Free Range on Food: Serbian restaurant, swordfish, buckwheat and more

Jan 23, 2013

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

Greetings, Food Nation, and welcome to Free Range. What's on your shopping list today? We've got swordfish on the brain, and Balkan food, and buckwheat -- plus anything else you want to talk about, naturally.

As always, we'll have cookbooks to give away to the chatters with our favorite questions: Cooking Light's "Big Book of Salads" and "The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2013."

Ask away!

I recently bought some grains--farro, kasha, quinoa, and bulgur wheat. I've used the farro in this recipe and am searching for ways to use the others. What are some of your favorites?

A family member gave me their electric roaster oven that they were planning to either donate/toss (no longer a need or space for it). She mentioned it helped her to cook the turkey for thanksgiving while leaving her oven free for sides. It sounded good to me but I had honestly never even heard of an electric roaster oven before. Do they actually work well for thanksgiving turkey (cook evenly, etc)? Are their other uses? I love to cook (why she offered it to me) but its a very large gadget - 20quart - and if I won't really ever use, it I'd rather not keep it. Then again, if its a gem I never knew about, obviously I will.

None of us have one. Does it look like an oversize slow cooker? Seems like the adverts all show turkeys cradled within, and reviews are upbeat. Ought to be good for roasting vegetables and baked potatoes, too, right? I guess a) if you have the storage space and b) you would see an energy savings over using a standard oven then c) keep the thing!


Chatters, how 'bout you?

Can you recommend a good online recipe nutrition calculator? I have been messing around with my recipes and cooking a lot of new things, but I would like to get a better grip on how nutritional my cooking is.

There are a couple of sites out there that you can use, including SELFNutritionData, SparkRecipes and MyFitnessPal. I've never played around with any since we have our own fancy system in-house that we pay for. Anyone have a favorite?

It will take a little more math on your part, but you can also go straight to USDA, the source of the nutritional data out there, by visiting their National Nutrient Database.

Everyone always says that simple syrup lasts indefinitely, but I haven't found this to be the case. Regardless of whether I use a clean glass or plastic container, after a few weeks it starts turning pink at the liquid-air interface. Does this mean I have a horribly unsanitary kitchen, or have others experienced this issue? Would rinsing the container in a sanitizer (we have some no-rinse stuff from beer making) solve the problem?

We asked Robert Wolke, author of the splendid food science piece we had in our Thanksgiving issue. Here's what he had to say:


It’s almost certainly mold, and your kitchen isn’t horribly unsanitary. Yeast and mold spores are everywhere, including in the air of the most scrupulously clean kitchen. So “everyone” is wrong; no syrup will keep “indefinitely.” Jarring or bottling it while it’s still hot will minimize exposure to fresh spores, but eventually you’re going to open it, no?

If your syrup is a one-to-one (cup for cup) mixture of sugar and water, as most bars use, it’s more susceptible to mold growth than a two-to-one sugar-to-water mix because the higher concentration of sugar is less friendly to molds. (Bars don’t let it stand around very long.) Just use half as much when converting recipes. That’s one step you can take to stretch the keeping time. I would discard the moldy syrup, unless you have a foolproof way of decanting the contaminated layer, which isn’t easy.


And here's another country heard from:  Over the summer, I kept several flavors of homemade simple syrup in the fridge, with nothing growing anywhere near them. I poured the cooled syrup into resealable plastic food storage bags, then placed those bags inside jam jars or plastic containers with tight seals. Still have some on hand; still good.

Glad to read that advice, because this one stumped me. Simple syrup definitely does not last indefinitely -- but I've only experienced what you describe with simple syrup that's been sitting for several months.

Hey Foodies! I love swordfish and have it regularly. I have even used some of your recipes and they have always been delish! My friend showed me some literature about Antipodean tribes who believe in eating as much of fish as possible (for spiritual reasons) and they apparently always eat the bill of the swordfish. For some larger fish they even eat the bones so they can get strong bones. As for the bill, they use some sort of proprietary concoction of local berries and herbs, but I found something online that claims to simulate the process by soaking the bill overnight in the refrigerator in a bath of tonic water (the quinine is apparently the key ingredient) and herbs. Then, by slow cooking the bill at 150 for 8 hours it gets soft enough to digest. These tribes believe eating the bill gives you the Power of the fish, so I would love to try it sometime if you think it would work. Ciao!

