Free Range on Food

Aug 24, 2011

Today's topics: Roberto Donna's legal troubles, barbecue the Pork Barrel way, Greek cooking, and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range. Have you recovered from yesterday's tornado*? That was wild, wasn't it, seeing a twister sweep through McPherson Square?

Consider us your safe house today: a place to soothe your nerves and talk about your favorite topic.

In that vein, we gave you lots to work with in this week's section: Tim's great reporting piece on the legal troubles of Roberto Donna; Bonnie's Greek immersion experience; and Jim's chronicling of the making of Pork Barrel's first restaurant. We're here to answer questions on those topics and more.

And of course we'll have giveaway books for our favorite posts of the week: "Healthy Eating for Lower Blood Pressure" by Paul Gayler with Gemma Heiser (source of today's DinMin recipe) and for you grillmeisters (or wannabe grillmeisters), "All Fired Up!" by Margaret Howard.

Let's chat!

*I confess to stealing the tornado joke from Reggie Watts, whom I saw at Woolly Mammoth Theatre last night. Run, don't walk.

Jim, Congrats on a year of Smoke Signals! I was wondering if you or any other chatters had a suggestion for a brand or type of smoker that would serve as a good introductory unit for somebody just starting to get into smoking.

   Depends on how much hassle you want. A terrific intro smoker is the Weber Smokey Mountain. It is bullet-shaped, so it doesn't take much space, is solidly built, and is the go-to intro-smoker of lots of competition guys. 

   You can also go with an offset smoker, the type with a cooking chamber and a firebox on the side. You can get them pretty cheap at Lowe's and Home Depot (about $200), generally a Char-Griller or a Brinkmann. They leak smoke, but they also teach fire management. A lot of people think they're a hassle. Me, I love 'em. 

     You can get better versions of the cheap offset, but they can cost you upwards of $1,000. High-end types, such as the Jambo, go for upwards of $5,000.

    Finally, you can go with the Big Green Egg or Primo. They cook beautifully, with terrific temp control. Depending on the size you get, they run around $1,000.

In your article about Roberto Donna, you write that part of a legal demand against him is for "landlord allowances." What is that? Free food? Sorry, not exactly a food question, but still something I'd never heard of before. "On Sept. 24, landlord SRI Six Hamilton Square filed a complaint against Galileo III's owner, RCR LLC, looking for more than $250,000 in rent, landlord allowances and other fees. "

It's a good question, food or otherwise.  A landlord allowance is money provided by the landlord to a new tenant to help build out his or her space. In Roberto Donna's case, the landlord gave him $170,334.75 in allowances to transform the former Butterfield 9 space into Galileo III, according to a court document.

That sounds like a lot of money, but one veteran restaurant consultant tells me that $170K is peanuts in today's market. Landlords, he told me, are shelling out many times that much to help build out big-name restaurants.

You'll have to decide for yourself why Donna got so much less.

I'm wondering how to store my favorite homemade dressing. Right now we just make it and put it directly on the salad, but it would be nice to keep a stock of it. It is just lemon juice, olive oil and spices. I usually refrigerate lemon juice, but I know olive oil doesn't do well in the fridge. Is there a way to store the combo together easily and safely?

You can refrigerate your dressing, no problem.  Just let it come to room temperature, then shake to re-emulsify.

For the person whose q you a'd in this week's "Chat Leftovers" -- don't just throw out the grounds. Use them as a deodorizer. As the Rangers pointed out, they're likely to pick up freezer smells if you freeze the coffee. So, use that "flaw" to your advantage. Use them as you would baking soda in your fridge or freezer to clean out the smells. Or, sprinkle them on the trash after you throw away fish wrappings, down the disposal from time to time to clean it out, etc. Also have heard you can use them to clean fish odors/other stink off your hands (although I usually just rub my hands on the faucet...) In short, you have to get rid of the coffee anyway, you might as well get some mileage.

Yep, good idea! I also use them in my garden, where they are reputed to ward off pests.

