Free Range on Food

Aug 03, 2011

Today's topics: The underground food market in the District, great country-inn cooking at Pennsylvania's Sheppard Mansion, vegetable-focused recipes from Britain's Nigel Slater, and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat. We've got fun stuff to talk to you about, so hope you came armed with some good q's. Actually, I know you did -- you always do!

Today's story by Kristen Hinman spotlighted an interesting phenomenon in DC: a "gray" (underground) food market that's drawing lots of customers but is legally murky. And David Hagedorn visited Sheppard Mansion in Hanover, Pa., site of some delicious experiments in farm-to-table-to-community-and-back-again. The inn's chef, Andy Little, shared some very cool recipes with us, including the brilliant Brown Butter Mayonnaise.

And Tim C. took a look at Nigel Slater's newly-published-in-the-States book, "Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch," and we ran some of his breezy, summery recs, too...

Chef Andy is our guest today, so he can answer any q's you might have about Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, what he's doing at the inn, farming, gardening -- actually pretty much anything you might throw at him.

We'll also have giveaway books, of course. They will be announced at the end of the chat.

Enough windup -- let's do this!

Caught the discussion after it ended and want to offer one more suggestion for thickening your shakes: Powdered milk. Try using twice as much powder as called for to reconstitute it -- that is, if it's supposed to be 1 cup of powder plus one cup of water, use two cups of powder plus one cup of water instead. You'll get a thick, delicious liquid that does wonders for your shake. Vary the proportions until you're happy. Just don't forget, you're also increasing the calories. You can also do powder-and-ice instead of powder-and-water. I started doing this in college, where we didn't have dorm refrigerators to store fresh milk. You might get carried away, like I did, and start using this uber-milk all the time, including on your cereal. Or maybe the Free Rangers have some words of caution, beside the calorie- and fat-count.

That's a great idea -- it reminds me of one of the typical techniques people employ when making yogurt at home. Same effect: extra-thickness/creaminess. One way to save on calorie and fat count is to use powdered skim milk. It will still thicken up the shake, I promise.

Also, I got some info too late for last week's chat from Adam Ried, author of "Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes," who said that the ratio of ice cream to milk should be really high. He uses just 1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk for every QUART of ice cream. For flavor, use a little sorbet, he suggests.

Big thumbs up on the Sheppard Mansion piece! I'm a HUGE fan of the place. If anything, it is more beautiful than the pictures and even more delicious than it sounds. :-)

Thanks! Glad you enjoy our experience and hope to see you soon. So many amazing products coming out of the garden and south central PA this time of year!

In the far, far back of my cabinet, I found an unopened bottle of olive oil, brought back from a vacation trip. As far we can figure, it's probably about 3 years old, and just languished forgotten. Is it safe to try, or is it a toss, what's the shelf life, and how do you figure out if olive oil is spoiled, anyway?

    The generally accepted shelf life for evoo is a year and a half. After that, it begins to deteriorate, which is to say, turn rancid. 

     When purchasing olive oil, always check the date (if it exists; it's not required). Sometimes you will see the harvest date, other times the "use by" date. It will say which is which. If the date is a year from the harvest or about six months from the "use by," it will likely already have begun its descent. 

    By that I mean, its flavor will not be as full and lively as it once was. It still will be okay to use. But, again, roughly a year and a half into a bottle, it can start turning rancid. 

     That's just a general rule. Taste it and see. Sometimes an oil can beat the odds. 

Thank you for taking questions from your readers. I have two Italian basil plants growing in pots on my back deck. They get direct sunlight during the day. Despite regular watering, there are times when the basil leaves shrivel up and go limp. After watering them, they spring back to life in a day and look as they did earlier. I'm sure part of this is due to the oppressive heat. Are the rejuvenated basil leaves safe to eat? Also, what should I be doing to prevent this from happening? Should I move the pots to a different location so they don't get so much sun? Thank you for any assistance you or your readers can provide.

Resident gardening guru Adrian Higgins says:

The leaves are safe to eat. Sounds like it needs a lot more soil volume. I'd repot them into larger pots, free draining with fresh potting soil (not topsoil).

Where can I get lavender honey for the ice cream recipe printed in past food section?

Balducci's in Bethesda has it; 301-564-3100.

Not really a question but I just wanted to let Joe know that I'm officially obsessed with his pickled red onions and just found another use for them. I chopped up some garlic and tomatoes and added some of the pickled onions, their juices and olive oil. Let that all marinate together and tossed it with pasta, chopped basil and parsley. I've been eating it cold for lunch and it's amazing!

Great -- glad to have another convert. I could eat them on shoes, I swear.

I love the crunch and spicy crust on fried chicken, but gave up skin years ago. I've tried making fried and "oven fried chix" but the batter doesn't cling. Do you have any suggestions on a crispy oven-fried or pan-fried skinless chicken? Thanks!

I've had success using a flour coating first, then egg, then the crunchy stuff. Have you tried the 3-part process?

Why is there a suggested maximum time to marinate meat, as well as a minimum time? What happens if it marinates for, say, two days instead of overnight? For example, today's yummy-looking recipe for ginger-plum pork (or chicken) skewers says, "The pork needs to marinate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight." Also, should meat always be pierced so the marinade can get inside, or does it depend on variables such as if it's beef vs chicken vs fish? Thanks for resolving this, I've wondered for a long time but keep forgetting to ask.

