Free Range on Food: Ranking cheap wines, a sandwich for a crowd, this week's recipes and more.

Sep 06, 2017

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

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you're enjoying this week's content, including Dave McIntyre's tasting of popular, cheap, widely available wines; Maura's look at DC chef Kwame Onwuachi's next moves; Sophie Egan's take on the idea of hyper-personalized nutrition (and what it could mean for society); Cathy Barrow's gorgeous sandwich designed to feed a crowd; and more.

We'll have a rare appearance by Dave in the chat room today, so please send him any and all wine questions. (And if you want extra credit, tell us what YOUR favorite cheap wine is, domestic or imported!) We'll also have Cathy, who can answer, well, just about anything.

As always, we'll have at least one giveaway book for our favorite chatters: "Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook," source of this week's Weeknight Veg recipe for Spanish Potato Salad With Chickpeas.

And for you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR4400 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's do this!

Why choose chardonnay to compare? Does anyone really drink chardonnay anymore? I haven't for years, and neither does anyone I know who is a serious white wine drinker. I hate the oak and there is no consistency. I would have preferred a comparison of pinot grigots or sauvignon blancs.

I hear you, but Chardonnay is still the most popular white wine in the US, if not the world. Granted, the list I drew inspiration from was the most popular brands, not the most popular varieties, but I had to draw a line somewhere, so I chose an iconic white and an iconic red.

Certainly, some of these brands might show better with other wines. I recall liking the Barefoot Moscato when I tried it for a Moscato piece I wrote a few years ago.

ARTICLE: These wines are cheap and available everywhere. But are any worth drinking?

Do you expect to have to replace your pots & pans, knives & forks every 5, 10 or 20 years? Do more expensive ones last longer?

I'm sure everyone will pipe in here, but I can say that I am still using Le Creuset pans purchased in 1978. I have carbon steel knives found in France in the 80s. Cast iron pans are decades old - most of them salvaged from junk shops and reconditioned. Well made, often expensive but not always, kitchen equipment will last for a lifetime or more. As for knives and forks - I use a flatware set that was my family's when I was growing up. It's well made and sturdy and feels great (and familiar) in my hand.

Agreed. Well-made things should last you for decades. When my mother moved recently from West Texas to a nursing home in Maine, I inherited her Saladmaster pots and pans, which date to the 1960s -- and honestly look about 5 years old, max.

Thanks for the recommendations last week. I took Joe's advice and dined at Eventide, which is a terrific and creative oyster bar. I really did have only one meal, and wished I could have tried the lobster bisque with green curry in addition to the clam chowder and the platter of freshly shucked Maine oysters. I treated myself to a whoopie pie for dessert - state of the art and not too large. But in all honesty, the most delicious thing was the coleslaw - the perfect amount of lightly creamy dressing with just a hint of horseradish. Everything I saw looked fabulous except for the lobster rolls, for which the bread seemed overly pale and flat. Thanks so much Joe - it was great.

Glad to hear this about one of my favorite places!

I'm getting green beans galore from the garden. What do you recommend as a potluck dish for a Ladie's Gathering on the patio? Thank you!

Here's a great one. Lemony Green Bean Pasta Salad

RECIPE: Lemony Green Bean Pasta Salad

Or another: 

Minted Green Bean Salad

RECIPE: Minted Green Bean Salad

You can make both of them ahead of time, too.

You should know, when on a live chat page, you cannot click on Sections on the top left to move to another chat. You have to go to your home page and then choose from there.

Interesting! I see that. Will report it.

Hi! After years of dismissing baking with yeast as "too much effort," I've finally taken the plunge and bought a mixer with a dough hook and a jar of yeast. Any suggestions on favorite sweet and savory bakes? Thanks :)

Have fun. Making bread is so satisfying. I've been on a deep dive for the last two years. I am in love with the Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook. The breads  -- corn rye, cheddar batard, and ciabbata particularly -- are spectacular. For the best success in any yeasty endeavor, weigh, don't measure, your ingredients.

As a dedicated bread baker for years (need something to soak up the wine!), I love an old-dough recipe from Steve Sullivan of Berkeley's Acme Bakery, published way back when in Baking With Julia. It's a 3-step process but the mixer makes it really easy. And you keep a walnut-sized piece of dough to start the next batch. It's not a true sourdough as it uses yeast in the 3rd stage but it has some of those qualities. My piece of dough resting in my freezer, waiting to start the next batch, can trace its lineage back at least 15 years.