Are there tricks to cooking with lemongrass that you can give a desperate herb-lover? I tried beating a stalk pre-mince after a flavorless experiment with another, but still no lemongrass essence even after a long simmer. Is a mild whacking not enough? Did I perhaps buy particularly bland stalks at the grocer? Do some additions help extract the essence and others block it (oils, vinegars, etc.)? I love love love the spicy citrus flavor of a lemongrass sauce, but I really want to start making it at home to avoid the extra salt, sugar, and fat in a restaurant sauce :(

In the store, look for stalks that are pale green (not yellow). Unless the stalks are too chilled to tell, it's good idea to smell them; little or no aroma might mean old or inferior stalks.  It's important to discard some of the tough outer layers; usually, you're aiming at the interior which will contain more moisture. (If the whole thing looks a little dry, you can rehydrate in warm water, says cookbook author Aliza Green.)  I like to use the broad side of a chef's knife or cleaver and smash the heck out of that inner core. Aroma should be prevalent, as this will release the oils within. At that point, it could be good to throw into a soup or broth or even in the liquid used to poach fish or chicken. For more lemon grass flavor, you'd want to chop and dice. And for the diced stuff, you'd want to add it later in the cooking process to retain as much flavor as possible.

As for the sauce route, I like how you're thinking. These ingredients go well with lemon grass: cardamom, basil, honey, tamarind and (of course!) lemon.

I don't have much experience with Greek food beyond some spanikopita I've had at cocktail parties and Greek salads. I love all types of ethnic food and would love to add some classic Greek recipes to my repertoire. The only caveat is that I'm a vegetarian.

The key might be to employ the SPOOL method (Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Olive Oil, Lemon Juice). That's what Demetri explained as the basis for savory Greek dishes. You can grill or saute or roast vegetables with those ingredients (the lemon juice splashed on right before serving) and then you'd be on the Greek track.

The Pita would do the trick for a vegetarian, right? And that very nice version of tzatziki? It's an impressive dish. Sometimes shredded zucchini or sauteed leeks are used in between the layers.

Thanks for bringing back the 2011 Farmers Market listing on the Post Food page! Hopefully you've had time since last week to investigate my second point and correct the link on your weekly Market Updates posts as last Friday's post still linked to the 2010 list and map graphics: "And while you're at it, you might want to correct the link at the bottom of the weekly Market Updates on All We Can Eat blog entry that takes one to the 2010 list!!!!" The great thing though about the 2010 list was the interactive map--any chance of resurrecting that for 2012?

We're fixing the link, indeed. Thanks! As to your other point, we lost the Web producer who was committed to keeping up that interactive map, unfortunately, and priorities shifted, but we're lobbying for its return in 2012.

Hi, Rangers, As if my world hadn't been shaken enough yesterday ... I found out that my measuring cups and spoons don't agree about what a cup or tablespoon is! If I transfer one cup or one teaspoon from one measurer to another, it'll be noticeably over or under the mark, depending which way I go. This happens with both solids and liquids. Probably this doesn't matter for, say, a gravy or a salad. But I have the impression it could ruin a cake or bread, especially if I use a correct measurement of another ingredient -- like, say, a stick of butter with mis-measured flour, sugar, baking powder -- or yeast. Am I worried for nothing, or what do you suggest? (I don't have a kitchen scale but suppose I could buy one to determine which manufacturer uses the correct measurements.)

You have discovered one of the reasons that so many bakers prefer to measure by weight, not volume. If you're serious about baking, you should follow their lead...

My brother oh so generously gifted me with one of those Harry and David fruit of the month club things. (note fruit not worth it except for the pears) I've been traveling for about 10 days and have come home to find a whole box of apricots in the refrigerator put there by my housekeeper at some time during those ten days. The apricots are quickly going very soft, and I feel that I should do something with them ASAP. Any suggestions? there are too many of them and some a little too ripe to just eat.

Make Apricot Rosemary Jam! It's really great. If you aren't set up to can it, you can put it in clean jars and refrigerate it for a couple of months, or of course freeeze it for a year: Just pack it in zip-top freezer bags, press out the extra air, and freeze them flat.


Or, if you feel like baking (now that a hint of fall is in the air -- yippee!), this lovely Apricot Crostata from FOF Domenica Marchetti would use up 10 of those puppies.

My refridgerated wine cabinet broke over the weekend. I'm trying to decide if I need a new one. I drink the wine that I have within about 3 months and keep about 30 bottles. The wine is kept in my basement away from light. The temperature is about 70-74 is the summer and about 55-60 in the winter. I'm trying to decide if this is something I really need to keep the wine for the length of time it stays in my house or if it is overboard. Any advice?

