Free Range on Food

Aug 31, 2011

Today's topics: sourcing farm-fresh chicken, dashboard dining with Ellen Gray, the search for historic varieties of wheat, and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range.

What's on your minds on this gorgeous day? Food thoughts turning to the cooler-weather stuff?

Today's section is full of ideas such as what to make and eat in the car on a road trip, courtesy of Bonnie Benwick and Ellen Kassoff Gray; the glories of farm-fresh chicken -- and killer recipes, courtesy of David Hagedorn; and a look at one mill's search for colonial-era flour, courtesy of Debbie Koenig.

We've got Ellen in the room today to help answer questions, but unfortunately David had to deal with a last-minute family emergency (wish him the best) and won't be here to talk chicken. Barbecue maven Jim Shahin will be dropping by, Bonnie is on vacation, and Tim and I will be doing our part.

We may see Jason "Boozehound" Wilson lurking about at some point; hard to say.

To tempt you, we'll have a great giveaway book today: Jonathan Waxman's "Italian, My Way," source of today's DinMin recipe. Our favorite post of the hour gets it.

Let's do this.

Yesterday's Health section reported that some nuts are good for fighting bad cholesterol, but I'm not sure if this includes all nuts or only some. Can you help? Also, if you know, which margarines have the "plant sterols?" Here's the quote: Cholesterol-lowering foods included margarine enriched with plant sterols; viscous fibers such as oats and barley; soy protein from soy milk, tofu or soy "meats"; peanuts and nuts from trees; and peas, beans and lentils.

On the nut question, it's peanuts (which are actually legumes) and tree nuts (which are the fruit of some plants), as the story indicated. So that includes pecans, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, macademias, and more. On the margarine question, the brands are Take Control, Benecol, and Benecol Light.

Howdy! I have an awesome Boos cutting board that I use regularly (except for raw meat). Lately I noticed that it seems to retain some garlicky smell, even after washing with a little soapy water. Also, there is a small stain I have not been able to get out. Is there a way to fix the smell and stain? I was thinking of sanding gently and re-oiling, but don't want to screw it up. Thanks!

Like you I have a Boos board that has faithfully served me well for years. And like you, I occasionally get stains and off smells. For the most part, good old soap, hot water and a sponge will do the trick.

But failing that, follow the USDA's advice on the subject. Mix a "solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels."

The complete USDA page on washing cutting boards is here.

I have to admit my first thought was what a great way to get food poisoning! And, after I read the article, it was my second & third thoughts as well.

Not quite sure what you mean - clarify? I see more food poising happening from commercial food - we've seen roughly 5 major food recalls this year alone - dining on items procured locally and eaten right away shouldn't cause food poisoning.

Hey guys, I've been struggling with the best way of story produce like tomatoes, potatoes, onions and other items that aren't supposed to be refrigerated. I know potatoes are supposed to be kept in a cool, dark place, so I've put them in my lower lazy susan - and they go bad in just a week or two. I always thought they were supposed to last for a while. There's really no where cool in my kitchen. I don't have a large pantry. Any other suggestions? As for my onions and tomatoes, I'm afraid they're attracting all the gnats that have been bothering me this summer. The onions do seem to last a while, but is there a good way to keep them from the open air? Thanks!

I've never heard that you can't put produce in the fridge - I store all of my produce in the fridge. Keeps it longer. Break the "rules."

But not the tomatoes, please! It turns them mealy and saps them of flavor.

I also find that onions and even potatoes are more likely to sprout in the fridge because of moisture. Your best bet is indeed that cool, dark -- and dry! -- place. And with the potatoes, I wonder if the problem is that they're not getting air circulation, which helps keep them from sprouting or going bad. That's why people use baskets. I have my onions and potatoes in separate baskets in a little pantry closet that has a door on it, so it stays nice and dark.


A comment: Julie who you chronicled today with the article on the farm fresh chickens is a sweetheart. She loves to talk and will talk to you at length about her products. I've learned a lot in speaking with her - love her chicken and her herbs and thrilled that I can see her in Silver Spring and at HHS today where I am on my way to right now.

I've heard that from multiple people! Thanks.

David, your article today reminded me of one that Corby Kummer wrote in The Atlantic some time ago about pasture raised heritage birds. What stuck in my head was this anecdote: "Birds that exercise have a firmer texture and take extra time to cook, but the payoff for patience is high. [The producer] told me about a customer who telephoned in tears of happiness because for the forty-five years of her marriage, her husband had said she couldn't make chicken and dumplings; she had assumed that the problem was her hand with the dumplings. After she cooked one of Reese's birds, her husband said she had finally made chicken and dumplings."

