Slaw season, summer cocktails, cast iron pans, fresh figs, summer no-cook meals, World Cup fare and more

Jul 07, 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.

Hi, all! Welcome to Free Range! What's on your plate today? We've got a couple guests: David "The Entertainer" Hagedorn will help answer any and all questions related to his slaw piece today, while Nancy Purves Pollard from La Cuisine, subject of today's profile by Michaele Weissman, will be on hand to discuss cookware. Both are well-equipped to tackle all manner of other cooking q's, too, of course. Spirits man Jason Wilson can handle your desert-island-booze choices, and anything else mixable.

We'll have giveaway books, which will remain a closely guarded secret until the end of the chat. So be funny, be helpful, ask something that gets us and others going, etc.

I'm hosting a World Cup party Sunday and, like my Super Bowl parties, I want to theme the meal to the two finalists. I already know I need Dutch cheese, and maybe herring. Any ideas for German or Spanish finger food?

Spanish is so much easier than German! (No offense to anyone out there.) You could do a tomato bread with anchovies, empanadas, fried padron peppers (if you can find them), a plate of olives and good manchego cheese or a nice gazpacho. The links above are to recipes from our own Jose Andres.

Anyone got some Germany favorites? Bratwursts? Pretzels?

Is Maine Avenue still a good source for Seafood? if not any suggestions in the Alexandria/Arlington/ downtown DC area? Thanks. I'm having friends over next weekend and I'm thinking of a seafood entree. Thanks.

The answer to that question is yes. I don't know why Maine Avenue gets such a bum rap, becasue I always find terrific fresh fish there. When I researched my Real Entertaining column on crabs last month, I got all of the seafood on Maine Avenue. No complaints. It must be a good source, because fish guru Barton Seaver recently tweeted about all of the goodies he bought there. By the way, while you're there, have some freshly shucked clams or oysters on the half-shell.

Bowing down to people much more knowledgeable than I, I finally did away with my table salt and purchased a box of Kosher salt. I have to admit it's probably the best decision I've made yet while learning to cook. I used it in my latest batch of chocolate chip cookies and it made all the difference. I did have to add an extra 2 T of butter to keep the batter from being too dry, however it paid off. The cookies fluffed up and baked perfectly! So here's my question: When is it NOT okay to use Kosher salt in place of table salt? Are there any rules of thumb when it comes to substitutions?

I use kosher salt for just about everything. There are two main differences between kosher and table salt. First, kosher salt (which really should be called "koshering" salt because it's the salt that is used when butchering animals) has no additives. (Table salt has iodine.) And it is a different shape, which means it dissolves more slowly.

I'm not a baker but it seems like the main reason not to use kosher salt is when baking things with only a small amount of liquid. The kosher salt needs enough liquid to dissolve, otherwise you end up with pockets of salt. Sounds like you were able to adjust for that on your maiden voyage. So I say, feel free to use kosher all you like!

I'd like to adapt the Hao Long Dragon Slaw recipe to use the seasoned rice vinegar I have on hand. Is just omitting the sugar enough? Thanks.

It probably is enough to omit the sugar. Try it and add some sugar back in if you think it needs it.

on the schedule for today's talks (found by clicking on the arts & livings tab) is not working. took me to the past discussions. I had to pull up the schedule of all of today's chats, then click the link form there.

Sorry folks. I've fixed this. You can find all of the Food chats (including today's) here.

If it makes Randall Grahm feel any better, I look forward to trying the "new" vin gris after thoroughly disliking the old one -- it felt like I was drinking perfume. So maybe he'll gain as many fans as he loses.

Jason, your list is great and I have most of those bottles (and a lot more... a LOT more) in my bar. However, somehow in your ten you must include green chartreuse. How else can you make my favorite Bijou?

Thank you for mentioning green Chartreuse. It was on the list, then off the list, then on, then off. But since I went with budget picks and it's nearly $50, in the end I left it off. But, if you say you need it, by all means leave off something else. No arguments here. The Bijou is a favorite of mine, too.

I've been experimenting with making my own pizza dough. One recipe I use cautions to never roll out the dough. Instead, one should press it out with your fingers/palms or hand toss it. However, the dough I make is always too elastic to press out thinly (and it becomes uneven or holey), so I always end up rolling it out anyway. Do you have any advice on how to make my dough more supple or tips on pressing it out?

You need to have a dough with a high gluten content, around 13%, Caputo makes one and so does King Arthur, then it is really easy to pull the dough into the shape you want.  It does not have to be round.

Hi Team, I have a cast iron pan that was abused in the past and has since rusted. It was then sanded down with a metal sander, to a sliver surface. Can this be reseasoned and saved? If so, how? Thanks!

Yep, this skillet can be saved.  You can check our seasoning instructions under the TLC icon on our Web site.  We also have a video from De Buyer in  the seasoning part that you can take a look at.  Just wipe the oil onto the pan, inside and out, (not corn oil, though, it gets gunky) throw it in the oven for a few hours and the seasoning should be started.  It is an ongoing process.

I have a vigorous, sprawling squash plant that sprang up in my compost heap. The squashes are the size and shape of a butternut squash (bell shaped) but light green with darker stripes. I just picked the first one. I ate some slices raw with hummus, and I steamed the rest of it. It has a mild flavor. I have not been able to identify it with Google images. Any ideas? Want some squash?

Delicata. It is mild and a little sweet, and you should be able to use it like you would yellow squash or zucchini.

I love to roast it -- cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast cut side down in a pan with a little bit of water.

Help! I have 5 lbs of fresh figs (they came at an AMAZING price, I couldn't resist!) and I really don't have a clue what to do with them. I've made fig jam before, but wasn't impressed with the results. Ither than eating them with ice cream or yoghurt drizzled with honey, what are some interesting ways to use up these lovelies? And is there any way I can freeze the fruit to use them later?

Lucky you! I love these Fig and Goat Cheese Purses, essentially figs stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. You could also use them atop a pizza. (With blue cheese and arugula, maybe? Or whatever you like.)

