Free Range on Food: The yogurt aisle, cooking as a balm for depression, maximum umami, this week's recipes and more!

Sep 18, 2019

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

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope you're enjoying what we've been serving lately, including:

Charlotte Druckman's piece about author Ella Risbridger, her new book, "Midnight Chicken," and suggestion of cooking as something that can be a balm for depression. (It saved her life!)

Carrie Allan's dive into the let's-argue-about-it world of martinis, the best way (ways?) to make them, and even variations. I'll be happy if nobody on this chat makes the tired old joke about waving a bottle of vermouth in the general direction as the martini glass, or some such, but I suppose it'll happen like clockwork as it did in the comments section!

New food reporter Emily Heil's debut in the section, with a piece on White Claw and how its "post-gender" marketing has contributed to its success.

Becky's dip into the huge and confusing world of the yogurt aisle.

Cathy Barrow's delectable potato knishes!

My decision to open up another let's-argue-over-it recipes, with a take on a great upgrade to a grilled cheese sandwich!

And many more recipes, how-tos, etc.!

But wait: If you haven't signed up for Voraciously's Baking Basics Newsletter yet, you must! We've got Joy the Baker signed on to guide you, and if you know her work, you know you're in for something great. (If you don't, you should!)

OK, let's get this going! We have a very special guest today -- Ella Risbridger herself, logging in from across the pond! And Cathy "When Pies Fly" Barrow, too!

Make your questions good, and we might have a great cookbook to give one of you! We have two copies of Cathy's new book to give away, and maybe another!



I finally bought a box of kosher salt (although I just bought Morton's because that's what Giant sells) because so many recipes seem to call for it. But, to be honest, I'm not sure I understand or appreciate the difference in kosher vs table salt when it is being cooked. I can appreciate the larger particles as a finishing salt after cooking, but... Can you help me understand the reasoning for kosher over table as the standard in more modern recipes?

Samin Nosrat's indispensable "Salt Fat Acid Heat" explains this so much better than probably anyone else could--surely better than I can. But the bottom line is that it comes down to science and molecule size. You want to use kosher salt for things like brining and seasoning meat, or anything that's going to sit for a bit, so it can take in that salt. Because its particles are bigger, it takes longer to dissolve, but, once it does, it has the capacity to permeate the cell walls in a more effective way than finer salt does. In short, it can really get in there. Then, there's the flavor/texture element. People like to use flaky salt (not kosher salt per se, but generally, sea salt, which is the same varietal as kosher) for finishing for its crunch and because, with options like fleur de sel, it's more delicate flavor. Hope this has been helpful. I encourage you to read Samin!!!

To add to what Charlotte said- fleur de sel, as a finish, is also very pretty- especially on sweet things like brownies. 

I find myself in possession of a jar of this stuff. Every recipe I see for dried porcini calls for reconstituting them, so what's a gal to do with the pulverized stuff?

Porcini powder is amazing, and so useful for adding extra mushroom intensity to soups, broths, sauces, as/in seasoning rubs for meats/vegetables, sprinkled on popcorn. So many ways to use it! Here are some recipes that call for it. Chatters, feel free to add your own thoughts, cause I know you have 'em!

Vegan Bouillon

Shiitake-Noodle Salad

Double Mushroom Soup With Soba Noodles

Vedge Mushroom Stock

You could also add some to this great risotto, doubling down on the mushroom flavor!

Porcini Risotto

Oh, I have a good answer! Risotto! I stir it into a regular mushroom risotto (like, risotto rice; stock; wine; mushrooms; garlic) and it makes everything ten times mushroom-ier. I also put it into vegetarian pies and things, for a big umami-type oomph where I might once have used pancetta/other meat. 

Maura - How is the Pumpkin Spice taste test going? I appreciate the sacrifices you make to keep us informed!

I am so sorry to disappoint, but I'm taking a sabbatical from pumpkin spice this year. After so many years of nutmeg and clove sugar syrup, I am just spiced out. So I'm going to preserve my 10 remaining brain cells and my waistline by not trying any pumpkin spice products at all this fall. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. 

Ok, it's not that extreme, but I yesterday I acquired several pounds of basil from work, and I'm looking for some inspiration to use it before it goes bad. I've considered infusing some spirits, I made a delicious pesto for dinner, and our house rabbit is eating her fair share, so...any thoughts? We're mostly pescatarian, if that helps? Asking early, thank you in advance!

1) Just picturing a rabbit munching away on basil, making my morning so much lovelier. 

2) Check out this article on how to use huge amounts of tender herbs! Use a whole bunch to flavor rice, eggs, soup and other tasty things, very your pesto up with different nuts and instead of using it on pasta, smear it over chicken or fish and pan-fry or bake it, definitely infuse it into cocktails. There was one at a bar I used to work at that used basil infused vodka, cucumber, lemon, simple syrup, and a touch of ginger beer. Here's a feature from Becky on how to infuse. You can also add it to lemonade or a Watermelon-Basil Agua Fresca for an extra treat in the last of summer days. And don't forget dessert! Basil and berries are a lovely combo. You can make these Vanilla Basil Shorties, or even a Balsamic Basil Parfait. I know you've already had your pesto pasta, but you should bookmark our Summer Tomato and Basil Pasta With Pine Nut Sauce--it was our most popular recipe all summer.