David wasn't able to join us today after all, because of a family emergency, but this is a great anecdote. Thanks for sharing.

My nephew just started college (in Massachusetts). I want to mail him a package with some food. I do not bake or cook. Any ideas of what i could send that would be good and travel well? I live in Cleveland Park and do not have a car, so options would have to be metro-accessible or available online. The only place in my neighborhood is Firehook and I have found their non-breakfast items stale and dry in the past. Do you remember that bakery that the former White House pastry chef had in CP several years ago? They had great mini cookies that would be perfect to send, but alas they closed and I have never found another good bakery nearby. thanks for any ideas you have!

I'd suggest going to the MOM's market next to Firehook and getting some of their fabulous dried nuts and fruits in bulk and making some nice trail mixes. Put them in "tupperware type" containers and send. Good protein, and you can get creative with different blends! Throw in some chocolate chips or carob cips b/c it is college students after all...


What DC area restaurant is most similar to Ten Tables in terms of menu and atmosphere?

Funny you should ask that question. I was just in Boston with my wife, Carrie, and we dined at the original Ten Tables in Jamacia Plain. It's a tiny, charming restaurant, filled mostly with candlelight and the smell of the meals produced in the small open kitchen.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything in the D.C. area that compares in terms of intimacy, originality, price point and that delightful, unpretentious neighborhoody quality.  Cork Wine Bar sort of comes close, but it's menu and approach are completely different. Same goes for another contender: Bar Pilar.

Peter Pastan's Obelisk on P Street is perhaps closer in spirit, in that it's small, neighborhoody, chef-driven and focused on a small, regularly changing menu.

Readers? Your thoughts?

Submitting a bit early with the hope you could throw this out to the chatters...Is there any good Carolina Style BBQ in the DC area? I'm talking about chopped pork in light vinegar / pepper flake sauce. It seems like most of the Q in the area is the syrupy tomato based sauce, which is good, but not what I'm looking for.

Carolina Brothers in Ashburn puts out a good version of what you want. 'Course, with that name, they should. Urban BBQ does, too. And Mr. P's, the bus in the parking lot at Rhode Island and 4th NE on weekends, makes a funky version that I like. 

That's just to get the conversation started. Rangers, where do you suggest?

This might be hard for you to answer without the recipe, but I've got a go-to recipe for french bread rolls. They're just a little dense. I'd like to adjust it so the rolls are airier, with more big holes in them like you'd see in a baguette. Generally, I do one punch down and let the dough rise again before forming into rolls, and then let the rolls double before putting it in the oven. Should I skip the punch down? Let them rise more before sticking them in the oven? (I tried this recently: they were less dense, but I didn't get the BIG holes I was looking for.) Use more yeast? Skip scoring the rolls before baking? Thanks!

Here's what baking maven Lisa Yockelson (author of the upcoming "Baking Style") says:

It is nearly impossible to tweak a recipe without seeing the original, especially a yeast-based bread formula. A dough created for rolls is characteristically slightly denser in order to maintain shape during baking. Off the top--adding more yeast is not the answer, but the hydration level of the dough could possibly be adjusted, though the dough would be very soft and possibly too slack. Without a recipe, plus several baking go-rounds, this is difficult to determine.

I've been invited to a potluck brunch baby shower. I'm trying to think of something fun to make that ideally I can prep the night before and then not have much to do the morning of. I could make muffins, but I'd love to make something a little more exciting. Thoughts?

Make a frittata with all the lovely end of the summer produce - keeps well overnight and needs a little reheating at party.

In about 18 months or so, I will have the (glorious!) opportunity to renovate my kitchen. I'm trying to understand my options and would appreciate your insight. Unfortunately, my house is electric, but I do have a large propane tank for our generator, which I could expand to accommodate a propane-fueled cooktop or range. My other option would be an induction cooktop, which I hear is better than electric or gas, but I am unfamiliar with the technology. I've also heard you can only use certain types of cookware with the induction technology. Any advice on this not-exactly-food question?

We use a portable induction burner here from time to time (heating food for our studio shots, and I've used it for demos), and the technology is pretty amazing. So energy efficient because there's no ambient heat -- it all goes right into the cookware. Basically, a magnetic field turns the cookware itself into its own heating element. Super quick.

You're right that you can only use certain types of cookware: basically, the metal has to be magnetic. So cast iron, magnetic stainless steel; fully clad cookware works, but aluminum, glass, copper don't.

It also needs to have a flat bottom. And with some burners that I've tried, you can't be in the habit of lifting up the pan from contact, or every time you do the magnetic field stops and you have to reset it. But other than that, it's pretty awesome stuff.