Minimum times on marination depend on the type of product being marinated.(ex. fish would take less time than beef) The maximum time is what you should be most concerned with.Going over the maximum time for marinating could result in an 'overly marinated' product.(ex. the product will taste more like the marinade than the original product) You also can run into issues with salt. The more salt that is in the marinade and the longer it sits in a marinade, the easier it is to quickly  turn into jerky.  Piercing the product depends almost entirely on the type of product you're using. Tougher cuts of meat can benefit from, not so much. 

We are trying to look for the easiest way to cook for 20 people and we definitively want to grill. We are thinking of meats, fish & vegetables and would like to avoid hamburgers/hotdogs. We are also thinking to do as much foil grilling as we can, particularly for the fish and vegetables. I'm looking for ideas for easy yet tasty ideas for this endeavor; which meats to use? Which fishes? What side dishes?! Desserts?! Beverages!? Any recommendation will be greatly appreciated.!

     Hmmmm... that's quite a request you got there. 

     First thought: smoked Texas brisket. After the first four hours, you can wrap it in foil and let it go, more or less, an hour and a half per pound. Here's a recipe with a classic Texas salt-and-pepper rub, but feel free to use any rub of your choice:

    If you don't want to take on such an undertaking, then try doing 3-2-1 ribs: dry rub them, place them on the cool side of a two-zone fire (fire on one side, no fire on the other) for 3 hours, 2 in foil, and the final hour without. 

     Wedges of potatoes with olive oil, minced rosemary, garlic, salt and olive oil in a foil packet on indirect heat for an hour is great. 

A skinned whole onion with butter, salt, and a little smoked paprika wrapped in foil for about 40 mins, also on an indirect fire, is also great. 

         You can lightly smoke a filet or steak of fish (halibut, salmon, tuna - meaty, firm-fleshed fish, in other words) for about, oh, 20 minutes, depending on thickness. You don't need foil, but you can put some under the fish if you want. 

       That should get you started. 

I'm having the hardest time trying to figure out how to pan-fry or saute tofu. It always sticks to the pan and tears, even if I use a non-stick pan. I'm using extra-firm tofu...should I press some of the water out of the tofu before I fry it? Is my pan too hot/cold?

Are you using any kind of fat -- even a nonstick cooking oil spray on the pan? Tofu's going to be moist even when you blot it dry, so you need to either coat it or your pan with something. More info, pls!

Hi Gang, with talke recently about leftover chipotle in adobo, I'd like to share a great tip I got from Rachel Ray... Take out all the chiles and remove seeds, if you wish, then put the adobo and chiles in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. (You can probably get by with just chopping them finely if you don't have a processor.) Freeze and just cut off chunks when you need to use. This has worked out great and prevented a waste of so many leftovers!

Great idea. Thanks. 

Just need to note that McDonalds has corrupted our concept of a good milkshake. Authentic milkshakes were not that thick, just creamy yummy. McD's is thick because of all the additives and juck. I'll do for not so thick, but classic.

That could be, but there's nothing wrong with a good thick shake. And you don't have to put in additives and junk to get it...

I find that not all blenders are created equal. If the original poster is using an old or cheaper model, that might also be the culprit. Also, the quality of the ice cream is very important - I find that when using lower fat varieties or those that use fillers (as opposed to just having a handful of high-quality ingredients), separation is more likely.

I've never tried it, but in general powdered milk gives off a "funny" (i.e., strange and mildly unpleasant) taste.

Maybe when you make it for straight milk and drink it, but I don't think that'd be the case with this, given the ice cream and other flavors involved. Give it a shot and then decide, right?

Hi Jim - I know I'm treading into dangerous territory here - I'd like to smoke a pork butt on my Weber to do Carolina-style pulled pork. Several recipes I've found say to rub it with mustard, add a brown-sugar-based rub, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Others say just salt (or salt and pepper) the meat before it goes in the smoker. What are your thoughts? Thanks! LOVE your work and your column!

       Thanks for the props. 

        Me, I'm generally a minimalist. In a lot of the best North Carolina pits, such as the Skyline Inn in Ayden, they use salt, and only salt, to, as they say, "blister up the skin." There is something holy about the combination of pork, salt, and smoke. Nothing to get in the way of the depth of flavor. Then a sprinkle of NC-style vinegar-based pepper sauce, just to enhance the experience and, boy howdy...

       That said, I've got nothing against a good dry rub or a mustard slather. Done 'em, liked 'em. 

        The main thing is to keep your fire steady at roughly 225 degrees. Use wood chunks if you have them to help with fire management. 

        So, me, I say try what sounds best to you. Just keep that fire steady. 

Is there a trick to slicing fresh (very soft) mozz well? Especially thin slices for caprese on bread with lovely summer tomatoes and basil. Or should I tell myself I am going for the "rustic" look, since that is what I get?

I checked with Peter Pastan from 2 Amys and Obelisk and his first response was, "Fresh mozzarella shouldn't be soft, which is probably not the answer you're looking for." Truly fresh mozz should be firm enough to slice easily, he says.

Mozz gets softer as it sits there, he says.

But, should you find yourself with soft mozz, he says to find a thin-blade knife (like a paring knife or a deboning knife) and just "be brave."

By that, I think he means don't be shy and cut quickly and firmly.

Good luck!

My daughter is on a hard-boiled egg kick but eats only the whites. Any creative ideas for using the yolks, with the added complication that I cannot abide mayo? Thank you!

Well, yogurt works instead of mayo, if you're talking about making a deviled-eggy filling. You can use the crumbled yolks in salads, of course, or mixed with chopped cornichons for a tartarrific effect. 