I consulted with Butch Rasmussen, a commis at Denmark's world-famous Noma, and he suggested soaking the bill in essence of huckleberry thoughts and mud dust for three days. Sort of like you would brine pork belly here. Quinine, as all people in the food world know, doesn't work for this process. An Aperol and Genepi mix works well (the conventional thought is to use it 50/50, but in my experience, 70/30 works much better), as does Kool-Aid. I hope this all works out for you. I wouldn't want you to get stuck with the bill.

I bought a packaged rack of cooked spare ribs in BBQ sauce and followed the microwave heating instructions on the package, only to have the required plastic film melt onto the ribs. I can't think of a way to avoid this in the future except not to use plastic wrap. The heating directions said "Place spare ribs in a single layer on a microwave safe dish. Cover with plastic film. Cook on medium high for 4-5 minutes or until an internal temperature of 165 F." That's what I did. I also tried to leave a space between the meat and the wrap but at some point, obviously, the plastic fell.

Particularly with high-fat foods, which can cause plastic wrap (normally safe for microwaving according to the FDA) to melt, you're supposed to leave a full inch between the food and the wrap, and even to turn a corner back to allow steam to escape. The best way to leave the space is to choose a big enough container that you can stretch the plastic wrap across it tightly and have that requisite inch. The problem, of course, is that some of the wraps don't cling that well -- not as well as the old PVC-based wraps that leached more chemicals during microwaving.

I'm wary of microwaving food in plastic, personally, so I avoid it. You could use a microwave-safe ceramic or stoneware plate or bowl instead and cover it with another plate or with parchment paper.

Do you have tips on freezing food, either cooked (sauce or stew) or uncooked (extra loaf of bread)? I am doing something wrong because everything I try (plastic wrap, then foil, or plastic containers) ends up with snow crystals or freezer burn. Is a vacuum-sealer the only reliable solution?

We do! We have ways beyond vacuum sealing. Rather than go through a diagnostic of your particular processes here, maybe you could contact us via Or happy to speak upon you by phone. For now, might I recommend a gander at our Big Chill Freezer Guide? It's positively downloadable.

Jim, My husband is getting itchy to do something smoked, but the weather is not cooperating. Any suggestions on something he can do without freezing himself to death while tending to the grill/smoker? Much appreciated as we are getting tired of my cooking.

     Lots of things you can do. To start, use smoky ingredients. Pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika), for one. Smoked salts (there are a zillion of 'em out there now). Last week, I wrote a story on smoked olive oil

      You can also use smoke indoors using smoker bags, grilling papers or a stove-top smoker, which you can purchase for around $50 or improvise from a cakepan. Here's a story I did on indoor smoking.

      And one hopes we will have enough nice days this winter to let you go out and do the real thing from time to time. 

I will just shovel kasha in my mouth while it's being made for pot roast and kasha varnishakas, as I think it is the most delicious stuff ever, so I'm excited to try actual recipes!

Excellent to hear!

Spouse bought a head of Napa Cabbage and it laid in the fridge for a while. Last weekend I decided to use it. Made a saute with red onion in an Asian sauce. Used sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, star anise, etc. It came out fine. Only used the white part and lamented getting rid of the green. Is there a recipe you can recommend that uses the whole leaf. The cuisine type doesn't matter. Want to use the entire cabbage.

Have a look at our recipes using Napa cabbage. A recent one that comes to mind is Stephanie Witt Sedgwick's Napa Cabbage, Shiitake and Pork Fried Rice.

Napa Cabbage, Shiitake and Pork Fried Rice

My pans don't look very nice. My toaster oven pan gets scuzzy looking very fast. Ditto for cookie sheets. I swear I use soap and wash the dishes well, but it feels like I'm pulling out steel wool every two weeks (and then only getting 75% of the crud off). I tried "barkeeper's friend" and didn't find it successful. Any ideas? Thanks.

Mostly, this comes with the territory. You can soak in hot water, scrub, etc., but your pans aren't going to look like new -- and nor do they need to, really. You're not serving things on them, after all. Having said that, lining cookie sheets with parchment paper helps -- I do that most of the time anyway to prevent sticking and to buffer the bottom heat a little bit. Same with foil on the toaster oven pan.