Other than esthetics, is there any need to strain out the "mother" in the bottom of the bottle?

There's no need to strain the mother from your vinegar -- unless you wanted to make your own vinegar, of course. Here's some advice from the Kitchn on how to do it with your mother starter.

A friend gave me some light colored green shelled eggs - the yolks were bright "orange" and they tasted so good. She tells me the variety of chickens make the difference in the color of eggs - true????

That's right -- in terms of the color of the shells. The color of the yolks has more to do with feed.

Food poisoning doesn't just occur with mass-produced food - bacteria can (and will!) grow in just about anything. one popular case study in food-borne illness involves a large group of people becoming ill after consuming homemade potato salad at a church supper. Here's a good rule of thumb: anything that's supposed to be refrigerated (like softer cheeses, cooked foods, anything involving mayo) can stay out at room temp (70 degrees) for up to 4 hours before it should get tossed. A good cooler will obviously prolong that interval. Also, any fresh produce should get washed before being eaten.

Yes, of course. I'll amend to say that the four-hour window is for things between 40 and 140 degrees.

I once had the unique experience of cooking a free-range chicken the same day it had been slaughtered. I wrapped it in foil and cooked it on a charcoal grill. The meat literally melted it your mouth. It was unlike any chicken I've ever eaten, before or since.


I was so glad to see your profile of Julie and Evensong farms. My family has been buying her beef, pork, chicken and eggs for years now, and it's definitely true: you can taste a real difference. Julie's also just incredibly nice--she's happy to answer questions, suggest recipes, or just chat (as long as there isn't a line!). I'm so glad there are farmers like Julie who are making it easier to buy healthier, humanely raised, sustainable and local meats in our area.

Good farmers are worth supporting, so we're glad that you are.

loved the article today on dashboard dining. i am notorious in my family for being completely paranoid about putting things in the fridge. i am so scared of things going bad/dairy souring/etc. what is the general rule for things that need to be on ice or refrigerated during a road trip and things that can be left out for a few hours? i'm so incredibly impressed with Ellen and her "gourmet on the go" road trip foods, but feel like i would be the "salmonella police" if i were to try this on my own :) please help me relax a bit :)

Well I use very little meat in my creations and generally eaten right away - BUT I always pack my cooler with individual bags of ice  - always have a cooler with ice. I dont leave anythnig out for a few hours other than my sun tea. The point is to create and eat and enjoy - right away...and what you dont eat right away put in your cooler.


Today is my daughter's birthday, and the cake recipe I'm using calls for four egg whites. I don't want to waste the yolks, and, as we've missed The Dairy Godmother every day in the four years since we moved from the area, I was thinking of making frozen custard with them. Only, we don't have an ice cream maker. Will it be possible to make it without one? Thanks!

You can indeed make ice cream without a maker. It's more time-consuming, but here are a couple of methods.

Keep in mind, too, that it's not going to have that super-smooth texture that comes only from freezing while churning, which is what the makers do.

HI Mr. Shahin: I wanted to know different ways to do shishkabob. My mom always does lamb and usually does it in the oven. My dad says you can do beef and do it on the grill. Help!

    Okay, for family harmony, take ideas from both mom and dad: use lamb on the grill. The flavor of grilled lamb, marinated a few hours or overnight in, say, an olive oil, lemon and garlic concoction, is just a beautiful thing. 

   Add whatever veggies you like - green pepper, onion, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, whatever - and you have yourself a fabulous, easy meal. 

    Oh, and your dad is right. You can use beef, too. Either way, grill over medium-high heat, directly over the fire. Turn to all four sides (the meat should be about one-inch cubes), about 2 minutes or so per side. 

Hello! I am coming back to my house after about a year of work and renovations. I am prepared to throw out my opened bags of flour and sugar (kept in the bags, not in airtight containers), but would my spices still be ok? I hate to throw out cinnamon, allspice, red pepper flakes, etc? What about dried herbs like thyme and marjoram? And extracts? I'm trying to avoid spending a ton of money replacing all of this stuff, but if the flavors are gone or if there is anything health danger, I definitely will. Thanks - love this chat and look forward to it every week.

There's no health danger when it comes to the spices and extracts, and while a year is the general rule of thumb, a more important way to tell is to smell, and taste. Depending on how they were stored -- airtight, out of direct sunlight, preferably whole rather than ground -- they might be fine.

I was under the impression that you're actually more likely to get sick from rancid potatoes than from the mayo (I think that came from America's Test Kitchen)

You know, it's true about the mayo, particularly if it's commercial. Homemade mayo is another story if it includes raw eggs, but commercial mayo has preservatives and stabilizers and is acidic enough to be much safer when left out than people think.