I feel like I'm constantly re-organizing my refrigerator. If I cook in advance, I need to make space for big pots and pans, then when they're out I move everything back into that spot so I can see everything better. I'm just constantly shifting and in the meantime losing sight of whatever got pushed to the back. Is there a better way?

I am a huge fan of labeling everything with painter's tape and a sharpie - that way you know what is in each vessel. I think it's every home cook's problem in managing the clutter of the fridge; so you are definitely not alone. The other thing that I found useful - is Carla Lalli Music's adage - always be downsizing, meaning move things into smaller vessels as you go through them, to make room in the fridge. While it seems obvious, often that doesn't happen - maybe because no one wants to wash more dishes... Hope this helps!

A neighbor always gives us homemade persimmon freezer jam. Any good ideas for savory uses? I thought possibly it could be used to glaze pork or chicken, but I don't have a ton of experience with persimmon. Thanks!

I love the idea of using as a glaze for pork or chicken, or turkey, or lamb, perhaps. You can also use it as a condiment on a cheese plate, or, if you're like me, you will sneak it into the next grilled cheese sandwich you make--it will be especially good with a sharper cheese. I like to work jam into a vinaigrette sometimes; if it's balanced with enough acid, it can add a pop of sweetness. People also like bacon and marmalade sandwiches--so why not try a persimmon jam and bacon sandwich (and maybe add a little heat to that jam in the form of some hot pepper flakes).  Not so savory, but it would also be nice swirled into oatmeal or... SCRAMBLED EGGS (I grew up eating jam with my eggs. So that doesn't sound weird to me.)

I put a little persimmon jam in my vinaigrette. It's such a great foil for lettuce and other saladish things.

Hello. I made a mistake in baking a chocolate cake where I used a half-sheet pan instead of a quarter-sheet pan. I started over in the proper pan and all turned out well, but now I still have the “too thin” cake in my freezer. It’s not light and “cakey,” but it does not taste bad – like a dense and intensely favored cocoa-chocolate bread. Do I toss this, eat it guiltily at night, or might you have a suggestion of what to do with this? I’m wondering if I can use it in a trifle or somehow repurpose chunks into an ice cream dessert. Or is there a way to work it into cookie batter?

Not sure about cookie dough but your other ideas seem great! Especially the ice cream idea--have you checked out Becky's ice cream guide yet? If it's stiff enough, you could even make ice cream sandwiches. Re: trifle, you could cut it and layer it with whipped cream, sort of like an icebox cake.

How did you store it -- in one piece? Wondering if it might still be rollable, to make a roulade? You could just slather it with jam, whipped cream and/or pastry cream, roll it up, and serve in slices!

How much does that add to the average daily sodium intake? We need to limit ours, in order to control our blood pressure.

I tend to eat sweet things- like brownies or cookies with fleur de sel- maybe a couple of times a month, so it's not something I worry about. I don't think I'd recommend it as an everyday, every-meal type snack!

I see Dominos has a golden sugar. Have you done any baking with it? Seems like it might be better suited for some dishes than others.

Is it a golden caster sugar/baker's sugar? I pretty much exclusively use golden caster sugar in baking- it makes the cakes a beautiful pale yellow, and it has a kind of...butter-ier? caramel-ier flavour? I love it.  

Companies seem to have the same iteration of flavors: strawberry, blueberry, etc. and they are all super sweet. In Europe they have blood orange, pear with chocolate, and more. I would like to see more creativity with flavors.

Haha, you mean you want MORE choices? I hear you on *better* flavors, though. I could do without the cake flavors, for example.


ARTICLE: Grab a spoon. It’s time to make sense of the yogurt aisle.

The Icelandic ones have some interesting flavors! There's a Peach Cloudberry flavor that I love.

I always roll my eyes when I read recipe reviews along the lines of "I substituted half of the ingredients, and I can't figure out why it didn't turn out", or this recipe is wonderful, I used these 10 ingredients instead of the ones listed", etc. I would imagine it drives recipe authors crazy. That said, I just got a collection of pumpkin recipes, and in the two recipes I want to try, I'd like to substitute an ingredient in each. The pumpkin cheesecake recipe uses pecans in the gingersnap crust, and pecan brittle on the top. That would be fine with me, but, my sister hates pecans (I know, how can we be related?!). I could just omit the pecans, and I'm sure it would still be good, but, I was wondering how peanuts and peanut brittle would work. I don't recall seeing many/any pumpkin-peanut recipes. The second recipe is a pasta recipe with a sauce including pureed pumpkin, onions, nutmeg, cream, etc., and....horseradish. Horseradish is one ingredient I just can't stand, so I'm wondering if there is another recipe that would compliment the other ingredients just as well?

I don't know about the first question- pecans and canned pumpkin not being especially big in the UK- but for the second, I might swap in a little Dijon-type mustard. I don't go a bundle on horseradish either, but it's there to provide a kind of kick. I think, also, you'd probably be safe to leave it out (although I might be tempted to add in a splash of white wine, to bring down the sweetness of the pumpkin). I've never made this recipe, though, so I can't vouch for it completely. But that's what I would do. 