I'm looking for a reliable electric juicer, mainly for citrus fruits. Nothing fancy or super expensive. Do you have any recommendations based on your personal experience? Thanks!

I have a Hamilton model that costs less than $80; it's reliable but I can see design flaws. Cleanup's a tad involved. Heard good things about Breville's Elite line (do you remember this juicing piece that ran in Food in July?) but they can run into the $hundreds, so maybe look for one on eBay?


I enjoyed the article on swordfish. We recently had friends over for dinner and served swordfish with Yassa sauce. It's a sweet/tart Senegalese preparation that tasted great with swordfish. You can find different preparations, but I think simplest is best. Slice 4 - 6 onions. Marinate with a quarter cup each of lemon juice and vinegar, some minced garlic, a bit of mustard, and a bit of salt and pepper. I added a bit of soy sauce. Drain the onions and reserve the marinade. Heat 1/4 cup of peanut oil and add the drained onions. Cook the onions until browned and add the reserved marinade. Cook until it forms a sauce and serve with grilled or pan seared fish.

That sounds absolutely delicious. I'd maybe want a tiny touch of heat there. What do you think?

Just a vote for My Fitness Pal's use as a way to track how much your recipes are hurting your waistline. It lets you add everything into a meal and divide it by portion size, and most ingredients are straight from official sources. (It's less useful for tracking exercise, though, as like many of them it tends to overestimate how many calories you're burning. Take that with a grain of delicious, delicious salt.)

Thanks for, ahem, weighing in!

I'd like to buy a starter knife set. What do you recommend?

Don't buy a whole set. Start with two: a cook's knife and a paring knife. You can do the vast majority of your cooking with those two and those alone. Go to a store that will let you hold the knife and see how it feels in your hand so you can pick the right one. Get thee to La Cuisine in Alexandria. (If you eat a lot of crusty bread, you might get a bread knife, too.)

I just made a bulgur steak salad by cooking the bulgur in beef broth, sauteeing bell peppers and onions in olive oil, broiling the steak, and then dressing the whole thing in balsamic vinaigrette dressing with a little dijon mustard mixed in. It was really good.

Thanks much!

This might be off-topic, but does anyone have some hints for expanding preschooler palates? My four-year old has been on a noodles kick for about a year and we're at the end of our rope with that. He does eat tons of fruit and limited vegetables (peas, cherry tomatoes, corn on the cob). When I try to get him to eat new stuff, he just flatly refuses. He helps me cook, but is still uninterested in trying what he's helped to make. His doc says he's perfectly healthy and not to worry, but still... Any thoughts?

Maybe a noodle or orzo salad or casserole or stir-fry that has the vegetables he likes, plus maybe some small chunks of chicken or turkey in it? I understand your rope, but one of my sons went through a prolonged pizza/plain spaghetti phase. He's a good eater now (at 24).

"soaking the bill in essence of huckleberry thoughts and mud dust for three days" Is this a joke?

You got it!

I read the swordfish article with interest however did not find anything about the mercury levels of swordfish. As I understand it, swordfish has high levels of mercury. Is this not true anymore? Thanks!

Yes, there is a mercury issue, which I mentioned toward the end of the piece:

As much as I love it, swordfish does come with caveats. Like mackerel, shark and tilefish, it contains relatively high levels of mercury, so the FDA recommends consumption in moderation for most eaters and warns pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children to skip it.

I extend the life of simple syrup using a method that Derek Brown suggested. I can't recall where I read it, but Derek recommended adding a small amount of vodka to simple syrup. The alcohol will limit fermentation and mold growth. It works well for me. I don't recall a specific amount, but I usually add about a tablespoonful per pint.


I'm viewing the chat in Chrome, and it just told me that the page is in Japanese and asked if I wanted to translate it. I know the chat is buggy today, but that's one I hadn't seen before. Just FYI.


I often turn to Alton Brown's recipe for "bulgur gazpacho." It really does conjure up the tastes of gazpacho, but with more oomp because of the grains in there. It's on the Food Network website.

My mother gave me one of these and I had it a long time before I tried it - I regularly cooked for 4 (and 2 were small eaters) so I saw no advantage in using it instead of the convection oven part of my microwave. I roasted a 15 lb turkey (slightly smaller than the recommended max size) a few TG's ago and it burned it in so many spots it looked like a leopard. The advantage came in the convenience of keeping about 3 or 4 side dishes warm for the buffet. These ovens get extraordinarily hot on the countertop so it really doesn't save anything over a large range in that respect. Also, you have to protect your countertop from the high heat. sign me- Not a Fan

Message received.  Love our Free Rangers.

