Aug 25, 2010

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way.

Joining us today to discuss the egg recall are Wenonah Hauter, Exec Director of Food and Water Watch, a non profit that works on food and environmental issues; and Howard Magwire, vice president of government relations at the United Egg Producers.

Send us your BBQ photos and your BBQ sauce recipes!

Today's question:

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range! We have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT to make. Starting next week, your favorite chat (right, right, RIGHT?) will be moving to the crack of noon rather than 1. We're hoping to capitalize on the time when more of you might be sitting in front of your computer with your lunch and hungry for some food talk. We also figure that it'd be better to group Tom's fantastic chat and ours so that foodniks can carve out a block of time on Wednesdays.

Today, we've got a provocative discussion in the works, I'm sure. We have two egg experts in the room to talk about that huge egg recall: Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, a non profit that works on food and environmental issues; and Howard Magwire, vice president of government relations at the United Egg Producers. Ask them anything egg-related that's on your mind.

For you barbecue fanatics, we have Jim Shahin, our new Smoke Signals columnist who wrote today's piece on DIY sauce, who will help answer any and all of your questions, right on 'cue. (Sorry.)

We'll have some giveaway books for our favorite posts: two from Weber: "Weber's on the Grill: Chicken & Sides" and "Steak and Sides,"both by Jamie Purviance;  plus "Ribs, Chops, Steaks and Wigs" by Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe.

Let's get this going!

I'm trying to come up with distinctive Maryland BBQ sauce. Got any suggestions? Something with Old Bay?

Remove the cayenne, dry mustard, and chili powder from the Kansas City-style recipe and replace with 2 tablespoons of Old Bay. Try it. Want a bit more oomph, try a teaspoon of prepared horseradish. 

My husband and I are trying to reduce the amount of meat we eat, for both health and environmental reasons. We have a number of go-to weeknight meatless meals, but we really struggle with lunch. We usually pack sandwiches (deli meat and veggies) because they are easy and can be relatively healthy. Short of just packing our dinner leftovers for lunch, what are some other options for good veggie lunches?

Yeah, it can get dull fast. (And no offense to vegetarians out there.) I make orzo salads with vegetables and a little goat cheese or feta that are pretty satisfying. I also combine similar ingredients on a sandwich: grilled veg and goat cheese with pesto on ciabatta or just a simple cheese sandwich, such as swiss, honey mustard, lettuce and tomato. I think the most important thing to think about when you pack veggie lunches is to make sure there is enough to satisfy you -- whether you get there by adding beans or other vegetable protein or some carbs. Nothing worse that being virtuous but hungry.

I think the poll options of "a few times a week" and "as often as possible" are rather prejudicial! Meat is an excellent source of protein, especially if you cannot consume soy or soy-based products.

Relax -- not a scientific poll, you know. I eat lots of meat, so no prejudice here, and I wrote the q's.

I think your poll could have used at least one or two more options. My wife and I aren't exactly vegetarians, but we only eat meat a few times a month. Not "never" but not "a few times a week" either. Meat is basically a once in a while treat that we enjoy in moderation.

Got it. I'm sure you're not alone!

Do you mean beef, pork, chicken, fish, etc? or just "red" meat? I eat some kind of animal protein every day but red meat only a couple of times per week.

It's whatever "meat" means to you, I'd say.

Just want to say "thanks" for your group doing these chats--you are great! I love that you always answer (my) questions, and that you give such great ideas (and that other readers do, too). Just a shout-out to say "thanks"!

Well, thank YOU. We love the positive feedback.

Can I take this opportunity shamelessly ask you to ... spread the word? We'd love to get even more people coming to these chats; I run into regular readers all the time who don't know we do them, so help us by evangelizing!

I was surprised not to see any "smoky" ingredients in your barbecue sauce, as I find some smoke flavor and smoked paprika add a nice touch, especially for us apartment-dwelling cooks that lack regular access to outdoor grills. I also use canned tomato sauce instead of ketchup so that I can control my own levels of vinegar and sugar. Basically my recipe is: can of tamato sauce, a few tablespoons each of worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar, seasoned salt, about a teaspoon of smoke flavor, fresh ground black pepper and smoked paprika to taste, tablespoon or so of onion powder, and either brown sugar or honey to taste. I also add varying amounts of chili powder or chipotle chili powder, depending on how spicy I want it. I also find I don't need to cook this, as it's generally pretty thick as mixed, although I may add it to something that gets cooked or warmed, such as pasta with sweet onion, shredded chicken and white cheddar--yum.

I deliberately didn't add smoky ingredients to the three basic sauces in today's paper because I feel the smoke from barbecued meats should not compete with smoke from sauce and I was writing for the general backyarder. They were also intended primarily as a base for folks to play around with. You're right, though, apartment dwellers need something more. Generally, a Liquid Smoke or chipotle puree or powder will do the trick. My coffee-chipotle recipe on the blog today is smoky. I like the sound of your sauce. Balsamic has become a a popular ingredient in bbq sauce. Glad you have a sauce you can call your own. 

The beer column in today's food section on Jack McAuliffe brought back some memories for me. I was on a business trip to San Francisco in the late 1970's, wondering what to bring back for my husband. . A friend who lived there, knowing my husband was a big fan of interesting beer, suggested some New Albion, and I dutifully schlepped back a six-pack of assorted bottles in my carry-on luggage. He still remembers how good it was. (by the way, on that same trip, I bought some things at a little store on Union Street called Victoria's Secret. Unlike New Albion, that enterprise was later able to expand nationwide - too bad the brewery couldn't. )

Hi - I ordered the Clever Coffee dripper on your recommendation and now, after two months, it gets stuck in the 'open' position, which means if I forget to manually 'close' it, I have coffee all over the counter and it's no better than a $3 cone I could have purchased. Even when I 'close' it, it still leaks, so unless I put it in the sink while it's brewing, I have coffee all over my counter. Have you had any problems with it? Any suggestions as to how this could be fixed? Thanks.

Bummer! I haven't had this happen. But it sounds to me like maybe there's something sticky in there? Have you put it in the dishwasher? That might help. Otherwise, I'll try to reach the folks at Sweet Maria's to see if they have any advice.