My Food section was not delivered with my Post this morning, and I don't find the web page satisfactory. Is there an on-line version that shows the print edition? I really wanted to read it before this chat began!

Be sure to check the inserts -- the Food section this week is inside Parenting, which is inside Travel, which is inside the NFL preview.

But also, you can view the e-Replica version (the link to this is on the right-hand side of the homepage).

Happy to report that I was able to do my fist mozzarella cheese, it felt great to know exactly what my ingredients were and even more surprised to see how everything transformed in front of my eyes in less than 1h. Which cheese will you do next? Mozzarella was great and I’m thinking of adding some herbs in the future to make it more tasty but I really want to do a different cheese (perhaps a little bit of aging or adding other cultures?) Any suggestion for a beginner will be appreciated!

Feta cheese is satisfying to make and so different than what you get in the grocery store. Stracciatella is another take on mozzarella. Cottage cheese is creamy and tender. And when you're ready, homemade camembert is like nothing you've tasted outside of France.


Yes. All the time. The difference is that I drink French chardonnay, not American.

And you probably pay a little more for it than most of these I tried for this feature. Though there are some very nice Chards from the Val de Loire (sometimes called Jardin de France) that cost $10-15, and even Chablis can be found for around $20. 

I would like to try to "grill" a head of romaine at home - except I don't have a grill. Or even a cast-iron pan. Any suggestions for a work-around? Thank you!

Well, first things first: You really should get a cast-iron pan. So versatile, and as you can see from Cathy's answer to an earlier question, so durable! (And affordable, too.)

But any pan that you can get smokin' hot can work to sear romaine and approximate what happens on a grill (minus the actual smoke, of course). Another possibility to always remember: Your broiler. (Especially if you've got an open-flame one, like the drawer style I used to have -- and miss terribly.)

Once you do that, you should make this treatment:

RECIPE: Burnt Romaine With Avocado and Cotija

When Kara mentioned last week that the bread she bought from the bakery in Reykjavik was the best she had ever eaten, I thought, "Could it be?" It turned out it was the same bakery that my family discovered and loved on our trip there last summer. We ate their bread for breakfast and lunch every day (cheese sandwiches!) and when we left the city to stay in a rental house in the countryside for the rest of our trip, we stocked up with 6 loaves and still wished we had more. I know Kara had a recipe for the Danish-style bread, but the one we wolfed down was the more standard whole grain loaf (also the white version). Is there any chance you have a recipe for something approximating this delicious bread? Here's a photo from their website. Thanks!

Sigh, what a lovely photo. I had a similar loaf, too -- I'm guessing it's a sourdough (seemed like most of their breads had a sour element to them), maybe similar to this recipe for Country Loaf (Pain de Campagne)


Country Loaf (Pain de Campagne)

I suspect what makes their breads so great, though, is the quality/strains of wheat they're using -- I think they're really fresh and also freshly milled on site. 

I have from my parents both cast iron pans and le creuset - they are are at least 60 years old - most likely older. I also love the connection to my parents. Good pans should last.

Hear, hear. So nice that you have these! 

What protein can take a long marinade? I leave the house at 7:30am in the morning and I don't get home until 6:30pm at night. What can I marinade in the morning and cook for dinner? I know that fish wouldn't be a good candidate, but are certain cuts better than others?

Hanger steak for the grill! With a nice Cabernet from Chile!

The OP was asking about non-ultra pasteurized milk. I've made mozzarella and ricotta plenty of times with store-brand milk from Giant and Safeway.

Absolutely. And the goat's milk from Trader Joe's makes a nice simple chevre, too. For a rounder, more nuanced flavor, try the milk from local dairies, usually sold in glass bottles (South Mountain, Trickling Springs). I've seen their milks in Whole Foods and at Union Market, as well as at several farmers markets. These milks are imbued with the character of the meadows through the year, so the early spring milk tends to be grassy and now it has more of a hay flavor.

I'm not sure whether this is food or travel or eating out - but are you aware of any upcoming apple festivals in the area? I would really love to stock up on some cider and some apples - Cortlands or Macouns would be the grand prize. I'm willing to drive 2 hours or so each way. Thanks!

I can vouch for the National Apple Harvest Festival outside of Gettysburg, Pa. It takes place over two weekends in October. If that doesn't satiate your apple cravings, check out the markets at Hollabaugh's and Sandoe's in Biglerville.

And while you're up there, you'll probably want ice cream, right? Half Pint Creamery is a good place to stop.