My grandmother always used one for holidays, so when I saw a stack of them 75% off at Wal-Mart, I snatched one up. It works great for turkeys. Bonus - not having to constantly open and close for side dishes keeps the temp up so the turkey always cooks faster. This year it was a full hour faster! My mom has my grandma's old roaster and says the same thing. It cleans up very nicely, too. I've never used it for anything other than a large meat type of thing, and I'm honestly not sure how well that would work. If you have the space to store it (and I do), then keep it.

And another POV. thanks!

My mom has one and I'm waiting "patiently" for the day it gets handed over....I mean down. It works beautifully, frees up the oven and seems to roast the turkey in less time than it would take in the typical oven.

Turkeys do great in them as well as large batches of other foods that need to cook/be kept warm (ham, large batches of potatoes, mac & cheese, sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce) to name a few.

Yes! This is the only way my family has ever cooked Thanksgiving turkey! It works wonderfully! You still have to baste it and I don't think the stuffing is cooked inside the bird. I honestly had no clue turkey's could be cooked in a regular oven until the first time I couldn't make it home for Thanksgiving and went to a friends.

I make buckwheat pancakes frequently. One way I have found to lessen the sharp flavor of buckwheat is by making yeast pancakes that ferment over night in the fridge. By going through the slow fermentation, the bitterness is gone and the panckaes have a rich and complex yeasty flavor.

Sounds like a great idea. I have so much buckwheat flour now -- will try it!

I've been working a LOT of late hours and I'd like to have dinner just about ready when I get home (which is usually about 7pm). I have yet to pull out the crock pot but I think now it's time. What recipes do you suggest? I tend to like chicken the best and would prefer something over potato's or rice.

We have 28 slow cooker recipes to recommend! I remember Spicy Braised Eggplant With Prunes being a hit last year.

Spicy Braised Eggplant With Prunes

My dad always uses one for the Thanksgiving turkey. It works well as far as cooking the bird evenly and keeping it moist, plus it is easy to gather all the drippings for gravy. It does not, however, make the skin brown and crispy. That keeps my brother and me from fighting over who gets the skin, so kudos for avoiding the annual family fight, but frown :( for nothing to fight over!

I grew up eating Preston County buckwheat cakes for breakfast. By this time of year the starter made the cakes nice and sour. Was your unfortunate flapjack perhaps the real thing? It does take some getting used to. If you ever go up to Deep Creek Lake stop at Annie's in Accident and try them if you dare.

It was a Mabry Mill Restaurant on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a place famous for their buckwheat pancakes. Yes, they probably were the "real thing" -- very, very heavy on the buckwheat, and so dark they were sort of a grayish-purple color. I imagine they are an acquired taste.

I don't have one, but the one my neighbor had saved our Thanksgiving one year when our regular oven decided to break Thanksgiving morning. I did the turkey and pies in the borrowed oven, and all came out well. Not sure I would choose it over my main oven, but if you have the space to store it, I'd certainly recommend taking it.

One vote for keep it if you have the space - My aunt owns one and uses it every year for the bird - Works great and does free up the oven as promised.

I got Modernist Cuisine at Home for Christmas and am thinking soon about some recipes I'd like to experiment with. One class in particular are foams made with a cream siphon and an N20 cartridge. Obviously it makes whipped cream, but what else makes good "foam"? (And if you think foaming food is silly, please let me know too. I realize it's not a full meal, but seems like it could be fun).

Well, I do think foams got a little out of control at restaurants -- I was kinda tired of seeing it on dishes -- but used judiciously, you could use it to add a top to a drink, like the salt "air" they do at Oyamel on the margarita. That's probably my favorite use of foam. It's just a salt water foam-ified, I believe. Generally, any delicious sauce could be made into a foam: hollandaise, vinaigrette, etc. But here's a non-foam use for the siphon: Andreas Viestad's Sparkling Grapes.

