Free Range on Food: Cooking with harissa, this week's recipes and more.

Aug 09, 2017

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat. Hope you're enjoying this week's food coverage, including Tom Sietsema's deep dive into dishwashing; Jeff Koehler's ode to harissa; and so much more.

What's on your mind? We've got Jeff in the house today to help with questions: Besides knowing his harissa, of course, Jeff is a published expert in the foods of Spain and Morocco, on tea, and soon to be on coffee. So he can handle just about anything!

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today, of course: Jeff's own "Morocco," to keep with the north African theme; and "The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School."

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR5132 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

OK, let's do this!

A great big shout-out to you folks in the food section for once again taking us behind the scenes to see how crucial a role is played by the usually "invisible" and lower-paid (and often limited-English) people in restaurants and how even jobs considered lower-skill require expertise -- and deserve respect. It's also heartening to read that restaurant owners and chefs understand how important these workers are and sometimes even award them accordingly. Here's hoping these articles circulate widely among our lawmakers and soften some hearts.

Hi. I once bought harissa in a little tin from the cheese section at WF. How do you rate that preparation, if you've tried it, compared to home-made or in a tube? I recall the flavor didn't seem complex to me but maybe there was something else at play, like whatever I ate it with.

While I can't say I have tasted that exact one, I have used some commercial tins/tubes of harissa that are less dynamic than others. With those, first dolloping some into a bowl and whisk in a bit of olive oil to loosen it up. That's key. Then taste with a piece of bread and begin adjusting to your taste if feel it needs more kick or depth by adding in some spices--caraway, ground coriander seeds, even some cumin. 

ARTICLE: Is this Tunisian chile paste the new sriracha? Not yet, but it sure should be.

I batch cook my lunches each week, and this week is chicken thighs and broccoli, topped with seasonings and baked. When baking, I made sure the thighs each got over 165 (they were about 171 the second time I checked. But I cut into my lunch today and found quite a bit of pink chicken. Can I trust it? What should I do next time? How long does the thermometer need to read over 165?

Good question, and good for you re the batch cooking! Fear not the pink, in this case.


Internal temperature is a surefire indicator of fully cooked poultry, and your numbers sound spot-on. Once the temp registers on the thermometer (digital?) -- as long as it was inserted away from any bone -- you're good to go.


As explained by the USDA, the pinkish tinge can occur when the chicken is young and its bones and skin are more permeable; sometimes when hemoglobin in the muscles react with the heated air; depending on what the chicken's feed was; and whether the bird has been frozen/and for how long. 

Excellent recipe! As others have noted, it was quite saucy, but a couple of pieces of garlic bread took care of that. I added diced sweet potato too, because I love sweet potatoes and put them into every dish possible.

Thanks! Glad you liked it -- and made it work for you!

RECIPE: Chickpea Tikka Masala

Dear Carolyn, Thank you for your many thoughtful words throughout the years. I read your column regularly and always appreciate your take on complex situations. I know this is wordy, and please condense however you want, but would appreciate your advice on the following: I'd like your advice on how to maintain a positive relationship with my sister in spite of my negative feelings about her relationship, and also how to talk to her about the relationship. I can't change her relationship, but feel like I'm not dealing with it in a positive way. My sister started dating her partner when she was in her late teens. She's still with this person (she's now in her mid 20s). Partner is in their mid-30's and has a 12 year old child from a previous relationship (not sister's child). Partner is not abusive, but is not actively supportive either; will show up and passively be part of family events (including those centered on Sis), but doesn't get her cards/presents for big occasions, doesn't participate in family conversations or events, doesn't encourage Sis to achieve life-long dreams - generally not supportive of her or interested in events that are important to her. More importantly, in my opinion, he gives her crap for little things, in situations where partners should be supportive of each other: when she gets a flat tire he berates her endlessly for running into the curb instead of offering to change the tire, when she is upset he lectures her on what she should have changed instead of siding with her, when she gets sick he questions whether she was really sick instead of comforting her. Sis regularly (every 6 months or so) tells me and other friends that she is unhappy with the relationship, feels that she needs to end things, doesn't want to be with this person anymore. She holds on because she says that he loves her and she values her relationship with his child, but she doesn't offer any specifics as to how he makes her happy, how he's changed, or why she wants to stay with him. I feel her pain, talk her through the situation, etc., but then she stays with him. Always. No matter how upset she is. A week or two later she forgets that she was upset and says that "things are good" (never any specifics on how they moved on or why). It is her life, but I am tired of dealing with the unhappiness during the tough moments and the later amnesia ("We're happy and I don't know why you'd ever think otherwise!"). How can I simultaneously be supportive of her as a person who can make her own choices but also encourage her to seek greener pastures and ALSO let her know that she can't only turn to me when things are bad and then expect me to encourage the relationship?? I know that I'm overly invested in someone else's relationship, but she is my closest family member and best friend, and I hate to see her wasting her life with someone who doesn't bring her anything in return except for existing near her. SO MANY QUESTIONS but thanks for considering what I have to say and being the greatest, always.