Last night I bought some corn at Save a Lot which was very, very good. Sometimes their produce is better than you'd expect. Anyway, I started thinking about cooking it. My dad always said, "Bring the water to a boil, drop in the ears and set the timer for five minutes" so that's what I do. My sister in law puts the ears in cold water, brings it to a boil and then cooks the life out of it. I have to politely decline to eat it. Do you all have a special technique for corn? Please don't tell me you boil it for twenty minutes.

Microwave that corn, still in the husk. Place the corn in the microwave and cook on high for 4 minutes for 2 ears, 8 minutes for 4. Hold on to the hot corn with a kitchen towel, grasping it at the top of the ear . With a sharp chef's knife, cut off the bottom 1/4-inch, right through the cob, then grab hold of the silk and husk at the top and tug the ear out. The ear will emerge perfectly cooked and without any silk. 

I couldn't have said it better myself. See the evidence in this video.

FOOD HACKS: How to shuck and cut corn

There was no insert delivered with my Post today. Thanks for the e-Replica link.

Sorry 'bout that! 

I made two batches of cherry bounce - one with vodka and the other with bourbon. They both taste very smooth. What cocktails do you recommend making with them?

So many great options! I like to use cherry bounce to create a Manhattan riff, splitting the bounce with a good sweet vermouth (probably great with the bourbon-based version). Would also suggest trying the vodka one in a highball with tonic or club soda, perhaps with a little spicy bitters (Angostura or allspice). You might also see how well it performs in cocktails that traditionally have Cherry Heering in them (the Blood & Sand comes to mind). You might also try using the bounce to pinken up a batch of lemonade, assuming we still get a little more summer sometime soon.

We bought a large tub of supermarket cole slaw yesterday and accidentally left it on the table overnight after setting it out for dinner, where about half the tub was eaten. So, about 16 hours unrefrigerated, with the top on. Would the dressing make us sick if we ate it? Can we make it safe to eat? The ingredients include mayonnaise made with egg yolks.

Toss it. The general rule is that a prepared food shouldn't spend more than four hours in the "danger zone" -- between 40 and 140 F. 

Have you, dear Rangers and Readers, tried the various low-cal pastas made from ingredients like lentils, beans and cauliflower? They're gluten-free too, but that's not my main concern, calories are. If not many comments are forthcoming, please-please review them for a future article. I tried two zap-in-bag ones (from Birdseye), and while I didn't care for the sauce on the one that came sauced, the texture and mouth-feel of that and the plain one were good enough to satisfy me. Then I saw dried pasta made from similar veggies and something called Jerusalem artichoke at the WF and figure they're going to be more economical, which counter-balances having to wash a dirty pot. But I don't want to buy and test them all, if you'll do it for me. Please and thank you!

Gluten-free pastas

We did a taste test of gluten-free pastas, some of which may be low-cal. (The focus was on lack of gluten, though, not lack of calories.) Low-cal is certainly another avenue to explore! 

Chatters, any comments on low-cal pastas you've tried?

I'm going to order The Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook TODAY. Years ago a bakery in NYC had a German baker who made corn rye, the best rye I ever had. Unfortunately, the baker returned to Germany. I hope the recipe will produce something at least similar.

Sounds great. Not sure if you're in the DC area or not, but have you had Mark Furstenberg's corn rye at Bread Furst? It's stellar.

When I was a child, my grandmother would fly from Boston to Ohio with a suitcase full of corn rye for my mother.

My grandparents fled their home during WWII with only what they could carry and what they needed on the road. This included four forks of unknown maker - stamped only with the word "rustproof" in Latvian. These four forks are marvelously balanced, of perfect size, shape, and weight, have lasted at least 75 years, and I use them daily.

That "rustproof" label didn't lie, did it? Amazing.

Not the OP (but thankful they wrote in about making your own cheese), I know whole milk makes the best tasting cheese (and you need the fat to some extent), but alas, I can't always afford the fat calories. Is there any rule of thumb for using skim/part skim or 2% in making the cheese recipes you recommend?

Because cheese is the result of the milk solids/fats separating from the whey, using low fat or skim milk results in a much lower yield. Ricotta made from a quart of 2% milk results in a few tablespoons unlike the cup of ricotta extracted from whole milk. Other cheeses simply will not set up without the solids and fats from whole, and even cream-top, milk. 

Dave, I've been enjoying wines from the Southern Hemisphere lately. My go-tos lately have been from the Cape Town, SA area, and various wines originating from the Marlborough area of New Zealand. Could you recommend something outside of the Sauv Blancs I've been drinking lately (in the white family, as I am sensitive to the tannins usually present in reds)? A quick question on tannins - is it usually attributed to a wine being "oaked" or is oaked just a flavor booster?