I'm single dude and mostly cook for one. Instead of cooking nightly I was usually cook for the week on the weekend. I made the Pork Ragu recipe you all ran a few weeks ago. It was REALLY good and flavorful. I added some mushrooms and sauted some bell peppers and celery along with the onions and garlic. The great problem that I now have is that I have a ton of it left. I had it for dinner and lunch the last couple days over cavatappi and i'm tired of it. What else can it do with it to make a 2nd or 3rd dish out of it. I'm going shopping after work today to pick up some items for next weeks lunch and dinner so your help would be greatly appreciated.

You mean the Pork Ragu for a Crowd? In my last book, I had a slow-roasted pork shoulder recipe that I then turned into tacos, a sandwich, and what I called "faux-lognese." Changed up the spices each time to make it a little different and not so boring. The sandwich used a green mango slaw to take it to SE Asia, the tacos used pickled onions and a blackened salsa, the "faux-lognese" made a quick ragu to eat over pasta.

You can also freeze it, of course. Do it in quart-sized freezer bags, getting as much air out of them as possible, and freeze flat for up to 3 months.

The curried barley and quinoa cakes look great -- but does a 3" cake really have only 150 calories? Sounds too good to be true.

It's true! Keep in mind this is just a little grain patty, so you'd probably want to eat a couple of them, with something else.

Mac and cheese from a box is a staple in our family. Recently while preparing it I recalled the lobster mac and cheese at Zola, and it occurred to me that I can add something to the mac and cheese, just like I add vegetables to my spaghetti sauce from a jar. So I sauteed some onions and mushrooms and added them and it was fine. I am looking for ideas as to simple things I can add; it seems like I include onions/peppers/mushrooms in many things so I want to get away from that. I found your recipe from a year ago for butternut squash mac and cheese. Can I bake some butternut squash and just mix it in? What other ideas do you have for things I can quickly prepare and mix in to the mac and cheese?

I won't preach too much, but first, let me suggest you step away from the box at least once and try a totally from-scratch mac. Here's the base recipe we used in our mac-and-cheese extravaganza last year.

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Then for ideas on mix-ins, look at our awesome Mac-and-cheese-o-matic graphic.

Help! My microwave died two days ago. I do make dinner almost every night for my little ones, but am at a loss as to how to heat up rice without a microwave. Steam on the stovetop? I suppose this is a silly question but I didn't realize how much I rely on my microwave for quick reheating of leftovers. Thanks!!

You can place the rice in a small-holed colander; place over the opening of a pot that's large enough to allow the colander to mostly fit inside. Fill the pot with a few inches of water and place over med heat. Cover the top of the colander with a plate or foil. Or use a steamer basket/insert. Or easier still: Fill a saucepan with a little water (teaspoons/tablespoons), then add the clump of chilled rice. Cover and steam over med low heat.

It's a good idea. A judicious amount of your favorite diced chili peppers in the marinade is nice. The acid spreads the heat and so you get a little kick without any unpleasant surprises. I think I put in one or two chachucha peppers, which I'd purchased for another recipe. [For those who don't know, they look like scotch bonnets, but are much milder.]

Now you're talkin'!  This would be great for chicken breast, too.

I noticed buckwheat on the front page of the food section and immediately went to the back page to see the article/recipes using buckwheat. Regrettably for me, the combination of being vegetarian and missing a sweet tooth, I probably won't attempt the recipes that you posted today (I still appreciate them though!). In researching the article, did you come across or try any recipes from the Valtellina region of Lombardy in Italy? Specifically I'm thinking of pizzoccheri, the name a buckwheat pasta and a dish of the same name with potatoes, cabbage, and local cheeses (bitto I think). Perhaps the buckwheat linguine used for your pasta/clams recipe was actually pizzoccheri as the cut is similar? Sciatt (fried cheese - bitto again? - in a buckwheat batter) and polenta taragna (corn and buckwheat meal, called polenta taragna concha if cheese is added to the mix) are also classics from this area. I miss these foods and am generally unable to find the ingredients or what look to be good recipes. I'd be happy if I could just find a local restaurant that served any of these dishes! Again, thank you for the interesting article.

I did find a few Italian recipes (but more Russian recipes) but not the one you mention. The pasta I used for the clams was plain old soba noodle. As for being vegetarian, you could always make the noodle/broccoli rabe pesto dish without the clams and clam juice! I loved the flavor.