Hi -- it's Thursday, and I heard back from the Sweet Maria's people -- from co-owner Maria herself, actually, who wrote:

We see very few problems with these drippers - I think actually it has come up as a result of running it through the dishwasher or using the microwave  to heat the brew (ghastly, I know).  I think that is what shrinks the rubbery parts just a bit - and then the dripper will not close properly.  Please do pass on that contact information for the person who contacted you if you can - since we would want to replace it.

So if you're still out there, send me an email to, and I'll pass it to Maria, or you can contact them directly through their website.

We switched to buying beef, pork, and eggs from our friend's farm out in Lexington (no samonella!). He does all rotational grazing ala Joel Salatin's method (Mr. Salatin lives down the road). It tastes fantastic, is much easier on the land, and the animals are treated humanely (we've been out and slopped the pigs). It's also more expensive, so we eat less meat. Maybe a few times a week, but it's completely worth it. Once he gets enough chickens to sell fryers, we'll be set. Check it out: Broadview Ranch. It's a whole family business (my husband and I know practically everyone involved) and they deliver up to the DC area.

A recommendation for sustainable meat. Anyone else familiar with these guys?

I actually have some Eastern Carolina BBQ sauce in my fridge (very similar to your recipe) that is about a month old...meaning I need to use it up. I"m not a huge meat eater, and turning on my oven for hours on end to slow cook pork isn't ideal right now (400sf apt + 90 degree weather = not fun). Is there a good (quick) chicken recipe that would go well with the sauce or does it really need a fatty meat? Vegetarian options for the sauce?....or is that just anti-BBQ? Lastly, if only pork will do I cook pork for one person? Thanks!

You like the sauce? You like chicken? Put the two together and enjoy. As for a quick chicken recipe, pan fry a boneless chicken breast. Sprinkle the sauce on as it finishes. Or chop it when after you take it from the pan and add some then. Vegetarian options for the sauce, I haven't tried any. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't work. Maybe Free Rangers have some ideas. 

I almost never cook meat at home, although we cook seafood (fish and mussels) more often than "land" food. If we barbecue we'll make burgers. Otherwise, it's pretty much only when we eat out a couple times a month. I was a pescatarian for a couple years, and although I've since lapsed (bacon was my downfall. I mean, that smell is intoxicating), I've never really learned to enjoy cooking land animals.

Hi. My husband is a teacher and I'd like to make him an apple pie to celebrate his first day back in the classroom. The easiest time for me to do this, however, is during nap time (early afternoon). Can I assemble everything during naps and let it sit until it bakes in the evening? Or should I go ahead and bake it and then reheat when we're ready to eat? Thanks!

You can absolutely let it sit in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. Then have it hot from the oven.

I prefer pie that's just a tad warm, not hot. And a pie out of the oven will stay warm for a few hours. So I'd actually be tempted to just bake it during nap time, and then let it cool. He'll love smelling it when he comes home. You could give him a teensy taste before dinner, even?

Someone mentioned Hatch Chiles in the chat last week. Giant does in fact have them. I have seen them at the Arlington Glebe Road and the Vienna Maple Ave locations. Probably they all have them. They are on sale for $1.49 a pound. I scooped up ten pounds to grill and then freeze. They will sell you a whole box if you ask. I use them in quesadillas and green chile chicken stew among many other things.

Oh, man, yes, Hatch chiles. Just bought a few dozen from my local Harris Teeter. Like you, I grill, then freeze them. I love them for enchilada sauce and salsa. 

So where can one find 2-1/2 quart freezer bags?

Not 2 1/2-quart, but 2 1/2 GALLON. That's what you need to make Andreas Viestad's recent apple sorbet and other ice-cream-in-a-bag recipes.


And Hefty makes them, among others.


HI there! Question re. "too much parsley" -- do you think is it possible to process it in, say, the food processor and then freeze, to use in dishes later? (Italian parsley, that is, if it makes a difference...) thanks!

Absolutely. Follow the instructions in the Basil Paste recipe that we gave today from the fantastic Susan Belsinger (who unfortunately couldn't join us today); it's basically a pesto without the cheese and nuts that you freeze. You can thaw and use it to make a pesto later, of course, or you can just break off pieces to throw them into a sauce whenever you want. I think a parsley paste would be a great thing to have in the freezer.


Hi - My husband just bought a smoker and is having a great time with this new hobby. I'd like to get him a remote thermometer for a birthday gift so he doesn't have to do too much babysitting. The RediCheck Remote Cooking Thermometer seems to get good reviews. What do you recommend? Thanks!

The RediCheck is great. The Taylor Remote Probe is good, too. But you have a decision, it's a good decision. Pull the remote trigger.

Hey all -- Hope that you're enjoying this gorgeous DC weather! I wanted to write in with both a technique suggestion and a question. I saw a post on TheKitchn about how to cook beans in the oven to skip the whole overnight soak thing and decided to tackle a pound of black beans that have been sitting in my pantry forever. The good news -- it worked like a charm! The slightly less good news -- now I have a pound of flippin' black beans. I've already portioned some off to freeze and turned some into a yummy bean burrito for lunch but I'm at a loss as to what to do for the rest. Any ideas? [Side note: I've tried searching your recipe data base but if I use quotes it comes up with nothing and if I just type black beans I get every recipe with any kind of bean so it's not the most helpful method of searching.]

Ah...our helpful search. How about a black bean soup. Just puree the beans with the liquid. Thin it to the right consistency with chicken or vegetable stock. I eat mine hot or cold and top it with yogurt (or sour cream), chopped red onion and chopped cilantro. You can also stir some chilies into the soup if you want a little heat.

You've got fish on the brain. Your white bean ragout recipe calls for Maui Maui onions. :)

I think you're getting it confused with mahi mahi.

My sister called me last week to inform me that she and her husband have booked tickets to DC to stay with us for Thanksgiving. Surprise! Now I have never bothered with the turkey before, being married to a vegetarian. On hearing the news, my husband, who is happy to have my sister and a turkey at the Thanksgiving table, told me that he has heard stories of colleagues cutting into their turkey only to find feces. Eeew! I thought the turkey only came with giblets. How do I go about removing any feces from the turkey? Where would it be hidden?

Sounds like vegetarian legend to me. Never ever heard of that happening.

