Free Range on Food: Polish food, feeding kids with cancer, restaurants using meat and fish scraps and more

Jan 09, 2013

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

Good afternoon, Rangers! I'm sure you've all done your homework and read today's Food section, with stories about Polish cuisine, cooking for young cancer patients and fine dining's trash-to-table movement! Danielle Cook Navidi, the subject of Maggie Fazeli Fard's story about cooking for kids with cancer, will be on hand to answer your questions. She'll also be giving away a copy of her cookbook, "Happily Hungry."


Anne Applebaum, unfortunately, can't join us to talk about the renaissance of Polish cuisine, but Deputy Travel Editor Zofia Smardz, who grew up with her mother's Polish cooking, will handle all such inquiries.  We'll even give away an autographed copy of Anne and Danielle Crittenden's cookbook, "From a Polish Country House Kitchen."


If you want, we can even talk about today's sad news: No, not RGIII's surgery (though, that is indeed sad news), but the death of the All We Can Eat blog.


Let's get this on...


The recipe for lime thai basil shortbread with passion fruit glaze (Christmas cookies 2011) calls for 3 tablespoons concentrated passion fruit juice. Where did you find that? Even when I look in the Hispanic food aisle of my grocery store I can't concentrated passion fruit juice. Not being able to find this one ingredient is why I haven't made these cookies yet. Please help!

I pick up a not-very-big bottle of Deruta brand passion fruit concentrate at Rodman's, although I've also seen it at the Westbard Giant in Bethesda.  Since you'd have some left over, and obviously have good taste, may I recommend trying this flan? Easy, and lip-smacking good. 

I LOOOOVE this chat!! I have learned so much from reading it every week! Suddenly appearing is a large crack across the inside glass door of our oven. Neither of us remember seeing it Friday night and when we went to use the oven Sunday night - there it was! Is it at all ok to keep using the oven for a couple weeks until we get another one, or are we definitely going to shatter it by doing so? We are hoping to move out of the condo ASAP...any suggestions on a good brand/style to go with in the interest of selling? Is an oven a 'hot' item (pun intended) when purchasing? Not so much for me, but do buyers see it differently? Thank you!!

Wow -- that's upsetting! When you say inside glass door, do you mean it's a double-glass situation? I would immediately contact the manufacturer to ask advice. I know you're leaving soon, but I would be very wary about using the oven, because  the last thing you want is to have to clean up a bunch of shattered glass on the inside -- or, God forbid, in any of your food.

As for something that would be good for resale value, you should look at the GE Profile line. More reasonably priced that Viking/Wolf level of pro ranges, but attractive and well made, a step up from the basic stuff. I think the hot quotient for resale depends on the buyer -- some would be wowed by a Viking, others wouldn't care. That's why I think the GE is a good compromise.

I'm a big fan of this cookie...and after being outraged at how much Starbucks charges for them, I bought myself a pan and started trying out different recipes. I have settled on Ina's coconut madeleine recipe-it's truly divine. But I have a problem---how do I know when it's done. I usualy wait for the edges to turn brown but then when I turn them out, they sometimes haven't browned sufficient on the other side so you can't see the fluting. Help! :)

You and Proust both. Much more important, IMO, than being able to see the fluting is how the madeleines end up inside. The worst possible thing to do would be to dry them out. So if your timing, when they are barely browning on the edges, works for the doneness on the inside, don't change a single thing. Please.

My little almost 8 year old grandson was diagnosed with leukemia last Wednesday. He has never enjoyed eating; their home was mostly junk food. Now my son and his wife, I think, are ready to embrace healthy eating. The nurse yelled yesterday to let him eat anything to get in the calories. While I can't imagine the pain the little guy is in with the chemo (the 2nd round begins tomorrow), do you have any recommendations? Is dead food better than nothing, maybe yes? I am a wellness coach for adults with regard to prevention and wellness, and I am at a so many ways. Thank you.

He will probably fare best with several small meals or snacks throughout the day rather than trying to force any significant meals in him. If the parents are willing to embrace healthy eating, soups and homemade smoothies will be the place to start. Simple proteins, like silken tofu in smoothies, will be easier for him to digest while he's in treatment. You may want to avoid meat for a bit since that can be hard to digest (fatty and a heavy protein), but steroids might give him cravings for heavier foods so think about substituting with soups containing rice, chicken sausage and lots of finely chopped vegetables. It sounds like the family would actually benefit from a copy of Happily Hungry, it's a roadmap for exactly this kind of situation. Best of luck to your little grandson.

I was pleased to learn that organ meats are becoming available at DC-area restaurants, as they're something I -- and many other local folks -- enjoyed eating in other countries and wished we could find nearby. But -- $85 for food that until recently was considered garbage?? OMG, what do these restaurants charge for the "good" cuts??

Keep in mind that Graffiato sous chef Adam Brick's off-cuts and trash meats are supplemented with some pricier, more traditional restaurant ingredients, such as oestra caviar, Valrhona chocolate and bay scallops.