I think you should make chickpea tikka masala for her, and see if that helps!

Also, wrong chat.

I suppose I could ask The Google this.... What is the purpose of oil in marinades? Seems that every recipe I see calls for non-trivial amounts of oil so it must be important for the marinade to work. What role does oil play in marination?

I'd say it coats well, carries fat-soluble flavors and helps keep in moisture.

The past few days there has been a short article on about tart cherries being back in the area, even in Giant and Whole Foods stores, being shipped from upstate NY. I couldn't find them in the stores I checked. I posted a comment after that article asking if anyone had seen them in stores and could say which specific ones. Since no one replied, I am assuming that they aren't around any more, but it would be great if you could say which stores in specific you had seen them in, so I could still check those. I want to avoid driving around to a bunch of different stores fruitlessly. (See what I did there?) Last week a writer asked about using up a lot of flax seed meal. I would be very cautious about advising using large amounts of ground flax seeds, because flax seeds have a known laxative effect. A friend and I have a famous story from many years back of making a recipe using a quantity of ground flax seeds. We started to look at each other funny when the effect started to be noticeable, and spent the rest of the evening alternating between the bathroom. I'm not sure but I suspect that whole flax seeds have less of an effect than flax seed meal or ground up/blended flax seeds, because more of the seeds pass through the GI tract whole. I don't know exactly how much flax seed meal will cause these symptoms (it was many years ago, so I can't remember how much my friend and I used in our recipe; probably at least a couple of tablespoons), but if it were me I would just advise caution (try a small amount of a dish that was made with a lot of flax meal, and if that doesn't cause problems then try more).

Re the tart cherries, the stores were the Giant on O Street NW and the Whole Foods Market on P Street NW; displays were small enough that you could miss them in both places. Since farmer Andy Orbaker had said his farm had shipped out the last of the season's fruit, I thought it might be a bit harder to find -- and I figured the information was worth providing for summers to come, at least! 

I wanted to go with lettuce this year in a window box, but I couldn't seem to find any plants that looked any good. If I buy one of those living lettuce heads at the grocery store, can I plant the stem in a window box and it will grow? I know they're grown hydroponically so I'm not sure if it will work.

I have grown the most phenomenal basil plant this year, but I'm on a doctor-prescribed diet that doesn't allow nuts, cheese, or significant amounts of oil. I'd like to make pesto out of my basil, but I'm not sure the best way to preserve it until I'll be able to eat it (about 3 months from now). Can I freeze it? How?

Yep, you can freeze it -- just don't add the cheese. (I say this because that's what I've been told, but now that I'm writing this, I'm not sure why you couldn't add a little cheese? I've frozen hard cheese before and it was fine...)

In any case, I usually freeze herbs-blended-with-oil-and-nuts in ice cube trays and then transfer the frozen cubes to a zip-top bag for longer storage. You can then add cheese later, after defrosting. Or serve whatever you're making with cheese grated on top.

I'll weigh in on the cheese thing -- you don't really have to leave it out when freezing pesto! 

My husband loves Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Is there a good substitute I can make from scratch that mimics the blue box?

I feel like our classic version would be well received. 

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

RECIPE: Classic Macaroni and Cheese

You may also may want to browse these recipes.


Tossing and turning last night, I pondered how I could soothe my nerves and landed on baking up a batch of cinnamon rolls. Imagine my surprise upon searching the WaPo Recipe Finder to find not a single recipe beyond a sweet potato version, which just isn't going to cut it. Have you really never published a recipe for cinnamon rolls? If not, may I humbly request that you tackle this for a future, in depth article? Thanks for your consideration.

Well, butter my biscuits!  Did you see these Scrap Dough-Nut Buns from chef David Guas?


WaPoFood has published several cinnamon roll recipes over the years but they are years old -- and awaiting edits and a photo session to make it into our Recipe Finder. Till then, try this one from the 2002 (a twofer, starting with an eggy bread dough). And we'll move rolls up on the to-do list! 


Basic Egg Bread Dough 

This basic egg bread dough -- rich with butter and sweetened with honey -- is the basis for the four recipesthat follow: a standard (or braided) loaf of bread, cinnamon rolls, sticky pull-apart loaf and garlic sticks.

21/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast 

1/4 cup warm water 

1 tablespoon honey (may substitute 2 teaspoons granulated sugar) 

1 cup whole milk 

4 tablespoons unsalted butter 

2 large eggs, lightly beaten 

2 teaspoons salt 

5 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus additional for the work surface 

About 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for the bowl 

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water and honey and stir to combine. Set aside until the mixture foams, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the milk and butter just until the butter melts. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool slightly.

Add the warm milk mixture to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the eggs and salt and mix to combine.

Using a wooden spoon, add the flour to the mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring just until the flour is almost incorporated after each addition. The dough should be slightly sticky. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes. (To knead, first push the dough out with the heel of your hand. Then fold the dough over onto itself, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. If the dough sticks to your hands or the work surface, sprinkle the surface and the dough lightly with flour as necessary, using as little flour as possible.) 