Looks like late day storms will keep my dinner cooking indoors. I have boneless chicken breasts, asparagus and a well stocked pantry. Any great ideas of what to make for dinner?

I think if you have some pasta, a quick dinner option might be the chicken, asparagus, and some other great summer veg(tomato, arugula, zucchini) tossed with the pasta and some goat cheese would make for a wonderful, fast evening meal.

Any suggestion of where in the local DC or Annapolis area I can buy gelato to go? For instance, I'd like to get a couple of pints of assorted flavors. Thanks and I love the chats!

I'm a huge fan of Pitango. My favorite in the area. Three locations in DC, one in Baltimore, one in Reston. Here's Jane Black's profile of them from 2009.

Too much time in a marinade can also screw up the texture of the meat that is being marinated. A very acidic marinade (e.g. citrus-based) plus fish or boneless, skinless chicken breast plus too much marinating time will leave you with a very mushy kabob.

Yes, I have tried the egg-flour-crumb dance, but the coating seems to slip off. BTW, what spices should I add to get a good kick such as the spicy Popeye's chix?

In the oven, it slips off? Spicewise, have you checked out the various copycat recipes online? They call for some unorthodox combos (dry spaghetti sauce mix plus dry Italian dressing mix plus sugar plus paprika....). For a good kick, I'd start with ol' crushed red pepper flakes. Or if you're on to sterner stuff, pick up a little ghost pepper salt at one of the Spice and Tea locations (Alexandria or Georgetown).

I press my tofu and dust with cornstarch. Use a very hot pan with plenty of oil. Perfect.

In order to pan-fry your tofu like they do in restaurants, you need to drain your tofu really really well. This requires a bit of foresight about what you want to make for dinner. You should put your block of tofu (unwrapped and drained) sandwiched between two dishcloths and with a heavy pot (I like to put cans of tomatoes inside the pot to make it even heavier. You could use anything really heavy on top, to further the press the tofu. You should do this at least a half hour before cooking but ideally for several hours. The longer you do it, the better the tofu with come out. Also, as Bonnie mentioned, use some oil or fat in the pan, and keep it at a moderate heat (instead of super high). This will take a little longer to cook but you'll have better results.

Hi, submitting early because of meetings. I picked up some ground cherries (a.k.a. cape gooseberries) from my CSA. They have this odd, though pleasant, nutty berry taste. What can I make with them aside from jam?

Ground cherries make an amazing pie! Their somewhat hazlenut flavor is an awesome filling and is a dream paired with sour cream ice cream.

Ahem: Sour cream ice cream recipe, please, chef!

I would like to restrict meat to a couple of times a week in my family dinners (I have a family of 5 including 3 hungry teens). I would love to have just 2 or 3 vegetarian recipes that are super-easy, tasty and that I can incorporate into a weekly rotation. Everyone in the family likes tofu and beans.

I'd give Domenica Marchetti's delicious Cold Sesame Noodle dish a try. (Just substitute tofu or more vegetables for the chicken.)

You might also try this one, Stuffed Pitas With Smashed Lemony Chickpeas, Arugula, Piquillo Pepper and Feta, from food writer Tony Rosenfeld. I suspect it will be a hit with your teenagers.

I'm eating leek pie for lunch leftover from last night's dinner. It was the easiest thing to make--saute leeks in butter, add beaten eggs, milk, cream, salt and pepper, pour into a pie crust and bake. It's even better today at room temperature. What are you having for lunch?

Nice! I'm not sure what I'm having, cause unlike most Wednesdays I haven't planned it, which is dangerous given the hour's topic and how hungry it usually makes me! I'm recovering from a red-eye flight from SFO and my stomach is growling.

I'll be fueling up for dinner service with......a double espresso and plenty of tasting of our dinner menus!

I have all sorts of tomatoes on my desk for an upcoming photo shoot, and they are looking mighty tempting....I envy your leeky lunch -- milk AND cream be damned!

       Like Joe, I haven't decided what I'm having yet. But I have been wanting to go back to a bbq joint that I tried about 3 months ago. Fair chance I'll do that. 

I haven't a clue what I'm eating yet. After the Wednesday chats, I like to see what food trucks are still lingering at Franklin Square.

The Italian Market in Waugh Chapel makes its own gelato. It has the same logo as the one on 450 in Annapolis, but we haven't tried theirs. They sell it to go, and have over 10 flavors. I know they make it themselves because they know exactly what's in it.

Marinades remember the marinade can cook whatever you are marinading. I ahve a two speed with pulse stainless jar HB blender that does great milkshakes. Stainless makes a better milkshake then glass or plastic. Keeps it colder and will actually chill the shake as it spins.

I've tried two different recipes for blueberry muffins and they've both turned out soggy. Instructions say to take them out of the pan 5 minutes after removing from the oven. Problem is they're too fragile after 5 minutes and will fall apart. Also even though I grease the pan well, they tend to stick. So I let them cool almost completely in the pan. Is this where I'm going wrong?