Are the pecans ground fine or coarse in the crust? If they are finely ground, I don't know that peanuts would give you a could texture. Maybe walnut? 

Re: hating pecans: GASP!

My son came home from a camping trip in West Virginia and gave me a paw paw fruit. I had never even seen one before, but it was tasty. Apparently paw paws are not sold commercially because they don't travel well. I briefly thought about planting the seeds, then I read about paw paw trees. The flowers smell really bad and they attract flies to pollinate them, instead of bees. Oh well. The fruit tasted like a sweet mushy banana. It would make a good pudding.

Pawpaws are in season. I've seen plenty of trees in Rock Creek Park if you know where to look for them, and if you can beat the deer, raccoons and foxes. Pawpaws make great ice cream, too.

You're in luck if you want to try any more and you're in DC: According to FreshFarm Markets, Two Boots Farm will be selling them at Dupont on Sept. 22 and 29, so get there early and grab them!

I love them and so you might find me in line.

Here's a piece we pubbed awhile back that explains more.

Was going to suggest porridge and then saw the suggestion for oatmeal. When I was on retreat with the good Thich Nhat Hanh sisters, someone gave us a box of persimmon. We gorged on them in porridge.

For Carrie: My tastes have changed over the years and I find myself with partial bottles of odd cordials and liqueurs. Ideas -- drink or food -- for hot pink X fusion liqueur, screaming yellow limoncello, green apple liqueur, purple creme de cassis, kischwasser, or macadamia nut liqueur (which came in a cute tiki bottle)?

Ha! Are they open? Do you have friends who would welcome them as white elephant (hot pink elephant?) gifts? 

If not, my main suggestion is donating, if you have a place -- I've occasionally given liquors I don't use or want anymore to nonprofits to use at fundraising events. Secondly, chuck the ones that you actually think are vile. 

But thirdly, among your list mostly I see an issue of "very sweet" components, for which overall my recommendation would be "use sparingly." I don't want a drink with a macadamia nut liqueur base, but a properly built drink where you use 1/4 ounce with a rich rum/whiskey base and a balancing bitter or sour element? Yum. 

I am interested in making Cathy Barrow's potato knish recipe, BUT I am not a fan of potato filling - a starch within a starch is not appealing to me. What other sweet or savory fillings could I use instead?

Knishes can be filled with anything you might think of. I've seen them with sweet potato, butternut squash, farmer's cheese. Personally, I make them with a caramelized onion and sauerkraut filling most often. That recipe, and one for a goulash style filling and another for a lamb, almond, and currant filling are in my new book, When Pies Fly.

Recipe: Classic Potato Knishes

Bravo to Carrie and David for their informative and witty columns. I will try the batch martini recipe soon (gin of course) and hope to never have a wine that is redolent of the locker room!

Trying to eat healthier. Instead of lunch meat I cooked a turkey breast to make sandwiches. I plan on freezing the cooked meat in single portions. Will this work? I plan on defrosting in refrigerator overnight and then make a sandwich or add to salad. Any thoughts?

I do this all the time. Portion 2 or 3 ounces per sandwich, depending on what else is going in there. Wrap well and let the turkey defrost overnight in the fridge.

We each bought a loaf of good French bread and only used one. The other sat out and got hard and I guess stale ... last week. Is it still good for anything, like maybe bread crumbs?

I, myself, would tear it up and chuck it in the blender for crumbs- then I'd toast them with some olive oil and some rosemary for pangrattato (to sprinkle on...literally everything, but most frequently pasta with a fried egg). So long as it wasn't actually spoiled or mouldy.

Hi, I bought a jar of mango chutney to use in your mango chicken salad (very good!)... but how can I use the rest of it? Thanks...

When feeling very sad, sit and work through the entire jar with a bag of papadums and some raita (yoghurt dip) on the side.  This is my go-to for extreme misery. 

(Smear it in a grilled cheese, with gruyere or manchego or swiss.)

A friend of mine posted a selfie involving a s'mores martini. I'm a gin purist. Am I right to unfriend her on FB?

I'm with you on cocktail purity, but maybe unfriending seems harsh :) Perhaps just not have cocktails together, as to limit your blood pressure from spiking too much.

Preserve the friendship by mentally replacing the word "martini" in your mind with the word "cocktail." I'm sure your friend is a lovely human, and the 80s and 90s "gifted" us with all sorts of perversions of the martini. There seemed to be a time when people just stuck a "tini" on the end of anything at all. Some of them are actually pretty good drinks, too -- they just aren't martinis. It seems to me we live in a world where your gin martini and your friend's S'mores "cocktail" (try NOT to replace the word "martini" with "abomination") can co-exist, if uneasily. 


I know this has been discussed before but I don't remember what was recommended. What food scale do you recommend for baking? Any chatter favorites? Amazon has too many to choose from with differing reviews. Thanks!

Here's the one I use at home and we use in the Food Lab, from Oxo. I love it, especially that pull-out display feature. Helps if you have a large bowl.