As for freezing them, below is advice from the California Fresh Fig Growers Association. You'll see, they say, some of the texture is lost so I'd try to eat as many as you can now.

"Individually quick frozen Fresh Figs will keep up to 3 months in the freezer. Just wash thoroughly, sort any very soft ones to eat immediately, arrange whole ripe figs, well separated, on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze. When frozen solid, transfer to resealable plastic bags. Thaw and eat as desired.

To store for longer periods, chill thoroughly to facilitate peeling, if desired. Then, slice or quarter figs and combine 5 cups of figs with 1 cup of sugar and mix well. Pack in freezer containers; cover tightly, freeze and store in freezer for up to 6 months.

If preferred, figs may be packed in syrup. Just combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 quart of water and heat to dissolve completely. Cool and pour over figs which have been prepared and packed in freezer containers, leaving at least 1-inch head space to allow for expansion while freezing.

Freezing will change the texture and the figs will be much softer when thawed. They are very good, but many prefer to simmer them in a sweet or savory liquid to serve. Or they may be sweetened, cooked and puréed before freezing to serve as toppings for ice cream, puddings and other desserts."

I've made gaspacho a couple times, tons of salads. Any other no-cook or very little cook ideas to avoid having my oven or stove on for long?

Oh my god, I hear you. I was roasting tomatoes and reducing sauces yesterday for three hours. The house didn't cool down until...this morning. Do you mean that you want recipes with tomatoes (hence the salad and gazpacho recipe?) or will any suggestions do? I'm eating a wonderful watermelon and feta salad with mint and a drizzle of olive oil for lunch. Or I also love this Chickpea Sandwich that Joe wrote about last year. It's got roasted peppers, chickpeas, olives and lemon confit.

I'm not sure sandwiches count, but if they do that article has a bunch of other terrific ones like smoked salmon with avocado and mango. Yum.

Chatters, what are your favorite no-cook, hot weather meals?

Some of the dressings on the slaw recipes that contain fish sauce, lime, etc., made me think of the delectable tea leaf salads one finds at Burma Road or Mandalay Restaurants. They have several layers of citrusy flavor and heat, plus crunch. Does anyone have a recipe for this?

Here's a recipe that Marian Burros published in 2000 in a publication whose name I dare not speak.

Desperately seeking ideas for summer drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) that can be prepared in large batches for a 30th birthday party this Saturday. I'm thinking along the lines of white sangria or mojitos...any and all suggestions are much appreciated!

Ok, here are a few ideas. Back in May, I suggested a couple of pitcher drinks calling for cachaça, which are perfect in large batches. Instead of mojitos (which won't work in a large pre-made batch) why not try this Spiced Rum Punch? As far as sangrias, I'm more of a fan of red than white, so here's my favorite.

Cajun Lemonade!

And Spiced Rum Punch...

... and Tuscan Sangria.

Hi fellow foodies: My housemates and I just parted ways with our "CSA". While it was great that they delivered the box of veggies and fruits to our house, the produce appeared to have been purchased at Giant or some place similar and not from a nearby farm as advertised. Can anyone recommend a better CSA? If we need to pick it up at a farmer's market, that's fine! Thanks!

It's pretty much too late to sign up for a CSA this season. Most CSAs require you sign up (and pay) in advance for your box. Your best bet might be to look at one of the newer, more modern CSA services that lets you order a weekly box with what you like in it. Check out Arganica, which I reviewed on our blog. It's expensive but there's lots of great stuff.

And, separately, I'm fascinated by low-quality CSAs having been the victim of one myself a few years back. Email us at and tell me your woes. Maybe a story??


Just curious...apart from tell-tale signs such as mango and bananas in your CSA box, what makes you think it's from Giant?

I would like to try the fennel slaw but fennel is AWOL at my Whole Foods. Have you seen it around town?

Funny. They should have it. It's too early to have it at farmers markets. Did you ask if it would come back in? I had a hard time finding celery root for a week at Whole Foods but then, suddenly, it was back.

I'm hosting a party too, and thanks to the food section I now know that cole slaw is Dutch! And have lots of new recipes for it to boot! Thanks, food section! (My heretofore fave slaw: several colors of bell peppers, julienned, with some slivered onion, garlic vinaigrette, and caraway or fennel seeds.)

Potato salad, done the german way (none of the mayo stuff!!), some of the wursts--which could get cut up into smaller pieces, pretzels--with mustard, Germans like mustard. For sweeter stuff, stollen is good. And the drink part is easy--lots of good German beer! I do this same kind of thing every world cup final--it's really fun (and last world cup was so easy with France & Italy!!).

Yup. Delicious.

A slight tangent: I went to a restaurant recently that made homemade pretzels. They served them with butter. Oh my god. So good.

I loved the article on Nancy Purves Pollard. I am always keeping my eye out for a copper pot, but can never afford one. My mouth watered when I looked over the dessert recipes on the La Cuisine website. I wish a few more recipes had their sources though. Thanks so much for sharing this resource.

Just email us and if we know the source of the recipe, we will let you know. 


Those Cuisinettes can all really cook.

I'd love a recipe for the simple 'slaw served at Cafe Asia - on the menu it's 'cabbage and carrott salad' - it's some sort of light sesame/ginger/peanuty cream - tastes super light and fresh and I craved it like crazy when I was pregnant. Any chance of finding out what's in it?

Called over but they were swamped at lunch. Send us your email at and if I can get it for you, I will.

Dear Free Range: What foods typically served hot have you noticed are good cold? In this weather, the most helpful tips would be things available from takeout!! (heresy? sorry...) My vote: black bean soup. It may sound odd, but it's really good cold.

I vote for cold pizza. Nothing like cold pizza. Especially for breakfast.

I've been trying to cook more at home (thanks for all the recipes) & take lunch to work, but wondering about all the warnings on not heating plastic containers in the microwave... Apparently "safe for microwave use" means the container won't melt, not that it won't leach toxins. Am wondering what you and others do - are there "safer" brands/materials out there? I don't have much cube room to store dishware & cleaning supplies on top of work stuff and glass containers are impractical to lug around. Thanks!

