Free Range on Food

Sep 28, 2011

Today's topics: grilling pork chops with Jim Shahin, Chinese cooking with Scott Drewno, baking with Lisa Yockelson, and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to Free Range! Very little windup today, so we can get right to the meet of things.

We have Jim Shahin in the room to talk about his yummy take on pork chops and anything else barbecue-related. We have Very Special Guest Lisa Yockelson, baker extraordinaire, whose cookbook "Baking Style" Bonnie reports on today, to help you with any and all baking questions. Boozehound Jason Wilson may drop by (always hard to predict),  Bonnie can help with last-minute Rosh Hashanah ideas (or anything else, really) -- and Tim and I will help round things out.

What's on your mind? Fire away. Our favorite chatters today will get one of two books: Lisa's fabulous "Baking Style," or "Vegetarian Food for Kids" by Laura Washburn.

Let's do this.

For this semester, I teach a class when this chat occurs, so I catch up on the archived chat later in the day. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed last week's chat - I know next to nothing about Rosh Hashanah and loved reading about all of the food rituals associated with it, and the great input from other chatsters! The recipes looked great too; they definitely got me thinking about foods I'd never thought to cook before, and I totally stole the roasted vegetables recipe for dinner that night (it was amazing, BTW). So, thanks for the food lesson!

This kind of chatter makes us happy. I plan to serve those vegetables at my holiday dinner tomorrow night. Seems like they'd work for Thanksgiving, too, as a vegetarian main course.


Saw the pork and it looks great. I can see this a main course but at the same time, perhaps, it goes along (side-by-side?) with something else, say an "alternative" main course, if that makes any sense. What would you suggest be served along with it as a second choice, given that the chops are near one pound each. Would a whole fish (grilled?) accompany it well? Maybe a risotto? I don't want to take away from the pork and all its glory but feel something else should be there.

It's probably because I missed my morning dose of Earl Grey, but could you come back at us: Do you mean you're looking for a second protein or other dish to serve for your guests who would not, could not, eat those beautiful chops?

I cook for 2. Make pancakes every two weeks but my buttermilk goes bad before I use it all. Only need one cup - can you give me a receipe to make one cup from regular milk? How much time does it take to go sour? Can it be maade with 2%? Thanks! Warrenton, VA

For every cup of milk (any fat percentage works), stir in 1 tablespoon plain distilled white vinegar.

I came back from Greece with a great amount of homemade olive oil. It's extra virgin with an exquisite fruity taste. I would like to infuse a small portion of this olive oil and I'm thinking hot peppers, herbs or garlic. Do the ingredients need to be dry? Do I need to slowly cook a good amount of oil with the ingredient that I end up choosing? Thanks for helping!

Here's a good primer from the Kitchn on infusing olive oils. The key when infusing is to keep your herbs, peppers, garlic or whatever dry as a desert steer skull (why are steers wandering the desert anyway?). Water is where the trouble starts -- and where bacteria can grow.

Also, remember that infused oils have a shorter shelf life than regular olive oils. Your infused oil should last about a month in the fridge.

Hi. I'm trying to incorporate more whole grain into my diet. I'm already a fan of quinoa. Would you please suggest a few recipes with other whole grains as well as seasonal autumn ingredients? I'm in DC and have access to multiple farmers markets. Many thanks.

Couple of years ago, Lorna Sass did a series of quick, weeknight recipes that use different whole grains. If you search our recipe finder using this link, you'll see a wild rice and turkey salad; Mediterranean quinoa with broccoli, a bulgur pilaf with ground lamb and beets (love that one; it's pictured below), millet timbales with black bean salsa; and a dish i've made several times, Quick Brown Rice With Tuna and Green Beans.  Just about all of those recipes involve fresh farmers market ingredients. I notice she's also done a barley risotto with mushrooms.

BTW, have you tried this breakfast way to have your quinoa?

Good morning, Rangers! Have you seen this video, which is currently making the internet rounds, promoting a fascinating and revelatory way to peel a head of garlic in 10 seconds?  I really want to try this at home (they didn't warn me not to!), but rarely to never do I ever need an entire head of garlic at once. Is there a way to store the rest of the peeled cloves until I'm ready to use them?

Interesting -- I can see why/how that trick would work, although I wonder if all those cloves are really perfectly peeled or not. (For those of you who don't want to watch the video, it's from Saveur, and here's what you do: After you break apart the head of garlic, you put all the cloves in a big stainless steel bowl, cover it with another flipped-over bowl, hold the two together, and shake real hard so the cloves go bouncing around.) But it looks worth trying, absolutely. Here's the thing on your question: It's best to only peel what you need, because the garlic immediately starts to get stale and down the road to spoilage as soon as you peel it. Yes, you could cover the cloves in olive oil. But why not just reduce his technique down to size? That is, do the same thing, but only with the number of cloves you need -- and with smaller bowls? That's what I'll try when I get home tonight.