What’s the best way to make muffine from a boxed mix moister? I’d rather make muffins from scratch but all we had on hand was a corn bread muffin mix that came complete except for milk and egg. I’d followed the directions before and the muffins were really dry so this time I added extra milk and baked just two muffins, to test the results. They came out dry so I added a glob of yogurt to the remaining dough. The next muffins were still dry so I added about as much applesauce as there was remaining dough. With all those extras, the muffins finally were moist, but they didn’t rise as much as they were supposed to so they were heavy. I’m thinking of experimenting with baking less than the recommended minimum time and setting the oven lower than the recipe says. What's the best procedure?

I might try using buttermilk in place of milk, for a more tender crumb, and adding an extra egg. You can also, instead of adding a glob of yogurt, add some creme fraiche or sour cream, or a bit of heavy cream... or, some ricotta. Honey or maple syrup in place of applesauce, will also give you a moister crumb, if the mix needs some sweetness. If anything, once you add these ingredients, which lend moisture, your baking time would have to be extended, so lowering the heat and baking it for less time might not be the best call. I might do something a little risky-seeming here and add 1/4 teaspoon more baking powder to the dry mix, before incorporating the wet ingredients. If you've added an additional cup or more worth of wet ingredients, you can go up 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. If you're using buttermilk in place of milk, you can add a pinch of baking soda instead (the acid in the buttermilk will activate the baking soda). Baking soda is more concentrated/reactive than baking powder, so, really a pinch should do it. That's what I'd do! 

While having teeth problems, I lost a lot of weight. Is there a healthy way to gain it back?

This is something you're going to want to consult your doctor or nutritionist about. None of us are qualified to give you a safe answer for this.

The only thing I feel qualified to say is: 


Any good tips/recipes? I have 2-3 medium-sized ones. Thank you!

I make this recipe with all the squash these days, especially because the poblanos and other peppers are so beautiful this year.  

Really, you can use them in any way you like to use summer squash or zucchini. Only difference is really the shape, so unless you're stuffing them whole (which is fun!), just cut up and go to town.


Mixed with equal amount of cream cheese, great sandwich spread.

When Mom was downsizing, we gave several to a friend who uses them in baking desserts, and the others to the communal bar at her retirement home.

I'd pull out the ones that could feasibly be used for a baking project and then toss or gift the rest. Or google specialty cocktail recipes for a few of the ones you have in decent quantity and throw a really crazy party.

A party for people you don't really like that much ;)

But what is it? Slightly caramelized sugar, or with something added?

If it's the same stuff we have in the UK, it's just less refined than white caster sugar. 

You could have used a pastry that included butter. Not pareve anymore. I get that the "traditional" pastry might have wanted to stay neutral, but I think that is mostly because the "traditional" knish (at least in my family when my great grandmother was alive) was a way to use up meat trimmings. She had a whole cycle of cooking where you used leftovers from one big thing to start the next one. And then other ones you made out of leftover bits just because they were there - like jam cookies could only be made with "old jam," never from a new jar. And then the time my grandfather didn't have any old jam, but wanted the cookies (they all lived in houses next to each other) so he took a new jar, spooned out a bunch of it and presented it to his mother as "old." I bet she wasn't fooled a bit.

I love this story! Old jam, indeed! Yes, you're totally correct that I could have added butter, but the beauty of the dough is that it can go either way. I have made some wonderful meaty knishes from leftovers, just like your great grandmother. 

We've been making/eating/freezing basil pesto all summer. But the genoa basil is getting unhappy with the cooler temps while the thai basil is still going gangbusters. We eat plenty of it in salads and various noodle/curry dishes. But what about making it into a pesto of sorts? Ideas for me?

You can bring some to me at the office.

Kidding (hahaha...unless?). Thai basil also infuses great in cocktails! We've got a Purple Basil Cocktail that might do the trick. You could also use it to add some aromatic flair to a simple rice dish. Not sure about pesto--chatters, any suggestions?

So putting aside the debate over gin vs vodka (really, there IS no debate, one is real, and one isn't...!) and the correct proportion of vermouth, is there really a difference between shaken and stirred? Yes, I've hear all about "bruising" the gin, but for the life of me I cannot tell the difference in a side-by-side tasting. Am I just some kind of martini philistine?

So ... everyone's palate is different, and if you don't care, you don't care. BUT -- if you ask me whether I can really tell, the answer is yes. Shaking will usually result in more dilution (though it can be only slightly more, depending on length of shake time) and it may get the drink a little colder. But to me the bigger issue is texture: Do you like the tiny slivers of ice that often end up in a shaken martini? Do you like the cloudiness that results from shaking a drink? Some of the strong opinions about this are equally founded on principles of aesthetics as those of taste, I think! (And the "bruising" the gin thing just seems like B.S. to me, honestly.)

I understand your explanation of the molecular size & all for brining and finishing, but what about baking recipes that call for kosher salt? Does that make as much of a difference?