Boy I hate the smell of most very warm microwaved plastics...sounds "duh"-like but only use materials labeled  microwave-safe. Maybe just as we're moving away from the plastic bag universe when we shop, we can resort to heating foods in the microwave on ceramic, glass, paper towel? Does a microwave fit into anyone's concept of a utopian food world?

I've been working in the microwave a little more than usual as I test things for my next Cooking for One column (next week, on "cooking" at work), and I agree w/Bonnie, I go for glass or ceramic whenever possible. Good, strong tempered glass isn't really that impractical to lug around, is it?

Hi Rangers - I'm having a BBQ this weekend (15 people) and I'm stuck on sides. I'm trying to branch out from potato and pasta salad, but I'm still stuck. Right now I have a Cesar salad and corn salad as my side dishes. I definitely feel like I need a third, but my husband says I don't since the appetizers can double as sides for people who want them. I know today's section is on cole slaw, but we're just not cole slaw people and I'm feeling heavy on the vegetable side dishes. Can you or the chatters recommend something?

Nobody can resist corn pudding with barbecue; you could tart this one up with jalapeno if you're so inclined.  Bean and carrot salads provide color and crunch (okay, now I sound like Woman's Day) and they are easy to do. I know you said you're heaving on vegetable dishes, but I can't say enough good things about the snap pea and barley salad recipe we ran last week -- it's really crisp and different.  Even a green salad gets much better when it's enhanced with a  mix of fresh herbs. Think of having a few pestos or sauces on hand, and grill some vegetables. Then folks can do their own thing, flavorwise. Also, there's no underestimating slices of very good country bread, simply/briefly grilled, then rubbed with the cut side of a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil. And in fruit territory, think of savory grilled stone fruit with herbs and olive oil, or ripe plantains either mashed or grilled.

How's that for a start?

Snap pea and barley salad

Sugar snap pea and barley salad


I like to cut them in half, put a dollop of creme fraiche/sour cream/marcapone on each and sprinkle with a little brown sugar before broiling them until the sugar melts.

That's the thing about figs. No need to do anything crazy to them. Simple preps are best.


Sliced figs on top of some arugula, some shavings of parmesan and shreds of prosciutto, drizzle a nut oil and some good balsamic and you will be very happy.

Hi - As a new husband (one year) decided to tackle some baking to help out and show my versatility. Made the Raspberry Frangipane cake from the food section last week - it was terrific and SUPER easy. I will definitely try it again, maybe with blueberries instead of raspberries. I got bold and decided to make a pie. After internet searching I made a blueberry pie with a crust from cooks illustrated that had vodka in it - it came out great, but the filling had not thickened as much as store-bought pies. I used flour to thicken - should I have used something else? FINALLY, I decided to top it off with homemade gnocchi. It was ricotta gnocchi, but they fell apart in cooking. Even though the dough solidified, I think that the lack of flour in the recpie caused their mushiness - the ingredients were just ricotta, pecorino-romano, and an egg with about 1/4 cup of flour. My wife was definitely impressed with all of my attempts, but hopefully more practice will smooth out the wrinkles. Any suggestions on the pie filling and the gnocchi? Thanks!

Good, good, good for  you.  There was so much interest in that cake recipe. I've made it twice myself already. A few readers said their cake overflowed the pan and I can only think that they were using very shallow 9-inch-round cake or pie pans. ANYWAY, onto blueberry.  Years back when I was in Nova Scotia I picked up a little cookbook that had this wild blueberry pie recipe in it, and I've made it every summer since. The single crust is more like shortbread and the filling is half-cooked, half-fresh berries, so you get the goo that holds it together and the fresh juiciness of the fruit. (I am writing advert copy today!). So I highly recommend it.

As for gnocchi, I'd have to see the recipe. Is it for 2 servings or 4?

I think you said last week to refrigerate simple syrup and toss it out after a few weeks. I have a bottle of Lyle's Golden Syrup, "cane sugar syrup for cooking and baking," that says on the label, "Do not refrigerate this product." The only listed ingredient is "cane sugar syrup." Is that different from simple syrup? It's from London, maybe they have a different take on refrigeration there. Thank you.

Lyles golden syrup is just a pure cane sugar syrup, not to be confused with simple syrup.  When it gets boiled down more, it turns even darker and it becomes treacle.  I use Lyles Golden Syrup instead of  corn syrup and use the treacle instead of molasses. 

I heart Lyle's. It's one of the ingredients in one of my favorite cookies, the Anzac biscuit. But I also use it instead of honey to drizzle on desserts -- I love its caramelly flavor.

Any new and innovative ways to utilize a cut-up whole chicken (bone in, skin on)? I know that it's super open ended, but I'm tired of my go-to recipes for grilled/baked/stewed chicken. I need something that will make my tastebuds sing!

You're right. This is wide open. But here's one I've been meaning to try from our database that uses Chicken Thighs and Snap Peas (currently in season) and anchovies (which makes everything better). The recipe calls for chicken thighs but you could certainly do a whole chicken.

Other favorites?

How about boning out the leg/thigh and stuffing it? Or do versions of cordon bleu or roulades with your favorite things inside.

What is the trick to grilling salmon fillets on a charcoal grill? When I try to lift the salmon fillets to flip it over, it comes completely out of its skin and then when I try to lift it off the grill to plate it, it falls apart.

Trial and error, unfortunately,  but the grill has to be  REALLY hot.  I have gotten better at it,  but it ain't easy.  Oiling the grill and the skin has helped, but hot, hot, grill is the main thing.

One trick that's been helpful to me is to cut the fillet in a way that makes it approximate a salmon steak. With skin side down, you cut through the fish lengthwise, all the way down to the skin but not cutting through the skin. Then you turn each side outward like you're opening a book, folding it (or unfolding, I guess!) so that the skin ends up being doubled up and running down the middle. What this does is help hold the fish together when you grill it -- the skin doesn't really cook, so it doesn't release the fish. That's one thing. The other, besides Nancy's point about oiling, the grill being clean, and hot, is to make sure you don't try to move the fish until it can easily be moved.

