Free Range on Food: Making dairy-free cheese at home, this week's recipes and more.

Sep 27, 2017

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 this week's food coverage, including Tamar's piece on the (small) role for local/organic in fixing our food system; Kristen's deep dive into the ever-improving world of vegan cheese; Jim's look at the phenomenon of Cornell chicken; my much-delayed articulation of the recipe for a sandwich I call the Sloppy Yo; and more.

Jim, Tamar and Kristen will be with us to handle questions in their respective areas -- and anything else they have thoughts about, of course.

We'll have cookbooks to give away to our favorite chatters today, as usual. They will remain a mystery until the end of the chat!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR2478 . 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 go!

I was at the tzedekdc evening but lost the copy of the recipe from Chef Levin and then remembered that it was going to appear here. I am running out this morning to whole foods to gather the ingredients to make for the yom kippur breakfast and will be doubling the recipe. Does anyone have the recipe for the chocolate rugelach that he made? Best, Susan

Glad you could make it! Such a fun night....a new nonprofit advocacy group for those who can't afford legal services called Tzedek DC held a celebrity chef kugel cook-off Mon night to raise funds and awareness, and this was the winning recipe -- although chef Alex had some notable competition from Mike Friedman, Kyle Bailey and Danny Lee! Will publish a brief recap later today, but in the meantime, here you go.


Re the doubling of the kugel -- two sep pans might be best! Re the chocolate and hazelnut crunch rugelach that Alex just HAPPENED to also lay out on his table....I'm sure he'd be happy to share the recipe with you: (I am of two minds about acquiring said recipe. It might be like having access to nuclear codes #dietsabotage #tootempting)


RECIPE Savta's Kugel

While I don't relish a cake mix version of a mug cake, I fail to see why the concept of cooking for one person is sad. This perpetuates the myth that only couples and families are worthy of society's blessings - or a good meal. Taking care to cook for yourself is not pathetic, it is to be lauded. I am proud to cook nice meals and treats for myself, and consider it a survival skill as well as a sensual pleasure. I'm surprised that the Post succumbed to this, given your own editor Joe Yonan has published a book on cooking for one, and I hope this will be the last such article in your otherwise excellent food section. Thank you.

Hello! It's not the concept of cooking for one person that is sad - not at all. It's something I do all the time! It's more the concept that * microwave * cooking for one can be sad -- which seems to be the opposite of what you're doing given the nice meals and treats you prepare for yourself. There's something humorously grim about tearing open a packet of powdered cake mix, sloshing it around a mug with some water, and zapping it for 55 seconds (or, in the case of the "Microwave Cooking for One" book, to ruin a perfectly good steak in the microwave). But cooking a nice dinner for yourself is a higher indulgence than these mug cakes, in my opinion. 

PERSPECTIVE: I tried a microwaveable mug cake for one and fell into a deep abyss of despair


I'm having a brunch and trying to do as many things ahead as possible. Can I make the sauce the night before and carefully reheat or should I just make it that morning? I'm doing the blender version if that makes a difference.

Absolutely. You might want to place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cooled sauce, to help keep a skin from forming. Are you making this version?

This sound amazing and - unlike last weekend - I will have an opportunity to make it this time. We all love onions and mushrooms and this sounds divine. But.... one of us actively hates blue cheese. The sight, the smell, the taste, the texture, everything. I know, I don't understand it either. Blue cheese is awesome. Do you think I could substitute it with cheddar or chevre? It wouldn't taste the same, but would it still taste good?

Hooray for this @wpmagazine #OnePan recipe! Instead of the blue cheese, a chevre would be fine, i think. Cheddar might not melt as well/evenly. 


FYI: I heard from a reader who had extra liquid in the pan, which might have been caused by the onions he chose. If you find that's the case when you make it, just pour it off. But the initial caramelizing on the stove top should be done long enough for the liquid to reduce to a syrupy state. Report back!  


RECIPE Onion Mushroom Tarte  Tatin


My garden is producing the peppers faster than I can roast and freeze them. Any recipe suggestions that would use up a bunch at once?