Tannin comes from the grape skins, stems and seeds. One reason we don't usually perceive tannin in white wines is that they are typically destemmed before pressing, and then taken off the skins very quickly. If you try an "orange" or "amber" wine (often from Georgia, but some from Slovenia and trendier wineries everywhere), these are white wines made like reds -- ie., prolonged skin contact. You will feel the tannins.

Tannins do come from oak barrels, especially new ones. If your first impression of a Chardonnay or a big red wine is one of getting gobsmacked by a 2-by-4, that's probably from oak tannin.

For other whites: Look for Rieslings from New Zealand and Australia (I have a good one coming in next week's recommendations, from Pewsey Vale in Australia's Eden Valley). Argentina is making some of the world's best Chardonnay right now, but is also known for Torrontes, a lighter, flowery white wine. From South Africa, look for Chenin Blanc, sometimes called Steen (local name). Ken Forrester makes a nice one called P'tit Chenin, and you cannot go wrong with wines from A.A. Badenhorst, especially the Secateurs Chenin, which retails at about $20, maybe even less.

Leave an empty pot on an electric burner you didn't know was turned on.....

... or leave an empty one on an electric induction burner that wasn't on, but got turned on my one of your new kittens. Truly.

Are red onions different from yellow onions, besides the color? Wondered about this while reading today's recipe for Spanish potato salad. Second question, are red onions the same as Bermuda onions?

Red onions are milder in flavor, yellow onions are sweeter. Bermuda onions aren't red -- they're a sweet onion, flat-topped, and can be either white or yellow.

I stock Casal Garcia Vinho Verde as a summer wine. They have both a rose and non-rose. It's light, with just the slightest fizz. I find that Spanish (Garnacha, particularly) and Portuguese wines are generally pretty good value, but I'm nothing close to an expert, just know what I like and don't.

You may not be an expert, but you play one on TV! :-)

I agree with you: Vinho Verde is a great summer tipple. And Spain and Portugal do produce great bargain wines with good quality.

I have a bushel (I think) of pears. They are small and not fully ripe. I am thinking of making something like pear sauce that I won't have to jar (don't want to go through the jarring process) or a compote that I can keep in the fridge and pull out for toast or dessert. Any simple ideas to use up a bunch of pears?

Pear sauce, like apple sauce, is a terrific way to preserve those fall fruits. It has a fairly long shelf life in the refrigerator but will, in a week or so, begin to mold. Why not make a big batch of pear sauce and package it in ziptop bags or small freezer containers. I'd put 2 cups in each container, as that's what I would be likely to use up in a week or so. You can safely freeze pear sauce or compote (sauce that's chunkier) for 12 months.

A couple of questions: over the past few years the wine alcohol has been going up, up...used to be 12.5, then 13 now there's some that are 15% bordering on fortified territory. Any inside scoop on this? The other is why can't they get together and put the % on the same space on the label? You have to look on the front, on the back and sometimes its in print you need special glasses to find.

Oh man, I hear you on the labeling. US wineries mostly on the front, in the tiniest font and faintest ink possible; imported wineries on the back somewhere among the government warning gobbledygook. And of course, the laws allow some variation between the label and the actual ABV, for a variety of reasons.

I wrote about this issue a few years ago, when I started listing the ABV on my recommendations. Levels have indeed crept up. It's easy and convenient to blame climate change (warmer weather = riper grapes = more sugar = more alcohol), but it's probably more because of improved viticulture. Vintners have become better at ripening grapes, through vineyard practices (leaf pulling, to get more sun on the clusters, etc.). That's why we rarely have really bad vintages now; even in rough weather years, they know how to make good wine. (Not that vintage isn't important! Look for the rainfall count this month and its influence on local reds in 2017! Stay away, Irma.)

About 11 years ago, I asked a Sonoma County vintner why he and his colleagues were making higher alcohol wines. His reply: "Because we can." 

Consumer preference has something to do with it too. Certain prominent wine critics highly praised opulent wines, and that helped drive the style. Now, you see many writers (myself included) favoring more moderate levels. The market, and the winemakers, are responding. You just have to seek those out among the behemoths.

All the chat about great bread last week got me to thinking. When I was in Portugal in June and July, most restaurants would put out a selection of bread and rolls. One option was finger-sized slices of a deliciously moist, chewy, dark brown bread. We finally thought to ask a waitress what it was, and she said "corn bread". Well, not the way we make it in the states! But I'm a New Englander by birth and breeding, so I thought -- Anadama bread? Can you or any of the chatters shed some light, and maybe even point me to a recipe? The websites I've tried have been ... contradictory. Thanks!