Baking maven Lisa Yockelson says this:

    As a fan of blueberry muffins (or any batter/dough that includes fresh blueberries!), I understand the struggle with tender baked blueberry muffins.  When you say soggy, I presume you mean if they are left in the pan too long, the bottoms and sides are ultra-moist (and that you do not mean that the "crumb" or internal texture of the muffin is soggy). Muffins that are left in the pan too long, especially fruit muffins, will have moist exteriors. One immediate remedy would be to use paper liners for housing batter for blueberry muffins; this is especially helpful with batters laced with fresh berries. But, more importantly, my sense is that your batter is too "wet" to begin with, though I cannot authenticate this without seeing the recipe itself. If a batter is very "wet" (producing very tender muffins), its baked structure could render it difficult to remove the goods from the baking pan--even more so when fresh, plump blueberries are included. Given this, I developed this recipe for my blog that uses a fairly moist, but stable, batter that holds up to the blueberries and makes unmolding easy--even if baking papers are not used. Because my muffins are "baked big" (jumbo!), I use baking papers to facilitate removal of the larger muffins. So, in essence, you have two situations going on--a moist muffin batter and a lusciously fruit-filled batter--both contributing to difficulty in removal. If you like the bones of your recipe, you can always play with the flour/sugar levels to come up with a denser batter.

So many good summer recipes use balsamic vinegar. However, I have a long-standing aversion to vinegar and so I usually skip or reformulate recipes that require more than 1/2 teaspoon. I know I can use lemon juice in a lot of cases, but is there a better option for balsamic?

If you can locate Banyuls vinegar(check online), you might want to try that. It carries the acidic punch needed to brighten other ingredients, but has a sweet, slightly caramelized flavor that I find intoxicating. It doesnt' knock you over the head like other vinegars tend to do....

Maybe try using dental floss. I've done it with soft cakes and it works really well.

Yeah, I almost suggested that. Works with goat cheese.


It's in my cookbook, but it's based on this one by Pati Jinich.

Hi! Since it's that time of the year, any ideas/articles on things to make for school lunches (sigh-nut free) would be great!...keep up the good work!

As a former school lunch packer, I say resist "that time of year" thinking! Really, the bts commercials are already getting me down. August has been reduced to an inevitable slide. Buy a bento-box-type receptacle and fill it with your kid's fave (nut-free) leftovers from last night's dinner, a few bits of seasonal fruit. Ask him/her to write a list of his/her most awesome bites, a top 10 -- and include one or two of those each time. To me, it's about putting stuff in there that's the kid will actually eat and not toss, so it has to be a bit of an inviting mix, don't you think? So if you're into sandwich making, change up the bread -- make it a homemade biscuit or 2 thin pieces of cornbread or some nan. Unless he/she's the kind of kid who likes the same thing every day. But then, I guess you wouldn't be asking, right? Am I rambling? Am I waiting for other chatters to weigh in?

There is a place right outside of Charleston, SC that is a true farm to table place. The vegetable garden is right off of the screened in patio and you can watch them pluck your dinner right from the garden. Great place, great food and can't be any more local. We love it and will have to try Sheppard !

I'm heading to SC in a couple of weeks and would love to try this place. I hope to see you at The Sheppard Mansion soon.

Name, please?

Bonnie's right...I use the 3 part system and it works like a charm...great for veal parmesan, too!!

Any suggestions on how to keep? I saw a recipe for tomato jam but I have never put up anything in jars. I have a big freezer and can just freeze the whole tomatoes but I am feeling adventurist. I really have a lot of tomatoes.

I'm right with you! Lots and lots of tomatoes this year. Since you have a big freezer, I would suggest making a basic tomato sauce. It can be used for much more than just pasta.(think braised meats in winter time, etc.) Being able to pull a quart of tomato sauce made from your own tomatoes in the dead of winter is an amazing thing!

I'd add my standby, 12-Hour Tomatoes, to the suggestion box here.

Love the prevalence and taste of tomatoes and basil this time of year, but I'm getting a little weary of using it all in some kind of basic Italian pasta or another. Any suggestions for other kinds of cuisines or unique dishes that I can look to feature both of these ingredients? Thanks!

Without giving too much away, I can say we've gotten some interesting, ethnic Top Tomato contest entries this year.  We'll have something for you, I'll bet. For now, think Chinese. And Greek.

I have tried every place listed on the Going Out Guides list of the best Milk shakes. However, you forgot the best Peterson's Ice Cream Depot. best Chocolate shake I have ever had.

Duly noted. Thanks.

What do you recommend for roasting? I'm doing something wrong, because my spears usually come out chewy and not really browned. Last night I tried them at 450 for 10 minutes, and my suspicion is that my oven didn't get hot enough and/or they were cooked too long. Help!

Try this version instead. It calls for a 350-degree oven instead of one set to the higher temperature. It also provides some good tips and visual clues on when to pull your asparagus from the oven.

I also like going in the other direction, and charring them slightly under the broiler...

I've had good luck just transferring the leftover peppers and adobo to a small container with a tight lid and keeping it in the refrigerator. It stays fine for a few months, at least.

Yep. This is a regular topic on the chat!

Just endorsing everything - espcially cooking on a high medium light to stop it sticking. My experience is that having the fat too hot is what causes that problem. It will crisp up nicely on a high medium light and not take stick - it just takes a bit longer.

I just wanted to give you the WORLD'S BIGGEST THANKS for Spices' Ginger Salad recipe -- I am entirely convinced that my savings will now skyrocket because I won't have to keep buying this, my most favorite salad. (I live down the street, so it's particularly dangerous!) I've been having some rotten luck and in quite the rut, but I'm hopeful that WaPo's inclusion of this recipe will change it all. Thanks again for the fantasic work with the Food section!

We have former Food assistant editor Renee Schettler to thank for this recipe -- she tracked it down several years ago. Lovelovelove this salad. You are not overly effusive in your praise.