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in it and then turn it to coat the dough with oil all over. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until double in size, about 1 hour. (May instead cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in the refrigerator, again until double in size, about 12 hours. Allow the dough to return to room temperature before proceeding.) Proceed from this point with any of the recipes below.

Egg Bread, Standard or Braided 

(Makes 1 braided loaf or 2 standard loaves) 

If you're a new baker, you may be more comfortable using this recipe to make a standard-shaped loaf of bread. But, in fact, the braided version is just as simple and makes for a much more impressive presentation.

recipe Basic Egg Bread Dough (see preceding recipe) 

Vegetable spray oil for the pans (for standard loaves) 

Flour for the pans (for standard loaves) 

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of water (optional) 

Poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional) 

Prepare the Basic Egg Bread Dough (see preceding recipe). Using your fist, punch down the dough to deflate.

To make 2 standard loaves: Coat 2 standard loaf pans with spray oil and dust with flour, tapping to remove any excess flour. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Shape each portion into an oblong shape that will fit snugly in the loaf pan. Transfer the loaves to the pan.

To make 1 braided loaf: Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 12-inch-long strand that is slightly thicker in the center than it is at each end. Place the 3 strands, side by side, on the prepared sheet and, beginning at 1 end, pinch the ends of the strands to bring them together. Then braid the strands. (First bring the left strand over the middle strand. Then bring the right strand over the now-middle strand. Continue in this fashion until you reach the end of the strands.) Pinch the ends of the strands to bring them together.

For both methods: Set the loaf or loaves aside in a warm place to rise, spritzing the surface of the dough occasionally with a spray bottle filled with water, until double in size, about 30 minutes depending on the shape. (If the dough was refrigerated overnight for the first rise, the second rise might take slightly longer than 30 minutes.) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If desired, lightly brush the top of the bread with the egg wash and sprinkle with seeds. Bake the bread until the top is golden and the bread sounds hollow when rapped lightly, 30 to 40 minutes.

Transfer the pans or baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Invert the standard loaves onto the rack and turn them right side up or transfer the braided loaf to the rack. Set aside to cool completely.

Per slice (based on 20): 155 calories, 5 gm protein, 26 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 29 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 246 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Cinnamon Rolls 

(Makes about 18 rolls) 

Some of the brown sugar in the filling of these rolls oozes out to create a gooey, sticky glaze on the bottom of the rolls. (It also creates quite a sticky mess on the bottom of the pan; upon removing the rolls, immediately fill the pan with hot water.) Although an icing is really not necessary, I can never resist.

Removing the rolls from the pan can be a bit tricky. I suggest baking the rolls in two round cake pans, which are easier to invert onto a plate than is a larger rectangular baking dish.

Nonstick spray oil 

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar 

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

1 cup raisins (optional) 

1 cup (4 ounces) walnut pieces (optional) 

recipe Basic Egg Bread Dough (see first recipe) 

Flour for the work surface 

1 cup confectioners' sugar mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream (optional) 

Coat two 9-inch round cake pans or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with the nonstick spray oil.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and, if desired, raisins and walnuts. Set aside.

Prepare the Basic Egg Bread Dough (see first recipe). Using your fist, punch down the dough to deflate. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 24-by-12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 2-inch plain border along 1 long side of the dough. Beginning with the long side of the dough that is coated with sugar, carefully but tightly roll the dough into a log. When you reach the plain edge of the dough, press it tightly against the roll so the dough sticks.

Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the dough into slices (if using a rectangular pan, cut 18 slices; if using 2 round pans, cut 14 slices). Carefully transfer the slices to the prepared pan(s), placing them about 1 inch apart. Cover the pan(s) with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place to rise until double in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Uncover the pans and bake the rolls until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 3 to 5 minutes. (Do not cool any longer than 5 minutes or the glaze on the bottom of the rolls will cool enough to make it difficult to remove them from the pan.) Place a plate or platter lined with wax paper over the top of the pan(s) and invert. It may be necessary to tap the bottom of the pan to loosen the rolls. If desired, scrape any glaze remaining in the pan over the rolls. Turn the rolls right side up, if desired, and set aside to cool slightly.

Serve warm. If desired, drizzle with the sugar-cream icing just prior to serving.

Per roll: 218 calories, 5 gm protein, 40 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 278 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber


:) :) :) :) Joe, you just made my day. Now, if you'd only come by and make me some chickpea tikka masala -- I'm sure it would help ;)

Glad you enjoyed!

Hi Chatters. Is the harissa recipe similar in flavor to the Cava brand I see in stores?

The Cava brand is what they call their "Greek spin" on harissa, and has stewed tomatoes in it. Renee Erickson's version is quite different--along with quite classic harissa ingredients, it calls for dried rose petals and some rose water for a floral touch.

I found them in my Columbia Heights Giant last week.