You and this chatter from a few weeks back both! Check those suggestions (you might be interested in the roasting-peeling-freezing part!) and also check out these recipes:

Everybody’s Chili Verde

RECIPE: Everybody’s Chili Verde

RECIPE: Chicken Picadillo-Stuffed Poblanos

Roasted Chiles Rellenos With Avocado Sauce

RECIPE: Roasted Chiles Rellenos With Avocado Sauce

And for sports-watching/general comfort-eating season:

El Rey Nachos

RECIPE: El Rey Nachos

Hi all! I got some of the last peaches from the farmer's market, but some unexpected things have come up and I haven't been able to do anything with them yet. As such, they're deteriorating rapidly. If I cut them up and freeze them now, can I still make a pie with them or will they be too mushy? Any other suggestions for frozen peaches? (No canning, please.)

You can absolutely freeze peaches and use them later for a pie — or smoothies, cobblers, or anything else that needs a punch of peach. I'd suggest peeling them first, especially if they are almost overripe, because the skin gets really fuzzy and isn't so pleasant to eat, and then cut them into wedges. Then toss them in a little fresh lemon juice to help preserve the color and spread them out on a baking sheet and let them freeze solid. After they are frozen, place them into a ziptop freezer bag and they'll stay frozen for a few months.

I'd be curious to hear your off-the-cuff response, or a later, more in-depth piece on reports of the decline in home cooking. When I read this piece in Harvard Business Review, my first reaction was that if grocers truly make this shift, what will it portend for those of us who DO want to cook, should ingredients yield to products on store shelves.

Pretty sure I made the frowny face that Editor Joe never likes to see! And then I wondered whether the survey questions were a factor -- "love to cook" is a pretty loaded phrase, don't you think? When I had to get dinner on the table every night for my family I might not even have rated that one a 5 out of 5, ya know?  Grocers are  used to shifting and following trends, and I think between improved ordering and home delivery and perhaps smaller stores, they'll figure it out. Thoughts?

I have a mess of pears and some cream cheese that I'd like to use up. Looking for a dessert adventure here!

I love the cream cheese crust by Rose Levy Beranbaum. So I see a pear tart in your future. Make this glorious one with a crunchy almond topping, but instead of the crust component here, make the cream cheese one! Boom.

RECIPE: Pear Tart With Crunchy Almond Topping

RECIPE: Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust

Bonus: The pie crust recipe is enough for a 2-crust pie, which means it'll make enough for TWO tarts! Double the pear usage...


So, this is mine: quarter cup of almond flour, half teaspoon baking powder, half teaspoon cinnamon, [your choice of amount] sweetner (natural or not), egg, [your choice of amount but a glop works] softened butter or oil. Mix together and microwave for between a minute and minute and a half. Yes, you get that collapse at the end. That just the escape of the hot air that collected under the muffin. Dump out and let it "exhale" the hot moist air for a bit. Slice and serve with your choice of spread. I just had one with peanut butter. Best bonus? Because it is mostly nuts, you won't be hungry in an hour and a half.

What is a good temperature to bake cauliflower florets ? Any recommendation for a good recipe?

I crank the oven to 475-500. Make sure to preheat the roasting pan, as I mentioned earlier, and make sure to not crowd the cauliflower. If there's not space between the florets, they won't brown as easily, and will instead steam, which leads to mush. Just toss them with a good dose of olive oil, salt and the spice of your choice, if you'd like...

Do you have a recipe for a pear tart with a custard underneath that contains cream-cheese, or a tip for modifying a classic tart custard recipe to incorporate the cream cheese?

I saw an ad on TV this morning featuring Gordon Ramsay doing his "This is terrible!" shtick -- only instead of criticizing food, he was criticizing consumer lawsuits for damages. I kinda figure he did it because he was offered a lot of money by the group behind the ad, and without a lot of thought, but I was taken aback. I also would be taken aback if I saw, say, Rachel Ray in an ad condemning something so far afield from food, like, say, mortgage rates. Why am I telling you? I don't really know, except, who else could I share this with?

I saw that commercial and thought the same thing. Then I saw the small print that it's an impersonator, not Gordon Ramsey.

I just have to shout out to Maura Judkis. I loved the pumpkin spice column. But this article about the microwave mug cakes? Just so freaking funny. LOVED that Cathy analogy--and the scented candle thing. OK, now I sound like a stalker so never mind.

Thank you so much! It makes me very happy to see that people enjoy my particular brand of junk food nihilism. 

I have friends coming from dinner who love my blueberry cobbler, so I am planning my menu backwards from it. Any suggestions for a vegetarian entree that would go well with cobbler? Thanks.

Something tells me Bonnie's tarte tatin would complement the blueberry cobbler. 