Thanks for the suggestion, but when I say "aversion to vinegar," I mean "I can stand it if a tiny bit mixed in with seven other ingredients but the smell from the bottle nauseates me." So I'm really looking for "put these liquids together as a substitute" not "try this vinegar."

So sad! What trauma caused this? Or has it always been the case?

Anyhow, IMHO, nothing truly substitutes for vinegar, but you could be trying other acidic ingredients, such as citrus (you've already been trying lemons, so branch out to limes, grapefruit, etc.), tomatoes, cranberries, etc.

I press and bake it on a Silpat-- works with little effort and tears :)

Also - how old is your nonstick? I thought I just sucked at cooking soft tofu and eggs until I bought a new nonstick. Best $20 I've spent in a while.

I tried Raichlen's Cambodian corn recipe you posted last week and found it to be too sweet so I improvised it by adding a diced anaheim chile and it was great.

Cool! Lime is good on this corn, too.

I'm looking forward to using the recipe from the Chat Leftovers with my cabbage from the CSA.

Once again, I sing the praises of colleague Jane Touzalin, a multiplatform editor here at TWP, who does a great job answering those leftover q's each week. But which recipe caught your eye? She offered many good ones.

In the spirit of trying unfamiliar (healthy) vegies, I planted some Kohlrabi in my garden this year...since my Gramps used to plant it each year. But, now that I have it, I'm not sure what to do with it! Any ideas? Also, (if Andy has them in his garden) any ideas as to when to harvest it -- it's the size of a baseball now. Thanks!

This link to our database will give you six recipes to choose from. Of them, I really like the Fennel and Kohlrabi Salad. It's simple but delivers great crunch and flavor. 

I posed this question a few weeks ago during the Jose Andres chat, but now that we have a Central PA chef, I'd like to hear Andy's take. Having grown up with this cuisine, it is great comfort food, but very bland. I see dishes like rivel soup, pot pie with slippery noodles, pickled redbeet eggs, teaberry, shoo-fly, etc. as things that nobody has really done much with creatively, but all of which have the potential for some new innovations. I liked reading about what you are doing with scrapple, for example.

Thanks for the question! You're 100% correct, it is AMAZING comfort food. I also grew up with the dishes you mention in the question and am now looking at them from a different angle. Taking these flavors that I grew up with and using them as a jumping off point is where we start. I'm a huge believer in the fact that in order to look forward, you have to look back. So, for example, with shoo fly pie, I start with the flavors of molasses and the crumb topping. For me, I like a pretty 'wet bottom', so I thought perhaps a molasses ice cream. then.....'what to do with the crumb topping'? Well, in the spirit of fried ice cream, we freeze the molasses ice cream in molds and actually coat the outside of the ice cream with the crumb topping. Once fully coated, we drop it in the deep fryer, serve it with red wine caramel and bingo.....all the flavors of shoo fly pie, updated. PA Dutch cuisine is an amazing regional cuisine. One of the great cuisines of the US and you're 100% correct, it's ready for creativity and innovation. That's what we're trying to do at The Sheppard Mansion, I hope you'll make the trip to Hanover and check us out!

In today's article, it was stated that the carcasses are aged 3 weeks to enhance flavor. This is incorrect. Aging the carcasses for 3 weeks primarily enhances tenderness by allowing natural enzymes to break down the protein structure in the muscles cells. Aging to enhance flavor takes months during which the meat is dehydrated and flavor compound concentrations increase.

The three week aging time does in fact enhance tenderness. However, this three week period also works to enhance flavor. Due to the physical make up of the Highland cattle(their heavy coat), there is not a large fat cap surrounding the outside of the animal, so as the animal is hanging during those three weeks, the meat is also dehydrating and intensifying in flavor.

Congrats on your decision to eat less meat. I definitely ditto Tim's suggestion for Domenica's sesame noodle dish. I also like to do "make your own fajitas/taco night". Saute some onions and peppers, use beans or ground tempeh seasoned with cumin, salsa, cheese, avocados, and you've got an easy and delicious meal. And popular with kids. Other ideas--soups (throw in some ditalini and beans with some vegetables, veggie broth, a little wine, and a parmesan cheese rind for a killer minestrone), curries (you can sub tofu for paneer to up your protein ante or do a channa masala), and stir fries (seriously don't underestimate how awesome these are and they allow you to use whatever veggies you have in the house). Frittatas and quiches are also good because they are very easy to throw together. Good luck!

Something I do that people always consider "unlikely" is cook my pot roast in tomato sauce. It adds a great flavor when seasoned with onion, garlic, salt & pepper. Also, rather than the Yankee Pot Roast with carrots and potatoes, I serve mine over rice, which soaks up the sauce beautifully. Sometimes, leftovers are more like a stew. I realize this is more likely to be 'winter cooking' but if the reader is going to freeze homemade tomato sauce, this is something in which (s)he can use it.

I just have to say, that it's made me very happy to see a lot more vegetable-focused features lately in WaPo. As a vegetarian, I'm always grateful for new and inventive ways to make my vegetables interesting and delicious. Thanks! Speaking of, I've got way too much zucchinis/summer squash from from my CSA. I've made ratatouille and zucchini soup and put it in every kind of stir fry imaginable but I could use some fresh ideas.