I made this for Thanksgiving, and it was great: a salad of quinoa, roasted parsnips (cut into a 1/2-inch dice first then roasted until browned and sweet), dried cranberries, pistachios, fresh parsley with a shallot-lemon vinaigrette.

Love it. Right up my alley.

Crud is often amenable to bicarbonate of soda. If it's a pan that can go on a flame, fill it with water and add 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda, bring to a boil, turn off the flame and allow to soak for 20 min. to half an hour. If all of the crud doesn't lift off after that, repeat the treatment. Non-metallic pans should be filled with boiling water and baking soda and soaked. Small things can be put into a stockpot with the hot soda soaking liquid.


Hi Rangers! We had a Thanksgiving-themed party a few weeks ago (we were out of the country for *actual* Thanksgiving and had to make it up somehow!), and a guest bequeathed us with several cans of jellied cranberry sauce. We managed to use one during the party, but what to do with the rest? We like to think we'll eat pretty much anything, but given the nature of how we've been eating for the past few weeks, healthier suggestions are GREATLY welcome. Thanks!

Might melt it down in a pot, add a little cherry mustard and port, make a sauce for turkey cutlets or appetizer meatballs, or just melt and use as a finishing/basting glaze for a ham or pork roast. Or spread it between the layer of meat/veg and potatoes in a shepherd's pie. Or use a food processor to whiz it into butter.

We have a few recipes that might suit you too. It can serve as the base for the sauce in these Fresh Fall Rolls With Cranberry Dipping Sauce.

Fresh Fall Rolls With Cranberry Dipping Sauce

Or in this Golden Sweet Potato Mold With Cranberry-Grand Marnier Drizzle.

Golden Sweet Potato Mold With Cranberry-Grand Marnier Drizzle

Gently simmering with washing up liquid and water makes a huge difference for real disasters. I find soaking in baking soda really helps for general clean-up. But they will look used - which is good, right? And it won't hurt you.


My mom has one and uses it for chicken and potatoes, with carrots, etc. Everything turns out great and it's all done at the same time with little mess. She also sometimes does a beef roast in it. Good luck to you!

How long do you think this would stay good in the fridge, after opened from a can? (It's not still in the can, but a tupperware.) Thanks!

About a week in the fridge, but you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

Yes, it's worrysome but don't panic! Can you have a small veggie/fruit garden - I remember as a child how exciting it was to eat food I'd *grown*! Keep exposing him to different foods, especially aromatic foods that will make his mouth water. Take him farmer's markets.

I have an 18-qt roaster oven and wouldn't want to give it up. Yes, mine roasts turkey as well as my "regular" oven. I use it for other things, too, such as keeping grilled Italian sausage and peppers warm at our annual block party; brisket in the summer, cooking for big crowds. You can use it as an oven or as a giant pot. I've actually baked a cake in it when the temps were in the 100s and I didn't want to heat the kitchen. Granted, it was a date-nut cake, so I'm not sure how light layer cakes would work. And, my daughter used it as her only oven for a month while her kitchen was being remodeled.

Since getting the Modernist Cuisine at Home cookbook, I've been trolling ebay for a used immersion circulator. I'm terriified, however, that if I do buy one, that's its previous life may have been sitting for weeks in a government lab running a temperature controlled bath of pure botulism. Do you have any advice on cleaning a used device? I've seen recommendations to alternate between boiling water, bleach, vinegar, then alcohol, but the manuals for every one specifially state that they should never be used with bleach. Any thoughts?

Johnny Miele, chef de cuisine at Bryan Voltaggio’s Range restaurant in Chevy Chase, suggests not using bleach (that will be too harsh and corrosive), but rather to let the circulator circulate with a dilution of vinegar water (2 percent) and then boiling water, for about 2 hours. Then change to just boiling water and make sure to circulate twice. You don't want to use pure vinegar, because that might corrode the coils.  


Chances are the circulator has been used for its original purpose and has only been circulating water! He also suggests making sure to research the source of any used equipment thoroughly.

throw a roast in the crock pot (I use beef but pork works just as well I've heard) add 6 crushed garlic cloves, 1/4 cup mustard, and a can of the cranberry sauce. Cook for about 8 hours on low- it's great. You can use a pretty lean cut of meat because it's in the crock pot as well or just make it the day ahead, chill and skim any extra fat off

I'm using Firefox, and the auto-updates hasn't been working. Nor has the "go to last" link.