Good to know! That must have felt good.

I finally got the chance to make this. Can I just add to the chorus of how easy and how delicious it is? Yum! Now I'm all over the Georgia Peach website looking for more recipes.

Ha! I spent a fair amount of time trolling on that site myself.  Just curious -- did you do the spices/brown sugar atop the fruit or below it?

RECIPE Baked Chicken Breasts With Peaches

A friend has a cocoa tree and I ate one of the fruits. The white meat was delicious, and then I was left with about 35 seeds. I would like to make them into cocoa powder. I know it will be the teeniest amount, but I just can't let them go to waste. I have looked everywhere online and I don't see a how to - I only have found how to make chocolate out of cocoa powder, but not how to make cocoa powder out of the seeds/beans. I know I have to ferment them somehow, and dry them, and then maybe crack them open and get the beans out of the seeds? And then what? Just grind the beans into powder? Or roast them first and then grind them?

Wow. Really? If I were you I'd hook up with a chocolate maker who can run you through this. But cocoa powder is made by fermenting, drying and roasting the beans first. Where is your friend located, by the way, and where are you? Can you plant those seeds -- are you in a climate where cocoa grows?

what do you put it on? I find it very spicy!

Yes, it can be quite spicy! You often don't need much. First loosen it with plenty of olive oil--let the oil take some of the flavors. Then dip some crusty bread into it. That's the best for me. Alongside should be some olives, a lovely hunk of tinned tuna, etc.

Sometimes I want to put a pie together and don't have the time/effort/ingredients to make a pie crust. Know of any pie crusts (not Pillsbury) that one can buy that are unrolled? too often ready-to-go pie crust is already in an aluminum pan.

To be clear, you are looking for a non-Pillsbury pie crust that not rolled and also not in a disposable pan? Not sure I have seen such a product.

Fantastic set of recipes in the condiment article. Other than needing to change the recipe name, do you think I could use more rose water as a substitute for the dried rose petals? If so how much? I have that but have had no luck in the past in getting dried rose petals


ARTICLE: 8 condiments to make while it’s still August

Red Onion Marmalade

Re: harissa with rose petals, I'd make it as written (but leave out those rose petals), then put a bit of it in a smaller bowl and add a few drops of extra rose water to that; see what you think (the stuff can be awfully strong), and add a little extra to the whole batch if you'd like. (In this recipe, the rose isn't pronounced -- and I like it that way.)

Rose Petal Harissa

RECIPE: Rose Petal Harissa

Addictive. Bought my first jar at TJ's. I am on the third jar now. With the exception of coffee and dessert put it into everything. Makes all kinds of veggies taste great, even boring ones turn interesting. As the article says, more is NOT better. Great article. Now I am waiting for Joe's take on Harissa, and, of course, more articles on foods and products we should, but don't know much about. PS; my original post vanished as I was typing it. Apologies if this is a repeat.

Indeed addictive! The more you use harissa, the more places you find where you can use it. Glad you enjoyed piece.

My take on harissa: LOVE. I was so happy to take home a little jar of the rose petal harissa after we tested it, and I've been using it to top my lunchtime grain bowls. This week, they're brown rice, chickpeas, smoky cole slaw, labneh, harissa, pumpkin seeds.

Greetings WaPo, I can't wait to try Joe's miso bagna cauda. I think it will be spectacular with scallops. But I also have a beautiful big tin of salt packed anchovies in my refrigerator and would like to make real b.c. I see recipes that are mostly butter, olive oil and garlic. I see some where the garlic is poached in milk, I see one with white wine. If you have really good anchovies, what's a really good recipe? Thanks.

I think you should try this same recipe and just swap in anchovies for the miso. I think the lemons are killer in it.

RECIPE: Roasted Broccoli Rabe With Miso Bagna Cauda

I made a really good vegetable lasagna this week and had enough extra to make one for the freezer. My question for you - I put foil down in the glass casserole dish before freezing, but now I'm worried that when I try to defrost and bake it, the foil will become an issue in the bottom of the pan. Any suggestions, or am I overthinking this? (Novice cook here!)

I don't see why the foil would be a problem.

Hi Joe - I'm eating left-over chickpea tikka masala while reading this chat. Just wanted to thank you for the recipe. It's become an instant classic in our house. While others may have found the sauce to be too liquid, I found the proportion of garbanzos to be just right. I also added spinach for a bit of green. Delicious. (And yes, I rated it!) Thanks.

Glad to hear it! Yes, I'm not sure exactly what was happening to make some people find it too saucy -- perhaps they didn't cook it long enough uncovered, as instructed, or maybe they just expected it to be thicker than it is. Either way, it's pretty easy to make it work for you. I like the spinach idea, of course!

There should be a nice crust of slightly burned cheese sticking to the foil, which the eventual dishwasher can peel away and enjoy in private.