I have a follow up question to All We Can Eat. Is it possible to make a double chocolate muffin moist enough to not need to take a sip of milk or coffee after every two bites? Do you have a recipe or an author you could recommend who would know how to tackle this? Is Flour Girl about?

FlourGirl (Leigh Lambert) is off on maternity leave so we can't ask her to take this on. And Bonnie is on a well-deserved vacation. Bonnie is back at the end of the month and Leigh is back in November. Will you still have a craving?

I do enjoy meat, and my husband & I were raised on meat & potatoes. Every week the office gets Chinese carryout, and I have spicy pork, with enough left over for the next day. We put meatballs (just two each) and pepperoni in our spaghetti sauce. I'll eat a veggie pizza, but I'll also eat pepperoni. Tonight we're having all beef hot dogs. I won't apologize to anyone for eating meat.

I'm unclear: Did anyone ask you to apologize?

I periodically do stir fries for dinners...and then make a tupperware container of stir fry over rice, orzo, quinoa, couscous, etc. If you need to have "hand food" then you can put a little of your grains and some of your stir-fry into a whole wheat tortilla. After all, the Caribbean roti is basically a curry wrapped in a tortilla. Something like an aloo gobi inside a w/w tortilla would be a wonderful lunch hot or cold. You can also do lettuce wraps. Boston lettuce leaves work great.

Great ideas.

I love to play around with grain or legume-based salads, which I can make in large quantities and eat all week. The possibilities are so varied, I never repeat them once. Also, chickpea salad (mash and mix with shallots, vinaigrette, mayo fresh herbs, etc) is great stuffed in a pita. You get the feeling of a meaty sandwich without any meat.

And more great ideas.

I just had one of my favorite sandwiches for lunch today - potato rolls spread with pesto then layered grilled vegetables (red and green pepper, zucchini, onions - whatever you have), marinated artichoke hearts, tomato, lettuce and muenster cheese. You don't miss the meat and don't need mayo.

I'm hungry.

I enjoyed the article on herbs. I've got a bunch of oregano that I'd like to preserve. Would drying be better? If I made an herb paste, what could I use it for later?

You could dry it, but I think this herb paste would be great with oregano. You'd add it to sauces, for one...

We made fig jam in the crock pot the other day, and after 6 hours on low, it was still runny, although a nice deep golden brown color. The recipe from the Ball "bible" is for cooking in a pot on the stove; how do we transfer cooking times for such recipes to crock pots?

I'm no expert on crock pots but it seems to me that jam is just one of those things you can't make it in. The whole idea of a slow cooker is to, well, cook something low and slow. With jam, you want to bring the fruit and sugar to a boil to help get the water out and have it reduce to a good jammy consistency. So this seems like one for your stove top. Don't worry, should only take 60 minutes max.

Boo...(from one chatter's point of view). I would prefer Tom move to noon and you stay at 1pm. For some of us, the morning is the busiest time of the day and we're not always caught up by 11am...and sometimes not by noon. I like the 1pm start. It's more likely that I can attend the chat live instead of just catching up later in the day. Alas. But...I do love the Food Range chat, so I'll just struggle to make it to the last half of the chat when I can.

Thanks for letting us know -- One single time doesn't work for everybody, of course, but noon is the peak time for traffic on our site, so we want to grab more of it! Thanks for hanging in there. You can also of course submit your question early and then return later...

It seems that this week the local area supermarkets are receiving a plentiful supply of various melons. One of my absolute favorites is honeydew melon. However I always seem to be disappointment when I slice one open that I had purchased at the supermarket. They are either too dry or hard as a rock. I seemed to have lucked out in a purchase I made this past weekend. I bought a Turlock Fruit Co. honeydew melon at my local Super Fresh. OMG, it is the best honeydew melon I have eaten this century. It is sweet, firm, and satisfying. While I am enjoying it by itself, do you have suggestions for an interesting , light dessert?

They use a lot of honeydew melon in Asian desserts. I did a little digging and found this which is simple and nice. A sweet tapioca pudding topped with fresh honeydew from a site called Everyday Food & Drinks.

OK, OK, I promise you I'm not rubbing it in (I'm the poster who mentioned Hatch green chiles last week). BUT, I bought a couple of Hatch chiles yesterday at the grocery store and wonder if you all have any suggestions for preparation, other than roasting or using as chile rellenos? If you'd like, I'd be more than happy to send you a case! With love from Boulder

Try Hatch Chile Enchiladas: make a roux from flour and oil (about 2 tablespoons of each), saute some onion and garlic, add a cup of chopped Hatch chiles and a cup of chicken broth, and a pinch of oregano, cumin, and salt. Stir till thick enough to nap a spoon. Then, make cheese enchiladas, using shredded Monterey Jack cheese and some chopped onions and rolled inside corn tortillas. Add sauce on top. Bake at 350 F for about 40 min or until it bubbles. So sweet, spicy, and velvety. I love this time of year!

We're lucky to have fruit trees in our backyard here in the Pacific Northwest and this year a bumper crop of peaches. I remember grilling peaches years ago ... something involving basil, I recall. I tried the other night by dipping half a peach in honey/balsamic, then slapping a basil leaf on before laying it on the grill. Left a lot to be desired <grin>. I'd love to share favorite recipes for grilled fruit. Thanks from a person who hasn't eaten anything with eyeballs for 10 years

There's probably too much sugar in the honey/balsamic mix and it's just burning on the grill. (Let alone the poor little basil leaf. It just can't stand up to that kind of heat.)

My advice for grilling fruit is to get a medium flame going and brush the halves, lightly, with oil and a pinch of salt. There's plenty of sugar in those peaches that they should caramelize naturally. I like grilled peaches in salads and, of course, on ice cream.

I have just discovered carolina sauce and it is a nice change from the red sauce. I am going to make my own sauce after reading this article as I am tired of the high fructose corn syrup laced ones that you buy in the store - way too sweet with an unnatural texture. And you can't find any (at least I haven't and I read every label) without the HFCS. Thanks for a great article.

Thanks. There are more and more sauces coming out without the high fructose corn syrup. The Pork Barrel BBQ sauce mentioned in the article doesn't have it; uses honey instead. Go to Fresh Fields. They have several without the corn syrup. 

what are your thoughts on using fruit in bbq sauces? my favorite is a mango habanero bbq sauce that i make, it's fantastic on all meats, especially on pulled pork. i have also had great success with using sweet and sour cherries (in abundance here in Michigan!).