Gotcha. Reporting.

I also had a head of napa cabbage hanging around in the fridge. I steamed and used the whole leaves to make stuffed cabbage, filled with ground beef and basmati rice, and baked them in a Moroccan spiced tomato sauce with prunes.


Any good nacho recipe suggestions? I want something that would have a little meat, beans and onion, in addition to cheese and salsa. Thanks.

How about Potato Chip Nachos With Chipotle Beef? It has a few moving parts, but nothing too taxing. Outstanding results.


I am then of course obligated to recommend my contender in that year's Super Bowl Smackdown of recipes, when Bonnie and I faced off over nacho-like concoctions. Here's my Tostadas With Chorizo, Tangy Guacamole, and Fresh Cheese.


Friday is Burns' Night! I make a decent ground turkey/nut/pinhead oat based haggis, baked in a Le Creuset terrine dish. Tatties are just mashed potatoes, and what they tend to serve in Scotland for neeps (turnips) is actually mashed rutabaga (aka swede), also easy. My problem is that I'm a single malt newbie. I absolutely love smoked things, so I don't fear the peat, rather the scotchy taste is not one I have acquired yet. Any suggestions as to how to ease into *and enjoy* a nice Laphroaig or Lagavulin or Talisker on Friday while toasting the bard?

If you love smoky, then all is well. Other good value options are Caol Ila 12 yr old or Highland Park 12 yr old. I think the only advice I have is not to fear adding a little bit of water (preferably room temp). I assume by "scotchy" taste that you mean you're feeling the proof or the alcohol is singeing your nose hairs. A few drops of water will open up the whisky and allow you to experience more aromas and flavors.

Becky's mention of your food science piece prompts me to ask, have any of you had a look at The Science Of Good Cooking, published October 2012 (by the editors of America's Test Kitchen)? I'm wondering whether it would be a good fit for my teen-aged son, an enthusiastic hobby cook.

I think he'd love it. Also Cooking for Geeks.

Becky, thanks for the graphic, that is just what I was looking for. As for the lecture, I had actually thought of adding a sentence to my original query to preempt that sort of response. :) I'll just say that I don't have mac and cheese high on my list of dishes I am interested in making well, and also that some days are about compromises rather than excellence. Of late, purely by coincidence I think, I have stumbled into two Post recipes using apricots: the Moroccan chicken with apricots and the apple chicken sausage. Thanks for those!

You're welcome. I just had to put it out there in case anyone else was thinking the same thing. But you do what you gotta do!

I was listening to Alice Waters on NPR. I took a cooking class and was advised to boil green vegetables (broccoli, green beans) in salted water, then saute in butter. This isn't the healthiest option, but my kids will eat. If I steamed them, they just wouldn't touch them. I was told that once you bring vegetables to heat, they lose their nutritional properties anyway. So I'm just wondering which is the lesser of two evils, unhealthy vegetables or no veggies at all.

I think you answered your own questions: Some vegetables are better than no vegetables. Different cooking methods cause different amounts of nutrient loss, btw; steaming and microwaving cause the least, if I remember correctly, and boiling the most. You might try steaming instead of boiling, and then sauteeing in butter (with salt).

Are you having technical issues, cause this thing hasn't updated in at least five minutes.....

We're hearing. Sigh. Use the "refresh" button for now! Apologies.

Thank you all for the fabulous grain suggestions! I'm looking forward to trying them.

I'd like to get my knives sharpened. I haven't done it for a really long time. I have one of those electric slot sharpeners. Do you think those work well? I've only ever used it on a paring knife, as I was concerned it could damage my better knives. Would you recommend a more traditional stone sharpener instead? Or just paying someone else to do it? Thanks.

I watched these guys (DC Mobile Sharpening) sharpening knives with whetstones at Union Market and they are the real deal. in fact, I'm thinking of taking my favorite knives down there.  

I, uh, definitely don't open the can and go to town with a spoon... :P Have you seen that episode of Honey Boo Boo? "Can shape food is the best food."

Pretty funny.

You might try - she has some interesting angles for getting the kids to try things new. My toddler loves anything in the form of a "patty"; hence, the broccoli patties on the weelicious site are a huge hit with him. Particularly w/dip (greek yogurt, mustard and honey mixed together). Maybe some of her recipes will entice him out of noodle-love.