Here are a few ideas from our recipe database:

1. Baked Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Ricotta

2. Chicken with Summer Squash Salad and Fresh Herbs

3. Frittata with Zucchini

Or for a sweet treat, 4. Fudgy Zucchini Muffins

Hunt for many more ideas in our Recipe Finder.

Next week, the Dinner in Minutes features zukes and yellow squash, too.

Hi Free Rangers, I enthusiastically bought a large orange watermelon at the farmers market this weekend, giving no thought to the fact I am going out of town on Friday and wouldn't be able to finish it. I tried to save half by pureeing and freezing it. I thought maybe I could thaw it and use it with seltzer or make agua frescas. Do you have ideas of how I can use my frozen watermelon? Thanks all!

Absolutely, I'd go the soda route, with this recipe -- but it requires a siphon so the watermelon juice, already watery, isn't further diluted. You could also use it as the base of a watermelon gazpacho, adding fresh watermelon chunks, tomatoes, some sprinkled feta and mint and/or basil. You could also thaw and refreeze into a granita, by letting it get slushy and then scraping and freezing/repeating until it has that great granita texture. A little vodka would help keep it from freezing solid.

This really is "a question of taste." I find reconstituted powdered milk more delicious than fresh milk, with a barely-perceptible note of vanilla or malt. Maybe that strikes you as an "off" taste. Anyway, please bear in mind, the taste may vary by brand and definitely depends on the water you use. In college, we used whatever brand was cheapest at the supermarket, plus tap water. But that was long ago and far away, and maybe ingredients have changed.

We have a couple packages of ground turkey in the freezer. We bought a quantity 2 months ago, repackaged it into portions we'll use and froze it. We've already used 1 or 2 of the portion packs, with no ill effect. However, I'm inclined to toss what remains out of an abundance of caution. Or, I suppose we could wait and see if any details emerge that narrows this down. Any advice or inside info? Thanks.

Just handle the turkey properly, including cooking it to internal temp of 165, and you're fine. Here's more info on that.

Got some golden beets from the CSA this week and am not sure what to do with them. Do they have a different taste profile than the regular purple beets (of which I am not a fan)? Any suggestions for what to do with the golden ones? Bonus points if it can also involve the fennel bulb I also picked up.

Beets are awesome!(I wish someone made a t-shirt that said that!) The best thing to do with your golden beets is to toss them with some olive oil, salt, pepper and a sprig of thyme and rost them at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes(longer if the beets are bigger. You should be able to easily insert a pairing knife into the center). Allow them to cool and peel the outside skin away. Now the fun part....cut the beets into cubes, shave your fennel super thin on a mandoline and toss with your favorite summer vinaigrette. Maybe even adding in some shaved raw carrot would be fun? Serve over some arugula and you're done. Did I earn the bonus points?

It's called 17 North, on 17 North. They also have a place right in Charleston called (I think) Roadside Grill

Where is the most common place to purchase this? I went to 3 local grocery stores and none of them had it. Grr.

Where do you live? Call anywhere near you that has a meat dept with a real butcher and you should be able to either pick some up, or order it. Also, check the frozen foods aisle of vertical-door cases (does that make sense? Where the frozen entrees live); I've sometimes found liver there. Guess it's easier to store long-term.  Once defrosted, it cooks up the same as if you were using fresh -- at least for a liver and onions application.

I've had my cast iron skillet for over 20 years and it's improved with age, in that things cooked on it now taste like they were made on an outdoor grill and even have charred bits, no matter if they're barely cooked. Mmm-mmm good! However, there is a downside, and that's where I'd like your help: The skillet throws off a lot of smoke -- so much that I have to open the windows so the fire alarm doesn't go off. I assume this is has something to do with those charred bits, which may be carrying over from one use to another. What can I do? I don't want to scrub off all those delicious flavor-enhancers, but neither do I want the whole apartment to fill with -- and smell like -- smoke, and eventually it'll be too cold (!) or rainy to open up the windows for 20 minutes. Thanks for your suggestions.

Maybe you thin out a few fine layers. I like to pour a heap of coarse kosher salt in my cast-iron skillet and use a paper towel to scrub around. Doesn't seem to remove any seasoned sheen but it does clean things up.

Don't know if I should mention Kim O'Donnel's meatless monday. I love cooking with kurma (but that's vegan). If you like Indian food I swear by

Rangers, I am on a restricted diet that does not allow me to have many things including bacon. I can't have: soy sauce, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, nor anything that is fermented, smoked or processed. No citrus or vinegar (white vinegar is ok). So, bacon bits are out, as is prosciutto, lunchmeat, and ham. Can you please help me think of something that might come close to imparting a deep flavor to recipes that call for bacon? The best I can come up with is molasses or maple syrup, and salt. I am not looking to replicate the bacon experience, just a depth of flavor. Thank you so much.

So smoked spices are out, too? Hmm. Given that smoke is a predominant aspect of bacon, this is tough. Well, wait, here's an idea: You won't get the smokiness, really, but given that you're not trying to replicate the bacon experience, how about pork belly?

I love to make lasagne replacing the pasta with thinly sliced (think mandolin or V-slicer thin) zucchini. Also, zucchini au gratin.

Just had my first lobster roll ever from Big Buns in Arlington. I thought it was delicious and now would like to know... how does it compare to the best lobster rolls in town? Has anyone tasted?

I haven't had the one at Big Buns, but I'm definitely curious now.

How much was the roll? And how was it prepared?

You are doing flour egg crumb in that order, right - you didn't mean to suggest egg first, did you?

right, standard breading procedure. Flour, egg, crumb. And make certain to get all the 'extra' flour off before the egg 'bath'.