I believe you're looking for broa, Portugal's corn bread (and much different from ours).

Does this look like it might be the thing? I trust King Arthur's recipes, so I think it's worth a shot.

Unoaked chardonnay was a revelation to me. For many of us, oaked chardonnay was a gateway wine - now I can't stand the stuff and stayed away from Chardonnay altogether, until I went to a wine tasting at Addie Basin's a few years ago. They had a bunch of unoaked Chardonnays and I was stunned at how much I liked them.

Two I recommend looking for: Chehalem winery in Oregon produces one called INOX (named for the stainless steel -- ie not oak -- tanks it's aged in). And Chatham winery on Virginia's Eastern Shore makes an Unoaked Chardonnay that costs about $17 a bottle and is delicious. I wish someone would buy up a lot of land down there and finance Jon and Mills Wehner to plant more acres of vines.

On a higher level, go back to Addy Bassin's and explore their Chablis section. Most -- MOST -- Chablis is unoaked.

Made the cheddar pancetta and spring onion scones over the weekend. I'm the gruyere substitute poster and it was fine. They are awesome at breakfast. Will try with the cheddar next go round. BTW I'm third generation with my cast iron skillets. And my daughter found an old KitchenAid mixer (1970) at a garage sale for $25! It runs just fine.

Happy to hear that! Thanks for reporting back.

Cheddar, Pancetta and Spring Onion Scones

RECIPE: Cheddar, Pancetta and Spring Onion Scones

And high five to durable kitchen equipment.

I was cleaning out my mother's house and found some rennet in the refrigerator. I know it's been at least twenty years since she made cheese. Does rennet keep or should I pitch it? I don't know even what rennet is exactly.

I think you can pitch that rennet. A new box or bottle will set you back about $3. and will be more reliable if you suddenly find yourself compelled to make cheese.

Im the original OP and I did use the Trickling Springs milk (found it in Wholes food). Thanks for the cheese recipe recommendations! I will try them for sure

I'm a pretty solid cook who loves to watch TV related shows (mostly on PBS), still this summer I "discovered" the versatility of blueberries (salads, sauces, sweet, salty). Any surprising discoveries this summer?

Not a discovery from this year, but last year:

Blueberry and Chive Risotto

RECIPE: Blueberry and Chive Risotto

How'd you use them this summer?

It was recommended to me, and I found it to be indistinguishable from "real" pasta! And I hate most whole-wheat or gluten-free pasta. I found it at my local health-food store.

Funny someone asked. I know the conventional wisdom is that they are milder, but I have never (ever!) bought a mild red onion. I try it about once a year, and that once a year for 2017 was Sunday. Made a salad for lunch yesterday, and the thin slices not only brought tears to my eyes, but I think my dragon breath startled the person next to me in the post-lunch meeting when I whispered a comment to her. It just never works for me!

Funny! I do think it's a matter of degrees, and there's so much variability from onion to onion anyhow (especially in terms of freshness, which correlates to sharpness in my experience) that it can be hard to distinguish. You know you can always soak onions in a little water for a half hour or so to take out some of the bite? Citrus works too -- or you can just pickle them, which is amazing.

This one's for Dave. A sales associate at my local package store was looking up a wine for me that he didn't have in stock. It was listed at being for sale at Total Wine which he said is indicative of a poor quality vineyard - not that vintage or particular grape. Is there any truth in that assessment?

Not necessarily. Big box wine stores like Total Wine & More or BevMo out West typically have so much buying power that they have "winery direct" exclusives. They can go to a large wine company such as The Wine Group and order pallets of merlot and they create their own brands. They also either own or work with an affiliated importer, taking all their product. (Total is up to 90+ stores, I think - that's an awful lot of buying power!) That's why they have so many brands that are not available anywhere else, and why they can sell them at good prices. It's also why you don't see Total listed in my recommendations very often. 

People in the trade or "wine snobs" like to pooh pooh this model as necessarily leading to poor quality, but it's hard to argue with success. (Though I guess I did in today's feature.) Just be skeptical of the romantic vintner nonsense they may attach to some labels.

Maybe I am just cheap, and yeah, the Los Vascos is subjectively better than the Frontera, but when I have a couple of glasses every night with dinner, the difference between $10/bottle and $5/bottle adds up, while the differences between the wines is not that great to me. I got my start on the stuff that is delivered by tanker truck in France, so maybe that affects my perspective, but to me there is a sharp distinction between everyday wine and special occasion wines.