For a recent family reunion, I decided to make my late grandmother's macaroni salad, which I loved and which my mom assured me was most likely the recipe on the box of elbow macaroni. I got the taste and consistency perfect and put it in the fridge to chill. When I took it out later, the creaminess had completely disappeared and the dairy (mayo, sour cream) had kind of 'seized' up so basically I ended up serving naked noodles that tasted right but were almost dry. Did this happen because the noodles were still warm when I mixed the ingredients? I'm assuming the noodles absorbed the wetness. How do I keep this from happening so I can serve a nice creamy mac salad in the future? Thx!

I think their warmth is the most likely culprit (without seeing the recipe). When the salad had been out of the fridge for 20 minutes or so, I'd have stirred in just a little more of that dairy mixture to make it all creamy again. 

I can't eat hot peppers. I don't enjoy the heat, and they have become a migraine trigger for me. And hot peppers seem to be in everything these days, even more ubiquitous than balsamic vinegar. Can you suggest a general replacement for it in recipes? I tend to substitute, say, smoked paprika in dishes that call for cayenne, but where the chili paste forms part of a sauce, should I use a combination of roasted sweet red peppers and paprika, or what?

Yeah, the roasted sweet peppers with paprika sounds like a great solution. You can also buy a mild red pepper paste (I think I've seen it in tubes near tomato paste; I feel like Rodman's would have it.) Or seek out a mild harissa (Mina makes one, for example) and see if that would work. 

I am so thankful to you to feature Harissa on the Food section today! I am a home cook and like experimenting with new food items, spices etc. I had just bought a jar of Harissa from Trader Joe's and wanted to try it out. Before having a chance to read the Food Section I started cooking for lunch----chicken with Harissa! I had some breast tenders which I planned to make, so I chopped up some onions, a couple of cloves of garlic and lightly fried them. I then added the chicken pieces and added some tomatoes too. Kept frying them. I then added a can of chickpeas. Added some salt and turmeric, and instead of using other spices, added two teaspoons of the harissa paste. To my utter satisfaction the dish has turned out to be different from what I usually cook and really tasty. By the way, I like cooing with few items and make use of items in my pantry! However, I do like to find out: what other spices can I add to improvise this dish. Some dry oregano/ fresh cilantro? I am a regular reader of your chats and have tried several dishes/recipes including desserts posted. I look forward to your suggestions. Other suggestions from fellow chatters are most welcome. I am very excited! Thank you so much for all you contribute!

Sounds like a delicious lunch! Harissa indeed can give a refreshing change to many recipes. I would say that some fresh cilantro would be a great addition to what you prepared. Fresh parsley and cilantro are key to the cuisines of North Africa and used in abundance.

Most of the rosewater-flavored foods I've eaten taste like soap to me. I'm afraid roses say perfume, not food, to me.

Agreed. I'm very sensitive to it. And I swear, you don't get that with this at all.

I was just gifted 400 g of Turkish apricot paste. What do I do with it?

Looks like you can chop it up into bits and use like dried apricots, but the paste is very handy for melting into sauces or melting to use as a glaze, as well as cutting into slabs that go into pastries. I have seen little cubes of it served on a cheese platter. 

We're visiting my Dad next week; he lives about 400 miles away. I know he would love some tomatoes from my garden. What's the best way to bring them in the car? Would an ice pack be beneficial or detrimental? Any suggestions welcome!

The answer depends on how ripe they are. If they're not QUITE ripe, I'd just keep them at room temp in the car, in a paper bag. If they're just ripe, I'd think perhaps about a way to carry them in one layer so they don't bruise one another. If they're VERY ripe/getting soft, I'd pack them in one layer in a cooler with an ice pack to prevent further ripening.

Any thoughts on how to prepare your bagna cauda recipe sous vide? It looks like the recipe aims for a low temperature for a long period of time, and that seems particularly adaptable to sous vide cooking. Thanks.

I think it's so flexible you'd be free to experiment here. I don't really think there'd be a way to overcook it. 

Hello! I followed, with great interest, your articles during your diet. I am trying to incorporate some of it in my own, specifically, trying to only eat during an 8 hour period of the day. I'm wondering though: I've heard so many people talk about how important breakfast is, but because of my work and because I exercise, I have to eat later in the day so that I can still eat something after I work out. Did you ever struggle with having to eat later in the day? Do you think it was healthy or that it slowed your metabolism/energy for the rest of the day?

Hi! I have to admit, I've started recently falling off the "Buddha's Diet" 9-hour eating window strategy, but I'm trying to reconfirm. And yes, exercise can complicate things. For me, I work out a few times a week at 8 a.m., finishing at 9, and I MUST EAT SOMETHING on those days. Which means that I'd need to eat dinner by 6, and I usually just can't swing that with my work schedule. 

When I am on the 9-hour schedule, though, it feels great! Doesn't slow me down, no.

Loved the write up on harissa today! How would harissa pair with a cream cheese/cottage cheese mixture (sort of a riff on the Hungarian Liptauer cheese)? What about using it to make a home-made barbecue sauce? Thank you.