Onion Mushroom Tarte Tatin

RECIPE: Onion Mushroom Tarte Tatin

Or souffle:

Corn Souffle

RECIPE: Corn Souffle

Thanks for reporting on the popularity of plant-based eating patterns. We know people often use nutritional yeast or even curry to flavor popcorn and pasta. We're also fans of adding garlic, onions, and fresh herbs, like mint, basil, cilantro, and thyme, to plant-based dishes. What other spices and herbs do Kristen Hartke and the Washington Post food staff recommend? What's in your pantry?

Thanks for the love on plantbased stories! I'm a little bit of spice nerd, so my cupboard is loaded with lots of dried spices and herbs — my favorites are probably sumac, oregano, smoked paprika, and Meyer lemon salt. Check out the spice blends that I wrote about earlier this year from spice guru Lior Lev Sercarz — great inspiration! 

Agree with Kristen! I love smoked paprika -- and smoked spices of all kind, which I think bring so much to vegetables. Smoked salt, smoked black pepper, even smoked cinnamon! Citrus, of course -- and I'm obsessed with miso.

Oh, oh, oh — yes to Joe Yonan, smoked cinnamon is unreal! I'm obsessed with it.

I thought Maura J's article was hilarious...once I realized it was Maura J, of "birthday cake and despair" fame. But my initial reaction was WHAT? cooking for one is sad? I just think a little adjustment to the intro would have made more people receptive to reading the whole piece.

Thanks for your feedback! Mug cake and existential angst is the new birthday cake and despair. 

This Rick Bayless casserole will get ya through about 5, depending on size (and it's delicious! -- scroll down). I highly recommend his books--he uses poblano a lot. Any squash can replace the chayote, which makes my hands peel.

Misread that as Santa's Kugel. Sounds good to me either way.

As my family is trying to eat less meat, I have come across, and made, a couple of recipes using canned jackfruit (in water or brine). A couple of examples have been jackfruit "carnitas" and jackfruit "crab cakes". Do you have any other recipes I should try?

Don't you mean Kris Kugel? ;-)

I've become a real fan of making X-water. Take whatever you have (over ripe is great for this) and blitz in the food processor or blender. Strain to remove pulp and then filter it. We have a little pour-over coffee maker that's perfect for this. It does go slowly, but you wind up with a clear, flavorful liquid. Tomatoes and cucumbers work great. I've done this with a gazpacho (tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion, garlic) that makes a terrific michelada or riff on a bloody Mary. You can even warm it slightly and add some gelatin for a savory riff on Jello.

Yes! I love making tomato water for martinis — tastes like summer in a glass.

my garden is giving me lots of sage right now. I would like to use it up, or save it for future use. Any recipes that use a bunch of sage at once? Or, better yet, a way to save sage for the future? I have dried it before, but maybe there are other ways to preserve?

I love to make sugared sage; it's such a wonderful garnish for desserts. It's basically just sage leaves that are brushed lightly with a mixture of egg whites and water then sprinkled with superfine sugar. They have a wonderful crunchy sweet and savory flavor that's great to top off the whipped cream on apple or berry pies.

One woman's "humorously grim" is another woman's -- or man's -- "Hooray! Instant gratification!"

I make a vegetable and chicken shwarma recipe that I need some help adjusting. Recipe calls for roasting vegetables at 425 for 30 minutes, then adding chicken and cooking for 10-15 more minutes. I'd like to make it vegetarian by subbing in potatoes and chickpeas for the chicken. Would you recommend putting cubed potatoes in from the start? Boiling them first and adding closer to the end, with the chickpeas? Any other thoughts for making it vegetarian?

Yep, I'd roast the potatoes with the other vegetables, cutting them pretty small so they get tender and browned in that amount of time. And yes, you could add cooked chickpeas with, say, 10-15 minutes to go, so they warm through and maybe take on a little color.

This whole affair seems a little dry, doesn't it? I'd say you could use a sauce of some kind, and/or maybe some heat, but that's me. Garlicky yogurt? Tahini w/lemon? 

The Stir Fried Shrimp and Scallions looks like something I would like to prepare. Where is a good place to purchase fresh shrimp or do you recommend frozen shrimp for this dish? Regarding the Sloppy Yo Sandwich, I've been to G by Mike Isabella twice to purchase this sandwich and I can attest to the fact that its very good and quite filling. After reading what goes into the sandwich, I can well understand why the sandwich is so good and filling. Thank for sharing the recipe but I will go back to Mike's for my next sandwich and Joe, I hope you will win again.