In my opinion, no, it doesn't make as much of a difference in baking. But, the substitute ratio isn't an equal one, so if you are working with a recipe that calls for fine salt and you have kosher salt, you'll want to go by weight, not volume, to get the right amount. The Morton salt folks have a handy chart to help you with the conversion if you don't want to pull out your scale. 

not a question but thought I'd mentioned that I just finished making your tomato/basil pasta dish. Winner. Thanks! Maybe next time i'll add some squash or zucchini. 

So glad to hear! Honestly, everything I've made from Amy Chaplin's gorgeous new book has been a hit. But that one has been so popular in my house and among my friends that I've made it five times in three weeks. Seriously.

RECIPE: Summer Tomato and Basil Pasta With Pine Nut Sauce

Wouldn't that require that it have a different chemical formula - which it doesn't unless you count not having added iodine. I'm still not getting it. Other than measuring differently (larger particles don't pack as closely so the same volume will have less weight) and the iodine issue, I find it hard to get why kosher salt matters at all if you expect it to melt into a liquid.

It's not about melting into a liquid. It's about seasoning a dense piece of meat. It's better at pulling the moisture out of the meat than fine salt would be. 

While I came of drinking age deep in the era of Smirnoff Ice and am therefore Too Old to have an opinion on White Claw, I tried one the other day. Eminently drinkable and a far superior alternative to alco-pops. Perhaps it's as much a matter of good quality as trendiness and post-gender marketing?

TRIFLE - gosh, I'm going to get trifle in every week!!

If it's really unusable, consider cutting it up then running it through the blender or food processor for cake crumbs. But I bet it might be nice at the bottom of a chocolate mousse.

Where is this sold? Is it expensive? I'm imagining sprinkling it on everything. Omelettes. Sandwiches. Popcorn. Even in my shoes so my feet would smell great and my toes would get the Princess Di treatment.

It's popular in Italian cooking, so look at Italian markets and other specialty markets.

We have a name for it in our family - it's my father's name -ized. Because he was famous for doing this and we all used to joke about it. But it works.

A colleague brought in a fantastic Ghanian rice and bean dish to share yesterday and it is apparently flavored/colored with sorghum leaves. This led me to a little online research and I realized that I do not know enough about sorghum. Apparently you can eat the grain, use the leaves, and make syrup from some part of it? The grain is much higher than rice, etc., in protein and is gluten free. What else to I need to know about this miracle plant and where is a good source for recipes?

A great resource for recipes that showcase sorghum flour would be Alice Medrich's FLAVOR FLOURS--it's a terrific resource for learning how to incorporate all kinds of flours (teff, kamut, buckwheat, chestnut). Here's a solid crash course on its history in the U.S. from the California Gold Rice Foundation. The syrup is a little greener and more sour tasting than, say, honey, or maple syrup; you can try drizzling it on pancakes, or biscuits or cornbread, like they do in the American South. 

I've given up and only buy plain whole-milk yogurt now. All the flavored ones are way too sweet. I add my own fresh fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup. Even my five-year-old doesn't like the pre-sweetened/fruited flavors anymore.

Yes, I pretty much just buy plain now.

I had the most delicious Chestnut yogurt in France -- ooh-la-la!

Wow, that sounds great.

I made last weeks biscotti recipe. I have made biscotti before but as I remember the recipe wss longer and made a larger batch. After the second ten minutes the biscotti still looked wet so I left it in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. It looked like normal biscotti but the texture is odd. It is dense, gummy and hard as a biff nut as my grtandma used to say and not the satisfying crisp of biscotti I have made before. Each week I make at least one recipe from you suggestions this is the first time I wasn't happy with the results. My new favorite is the blueberry corn cake, but I have made it more times with cherries (with the pits removed as one of you pointed in a chat). Everyone loves that recipe. What could have happened with the biscotti?

blueberry cornmeal cake

RECIPE: Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

I am so upset to hear this! I am really flummoxed, because I made these 3 or 4 times and the texture was always spot on. Even before the 20-minute second bake, these were fairly dry.

How is your oven temp? Could it be running low? Were the biscotti all in a single layer? Is it possible any of the ingredients were incorrectly measured? (I do it, too, I swear.)

I mean, these are supposed to be pretty hard, it could just be that this is different than what you're used to, yes. (You could certainly bake less, if that's what you prefer.) That's why I love dipping in coffee or tea.

Almond Biscotti (Cantucci di Prato)

RECIPE: Your cup of coffee and these simple almond biscotti make a perfect match

I have found solace in cooking several times in my life. During a hard patch of life, I baked cookies. All kinds of cookies and gave them away. Some of the cookies I have never made again which were rolled and iced and complicated. But in the complex instructions, I found mental release to focus on something concrete for a few hours vs my ever present problems. I love making homemade soups, easy and simple recipes. Nothing is more soothing than preparing and eating a bowl of hot soup. The smell and aroma of soup cooking is relaxing and a signal to slow down relax and sip on some soup. In the arena of 20 min meals and fast cooking which has its place, the pleasure and enjoyment of cooking for longer periods is nice too. Isn't that why we love our special holiday foods?