That certainly sounds like an interesting combination, especially with the cottage or fresh cheeses. I will have to try. With its lovely floral notes, Renee Erickson's rose petal harissa would certainly be an interesting pairing. And in the BBQ sauce... sure! I think it would work great.

We have an unopened 5-lb bag of King Arthur AP flour that's been in the refrigerator since it was purchased and is marked best to use by August 10 ... 2016. Do you think it'll work for banana bread?

Yep. The fact that you refrigerated it this whole time means you should be able to count on it being much fresher than had it been at room temperature. I think you could use it for anything, provided it looks fine when you open it.

Just wanted to let you know that I made the nectarine muffins and brought them into the office. One co-worker said she enjoyed them and I should keep them in rotation. I did rate the recipe! Also, after reading about the tart cherry containers, a friend and I checked out our respective supermarkets and scored a few quarts. I made the sour cherry crumb bars with one quart and froze the other for a future pie. When I mixed the filling, there was a lot of liquid. I cooked it for a few minutes then put the cherries on the base. I cooked down the leftover liquid into "jam" and have been having that with ricotta on toast. Yum!


You are my favorite reader o' the week! #newsyoucanuse

RECIPE: Nectarine Corn Muffins

RECIPE: Sour Cherry Crumb Bars

I don't do coconut in any form. Should I substitute an equal amount of yogurt?

Sure (make it whole milk, please), or half and half.

It starts to taste like grandma's soap. Loved grandma. Miss her like anything, even all these years late. Still not interested in eating her soap.

I want to put in a good word for garam masala which has been mentioned several times lately. I started using it about three years ago. One of the intriguing things about it (I use the one sold y Penzey’s) it that it works well with both savory and sweet foods. Also, it does not contain hot peppers. Try putting a bit into the flour used to dust chops or fish before they are pan fried, on or pork or chicken to be roasted. Shake a bit into ice cream or into the batter for batter breads such as waffles, pancakes or popovers. Try it in tempura batter, especially for eggplant. It’s a natural for custards and cakes. it might even be good in coffee or tea or anything with chocolate. Great stuff – you’ll wonder how you did without if most of your life – I did.


For the poster last week who asked about regional BBQ sauce and recipes here's a link to that query: Meathead not only discusses the regional sauces but offers his own recipes that are similar if not the real thing (secret recipe and trademarks notwithstanding).

My niece makes a triple-ginger cookie and uses garam masala for part of the powdered ginger. Out of this world!

I went with below the peaches because I was afraid of it being too sweet for my husband. It was plenty sweet anyway.

[thumbs up]

Have you ever seen harissa spice blend? Powdered, in a shaker jar? I have a jar in my cupboard -- no label, I think it was a marketing sample, for all that it's full-sized -- and I'd love to suggest it as an alternative to the condiment for adding some of that wonderful flavor with zero work or fuss...but I've never actually found it for sale! It's getting to the point where I'm going to have to start really rationing it so I don't run out!

Bazaar Spices sells it (I've had that version, it's great.)

Also Williams Sonoma, Walmart and Amazon.

I overbought buttermilk due to what was available at the store. I use it predominately for making pancakes/waffles once per week and (very rarely) for marinating or breading. With these uses in mind, can I freeze it without loss of quality in the final products?

You can freeze it, sure. Defrost it overnight in the refrigerator, and then use an immersion (stick) blender or pop it in a blender to re-incorporate the solids/why separation that will most likely occur.

We never had Kraft boxed mac and cheese when I was growing up, but we used to eat the Stouffer's frozen kind with some regularity. I had given up on being able to get that consistency when i one time threw in the last tablespoon or so of an opened package of cream cheese into my regular mac and cheese recipe to round out the cheddar. That gave the consistency I remembered from my childhood. I still periodically do that.

I wish there were a "like" button I could click under Joe's response.

A former co-worker of mine truly thought there was no other way to make mac and cheese than from the blue box. She was so baffled when I told her that it can be homemade, I brought her my grandmother's recipe but don't know if she ever made it. Speaking of being baffled, so were my mother and I when we asked him to tell us about his fiance, whom we had not yet met. The first thing he said was "she makes real mashed potatoes instead of instant." We replied in unison "we NEVER make instant mashed potatoes!" Neither of us thought that was such a novelty as to warrant a marriage proposal.

I have a question about Spanish food -- I learned how to make tortilla española when I hung around with people from Spain: Pre-cook thin-sliced potatoes and onions, then pour beaten eggs over them in a hot pan, let bottom set, flip and cover until cooked through. Serve hot or cold. But I must mis-remember something because when I tried to make this a few days ago, it came out all wrong. Suggestions? Or your recipe?