Re the #DinnerInMinutes shrimp -- Fresh shrimp are hard to come by around here. When I can, I buy at Ivy City Fish Market -- their Gulf shrimp is great. Or I buy from Pescadeli in Bethesda, or Whole Foods fish counter. For frozen, I'd make sure the package says US Wild Caught. 

And thanks on the Sloppy Yo love!

You often recommend the (apparently really awesome!) thermopen. Which one? Classic? Super fast? Other? There are a wide range of price points and I'm not sure what's what. Would really like to get my husband one for his birthday.

    I've only used the Classic, but I love it. It's very fast and extremely accurate. It goes for around $80. 

Have Tim or Jim been there? It seemed like a big deal with them opening up a location in DC. I live in the neighborhood and the place always seems empty when I walk by. They tried selling breakfast sandwiches but that didn't last long.

       I haven't made it there yet. 

Of course the secret ingredient in this week's stir fry recipe was ketchup! My mom's version of a quick weeknight dish was Sloppy Joe's - a pound of ground beef, a small, finely minced onion, 2/3 cup salsa, and 2/3 cup ketchup. Serve it on a bun. Serve it on rice with cheese and tortilla chips - it's super easy and marvelous. No other Sloppy Joe recipe I've found compares. This ketchup-forward recipe is no slouch, either. [I should probably also admit that I'm enough of a ketchup obsessive that I've made my own a few times. :)]

:) Which ketchup recipe do you use? I kinda love this Fannie Farmer one


DINNER IN 20 MINUTES Stir-Fried Shrimp and Scallions

Rangers, I'm curious as to your favorite kitchen hack or tip. I'm thinking of something simple that has made a huge difference in the way you cook. For me, it was removing my measuring spoons from their ring, allowing me to just grab the one I want and keep the others out of the way. So easy and yet I wonder why it took so long to do it!

For me, it has been preheating my sheet pan(s) when I'm roasting vegetables. I just put it in there when the oven is heating, and then it's nice and hot when I put the cauliflower or whatever else I'm roasting on it, and it helps greatly with browning and crisping.

Couple of small things come to mind. . . precut parchment sheets that lay flat are easier than using the rolls of parchment, and they are prolonging the life of my baking sheets, I'm sure. I keep a scoop in my flours/sugars containers and that makes them easier to access quickly. And steaming hard-cooked eggs [-boiled] instead of boiling them. That works every time, and it doesn't matter whether you cook fresh or older eggs -- always easy to peel.

     A tiny thing, but I use a lot of olive oil and pouring some into a dark squirt container has made kitchen life so much easier than when I was pouring from the bottle or giant can (yeah, I use that much). 

       Dunno if this counts as a hack, but when I grill, I always think through what I can add to the fire beyond just the immediate item I intend to cook. I hate to waste a good fire. Plus, that way, I have some great stuff for later in the week. 

I have two things: the first is that I cannot live without lemons and other citrus -- I add the juice and zest to practically everything. This may be because I'm a Florida girl, but that little touch of citrus can totally save a dish that's bland, over-salted, or just needs a fresh counterpoint. My second is that I don't own a microwave — I know, that freaks people out — but I took out the giant microwave shelf that was built into my kitchen and used that space instead to hang my most-used pots and pans and especially my tongs, which are probably the kitchen implement that I reach for most often when cooking. Living without a microwave is honestly not that hard except when I'm testing a recipe that calls for one — and then I just have to go over to my neighbor's kitchen!

This might not be quite a hack, but the thing I do most (when not testing recipes!) is make substitutions. It's a "yeah duh" thing for many, but given the amount of reader emails we get asking if they can make substitutions and not break the recipe, it's worth the reminder that YES, almost always, you can. (And even if the result isn't what the author intended, if you still like it, who really cares?)

Recent ones that come to mind: Using the last two eggs in a cake recipe that called for three; making a flax egg to sub for an egg in another cake/quick bread thing when I was out of eggs completely; using fresh lemon and lime juice and zest interchangeably; using rice vinegar when I'm out of any fresh citrus; using X cheese in place of X cheese; subbing dried chile flakes for fresh peppers; using sour cream or yogurt thinned with water in place of milk or buttermilk; using tahini instead of sesame oil in this Silken Tofu With Soy Sauce (Xiao Cong Ban Dou Fu) recipe; using a few drops of Maggi sauce to supplement the dwindling supply of soy sauce for that same silken tofu recipe; you get the idea.

