on

Seems like it takes a long time to get questions answered. Is it my computer or do you sometimes have a problem at your end. There are times when the "Total Responses" don't seem to change.

We've been hearing for a few weeks that the page isn't auto-refreshing the way it should. The problem seems to be sporadic but chronic. Can you send an email to describing the problem? That way they can ask you what browser you have, etc., and can be more efficient. Thanks!

Hey, would you guys or other chatters have a good recipe for a not-too-sweet chocolate cake? It's going to be paired with homemade hazelnut mocha ice cream. If it's a cake that doesn't need to be frosted, even better, or not-too-sweet frosting idea are welcome. Thanks much!

Decoyise Brown's Buttermilk Chocolate Cake would be awesome. It wouldn't need the frosting; you could just dust with either unsweetened cocoa powder or confectioners' sugar. And here's a tip, based on feedback from a few readers: Be sure your cake pans are at least 2 inches deep for this recipe. The pans with skimpier 1 1/2-inch-tall sides may seem like they hold the batter, but we had reports of overflows.

Hey, can we have one in Langley Park instead of the Tick Tock???!!

I ate lunch at Volt on Saturday (really great, by the way), and had a really interesting starter that was a beautifully composed beet salad made to look like a garden. It was served on "coffee soil," which was the dirt in this garden, but was really quite tasty. Any idea how to make coffee soil?

R.J. Cooper is making coffee soil, too, for his upcoming restaurant, Rogue 24. The chef says he roasts hazelnuts until they're almost burned and then dries and grinds them. He'll also brown flour in a 300 degree oven. Then he'll mix the ground hazelnuts and flour with finely ground espresso and cocoa powder to create his soil.

Shahin does a lot with smoking/grilling, but there isn't much about veal? It's a sort of flavorless meat, but apart from scallopine and breaded cutlet, what cuts could be grilled or smoked and how?? Thanks.

    First, thanks for the props. 

    Second, one of my favorite dishes is a grilled veal chop. Personally, I like mine simple, to taste the subtle flavor of the veal. A little brush of olive oil, some salt and pepper, then place it over a hot fire, as you would a thick steak, for about two minutes, turn it over for another two minutes. For medium rare, slide it over to a cool side of the grill and cook for about two more minutes (depending on thickness), turn over for another two minutes (also on the cool side of the grill). It will come out beautifully charred on the outside, rosy in the middle. 

     Use your fire to cook a foil package (perforated with a fork) of thick-cut potatoes in garlic, olive oil, salt, and chopped rosemary. Put on the grill 4o minutes before you put on the veal chop.


   I love a grilled veal chop. Go simple: a brush of olive oil, a little salt and pepper. 

    Grill for two minutes over direct heat, turn over, do the same on the other side. Then move the chop to a cool side of the grill for two minutes on each side (for medium-rare).

    Serve with rosemary potatoes: olive oil, salt, garlic, chopped rosemary, thickish wedges of potatoes all mixed together and piled into a foil packet poled with some fork holes. Put it over the fire for about 5 minutes, then move to the cool side and put the lid down for another, oh, 4o minutes. (Obviously, you'll put the potato packet on the grill roughly a half-hour prior to putting on the veal chop.) 


I learned to cook from the 11th edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and it's still my main reference after 40+ years.

Hey Jim, We are looking into buying a grill and wonder about the pluses and minuses of buying a Weber vs. a knock-off Weber. Can you help us decide the best way to go?

   The thing about a Weber is that you know what you are getting. They are constructed well, last a long time, and, in the end, don't really cost that much more than a knock-off. Especially when you consider that you will have the grill for 5 or more years. (Mine is, jeez, I don't even know, but way past 5.) Plus, they make accessories for the Weber that, while, yes, may fit a knock-off, are made for the Weber. 

     Should a wheel fall off or something, Weber has lots of replacement parts. 


Woodlands in Takoma/Langley Crossroads... across the street from El Comalito!... is worth the drive. Very out of the ordinary: Their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Not run of the mill at all. The cooks obviously take pride in it. Menu is good too. 100% vegetarian.

Agreed 100 percent. I love Woodlands.

I have a craving for chocolate almond crossants like they serve at La Madeleine. Any tips? Can I start with frozed puff pastry?, Got a recipe?

Ah. Croissants! Gorgeous. But they're not easy, by any stretch, and sorry, you can't start with frozen puff pastry, I'm afraid. It's a different animal. Croissants are based on a rich yeast dough, and puff pastry doesn't have any yeast in it. Check out Dorie Greenspan's recipe in Baking With Julia. You should perfect regular croissants first before attempting chocolate ones. Or just buy them!

I make Epicurious' Chicken Chile Verde in the crock pot and it's a wonderful change from the usual chiles. I substituted Poblano peppers for the Green Bell peppers and make sure you use chicken thighs. Make it with chicken breast meat to be healthier and it was nowhere near as good. Last, use good chili powder (we have Dixon chili powder shipped from NM) as it makes a big difference. This is good right now because you can get fresh tomatillos instead of canned.

Thanks Tim--great point about Indian restaurants. I guess Ethiopian restaurants would be a great option for all veggie dishes too...

Yes, yes! Ethiopian restaurants are great for veggie eats, too. I like Meaza in Falls Church and Queen Makeda in Little Ethiopia.

For teh OP with too many herbs, another option is to add them to small flower bouquets to add a really interesting aroma. It is the time of year when herbs explode, so i add zest to all sorts of floral arrangements with thyme, oregano, tarragon, marjoram, even rosemary. Also adds interesting greens structure.

Don't know if this would work or how available it is yet, but I tasted a terrific "ginger ale" at the fancy food show from the company making Q Tonic - called Q Ginger!

Boil about a cup of chopped ginger with equal parts sugar, then a lot of water, until it becomes a syrup. Strain it and use with club soda to make amazing ginger beer.

Tonight we're getting together with one of my husband's childhood friends who he hasn't seen in 20 years. They keep kosher and they suggested that we simply have fruit salad and ice cream (which will go over well with our three little ones under age 4). However, they're coming over at 5:30 and I'd like to have a simple savory snack that the kids would like too. Are cheese and crackers kosher? Does the packaging have to say kosher? Is beer and wine kosher? Do you have any ideas for simple kosher snacks? Thanks!

Ack, we're outta time. If they suggested ice cream, did they mean a nondairy kind? A (nondairy) fruit sorbet might be a good way to go. Are you serving any meat with the meal? Wondering whether that's a conflict that would need to be resolved. In any case, it's best to look for kosher labels on the products you buy, including beverages. Maybe for a starter snack, you could make this amazing herby frittata-like thing called a kuku and cut it into wedges (hold the yogurt topping as needed), or make this great chickpea pancake.

Well, you've strained us in small batches through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl nestled into a larger bowl filled with ice, then discarded the solids, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the q's, and hope you got something useful from our a's!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who first asked about using up extra herbs will get "The Woman's Day Everyday Cookbook." The one who weighed in on the faux-gazpacho-smackdown will get "Sara Foster's Southern Kitchen." Send your mailing info to Tim Smith at, and we'll get them to you.

Until next time, happy cooking, reading and eating. And don't forget, if you want to ask questions of chef Jose Andres directly, come back tomorrow at noon (or submit now here).

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