Ah, my favorite Spanish dish! And the first I learned to make after moving there in 1996. It remains the dish that my wife and kids ask me most frequently to prepare. We never tire of it. Basically, you fry thinly sliced potatoes and onions (I like to do about equal amounts) in plenty of (olive) oil. Drain. Place in the beaten eggs and let sit for a few moments. Season with a pinch of salt. Then pour the mixture into a hot, lightly oiled pan and flip once the bottom firms up. When that side is done, and the inside still really moist, slide it onto a plate. The trickiest part is certainly the flip--flipping it over so that it doesn't stick. Spanish tortilla is good warm, but even better the next day for a late breakfast and coffee. You can find my recipe in my cookbook "Spain." Good luck!

I keep my whole grain flours in the freezer and they keep way, way past best by date. I test them by tasting. Sure, raw flour isn't delectable, but you can tell if it's fresh or rancid.

I'm hosting a DIY pizza party for 10 people this week and need some advice! I was thinking of making Smitten Kitchen's overnight lazy pizza dough (you just stir and let it sit) but wanted some ideas on toppings and sauces, especially since we're in peak produce season! Also, I've got a small apartment and one oven (I was going to make baking sheet rectangular pies doing 2 at once - would 3 total be enough?) and need some tips on what to serve alongside the pies that can be cool and made in advance. Help a pizza planner out!

I always like a nice crisp salad to go with pizza. This one's a beauty.

RECIPE: Marinated Corn, Tomato and Halloumi Salad

Joe, please share!

No recipe per se, but I just sprinkled in a good amount of smoked paprika along with homemade mayo, salt and, cause I had them, sunflower sprouts. Was great!

You might be able to get them at a middle eastern market like Yekta. Also, if you buy rosewater, prepare to get rid of it after a few months. It doesn't take well to living in an opened bottle. A teeny bit goes a LOOOOOOOOONG way, even more than with harissa.

I am taking a picnic dinner (7pm) to Annapolis on Friday. I am leaving my house at 8am for the commute to DC for work. The picnic will be packed in an ice chest that will stay in the trunk of the car. Do you know where in NOVA I can purchase dry ice? I think that will be the safest bet. Agree? And Jeff, what is your favorite online place for loose tea purchases? Thank you!

As a huge fan of Darjeeling tea, I like Teabox, which has a  massive selection of offerings by estate and flush (harvest). They sell plenty of other Indian teas as well.  

Dry ice? I wouldn't bother with that, given that you have to handle carefully/etc. Just put a bunch of frozen-solid ice packs in.

I love this chat and look forward to it every week. My CSA currently has an option to purchase tomatoes in large quantities (20 pounds of heirloom tomatoes or 25 pounds of beefsteak tomatoes). I'm really tempted this year, as I love tomatoes and would enjoy having the opportunity to get creative. If I buy tomatoes in bulk, what are some ways to use them quickly so they don't spoil (canning, preparing salads, making raw or cooked sauces, etc.)? I'm particularly interested in recipes suited to these varieties of tomatoes. Thanks!

You can never go wrong with 12-Hour Tomatoes. They are suited to ANY type of tomato. Just adjust the time as need be for size and moisture content.

RECIPE: 12-Hour Tomatoes

For a delicious cinnamon bun recipe that uses a total of 2 1/2 oz. (5T) of butter, search for Chelsea Buns on the BBC site. This came from one of the winners of the Great British Baking Show.

Now that we're in fresh sweet corn season, I like to grill it up once or twice a week. My local store (Wegmans) has the full ears presumably right from the farm. I take advantage of the two bins they have around the corn display to shuck it there - mainly because we have a cat that will try to eat anything and I'm afraid he'll get corn silk stuck in his throat. :) Anyway, when selecting my corn, I usually find quite a few ears that have been partially shucked by someone else, even though the ear looks fine, apparently it wasn't what they wanted. Is this considered poor produce etiquette? I don't do that myself and I hate to buy ears that someone else has already partially opened. If they're that picky, maybe they should get the pre-shucked ears for ~$1 each and don't spoil the full ears for the rest of us.

Afraid I am in the No Shucking in the Store camp -- and I appreciate the cat angle. It creates situations like the one you describe and more waste than I can imagine. When I watch folks do the half-shuck thing, it seems like they are looking for something and don't quite know what that is . . . . perfect rows of kernels? Nobody's smelling the cobs. You can feel divots/indentations where a row of kernels might be missing or damaged right through the husk, so that's not an excuse. 


Pre-shucked ears are not an option for you because. . . .? Not as fresh?

I find it a hard time cleaning chicken thighs! Even with the boneless pieces I am not sure how much it is that can be left! Need your advice. Thanks so much.

Clarify "cleaning"?

I made chicken paprikash a couple days ago and have lots of sauce and egg noodles left, but no chicken. Planning to stretch the leftovers by adding some more chicken, but all I've got on hand is a boneless, skinless chicken breast. I'd like to marinate and grill it--but marinate in what? I've got more paprika and was thinking of adding that to some plain yogurt. What other spices would work well? Other ideas welcome. Thank you!

Yogurt is a good tenderizer and flavoring it with sumac or smoked paprika or dried herbs is a fine way to go, but your chicken won't need more than an hour's marinating time (or it might get a little mushy). To make that single breast go further, I'd poach it in a flavorful broth, cool and shred it.