I'm going to make french potato salad this weekend and it calls for white wine. Normally I don't have a problem with this, but two of the eaters are young children and their parents might object - can I use white wine vinager or do I need the mellowness of the wine.

You don't want to substitute white wine vinegar for white wine. It will be too sour, since French potato salad recipes typically call for a generous amount of wine. 

You could probably split the difference, however. So instead of white wine, replace it with a combination of white grape juice and white wine vinegar at a ratio of 3 to 1, favoring the grape juice. So if you needed a full cup of white wine for the recipe, you'd use 3/4 cup white grape juice and 1/4 cup white wine vinegar.  That MIGHT work.

Can you recommend a local source for proper country ham? Montgomery County (Silver Spring/Wheaton area) preferred. I've been dying to try a recipe I found for a summer salad with grilled peaches and country ham, but am striking out in the ham department. Thank you.

Maybe your best bet is to go online. I like Allen Benton's country ham and also like a product from S. Wallace Edwards called their 'Surryano' ham. Both excellent products!

I've made ground cherry salsa before, which was quite good. Google will produce lots of recipes if you need specifics.

You definitely scored the bonus points, Andrew. Thanks. I'll give the combo a try. It helps I also picked up some carrots at the CSA. Now if you add a take on Dutch Pot Pie that can rival my mom-mom's 1920s/1930s recipe to the menu at Sheppard Mansion, I'm heading out there immediately.

FYI, in addition to 'schnitz und knepp', I also do put an interpretation of 'slippery noodle' pot pie on the menu once there is a chill in the air....Hope to see you soon!

I got a beautiful 5.5 qt Le Creuset as a wedding present last month. Dying to use it but most of the stuff I would use it for--braising meats, stews and chilis, no-knead bread--are hearty cold-weather foods. Any ideas on what I can use it for sooner than later? Thanks!

No need to wait for cool weather, and no need to use it just for things that involve clamping the beautiful lid on top. The pot retains a nice even heat; caramelize onions, make jams and chutneys (alert: we'll have recipes for those last two next week), cook your upcoming fresh tomatoes into lovely sauces.  You can bake a cobbler or rice pudding in it. I use a huge 40-year-old Le Creuset Dutch oven just about every week, even in the summer.

In re-reading that, I sound like a commercial. But there you have it. An honest testimonial.

Recently, I picked up a jar of Turkish red pepper has a nice tang to it, sharp taste of peppers, but i'm not sure how to use it. Any suggestions? it's a substantial jar and i need ideas! thanks

    Sounds like you may have ajvar, a Turkish paste that comes in different heat levels. 

     Use it as you would any hot sauce. Add some scrambled eggs. Season a couscous dish with it. You can even add it instead of a barbecue sauce to pork ribs on the grill. 

      Something easy: toast some pine nuts, set aside. put some pitted dry-cured olives in a small bowl. cut eggplant into about one-inch cubes and fry over medium-high heat in olive oil. Meanwhile, boil spaghetti. Add the boiled spaghetti to the pan with the eggplant, with a little pasta water. Add the other pine nuts and olives, then add some of the Turkish pepper paste to taste. 


I live in a small apartment that has a fire escape. I was wondering whether it's safe and within DC regulations to get some kind of grill to use out there during the warmer months. If so, what kind of grill would you recommend?

No, it is not safe. And, yes, DC law prohibits it. 

I found a recipe for homemade hoisin sauce and it calls for chinese hot sauce. Is there a specific name for this? Or do I just head to the Asian food aisle and look for something that resembles tabasco. Thanks!

Sriracha hot sauce, the condiment often added to Vietnamese pho, should serve your purposes. You can find it in "ethnic" food asiles and at those big-box Asian grocery stores.

I just found an Indian grocery store that sells paneer and I'm wondering the best way to cook it. Should I just treat it like tofu? I've done some online research and a few sites warned about trying to stir fry it since it will fall apart. Thanks!

Here are a number of recipes from our database that include paneer. Good luck!

Actually, smoked spices might be ok. I will have to see if they give me a migraine. Joe, you're a genius! I'm off to Penzy's for some smoked paprika!

Yep -- and smoked salt!

If you go to any of the Farmer's Markets that Smith Meadow's goes to - I always find that if I call ahead they can bring specialty meats to the market (that's how I got tongue). Other than that, I know I've seen it all the time at the Fair Lakes Whole Foods and I'm pretty sure I've seen it at the Springfield Butcher.

Hi - we're having our 2nd kid in a few weeks and I'd like to make some meals in advance and get them in the deep freeze so we don't have to worry about cooking for awhile. Have plenty of different ways to cook lasagna and I understand quiche can also be frozen. Any other thoughts, including links to recipes or websites? We have a 2 year old so if at least some of the recipes are more kid friendly, it would really be helpful. Thanks!

Have lots of things that fit the bill. Send us your email to and I promise to send you a link with a dozen recipes. Today!

Some of my older cook books have multiple mentions of using beef tongue as a sandwich filling. I'm a little grossed out, frankly, but also somewhat intrigued. My grocer sells them for about $15 each. That's a lot of money for an experimental sandwich. Do you have any experience with beef tongue sandwiches? Are they good? (Or cooking these things?)

this one's right up my alley!!!! I love beef tongue. If you think of the most amazing 'pot roast' you've ever had, you're well on your way to beef tongue's flavor profile. A little horseradish sauce, some caramlized onions and you have a killer sandwich. Ask for the tongue to be peeled and braise it in stock for about 3-4 hours at 325. Cool, slice and season with salt and pepper. Amazing.

I travel several months a year for my job. The hotels in which I stay usually have cooktops, but not ovens, so I don't get my beloved slow-roasted beef (thank you for that recipe!) and roast chicken. As I enter Month 3 of this deployment, I am wondering if a toaster oven can do a creditable job on either dish. Any thoughts?

Hmm. Not sure I could recommend running a toaster oven all night for slow-roasted beef, even at a low temperature. But the chicken ought to work fine. Maybe try a pair of Cornish hens? Or use a bird that's no more than 3 pounds.

Hello hello! I signed up for a vegetable box delivery and am now at a loss of what to do with a giant head of red cabbage and some red chard. Any easy suggestions, preferably ones that will keep for a while or could be frozen? Don't like eating the same thing for multiple meals in a row.... Thank you!

I love cooking chard with a little PA Dutch warm bacon vinaigrette. Makes for a wonderful base for rockfish! With chard, a lot goes a little way, so one dinner of cooked chard might get you through. For the cabbage, have you ever tried pickling it and canning?

Cook beets as suggested, peel, slice and combine with chopped fennel and orange segments. A little chopped garlic, parsley, vinegar to taste. One of my favorites.

I've been buying small loaves of Italian bread to use in making tomato panzanella, but each time I only use about half and put the other half wrapped in the 'fridge. So now have all these slightly dried out large pieces of bread. Anything creative I could use them for other than something like bruschetta?

You can cut them up, season them with s&p&olive oil, then bake into nice crunchy croutons. Or soften them with an eggy-milk mixture, add in whatever you'd like and create your own savory or sweet bread puddings. Next time you have extra, wrap and freeze instead of refrigerate. That way, you can reheat in the oven and use like you did the first time around.

Not OP, but I love any recipe that can stand as a meal on its own. I often don't have too much time to create an entree and side dishes, so slaw with chicken-- Protein and veggies in the same dish? Love it. Thanks!!!

My daughter brought me a couple bottles of truffle oil and porcini mushroom oil. Any suggestions on how to use them? Thanks!

Ack, running short on time. Use them sparingly, as finishes to a dish. It'll be a waste to, say, heat them up in a pan to saute onions.

I agree -- and suggest pairing them with vinegars like champagne vinegar for the truffle oil and walnut vinegar for the porcini oil, to make kicking salad dressings.

My husband likes to drink scotch and whiskey - and as far as I know, it's always of the cheap variety. I'd like to buy him a bottle of nicer stuff than he would buy for himself and can spend around $100-$150. I know that in the past he has bought Johnnie Walker Blue label as a gift for a friend and that's as much as I know about what he might like. Does anyone have any favorites they might recommend? Thanks!

You can never go wrong with Johnnie Walker Blue. For other ideas, it depends on what he likes. Smoky? Smooth?

Here are a few excellent ones: Talkisker Sherry Cask Whisky, Glenfiddich pure malt whisky, and Hanyu Japanese Whisky.

Although it is not expensive, the American-made Four Roses Bourbon Whiskey is pretty cool.

That's just a tiny, tiny start.  

Don't forget the hog maw! You do a lot of experimenting with that particular dish.

Last night I made peach preserves/jam for the first time. Followed everything according to the recipe (5 cups of peaches to 3.5 cups sugar + 1 packet of pectin...let it come to a rolling boil, etc....), but it didn't set and is more soupy in consistency. I'm sure it's still delicious, but how do I get it to set better?

We're running too short on time to give this its due, but given that we'll have lots of preserving advice next week, can you return w/this query then? We'll have experts in the house!

Doesn't Calhoun's show up at the Alexandria farmer's market? Just hop the Red line to get to the market.

Free Rangers, I'm currently in the throes of "morning" sickness that can strike at any time. I can keep some food down, but am more likely to enjoy foods that are crunchy and crisp. Strongly flavored vegetables are a no-go (which means I'm stuck eating supermarket produce even though I have access to garden fresh because my stomach doesn't like the garden stuff!). I'm trying to still eat a semblance of a healthy diet. Any suggestions for dinner that isn't toast?

Try baking your own kale chips -- or even making your own crackers with whole grains.

I just love Indian food, but my partner has had a couple of unfortunate experiences with it while we have been dining out. I would love to be able to introduce him to some things that might be a bit more accommodating to his system - and I was thinking of cooking for him at home. Can you recommend some good potential starter recipes that he would also be able to find when we dine out - so we can enjoy the wonderful food without having to make a mad rush home immediately afterward? Ciao.

Tough question, since I don't know what exactly is causing your friend's unfortunate problems.  But generally speaking, I'd avoid the spicier dishes in favor of korma dishes, which can include yogurt, cream or cococnut milk to dampen the spices. You might also try Malai kofta, which is both mild and delicious.

Well, you've transferred us to an airtight container and refrigerated us for up to 4 days, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to chef Andy Little and pitmaster Jim Shahin for helping us handle them.

Now for the cookbook winners: The chatter who asked about vegetarian weeknight meals will get "The Ithaca Farmers Market Cookbook" by Michael Turback. The one who asked about ideas for a meal for 20 (and using the grill) wiill get "My Grill: Outdoor Cooking Australian Style" by Pete Evans. Send your mailing info to Tim Smith at, and we'll get you your books.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading.

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