Resatuarant Eve's Todd Thrasher, the man who knows everything about wine and cocktails, says there's no need to worry, particularly if you're consuming your wine in 30 days and if your basement's highest temperature is 74 degrees.

"A lot of restaurants keep it hotter than that," he says. He wasn't naming names.

"The most important thing is keeping it away from light," Thrasher says.

Happy drinking!

Dave McIntyre agrees:

Save your money and use it on wine! The temperature range in your basement is fine for short-term storage. The winter temps are ideal, but even the summer temperatures won't harm wine in the short term. If you had a big spike in a heat wave (not that that ever happens around here!) then there would be questions for older, more delicate wines or wines that you planned to age for years. But if you consume them all within 3 months you should be fine.

The only downside will be that the wines may be warmer than you're used to when you go to drink them - so you'll need to plan ahead and put that bottle in the fridge or an ice bucket for awhile.

I'm planning to make a berry tart on Saturday. How far in advance can I make and refrigerate the tart dough and pastry cream? I'll bake off the crust on Saturday. Thank you!

Baking maven Lisa Yockelson says this:

 The tart dough can be made on Friday--even as far as lining the tart pan. It is always best, if possible, to prepare the dough through the final stage, then line the tart pan with it in preparation for baking; this way, you don't have to deal with rolling out a hard lump of dough and it has time to "relax." In the end, the dough should be even more tender and flaky because it hasn't been tormented by handling it too much. The pastry cream may be made on Friday as well. With a delicate pastry cream, remember to avoid stirring it too much at any time after its stove top-preparation, otherwise it could possibly thin out, and make sure that, when prepared for refrigeration, a circle of food-safe parchment paper is placed directly on top to prevent a skin from forming.

I bought chocolate- and coffee-flavored vinegars because they tasted so great in the store, but now i'm not sure what to do with them, other than drizzle over berries or ice cream. Any suggestions?

Hmm. I'd be tempted to try that chocolate one on grilled fruit, like pineapple or stone fruit. Or maybe make a vinaigrette with a nut oil (almond or walnut immediately come to mind as being potentially good to match) and use it on a salad of greens, blue cheese and nuts.

I have seen recipes for vinegar cakes, and you might try one of those. I also think it could have some potential as a cocktail ingredient along the lines of what the mixologists call a shrub.

For the coffee one, the ice cream idea is a good one; I'd be tempted to use it to make a syrup, boiling it down with a little sugar and then folding it into ice cream after you churn it but before you fully freeze it.

I'm SURE chatters have other thoughts!

I thought the question was whether one can freeze the unbrewed ground coffee -- the stuff they had on hand but did not use.

Yep, but same uses apply.

On a whim, I bought a bunch of fresh bay leaves at the farmer's market. Other than making tomato sauce or hanging them to dry, what can I do with them?

A few years ago, the Los Angeles Times published a story about cooking with bay leaves, which made sense. In SoCal, you can actually pick bay leaves off the trees.

You can gather some ideas here.

What are the best places to buy rainbow trout in NoVA? Thanks!

Would today's Dinner in Minutes recipe be the reason you're asking? In the Virginia 'burbs, I'd go to  Super H Mart in Fairfax, where the rainbow trout is $4.99 per pound. Harris Teeter carries boneless fillets (for almost twice the price).

hi all! glad to hear you are all safe and sound after yesterday's shakeup. here's my question for today. i've had a *terrible* summer with 3 family members being diagnosed with cancer, 1 close friend's death, and a series of other sad events. needless to say....i am really waiting for this summer (and year!) to come to an end! in the course of all of this heartache and stress, i have really let myself go eating wise. somehow the only thing that gives me any type of comfort, is food...really unhealthy food. but, it's time to pick myself up and get healthy again, so i'd love some advice on how to wean myself off of the feel good "fat, salt, and sugar" triumverate. i bought this amazing book on raw food, which sounds amazing, but a bit heavy on the shopping and prep. i'm not looking for a quick fix diet, but something that will allow me to change my approach to food, without feeling deprived. you guys are the best!