And that's something the wine industry always seems to forget. They are too interesting in getting 100 points from Wine Spectator and making some rarefied cult wine. We need more everyday wine at good quality. Today's article though, shows that the US wine industry, at least, is failing at that.

Thank you both, Cathy and Joe. That's what I thought: Buy once, use forever. But my utensils (forks, knives, spoons) have developed odd discolorations after 5-15 years of use. Could it be that my dishwasher detergent, usually store-brand, is too harsh?

Hmm. I'm not sure! Chatters, any experience with this?

I put some in a raw kale salad with toasted pecans. One of my guests said she didn't like blueberries but still enjoyed them in the salad!

The King Arthur recipe makes a tasty bread, but it sounds like the poster had something with more whole wheat in it. Start with the KA version if you're not an experienced baker, then try this one, which has been great for me.


I find Loire wines too flowery, but yes on the Real Thing: Chablis. I'd rather pay more for French Chablis than drink California chardonnay.

No argument here! But try Argentina Chardonnay, especially Catena or Bodega Salentein.

There are some nice inexpensive Chileans, too. I didn't put it in this tasting, but the Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Chard (and Cab) is great.

I like to dry pears and use them in your gingerbread pear s'mores. Drying fruit is kind of labor intensive but worth it, to me anyway.

Dried pears are wonderful. I keep them for dessert emergencies. Dipped in bittersweet chocolate and dusted with toasted almonds.

RECIPE: Gingerbread Pear S'Mores

At a farmer's market, I discovered a brand of pasta from Denver called Pappardelle. It is sold in a store in Frederick called Pasta Palette. It is expensive but they have a low carb variety and I have diabetes. I suggest looking into their low cal variety.

Is a wonderful book, but a few of the recipes just don't work. Some of the weight measures are off. For a LOT of different rye recipes, try The Rye Baker (book and website). For good corn rye recipes try Inside the Jewish Bakery or The Jewish Baker. Both have great ones that have worked for me.

I have wooden spoons that are more than 35 years old, and I cook a lot. Most pots, pans, dishes and utensils should last a lifetime with proper care, but appliances can break down over time. I find the older appliances last longer though - my toastmaster toaster dates dates from the Kennedy administration and is thus older than I am and still makes a mean piece of toast.

I was gifted a couple of boxes of these and have eaten one so far. I'm not gluten free so this was random for me. Made a light sauce of olive oil, burst cherry tomatoes, and parmesan, and it was fine; the texture was pretty solid, but there was a taste that I didn't care that much for. And I LOVE chickpeas. I bet a meat sauce or something heavier would help with the taste, but I would just as rather eat that sauce on polenta or another gluten free grain.

As long as someone brought up scones... I made blueberry ricotta scones this past weekend. They taste okay, but the texture is a bit like a messed-up, super-dense muffin and not as dry/crumbly as I thought scones should be. I baked them a couple of minutes longer than the recipe said because they seemed pale/underdone and, of course, the bottoms started to burn. They baked at 425, which did seem really high to me. The cheddar-pancetta version you linked to said 375, and I wonder if I should've been closer to that temp.

Hmm. This seems like it might be a problematic recipe -- can you share it with us so we can help diagnose, or send it to someone who can?

My family really likes the red lentil tube-shaped pasta from Trader Joe's. Lower cal than wheat pasta but not really a low-cal food -- portion control is key. But it's really good with a simple tomato sauce and for sure scratches the pasta itch. If you want super-lo-cal pasta, your best bet is shirataki noodles, which are more like ramen. I think they're made from tofu.

I am the one with the bushel of pears, and now I'm considering drying! thanks for the suggestion. How do I go about drying them without a dehydrator? Would an electric oven be best for this purpose?

Wash the pears well and dry them. Slice 1/4-inch thick preferably using a mandoline so the slices are very uniform. Place them on a rack over a baking sheet. Dry the pears in an oven set to the lowest possible setting, no higher than 200 degrees. If your oven will not go below 225 degrees, slightly prop the door open. Leave the pears in the oven overnight and possibly several hours more. They should be leathery and flexible. Store in a ziptop bag or covered container.

I do it every year and it's great!

Tofu Shirataki (near the tofu in the refrigerated section) has about ten calories per serving. The smell takes some getting used to, but it won't taste like it smells as long as it's rinsed THOROUGHLY (although you're probably better off with strong sauce, not something light and delicate).