Here's a pic of how that salmon is supposed to look after the cutting/folding technique. This isn't grilled, but you hopefully get the idea.


Hello! I'd like to take a few cooking classes in the Arlington/DC area and was hoping you staffers had some suggestions! I am at a very basic level when it comes to cooking skills, so i'm not looking for anything too fancy or advanced. I'd prefer a "series" where the classes last for a couple of weeks, as opposed to a single class that occurs just once (although if you know of a fabulous one-time class, i'm open to that!) Price-wise, I'd like something pretty reasonable that won't break the bank. Thank you SO much for the help!

Every year, we put together a massive list of cooking classes around the area. The best thing would be for you to check it out. I also wrote a story about new cooking schools recently and many of them, including Cookology out by Dulles and CulinAerie downtown offer beginners series that might be perfect.

potato pancakes?

Are they German? Not sure but that would be super fun party food.

Three years after purchasing a bottle of Jamaican rum on a cruise ship it is finally finished. As I have no holidays coming up, I'll have to head to my local liquor store to replace it. If you had only one bottle of rum for tikki drinks, cakes, and trifles, which one would you purchase?

Since it seems like you'll be using it mainly for mixing and recipes, let's stick with something good but reasonably priced. Here are three picks under $25 that you should be able to find: Chairman's Reserve (from St. Lucia), Appleton VX (from Jamaica), and Flor de Caña Gran Reserva (from Nicaragua, which I suggested in today's column).

I bought some mixed greens for salad and was surprised to see a sodium listing on the package. All that was in the container were various salad greens. Does lettuce have sodium in it, naturally?

That is wacky! I've not heard of it. Maybe as a preservative? My thought is that if it's just lettuce it shouldn't have an ingredient label. (I always put back meat that has ingredients listed. What else should be in it?) What brand was it? I'm curious...

Cheap Healthy Good is posting only low- or no-cook meals for the entire month of July. (Not affiliated with the site, just a fan).

Marian Burros writes for Voldemort??

Shhhh! Or I will have to use my patronus to protect us. (It is the shape of Julia Child.)

Anticipating the heat, I made some vanilla ice cream over the weekend (delicious!). I was left with 6 egg whites and wasn't sure what to do with them. I remembered your blog had an entry for leftover eggs, but was saddened to discover that it was all about extra egg yolks. Can you consider doing a blog entry for extra egg whites? I ultimately ended up making a cake that incorporated whipped egg whites (pretty good, but dried out quickly) and a swiss meringue buttercream (enjoyed a lot--but I still can't decide if it's worth it over the quicker butter/powedered sugar variety). Any other egg white options? I have a feeling I'll be making a lot more ice cream this hot summer...

The french cookie called friand is a wonderful way to use up egg whites, as is a Pisco Sour.  Lots of recipes for both on the web.

Souffles! Cold dessert ones and savory baked ones.

so, my very well intentioned husband decided to use the auto clean feature on our oven the other night in order to clean the oven as a surprise for me. so, i was VERY surprised, when i came home to a horrific smell, opened the oven door, and realized that he had left some pans and spatulas in the bottom of the oven! needless to say, my nonstick is history and there is melted silicone on the floor of my oven. sooo....i guess this is the perfect time to cash in on some of his guilt (and embarrassment) and invest in some top notch pans and pots. i'm intrigued by the copper pot Nancy is holding in the picture, can you cook everything in it? what would you suggest as some staples for me to purchase?

It is my do everything pan,  it's called a rondeau in France.  Doesn't have to be copper, can be aluminum, second best heat conductor to copper.  Or stainless steel as long as you have 3-5mm of aluminum or carbon steel as heat diffuser.  Have even taken that pan on vacations where it serves a frypan, casserole, emergency stockpot, and can chill beer and wine in between.  Check out the quantities you cook, because you might one a couple of saucepans the same size.  Always buy what you can use, no sets.

I love eating slaw but find that it's not very good after 24 hours. Does salting and draining the vegetables first help with this, or is there another solution?

That's funny; your alter ego just left a comment that slaws get better as they sit, which I find to be the case, generally. While researching the piece, I noticed that old recipes called for soaking the cabbage in cold water for an hour, claiming that this kept the cabbage crunchy. I tried it both ways and noticed no difference.

I think a good thing to do is to make slaw several hours in advance and then adjust the dressing. Water from the cabbage will absolutely have seeped out, so some repairs may be necessary.

To me, the flavors mellow overnight and the slaw is better the next day. So, I''m wondering exactly what the issue is with your slaw that makes it not good.

Kudos on the slaw recipes. I've always thought they are genius - you make them ahead of time, they get better as they sit, they're infinitely adaptable. Just last night I made a white and red cabbage slaw with peanuts, spinach, red onion and lime-cilantro-sriracha dressing, and I'm having the leftovers right now. But what I really love is that people tend to be suspicious of slaws, but always end up going back for more. You end up with converts!

And this would be the alter ego!

The coleslaw described in the first paragraph of the article sounded really good--I think it had red cabbage and sesame. I didn't see a recipe for it though. Do you have one?

I don't have an exact recipe for it, but I can talk (type) you through it, since this is generally how I make slaw most of the time.

I shred a small head of red cabbage and add a shredded carrot or 2. I chop and add to the cabbage: half a small bunch of cilantro, half a small jalapeno (to taste), half a bunch of scallions. Then I pour some seasoned rice wine vinegar over it, probably a quarter of a cup, and about a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil. Season with salt and fresh black pepper. Adjust vinegar or the oil. Refrigerate it for a couple of hours and taste it again to adjust the flavorings.

Can I just toss shrimp or chicken into any of these coleslaws to make them a meal? Do you have any other "protein" suggestions? With all that prep, I don't know if I'd feel like making an entree to go with them. Fantastic recipes, though-- I'm very excited about trying some of them out.

I should let David answer this but I say: Absolutely. It's a great way to make a salad a meal. One of my favorite slaws, which we ran a while back, is an Asian Tri-Cabbage slaw and it's great with grilled shrimp or chicken on top.