I think going raw is too extreme a step for you right at this moment, but I do have some cookbooks to suggest. I'd pick up Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Every Day," which is full of interesting recipes that use whole grains, are vegetarian, use interesting spices, and are healthful without being, well, skimpy or too lean-seeming. I love her stuff. There's also the lovely "Lucid Food" by Louisa Shafia that takes the same sort of approach. Neither requires lots of ingredients or too much involved technique. Of course, I can't resist a little bit of a self-plug; if you're cooking for one, most of the recipes in my new book are on the healthier end of the spectrum without making you feel like you're missing out.

Cocktail maven Jason "Boozehound" Wilson has arrived. Send your spirited questions his way!

The lemongrass in a squeeze tube isn't that bad, tho it's a bit salty.

I have found it lacking.

I prefer red wines be a little cooler than room temperature. What is the recommended serving temp for red wine? Does is depend on the varietal?

Dave McIntyre says:

I agree with you -- we tend to serve red wines too warm. The "room temperature" standard was developed long before modern houses were built, and room temp was below our current range in the 70s. Serving them too warm can make them seem heavy and accentuate the alcohol, which is getting higher as it is anyway. I like to put red wines in the door of the fridge for about 30 minutes before opening them. I don't think this is variety-specific, but I suspect it might be more important for lighter, aromatic reds like pinot noir, barbera or gamay (Beaujolais).

Where can I find "Bar-B-Q Loaf" and/or Old Fashioned loaf in the Metro-accessible DC Metro area? The Safeway in Southwest used to carry BBQ Loaf, but stopped a few moths ago. I've heard that Wegman's (inaccessible for those who don't drive) has it; otherwise folks suggest going to Baltimore. <p> There were suggestions that the disappearance of these products is a side effect of the Great Boar's Head takeover, where all of the big supermarket chains in the area are switching over to Boar's Head from Esskay or Hormel or whomever. <p> This discussion has been going on for two weeks on Tracee Hamilton's "On Sports" online chat on Thursdays, a place where many things other than sports get discussed. As I was the one who brought it up there in the first place, it occurred to me that I should seek an answer on the online chat that's actually devoted to food... Thanks for any suggestions On Tracee's chat I'm known as <p> Section 405

    Jeez, well, you stumped this Ranger. 

    For those who don't know, a bar-q-loaf isn't actually barbecue (it's not smoked). It is cold cuts - sometimes ham, sometimes corned beef, sometimes processed meat - in barbecue sauce. Nick's of Clinton in Waldorf, MD, used to carry it, but doesn't anymore. 

     CHATTERS, any thoughts on where to find it?


Posting early. Joe, I am trying to teach myself the basic French sauces. However, the recipes all seem to call for 1 or 2 sticks of butter and the final version is perhaps a cup. Is there a way to downsize the recipe while I teach myself how to make it properly?

Interesting question. In most cases, I think you'd be fine cutting them in half -- but the trick would be in downsizing the saucepan you're using, too, to make sure you have enough liquid depth to accomplish certain things.

Ah, but as in Plato's Allegory of the Caves, how will I know if what I see on the scale is the +real+ weight, not some shadowy semblance of it? (Or am I projecting my animosity towards the bathroom scale, which I choose to think misstates my body's weight?)

You get a good scale that's calibrated. But this could get VERY existential very quickly. How do you know that what you see as "yellow" is really yellow?

i had a delicious watermelon soup at Salt & Pepper last week, it was a bit like a gazpacho only better. Do you have a good recipe?

We at the Post have one, a tomato gazpacho with a watermelon skewer (below), which may not be what you're looking for. But last year, held a watermelon recipe contest and this one for watermelon-cucumber gazpacho won it all.

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium website:

Rainbow trout farmed in the U.S. is a "Best Choice" because it's farmed in an ecologically responsible way.

Consumer Note

All the trout in U.S. markets is farm-raised, mostly in Idaho. A small amount of farmed trout is imported into the U.S., but is marketed as steelhead.


Some types of fish farming pose potential problems. Most carnivorous farmed fish eat more protein than they end up providing to the people who eat them. Also, farmed fish can escape, and they can spread disease to wild populations. Farm waste also can pollute the environment. But trout are relatively efficient at converting their feed into protein, especially with recent improvements in their feed. And escape and pollution problems are generally well-controlled in the U.S.