Good morning, Rangers! I'm trying my hand at some dark and stormy cupcakes, and want to use ginger beer in the cupcake batter. I can't find a good recipe, so I'm kind of making it up - basic cake with ginger, lime, rum and ginger beer added. Can I use the ginger beer instead of the other liquid in the cake? Treat it like a coke cake? Any other advice to make this little experiment work? Thanks!

In fact, yes, you could treat the recipe like a Coca Cola Cake, but be sure to watch the level of liquid if you are including both rum and ginger beer in the lineup of ingredients. Too much liquid in a cupcake batter will thin it out, and the resulting cupcakes' texture will be compromised.

Watched it for the first time on Tuesday, and, wow, what a mess! I can't see how it can survive in this particular & painfully formulaic format. It was like a parody of a food show. What can they do to fix it? My first fix, get rid of Daphne Oz. She doesn't add anything to the show that I can see.

You're not alone in your distaste for "The Chew."

The critics coughed up their first taste on Monday, and we here at the Food section choked down our share of the program yesterday.

It's funny but when I visited the set, I found that the co-hosts were funny and personalable and perfectly suited for each other. On TV, they don't seem to mesh, and the whole projects seems too much by half. There's something about the camera that distorts reality.

It was pretty disjointed to watch, wasn't it? I absolutely love Carla, so this should be taken with that in mind, but there was a frenetic something that felt too forced about yesterday's show. Among other problems. I agree that I wasn't sure why Daphne Oz was there -- well, other than to bring some healthy something to the show. But I think others could do that.

The link to the Reliable Source chat over there ----> lead s to Free Range on Food chat. Which chat is this? And, more importantly, why doesn't the Post hire someone who knows how to make functioning links???

We've alerted the linkers and it should be fixed. This is Free Range on Food, where we talk about ... well, guess!

This is urgent...thanks for taking my question. I plan to make the old Silver Palate recipe for chicken marbella for a Rosh Hashana dinner tomorrow night. Neither the original cookbook nor any version on the internet specifies whether to use light brown sugar or dark brown sugar. Which would you suggest? And do you think I could substitute honey instead of brown sugar, and if so would the amount change? Many thanks.

You've sent some of us skipping down memory lane with that one. Generally, if a recipe doesn't specify,  it doesn't matter. If you like the more molasses-y taste of dark brown sugar, use it. (If I remember correctly, I cut the amount back in my chicken Marbella to 3/4 cup; it's enough, and I have a sweet tooth.)  To sub with honey or agave syrup, use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons, or 14 tablespoons. 

Hi, wondering if you can use plain greek yogurt as a substitute in dips, like spinach and artichoke dip, crab dip, then in cheese based sauces, like parmesan cream sauce? I'd like to lower the calorie/fat content when and where I can but I don't want to distort the taste or texture. Tips? thanks!

You sure can. It's less risky to use it raw than to cook it, like in the cream sauce, but if you use the whole or low-fat (but not the non-fat) in that sauce, you should be fine. (The fat-free tends to separate when it cooks.) I love Greek yogurt -- or just yogurt that's strained into "cheese" like Andreas Viestad wrote about recently.

By the way, speaking of dips, here's a good one we ran recently for Parmesan Yogurt Dip with Carrots.

Hey guys! A friend of mine had a miscarriage this past weekend and I'd like to bake something for her. When I had one several years ago a friend brought me the Cinnamon Chip Bread from Great Harvest Bakery in Alexandria. Since then, I have always associated that bread with great comfort and and support. I want to bake something similar for my friend, specifically with the brown sugar crust, but am a little worried about how to put it together. I can do the bread part; any suggestions for how to create the wonderfully drippy and crunchy crust? Thanks!

Drippy and crunchy--can you explain this further? The "crunchy" part can be accomplished by sprinkling a streusel mixture on top, but "drippy"--for that, I'll need a little more information about that quality to give you some guidelines.

Any sightings of Italian 00 flour in the Washington DC metro area (DC or NoVA preferable)? Thanks!

Easier to come by than you might think. Dean and Deluca carries it (in Georgetown); so does the Italian Store in Arlington and La Cuisine in Alexandria. (La Cuisine has different kinds of 00, for pastry, pizza, all-purpose. Love that store.) Chatters, other places?

Since I can't find Tom today, can I ask your audience ? Has anyone been to Reykjavik ? Any good places to eat in the city ?

There are several really good seafood places (obviously), including Vid Tjörnina and Sjavarkjallarinn (or "Seafood Cellar"). And a surprisingly good Indian place called Austur India Fjelagid. But my absolute favorite restaurant in Iceland is about an hour's drive south from Reykjavik, in a town called Stokkseyri, overlooking the ocean -- it's called Fjörubordid. They serve these amazing, tiny lobsters by the pail. In fact, I would say my dinner there was a Top Five of all time.

Which is finer? Also, isn't confectioners' sugar the same thing as powdered sugar?

Superfine sugar and confectioners' sugar are two entirely different sweetening agents. Supefine sugar is a very fine granulation of sugar. Confectioners' sugar, also known as powdered sugar, contains a small percentage of cornstarch. They are not interchangeable in a baking recipe.