Asian Tri-Cabbage Coleslaw

Asian Tri-Cabbage Coleslaw

Hello, I'm looking for suggestions for an appetizer or dip of some sort that I can take to gatherings that travels well by car and doesn't need to be kept piping hot. I am able to keep things warm in a crock pot though. I have some recipes that I love but most of them need to be served fresh out of the oven, so they're best for when I'm entertaining at home. I'd like something a little more unique than hummus or guacamole, please. Thank you.

Travels how far/how long? Doesn't Warm Scallion Crab Dip With Wonton Chips sound good? Or Bacon, Cream Cheese and Horseradish Dip? For something unexpected, try this Manchurian Dip. It's warm, it's not even bad for you; everyone loves it everytime I make it and they can never quite figure out what's in it.

Is it possible to make pesto minus the pine nuts? We have tons of basil and other summer herbs but a nut-allergic child...any ideas if something else would work? Thanks much :)

Sure it is. The texture will be slightly different but it will still be delicious.

Can your kid handle sunflower or pumpkin seeds?

I got a beautiful green cabbage in my farm share, but I don't really know what to do with it. I use napa and savoy cabbage in asian slaw (don't like traditional slaw), and red cabbage in other dishes, but have no recipes for green cabbage, which I remember my mother simply boiling whole (yuck). Any ideas? Is it too hot out to experiment with stuffed cabbage? (Vegetarian, please.) Thanks!

My grandmother used to make halushka, which she claimed was Hungarian. (Polish, maybe? I'm sure our readers will fill in the blanks.) I checked online (the Facebook page for Larry Halushka came up, and now he's going to get a google alert that The Washington Post is talking about him.) and the recipes call for adding cottage cheese, which seems to kugelfy my grandmother's terrific dish. She caramelized a lot of onions, the cooked sauteed shredded cabbage in butter until it cooked down completely and browned slightly. Then she cooked egg noodles and mixed them with the cabbage and onions. Amazing. I made some recently, minus noodles, to go with keilbasa. I seasoned it with caraway, onion salt and ground pepper.  

I have some lovely black mission figs I bought at Whole Foods last night. My current thought is to slice some of them up and put them on a pizza with bacon, caramelized onion and bleu cheese, but I'd love some other ideas for them.

Another chatter asked the same question. Scroll up to find links to some good ideas.

Nancy, Do you have any suggestions for dinner that are little kid friendly? I have a 1 and 4 year old who don't eat much meat. Most meals are carrots and peas, pasta, and strawberries.

Sounds like you are on the right track, my daughters loved rice and peas when they were little.  So you can use different rices instead of pasta.  Nothing the matter with strawberries either, why not give them a little hill of powdered sugar to dip them in.   I will ask Alicia Cherry for some suggestions.  She does our cooking classes for little children.  She has great ideas, so send me your email and I will forward it to her.

Jason, I'm finding I'm spending too much out these days, so have bought a shaker to make my favorites at home. What vodka is good with Cosmos? How much is good quality?

Do not, I repeat, do not spend very much on money on vodka -- especially if you're going to mix it with cranberry juice, lime juice, and Cointreau. A $20 bottle of Stolichnaya will work just fine. Another option would be a $15 bottle of citrus Svedka or Skyy (which is what many use in Cosmos). If you like Cosmos (my recipe here) then spend your money on the Cointreau ($35), which is much better than generic, bottom-shelf triple sec, and you'll actually taste a difference.


If you've got limes, olives, etc., why no vodka? On a day like we've been seeing, I've been drinking vodka gimlets made with fresh lime juice and simple syrup. Perhaps nothing as refreshing. And Sobieski for $17 for the 1.75 liter would let you buy that green stuff.

If you like vodka gimlets, terrific. Cheers! For me, on my desert island, a gin and tonic or rum and tonic is the direction I'd go on a 100-degree day.

BTW, for the earlier Cosmo person: Sobieski is a good value choice for vodka, too.

PESTO! I made a batch last night -- so easy and good. You can use it spread on bread with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. Or, heat the house just a smidge and have it on fresh pasta as I did last night (also added some green beans and red potatoes). Yum! Can't wait for leftovers tonight (also good cold).

A joy of summer.

Hi, I'm planning a fiesta themed party/bbq this weekend. Anyway, I'm planning on grilled skirt steak and chicken tacos. Can you tell me about how many pounds of meat I need to feed around 50 people? Thank you!

It sort of depends on what else you are serving? Is this the main thing people are eating? Or are there lots of side dishes (and, indeed, other veg going into the tacos)? A good rule of thumb is 1/2 pound of meat per person. But I'm betting that with other things on the table you might get by with 20 lbs.

Do you recommend a timeline for preparing slaw? i.e., is it best when first prepared, or is it better after it sits for a little while before served?

Again, David is the Slaw King, but I find that it's often better after it sits, especially if there's cabbage involved. It lets the vegetables soften and the flavors meld. I happily eat my Asian slaw up to a week after I make it. Probably wouldn't wait that long with a mayo-based one. Just my 2 cents.

Over the weekend, i made ricotta pancakes that came out fluffy and light because of the cheese. How can i get the same effect without using ricotta? I'd like to bypass the calories in the cheese.

You may be able to approximate the fluffiness with neufchatel cheese. Honestly though, efforts to substitute main ingredients can't guarantee success.  Maybe you were MEANT to have a little ricotta every now and then.

My husband grills our salmon on cedar planks (food grade). Salt and pepper the fillet, give it a smear of mustard and brown sugar to coat and grill skin side down - no need to flip. You get the grill flavor without the mess.

Yep, the planks can do the trick. Not exactly the same thing, since they don't touch the grill, but good in their own way, for sure. Also, I have grilled fish on big slices of grapefruit or orange before -- the fruit may end up burning and/or falling into the grill, but the fish doesn't.

I've seen fennel bulbs with the stalks and frilly tops at Wegman's.

Wegmans to the rescue! Thanks for the tip.