Yep, that's the sauce recipe I'm using. Going to make a crab spread to top english muffins then serve just like that or with the option of poached eggs and hollandaise. My overripe peaches will go into a coffee cake. Bacon and sausage on the side. An egg casserole and fruit salad are in the offering too. Think that will cover every one?

Sounds nice!

I have a problem that seems like it should be easy to solve but hasn't been. I'd like to coat slices of bread or toast with olive oil (replacing mayonnaise, for health reasons). I've tried drizzling, I've tried two of those sprayer bottles, and I've tried using a silicon brush that I use for spreading egg wash on pastry. None have produced an even thin spread. Do you have suggestions?

I'd suggest using a pastry brush with natural bristles; I actually have one that is dedicated only for using with olive oil because the bristles tend to soak up the olive oil.

Could you leave out the cheese?

Well, sure. But the dish will be missing something...the way the tangy cheese plays against the sweetness of caramelized onions and buttery walnuts. If you can't have dairy cheeses, might we interest you in some Astoundingly good cheeses that everybody -- yes, even nondairy folks -- can eat?

Fried sage - it's so yummy. I was once lucky enough to have dinner at Miss Manners' house. Her husband did the cooking and he appeared with fried sage to have with our pre-dinner drinks. It was fab. Writing my thank you note was a bit nerve wracking ... .

The recipe looks amazing--unfortunately I don't have a grill. Can this be recreated in the oven or is the grilling component essential?


RECIPE Cornell Chicken


     Both. The grilling is essential, but, yes, you can make it in the oven. I haven't made it in the oven, but I've tasted oven-cooked versions and, although lacking the grill fragrance and flavor, they were quite good. I'd suggest spatchcocking the chicken and cooking it skin side up for about an hour and 20 minutes or so at 425 degrees, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees. You might baste two or three times during the cooking, basting one last time just before it comes out.

Hi! Any ideas for vegetarian family dinners that allow a bit of customization to suit slightly varied tastes (and encourage everyone to eat a good dinner), but still let us all feel like we're eating the same meal? Some of the dishes in our regular rotation are pasta with add-your-own mix-ins, make-your-own pizza, omelets, and baked potatoes. A big bonus for meals that our kids (3 and 5) can help prepare. [By the way--there are plenty of dishes that the whole family eats! We just like to have a few that everyone can "make their own" in terms of spice/cheese/vegetal preferences!]

Taco Tuesday is clearly the obvious winner for a vegetarian dinner that everyone can customize (or burritos, taco bowls, nachos, or quesadillas) -- this was a regular rotation item in our vegetarian household while our daughter was growing up. Stirfrys are also a great option, because you can have the rice ready to go and several stirfry options to choose from — tofu, seitan, assorted veggies, and so forth — and then even the kids can have fun helping to cook up their own customized version, and it only takes a couple of minutes!

Kristen beat me to it -- there's nothing like tacos for this purpose!

Well, there is, but they're damn close: Tostadas! Same idea.

I'm an omnivore who wants to make this like NOW. I'm confused about grilling the rolls, though - the cut sides don't get grilled at all, or am I misreading. Won't they get soggy?

You're right -- the cut sides don't get grilled, because you want some of that sauce to soak in. By using a kaiser roll, which is pretty sturdy, it doesn't get soggy. (When I tried it with hamburger buns, though, they were destroyed...)

This is the messy, spicy, overstuffed sandwich that will make you reconsider vegan food

I don't know how warm it is in DC, but here in Philadelphia it's really hard to get excited about fall food (which I normally love) when it's 90 degrees out! On a separate note, I made the Chewy Cranberry, Millet and Pistachio Bars for a brand-new, first-time mom, and she really appreciated them. Thank you for a delicious, easy recipe.

Chewy Cranberry, Millet and Pistachio Bars

Glad you like those bars!

It's warm here too. :/ Luckily apples take well to frozen desserts.

Persian Rose Syrup Slushies With Apples (Falooda)

RECIPE: Persian Rose Syrup Slushies With Apples (Falooda)

Salty Cinnamon Apple Ice Cream

RECIPE: Salty Cinnamon Apple Ice Cream

I decided to try the Starbucks maple pecan latte today. I was expecting the standard sweet drink but didn't exactly get it. I got a drink that was decidedly unsweet so I registered a complaint and they put extra syrup in it. It still wasn't very good but I drank it anyway. When I got to the bottom I got a big mouthful of syrup and sugar sprinkles. Gak! I'm still shuddering.