I'm interested in making stock out of leftover bones and shells but have a couple questions: 1) Is it ok to freeze bones and shells until you have enough of each, and enough time to make stock, or do you need to use them fresh? 2) Should you use the bones "whole" or should they be chopped up? I'm unclear if it's the bone itself that does the magic or the marrow within the bone that you need to expose. 3) Can I use shrimp shells to make stock? 4) I have the shells from 4 lobsters from NYE in my freezer, can I make a fish or white or lobster stock from them? How? Should I add the shrimp shells too? Thanks!!!!

Good for you. Yep, freezing bones is A-OK. They can be kept whole; sometimes, roasting them often coaxes out more flavor. You don't need to extract or expose the marrow to create a good stock. 


Yep, freeze those shrimp and lobster shells! Makes wonderful seafood broth, adds depth. You can just simmer them in water or you can add a little fresh dill, a quartered onion or a little celery.  Once it comes to a bare boil, cook over medium to med-low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, then strain. Use the liquid in whatever recipe you've got. 

Over the weekend I made a chicken and spinach spanikopita for a friends' lunch, which was a huge success. Now while the filling was great, the time to deal with the phyllo dough was a pain. So I was wondering if there is an alternative for me to make this dish mid-week in a way to use the filling but not have to deal with the phyllo?

When you say you made A spanikopita, do you mean you made just one big one? That's certainly easier than dealing with the individual pies. You could also make it in a pie pan, with the phyllo on top rather than wrapped all the way around. That would save some hassle. It's not really spanikopita if you don't use phyllo in some way, but you could riff further away from the Greek and use store-bought puff pastry, such as Dufour brand, which would speed things up considerably. It would be a lot richer, but if you used it just on top it would be nice, I think. To keep the individual-serving appeal, you could do that in ramekins, putting the filling in and cutting out a circle of puff pastry dough to top each one.

I enjoyed Joe's Tuesday article about kitchen safety. I cringed many times reading the example mishaps, while remembering my own (I dropped a santoku on my big toe a few weeks ago, which cut and bruised it--really hurt). While I view myself as a fairly accomplished home cook, I think I could really benefit from a knife class. I know how to be careful, but it comes at the expense of speed. With some instruction, I bet I could learn to be safe and fast, which would be really useful. Any suggestions for good classes in DC? Thanks.

I know that the Sur La Table location at Pentagon Row and the CulinAerie cooking school both offer knife classes.  I also know that these classes sell out quickly, so it's best to book one early.

Glad you liked the piece. There are also basic and advanced knife-skills classes at L'Academie de Cuisine.

You guys outdid yourself this week with great articles! I love the wine list and the top recipes, and especially the local author doing classes to help kids with cancer. I have a completely unrelated question, however. My friend recently brought me some "waffles" back from Belgium because she knows of my deep-seated love for them. They're actually super thin wafer-like waffles with caramel in between. Are there any specialty shops that might sell them nearby? Or even better, a recipe? I can't seem to find one from google since I don't know the actual name.

Any chance you're talking about stroopwafels? You can get them at Trader Joe's and probably elsewhere. King Arthur Flour has a recipe.

I want to make ramen soup soon. Not the kind from the cheap package, but something really delicious. Many of the recipes that look good call for miso paste. Where can I get that? I've looked in Giant and Whole Foods and not been able to find it. I see miso soup packets, but no paste. Does it come in a tube, can or jar? Is is refrigerated or would it be with the condiments on the Asian aisle? I guess I'm not sure what I'm looking for. Thanks.

Miso is a fermented soybean paste, available in several colors from light (mellow) to dark (robust), depending on which grain the paste is made with (usually barley or rice). Whole Foods does carry several varieties, in tubs, where the eggs and tofu are kept. High in vitamin B12, but also very high in sodium, I would suggest you look for non-GMO or organic Miso so as to avoid MSG (monosodium glutamate), commonly added in many brands. Besides Whole Foods, Asian chain markets such as Lotte or H-Mart carry all kinds of Miso.

My favorite, if you can find it, is South River Miso, made in Massachusetts. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.

I made braised short ribs this weekend, and have a pot of thick braising liquid sitting in my fridge (I reduced it to make it more of a sauce, but there was still plenty left over). It seems like a such a shame to just dump all that flavorful sauce - is there any way to repurpose it for another dish? Thanks!

One thing you could do: You could strain the sauce, reduce it further and treat the thickened liquid as a demiglace. Use a spoonful for soups or stews or risottos to add a depth of flavor.

Totally serious question here, I am not being impertinent: Do all of these leftover concoctions taste good? I was genuinely interested in the article on food scraps, and I consider myself an adventurous eater... in terms of spices, different cuisines, etc. However, few of the descriptions of scrap delicacies sounded palatable to me. Egg shell meringue? Braised heart? Pineapple skin dessert? How have these foods struck you when you've tried them? Do you truly enjoy them as much as a "non-scrap-based" meal? How much of this movement is novelty vs. taste? I mean, I love that things are being re-used, but I still feel like I'd rather eat a flatiron steak or a beautiful piece of ripe pineapple than most of what you referenced in the article. Thoughts?

It's a good question, not impertinent at all. By and large, I enjoyed Adam Brick's "Gems" menu. I was particularly fond of the lamb heart (though mine was a little too peppery), the halibut tail and the tuna marrow. Brick uses these ingredients smartly, incorporating them in ways that are both creative and tasty.