I love love love cocktails at restaurants that have a bit of heat to them (Oya's current watermelon wasabi floats my boat). But when I try to make them at home, they don't turn out as well. Sometimes a single slice of jalapeno works, sometimes it's bland, sometimes it burns me. Is there any good trick? Would wasabi paste be better?

Mixing with hot peppers is very tricky, and it really is trial and error depending on what peppers you have on hand. I wrote a column a couple of years back on spicy cocktails. There's a good book, by Kara Newman, called Spice & Ice, that also gives good advice on mixing cocktails with all kinds of spices.

absolutely ADORED your article on the real life "big fat greek family" :) their sunday meal sounds exactly like how i would like to bring my family together once a week. i loved how the parents divided up cooking for certain days, but my question is, how can we manage to sit down and eat together as a family when we have two working parents on completely opposite schedules, coupled with kids who eat early, parents who eat late, and numerous after school activities? i am usually the sole chef in the house, although my husband definitely knows his way around the kitchen. is it impractical to think that we can sit down as a family every night, and just resign ourselves to one or two family meals on the weekends?

Thanks! The Tsipianitis family manages somehow, even though the boys play school sports and Demetri travels a fair amount. Not sure what  you mean by opposite schedules, but maybe breakfast is your together meal during the week (one or two days?).  There are breakfast dishes that can be prepped and refrigerated overnight to be cooked in the morning. Even eggs and a hot biscuit or scone would do. A weekly weekend meal can quickly turn into a really nice, eagerly anticipated tradition. Can be grilling, with kids' friends invited, or other family members. The pitching-in part and stuff you can marinate so that it's ready to go seem to be part of a successful formula. You could start with pizza on the grill; dough can be made ahead and the pizza takes minutes. Everyone could apply their own toppings. Check it out.

i would like to start using my neglected juicer and make fresh juices/smoothies to drink in the morning. i've found that if i don't drink the juice right away, it takes on an ugly brown color, and sometimes tastes a little strange (not bad, just "earthy"). any recs on how to prevent this? or are fresh juices just made to be consumed immediately? i'd love to make a big batch to put in individual cartons that i can just grab as i'm heading out the door.

What kinds of things are you juicing? Maybe a little lemon juice or something acidic might help.

I have some excellent fair-trade organic olive oil that I'd like to make into flavored varieties for gifts. What do you suggest for a flavoring and how long should the flavor marinate?

May I ask: Is there a reason not to just pass along the excellent fair-trade organic olive oil all by itself?

Your friends and loved ones will probably be able to use it in more applications in its original form than infused with other flavors.

Also, remember that infusing oils can be tricky and sometimes dangerous. Read this and this for warnings and tips on safe oil infusions.

Hello! Love and look forward to your chats each week. My husband brought back some macarons from Laduree after a trip to Paris. They were amazing little jewels with wonderful flavors! I'd like to attempt macarons on my own. Any tips? I am a novice baker and I understand that the whole process is pretty labor intensive. Thanks!

I just did the same. Hooboy, those are good. Best I've ever had, really. Did you try the blackberry/violet? Think that was my favorite, along with the seasonal green apple. Love the texture, too.

As for doing it yourself, Elinor Klivans wrote this great macaron primer with four fun recipes for us last year. Take a look.

Coffee prices up, coffee container contents will be sold in half pound packages next year.

The downsizing of packages to disguise price hikes is one of my (admittedly minor) pet peeves.

It's annoying. Many coffee companies went to 12 ounces years ago, so this doesn't surprise me.

Not mixing rums but rums to drink like you a fine single malt or whiskey maybe with a couple ice cubes. Readyily available at the VA ABC would be nice.

Looking directly at the VA ABC product list, here are some ideas. The following are straigh-up sipping rums, all over $40/bottle: Rhum Barbancourt 15-yr-old, $42.95; Mount Gay Extra Old, $44.90; Ron Zacapa, $44.95; El Dorado 15-yr, $44.95. Then there are less expensive rums that you could use for sipping or mixing: Flor de Caña 7-yr-old, $24.90; Appleton Extra 12-year, $29.95; Rhum Barbancourt 5-year, $23.95.

I haven't seen BBQ loaf in this area in quite some time. Katz market in Rockville used to have it.