I've never had all my peels come off shaking in two bowls

Definitely the best way to break apart. Just pound it like he does. Interesting to hear that your peels didn't come off. The garlic he was starting with did look like the papery skin was looser than on some.

Any bets on whether the new Memphis-style BBQ place in Crystal City will open before Pork Barrel in Del Ray?

Great question! Right now, even money. 

In the meantime, a new 'cue restaurant opened in Adams Morgan this week. It's called Smoke & Barrel. 

Might be worth checking out till the others open. 

I myself am conflicted about this question, but your review of Lisa Yockelson's baking book made me think of it: At what point are cookbooks "worth it?" The $45 price tag on her book struck me as a little steep for recipes that I can surely find on any number of baking blogs/websites. Yet, I myself love the feel of real books and the beautiful pictures that are included in some are inspirational and helpful. I also like supporting an author that has probably put years into putting a book together. I'm just curious as to your take (and I know Joe recently published a successful cookbook that had a unique perspective) as to when you feel a cook book is really worth purchasing - and that "worth it" point is probably different for everyone.

I'll paraphrase Chris Kimball of Cook's Illustrated when I say, the thing is about "recipes that I can surely find on any number of baking blogs/websites," you don't need hundreds of recipes for any given thing. You just need one -- the one that works, that you like. That's the beauty of a good cookbook, when you're in sync with it: It's full of recipes that you love, that you love to make, that turn out well.

And to repeat the essence of what Bonnie wrote in her review: Not to overstate this, but what you're getting when you get a collection of Lisa Yockelson recipes is a collection of recipes that work perfectly. If you follow her points, there's really no question. She's tested everything to the umpteenth degree, and every single ingredient is there for a very good reason, and in the exact right amount. So you can depend on it. To me, that's worth the price tage, and more. You can scour the Internet and come across any old random recipe, but unless you're familiar with the source, good luck to you!

That's my take.

Gloomy weather has me craving cabbage. Maybe a hearty soup with cabbage and potatoes. I'm not normally a soup maker though, so I don't know where to start. Suggestions? Thanks!

I love cabbage in cold weather, too, particularly a braised red cabbage, like this smoky bacon-red cabbage recipe from chef Ris Lacoste of Ris in the West End.

If that doesn't suit your tastes, we have tons of other cabbage recipes in the database.

Chef Jeff Tunks 's recipe for blue cheese slaw sounds pretty amazing too, though you would need to find a good piece of fish to pair it with. (See the picture above.)

Is Tom chatting today? Why isn't his scheduled chat listed? Where is everybody?!?

Tom took a week off to finish up his fall dining guide. He'll be back next week.

My kitchen very drafty so it is hard to bake bread. My oven is electric so there is no pilot light. A heating pad makes the dough explode, literally. My husband tried this thing he uses for brewing beer called a brew belt (used for gently heating a carboy of beer). It cooked the dough as well as making it rise too much. If we put the dough on the radiator in the winter, it is too much heat. I am desperate for suggestions because if I don't add some sort of heat my dough doesn't rise.

Can you find a draft-free spot in another place of your home? A hallway? To keep the temperature constant, I like to tightly cover the bowl of dough with a sheet of food-safe plastic wrap. It creates just the right environment during the cooler/colder months. As well, you might consider placing a linen towel loosely over the plastic wrap cover--to double-up on the cozy environment.

Hi. I got a bag of supposedly local ginger gold apples from the grocery. Unfortunately, they're on the mealy side, so I'd like to use them in a cobbler. What other apple (or pear) varieties would help to round things out? I'd prefer not to use dried fruit. Thanks!

Did you get them from Whole Foods, by chance? The reason I ask is this: I did the same thing. Got bag, labeled as local (Pennsylvania or Virginia, can't remember) from Whole Foods  P Street, and noticed that the bag said that the apples -- of course -- should be refrigerated. I thought to myself, "I know that's true from personal experience. Why, then, do grocery stores not store them that way?" Farmers store apples in cold storage after picking, and then take them to market, where they sit out only a few hours before being sold. So I think the reason those apples are mealy has something to do with the fact that they weren't stored properly. Maybe Whole Foods stores them in the fridge in the back before bringing them out, but then they sit out for days on end, don't they?

Anyway, on to your question: You should look at the Tony Rosenfeld package of apple stories we had a couple of weeks ago, particularly at this chart. Seems to me that a Jonagold or Macoun might suit your cobbler nicely.

Hi there - love these chats. I'm making brunch for 4 this Sunday, and am stumped at what to make. Especially since, as a very recent college grad, I'm hoping to not spend a ton of money (or time) -- bit still make this feel a bit nice. Any ideas for a inexpensive but pleasant Fall brunch? No picky eaters -- and something with apples (or another Fall touch) sounds great. Thanks!

Baked Apple, Smoked Turkey and Cheddar Strata is slap-your-knee good, fairly easy to put together and budget-friendly. You can assemble it in advance. Wish I had a pix to show you...or a plate of it. Right now.