I completely agree- my book Midnight Chicken is all about this. For me it's about the way you've got both creative freedom (you're making something! you're really doing it!) with actual clear instructions to achieve something (if you do x, you'll get y). After my partner died last year I made so many cookies- I was literally giving away huge Tupperwares of cookies to anybody who came by. One of the best things anyone did for me was say "I would have brought anyone else a meal, but I brought you ingredients". Cooking is the best- it saved my life. I'm so glad you find something similar in it!

I bought a pasta machine a few months ago and love adding different vegetable powders to the dough for color and flavor. I've made mushroom pasta a few times!

French toast! With a good long soak. Or French toast casserole where you assembled it and refrigerate overnight. Or fondue.

So, as near as I can tell, the food section has everything that shows up in Voraciously but also the items that are only relevant to DC area people? Is that the split? And Voraciously is only missing the local DC articles (reviews, that article about the Baltimore restaurants dress code)? Thanks. I still think that you should be able to get to the food section with a link from any Voraciously page, though I see why you might not if you want to have section with non-local appeal.

You can think of it this way: Voraciously is a destination from WaPoFood, so Food online includes everything from Voraciously plus some things that aren't. It's true that the local/DC-relevant things don't go in Voraciously, and some other particularly newsy things or cooking things that we think are really for a more experienced audience and not our intended V crowd.

Not a question, a strong suggestion, very strong suggestion - make it now. OMG, fantastic. Even better the next day, cold or warm or any way. Leftovers you will eat standing at the counter before anyone else finds them (if you are a heathen like me). You will love it. If not, I'll be happy to take it off your hands.


A couple weeks ago I went to Toronto and the surrounding area for the first time. I really wanted my typical single-serve yogurt for breakfast one morning, so I walked into a local grocery store (probably the equivalent to our Giant). I was shocked at the difference in the yogurt aisle in CA vs the US! There were NO single-serve yogurt cups (everything was in larger tubs or multi-packs) and there was way less variety than we have here. Thinking it might be a fluke, I sought after a Whole Foods in Toronto where I had the exact same experience! Do Canadians just not like yogurt for breakfast/snack or is there some sort of weird regulation on it there??

No idea, but it sure does seem more environmentally friendly. I wish so many more of the yogurts came in big tubs. It lasts for weeks in the fridge, really, so I don't mind portioning out however much I want into my own containers.

My NYC raised Jewish husband refuses to believe those are knishes. Oh well. They look very good to my untutored taste.

They really are knishes! You can change his mind by making them.

Whenever I have something chocolate-y that didn't work, (or leftover cake or shortbread) I make it into a mud pie. Make crumbs with the chocolate cake, press into the bottom of a pie pan; top with some mocha, chocolate or vanilla ice cream and freeze. add chocolate sauce and whipped cream before serving, maybe some more crumbs and some nuts.

Scoff if you want, but prune yogurt was my favorite starting in my teens, when I began eating yogurt. But I never see it anywhere anymore. If you have seen it, please tell where. Or tell me how to make it! (I think it was Dannon because years ago, that was the only brand sold in many markets, but this was years ago so I'm not sure.)

Never seen that. I would maybe soak prunes in water, puree and perhaps then cook down on the stovetop with a little bit of sugar. Stir into the yogurt.

I would drive to your house to pick up the limoncello! I make it with this tried-&-true recipe from the Post every year & give bottles away as holiday/hostess gifts to friends & neighbors. It is such a delight to have in the freezer.

Do all yogurts contain probiotics?

Yes, from my understanding, unless it's been heat-treated after fermentation, which I think is not very common. Look for "live active cultures" on the label. This piece explains more.

Just wanted to thank you. A while ago You gave me some guidance in which one you used. I got one on sale and although it seemed like a little splurge at the time, it was worth it. There are so many recipes that say to process small amounts of herbs or ingredients and my regular sized food processor can’t do it. So happy now. Thanks.

So glad! Yes, I love mine -- use it much more often than the big one, frankly.

Want to try a few recipes that cal for red curry paste. Bought a "Instant Thai Red Curry Paste," at local Asian market. Directions on the jar say to add water and coconut milk. I'm assuming that makes a sauce. Question is - can I use this paste in recipes calling for red curry paste or get non-instant? All new to me.

Once you add the water and coconut milk, as directed on the jar, you can then add it to recipes that call for curry paste. Or else, you can use curry paste in the jar (i.e. non-instant). Making fresh curry paste, from scratch, is always going to yield the most delicious results, but it requires a lot of ingredients that aren't always so accessible and easy to find, depending on where you live (Asian markets should have them; especially Thai markets). It also takes more time. So, if that's not a path you want to go down, the resuscitated instant stuff, or the jarred stuff will work. 

To add to what Charlotte said, I use the instant red curry paste (and green) often as a base if I'm in a hurry- I use it as a base for a fancier currier paste, so I might add more ginger, more galangal, fresh lime leaves, fresh lime zest- whatever I could pick up on my way home. Plus coconut milk and water to make the sauce. I feel like this is a compromise that works for me! 

Yes, cooking does help, especially if you cook for someone and think about them as cooking. My problem - the eating is pretty good therapy too. Oh well, as problems go, that's a pretty good one to have, right?

A great problem to have. Cooking for others does share out the problem, though!