    Anybody have a recent sighting?

I picked up the "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" after reading about it here in the chat. I love, love, love it and have made Strawberry Buttermilk, Salty Caramel, and Milk Chocolate so far. What would you recommend I make for this weekend to go with a red velvet cake at a cousin's engagement party? I'll need to make at least two batches so I could try more than one flavor. Thanks! My ice cream maker has never gotten this much use!

Jeni is awesome. Her book is awesome.  Maybe the bourbon butter pecan? Or goat cheese with red cherries? That'd look nice with the cake.

How do you know if your measuring cup was built to the same specification as the cookbook author's measuring cup?

It's probably not that the volume of the OP's cups and spoons differs, but that in transfer settling or other issues cause the volume of the ingredient to be different. Kitchen scales aren't that expensive and I couldn't live without one. Go for it. Plus you use so many fewer utensils when it's just you, your bowl, and a scale.

I agree about the scale. But the accuracy problem of some measuring cups has been demonstrated: Cook's Illustrated found that some cups were off by as much as 6 percent.

The point is if you use the same scale for everything, even if the scale is a little off, all your ingredients will be off by the same factor. But if you measure your butter by the stick, your sugar by the tablespoon, your flour by the cup etc. then everything is off by different amounts and the ratios get messed up.

So Jim, are you going to the Jack with Heath this year?

     Would love to go the Jack this year. Am strongly considering it. The "Super Bowl of Barbercue Contests," esp with a local team represented, seems dern near required. But, as I say, considerations...

    But if I went, it wouldn't be with Heath. He'll have plenty on his hands, what with trying to win the competition and all, without having me around to keep badgering about tasting everything.  

what is this all about? I noticed the other day that Harris Teeter had switched.

If you provide more details on the situation, I can try to find out.

I prefer to do this, but so many cookbooks only use volume measurements. Do you have a favorite conversion chart to use in changing over from one to the other? It's particularly hard with flour because you never know whether the author used the "dip and sweep" or "sprinkle and level" or some other method...and that makes a serious difference in the end result!

In watching pro bakers over the years, I've noticed the dip and sweep method seems to be the one most used. Then again, those pros are WEIGHING amounts.  This online conversion site for cooking is something I use at least once a week.

We have lovely Chioggia beets from our garden. How do I prepare them to preserve the beautiful stripes? I roasted a batch a couple weeks ago. They were tasty, but the colors all merged and looked blah. There's got to be a way to do this so I can put them on a salad and enjoy their colors. Yes?

They do fade when cooked, unfortunately. But you can shave them thinly and eat them raw! Here are some other ideas from our friends over at TheKitchn.


Yay, a book on lowering blood pressure. Have been waiting for that one. Biggest question - is there a way to lower with foods you eat? Also, I thought I was doing good instead of using salt to use hot peppers (jalapeno, habanero, etc.) until a friend told me that those hot peppers also elevate the blood pressure - what is one to do who loves spicy foods???

I would stop listening to your friend, at least on food/diet matters. Not true about peppers -- in fact there is evidence that they do the opposite.

Here are a number of ways to control your blood pressure from the Mayo Clinic. The salt suggestion, I should note, is increasingly coming under attack.

I'm not sure if this is conventional or not, but I take my old fashioned hammer shaped meat tenderizer (with the textured prongs) and go at the stalks with it

Try Ball's Fruit Fresh, which is mostly citric acid. It's often used in canning as a preservative and may work.

is there one that you would recommend? (I've been think about getting one) Thanks!

I have a Soehnle model that I like. Cook's Illustrated's fave is the Oxo.

We enjoyed Parisian Sidecar at the French Embassy's Bastille day celebration and have been trying to make it at home, but none of the recipes taken of internet seem to come out "right." Any ideas? guidance? directions will be appreciated. thanks in advance

A traditional French sidecar is equal parts cognac, lemon juice, and Grand Marnier or Cointreau. Now, that's just a starting point, and many recipes call for twice as much cognac in proportion to the others. I happen to like the equal parts recipes, using Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau, since cognac is part of Grand Marnier's recipe. Of course, there are things you can't create at home...such as sipping cocktails at the Embassy, which probably made the drinks more festive and memorable...

is it possible to make tomato puree/sauce on one day, refrigerate, and then can the next day in a water bath? i want to can this weekend, but don't think i'll have time to do all of the blanching/deseeding/chopping/processing in one sitting.