Or you could make eggs and this Spicy Sweet Potato and Apple Hash, a recent recipe from Tony Rosenfeld. That one I can show you. 


Piazza Italian Market in Easton MD stocks 00 Pizza Flour!

I hate that buttermilk doesn't come in a pint container. Once, in a fit or frugality, I froze the leftover buttermilk in a freezer baggie to use later. And it worked! I just put it in the fridge the night before. Not sure if it was that I didn't have a temperamental recipe (buttermilk coffeecake), but it tasted the same as fresh.

In random markets, I have seen buttermilk for sale in pint containers. Yours seems to have been a valid experiment.

I'm looking for a tested recipe of orange liquor and coffee liquor. Any suggestion?

Both orange liqueur and coffee liqueur...that's a tall order. A few years ago, we ran a recipe for something called a Rhino, made with coffee liqueur, Cointreau, and Amarula, which is an African cream liqueur made from marula fruit. It was a shot, but if you play around with the proportions, it would work as something to sip after dinner. Other than that, nothing else is jumping to mind.

Hello! Thanks for taking my question a couple of weeks ago, re: weird taste in my slow-cooker soups. I wasn't able to respond during the chat, as I can't usually read them in real time (rats!!) I'd posted that I was getting an acrid, plastic-y taste in a tomato soup, and also got it one other time with a veggie noodle soup. I've never used liners in my slow cooker. I use it almost every weekend to make beans (no fancy recipes - just soaking overnight and slow-cooking during the day, then freezing in can-size portions for later use. Nothing added other than water!) The beans always taste fine. I've googled this problem to no avail, the only thing is that I've seen a few people say that onions should be sauteed before adding to the cooker. I didn't do this in either recipe that tasted rotten, but I'd made other things the same way, so I wasn't sure if that could be the problem. Just hoping for some insight...I love having dinner ready when I get home, but now I'm scared of ruining all my food! Eek!

I'm stumped on this one! Another chatter had said he/she uses the plastic liners, and had the same problem, but you don't use them! Remind me of what's in your veggie noodle soup: some of the same ingredients in the tomato soup? I can see why people would recommend sauteeing the onions first (along with garlic, etc., if you're using aromatic veggies to start), at least for good development of a flavor base, but I'm not sure chemistry-wise how/why raw onions would make for a plasticky taste. But you know what? Try the same recipes but sauteeing the onions first, and report back. You need to experiment a little more, seems like.

My favorite cousin and wife are coming for 6 weeks from Australia. They would be taking trips to see Key West, Arizona, New Mexico and San Francisco, but fortunately they will spend quite a bit of time with us. We are a foodie family. I am planning a lot of meals in advance, and I have a crazy idea of baking breakfast "breads" & coffee cakes & all sorts of pastries both sweet and savory as often as will be possible. The idea is -- I want everyone to wake up to the glorious smell of freshly baked goodies, but unlike real bakers I don't want to wake up at 3 in the morning. Do you have any suggestions?

Lisa to the rescue! Many sweet rolls and coffee cakes of the yeast variety can be formed, panned, and refrigerated overnight, so as you are preheating the oven in the morning (at a decent hour), the baking pan can be removed from the overnight rest to reach room temperature and the breakfast treat can be baked. Too, many baked goods do not suffer from being made in advance and reheated gently before serving--so this provides the coveted early morning scent.

Hello! My mom and I have started thinking about the entree for Christmas dinner. In the past, we've had ham loaf, pork loin, and filet, and we're itching to try something new. Do you have any ideas? Thanks!

Wow! So soon!

How bout Roasted Rack of Lamb With Rosemary-Mustard Glaze? It has a great pedigree: from White House chef Christeta Comerford.

Hi, I've just started baking my own bread, using spelt flour. My bread tends to be really crumbly and doesn't taste like much. Any suggestions on how I can fix that?

Using spelt flour alone, which is what I think you may be doing, will indeed create crumbly bread. You might try using a portion of unbleached all-purpose flour in the recipe--to give the "crumb" greater strength.

Make more pancakes.

Hi, I have been watching "The Great British Bake-off", and on the Breads episode, the comment was made that the amount of salt affects the ultimate rise of the dough. Can you elaborate on how this works? Thanks; I love your chat. Mary Lou Cook; Long Beach, CA

Whereas sugar encourages yeast growth, salt (a judicious amount of it) retards growth. In addition to acting as a flavor balance, salt appears in yeast-based bread recipes to control the fermentaion process.

I'm trying to incorporate more dried beans into our diet, especially because we're trying to eat less meat and my son loves them. I make a great black bean soup in the crockpot, but would love some ideas for different kinds of beans - great northerns and black beans get old after a while

We have all kinds of tasty bean recipes in our Recipe Finder; some of them include bacon for flavoring, which I'll assume is okay. A few choice ones:

1. Antipasto White Bean Salad.

2. Bean Stew with Herb Pesto. (Pictured above)

3. Chef Clime's Chilled Butter Bean Soup.

And not to knock your black bean soup recipe in a crockpot, but you should definitely give Domenica Marchetti's version a try.

I wanted to share this recipe from Vegetarian Times for an Apple-Chard Quiche that is perfect for this time of year. FYI, I have made it with both with oat milk (Pacific brand, available all over) and rice milk, vegan cheese, and egg sub and it was fabulous each way.


Assuming I don't want to make soup, what can I do with a few leeks? And how far up the stem is edible? I don't think I've ever used the leaves, but they are sold with the leaves attached.

Technically, all of it. What you'll run into as you hack your way into the dark-green parts is tougher, more fibrous material. But even then, chopped into small bits and cooked till tender, it can work. I usually cut off 3 inches of the dark green parts (and the tip of the root) then use the rest. It's a good idea to split the leek down the middle and either let it sit in cold water so dirt can dislodge and filter down (10 mins or so) or flush with running water till you can't see or feel any grit.

Now, as for uses: You can add those dark-green parts or a few leeks to any stock or court bouillon you're making. Or just saute them in butter and olive oil till almost tender, then transfer to a gratin dish and pour cream over them. Sprinkle with Parm, if you like, and bake till bubbly and lightly browned on top. Chop/saute leeks and add to a risotto. Chop and mix with other vegetables for roasting; cut the white and light-green parts into slivers and use as the base for packet cooking of chicken or fish. Cookbook  whiz Aliza Green recommends deep-frying leek matchsticks till they're crunchy -- I must try that.

Hi, Jason! For my boyfriend's 50th bday I've purchased a bottle of 1961 Wiese & Krohn Colheita Porto. I have no idea, however, how to actually serve it! Does it need to decant? Will we need to finish the bottle the night we open it? Help!!!

Sounds like a great gift! Yes to quesiton number two: With any vintage port, you really do need to consume it in a day or so, just like any wine. As for whether to decant, it depends. Since it's a Colheita, essentially vintage tawny, it did most of its aging in barrel. Even though the vintage is 1961, it could have been bottled more recently. So check out the date it was bottled on the label. You'll likely have less sediment than with a straight-up vintage port, but you still might have some. So if seems like it's been in a bottle for a long time, you should decant. Pour it steadily and carefully into the decanter, leaving any sediment in the bottle.

I bought a huge tub of ginger cookies (not ginger snaps but ginger flavored cookies) on sale at Safeway and now I dont' know what to do with them. was thinking of maybe some kind of pie/tart with a cookie crust? Maybe a fruit tart? Any suggestions? And how do I make cookies into a crust??? THANKS!

Simply reduce the cookies into fine crumbs in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife, then follow a recipe for a crumb crust. Or, you can use the cookie crumbs in a topping for a fruit crisp, substituting about one-third of the crumbs for the flour (in that case, be sure to adjust the amount of sugar in the topping if the cookie crumbs are very sweet).

Just wanted to say bravo to your food stylists and photographers.... they are making me drool on a weekly basis. Really nice looking images. Thanks for adding them to the chats.

Thanks so much. Glad you have noticed. This gives me a chance to give a shout-out to the food stylist we use most regularly: Bonnie! She does an amazing job schlepping all sorts of dishes into the studio every week and helping the photogs make them look delectable. This is not an easy thing, as I can attest to whenever I'd had to try to do it without her. Our regular studio photographer, Deb Lindsey, is just a joy to work with, and other Post staff photographers have shown they can do some nice stuff with food. Now if we could just get the press reproduction to look anywhere near as good as the images look on the screen...

What might save the Chew is making the show 30 minutes instead of 60. It was slow going for me as I watched. I was done wanting to watch in 30 minutes and I did like Daphne Oz.

It was stretched out so much by those commercials, too, wasn't it? We'll see what happens -- I'm sure they're focus-grouping it...

Personally, I think they're trying to do too much with too little time. That sausage monstrosity that Mario Batali made yesterday in the Grab Bag Challenge? What was the point of that? I suspect people, particularly unemployed people and stressed out parents during the daytime, don't want to watch barely controlled mania on TV.

My husband, an amazing intuitive bread baker (he usually just wings his sandwich bread and it comes out amazing every time), taught me a great trick for your situation. Turn your oven on to preheat for just a little while - I do it until the heating elements "click" off after one cycle. Then turn it off. Put your bowl, covered however you'd usually cover it, or shaped loaf in there. Viola - the dough rises. If you find it rises faster than your recipe calls for preheat for a shorter time.

I have a cooler house, too. What I do is put my dough in a big metal bowl, cover that with plastic wrap, and then fill a bigger plastic bowl with hot-ish water, and then cover the whole set-up with a tea towel. I might change the water halfway through a rise if it doesn't seem like it's working. For the metal bowl I use my KitchenAid mixer bowl, which even with the handle fits perfectly into my big OXO plastic mixing bowl.

Be careful storing garlic in oil. Do it for too long and that can be a great way to grow some highly dangerous botulism, which loves no-oxygen environments with food.

Word. Just peel what you need as you need -- garlic stores beautifully on its own, with the peel left intact.

It's not quite as good as the liquid stuff, but on a tip from America's Test Kitchen I have switched over to dried cultured buttermilk (with skim milk as the liquid component). It still provides that excellent all-important tang in every baked good I've tried (coffee cake, muffins, waffles, pancakes, etc) and at $5 for a big thing of it that gives me the equivalent of well over 30 cups of buttermilk it's a great deal.

I love making pies of all sorts, but I always run into a problem with my crusts. I have a good all-butter and a good butter/shortening recipe that both handle fairly easily, but the corners always crack and tear while I'm rolling them out, which means I never get the perfect circle or rectangle shape that I need. This is always especially noticeable on my top crust and causes me a lot of frustration. Other than making extra dough and rolling out bigger crusts than I need (which is more work to transfer), how can I fix this problem? Is it something in the way I ball the dough up before putting it in the fridge to cool and rest?

My recommendation is (and always has been) to roll out the dough (between lengths of waxed paper or food-safe parchment paper) BEFORE it is refrigerated in a disc or ball, then chill the rolled-out sheet for a certain length of time to "relax" it. This helps guard against frayed edges, and you're not fighting a cold, hard lump of dough. Also, you can always roll under the scraggly edges to create smoother edges.

As someone who fights refrigerated dough in this same way, I love this tip.

I've turned the oven on to the lowest setting for a few minutes, turned it off, and set dough to rise in there before. it takes a little bit of trial-and-error but works really well.

This is a technique I would not be thrilled about--a long, slow rise (even a slightly chilly one) does add great flavor to a yeast-raised bread dough (sweet or savory).

A while back you shared with us recipe for the Parisian Sidecar. Your mise en place was incomplete! It should include dimming the lights, having blankets nearby and a warning: No driving afterwards.LOL. I must admit your recipe for the Parisian Sidecar was much much better than what we had at the French Embassy on the Bastille Day. Theirs had simple syrup, which is probably why we could drive home safely. Of course, at home, we had more than one.

Haha, good to hear! Be careful!

Hi, We have to bring a main dish that feeds 8-10 to my daughter's daycare potluck tomorrow. We have very little time to cook. Any ideas for recipes that are simple, reasonably healthy, and toddler friendly? Thanks!

How about Pasta With Creamy Pumpkin Sauce? Tastes like fall. Or Carrot Apple Soup?

On this midweek rainy day, I'm feeling totally uncreative and fresh out of dinner ideas for the pound of (deveined, shell-on, medium) shrimp I have in my freezer. That shrimp and stelline dish from a few weeks ago might be a contender, but I'd like to hear some of your favorites too before I hit the database. Thanks!

I think Editor Joe and I are both pretty keen on this Ginger Shrimp With Carrot Couscous. Like this one too: Pan-Seared Shrimp With Chipotle-Lime Glaze.

I bought a can by mistake. What can I bake with it? Recipes are scarce on the net. I don't want to make ice cream or macarons

You can substitute pistachio paste--it's lovely!--in most any recipe that uses almond paste as the main (or highlighting) ingredient.

I have a recipe for Snickerdoodles that I'd like to make but it calls for 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c shortening. My kids can't have shortening. What will happen if I use all butter? Thanks.

Here's a Snickerdoodle recipe that uses butter and light corn syrup.

And here's one that uses all butter, no shortening or corn syrup.

In a phrase--the cookies will be delicious. However,  using all butter (rather than a mix of butter and shortening) will create somewhat flatter (less puffy) cookies, but the treats will be tasty nonetheless.

Other than the obvious won ton soup, any suggestions on how to use a package of wrappers leftover from last week's dinner? Thanks!

Have you ever used them to make ravioli, as in this spinach and ricotta ravoli recipe? Endless filling possibilities, and easy to work with. Use a little water to seal/pinch the edges. You can fry them up as chips, too -- sprinkle with cinnamon sugar for a dessert option.

Love this chat! I have been having a great time filling my 7 year old son's Planet Box ( - like a bento box but better in my opinion) I do pack an ice sleeve and the bag itself is insulated, but I still worry about some foods keeping from when he gets to before care 7AM until his 1 pm lunch. CAN I roll up turkey and swiss cheese the night before and freeze them to put in his lunch that a.m. to be thawed for lunch? Will that work? Can I freeze other sandwiches the night before to taste OK and be safe the next day at lunch? Not just PB&J like they sell that way but homemade egg salad sandwich that I would freeze? etc... Thanks!

First off, thanks for the lunchbox idea: I love the look of Planet Box and now want to buy one. Very cool!

Second, I don't like this idea of freezing sandwiches. Excuse the following ignorant question from somebody without kids, but isn't there a fridge at school your son can drop his lunch box into when he gets there?

I've had to miss Free Range too often lately but here are a few tips on purchasing apples I don't think I saw. When buying apples in a farmers' market in the winter, look for growers who have a nitrogen storage room. The apples stay crisp and juicy. Also look for cider that's been treated by UV light rather than traditional pasteurization. It's flavor stays clean and fresh.

As we head into apple season, the nitrogen storage becomes less important, methinks. Those fruits will be fresh (or mostly) fresh from the tree this fall. Nitrogen storage helps keep apples available at farmers market year-round.

To the poster who asked if cookbooks were worth it (specifically Lisa's) I'd like to submit that a while ago I asked the post for some cake recipes and Bonnie sent me one of Lisa's: it was PERFECT. I am not an amazing baker and my projects never seem to turn out perfectly, but this one did, right in time to be served at a wedding. Completely agree with Joe on this one. Thanks!

Cookbooks have a coherent point of view. You get to know the author and cook along with him or her. Cookbooks are (usually) full of tested recipes that are better than others that didn't get in. And sometimes it's a specialized topic where there isn't much on the 'net. There are tons of mediocre bread recipes on the net, and books full of good ones. I'd rather the author spent his/her time testing than make me do it.

Can't we all just get along?


Try Veselka's cabbage soup - published in NY Mag, also on Smitten Kitchen.  It is divine and even my preschoolers ate it well.

You can also heat the oven at the lowest temp, turn it off and let it cool down a bit, and put your dough in there to rise. A question for Lisa Yockelson: does your new book include yeast breads? Basics like oatmeal cookies and bran muffins?

Baking Style contains some of my favorite yeast-raised breads--including a favorite babka recipe that took me years to refine. There are cookies galore, in all flavors and textures. As for bran muffins, you'll need to search a back issue of COOK'S ILLUSTRATED: I published my favorite bran muffin recipe in that publication many years ago.

Is there a way to make a vegetarian version? Of course some of the flavor will be missing, but would it be better to use just the peanut sauce and noodles, or could I use the dan dan sauce too and maybe (or maybe not) tofu?

I'd be tempted to try it with tofu, yes. Freeze a block of silken tofu for at least 48  hours, then let it thaw in the refrigerator for a day. Then squeeze it between paper towels to get the extra water out, and crumble it up. I'd add some extra olive oil when you're initially frying up that tofu.

The Totally Wicked Cheap Organic book: I was last week's skeptical winner. It made some interesting points, many of which I already practice (dried beans are cheaper than canned; buy from bulk bins when you can; sometimes farmer's markets are cheaper). And I like chick peas as much as - nay, more than - the average person, but whoa - twice a week? Mainly, though, it's not my bag bc it omits meat entirely, which I'll never do. Jim: Let's talk pork chops!

Yes! I got the mealy GGs from Whole Foods in Logan circle. I guess that I got what I paid for...

I knew it! That's where I got mine, too. You should complain to them... I did -- well, I did on Twitter, cause that's how I roll. ;-)

As much as I would love to start baking all of Lisa's recipes today, I'll have to wait, because ... My oven stopped self-regulating -- It just keeps getting hotter! Until it gets fixed or replaced next month, I'm wondering if you have any muffin, cookie or bread recipes that might work in it ... Or suggestions on how to bake in a toaster oven (where the heat element is really near the dough) or even a microwave. Thanks lots!

Oh my! You could bake off globs of cookie dough, about 6 at a time (depending on the size of your toaster oven), in many, many batches. (I'm tired just thinking about it.) Until that cranky oven of your gets fixed, why don't you take some cookie or bread dough to a friend's kitchen?

Last time I needed superfine sugar for a recipe, I panicked when I couldn't find it in 3 grocery stores. Then I searched online and learned that it can easily be made on demand. Just put regular granulated sugar into a food processor and pulse until the crystals are much smaller.

Well, you've brought up my pet peeve. In my experience, granulated sugar, processed, never approaches the nearly powdery consistency of store-bought superfine sugar.

My family is trying to be more culturally aware and we're picking a holiday to celebrate each month. This month we celebrated Rosh Hashanah (on Sunday - it was the best we could do). Next month (actually Nov 1-2) we want to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. Do you have any menu ideas? I'm sure we'll do some kind of mole. Thanks!

Well, I am woefully underqualified to answer this question. I tried to turn to Pati Jinich, the host of "Pati's Mexican Table" for help, but alas, I can't reach her right now.

I do know this: Pan de Muertos is a staple of Day of the Dead celebrations, practically as important as laying flowers and trinkets on the headstones of loved ones long lost.

Here's a recipe for the bread from fine when the power is out, and will continue to work when the Interwebs get all infected and buggy and such. Plus photos!

I have had those and they suffer if bought out of season. Too long = mushy or mealy.

Jim, you stole my technique for ribs on the Weber ; ) Actually, I didn't think to add wood chips for such a short cooking time, usually about fifteen minutes on the cool side for 1-inch chops. I'd just like to add that you should use rib chops if available.

I completely agree on the use of rib chops. Try the Big Chop sometime. Amazing!

Why would I want an Italian 00 flour? I bake a fair amount and I've never seen this as an ingredient. Now I'm curious!

I have used it as an ingredient in handmade pasta dough.

It's also considered the best flour for Neopolitan-style pizza.

Try using a lemon tart filling to go with the ginger cookies. If the ginger cookies are on the sweeter side, you may want to reduce the sugar in the tart recipe.

A lemon curd filling, used in a crumb crust, could be problematic due to the moisture present in the filling.

My parents rampaged through Costco yesterday and left me a half-dozen bone-in pork chops! Can't wait to marinate and grill. Thanks for the recipe.

Glad to be of service. Hope you enjoy the chops. 

Happy Wednesday! I like to cook my own beans and freeze them for various recipes. Only problem I run into is when a recipe calls for a can of beans, how do I know how much cooked beans to add or how many cups does a bag of dry beans yield when cooked? I know this sounds simple, but with the liquid, etc. I'm never really sure what the equivalent is.

1 pound of dried beans = about 6 cups cooked beans.

A 15-ounce can of cooked beans = about 1 1/2 cups (drained).

As a cook who is still new enough to cooking so as to have trouble judging when a recipe will or won't taste good or work, I am so glad for a few trusty cookbooks. The Cooks Illustrated family rarely lets me down, and it sounds like Lisa's work is in the same mold. On the other hand I've tried far too many internet recipes that I wish I'd never taken a bite of. Plus cookbooks can provide you information on why a recipe does or doesn't work, substitutions that will be good, etc. Food bloggers just don't often seem to do that. So unless you've got 30 years in the kitchen a book trumps the Internet almost every time (sources like WaPo online recipes of course excluded).

A neighbor gave me more than a dozen fresh-picked apples. I'd like to use them to make some holiday-appropriate treat for her and her young son. The apples are definitely on the tart side. What do you suggest? Kosher and vegetarian is ideal. Thanks so much!

You could use vegan butter substitute and make these apples, stuffed with a pecan crumble mixture. For my money, I'd add some pears (and keep that vegan butter substitute) and make Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce. Even though the recipe calls for McIntosh, I've used several kinds of apples and pears in this and have never been disappointed. You/they can freeze leftovers. It's a winner that I crave at this time each year. Made it last weekend!

Steam leeks w/ a whole head of cauliflower (slice the head cross-wise for faster cooking). Drain thoroughly, puree w/ whole milk, butter & salt to taste. YUM YUM YUM.

How about Borsht? Beets + cabbage + onions + potatoes + carrots... Yummm! And topped with sour cream for an added treat.

If you can find some little Salvadoran red silk beans (frijoles rojo de seda) you'll be pleasantly surprised at how little time they take to prepare, compared to the serious soaking time involved with some other dried beans. These beans only need to be added to a pot of cold water (covering them by 2 inches or so) with some salt and a few cloves of garlic. They will get enough "soaking" in the time they take to come to a boil. A pound bag makes a mountain of cooked. Rico!

I've recently become obsessed with baking. I have a fairly tiny kitchen and cupboard and counter space are at a premium. For flour/sugar storage, what containers do you recommend? Are there other ingredients that should be kept in a storage container? For example, is my baking soda good to go in the box, or should it be sealed as well? When I finally am able to remodel the kitchen (come on 2012!!!), what is your take on these flour/sugar drawers, as seen in Pioneer Woman's kitchen?

Airtight containers are best for storing flour and sugar. I always decant baking soda into a storage container and seal it with a tight-fitting lid. Leavenings, by the way, should be stored on a cool pantry shelf.

This is an honest question, though I can't figure out a way to write it without it sounding snarky: in the recipe for that awesome-sounding strata, it calls for "crusty bread" but then notes "(crust trimmed)". What's the point of calling for a crusty bread if you're just going to cut it off?

Ha! Calling for a crusty bread will help you to choose a bread with a somewhat firm interior -- not looking for Wonderbread or soft Italian here.

Do you know of any sort of food-safe glue I could use to fix the broken spout on my electric kettle? (It broke when it was knocked off the table.) It'll have to survive lots of steaming-hot vapors and boiling water. The epoxies I've looked at have warnings against ingesting (birth defects, etc) and I don't think Elmer's Glue will do it -- tho maybe I'm wrong. Certainly, I don't want to poison my cups of coffee and tea!

Gorilla Epoxy claims to be 100 percent food safe once it's cured. It claims to withstand temperatures up to 200 F, which means you may run into trouble if you try to boil that kettle.

Check with your local hardware store about the glue.

Well, you've baked us one sheet at a time until we are set, with a spotty golden color on top and a medium golden color on the underside. So you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great questions today, and to Lisa Yockelson, Jim Shahin and Jason Wilson for helping us answer them.

Now for the chat winners. The chatter who asked about the worth of cookbooks will get evidence of such: a SIGNED copy of Lisa's "Baking Style." And the chatter who asked about keeping her kid's lunchbox cool until he could eat it will get "Vegetarian Food for Kids."

Send your mailing info to aide Becky Krystal at, and we'll get you your books.

Until next time, happy cooking (barbecuing, baking, and otherwise), eating, drinking, and reading.

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