Think healthy and non-perishable. Trail mix is a great idea, as are granola bars, dried fruit/fruit leather, beef jerky and anything that comes in a can with any easy open top like fruit cocktail, tuna/chicken salad. I remember pizza was basically a food group for me in college, so anything that you can snack on in a dorm room to avoid late night food runs will be appreciated.

There's a place in Burke (I can't remember the name right now) that has Carolina BBQ. My North Carolinia raised mother even likes it.

The place in Burke might be BBQ World. 

We're heading off to the beach with another family the second week of September and the other mother and I are meeting tonight to finalize menu planning. I would love to bring a couple of new ideas with me when we meet. It would be for 4 adults, one of whom isn't a big fish fan, a 3 year old and a 13 month old who will eat anything. It doesn't look like we'll have a grill, but we're looking into that more.

pasta salads and casseroles are always good because you can take advantage of beautiful beach produce, they hold well and make great left overs. Pies are great ways to take advantage of whats at market. Use the fuit for smoothies as well. Never hurts to bing a Panini press too!

I'm gluten free (and have been for a while) and know the basic gf alcohols. I have been researching more alcohol. I have been able to easily learn about most; but, not all liquers list the ingredients and often the websites aren't helpful either. So I turn to the all-knowledgable Free Range chat. Does anyone know if Midori is gluten free? What about other liquers?

Wow, that is a stumper. Offhand I'd be wary of anything that might have artificial colors or flavors -- and since Midori is bright, fluorescent green I'd be careful. Even with more natural, herbal liqueurs, like Chartreuse, the recipes are so secretive that you never really know what's in the mix. I always steer people toward tequila (100% agave), brandy, rum, dry cide, or potato vodka if they need to stay gluten free.

Are there any nuts that would NOT be included as tree nuts? Besides peanuts. Thanks.

I don't think so. Peanuts, incidentally, are classified as legumes, not nuts.

How should I store my bananas? What tips do you have for selecting bananas?How long should I expect them to last? How can I avoid (or get rid of) the fuit flies? I started eating bananas again recently but am being driven mad because they go bad before I can eat them and I end up with fruit flies. One answer may be to buy fewer, but I usually only get to the grocery store once a week. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

According to the Field Guide for Produce, you should "store bananas at cool room temperature for 4 to 5 days, during which time they will continue to ripen. To hasten ripening, enclose bananas in a brown paper bag. Do not refrigerate or they will turn black."

The bag-storage method should help you with the fruit flies, too, but will require you to eat them even faster! Which may not be a bad thing, since Americans don't tend to eat enough fruit anyway.

As far as selecting bananas, the guide suggests choosing "plump bananas with no green at their tips but flecked with tiny brown specks (a sign of ripeness)."

If you're trying to get them to last longer, don't listen to my colleague. I say that with all due respect, but don't put them in the bag unless you want them all to be ripe in a day.

I find that the best way to extend them is to buy a mix of ripenesses from the store: some that look good to eat that day or the next, some that do have some slight tinges of green, and some that are much greener. That way they'll ripen on different days.

As for the fruit flies, here are some methods for dealing with them.

How much would one expect to pay for a pound of farm fresh chicken?

At the FreshFarm Markets, it's usually about $5-$6 a pound.

If I remember correctly, when I first started baking many years ago, dough that was left to rise for too long tended to get air-holes.

Any tips on sources of good pasture raised chickens for Northern Virginians?

Go to the Arlington farmers market at the Courthouse on Saturdays, where Eco-Friendly Farms and Smith Meadows Farm sell such chicken, in addition to other meats.

I don't know if this provides the answer to the question, but I caught part of an America's Test Kitchen the other day and they created more "lift" (holes) in their bred by using a wetter dough and then folding the dough rather than doing heavy pounding or kneading that you might usually do. They let their dough rise 3 times with folding sessions in between (the recipe was for a foccacia that started with a non-sourdough sponge).

Marvelous, detailed guide to storing produce of all kinds at

I don't think you have to be limited to potato vodkas. We love Tito's, which is made from corn and gluten-free and delicious.

The chatter looking to use up her egg yolks could try a semifreddo. Not quite the same as ice cream, but doesn't require an ice cream maker. I know there are some in the WashPost recipe archive.

Great idea. Try this Apricot Almond Semifreddo to use up 12 yolks or this Apricot Semifreddo to use up 4.

I was lucky to have my CSA last summer also deliver their chickens. I can't buy chicken from the grocery any longer, nor the eggs. I describe them to my family as the 'butter chickens'. Thank you for more options of farms!

You're welcome!