Maple is the new pumpkin spice! Which means that next year, I'll probably have to go a whole week buying up ridiculous maple products. It sounds like your barista may have made your drink incorrectly and then overcompensated - I haven't tried the maple latte yet, but I've heard that it's  quite sweet. 

READ: Move aside, pumpkin spice latte. The maple pecan latte is here to steal the Starbucks spotlight. 

I was wondering about the chicken used for pad thai recipes. I recently made it using pre-made pad thai sauce. My recipe called for one pound of chicken, thinly sliced. It didn't specific what kind of chicken meat nor how thin to slice. I used thigh meat. It was hard to get them thinly sliced and sliced the same way because of the shape of the thigh meat and the fat/veins through out in it. I was guessing about half inch slices but they didn't cook the way I thought it would. It called to sauté them first before adding the egg then the sauce. The meat puffed up so my guess I may not have dried the meat out enough. Would a shredded chicken work better for this recipe?

Either breast or thigh meat can be shredded. Try cooking them as whole pieces and then breaking them down the way you'd like. Add cooked pieces and you'll  just need to heat them through . . . not sure adding them raw will give them the chance to pick up that much more flavor. #onewaytogo

It does sound a bit dry - how about adding at the end something that's been preserved in oil like olives or artichoke ... . Some harissa paste might go down well too,


Don't you mean technique? I hate the use of "hack" as a way of doing something. Grumble grumble grumble. I'm old, so there!

Rajas con crema. Soooo good. Better, I think, than mac and cheese, tho the comparison is unnecessary.

I love the ketchup recipe in River Cottage Veg.

Oh, will have to look it up! I love that book.

I think it's overstated. Note that the amount of people who are lukewarm has actually increased. My take: people will want to continue to cook quick, delicious, nutritious meals. There has been a growing interest in this sort of home cooking - it costs much less and along with the physical health benefits it also has mental health benefits since you're more likely to eat a family dinner together if you cook it. This has led to the increase in pre-cut onions etc and ready to cook veggies and salad. Yes, they're more expensive but they're also healthier and still cheaper than ordering in.


I personally don't enjoy this trend as I like picking out my fruit and veg but I understand it. Farmer's markets have also awakened an interest in food that actually tastes good as opposed to making it easy to transport (technology will help here I think).


All in all, I think this article was written by someone who doesn't really understand what is happening with the family psychology of cooking and that the opposite will happen - simple home cooking will continue on its upward trajectory. Frankly I find comparing cooking to sewing your own clothes is a bit overboard. Innovation after the first world war made cheap factory clothes possible. People like to get special things like their preferred coffee. Yes, fresh fast casual is taking off for lunch but I don't see it taking over without the same type of technology change. Of course, the author seems to think something like that will happen.

I'd never find some of my measuring spoons if they weren't all on the same ring as the Tablespoon!

I wanted to add to this discussion and offer an alternative viewpoint as someone who works in agriculture but also have the burden of being environmentally minded. I agree that fresh fruits and vegetables can't be the vast majority of our land- there would just be too much production. What is possible and could be done is to convert cropland-which is used to grow grains to feed to animals- to grassland. This could eliminate the need for feedlots and the majority of grain production- which is the main environmental problem- would be greatly reduced. This cropland is historical grassland after all. I would caution against the siren song that is "soil health" in grain production. The two are incompatible. It's lipstick on a pig. Cover crops can't make up for the fact that you have to rely on chemical fertilizer, of which, only about 15% is taken up by the plant- the rest goes either down into the groundwater or out to surface water and on into the ocean. Cover crops can't make up for the fact that chemical nitrogen has an inverse relationship to soil organic matter, every time you apply chemical N you burn up OM. You also have seeds coated in fungicides and insecticides that kill all the soil micro-organisms that are supposedly encouraged by the system. Don't let the fact that you can find 2 or 3 row crop producers that are trying to do a good job mask the fact that most are not. Most are not even doing no-till. Some other things that could be done is to drop the RFS which is a way of making Americans prop up corn producers and artificially raise the price of corn. If we priced all the negative externalities of water treatment and environmental cleanup into feedlots and CAFOs, they wouldn't be able to operate either. These are some things that could be done to achieve change in the food system.