Dishwasher detergent is definitely too harsh for some things. We always hand wash knives. My mother singlehandedly destroyed some French high carbon knives by never wanting to hand wash anything. Mom ...

The Spanish potato salad recipe looks great. Would a larger potato like a russet chopped smaller work just as well? I want to try going vegan for a few days a week. Also are there any fall vegan recipes that tickle your fancy?

(Trying this again with the right answer!)

Sure, russets would be fine -- and would absorb more of the dressing, too, if you tossed them with it while they were hot.

As for fall vegan recipes, here's a favorite!

Roasted Squash With Pumpkin Seed Mole

They're made from yams.

This may be a Brit/American difference as scones have morphed here, but scones should not be dry and hard (that would be a rock cake). They should have the texture of a an American biscuit

I read and enjoyed Cathy Barrow’s take on the pan bagnat this morning. It was with a sense of anticipation which increased as I approached the part about pressing the sandwich: but all that was there was “Although this sandwich is often pressed…” For some of us it’s all about the pressing. Decades ago, my future husband and I took a drive out into the country accompanied by a fine, homemade pan bagnat. I had just read M K F Fisher’s account of this sandwich, and we followed her instructions with regard to pressing the sandwich: hubby-to-be was required to sit on the (well wrapped) sandwich throughout the outbound trip. I’m happy to say now, forty years later, that this little quirk did not scare him away.

Great story! I did try pressing the caponata version and it got a little squishier than I thought appropriate.  

ARTICLE: This crowd-pleasing sandwich is made to last — and to pack

Would you recommend any of the trader Joe's wines? Its the only place that I have easy access to wines!

Since I live in Maryland, my TJs doesn't sell wine. I did visit a few in DC and VA a few years ago and found a few that were pretty good. (This article discussed the Total Wine exclusivity theme too.) 

Incanto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano at Trader Joe's - they don't always have it so I make sure to stock up when it arrives! under $10

Sounds worth seeking out! Thanks for the tip.

Is there a store anywhere in this area that sells Basque wines? I had one recently at La Cuchara and another at Anxo and would really like to buy some to have at home!

I wrote up a Basque rosé this summer that was terrific. Here's the link. In addition to those stores, I'd recommend MacArthur and Calvert Woodley in DC, in Gaithersburg, Arrowine in Arlington and Unwined in Alexandria. If they don't have any, they can get it for you.

Thanks for that! this recipe calls for "fine cornmeal" and then says "very popular in the Azores, where they use a fine white corn flour - very difficult to find here in the US - it is not corn meal." Would masa harina be an appropriate substitution, do you think?

Nope. Masa harina is from corn that has been nixtamalized -- treated so it can be turned into masa dough for tortillas, tamales, etc. 

One comment and one question. Regarding the person who said "drinks chardonnay anymore" with regard to serious wine drinkers, I'd have to say that what it seems you don't like is the oaked chardonnay. I agree in this regard. Frankly, if you drink the chardonnay's from Italy or France, I think you'd be happy to drink them, as I am. For Mr McIntyre - why is it that imported inexpensive wines are generally better than domestic wines as you stated at the end of your article? Is it the agricultural subsidies here or elsewhere that favor certain crops? Labor costs? Other?

I'm sure productions cost, land, labor, etc. has a lot to do with it. But there seems to be a lack of interest in quality for inexpensive wine on this side of the pond. Not that there aren't any good ones, but there are few that could make the quantity needed to be "best sellers". 

I have some utensils that were from my great grandmother and once I got them they started to form stains, so I started to hand wash them instead of putting them in the dishwasher and they returned to their normal state. Try it with yours!

I haven't seen this wine in years and am wondering what happened to it. When I asked the owner of my local package store, she said "that's SO seventies!" She did an online search for it and couldn't find it.

Burgundy??? It hasn't gone anywhere.

Perhaps you mean E&J Gallo's Hearty Burgundy? They celebrated its 50th or 60th anniversary last year. Try the Montgomery County Liquor Stores.

I'm still baking my biscuits on a 75-year-old EKCO pan which was probably a wedding present to my parents. Also still in regular use: a small aluminum pot I use for making soft-boiled eggs, a potato masher, a box grater, and an aluminum roll bowl with its ventilated top and tray. There's more...

Among your wonderful collection of recipes, under what name would I find a recipe for cookies that would retain their shape during baking? There are lots of those used at Christmas time for stars, christmas trees, etc. I have a wonderful one that uses dark brown sugar as a main flavor, but a whole pound of butter! I am hoping to find something lighter. Thanks, Marion

I'm not sure there's a single name for all such cookies, since they're made in different ways -- some cut, some pressed, etc. Your best bet is to go by the photos!