One of my best memories of "road trips" was having leftover meatloaf sandwiches, fresh cut veggies (no dips back then) and fruit for dessert - yum!!!

Great to procure from the road isn't it! Our sandwiches were always wrapped in tin foil back then - Tupperware containters were in their infancy!

Our nephews LOVED getting GOOD cheese, decent crackers, etc -- snack foods they can hold a while and enjoy the quality that is generally not available to them in the dorms or from vending machines.

Check the college web site - both my kid's colleges had 'care package' fund raisers around exam time. Some local places in the town may deliver. Think about web sites like Harry&David or William&Sonoma that would deliver goodies.

I would make a lasagna ahead of time and freeze it. It's a no-hassle meal that everyone will love. Beef kabobs are another easy meal, but require a bit of prep work. It could be done early in the day and they could marinate until you're ready to pop them under the broiler or put them on the grill (if available). You could pre-mix the herbs and spices, but don't forget the skewers. Quiches are easy if you have a pre-baked crust. I'd also bring PB&J, because it's a great, quick, familiar snack.

And by problems, I mean in making them, not in drinking too much. Teehee. Anyways, please help! I am horrible at making a caipirinha! I always follow the recipe but it never tastes as good as when a bar tender makes it. I'm pretty sure my problem is in muddling the lime and wondered if I could cheat by making either a lime syrup or a simple syrup mixed with the lime juice. Basically, just skip the muddling step. I like the idea of this because I'm not a fan of the bits of lime that always seem to get mixed in the drink - too sour! I know it's not the true way to make the drink, but could it work as a decent substitute? And if so, what's the best way to do it? Thanks!

I did a column back in May on muddling that focused on caipirinha variations and other cachaça drinks, which you can find here. To me, it's not a caipirinha if you don't muddle. Here is a quote on muddling citrus from that column: "With citrus, you want to cut the fruit into small chunks to make them easier to work with. Crush to extract all the juice, but be sure not to pulverize it into little pieces, which will expose the bitter pith. One other tip on limes, given to me by an old Brazilian bartender as he fixed a caipirinha: Once you slice the lime into eighths, take the knife and carefully cut off the little white strip of pith left on top, as well at the tiny ends of the peel (to reduce bitterness)."

Hi, I had to cut up and freeze four cantaloupes before they went bad (too much for this household to eat). Is there anything I can use it for except smoothies? Would it work in a crumble? Thanks!

Here are a couple of recipes from our database that may work well with frozen cataloupe (which tends to lose texture more than flavor):

Minted Cantaloupe Sauce

Pickling for Melons

Neither one of these is a dish in itself really, but perhaps they will get you started.


I think you could also make good use of 10 ounces of it in this Farfalle With Cantaloupe and Prosciutto dish. (Sounds odd, I know, but trust me, it's delish.) It's for one, but you could upsize it.


Hi Jason - I am trying to come up with a signature cocktail to serve at my upcoming wedding and I want to use some of the herbs from our garden. I made a rosemary simple syrup last night and thought it might go nicely with pear vodka and maybe ginger ale or tonic water for a good fall cocktail but I need some help with proportions of each ingredient to help them come together nicely. We want to keep the cocktail fairly simple in terms of ingredients. Any thoughts or additional ideas?

I've seen rosemary syrup used with muddled blackberries and mixed with prosecco for a light afternoon cocktail -- maybe a half-ounce of the syrup with 3 blackberries and 4 ounces of prosecco? You could also create a syrup with the blackberries themself. I think something like rosemary also work well with, say, grapefruit juice -- perhaps in a variation on a Salty Dog, with gin, grapefruit juice, and the rosemary syrup (1.5 oz. gin, 1-1.5 oz. grapfruit, .5 oz syrup). I'd steer more toward gin than vodka, because of gin's botanical character. Fresh rosemary also makes a nice garnish on a real martini (ie. gin/vermouth).

I store bananas in tbe refrigerator. The skin may turn black, but the inside is fine. I've had bananas last for over a week, but I buy them fairly green.

Yes, please to the semifreddo! I love coming on here and getting suggestions I'd have never considered otherwise. Thanks so much!

Produce for a week or two? Maybe go to the store more often? I don't expect my produce to last more than a week...

I concur on Carolina Brothers being a good bet for real Carolina-style pulled pork. Another pretty good option in NoVa is The Pit Stop (a roadside stand just outside Aldie, but only open on the weekend). Depending on how far you are willing to go, Pierce's Pit Barbecue in Williamsburg is also respectable.

    Two more good ideas. Thanks!