Love the fruit bbq sauces. In fact, there is one on the All We Can Eat blog for something that seems a lot like your mango sauce, except mine uses peaches

Does eastern NC style bbq sauce get any praise or recognition on the competitive bbq circuit?

Not much, I'm afraid. Generally, the thickish tomato-based sauces rule the bbq roost. 

Can you explain how the salmonella infection occurred? Is it like a virus that chickens get and transmit to one another? How does it infect the eggs?

Salmonella is a bacteria found in the environment. Chickens are exposed to it through rodent feces, contaminated feed or they can be born with the bacteria. This happens because it is present in the ovaries of the hen, thus contaminating the egg, which might be eaten or that becomes a chick.

Most of the focus of the investigation in this outbreak is contaminated feed and rodent feces, rather than spreading from chicken to chicken.

Completely redoing our kitchen and trying to pick a range. I'm a fairly serious cook and baker and contemplating convection vs. regular. What are your experiences and do you or any chatters recommend a specific model or ones to avoid? (It's a galley kitchen so stuck with standard 30" width -- nothing too fancy-schmancy unfortunately!)

I bought the KitchenAid Architect series but mostly because it had the good reviews in my price range. Anyone out there got good advice for a serious cook?

I read once that brining chicken breast in salted water really makes for a better grilled chicken. How long, how much salt, and do I rinse the salt off the meat before putting it on the grill? We grill chicken multiple times a week and even into the winter.

It helps to preven the meat from drying out. Simply dissolve about 1/2 cup of kosher salt (and sugar if you like) in about a gallon of water. Brine the breasts for about an hour. No need to rinse anything off. Grill as usual. For more info on brining, check out this cheat sheet from Cook Shack.

Mine is equal parts Kraft Honey BBQ sauce and Kraft Hickory Smoke BBQ sauce. I do have to stir it, so, I feel like I did something.

You can also make tabouli...there's a great recipe on Epicurious.

I like hummus sandwiches, either homemade or from the infinite variety of store-bought options. The old standby peanut butter is great, too. More typically I bring vegetable dishes and salads and add roasted chick peas for crunch and protein. Sometimes I bring a hard-cooked egg and add that as well. I use cheese but only in small amounts for flavor. I always have a vegetarian lunch with these choices.

I mix mine with cheese, jalopenos and, if I have it, chicken for an awesome quesadilla. They are also a great side over yellow rice with a bit of cheese and sour cream.

Have I mentioned that I'm hungry?

Did you ever see Tarantino's flick: Grindhouse? In it, there's a moment where two brothers are dying of gunshot wounds and are about to blow up a military base with way too many explosives. At that moment, one brother shares his recipe with the other. That's an appropriate time, not before. So says a devout Texan.

Didn't see Grindhouse. But I believe most sauce guys agree with you. Every time I asked someone to share his recipe for my stories this week, I was met with a pregnant pause, then something along the lines of, "Let me think about that." 

Your K.C. recipe was good, but we put a neat variant on it: substitute 2T Chinese chili paste with garlic for the chili powder, garlic and cayenne in your recipe. That condiment gives a totally different flavor and kick!

Love the idea. Will give it a try myself one of these days.

I was back home in Boston last week and stopped in the South End Formaggio (Joe have you ever been?). I know I wouldn't be able to fly back with all the stuff I really wanted but they did have a great, reasonably priced spice collection. I actually found fennel pollen thats not worth its weigh in gold as well as Ras al hanout and pimiento de espelette. Now that I have them I am at a loss! Any suggestions on how to highlight these spices? Thanks!

I love South End Formaggio -- I used to live about 3 blocks from there. Fabulous selection. I will point you to two places to start looking. One is a great web site called the Perfect Pantry, where they talk about how to use all that stuff and another is a story by me (!) that gets at this same issue. In it, we give advice on what to do with some of those things you buy in a frenzy but then stump you later, including espelette pepper.

Where can I get Padron peppers? is selling them, but I wanted to know if there was a store in DC that would carry them.

I've never seen them here at markets or the farmers markets. Shishito peppers are a good sub if you can find them. Anyone seen padrons locally?

Hi guys. I have a recipe for lemon balls that calls for 6 oz of ground almonds. Can I use something instead of the almonds since my husband and 2-yr old can't have nuts? The other ingredients are 3oz superfine sugar, grated rind of lemon and 2 egg whites. I was thinking maybe ground up oats? Thanks guys :)

I think regular flour might be the best subsitution. It's basically almond flour that you're using. And you don't want something with a flavor that will overwhelm the lemon. Almonds have the advantage of being delicate.

This black bean burger is wonderful with some guacamole on top. This is one of the go-to vegetarian meals in my house. We started cuting back on meat to get a little variety into our diet. What started as a one meal a week no meat zone, has spread into three or four meatless dinners a week. Good for the environment and for us.

Thanks for the recipe.

I cook lentils with spices, potatoes in my slow cooker for a few hours. Take to lunch with rice. Can really vary the flavors week to week.

I'm picking okra from my garden on a daily basis and need some new recipes. I'm not inspired by the Okra recipes in the recipe finder database. How did Sean Brock prepare those heirloom okra pods pictured today?

Well, Sean didn't prepare that okra. It was for seed saving and had grown far too big to be eaten; probably would have been very very starchy. But for inspired okra recipes, Madhur Jaffrey is always reliable. Do you like Indian flavors? If so, how about this Gujrati Okra and Potato recipe.

For the poster with extra sauce who likes chicken, if you don't want to heat up your kitchen, buy a whole roasted chicken at the grocery store, then pick all the meat off into small bits. Save some bigger carved pieces if you want for other meals. Mix the smaller bits with the sauce and have BBQ chicken for sandwiches, to top salads, make nachos quesadillas or tacos, etc. Can be bagged in smaller portions and frozen too.

Why did they go away? I miss them!

Aw, shucks. Glad you liked them. We paused them because the numbers dropped (no doubt cause the show's ratings haven't been all that hot), but we'll be bringing them back for the last few (hopefully) exciting episodes...

Can it work? I only cook once or twice a week, eating a fruit or something very light for dinner, so I don't want to waste the sauces I make.

Yes, it works. 