I have to say that my mother's secret ingredient for some Chinese dishes was also ketchup! It took us a while to realize some things that didn't taste like we remembered were really needing ketchup. Ancient Chinese Secret Ketchup! Glad to know that we aren't the only ones! <3

Thank you all for the fabulous suggestions!

Even our small country store has started to make ready to eat food. They used to have just potato and a few other salads. Now they make fried chicken, meatloaf, sausage and peppers, etc.

Joe and the rest of the Food Gurus, I need your wisdom! I usually write in about kosher questions but now I've got a scary-to-me need for help -- I need to feed a vegan. A vegan friend is coming over for brunch at the end of October and I'm having trouble accessing recipes in the archive; it seems there is no "vegan" place to tick off for a search. The rest of the menu is kosher vegetarian, so I'm planning a vegetable frittata, and a big salad, and bagels and lox (of course) and maybe the Nourish recipe from a few years ago with the grilled mushrooms and barley, which I love. But what can I make for my friend that will be filling and also enticing for the rest of us, some of whom are omnivores? Thanks!

I have an abundance of cherry red crabapples. What are some ideas for them besides the usual jelly? Thanks!

This isn't helpful (apologies) but when I lived in Russia one of my friend's host families made preserves out of crabapples -- they were left whole, stems on, seeds in and everything, and they turned into these sort of sweet-tart soft-like-a-ripe-pear little orbs that were very, very easy to eat. I got the recipe (it involved sugar and a syrup-y type thing, assuming my friend and I correctly translated it...) but after a few attempts gave up. So, a plea: Anybody out there had this? Anybody have a recipe? Because this is what you should do with crabapples. 

A co-worker gave me some kim chi, which he said was really fresh. I thought the purpose of kim chi (and other fermented vegetables) was to let them ferment so they last a long time. Does H Mart sell kim chi at different levels of fermentation?

There is a type of kimchi that is "fresh" and not fermented: baechu geotjeori. Call and ask whether HMart carries it?

I know the poultry science club at the VA state fair used to cook chicken halves and quarters in rotating metal grates that they basted. Did they use the Cornell method?

      They may have, but I can't say for sure. I know the two are similar. 

The modified recipe calls for leg quarters. How would cooking times change if you used halves or breast? Longer? Would the marinating time change as well?

      Marinating time would remain the same. Cooking halves would take about 10, maybe 20 minutes longer.  The problem is (and the reason I used quarters) that the dark and white meat will cook at different times. That said, I and millions of others have cooked spatchcocked chickens on the grill and had it come out great. So, maybe just put on the halves, figure on about another 10 minutes and test for doneness with an instant-read thermometer (165 degrees when stuck into the thickest part of the breast). 

Chiles en nogada, Mexico's national dish (it's the colors of the flag), traditionally served only in September. If you make too many, please, please contact me and I'll take all the leftovers!

Yeah same.

Also a good time to read Laura Esquivel's "Like Water for Chocolate," for the chapter on chiles en nogada alone.

ARTICLE: Why this stuffed pepper dish wears the colors of the Mexican flag

Which would you recommend? My family like Belgian. Thanks in advance.

I like the kind of waffler that allows for the flipping of the whole iron (has a lever or handle to turn it) -- the waffles cook more evenly.

A question of import came up in Gene's chat that I feel this group of experts must address: Who among you pronounces grocer "grosser" and who pronounces it "grosher"? Inquiring minds want to know!

I haven't said the word "grocer" since sometime in the mid-80s.

Maybe the "grosher" folks had one too many adult beverages the night before.

...wait people say "grosser"?

I add a little soy sauce to some dishes, e.g., certain soups and stews, in order to make them "beefier" (since I'm vegetarian).

Amino acids are great for that too!

Is there any way to speed the cooking time up on that recipe? Between bringing the charcoal grill up to temperature and a 40ish minute cook time, there's no way that becomes a weeknight recipe for my family of three young boys who love their chicken.

      Actually, by using only the chicken quarters (the original recipe calls for halved chickens), I've made it about as fast as I can. Chicken takes time to cook through. Maybe it can be a weekend treat. 

I was gifted a few lamb hearts from a friend - what do I do with them?