I have used Washington Green Grocers for fruit and veggies. Not all of the food is local but they do tell you where they source it from and as the growing season progresses they use more and more local producers. I usually ordered the large organic box and made me significantly increase my fruit and veggie intake. Always very fresh.

My current favorite recipe is a couscous salad that I found on a blog, but that comes from Moosewood's Simple Suppers. I used 1.5 cups of whole wheat couscous, combined with 1.5 cups of boiling water in a bowl and covered for ten minutes. While it's absorbing the water, zest and juice two lemons, combine with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Chop up about a cup of olives, a half cup of green onions, and a half cup of parsley. Drain a can of chick peas. When the couscous is done, add everything and mix together. Sprinkle a few toasted almonds on top. I have an electric kettle to boil the water, so it doesn't heat up my kitchen very much. And you do all the chopping while the couscous steeps, so it's pretty quick. I've been eating it for lunch all week, and it's very yummy!

I like good old meringues... quick and easy. Fold in a few chocolate chips or almonds before baking for a little something extra.

make cabbage palacsinta. Planacsinta are hungarian crepes. Saute the life out of the cabbage - really, really til you think it's dead. Then mix into your favorite crepe batter and make the crepes. Serve with sour cream and apple sauce - heavenly. My Hungarian father and I made this a lot.

Where can I find pasta flour? Is it in the regular grocery stores or do I need to hike to a gourmet food store to find it?

I believe they have it at Whole Foods. But they probably won't stock it at the average Safeway or Giant. Anyone seen 00 flour at Wegmans or Harris Teeter?

We carry two types of 00 flour from Caputo for pasta, and so does the Italian Deli in Arlington,  and I think Vace has it too

1. Figs - this cake is a great way to use fresh figs. Try a fig brulee... cut figs in half lengthwise, sprinkle sugar on top, torch it (just like creme brulee). A really nice fresh goat cheese pairs well with this, as would mascarpone.

2. Today's slaw article was great! I loved it (it was a nice complement to the kohlrabi slaw recipe from a few weeks back). I think people forget all too easily that slaw does not have to be limited to cabbage... I have used thinly sliced kale as well as grated broccoli stems and grated beets in my slaws. It's a great way to use up bits of veggies.

ooooooooooooooh that chickpea sandwich looks so good but at 1200+ mg of sodium for the sandwich I dare not. Why oh why is everything so high in sodium?

Hmm... Not sure why that one's so high, actually. Let me check into it. At first I thought it would be the Lemon Confit, but that's not too bad. We call for low-sodium canned or homemade chickpeas. There are only a few kalamatas, which do have some sodium -- but should be only a couple hundred mg. We'll look into it.

Culprits are often store-bought bread products, and canned goods. Our nutritional analysis system has an option for a few no-salt-added canned goods; otherwise, it takes into account the sodium-laced liquid they come with even though we suggest rinsing and draining. In the case of this sandwich, the lemon confit and olives added a lot of sodium.

The lemon confit shouldn't have added too much, but if it worries you, you can sub a little lemon juice and zest.

Jason, do you have any fun cocktails that can be quickly mixed up for a bunch of girls that will be hanging by the pool this weekend? I have thought of mixing firefly with lemonade - but surely there is something more creative that I'm not thinking of. We could use a blender but would prefer not to. Thanks for your help!

Firefly with lemonade?! Par-tee! I'm actually a fan of Pimm's Cups in the hot afternoon, which is pretty easy: Pimm's, 7-Up, muddled cucumber slices, a little lemon juice, stirred in an ice-filled highball or rocks glass. But I've also been liking something with a little more a kick, a pitcher drink to make in batches called Cajun Lemonade -- you'll need to get cachaça and Tabasco along with your Pimm's.

And once you have the cachaça, you can also make caipirinhas, which are simple: Cut one lime into wedges and muddle it together with two teaspoons of sugar in a medium glass; add 1 1/2 ounces of cachaca and crushed ice; stir vigorously.

Ok it's stretching a point ... but how about Choucroute. I know it's really Alsatian but it would be such great party food and easy to make ahead of time.

It's 102 outside. I'm breaking into a flop sweat just thinking about mounds of sauerkraut, chunks of  fatty bacon, and  fat links  of blood sausages and wursts. Oh, wait a minute, that's drool. Never mind.

I'm invited to watch the World Cup finale at a gathering that will feature South African cuisine. I've no idea what to expect, or what I really ought to try if it's offered. Any suggestions? Thanks!

People last week were inquiring about boerewors, a sausage popular in S. Africa. (It's sold at Canales Deli in Eastern Market.) You could do a bobotie (kinda shepherd's pie). Hit that crazy Google thing and see what appeals to you.

Hi Food People, I have 2 items for you.

1. I never knew there was such a thing as a stove top smoker until I saw it mentioned here. I'm an apartment dweller, and this has been the only way for me to BBQ. I got a kettle from Nordic Ware, and it has worked as advertised. Thanks.

2. Tried a recipe for Viet chicken w/ fish sauce , but it smelled so putrid I couldn't bring myself to grill it. Did I get the wrong sauce, or is that the way it's supposed to smell?

That is the way it is supposed to smell. And yes, it's not good. (I once dropped a bottle of it on my tile floor and we had to bleach the kitchen THREE times to get rid of the smell in the house. Legend has it that the smell is the reason that you are not allowed to carry fish sauce out of Vietnam on the plane.)

But seriously: If uou use it sparingly and it really does add a base note (in fancy terms, it's called umami) to almost anything you use it for. Trust us, it will be ok.


Eggplant prices at local supermarkets are down to 99 cents a pound for the coming week, so I'd love it if you'd link to some good (an easy) recipes for baba ghanouj and other eggplant dishes -- the smokier-tasting, the better! -- that don't involve as much oil as eggplant parmesan or an outdooor grill as I don't have a balcony or yard. Hope that's not too, too picky!

Good call.

Not for everyone, but sushi is a great low to no cook meal. You can make the rice in a rice maker, and then assembling the sushi requires no cooking, and very little prep. it is surprisingly easy to make, and so yummy! Plus you can make so many different kinds you can appease just about anyone's tastes!