Hello. I'd like to give my fiance a bottle of Suntory Japanese Single Malt Whisky 18 Year Old as an engagement gift. (figure if he bought the ring, I can buy him a bottle...) The VA ABC website does not have it available (they only have the 12 year). For special orders, they require you to order a case. I really don't want that many bottles. I looked online at websites like winechateau and while they ship to VA, they require a signature at delivery (if you're not there, they ship it back to the company instead of holding it a local fed ex branch so I cannot pick it up after work). I work outside of the home and prefer not to have it delivered to work. Do you know of any brick and mortar stores who sell it locally or any online stores that sell it and are okay with leaving it at a local fed ex or ups office so I can pick it up? Thank you so much.

A lucky man, and a good trade I'd say: ring for whisky. If you can't get a delivery at home, I'd say your best bet is to try one of the bigger stores in the District, like Calvery Woodley or Ace Beverage or Schneiders or Central Liquor. Btw, another nice Japanese whiskey that's recently become available is Nikka Yoichu 15 year.

It must be January - lots of questions about healthy eating. I have one of my own. I'm trying to slim down - a lot - and am off to a good start, but craving pizza (I've cut out white flour and processed foods for now). Anyone have a recipe for tasty pizza crust without white flour?

On a whim I tried smoked olive oil when I saw it in a store. I didn't like the taste by itself -- I'm a vegetarian and it reminded me too much of ham ;-) -- but I did use it in my slow cooked baked beans to simulated the missing taste of a pork product and liked it for that purpose.

        Smoked olive oil isn't for everyone - or everything, that's for sure. Glad you found a use for it. 

        Keep experimenting. That's what I'm doing. I drizzled some on green beans the other night (can't say I cared for it, actually) and drizzled some on fresh favas (loved it!). I made a vinaigrette for a winter-greens salad (like it quite a bit; mixed only about 2 tablespoons of smoked oil in with the olive oil).

What is that photo of the bright green liquid in the glass? Is that what happens to simple syrup if you leave it in the fridge too long? Or what happens when you soak the swordfish bill in essence of huckleberry thoughts and mud dust for three days?

:) It was attached to a juicing q, right? It is what happens when you juice spinach, pineapple, blueberries, an orange and 1 red beet. Behold, the Tutti-Frutti.

I made a dish last night (tofu with a creamy curry sauce) that called for 3/4 cup of half-and-half and a cup of water, added together. This confused me, so subbed 1 3/4 cups milk. It tasted fine, nice and creamy, but I'm wondering if I'm missing something. Can you speculate about what might have been the point of adding creamy half-and-half and then watering it down? Always up for making recipes even better!

I believe you are missing exactly nothing, and made a very smart decision. Half and half is half milk and half cream, so diluting it with a cup of water, indeed, would seem to get you close to ... milk. Since you liked it, nice job!

I'm viewing in Firefox and the page is bouncing up and down--making me a bit queasy.

Not good when food is the topic, eh? So sorry.

From last week's chat - any hardware store will sharpen your knives and it will cost a lot less than Sur la Table. Some do have to send them out - but a lot will do them while you wait.

If anyone's curious about buckwheat, I invite them to try the buckwheat noodle dishes that are on nearly every Korean restaurant's menu. There's two primary ways the noodles are served: in a cold beef broth or spicy red pepper paste. Both are garnished with sliced beef, egg and Asian pears. They're a wonderful complement to Korean bbq like bulgogi and kalbi.

Like! We've got some good Asian-inspired noodle recipes in our Recipe Finder.

Just get out there and cook! Personally, I find cold winter nights to be my favorite time to use the grill. It is quiet. There are no bugs. The stars are as bright as you will get close to the city. It does help to have a pair of felt lined boots and mittens work better than gloves. Just don't let you beer freeze.

Well, you've allowed us to cool completely, and we should crisp up within 30 minutes before you break us into smaller pieces and store us in an airtight container, so you know what that means -- we're done! Thanks for the great questions. Hope we gave you some helpful info, and apologies for the technical troubles.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who first asked about ideas for using those different grains will get Cooking Light's "Big Book of Salads," and the one who asked about using leftover jelled cranberry sauce will get "The Best of America's Test Kitchen." Send your mailing info to krystalb@washpostcom, and she'll get you your book.

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

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, The Process columnist David Hagedorn and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson.
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