Trim the gristle and/or sinew. Marinate in a simple olive oil/garlic/salt and pepper mixture for at least an hour and up to a day. Sear in a screamin hot cast-iron skillet or on the grill for about 2 mins per side (med-rare). Slice thin and serve with a chimichurri sauce.

I lightly coat chicken breasts with mayo then roll them in a 50/50 mix of seasoned bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes. Much easier and less messy than the flour-egg-crumbs approach. And it's yummy.

Some postulate that ketchup was originally Chinese. LINK:

My husband loves to learn new Indian recipes and asked for a piece of kitchen cookware for his birthday. I'm not sure what to select. Could you or your readers recommend a piece of cookware that would be especially helpful to him?

A new big nonstick skillet might be nice; also a round storage tin with individual spice containers for the ones he'd use most often?

Just my luck -- Everyone I know in the Cornell area, where I go several times a year, is vegetarian! So in 15 or 20 years of visits, I've never tried Cornell Chicken. But next time, I'm definitely tracking it down, even if I have to sneak off on my own! Thanks for the article and recipe.

       Sometimes the sneaked bite adds to the flavor. Hope you like it when you finally try it. Glad you liked the article. 

I like to bake, but also like to limit my sugar intake. I generally try to cut the sugar in a recipe, but when I see a cake that calls for 1.5 cups of sugar and 1.5 cups of flour (with 3 eggs, oil and apples) I really don't think the 1:1 ratio of flour to sugar is necessary. Am I doing something really wrong by cutting that sugar down to, say, .75 cups, making the ratio 1:.5 flour to sugar?

You're doing nothing but experimenting to find what works for you! Sugar does a lot of things in baking, but try, try, try, and take notes, and you'll be onto recipes that you love and appreciate. That's the goal for all of us...

My two cents worth: I like the convenience of the grocery store foods occasionally for my elderly parents. I can get mac and cheese, jello salads and soft foods that I know they'll eat.

There are 40 lbs of honeycrisp apples (seconds) waiting for me in the basement. I'm going to make + can some classic applesauce and probably some apple butter. Then a crisp. And then? I need to get working soon (only I'm so very tired).

Press some fresh juice? cook down some of it to make a cider syrup? Freeze pie filling?

Jim-- what do you see is the function of the eggs in the marinade? I can see the yolks adding fat, but is this sort of like marinating in mayonnaise? Would oil do just as well?

    I think it adds a velvety creaminess. The original recipe calls for one egg, but when I tried that, the richness just wasn't as apparent. So, I tried two and loved it. 

Having a hard time coming up with a wow(ish) dessert for an upcoming dinner party for a group I've never met. No food allergies/concerns but I'm drawing a blank. Cheesecake? seasonal pie? big chocolate cake? I'm a comfortable baker so any/all ideas appreciated. Thank you!

I take them off the ring and keep them in a glass. They don't get lost.

See, and for me, they go right down the garbage disposal. #takesallkinds

Even Tamar's previous article on ruminants noted that new research is showing that meat from grass fed ruminants may be carbon negative rather than having a high carbon load when soil health is ignored. While there certainly are up front costs to switching to more grass fed ruminant products (fencing, water, shade), organizations such as the Chesapeake bay Foundation have been providing cost share to help farmers make this transition. The big problem though is that corn is just so efficient at converting sunlight to calories. No other grain or grass comes close. This makes grass fed animal products more expensive than grain fed ones.

Thank you for clarifying that cooking for one is not sad. I've been doing that for many years now and have never understood the stigma. I was the only child of a single mom and we both felt insulted when people with larger families were surprised to find out that we cooked our own meals. The first Thanksgiving after both mine and a friend's mom died I invited her to dinner. She suggested we could eat a Healthy Choice frozen turkey dinner. I laughed, thinking she was joking. When she told me she wasn't I said I wouldn't do that even if I were eating Thanksgiving dinner alone. Since then I have eaten alone for many Thanksgivings and believe it or not, during those occasions I have been most thankful for my solitude!

The Better Than Boullion mushroom paste is AWESOME for "beefing" up flavor.

Leave them for the birds. They love them after they've been frozen by the cold and get all mushy.

Well, you've broken us into shards, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Jim and Kristen for helping with the a's!

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who first asked about ketchup in Chinese food will get "Meyers + Chang at Home" by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz. Send your mailing info to, and she'll get it to you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating 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.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Kristen Hartke
Kristen Hartke is a Washington-based food writer and editor.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Maura Judkis
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.
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