Ah yes, the eggs of my youth... But really, what do we need to know, or to ask fo our local grocers, to know if the eggs available are questionable? And is there anything we ought to be doing to lessen our risks as we use them? I did hear the FDA person say no more runny yolks, and to wash eggs before cracking them. Thoughts/concerns/guidance would be most welcome.

Food safety requires personal and political action. We can protect ourselves by fully cooking eggs and if possible sourcing them locally where we can talk with the farmer and see his operation. This is true for all foods--not just eggs.

But, we also need to demand politcal action from our elected representatives in the Senate, who have been unwilling to get down to business and pass S510--the food safety bill that establishes mandatory recal authority, increases inspection of facilities, requires mandatory company testing at accrecdited labs, and requres more stringent oversight of imported food.

This legislation is not perfect, but it goes a long way towards helping solve some of these issues. The legislation needs an amendment that makes the regulation scale appropriate--so thatsmall producers and farmers who do direct sales are not required to do burdensome paperwork or other things that are geared for large producers.

Our grill is broken, so I've been making pulled pork by putting boneless country ribs in the slow cooker over a bed of onions and pouring over it a sauce of equal parts bottled BBQ sauce and either beer or hard cider. It's fine, but yeah, it's bottled BBQ sauce. Would the homemade sauces hold up in the slow cooker *and* mixed with beer/cider, or should I just stick with the bottled stuff for this use? FWIW, I'm *really* hoping to get my grill fixed soon. I know the char is supposed to be bad for us now, but come on, we're all going to go from something, and I'm not giving up my grilled chicken and steaks!

I can't see why the homemade sauce wouldn't work in the slow cooker. Make it. Taste it. Doctor it as you wish. Then, give it a try. Here's hoping you get the grill fixed soon. 

For many years I've bought organic eggs from free-range chickens. When possible, I get eggs from local farms. In addition to feeling better about the humane treatment of the chickens, I've always assumed that chickens raised in better conditions are less likely to transmit diseases like salmonella. Have there been any studies to address this?

I'd love to see some studies on salmonella on a range of smaller farms in different parts of the country. Unfortuanately, because so much of research on food is funded by the food industry, I don't know of any studies that have been done on this issue.

However, going to smaller local farms is always better because these farms are not using the dangerous, intensive practices that large egg factories use . The bottom line is that if something goes wrong, there is simply less food involved and the problem is easily traced. Small farms also are not getting chicks from giant chick factories, like the company that provided chicks to Wright County Egg and Hillandale. Also, if there is a problem, the farm family producing the eggs will probably be the first to know, since they are consuming the eggs on a regular basis.

The main discussion on food safety and eggs has occurred over eggs produced from hens in cages vs. hens raised cage-free, which is generally still indoors and protected from the weather and other bird and animal hazards.  Animal rights activists have sometimes picked research, primarily coming out of Europe, that says cage-free is better.  A lot of U.S. research, where our cage systems are newer, indicates that caged production may have a slight edge.  Actually, both are sound ways of producing safe eggs, and you should feel comfortable eating either.  It is strictly consumer preference.  The risk does increase somewhat with organic production due to exposure to the environment.  Poultry scientists, supported by research, generally agree that free-range production poses a greater food safety risk.  Free-range production also brings a significantly greater risk of animal disease.  Think avian influenza contracted from water fowl.

Because free-range and back yard flocks represent only a small part of eggs marketed in the United States (specialty eggs make up less than 5% of total U.S. egg consumption) there are obviously significantly fewer human illnesses associated with these eggs.  In addition, free-range eggs are usually served in smaller settings -- family dinner vs. a breakfast buffet -- where there is less likelihood of an illness being linked to egg consumption and reported to state and federal authorities.

I find that one way to have the flavor of a good sauce like a BBQ sauce without overwhelming chicken is to add some to a grain like a brown rice or a pasta like orzo. Then serve with something like a rotisserie chicken. If you put the sauce directly on the chicken, you often can't taste the chicken, only the sauce. This way you get both tastes.

I pour BBQ sauce (for storebought I like Sauers) over tofu slices and grill them.

Who says tofu isn't bbq?

Will the US finally follow Great Britain's lead and require chickens to be vaccinated against salmonella? Or does the argument that it costs too much outweigh the public's right to safe food?

The vast majority of egg farmers in the United States use vaccines to help prevent Salmonella enteritidis, according to a survey conducted 2 years ago by United Egg Producers.

Has anyone seen fresh local figs for sale at any of the farmers' markets? The California ones from Whole Foods are just not gonna cut it--thanks!

It's a little early for figs. Should be at market in a week or two.

My friend and I were sitting at the playground talking about trying to get our kids to eat more veggies. She admitted that she doesn't cook vegetables often and asked me if I could recommend a website or blog that had plenty of cooked veggie options. I didn't know off hand, but thought you might be able to offer a suggestion.

Well, if she doesn't cook 'em, they're not going to eat them.

Does she want an all vegetarian entree? Sounds like she just wants to add vegetables to the plate. In which case...does she need formal recipes for cooked carrots, steamed broccoli, peas etc? I'm not trying to be condescending...just trying to figure out what she needs. Most of those basics involve placing the vegetable in boiling water and cooking until they are done -- between 2 and 10 minutes.

DOH! I completely forgot about this last week until after the chat. Anyone who has been to a marina has seen grills designed to fasten to boat railings. Often, they are not terribly far from the gas tanks and generally used by people in bathing suits and bare feet, so I am assuming they are somewhat designed for safety. A quick search for "boat grills" will bring up many options. Or, if you have 500 Danish krone, you can order this grill online, designed specifically for apartment balconies.  Abiding by lease terms and fire code interpretations would be up to residents, of course.

Before getting your husband a remote thermometer, I'd get him the book "Low and Slow" by Gary Wiviott. One of the very first lessons is all the gadgets and things NOT to buy. I love this quote right from the book: "It's a well known phenomenon that once you have the reputation of being a serious barbecuer, people who know nothing about barbecue will begin giving you books, celebrity-endorsed tools, and accessories you should never use. My motto: accept graciously, re-gift rapidly." I just got a smoker recently too and this book has been a great resource and saved me lots of trouble.

Those lemon balls sound amazing! Could the poster please share the instructions? Also, thanks to Stephanie for today's nourish. I've been feeling the same way about stews and can't wait to try something lighter for summer.

Hey lemon ball lady! Want to share your recipe?

here is an asian dessert that is FABULOUS with honeydew (trust me, it sounds weird, but tastes amazing!)

Honedew Tapioca Dessert

cups milk (low-fat if you prefer)

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup tapioca

2 1/2 cups honeydews (diced into 1-inch cubes)


1 Soak tapioca in water for 5 minutes.

2 Bring milk to a boil- keep stirring or else the milk will stick to the bottom of the pot.

3 Add sugar to milk.

4 Drain the tapioca and add it to milk.

5 Cook milk/tapioca mixture until tapioca changes colour (it will change from white to translucent after a couple of minutes).

6 Add diced honeydew after milk/tapioca mixture has cooled.


8 (P. S: you might want to add more sugar to if you like it sweeter, and you might want to add more milk if you find the mixture too thick).

Yes, this is similar to the one I sent through, though that was made with coconut milk. Thanks for sharing.

How many cups milk?

Deborah Madison's book "Seasonal Fruit Desserts" has a number of light, fruit based desserts (as well as some that are not as light, but that's okay). Here is one that I tried last week with one tiny cantaloupe from my garden: Small Melon Filled with Summer Fruits, Herbs, and Wine" 2 Charentais or other small, perfumed melons 3 cups mixed fruit, such as raspberries, strawberries, stemmed huckleberries, and sprigs of currants Simple syrup or agave nectar a small handful of aromatic, edible herbs and/or flowers, such as lemon verbena leaves, small sprigs of lemon thyme, lavender blossoms separated from their spikes, and small mint leaves 1/2 c Beaumes de Venise, Moscato di Asti, or port Edible blossoms for garnish Clean the melons of surface dirt and cut them in half, and slicing a bit off the bottom to ensure they can stand firmly. Scoop out the seeds and carefully remove some of the flesh using a spoon or small melon scoop. Put the melon flesh in a bowl, add the mixed fruit and sweeten with syrup to taste. Fold in the herbs and flowers and pour over the wine. Spoon this fruit salad into the melons and refrigerate for an hour. Serve the fruit-filled melons garnished with a nasturtium flower, a spray of jasmine, a rose petal, or a few sprigs of mint or lavender. This is great!

I heart Deborah Madison. That sounds divine.

I had amazing figs at the Bloomingdale farmer's market last week. So good I bought some more at Whole Foods, and yes, they were a terrible disappointment.

Shows what I know! I've been looking! My local fig tree -- not mine but I want some -- is a week away at least. Maybe those are from further south? In any case, get thee to a farmers market.

We like a balanced sauce that is a little bit tangy, a little bit sweet, and with a little kick. Nothing should overpower or compete with the meat. To me, good BBQ should not NEED sauce. Our house sauce is ketchup, Italian dressing, honey, worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and cayenne. Sorry - don't have quantities - it is all "to taste." We season to taste while cooking over low heat and then turn it off, let it cool, and leave it in the fridge overnight. Then we heat it back up, taste again and re-season. Sometimes we repeat this two or three times. It is surprising how much the flavors can change.

It is surprising how much the flavors change. I find that, oftentimes, the heat level actually goes down after a day or two, forcing me to add a bit more habanero or whatever.

I do eat fish and dairy products, but I strictly buy organic (and if possible grass-fed cow) milk and organic free-range eggs. Would like to more frequently buy organic cheese and ice cream, but a) it's very expensive and b) I haven't found organic lower-fat versions. I am trying to use 2 percent-milk cheese.

I'd order a cooked turkey from a nice place and put all my effort into great veggie dishes. And relax with family. If making turkey isn't your thing, don't sweat it.

Too true. Don't sign up for anything that would ruin your day.

I like a baked potato with some meatless chili. If you take it to work you can microwave the potato (puncture with a for, wrap in a paper towl, cook 3 minutes on high then flip and cook another 3 minutes, let cool for 1 minute). While the potato is cooling, heat up the meatless chili (I like Amy's brand). Top the potato with the chili and a bit of shredded cheese.

Good idea. Very satisfying. Random story: When I was living in England in the 80s, they used to have these jacket potato takeout shops. You'd get your baked potato and then they'd top it with stuff from a salad bar: chili, cheese, sour cream and even tuna salad. That's still considered a classic. Last time I was back visiting friends, that's what we had for lunch at the BBC cafeteria.

We wrote about Potato Valley, a similar operation in downtown DC, but I believe they're closed...

Greetings! I just got this question and your discussion is on - what luck! Can you recommend places that bake good cupcakes and deliver in the DC metro area? Cupcakes were chosen as a solution to a hygiene (sp?) issue.

I don't know of ANY cupcake shops in the DC area. I don't really think it's a thing around here at all. There's not one in, say, Georgetown that's now selling 10,000 cupcakes a day partly because of a little reality show on TLC or anything. No, there's not.

Few participated because many people watch the show on DVR and haven't watched it by the time of the chat. Comcast just released a study showing now the majority of people do NOT watch a show in real time: they DVR it.

Yep, we do understand the concept of delayed-time TV watching. But that doesn't explain why so many people come to the losing-chef live chat, does it?

Don't laugh, but I'm seriously considering getting glass top instead of gas. I've done fine all these years with electric--always thought I'd upgrade to gas. But the new models of glass top look like they'd be so much easier to keep clean. Tell me I can still stay in the cool cooking club if I -- gasp!-- don't get gas.

No. No. No. No. No. Please don't do it. I have a glass top -- not my choice; there's no gas in the building -- and I wish every day I could get rid of it. It has a really hard time keeping an even temperature -- simmering beans or anything is nightmare. I can't say I've used them much but if you want that look and a good stove, I recommend you do a little research into induction.

I bought basil at a farmer's market this weekend. I wasn't sure how to store it as I haven't gotten this much fresh basil at once. I stuck it in the fridge and it turned brown overnight. How should I store it next time? I'd like to be able to use it for a few days at least, not just the day I buy it. Thanks.

I keep mine in a glass of water in the fridge. (This works even better if the roots are attached but it will be fine without, too.) Mine often lasts up to a week this way. If you can, change the water every other day for longer lasting results.

Well, I recently made this pulled pork recipe and it turned out great. The one change that I made was that when I pulled the pork out and shredded it, I thought that the "sauce" was a little too thin. I put it in a skillet and reduced it about 1/3 (to about 2/3 original volume). Then I mixed just enough sauce back into the meat to coat the meat lightly (my wife likes drier pulled pork) and served the rest of the sauce on the side. It was a BIG hit. But, basically, it created the BBQ sauce in a slow cooker.

The classic Eastern Carolina sauce is thin. If you prefer a thicker version, you improvised nicely. Sometimes I like to do something similar: put a dry rub on the pork shoulder, thicken the sauce, then add it in the last stages of cooking, as you would, say, ribs. 

I made some rhubarb bbq sauce a while ago (May? June?) and it has been sitting in my fridge. Should I be concerned about it going bad?

Personally, I would be concerned, yes. And you are talking to a guy who is pretty cavalier about these things. In fact, I have also had sauce for months and still eaten it. That said, I wouldn't recommend it. I wouldn't necessarily throw it out. But I would give it the sniff test, and I'd see if there are tell-tale bubbles. Finally, I'd take a little taste. If anything is off, even slightly, I'd toss it. 

First, the "incredible, edible egg" was advertising genius. So is "Got Milk?" (I wonder when the flour, molasses, baking soda people will find their way into American psyche.) I know that eggs, Gulf shrimp, spinach, etc. have been buffeted by industry failures/bad press recently. I want to be an aware consumer. What steps do I take to keep calm and keep safe?

Smart shoppers can protect themselves and their family. Begin by going to the Seafood Guide that Food & Water Watch released today. Our researchers didn't just look at the environmental risks, they analyzed over 100 types of seafood to create a guide that also assesses food safety issues. The  top offender in our "Dirty Dozen" was imported coastal-farmed shrimp, which comes from countries where health, safety, labor and evironmental standards are very poor. Less than 2% of imported seafood is inspected by the FDA. You can find the guide here.

Regarding meat, use the temperature guide on this website.

Cooking meat to the right temperature is the best way to prevent food-borne disease in meats and fish.

Another strategy is to eat as little processed food as possible, both for food safety and health reasons. Food processing facilities by their nature often are contaminated with bacteria.

Also, I can't say enough, as much as possible, purchase foods locally and from grocery stores that are focsed on quality -- not bargain prices.

Ditto on the advice to employ proper cooking methods.  Don't forget that the U.S. has some of the best food safety systems in the country, and recent regulations and pending legislation will only make them better.

Do you think this massive recall will spur our food system to change? Will the FDA finally have the power to mandate a recall? Will Americans stop eating their eggs over-easy and licking their cake batter spoons?

First, we should have stopped licking those cake batter spoons long ago.  While the industry has worked and continues to work hard enhance the safety of eggs, particularly with regard to Salmonella enteritidis.   Consumers have also done their part by better handling this agricultural product. 

We will continue to employ the best measures possible to reduce the number of eggs that might contain Salmonella.  Like red meat and poultry, eggs should still be properly prepared and handled.  The Salmonella had to be there in the first place; most human illnesses related to eggs have reflected poor food preparation and handling.  For example, don't prepare and serve uncooked dishes that contain unpasteurized eggs.

Food safety legislation passed by the House last year, but held up in the Senate, gives USDA authority for mandatory recall.

There used to be a fantastic local product called "Bad News Sauce" made by Jim Barnes (of football fame), right here in the DC area. Sadly both the company and the creator are long gone. But I've never had better. Does anyone else remember it? Has anyone else tried to re-create it?

Sorry, I don't know it. Free Rangers, memories, recipes?

I received a bottle of Mirabelle grande reserve plum brandy as a gift recently, and I'm not sure of the best way to enjoy it. Alone? As an ingredient in a cocktail? Cook with it? Suggestions welcomed!

That sounds like a lovely gift. I really enjoy plum brandy, but usually neat, and almost always after dinner. It's a perfect digestivo after a big meal.

I don't eat pork. Can you recommend a melt-in-your-mouth beef rib BBQ recipe? Also, when a recipe says "baby back ribs" do they mean pork? Thanks!

Yep, "baby back" means pork. As for a beef rib bbq recipe, well, to do it right you're in for some time. In Texas, a lot of the best places simply salt and pepper the ribs, but you can add a dry rub if you like. Then, put them meat side up (bone side down) on indirect heat and, using smoldering wood (I like oak, but hickory, or a mix is good, too), cook for for at least 4, maybe 6 hours at around 250 F. The reason for the time range has to do with the quality of your smoker (the better it is, the less time it takes). Beef ribs are tough guys. They need lots of gentle coddling.

Ewww...some of your comments stink with cheap sarcasm. My recommendation is that you take a break from the chats to maybe rediscover the joys of being an instant help to to WaPo readers. If you don't return, I won't miss you.

Seriously? Wow, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, and it wasn't me! I was trying to be funny about the most overexposed trend in DC culinary history -- that of cupcakes! My answer actually provided a clue to one that does indeed deliver: Georgetown Cupcake. We have written about them a ton, and have answered q's about them in this very chat, many, many times. Sorry you didn't appreciate the humor, but maybe a cupcake will help!

I brine all my chicken. I try for an hour but have done it for only 30 minutes. I think it makes a difference be it a breast (which can easily dry out) or wings which can overcook so easily on the grill. Everything is always moist and tender.

More brining tips.

If people are looking for grilled fruit/desserts, apples work nicely. I slice them in half from the top and use a melonballer to core it. Place them cut side down for about five minutes, then flip them. Put a little butter and brown sugar where the core was, let it melt into a sauce and enjoy.

Super idea.

By the way, I enjoyed your blog on corn the other day. I stopped buying corn a few years ago because it inevitably tastes way too sweet to me. I finally bought some this summer and made creamed corn, but despite adding some hot pepper dice in it to try and balance the sweetness, I found it almost inedible. I have grown a mini blue corn (blue jade?) a couple of years in my garden and have found that to be a pleasant taste, though the crop isn't doing well this year. :(

For variety I get sunflower seed butter (my fav), cashew butter, almond butter.

I've never done jam, but I make apple butter in the crock pot every fall. I cook it on high all day: 14-16 hours.

Apple butter is different; it cooks even longer than jam and you can't really overcook it. I'm sure someone out there has a way to do jam in a slow cooker. Just seems like the wrong way to go about it.

sorry! it got cut off!!!!

A late addition to the honeydew tapioca recipe. Don't forget the milk!

Inquiring minds need to know why and how.

It's not closed! But I walked past there the other day and the name seems to have changed to Hot Potato Cafe. Not sure if the ownership changed or just the name.

Thanks for clarifying -- I just tried the number before I answered that, and got nothing, and the website was out, too. Good to know!

Am almost embarrassed to say that my family eats meat at least four times a week. We like meat. Beef, lamb, poultry and pork appear regularly in modest serving amounts and along with vegetables and starches and sweets. While I am all for looking at trends in consumption, I also feel a little too much judged in my diet.

I can see that. It's very fashionable to be anti-meat these days. These critics do have some reason: animal treatment and meat production's contribution to greenhouse gases. If these are things that concern you, perhaps you can find another way to enjoy your meat: buy sustainably raised meat. Take public transportation instead of your car. Everyone must make their own decisions. From a health perspective, if you half your plate is fruits and vegetables and starch, you're in good shape.

A regular electric glass-top should be avoided at all cost. But don't they have the new kind that must be used with stainless steel? I hear they're pretty good, though I haven't tried them.

I don't know. But I wish I had the new kind. I wish I had any other kind. Really, I just wish I had gas.

1. Licking the spoon on cake/pancake/brownie batter 2. Cooking eggs so that they taste good 3. Buying my eggs from the farmer at the weekly market Life is too short and the relative risk too small to not enjoy our food.

First off, odd that some meat eaters interpreted the survey question as an affront to their diet. I did have the same thought as an earlier chatter, if you meant animals in general or red meat. It's a conversation I often have when someone says "vegetarian". Anyhow... about the egg issue. First a comment. I tend to get my eggs and most produce locally. During the spinach scare a few years back there was little spinach to be had at the farmers market because it wasn't selling I was told. This was silly of course, since the spinach that caused problems was obviously being distributed nationwide. I'm thinking there isn't wide recognition of markets that source locally and ones where the vendors may be purchasing products from the same distributors as the supermarkets. Now my question. Do you think that the problems that have occurred with the current egg recall are as likely (or more or less likely) with local producers? Assuming that the local producers are farming on a much smaller scale for sale to restaurants and markets. Thanks!

I think that there is no question that smaller producers generally have fewer food safety issues because there is much more accountability. The consolidation in our food industry is dangerous in many ways. When you have a huge percentage of a specific food item produced in one location, when there is a food safety issue, it results in a large percentage of the food item being contaminated.

Also, big factory farms that supply companies like Walmart have to come in at as low a price as possible and there are incentives to cut costs at the expense of food safety.

Unfortunately, over the past 30 years, the federal government has pulled the antitrust cops off the beat, and regulators have approved giant mergers between meatpackers, processors, grain companies, food-processing conglomerates and supermarket chains. This has reduced the number of firms in the food buisness and increased pressure to produce as cheap a product as possible. Food safety violations are one of the outcomes.

I pretty much lived on them when I studied in the UK about ten years ago--for some reason, most meat disagreed with me there, so I ate a lot of meatless stuff. Man, now I could really go for a potato with baked beans and cheese!!

Yeah, I just remember this sketchy chili. I like it simple: butter, sour cream and scallions.

I like his sense of humor. And people should realize it's hard to do these chats on the fly, and cut him some slack.

Aw, shucks.

Slice young tender okra crosswise in dime-size rounds, dip in cornmeal, fry in frying pan in a little vegetable oil till nearly done (note: this is the only way I know to achieve non-slimy okra!). Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then pack in airtight zip-bags. Reheat in an ungreased frying pan on the stovetop to finish cooking, for a taste of summer out-of-season.


Any idea why BBQ sauce is often calorie-laden, at least the bottled kind? I mean, tomatoes, vinegar, chilies -- sounds like it should be easy on the calories, no?

Four words: High fructose corn syrup. 

Not all of us have the luxury or convenience to buy our eggs anywhere besides the supermarket. While I'm pleased that you have access to (presumably) safer organic eggs from free-range hens, please remember that some of us are at the mercy of "industrially produced" eggs, so need the stronger legislation to make them safer.

I'm going to jump in on one egg question. This is a very good point. What is on the shelf should be safe. And clearly the producers and the government have failed to make sure that this is so. But keep in mind, better safety cannot necessarily be achieved at no cost. We can't expect rock bottom prices if we want higher quality.

I know this chat is about cooking, but there is no way I'm going to be able to roast a 150 lb. pig and have some bbq tonight now that your article has me craving some pulled pork. Anyone know of a restaurant that sells Eastern NC BBQ in the metro area? Thanks

They're both a bit of a drive, but try Andy Nelson's in Cockeysville, MD, and Carolina Brothers in Ashburn, VA. 

What bothers me about all of these recalls is that when they happen we then hear that the companies have been cited and/or fined so many times for violations. How did they proceed so that we end up with a recall and that ends costing not only the companies but taxpayers as well. In the case of this company one of the animal rights groups had pictures of them torturing chickens in killing them and they did not try to deny it. What do we as consumers do to fight back against these kinds of companies?

We can't solve the problem by simply shopping our way out of it. We  also have to be voters and advocates, who demand that our elected representatives take action to protect our families.

Besides passing S510 in the Senate, which is the food safety legislation, we need the Obama administration to honor the pledge to make agricultural antitrust enforcement a priority.  They are holdingthe promised hearings around the country on agriculture and food policy, but now we need them to take meaningful action. Go to for more information about how you can get involved in these important issues.


Well, you've transferred us to a container with a tight-fitting lid, cooled us uncovered to room temperature, then covered and refrigerated us for up to 1 month, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great questions today, and thanks to Howard and Wenonah and Jim and Jason for helping us answer them. Now for the prizes. The chatter who told the story of the deathbed sauce-recipe revelation will get "Weber's on the Grill: Chicken and Sides" AND "Steak and Sides." The one who asked about baby back ribs will get "Ribs, Chops, Steaks and Wings." Send your mailing info to us at

Thanks, all! Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading.

And remember: Next week we're chatting at NOON. See you then.

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