I made a bone-in pork shoulder in my pressure cooker and ended up with more than a quart of gelatinous broth (in addition to the lovely meat, of course!) Do you have any suggestions for recipes to use up a large amount of pork broth? Thanks1

I'd definitely use it to cook pots of beans, and I can think of several soups that it would be a good base for -- ramen comes to  mind. Also great in tamal dough!

Pretty sure I've purchased at Whole Foods. Vegetarian, too.

That's the answer. So is making sour cherry shortcake or cobbler: more pastry to absorb the liquid. Those heavenly cherries are so juicy that you pretty much have to eat a pie made from them with a spoon. But since tart cherry juice is now being touted as the ultimate superfood, no problem!

You can also cook the fruit for a bit first, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pot while you reduce the juices to a syrupy consistency or add a cornstarch slurry to thicken them. Cool, then recombine with the cherries.

A family member gave me several 1 kg bags of "00" flour from Italy to use for making pasta. What else can I do with it? Can it be substituted for regular flour in baking, or should it only be used for gravies or flouring, as for cutlets?

It makes great pizza crust, too. 

Check out these recipes and see if anything strikes your fancy. This time of year, I'd go for the po' boy.

Hank's Oyster Po' Boy

RECIPE: Hank's Oyster Po' Boy Love them for tea and coffee. Great customer service.

Could Jeff please point out which herbs and spices go particularly well with Harissa, also, I bought a jar of Ras El Hanout for a sweet potato recipe calling for it. Loved it, but not sure how to use it elsewhere. Seems it should not be added in the last minute. Any info will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

If you want to add spices to a dish that has harissa, try earthier ones, such as cumin. As far as ras el hanout, I use it most frequently in tangines and Moroccan stews.

Here's a link to Cook's Illustrated test.  In case you can't get it, their favorite is: Wholly Wholesome 9" Certified Organic Traditional Bake at Home Rolled Pie Dough

I didn't make any corn ice cream but the waffles were a hit. We ate them with fresh blueberries and whipped cream. The left overs made a great breakfast with peanut butter and strawberry freezer jam.

I should mention that I had to hold that iron lid down like a tortilla press! The first one was over an inch thick. Hold it down hard until its done rising! and cook a bit longer than the green light says ;~)

There are recipes around the net for challah with fig paste filling. Use apricot paste instead.


I made your lamb rib chops and lime sauce recipe recently, and the sauce came out way too thin. I thought the cooked liquid (with chicken broth) had reduced by at least half, but perhaps there was still too much? I'm pretty good at eyeballing 1 Tbsp of butter for something like this, so if I used too much, it was only slightly over. I blended in the optional thick slice of bread as well. It wasn't even just a little too thin. It was a big miss. I have used the technique in the recipe before for just making the rib chops and that comes out great, but the sauce was a fail. Any ideas?

Thanks for your feedback. It is a thin sauce. If you try it again, reduced the amount of broth to 1/2 cup. Or just blend the cooked shallot and garlic and sugar into yogurt with the lime zest and juice.



Since it's my birthday and I'm stuck here at work, do any of you have a favorite birthday meal? A restaurant or place you eat every year, or a special food or drink you associate with your birthday....

There was a three-year span where I always had chocolate cake, but that has since lapsed. Every birthday is accompanied by a stiff drink or two, though. :)

And happy birthday!

Jeff, In a kitchen with limited storage space, do you consider a tangine a must-have for Moroccan and maybe other foods?

I would say yes. (And I have a tiny kitchen!) Just one size is enough. They really are key. I also use the base for cooking other dishes, as well.

Makes fabulous light focaccia, and can be used for taralli. Lots of taralli recipes around the net, pick one that requires boiling and uses wine and olive oil in the dough.

Hi Jeff, I fell in love with Morocco ever since I saw the movie "Man Who Knew Too Much" as a girl, and later had the chance to travel there. I now have a tagine, and wonder if you have suggestions for recipes beyond marinated chicken breasts.

Tangines--both as a dish and as a piece cookware--are super versatile. In my "Morocco" cookbook there are recipes for lamb, beef, fish, vegetables, and shrimp tagine along with chicken. There is even one for mussels.

Whole Foods carries one that is folded into quarters and frozen in a rectangular box. I didn't love it (the folds cracked when I was rolling it out) but it fits your parameters.

Well, you've arranged us with the reserved shrimp and mussels, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and many thanks to Jeff for helping with the a's.

And now for the giveaway books: The chatter who reported about the nectarine muffins and the cherry crumb bars will get "The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School." The one who headline a question/comment "Beware Harissa!!!" (about addictiveness) will get Jeff's "Morocco." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading. 

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Jeff Koehler
Jeff Koehler is the author of several cookbooks, plus the IACP award-winning “Darjeeling.” His next book, “Where the Wild Coffee Grows,” will be published by Bloomsbury this fall.
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