I heartily endorse this recipe and Chef Jose Andres' accompanying sentiment. Makes the dish all the more worthwhile. 

I inherited my grandmother's cast iron pans--gifted to her as a wedding present from her mother-in-law. Looked up the company and found out that they STOPPED making cast iron in the mid 1880s. LOVE those pans. (It's really a dutch oven with a "hinge", so you can use the shallow top or the deeper bottom pan as needed. Or put 'em together.)

will work in the broa recipe. Or you can buy corn flour from the Bob's Red Mill brand

If you put them in the dishwasher, be sure to keep them away from other metals (which probably shouldn't be in the dishwasher anyway). I actually leaned this from handwashing. I let my stainless untensils soak in dishwater that also had something aluminum in there. There's some kind of reaction that spots and discolors the stainless.

Not quite. It's more halfway between a real old-fashioned American muffin, and an American biscuit. As a techie friend says, "the mapping is not one-to-one."

What are your thoughts on the common wines in box--Bota, Black Box, etc.? Which are the best? They're so environmentally friendly, not only the packaging itself, but the lighter weight requires less gas in the vehicles transporting them. I also prefer them because they last forever, so I don't have to open a whole bottle for just a splash in a recipe. I've found that they can be really hit or miss--the reds especially--but it IS possible to box good wine! There's a lot of it in Australia. What do you think? (Wine on tap in restaurants hasn't really caught on here yet, but I hope it will soon!)

My recent impressions, as detailed in today's article, were not positive, but I agree with you on the environmental advantages. Check out this column I wrote last February. And thanks for the reminder to contact Jocelyn Cambier - he's bringing in some killer Cotes du Rhone in box.

Air drying just does not work for my chilies in this humid area. I have successfully oven dried them, but I am thinking a dehydrator could have a lot of uses (herbs, fruit). Is there one you recommend--super bonus points for something easily stored in my non-existent storage?

Most dehydrators are not space-saving. They are big and bulky. Before you invest in one, see if you can find one at a yard sale. Excalibur is the top of the line, but Presto makes a small, functional unit.

I made the sort-of-like-tunafish salad with chickpeas this week. I plopped it on my salads for lunch. I usually just add mayo and Old Bay Seasoning to my tuna so this was a different taste and texture with all the chopped vegetables. I'll be mashing more chickpeas in the future!

I bought some of that awesome Middle Eastern whipped garlic paste from a farmer's market purveyor a couple of weeks ago and am wondering how long I can safely use it. Ingredients are just garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. So far it smells and tastes fine. Any thoughts on how long it'll last in the fridge? It has a strong raw garlic taste so I can't use up large amounts quickly, though I've found it's perfect as a wet rub on pork or chicken.

In Bonnie's recipe for this (it's called toum), she says it's good for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

RECIPE: Garlic Paste (Toum)

If I wanted to taste oak, I'd go out and lick a tree. Blech. Now, the white burgundy that they serve at public events at the French embassy (thank you environmental film festival) is very drinkable.

And we've mentioned Chablis, but we shouldn't forget Macon-Villages, another Burgundy region that produces excellent Chardonnay at good prices.


I have a Chinese clever that belonged to my father. He died in 1982 so it is at least 35 years old and probably older. Since he knew lots of people in NYC Chinese restaurants, he probably "borrowed" a high quality clever.

no question, just wanted to pass on that I was laughing out loud at the creative descriptions of the bad wines! Someone had too much fun writing that!

Yes, I did! Thanks. 

Is there any way to tell if a chard is unoaked by the label? I have a terrible memory for names but am constantly running across brands I've not heard of anyway.

Only if it says so, and some do.

I lived in an apartment tower where it was usual to tip the large staff at Christmas. I overheard a well-dressed woman talking about giving $2.00 bottles of wine. That's cheap in every way.


European wines are made by people with thousands of years of expertise in wine-making. That's got to be a factor.

Most of them aren't THAT old!

Well, you've wrapped us snugly with plastic wrap and refrigerated us for at least 8 hours, and up to overnight, so you know what that means -- we're done!

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

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about fall vegan recipe ideas will get "Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook." Send your mailing address to, and she'll get you your book.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating, DRINKING and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's first cookbook is "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton). She blogs at
Dave McIntyre
Dave McIntyre writes the Post's weekly wine column and blogs about wine at
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
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