You can always use frozen fruit too if that's better for how you shop.


Since we're on that topic, I have to say that Oui yogurt (even though it's made by Yoplait) is really delicious; also, it comes in these cute little glass jars that make great rustic chic candle holders - win win!

Have a jar of that in the fridge from the shoot, I need to try it!

I over-bought canned chickpeas several weeks ago, and used some up making the soup from last week. I left out the artichokes due to a non-artichoke person, but it was delicious anyway, and very easy. (I used up a leftover rotisserie chicken in it, too!) The lemon juice was great.

Time for hummus!

Any of you familiar with Seylou bakery's bird bread? I have no plans to stop buying from them but I'd love to figure out how to make a somewhat larger loaf for gluten free sandwiches. Any ideas or pointers to a recipe or method for an oat flour bread that is absolutely jam-packed with seeds and nuts?

Chad Robertson's TARTINE BOOK No. 3 is a good place to turn for recipes/methods for grain-heavy bread--he's known for his oat porridge loaf, among others (it is not gluten-free, though). I've heard good things about Dr. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe François's cookbook Gluten Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but haven't cooked from it, so I can't personally vouch for it. 

Ahhh college... thank you for some fond memories just now

I found out that they add sugar to fruit yoghurt because the fruit added is not ripe and therefore not sweet. I always wondered about that because I thought 'fruit is sweet'.

I really just like stirring in jams or compotes myself.

I've never even seen one, but what will be going through my head all day will be Picking up paw paws, put them in your pocket...

Ha, yes!

good timing; I just got Ruth Reichl's memoir out of the library.

For me - the chopping and stirring is meditative, and as the aromas begin to arise ... I find cooking very soothing.

Absolutely. One doesn't want to be the person who swans into a chat and says "BUY MY BOOK", but Midnight Chicken really is all about this. It's my whole life, in many ways! 

You really should buy Ella's book!

Cake pops were all the rage a while ago. Recipe required cake crumbs. It’s a no-bake kind of thing...but people seemed to like them.

If you want straight gin with an olive, just say so.

Ha! Nice to see the Churchillian formula reversed.

One thing thing that has helped me keep things neat and organized is to keep a cork trivet on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Anytime I transfer a hot pot or dish into the refrigerator, that's where it goes and I don't have to hunt for a trivet.

I recipe tested the Fresh Summer Peach Salad -- use in other Thai or Vietnamese recipes too!

Are butter prices starting to go crazy or is it only Breakstone whipped butter? Breakstone used to cost about the same as the only other whipped butter I’m used to seeing, Land O Lakes. But this month (unless it started earlier and I didn’t notice), Breakstone jumped to $4.09 for the 8-oz tub, for $8.18/lb. That’s Breakstone. Land o’Lakes is $2.79 for the 8-oz tub for $5.58/lb. I’ve seen this price differential at two Giants in D.C in the past two weeks. Maybe the prices are unchanged at other stores? Or is it time to fill the freezer with butter?

I have no idea, but I haven't bought whipped butter in ... I don't know how long! Chatters, anybody notice this?

Just call it brownies and eat it. Or make chocolate trifle.

Also great for sandwiches! Partially mash, and mix in mayo, salt/pepper, green onions, sweet gherkins, dried cranberries, and almonds, or whatever you have on hand.

Mine look exactly like yours. It was the texture when you bit into them. I'd send you a picture if I knew where. I don't do social media so no Instagram.

Feel free to email me!

A story I'd forgotten until this question: sorghum is grown a lot in the Shenandoah Valley and when my late father first tasted it, he shuddered and said, "That's sorghum all right." He was raised on a farm during the Depression and sometimes that was the only sweetener they had. It definitely tastes herbaceous to me.

In case no one has mentioned it yet, Morton's kosher salt is saltier by volume than Diamond Crystal, and "Most" recipes are written with Diamond Crystal in, if you're using one when they meant the other, you will completely oversalt your dish and then write a review about how darn salty it is and what's up with that???

Did anyone else read her tribute to Susan Kamil on 'that other paper' this week - it's gorgeous.

I don't know what paper you mean. ;-)

or persimmon pudding, as they call it in California, where it's a longtime autumn treat. A bakery in my MIL's hometown used to make a heavenly persimmon pudding -- I tell people that it's like fruitcake except it's good.

My brother announced he had started eating yogurt to be healthier. I was the bad big sister that had to point out his blueberry yogurt had something like 22 grams of sugar added. Like previous posters I buy plain and stir in my own fruit and small bit of granola. For pattypan squash my mother used to slice it thin, dredge in flour/salt/pepper and fry until the slices were crisp.

Made it for a recipe, which I can't find. Any suggestions on how to use before it goes bad? (Besides eating it with a spoon out of container?)

I use it as a sweetener for oatmeal/overnight oats. You can use it to make brownies, snackable bites, or toffee/date/cake-type things. 

to serve with, say, blue cheeses?

I love to sprinkle them as a topping on tossed green salad. Especially good with vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing.

Mostly they add the bacteria after pasteurization because they've been killed during that process. That's why they mostly have the same bacteria. There's some conversation this is not a good as when the probiotics get a chance to develop naturally.