I loved the article on Dashboard DIning. I'm trying to be better about bringing my lunch to work (even though we have a great cafe) so what are some healthy food ideas that travel well and will stay fresh until I get a chance to eat?

Im a big fan of nuts and nut and dried fruit blends as well as sandwiches made with nut butters - they hold well. Bean salads are also great, filling and inexpensive. Try bringing pita bread with you and venture out to an area lunch time farmers market and grab a tomato and cucumber and go from there. Id keep a little knife and cutting board in my desk for that:)

Hi All, Are there certain fruits that shouldn't be stored together in a fruit bowl? I bought a variety Sunday and by yesterday the nectarines and pluots became moldy. Thanks!

Interesting question. Some fruits do seem to give off more ripening gases more quickly than others; that's why you hear that you can get a peach to ripen more quickly if you put a ripe banana with it in a bag and close it up. Generally, though, I think it's better to not have them all piled on top of one another. Lack of air circulation seems to cause problems. So I tend to have them lined up on my countertop, or in one layer in a woven bowl that lets some air in.

Oh, and make sure they're very dry.

i can never get my meat to "stick" to the skewers to get the lovely "log of meat" that they do in middle eastern restaurants. i've tried metal or bamboo skewers and the meat always slides off, resulting in my having to make patties to put on the grill rather than kebab shapes. any ideas on how to get those babies to stick?

Hmmmmm... You've stumped me, here. Not sure why you make patties to get around the cubes-not-sticking problem. Also not sure why you're having problems with the cubes sliding off. 

Rangers, have you had this experience? Any thoughts?

As a former produce clerk I say go with Joe on the advice. I'd also add you should seperate the bananas, the yellows by themselves, the greens, etc. That way your bananas ripen at their own pace without the gas emitted from the riper ones. And be careful selecting bananas that've been gassed to quicken ripening. They have a dull look about them.

Yes, separating them is a great idea. Thanks.

Hey Jim: Congratulations on your first year!! It has been fun reading your stuff and having my mouth water. Any chance you'll be taking road trips and reporting back on what you find? We love to travel and would enjoy trying new restaurants/bbq joints.Thanks!

Well, that's a question for the accounting dept. Me? The car is gassed up and ready to go and, indeed, has gone! All over.  

I eat bbq everywhere I go. I try to write about what I find when I go, but I haven't done the type of thing you're talking about. For example, I went to Austin, Texas, a couple of weeks ago, and ate at the best joints: Snow's, Mueller, Kreuz, City Market in Luling, Franklin, and several others: one by a prominent Texas barbecue family in an Austin bank building, another longtime insttitution that is still mediocre after all these years, a small, new joint doing more competitive-style than typical Texas style stuff, an over-rated place that proved that, yessir, you can get bad bbq in the Lone Star State, and a few others. But it wasn't for a story, just my own research. I did do a blog on what I thought would most interest people, a Q/A with pitmaster Aaron Franklin, whose new restaurant (he used to be in a trailer) was called "the best bbq in America" by Bon Appetit. But no story-story, if you will. 

I did the same sort of tour of Memphis a year ago, attaching it to a story about fancy rigs at the Memphis in May contest. That, the rigs, was the story. 

When I travel, I always make sure to hit local bbq joints. Went to Snow's, while in Detroit earlier this year, for example. Many, many others. 

I hope to get to some more locales before the year is out. 

But going out on official-biz bbq trip? All I can say is, keep those cards and letters coming in. 

I enjoyed Jason's column on Liqueurs today. The other day as I was perusing my liqueur cabinet, I was wondering if their makers think their products should be consumed by themselves (and whether may people do this). I've never drunk a liqueur straight, as I always just use them in cocktails. Are they designed to be enjoyed alone or are they really meant for just mixing?

It really depends on the liqueur. Certain unique, high-end liqueur such as Chartreuse, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, etc. or many of the anise-flavored liqueurs can definitely be sipped after dinner by themselves. Not too many people do this anymore, but then again, the whole tradition of after-dinner drinks -- whether it's liqueurs, brandies, or whatever -- is a sort of dying thing these days anyway.

Try a yeast-bread recipe that calls for egg whites, or one that calls for beer!

Yo, Jim - congratulations on your "1 year anniversary" - can't wait to hear about more places, small and large, for good bbq!!!!

Keep reading. I'll keep divulging. 

Speaking of spoilage ... I was completely surprised to find the nozzle on a can of commercial whipped cream covered in gray fuzz when I took it out of the refrigerator and removed the cover. The date stamp says to sell by the end of this November. I've never seen this before and wonder if I should complain to the company that made it, or if maybe this happened because it was fat-free (but "made with REAL cream"). The 'fridge is working fine so that's not it. I think I had used the can once.