Ive never been to Germany but my brother said he found the Krautsalat mit Speck (Cabbage Salad with Bacon) to be very similar to the salad my mom had been making for years passed on from her German mother. I dont have the exact recipe but its just green cabbage chopped up with a few slices of bacon fried up in small pieces, tomatoes diced (not so much). The dressing is a bit of the bacon fat with some vinegar and sugar reduced in the pan you use to fry the bacon. Serve nice and cold in this summer heat....

It was a nutrition label and it was the large plastic container of mixed greens.

I am going to investigate.

Chicken! Yes, it involves cooking at first, although if you have a grill and a can of beer, you can do that outside. Or you can cheat and buy a roasted one at the grocery store. But chicken is excellent cold, whether it is BBQ, beer can or fried. If you tire of big chunks o' chicken, cut it up into little chunks, and use it in salads and sandwiches. Hold off on sauces until winter though; most of them are kind of gross when cold.

German snack food is easy. Go to the deli at Cafe Mozart or to the German Gourmet out in VA. There's German Cheese, German beer, sausage (with mustard!), pretzels, cookies, candy... My personal favorite is Nuremberger Bratwurst - it's little tiny brats that you can make mini-sandwiches out of.

Pavlovas are so good... and if you use seasonal fruit, to die for. They are so simple you'll wonder why you haven't made them yet.

Agreed. David knows this, too. His Berry Pavlova is great.

Just saw something on today's Today Show about seasoning, skewering and grilling fresh figs to accompany lamb. Should be able to find details on show's website.

First, I'd recommend Weber's "Way to Grill" book - besides recipes, they have lots of great instructional information about grilling techniques, including salmon. One hint that I learned that is helpful is that you should grill the salmon flesh side down first, and skin side down last - that way, it will stay together better when you flip and only slide off the skin when you plate it. To avoid overcooking though, I do find it works better if you cook the flesh side down for a little less time than when it is skin side down - it comes off the skin easiest when the skin has had time to develop some char. If you cook it through too much before you flip it though, this can cause it to get overdone.

Instead of dipping strawberries in a mound of powered sugar...try marscapone cheese with a little honey for strawberries or strawberry jam mixed up in it. For apple slices mix in cinnamon and honey or brown sugar. Marscapone cheese is inexpensive at Trader Joe's versus grocery store chains. It gets some protein and all important calcium into the youngster.

For the person looking for a new chicken recipe, we tried Tyler Florence's "Ultimate BBQ Chicken" recipe recently and it was fantastic. The only thing I'd change is that I found the sauce to be a little on the sweeter side, so if you prefer your BBQ more on the spicy side I'd taste it and tweak it to your liking before you start cooking.

Thanks much.

Thanks for the suggestions. The food only needs to survive a 15-30 minute car ride.

I love these-- I have all plastic (they were a gift) but I know they sell them in glass as well. Well, glass container with a plastic lid. They seal on all four sides and I don't hesitate to put soup in them and toss in my purse. They come in all sorts of sizes. I love them (I don't work for them or anything!). They might be a solution to avoid microwaving plastic.

Yeah, I've been thinking of investing in some of the good stuff. The one excellent container I have is Rubbermaid. I'm thinking of pitching all the cheaper ones I have and just getting a good set. Anyone else got recommendations?

I have been working my way through some lovely nectarines and I'm wondering if I could plant the pits. Would they grow? Do I just dig a hole and stick them in there?

Gardening columnist Adrian Higgins says sure, give it a try. It would need a lot of spraying to ward off bugs and disease -- and we're talking about our DC climate. Takes 8 years to bear fruit. But keep in mind, a seed is the product of 2 trees so the fruit may be inferior to what you  ate in order to get at that seed.

I have meat and veggies marinating for shish kabobs. We, unfortunately, do not have a grill. I assume I can broil them. Can I bake them instead? if so, how? Our oven is tiny, and the broil setting and I have a terrible matter how far I set stuff from the heating element, I somehow seem to set it on fire. Yikes!

Sure you can bake them. The broil element gives it that "grill" feel/taste. Why not bake them and then turn on the broiler at the end for a few minutes just to get a crisp edge on the meat or veg?

In a recipe for peach ice cream I found 1 and a half egg as one of the ingredients to be used. What is half an egg? Does one beat one egg and use half of it? Thank you so much.

Indeed, that's what you do. It's not so easy, since even when beaten the egg wants to hold together, but if you spend a couple of minutes really breaking it up, it should be easier. In dividing things down to single serving, one of my go-to strategies when dealing with eggs is that if it comes down to half an egg, I use either the yolk or the white, depending on whether I want a richer result. In your case, you could certainly throw another yolk in there instead of the 1/2 egg, to good effect.

I have a bumper crop of Thai basil leaves and would love a few recipes to use it.

Here's our cheat sheet to what to do with a Bumper Crop of Basil. These recipes are not expressly for Thai basil but it will work for almost of all of them: basil syrup, basil mayo, shrimp with basil and mango etc.

In regards to the gnocchi - it was a huge amount - probably for more than four people. I used 3 pounds ricotta, drained. Then added one egg, some salt, pepper, and then pecorino romano until the mixture stopped being tacky and resembled dough. Added about 1/4 cup (maybe a little more) flour. Formed into balls, refrigerated a few hours, then rolled into logs and cut. They rolled and cut and looked like gnocchi. Then I refrigerated those a few more hours, tossed into boiling water for hardly any time at all and threw them into melted butter and sage. They turned into mush in the pan with the butter... I made them once before and they were good, but then I used tons of flour...

Offhand I'd say that doesn't sound like nearly enough flour for that much cheese. Three pounds! Zounds. Also, I'd think bubbling water (simmer) not a full boil would be kinder to those tender pillows. Send the recipe to, will ya?