Spread it on a layer of not-too-sweet cookie dough, top with another layer of dough, cut up and bake.

By adding water, coconut milk, etc. does it become more sauce like than paste like? Thx


Greek Gods, the maker of my favorite unflavored whole milk Greek yogurt, also makes small containers of yogurt in great flavors - the raspberry/ginger is particularly outstanding. Alas, my local Yes store (the only place I could find these) has discontinued carrying them and apparently their distributor doesn't stock them. The website says Target and Walmart but isn't specific re where and what and I never go into those stores. The GG "salted caramel" yogurt was also particularly outstanding and again seems to now be unavailable here. I noticed that both Safeway and Giant were starting to carry this brand (initially I found it at WF and that store discontinued it so I buy it at Yes) but Safeway seems to have given up. Too bad - the plain from whole milk is better than Fage IMHO.

Have you or the chatters ever made, or even seen, Green Kale Bread before? I had similar rolls in a restaurant in Europe, and they had the moistest crumb I’ve ever eaten (delicious with homemade vegetable soup). The one thing I’m skeptical about is that the kale isn’t cooked before being puréed in the blender, so I wonder whether that adds the moistness, or if it makes the greenness of the dough uneven. Any suggestions? 

Uninformed Irish Catholic here, just wondering what constitutes a knish? What's the line in the sand? Curious, enlightenment welcome.

I mean, a knish by any other name is really a hand pie. And I'm pretty sure most cultures have a hand pie of sorts - there are Cornish pasties, empanadas, and so on. Really, knishes are Central to Eastern European, typically filled with potatoes or meat or a handful of other ingredients. Cathy's knishes are a classic potato ones with a few flourishes!

don't keep me in suspense - which mini food processor do you use?

Cuisinart Mini-Prep.

Chobani's passionfruit is terrific and tarter than other flavors.

I'm thinking I would prepare some dinners to freeze I don't understand the specific mechanics. For example, for lasagna, do you bake then freeze it? Or leave the baking for later? Do you defrost it before cooking? Either way, at what temperature and for how long? Where do learn to do this? Thanks!

This is always going to depend on the dish itself. So what works for lasagna (baked or not) will be different than something like a soup or stew, for example. You should check the recipe, which often provides you information on what cooking you can do in advance, and how to do that. For lasagna, specifically, people disagree on whether or not to thaw it (baked or not), but the majority of them favor letting it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. When it comes to an unbaked lasagna, I recommend adding the top layer of cheese right before you put it in the oven, instead of freezing it with that top layer on it. 

Trador Joe's European Style yoghurt. It's creamier and less sour - more like the yoghurt I'm used to growing up in the UK. Also - it's whole milk - what is this obsession with reduced fat milk yoghurt.

Sadly, not the case for me. I'll be making those knishes soon.

I love the Noosa flavors, especially the Mexican chocolate, which has a touch of cinnamon. Whole Foods has/had a range of vegetable flavored yogurts, tomato, squash, etc.. Just as bad as you would imagine.

"The one true knish is the one my mother makes!"

first of all, what a great title for a book---and i'm with you, cooking/baking is therapy (although sorry to hear of your struggles). anytime i have something that is bothering me i retreat to the kitchen. my neighbors who are the recipients of my angst baking know that the level of complication is directly related to my level of angst-normal stress means roll out cookies. big time stress means cakes/pies and biscotti. win win---neighbors get food, i melt into the ritual of baking and cheaper than therapy!

Available in Portugal, where it's called Maracujá.

Ellie Krieger has a really nice zucchini walnut muffin that uses date paste. Great to freeze for a quick breakfast.

Has obviously never tried potato pizza

Right! Carb on carb is the best!

The infamous British "chip butty."

Well, you've brushed us with egg wash and baked until golden brown, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and many thanks to Ella Risbridger, Cathy Barrow, Carrie Allan and Charlotte Druckman for help with the a's!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who said her Jewish husband would not consider Cathy's potato knishes to be knishes AND the one who asked for non-potato substitutes will each get a copy of her latest book, "When Pies Fly"! Send your mailing info to, and she'll get them your way.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Maura Judkis
Maura is a staff food writer at The Post.
Charlotte Druckman
Charlotte Druckman is an author, journalist and food writer in New York City. She conceived and edited the anthology Women on Food, which will be out in October, and her second cookbook, Kitchen Remix, arrives in April, 2020.
Ella Risbridger
Ella Risbridger is a writer from London. Her first cookbook, "Midnight Chicken (& Other Recipes Worth Living For)" came out earlier this year.
Emily Heil
Emily is a staff food writer at The Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Tim Carman
Tim is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining for Weekend.
Olga Massov
Olga is a food editor at The Post.
Carrie Allan
Carrie is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Kari Sonde
Kari is the food editorial aide.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, a freelance writer based in Cape Cod, writes The Post's Unearthed column. She's the author of four books, including Dreaded Broccoli (Scribner, 1999), and writes about harvesting food first-hand at
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow is the author of "Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet and Savory Slab Pies" (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018).
Recent Chats
  • Next: