Free Range on Food

Jan 14, 2015

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! Hope you are enjoying this week's coverage, including Tim's look at the new style of restaurant service; Maura's piece on how to complain when something goes wrong; and Fritz's look at the training issues at places that have vast craft beer lists. We also have Bonnie's roundup of good-for-you dishes from a new crop of cookbooks to take you into the rest of January and beyond.

Before we get started, two things to tantalize you, and keep you coming back for more: 

1. We'll have giveaway books, as usual, for our favorite chatters today. So make the queries good!

2. You can now earn 15 PostPoints each time you participate in our live chats.  All you have to do is record the weekly code that we'll post in the intro and enter it into the PostPoints Web site under Claim My Points.  The code will expire at midnight so be sure to enter your code each Wednesday to get credit for participating. 

Today's code: FR5510

OK, enough teasing. Let's get to it!

liked the pictures, thought would make them for lunch, but could not find recipes. It is not nice to tease your fans.:)

No, it's not, but I'm wondering where you were looking! Did you visit our Recipe Finder we gave the link for in print? On that page, on the right side, you'll see a list of the latest recipes. Both are there, but you can also search.

RECIPE: Spicy Walnut Green Beans

Spicy Walnut Green Beans

RECIPE: Brown Rice Pastelón

Brown Rice Pastelón

Thanks for the new guidelines! Will they be applied to recipes already on the site, or just going forward?

Who knew? Started making Caramelized Garlic and Butternut Squash Tart the day you published the recipe, but it took a loooong time before we actually made the tart. My adult daughter tasted the squash as I was making it and asked if we could have it for lunch. We did. Ever since I have been making it as a side or just for lunch with various kinds of squash. Great way to use up the bag of fresh garlic from Costo and please everyone. The almond crust can be best described only as totally amazing. It is much faster to make than it takes to run to Safeway to buy a cardboard tasting ready made crust. It is easier too because rolling is not involved. It is great not only with savory stuffing, but with sweet pies too. Thank you. I hope more people try making it. Who knew great things in life require so little effort?

I'm so glad you like this one! I thought it was one of the prettiest things I had made in quite some time, and indeed, loved the way it came together -- and tasted. (I'm also so glad you called out the fact that the crust is pressed rather than rolled, because, well, that was one of the several tweaks I made to the original recipe -- so much easier with a crust of this type.)

RECIPE: Caramelized Garlic and Butternut Squash Tart

I was at Rasika West on 12/26 for lunch. Had a fabulous cocktail that was based on a cranberry reduction, had tequila or mescal in it. I think it began with an A.- I don't see it on the menu now- any chance you could get the recipe for it? Whats the best way to make a cranberry reduction. I have cranberries in the freezer if that helps.

I'm reaching out to Rasika to see if they can share this mystical concoction; shoot an email to food@washpost.com with the subject line "Rasika's cranberry cocktail" and I'll get back to you if they share it! 

In the meantime, you might try this cranberry syrup, or the delicious one that Gina Chersevani makes for her holiday punch (I've found that it's great in other drinks as well).

The Pounded Chicken recipe looks great, but WOW that's a lot of sodium for a single dish. Can I reduce the salt without ruining the outcome? We generally cook very low-salt, so in general don't miss the flavor when recipe-recommended amounts are reduced to half or even less.

Sure, you could cut back on the salt. Honestly, a single chicken breast half pounded as big as that can serve two people. 

RECIPE: Pounded Chicken

Am I mis-remembering a recipe box feature for Washington Post recipes? So many of my favorites are from you all and I thought that I could save them. I don't see that option anymore and I can't remember if it ever existed or if I'm just wishing that it did!

You're right. We had that feature, courtesy of Ziplist -- which, unfortunately, has ceased to exist. There are other options, such as Pinterest or Paprika. Folks, have a favorite recipe organizer to recommend?

When I click the link for the garlic tart it takes me to a page labled "Live chat cannot be found", not to a recipe....Chrome browser on Windows 7

Fixed! Thanks for mentioning it.

I'm a little past the post-holiday head-scratching over some culinary gifts, but I received a variety of commercially produced fruit vinegars from a well-meaning friend. They aren't fruity balsamics (I have some of those, as well, but a better idea of how to use them), but appear to be like apple cider vinegar, only made of other fruits. Any ideas how these should be used?

They can be used in dressings and other recipes, but fruit vinegars (aka shrubs) also have great uses in cocktails/tart drinks

the other day I saw a pile of Racks of Pork of pork for $2.99 a pound. It would be so cool to cook them for a sitdown dinner for friends real soon. But HOW? I cook rack of lamb frequently, and beef on special occasions, but have never done pork. Please advise!

 

You could use David Hagedorn's recipe for Chipotle Grill-Roasted Rack of Pork, but of course that requires pulling out the grill in the dead of winter. Which may not be a bad idea this weekend, when temperatures are expected to climb into the 40s and near 50. I've long argued that the grill/smoker shouldn't be mothballed in winter.

First, the recipe looks very good and will go on my menu as soon as you answer #2. Which is, what do you mean by a flat mushroom? A portobello? Curious why a more rounded mushroom wouldn't also take to that lovely sounding topping..

On your mark, get set . . . in order to hold the amount of lemon juice, butter and flavor bits, you want to use a mushroom that has a wide, flat surface to hold it all while it sizzles in the oven. So portobellos are good -- as long as they are not so thick and behemoth as some I've seen lately. A shiitake in good shape will work, and some creminis that aren't so wavy. Does that help?

RECIPE Mushrooms Baked With Garlic, Lemon and Chili Pepper

Could Joe please recommend a brand of vegetable broth? I tasted-tested several brands years and years ago (when I first "went vegetarian"), and I remember some of them tasting pretty much like garbage (not to put too fine a point on it). For the last several years I've been using Pacific Mushroom Broth as my go-to "vegetable" broth, but I'm afraid that the mushroom flavor, as much as I love it in most contexts, might be overwhealming in the Virginia Peanut Soup recipe (which I'm dying to try). Your opinion is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

In general, I'm not a fan of most store-bought vegetable broths. But Pacific's regular vegetable one and the one by Kitchen Basics are not as awful as some of the others out there. You realize, of course, that I'm going to tell you that what you need to do is getting in the easy habit of making your own from vegetable scraps.

RECIPE: Scrappy Vegetable Broth

RECIPE: Virginia Peanut Soup

 

One of the reasons I pay for WaPo delivery to the door is because I like to read the FOOD section cover to cover with my coffee. I also clip recipes I really like. I don't have a printer. I was born analog. I am sorry you choose to cater to the digital crowd.

Please start thinking about it this way: Once upon a time, when we didn't have room in print for something, NOBODY saw it. Now, we can put those things -- recipes included -- online. We're not trying to short the print readers, but, well, there's a whole lot of good stuff here in the digital world! And, you're not exactly a Luddite, cause here you are on our online chat!

Hi Rangers. This pertains to Bonnie's article yesterday. I'm OK with the changes but can we admit that "healthy" for one person might not be "healthy" for another? As a Type 2 diabetic who has successfully lost more than 50 pounds in the last year by drastically reducing carbs, I don't consider a faro bean salad good for me (regrettably). And so on. Not sure what the answer is but I'm glad you are here so we can discuss delicious food of all sorts!

Eh, that much is true! That's why we've identified these as OUR guidelines. The information's there for  you to use. Mazel tov on the weight loss; you're well aware of what it takes to modify a recipe. Consider this a starting point. 

I’m going back home in the tropics and we have lots of grapefruit, (not the ruby red type, but the yellow more sour variety). I thought about doing a grapefruit liquor but other ideas are welcome. We also have many orange varieties however grapefruits are less popular so would like to create something nice with them besides juices and salads.

This will depend on whether you're looking for something in the sweet, liqueur arena or something less so. A basic place to start is with a high-proof neutral spirit like vodka (or Everclear, if you're in a place where you can get it), and infuse the flavors of the fruit into it. With grapefruit, you'll likely want some of the peel (without the white pith) and some of the fruit itself, and you should taste it regularly as it infuses. It will likely only take a few days. Then you can adjust the sweetness by adding simple syrup if you want to. For a more in-depth guide to this kind of process, check out this book by Andrew Schloss.

Hi - I'm celebrating my mom's 65th birthday at the end of the month. Instead of taking her out to dinner, we'd like to do a family dinner at home. I'm a competent cook, but I'm thinking that I'd rather make it a bit more celebratory (and easier on me!) to have it catered or do nice take-out from a restaurant. This is for 6 adults, so not a large group, with no major food restrictions but a preference towards healthy/balanced. And while I live in Vienna, I'm willing to drive elsewhere to pick something up, if it makes sense. Any thoughts? Would even consider a cook-in-advance dinner if it's fancy enough!

If you're open to hiring someone, have a look at Tom Sietsema's fun round-up of caterers. He tested a bunch out, hosting dinners at his house.

ARTICLE: Tom Sietsema reviewed eight D.C.-area caterers for your next fancy dinner party

Anyone have thoughts on nice takeout?

Great food section this week (and so many weeks.) Tim Carman's article was a very good read. This line really struck me - 'If the employee can’t impress a small handful of managers, how can he or she expect to impress 50 or more diners a day?' Honestly, when I dine out at any price point, I don't want to be impressed by the waiter or waitress. I want to be impressed by the food and the experience. I've had servers try so hard to 'impress' me that they insert themselves into conversations inappropriately. I want information about the menu, prompt attention to my needs, good food and minimal interruptions. That's what impresses me in a restaurant - not the server's personality.

Thank you for the tip o' the hat!

 

And I hear you about service, but here's the thing to remember: A good server may impress you by NOT forcing his or her personality on you, but by "reading" your table and deciding that you'd prefer a more traditional style of service (professional, informational but aloof). That's why hiring for emotional skills is paramount; these kind of servers can sense what a diner wants or doesn't want.

Got it, I'll do some experimenting.

It seems that all recipes using peanut butter call for creamy, which I do not buy. Is there any reason not to use crunchy in today's chicken and broccolini recipe?

Just guessing that recipes calling for the creamy kind would like you to end up with a smooth sauce. It's certainly not a deal-breaker in this recipe; if crunchy's what you have on hand, use it here! 

RECIPE: Quick Chicken and Baby Broccoli With Spicy Peanut Sauce

Is it totally not cool to go to a restaurant that's not a pizza or burger joint and ask for "extra?" Case in point, a local Indian place here (I can't remember their name) makes a great saag paneer but when I get it there's only a few small bits of paneer. I like paneer. In fact, the saag is the vehicle for the paneer. Would it be uncool/unwise/unheard of to ask for extra paneer? Or even to add some paneer to the butter chicken, which I think would go great? It's typically OK to ask to leave something out (e.g., cilantro) but is it OK to ask for extra? [Yes, I'll pay for it.]

I think if you want something, there's no harm in asking for it. The thing with this particular one is, they may have premade the saag paneer so might be less inclined, but the only way to find out is to ask politely and see what they say!

I find crushed garlic shows up all the time in recipes and I have no idea what that means. I just mince it, but I am not sure if that is correct.

I'm interpreting here, but I think it's for when you want to release the garlicky juices/flavor but have the option of fishing the garlic out or eating around it, instead of dealing with bits of it that might, say, get burnt in a pot or affect the texture of a sauce. It's quite satisfying to whack/crush a fat clove with the flat side of a chef's knife. Give it a try.

I recently took a cooking class on making paella. Trying it at home, I substituted short grain brown rice for short grain white. It took forever to cook, I had to add liquids, and the vegetables, having gone in at the right time for white rice, I guess, ended up waaaay overcooked. Remarkably, the food was not a disaster, but clearly i can do better next time. What do I need to know to do better? The original recipe called for a 3:1 ratio of broth to rice - I didn't keep track of how much I used in total but a guess is 4:1 or more. How much liquids, how long should I expect it to cook - which tells me when to add ingredients? Anything else I should know, please? BTW, I don't know anything about making paella; this recipe basically started with rice, sauce and broth and then ingredients were added as time past, first things that cooked longer and then things that needed less time. Bonus question (for me!): what can I put in a veggie paella besides green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, and asparagus (which really went mushy, oh well)? The class suggested avoiding onions and red peppers, don't recall why.

I've made lots of paella in my time, and, well, I'm sorry to say that for a truly good one -- where the rice absorbs the liquid and gets a little crusty on the bottom -- you really do need a short-grain white rice, preferably a Spanish variety like bomba or calasparra (but an Italian variety like arborio works fine). Regular brown rice simply takes too long and doesn't swell up the way the aforementioned varieties do.

Some vegetarian paella ideas (these are scaled to serve one, but paella scales up easily, so you could multiply):

Spinach and Chickpea Paella

Squash and Artichoke Paella

I forgot to put some tuna steaks in the fridge this morning to thaw for dinner later tonight. I plan on putting them in some cold or room temp water later to quicken the thawing process, but is it bad to cook them while the middle might still be a little frozen, or very cold? If anything, I would think that would allow me to get a good sear on it and not overcook it.

I second that emotion! Be sure to pat them dry as much as possible before cooking.

Could I please have a side order of just saag paneer? I really like it and want a larger portion.

I believe the OP didn't just want more saag paneer -- s/he wanted more PANEER in the SP.

I am fine with a more casual style of service but the Olive Garden comparison would cause me consternation. Especially if that is the "only" analogy the server can conjure..

You're not the only one who has said the Olive Garden analogy bothers them.

 

Personally, it doesn't bother me, mostly because I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Olive Garden salad: It's a bowl of greens, olives, cherry tomatoes, cheese, red onions, croutons, etc. A good chef CAN improve on this salad with higher-quality and locally sourced ingredients, not to mention a good house-made dressing.

 

I think what bothers some (and I'm just guessing) is that a chef-driven restaurant, a very good one at that, is invoking corporate America. It creates cognitive dissonance, which can be hard to reconcile. I get that. But the Olive Garden salad, separate from all the baggage of corporate dining, is not an abomination. Far from it.

I love the Rapunzel brand of vegetable broth (comes in cubes). Their website didn't have a good image of the box, but here's an amazon listing so you know what you're looking for. :) 

Thanks for the rec! I've tried them -- not bad. (But I still like my own veg broth best.)

Is this something new? Sorry for being ignorant, but what is that exactly? And what do we get with the points?

Not new! Read all about it. Membership only costs you the time it takes to sign in; you get discounts on theater, shopping, home services. A daily quiz appears in the print edition at the bottom of Page 2 in the Metro section. (And you can wonder whether the graphic artist who designed the little blue Post Points characters drew on any particular objet....)

 

Post Points tips are sent via e-mail to subscribers/members, and Food-related ones run on Wednesdays.  

I'd like to try my hand at making some Indian dishes, which I've never done before. Any recommendations for where to start? One concern I have from the outset is finding some of the more unusual ingredients. Even places like Whole Foods don't always have them. Thanks.

Hurray for you! Indian food is my favorite, and I cook A LOT of it. Pretty much every week. Thankfully, a lot of recipes don't call for anything unusual -- most spices and ingredients can be found in your typical supermarket. Spices you'll see a lot include cumin, cardamom, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger.

The first Indian recipe I ever cooked came from Kim O'Donnell's late WaPo blog. It's a keeper.

RECIPE: Easy Chickpea Curry

Other good places to start:

RECIPE: Creamy Vegetable and Cashew Nut Curry

Creamy Vegetable and Cashew Nut Curry

RECIPE: Easy Chicken Tikka

RECIPE: Chicken Korma

Chicken Korma

RECIPE: Dal Shorba (Red Lentil Soup)

Joe, can you recommend a brand of Miso that is low sodium?

South River's sweet white miso is lower than most, and this is one of my favorite companies; the miso is fantastic. Problem is, I used to be able to buy it at my nearest Whole Foods, but they don't seem to carry it anymore. But South River ships, and it's worth it if you're a miso lover. All of theirs are sublime.

Bonnie, the recipe you provided in today's Post points "Food and Wine" what type of can tuna should be used, oil packed or water packed?

You could use either! But for a better spreading consistency (and flavor) I'd go with an Italian, oil-packed brand.

I enjoyed Tim's article about restaurant service and appreciated the comparisons between the new casual service and the older "aloof" style. In general, I prefer that restaurants have become more casual. If I had to dress up to out to eat, I'd probably go someplace else. I dress up for work during the week, and when I go out for dinner on the weekend, I really want something casual. The only problem I have is when things get too casual--like the server seems about ready to just sit down and join the party. The article describes a style of casual service that is also very professional, which is what I think restaurants should aspire to.

Thank you!

 

I agree with you on this point. I'm not a fan of those restaurants where the server bends down next to your table and wants to meet your gaze. It's just too intimate of a gesture for complete strangers, I find.

I've been following my mom's banana bread recipe for years (pretty standard recipe) and in mentioning to her that the middle has been coming out undercooked and soggy, she said she has the same problem. It wasn't always this way so we can't figure out why. The recipe calls for 2-3 ripe bananas and we've both used 2, she's omitted different parts of the recipe but still has the same issue. This past weekend I made it and it happened again. This time the bananas weren't fully ripe (I had defrosted them actually but when frozen they still had "newly yellowed skin"). She said you just have to slice it and toast it to cook the middle. Any ideas or suggestions? Could it have anything to do with over beating the mix or too much milk? What's weird is this hasn't always happened but the recipe hasn't changed. The recipe is similar, if not the same, to this http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/banana_bread/. Thanks!

Your defrosted bananas might have held enough moisture to affect the baking time/consistency. Do  you use a cake tester/toothpick to gauge doneness? Another way to go would be to divide the batter, maybe use less in the loaf pan and the rest in a mini loaf pan or muffin pan. 

I usually only have creamy as well since it's what my dog and I enjoy when we use it for play time - but I have been known to buy crunchy specifically for recipes - especially Thai peanut sauces which can always us a bit of crunch! FR5510

Thanks! (And btw, you don't need to put that PostPoints code in your answer -- you just need to save it to enter it in your account to redeem the points!)

You kindly offered me a book at the end of last week's chat, but you didn't specify who to contact. I'll look for the information at the end of today's chat unless you respond otherwise. Thank you!

Yes, that key info does appear to be missing! E-mail me.

tried posting response to Tim, and my response disappeared before I hit the submit button. After I retyped and hit the submit button your chat disappeared. All I can get now is "submit your question." part the. Blank space.

We didn't ban you! You may not be able to read this, but you should probably quit your browser and restart and come back into the room.

Anyone have experience with this? It's a little gadget that makes smoke in the kitchen and you can direct it to your food. My smoker is covered with ice at the moment and I'm too big a wuss to go out there and brave it. Especially for a single chicken, like me. Or should I go with liquid smoke instead of the gun? <gasp!>

Jim Shahin, who's having technical problems coming to the chat, says this:

 

I've used the Smoking Gun. It's good for smaller dishes -- adding smoke to side dishes, for example, or fish. It's not meant for full-on long-smoke barbecue (brisket, ribs, pork shoulder). I prefer it to Liquid Smoke.

Joe, not only am I on board with preparing dried beans and storing them in the freezer. The bonuses of using this method is you can control the amount of salt AND you can save a lot of money. Thanks for convincing me.

I buy your explanation. Now I understand and apologize. If you ever give up cooking, State Department should retain you on a senior level. You are more diplomatic than some foreign service officers I have known. :)

Aw, shucks. Thanks!

I have been using the cubes of "not-chicken" bouillon found at Whole Foods. They are great. Husband is vegetarian and the kids and I are not. The kids cannot tell when I use these instead of regular chicken broth for soup or casseroles.

Good to know -- thanks!

The Better Than Boullion vegetable base is pretty good. I know I need to make my own broth but am lazy!

Another vote for bouillon!

Really since most servers are under the age of 25 many dont ahve a clue. I used to wait tables, cook, bus, wash dishes and tend bar. The quality of servers in the DC area has gone down hill dramtically. It doesn''t matter if its the ILW, the Prime Rib or your local Outback they just arent being trained correctly and management doesn't ahve a clue about training them. There is one exception the folks at Arties, Coastal Flats etc have a clue. I was trained by Marriott back in the alte 70's Still remember a meeting where the manager didnt say anything for 10 minutes. Then said that's how long 10 minutes is! Point made! I dine regulary at some of the East Coast best restaurants and gawd most servers don't deserve 5% tip!

Part of the problem in the DMV is that our restaurant boom has not coincided with a boom in folks interested in becoming servers. It remains a job that too many view as a temporary gig, and as such, they don't devote much time and attention to it.

 

In other words, we have a ton of restaurants, but not a ton of servers invested in their jobs. Training, I think, can go only so far when the server always has an eye on another job, another profession.

Hi Joe, I always look forward to your weekly recipe and this week's potato-bean stew is perfect for tonight. Just another suggestion to freezing cooked, dried beans: I freeze overnight-soaked beans to cook later. Joyce

Great -- thanks!

Posting early as I won't be able to attend on Wednesday: I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetic about six months ago and have made numerous lifestyle changes, including reducing carbohydrates and especially sugar. Now I'm finding that my sweet tooth is fading, and most commercial (and restaurant) desserts are just too sweet for me. Are there any cookbooks that specifically address reduced-sugar baking? I don't mean substituting artificial sweeteners -- I mean baking with real sugar, just less of it. Most "baking for diabetics" cookbooks appear to rely on substitutes, and frankly (a) I don't want to go that route, and (b) it doesn't address the "too sweet" issue. I know that sugar is a key ingredient, not just for flavor but also chemically, so I'm reluctant to start experimenting on my own. Thanks for anything you can recommend!

Maybe "No-Fuss Diabetes Desserts" from the American Diabetes Association will work for you? I'm also a fan of local cooking instructor and cookbook author Amy Riolo. Her "Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook" is sure to have some dessert options, as well as a variety of other dishes.

I love to bake, but have been cutting down over the holidays. This year, I'd like to try a fancy cake a month and have a tea/coffee gathering so it gets eaten up. Is there somewhere in DC where I can pick up gels, food coloring, sprinkles, etc.? The first cake I'd like to try is this one from "Baked: Occasions." It is a gorgeous purple color, but requires powdered purple yam is not available. I believe it is an Asian ingredient (according to the comments on the recipe it is called Ube cake in the Philippines). Any suggestions as to where to find it or if I can replace it with fresh yam puree or yam jam, if I can find them? Thank you so much for the advice! http://sweetapolita.com/2014/12/purple-velvet-cake-with-cream-cheese-frosting/

Your best bet is Filipino markets, which often carry it in both grated/frozen and powdered form. It's sometimes called ube. We found it at Filipino Global Market in Oxon Hill (301-686-0708).  

Last year, I planted leeks, and they did very well. Only problem is that I still have a lot of leeks to eat before they bolt in the spring. So far, I've made a couple of variations of leek and potato soup, and a leek tart. Any other ideas?

FWIW, I've had the same problem as the OP... start to type a comment or question, but when the page refreshes automatically, my question and the box it was in vanish before I can hit submit. Has happened on a couple WaPo chats on the new format. Firefox, if it matters. Also, would LOVE to see the resurrection of the feature that keeps the chat on the most recent question instead of taking me back to the start of the hour with every refresh/submission. All of that being said, I do enjoy the new, clean format (and the spellcheck feature). Thank you for investing in a better chat experience for your readers.

Thanks for the report! Will onpass to the tech gods.

Ugh. Kale came in my farm box this week. I decided to give it a try. I was dubious, as I have never really liked that kind of greens. Well, it was way too tough in a salad. I KNOW I don't like it cooked like spinach. There's a LOT left. Now what should I try?

Did you remember to massage your kale first?

 

I know, I know. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true: If you don't gentle massage the greens (some do so with salt, others with oils or vinegars), the kale can be tough and fibrous.

 

Check out this recipe for Kale and Cucumber Salad With Avocado-Tahini Dressing.

Hi! Joe's article on emergency soup made me wonder what we, chatters included, can't go without in our freezers to make meals smoother (not just raw ingredients like wholemeal flours). Broth is a sure fire one. I also keep back a few preformed rolls or biscuits whenever I make a batch, and when I make tamales I use the extra dough as a lid over all of my fillings in a casserole. I've also drained and frozen cooked beans on a cookie sheet then stored in the freezer to better add to stir fries. Everyone?

Yes, all good ideas! Things I love to have in the freezer include:

1. Soups, or soup bases such as pureed vegetables.

2. Bread. (I never make it through a loaf before it goes off, so am in the habit of just storing it there, and defrosting/toasting as I need.)

3. Cookies, formed into balls and ready to bake from frozen, as few or as many as I want.

Grrrr, just had to throw away a newly-opened two pound bag of broccoli florets that shriveled with freezer burn after only a few weeks and tasted too "off" to eat when cooked. Does this mean the freezer was too cold, not cold enough, or something else?

Hm. Wondering if the bag had a hole or was somehow compromised. Or it could have been defrosted and refrozen at some point. Not ideal.

Hi, I bought herbes de Provence to make David Leibovitz' Salted Olive Crisps, a variation suggested by a blogger out there. They were absolutely wonderful. Then, I stumbled across a heated debate on Chowhound about whether or not HdP should or should not contain lavender. So, what say you? And more importantly, since I have a bunch of HdP on hand (with lavender), what else do you recommend I do with it? Savory applications especially!

Gotta love Chowhounders. I'll skip the debate, only adding that I love lavender so I'd want it in there. The blend is perfect on a roast chicken (featured recently in our Weekend Kitchen, a new online Saturday offering!), sprinkled into roast potatoes or ratatouille or atop baked brie. Not sure I've ever used it in a sweet application. Chatters, what do you like to do with it?

have a husband who is lactose intolerant and also has issues with eating too many fatty foods, and as a consequence cannot tolerate many dishes with cheeses or cream (which seem to be the norm these days!) or is overly fatty. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

I bought some chicken necks and backs on Sunday. Sell by date is Jan 13. I am putting them in my pressure cooker to make broth. Will the broth keep until Sat. when I plan to make soup or should I freeze it?

It'll keep, in the fridge of course.

Hi, I bought a large butternut squash and cut it all up before realizing I only needed 3 cups of it for a recipe. I have a lot of cubed butternut squash now. How long will it keep like that? Can it be frozen? Or do I need to use it in a recipe fairly quickly? If I should use it soon, do you have a recommendation for a recipe using it that freezes well? I would prefer a non-soup recipe since my husband won't eat soup. Thanks!

You could keep those cubes refrigerated for up to a week, I'd say -- or can definitely freeze them, for up to 6 months. (Just try to get as much air out of the freezer bag as possible.)

As for recipes, since it's on my mind from earlier in the chat, you should make the Caramelized Garlic and Butternut Squash Tart, obviously.

For instance Ottolenghi recipes call for it quite often, sometimes in cooked dishes and sometimes in raw dips. I am wondering if maybe something is lost in translation from English English to American English? Though I have seen it else where, as well. Thanks.

Interesting, I'll have to look up some British recipes and check that. Yotam's fluent in Americanspeak. 

I am eager to try making the Pork and White Bean Stout Stew. But it contains 1/4 cup of molasses! Won't that make it too sweet?

Pork and White Bean Stout Stew

Well, 1/4 is only 4 tablespoons. And that's spread out over the yield of 12 cups. There's also 1 cup of stout in there, so the two ingredients will counterbalance each other.

Any ideas for what I could use infused olive oil for? Received as a gift a pack of three with basil infused, chili infused and I think garlic.

You could use it in a vinaigrette. Or a marinade. Or a drizzle on a finished dish. Personally, I'd dip bread in them!

I made a soup recently with kale as well as chickpeas and chorizo. The recipe specified to pulse the kale in a food processor in order to shred it. That worked perfectly for the soup - kale was evident but not overly chewy. I am going to try a quick pulse next time I want to do a salad, at least on some of the kale. I suspect it will absorb dressing better and be more to my liking.

Plase dont overcook it. it should be slightly pink in the center. Pull when internal temp gets to about 140 degrees. last case of trichnosis in US was over 50 years ago from raod kill!

To find ingredients-go to an Indian market/grocery store. The DC area is full of them and the prices are lower than grocery store.

Of course. But I'm not sure this person was up for extra trips. My point was that you can make plenty using everything in a standard grocery store. They're getting better stocked all the time too, as far as international ingredients go.

I'm trying to mix-up my breakfast routine a bit, and have been considering trying out smoothies. I am somewhat confident that I can make a smoothie that tastes alright, but I would like to make sure that what I am eating is healthy and will give me a boost in the morning. Any tips on how to dive into the smoothie pool?

Thanks for answering my paella question.

Sure!

I just saw some at whole foods. They look like a lot of work. Is it worth it, or should I stick to soaking dried beans?

In the pod, I assume, since you're saying they look like a lot of work. This depends on what you think of fresh shelling beans -- a summertime delicacy, IMHO. But yes, the shelling can be tedious, and the yield always seems to be less than you'd want. If you ever see them shelled, usually at farmers markets, snap them up!

BTW, which Whole Foods do you mean?

So my younger brother knows I like to cook, but... that's about as deep as it goes, judging by the kitschy 3-in-1 stuffed burger press he got me for Christmas. I rarely make burgers and I live in a tiny studio with little room for such devices. I don't want to be a total snob though - before I attempt to exchange, could you think of any uses of such a thing outside of putting stuff in burgers?

I suppose you could use it to make very neat handpies, sweet and savory, or cheese concoctions, or a big stuffed pasta (using fresh pasta sheets). Sounds like you need to put your creative thinking cap on! 

I'm trying to bring back a rusted Lodge cast iron skillet according to the directions on their website. After scrubbing a lot with steel wool and then scrubbing with a hard brush and soap (as recommended), a paper towel drawn across the pan still comes back brown. Do I buy more steel wool and keep on scrubbing until the paper towel doesn't discolor when rubbed on the pan, or does cast iron never get completely clean? My arm is falling off from scrubbing!

I've re-seasoned my cast iron countless times, including times when it has developed rust spots. I haven't run into this exact problem, so I'm at a bit of a loss. Maybe readers have some advice?

 

 

I would just proceed with oiling and reseasoning at this point. Don't think this is a big deal.

So pleased to find my refrigerator thermometer question answered so thoroughly in today's Chat Leftovers! You managed to raise a new doubt that I hope you'll also address, namely, what if the thermometer shows some foods are in the "bacterial danger zone (40 degrees)" - Should they be tossed out? I'd left the thermometer towards the front of the middle shelf, and that's the temp it shows. That's also where I have half of a rotisserie chicken, an open carton of yogurt, a tub of "better butter" and some uncooked eggs. Everything looks and smells okay ... Thank you for the great advice!

Jane Touzalin says:

Forty degrees is technically okay, but because you can’t be completely sure how accurate your thermometer is, you should still move your fridge dial to 'colder.' If your thermometer registered higher than 40, I’d be inclined to jettison the food. There’s no point in tempting fate. The FDA is quite conservative and says you should discard food that has been above 40 for two hours or more. You can't go by appearance and/or smell, btw. Foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria that are different from the bacteria that make food spoil.

 

I just assume they mean a clove of garlic crushed with a blunt instrument (like the side of a large knife), rather than whole, sliced or minced garlic.

For the person who asked about kale- what about kale chips? I also think cooked spinach and kale come out quite different in terms of texture- can't hurt to give it a try if you are basing the misgiving based on experience with spinach. This soup is good:http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/white-bean-and-kale-soup/

I love David Hagedorn recipes. I bought MY IRISH TABLE without opening it in the store when I saw his name on the cover and was mad that it did not have any of his recipes. However, my condo does not allow grills. I know Joe is veggieman now, but, perhaps, he or Bonnie, who I am not sure eats pork, will remember a technique for preparing a rack of pork without grill

Hey, I know how to use an oven, too! :)

 

Instead of trying to juryrig David's recipe, I would suggest switching to chef Frank Stitt's Herbed Pork Rib Roast. The only thing I would add is that Stitt's recipe follows the old government recommendations for cooking temperatures. So you can cook the ribs to 145 degrees instead, per revised government recs.

I just bought some thai ginger marinade that I'm excited to try on some chicken tonight. How long should you generally marinade it for? Can you do overnight if it's in the fridge the whole time, or will the acid start to eat away at it too much?

If  you know it has a fair amount of acid in it, it's best not to marinate in the fridge for more than 5 hours. (The meat can get mushy with prolonged exposure to an acidic marinade.)

This link goes to the vegetable and cashew nut curry.

Hazards of rushing while linking! Fixed now, thanks.

RECIPE: Easy Chickpea Curry

can I use walnut oil instead of walnut butter. I can't have dairy

The walnut butter is thick and clingy, and will offer much more flavor/texture than walnut oil. 

RECIPE Spicy Walnut Green Beans

When I think of crushed garlic, I think of smashing it in a garlic press. Often I'm too lazy to do that and smash the clove with the side of a knife, but I thought that's what garlic presses were for (?)i

This has been a revelatory line of discussion for me today! I'll do some research for next week's chat.

Well, you've divided us among individual plates, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today! Hope our a's were helpful.

And now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about crushed garlic will get "The Sheet Pan Suppers Cookbook," and the one who asked about creamy versus chunky peanut butter will get "The Mediterranean Slow Cooker." Send your mailing info to Becky.Krystal@washpost.com, and we'll get you the books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Food's editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
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