Well, you do need to cook a little for this, but I've got curried chicken salad for lunch today and it's great. If you have leftover chicken on hand, then you don't have to cook more; I've even used the precooked chicken "breast" pieces in the deli aisle and had it turn out OK. No real measurements--just whatever looks good. Chicken, diced Celery, diced Onion, diced (just a little) Red grapes, halved Granny Smith apple, diced Chickpeas, one can, drained Almonds, slivered Dressing: mayo and/or plain yogurt, curry powder, a little salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Proportions are really whatever you find appealing, but I start with about a cup of mayo, half a cup of yogurt, and a couple tablespoons of curry for a salad containing at least 2 chicken breasts and a can of chickpeas.

Sounds delicious. And I love the way you cook: making it the way you like it, rather than strictly following a recipe!

Perhaps my alter ego is using a different cabbage? I did one with napa cabbage once and it was limp after a few hours. Regular plain old white cabbage? Days!

Well, I have to say that napa cabbage does go a little limp. It's not bad the next day, but just doesn't have the crunch that white and red cabbage do. I wouldn't say it's bad, though.

My mom cuts fig is half and eats them with a slice of brie on top.

Sounds good.

Is Joe around? A while ago i picked up a quart of squeezed blood orange juice at Whole Foods because I always seemed to see it as a drink ingredient. Now that I have the juice (in the freezer) what should I mix it with during this heat wave?

Nothing wrong with prosecco and blood orange juice.

Hmm, the one cocktail I've specifically called for blood orange juice was the Blood and Sand (with scotch and sweet vermouth) but I don't know if that's a perfect heat wave drink. I think a Bronx Cocktail (basically a martini with orange juice) might be nice with the blood orange. And what the heck, why not try that fern-bar classic, the Freddy Fudpucker (Harvey Wallbanger's cousin) with your blood orange juice instead of regular oj?

I have a zucchini that went a little wild in the garden. It is about 4 1/2 inches diameter and about a foot long. Is it still usuable? I thought that I might cut in in half lenthwise, scoop the seeds out and stuff it with something - but the "something" is the problem. Any suggestions? Or suggestions on anything else to do with this monster -- other than zucchini bread because of the associated calories?

I'm loving this old recipe I have for squash. Grate the zucchini and place it in a colander with a generous pinch of salt on top. Let it drain for about 30 minutes. (A lot of water will come out.) Then, heat up some olive oil in a pan, add a little minced garlic and the zucchini. Saute for 4 to 5 minutes, add some parmesan cheese and cook 1 minute more. It's great as a side dish with chicken or pork. I think the original recipe called for it to be stuffed into a big pork chop and drizzled with mustard sauce.

Hello Experts! I am cooking my partner dinner this weekend for her birthday and would like your opinion on what kind of cobbler to make for a sweet ending to the meal. Peaches? Blueberries? A combination of fruit? Is there a particular cobbler recipe you'd steer me toward? Many thanks for all your hard work. Your work in the paper and in this hour are a joy!

I have a smasheroo recipe for apricot cobbler. I know it's good because Nathalie Dupree, the goddess of Southern cooking, cursed me out for making a cobbler better than hers. The recipe calls for frozen peaches, but use fresh since they're in season now. Just make sure they are not very ripe or they will disintegrate completely. Add a couple of fresh apricots, some blueberries or cherries if you want. There is so much good fruit coming in (this heat ain't all bad, huh?) that there's plenty to choose from.

My family recently fed 32 people (included some children) fajitas on 12 lb of meat (6 lb chicken, 6 lb beef) with a little leftover. Scaling that up to 50 people would suggest 19-20 lb.

Note if you're substituting kosher salt for regular table salt, you will need slightly more, as kosher salt has less salt per volume. Often the box of kosher salt will have a conversion table. And I've never had a problem with it in baked is the only salt I use.

I live in Germany and am sitting here listening to the vuvuzelas outside and thinking what I would serve for a World Cup party, if I were hosting on Saturday/Sunday: olives, flat bread, dried tomatoes in oil. Or grilled vegetables. And I have no ideas for hot weather, traditional German food. We're multi-culti too - both the soccer team and the cuisine.

After taking a pizza class at L'Academie de Cuisine (very fun) and honing a recipe from the America's Test Kitchen family cookbook, in my family we always roll out our thin crust (and deep dish, actually) pizza dough. There's absolutely nothing wrong (in my opinion) with rolling your dough. For thin crust we roll it on parchment paper and literally slide the paper and dough onto our pizza stone. It makes it extremely easy to get out.

The Manchurian dip is intriguing, but I see that it makes 2 quarts. Do you think it would freeze well? How long might it keep in the refrigerator?

It freezes, but you will eat every bit of it. Trust me.

Hi! I'm new to grilling and was thinking I might want to try a flank steak this weekend. I'm not sure what to marinate it in or how long to cook it on each side. Any tips? Thanks!

So many ways to go here, but why not shoot for something beyond the basic? You can do it. Yes, you can:  a salsa verde version. Figure about 12 to 14 minutes total for medium-rare. You want a nicely browned crust and pinkness inside. BE SURE to let it rest for 5 to 10 mins before carving -- that is the crucial issue with this cut.

I think this should be "halusky" (with a hapcek on the s). It's the national dish of Slovakia. But it's traditionally made with bryndza, which is a soft sheep's cheese that is very difficult to find outside of central Europe. And the way that you're describing it is usually called strapacky (with a hapcek on the c), mixed with onions and cabbage, and one of my favorite foods in the world. Halusky is traditionally NOT egg noodles, but rather riced potatoes mixed with thick-ground flour and boiled in little dumplings. Really, really good, but you need the bryndza to make it great.

Thank-you, Gentle Reader. I knew someone would come through. Those dumplings sound like a version of spaetzle, which I notice are making a huge comeback on restaurant menus around town. And bryndza sounds much better to me than cottage cheese.

Well, you've gently tossed us together in a medium bowl, then covered and refrigerated us for several hours until serving, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Nancy, David and Jason for helping us with the a's. Now for the book winners: The chatter who asked about the faux CSA will get "Eating Local" by Janet Fletcher. The one who asked what to do with fresh figs will get "The Good Stuff Cookbook" by Spike Mendelsohn. Just send your mailing info to, and we'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading...

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