How long was it in the fridge after you opened it? The sell-by date is just that -- a SELL-by date. Not a use-by date, right? So things may be shelf-stable, or refrigerator stable for a certain period, but the clock starts ticking when you open them.

Thanks for the article on road trip food! I always pack a cooler for road trips - it really helps us eat healthier. My favorites are cheese and crackers, easy-to-eat fruit, like apples and grapes, cut veggies, and, of course, sandwiches/wraps. Also, I like to pack a wet washcloth or towel for clean-up (just wet it, ring out most of the moisture, and store in a ziploc bag) - easy cleaning without disposable wipes/napkins or a chemical smell!

Sounds like you totally got the spirit of the thing! It's fun and can add a lot of creativity to a long trip - procuring and creating with what you forage on the road combined with what you bring from home!

Are they really worth it? I know in the grand scheme of things they don't cost *that* much more than the regular grocery store canned tomatoes I've been using, but I've been branching out and attempting my own tomato sauces, etc. this past year, and really wonder whether it's worth seeking them out. Thanks, Rangers!

I checked with 2 Amys and Obelisk chef Peter Pastan (the subject of Tom Sietsema's recent Dish column and chat), who said San Marzanos are worth every cent, but you need to make sure they are genuine San Marzanos. Check for the DOP certification on the label, which stands for Denominazione d' Origine Protetta and guarantees that you are getting the real deal, which are sweeter than the processed fruits in many cans.

How about a cantelope daiquiri or even margarita? Last weekend, I froze cubed watermelon for daiquiris and they were amazing! Just added lime juice, rum and sugar. Also made a nonalcoholic version with lemonade instead of rum - a nice refreshing drink!

I buy two small bunches--one, two, or three that are nice & yellow and a few that are greenish yellow. We eat the yellow ones first; by the time we're ready for the others, they are nicely ripened.


Could I at least muddle the lime with simple syrup instead of sugar? I think part of the problem is the sugar isn't dissolving well enough.

Sure, you could do that. I like it better with the sugar, but if it's not dissolving that's a fine solution.

Shahin, I recently had some grilled salmon - delicious - made with onions and lemon, but not sure how long it was cooked and it was nice and moist. It was cut into serving size pieces and cooked on foil on the grill - about how long would you suggest it might be cooked?? Thanks for your help.

Hard to say. Depends on how they did it, direct, indirect, or both. Generally (and this is a very broad generalization), when people use foil, especially when cut into serving-size pieces, they cook direct. My guess is that they cooked it briefly over direct heat, no more than about 2 minutes per side. (I'm also guessing they turned it over, although they may have wrapped the salmon in foil to create more moisture.) In any event, not long. 

Here's a recipe I long ago combined from TWO bread recipes in "Farm Journal" magazine, ca. 1976.



5-5½ cups bread flour**

2 packages dry yeast

¼ cup (=4 Tablespoons) sugar

½ cup lukewarm water

½ cups (=12 oz. can) warm flat beer

3 Tablespoons oil

3 stiff-beaten egg whites (optional).

DIRECTIONS: Blend 2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt; beat in water, beer and oil. Fold in egg whites; stir in rest of flour. Knead dough; let rise till double (1 hour). Punch down dough; form 2 loaves. Place in pans; let rise till double (1 hour). Bake 30-35 minutes @ 375 F. 

**SUBSTITUTE FOR BREAD FLOUR: Add 1 teaspoon wheat gluten per cup of all-purpose flour. Dough also makes incredibly light, crispy rolls.

Hey Jim, congrats on your one year anniversary doing "smoke signals". Question, though, when will you be traveling around and doing more programs from various "little" or "out of the way" barbeques? Good eatin comes from good travelin sometimes. Hope to read more of your stuff.

Thanks for the congrats. You're the second person asking about doing more bbq travels. See that reply. 

Thanks for reading - and chatting!

Please continue to send ideas. They help stoke the column's fire. 

You need to specify eastern or western in NC or southern for SC. All very different.

    Good point! 

    I assumed from the question that the person meant eastern style, as he/she didn't want tomato. But I could be wrong, as he/she didn't specify. 

    All the places that have been mentioned in this chat are eastern-style. (No tomato or ketchup.)

Any recommendations on a substitute for chili oil? Need 1 TBSP for a dipping sauce for spring rolls ... can't readily find a bottle in our stores. Thought I'd combined 0.5 TBSP canola with 0.5 TBSP siracha. Other thoughts? OR should I go on the hunt for jsut this one recipe?

It's so easy to make your own, but don't use sriracha. Use red pepper flakes. I use a tablespoon or two for every cup of olive oil. Heat the oil in a pan, add the red pepper flakes and then turn off the heat and let them infuse for an hour or so before straining out.