Yep. Just reheat it to a full boil for 5 minutes, then pick up the water-bath canning process.

I thought it was going to be a question about a grilled meatloaf, and now have decided to try to make a grilled meatloaf. I just did a quick lunchtime search and found recipes for meatloaves that are grilled in a foil packet. No thanks. Is this something I could do on the grill for real?

   Yes, you can grill - well, smoke - a meatloaf. I've done it. And it was fabulous (if I do say so myself).

   But, just as you would use a loaf pan in the oven, so I used one on the grill. I made my meatloaf, put it in the loaf pan, then smoked it (note: didn't grill it) for about an hour using indirect heat at around 300. 

     Came out incredibly juicy and had a lovely, light smoke flavor to it. 

For Jason - In my younger, jello shot days, I bought Razzmatazz and Grape Pucker. These bottles of flavored liqueurs are still in my cupboard. Any ideas for drinks that use one or both of these?

Hahahaha. How long those have been sitting around? Wow, I think you should just relive the old days and make up some jello shots, and see where the night goes! Or else maybe find some college kids in the neighborhood and make a donation.

I am thinking about giving a lemon-themed dinner: I have great recipes for lemon pasta, lemon chicken and lemon torte, but am stumped for a good appetizer or salad course. Any thoughts there, or advice on how to pull this off without giving everyone lemon fatigue? Thanks! Y'all are the best!

A couple of suggestions, one high end (from Patrick O'Connell at the Inn at Little Washington) and another that's more approachable and sort of fun.

If neither of these appeal, check out other ideas in our Recipe Finder. Just type in "lemons" and select "appetizers" from the pull down menu.

I'm the OP. I tried experimenting with water and milk as well as, separately, flour and sugar, so it wasn't a question of settling -- or spillage. The difference was several spoons' worth in a cup! Anyway, thanks so much for all the helpful feedback. Guess I'll buy a calibrated scale.

thank you! thank you! thank you!

i love a good feta, the kind that comes in a tub in brine, but I find it gets iffy after a couple of days. Is there a better way to store it so it will last longer? (No, I cant eat it any faster.)

Iffy meaning...?

It needs to be COVERED in the brine, which should be heavily salted, in addition to of course being stored in airtight container. If the brine has reduced so the cheese is exposed, add more heavily salted water to cover.

Here's a little more from FoF Lisa Yockelson (whose "Baking Style" is out this fall -- and looks fab!) on the measuring issue:

In some baking cookbooks, the reader/baker is told how the flour is measured, either by dip-and-sweep, sift-spoon-sweep, or spooning-and-leveling. There is no such thing as "sprinkle and level"--as far as I am aware, flour is not sprinkled in a cup. Initially, you should review the instructional material in the book to ascertain how the author measures flour, or firmly packed measurements (such as brown sugar, for example).

The fact that the reader/baker may not know how flour is measured will not help referencing a conversion chart across the board. However, here are links to a chart that may be of use for other items, plus a link to other more detailed aspects of conversion.

I just wanted to thank the Food section staff for your canning issue and chat a couple weeks ago. My mom always canned when I was younger and I've wanted to try it out the past couple years, but had a nagging fear about it. You helped me overcome my fears this past weekend and I made two fabulous recipies - the Sweet and Savory Tomato Jam and the Pollystyle Fig Paste. Both turned out delicious and are successfully put up! Any other good resources out there for additional recipes for tomatoes (besides a tomato sauce) or peaches?

You're welcome! You saw our tomato issue, right? I really liked the Cardamom-Stewed Tomatoes With Bread Bits and Cheese (a side dish).

Well, you've waited until we were cool enough to handle, then you've squeezed us to yield about 2 cups of juice, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, as usual, and thanks to Jim Shahin and Jason Wilson for helping us tackle them.

Now for the book winners: The source of the very first question we posted, asking for smoker recommendations, will get "All Fired Up!" And the chatter who asked about ways to reduce blood pressure will, duh, get "Healthy Eating for Lower Blood Pressure." Send your mailing information to aide Tim Smith at, and he'll get them to you.

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

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