Mr. Shahin: thanks for your answer about the lamb and beef. I forgot to ask: I like chicken and my sister likes shrimp. Help, again!

Same idea. The great thing about shishkebab is that it's pretty interchangeable. You can cube the chicken or cut it more into lengths. And the shrimp, just slide the skewer into their side, so the lay flat on the grill, then turn them over. 

make a sorbet. through cut up cantelope in food processor or blender, add a pinch of salt, some mint.-- maybe some milk or cream to make it more like a sherbert.. ,

I got a gift of smoked salt, which I thought was cool. I opened it the other day and WHOA. It smells really strong! Suggestions that I've found are to sprinkle it on dishes as a finishing salt, but other than steak, what am I sprinkling it on? What types of veggies? Do I still season them, or just put the salt on after roasting/grilling?

Actually, me, I prefer smoked salt on non-grilled/smoked foods. I love it sprinkled atop a soup and sometimes even a salad (esp if I counter the smoke with something sweet, like tangerine). But when I do put smoked salt (which, I agree, is very strong) on grilled foods, I add it after I pull the food off the grill and let it rest or atop the food in its final minutes of cooking. 

I don't think anyone asked Dave McIntyre about his Virginia wine-bloggers column the week it ran, but please extend to him my thanks for the article. I was able to access the hashtags and, though a Twitter novice, read some of the tweets from the conference. We'd been in Charlottesville just a week earlier and had done some winery tours, purchasing 9 bottles of Virginia wine. After hearing so much about Petit Verdot and Viognier, I was startled to discover how much I liked Virginia port. I haven't read anything about Virginia port and have no idea if it has a reputation, either positive or negative. But I loved the bottle I bought. 'Course, we bought two bottles of McIntyre's despised Virginia Reisling, so what do we know? :)

Will do -- glad you liked the piece! Dave will be, too -- and I'm sure will forgive you on the other thing.

Get the propane range! NOTHING compares to being able to adjust a cooking flame!!!

I don't know that I agree with that. I have gas cooking, too, and love it, but you wouldn't believe how responsive the induction is once you get used to it.

We make brunch bakes/egg casseroles. They can be made the night before and are real crowd pleasers (did I actually say that...?). Our recipe has meat, cheese and cubes of crust French bread. The brunch bakes, a fruit salad and some sticky buns and you are set!

I think I love Ellen Kassoff Gray! Great article on Dashboard Dining. I'm already trying to figure out when/how I can do this. Unfortunately, my next road trip is to Bethany Beach which is only two and a half hours. And I'll be driving by myself. Thanks.

Hey thanks and I bet Joe can give you some tips on cooking for one!!

Hi! I just moved to Arlington (Ballston area) and have no car-- I'm looking for good sources of super-fresh fish. The closer the better so that I can get it home in good shape as well. Thanks!

You might give America Seafood a shot. It not only sells fresh fish, but also freshly prepared foods from those fresh fish.

We do them all the time, but I beg to differ on the "1-inch cubes." They'll dry out very quickly. If you like your meat even a little bit rare, go with 1 1/2" to 2" cubes and give them about 3 min per each of 4 sides. Also it is easier to control doneness of tomatoes and shrooms if you put them on skewers of their own, and start them later than the meat, remove when done. You'll need to experiment with your grill and different heat settings to get things just right.

Me, got no quarrel with the 2" cube. - fell in love with Zingerman's when I was a grad student in Ann Arbor, and their gift boxed are a staple for birthdays and care packages. Just sent one as a housewarming gift to a friend in Cleveland. Yummy fun food. The brownies are to die for - the only brownies I buy, since I use the WaPost man catcher brownie recipe.

Maybe you're moving the kebab too soon? Try lowering the heat a bit and leaving the kebab in one place until it's a bit more cooked. It shouldn't come off the skewer. Also, if you don't pre-oil the grill, you should loosen the kebab with a spatula before you try to grab the skewer and pull it off the grill.

sorry, to clarify....this is when using ground meat, not cubes. like shish kafta....

Often, restaurants use flat skewers, which help the meat adhere. 

Well, you've left us in the glove compartment for a few hours until our fruit mixture has gotten soft and warm, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks to Ellen Gray, Jim Shahin and Jason Wilson for helping us answer.

Now for the giveaway book. "Italian, My Way" will go to the chatter who cried out, "banananananananananas!" (which I read in a Marlon Brando/"Stella!" voice). Send your mailing info to aide Tim Smith at, and he'll get you the book.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading. And have a great holiday weekend.

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