I read the blog everyday and noticed it was no longer under the list of blogs begining this week. I had to go in a round about way to find it.

If you only had been joined by 100,000 others. I think Tim summed up the situation with care and thoughtfulness.

Hi Rangers, I received a pressure cooker from my mother-in-law for Christmas (she bought all gifts from QVC this year!) and am not sure what to do with it. I've been looking online and in your recipe database, and it looks like my best bet is pot roast (my husband is a meat and potatoes guy). Do you have any different suggestions, for instance can I make my cabbage okazu (hamburger, cabbage, tomatoes, etc) in it? Is it just a fast cooker? Thank you!

What kind did you get? Yes indeed, consider a fast cooker. On those chef cooking competition shows (that I am NOT supposed to be watching so much of), I've noticed that once the chefs figure out how to lock on the lid, they use a PC to make all sorts of quick-braised meats etc. I like making stock/broth, lentils, beans and rice puddings in a pressure cooker. Your husband would like Pressure Cooker Carnitas, I bet.


Chatters, what are your fave ways to use them?

I seem to remember eating potato candy when I was a child. Are any of you familiar with this? Perhaps I was dreaming!

You were not dreaming! It's definitely a thing. Plenty of recipes and admiration online. We don't seem to have a recipe in our archives. Anyone have a favorite?

By chance, do you mean Needhams? I sampled when I was in Maine last year and, while I don't mean to diss a tradition, I kinda didn't get it. You don't really taste the potato, which may be a good thing, but then ... why? Sometimes it's best not to ask that question, I realize.

What is the best place to pick up a live (or just steamed) New England lobster? There used to be a truck at NIH that came down from Maine. I have a hanker'in and the tiny guys at the super market won't suffice.

The truck at NIH sold whole lobster? That's cool. I know of course of the Red Hook Lobster Truck, which sells rolls, but that's not the same thing. After Whole Foods stopping selling live lobsters, I think one of the best places around to get them (and so many other types of pristine seafood) is Blacksalt Market in the Palisades.

But for a quick fix: How bout a lobster roll? Check out Luke's Lobster in Penn Quarter. Good stuff. Also, the Red Hook truck is in Reston today; tomorrow, Metro Center; Friday, Farragut Square. See sked here

I've purchased good lobsters from River Falls Seafood Market in Potomac before. They currently have Maine lobsters for $14.99 a pound there. They have lobsters from 1 1/2 pounds to about four pounds. 

Jason, Last week you recommended refrigerating Madeira once open. Ive always been told Madeira lasts indefinitely, even when open, due to its prior oxidation. is this incorrect?

Yes, you are correct. I was over-generalizing about fortified wines like vermouth and sherry in that answer. Madeira won't keep forever, once opened, but it will keep for a few years. Bottled, it lasts forever.

I've decided to try making sourdough, and last Thursday I put together a starter using your recipe. I don't think it's working. But I really don't know how to tell. It still really isn't bubbling. Am I supposed to be feeding it every day? I saw some recipes online that called for that, but from what I understood from your directions, I don't need to feed it until it starts bubbling. Our house is around 68, and I've left it right in front of a vent. Is it just too cold and I should start over in the spring? (If so, can I use what's there now for something, or should I just chuck it?) Or does a chiller temp just mean it will take longer than 2-5 days and I should let it keep going? Thanks!!

We asked ace baker Marcy Goldman, who says: "I don’t suggest feeding a newborn starter everyday until it shows signs of life. The sluggish (no bubbles) suggests the yeast (was there yeast in the starter?) might be old but more so, it’s simply too cold (68F) to get this wee baby starter going – A little warm might help –and if that doesn’t help – a wee pinch of instant yeast. 

"Once a starter is healthy and lively and bubbling, then it gets the cold treatment – and you thereafter follow a feeding schedule (warmth, water and flour) for your ‘toddler’ sourdough (it will still lack maturity but it will be on its way."


She also says chlorinated water might be a culprit or the consistency of the starter, and wonders about the environment chill. 

I have about 3 cups of shredded carrots in hanging out in my fridge right now. I used a prior two cups for carrot cake, so I can check that off my list. The carrots are pretty wimpy right now, so I can't make a salad or stir fry, and I'm leaving for five days tomorrow anyway. I've googled to see if I can just freeze and thaw for a future carrot cake, but reviews seem to be mixed. What do you think? Will they work like bananas if I freeze/thaw?

Seems like they would lose moisture and carrotness (yeah, sure, not a real word. Happy New Year!). But you could cook them and puree, then freeze. Opens up other possibilities, such as add-ins to soups, dips, sauce, mashed potatoes. 

First NCIS kills off Eli David and Jackie WaPo kills off All You Can Eat Blog....I can't take anymore......sad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you. We're a little sad too. But I do hope you'll like some of the forthcoming changes in Food, which the death of the blog will allow.

I will miss the blog. I hope this allows you to do other great stuff.

:( We're a little verklempt.  Plus ca change....Absolutely will free up Mr. Carman; expect big things from that guy. I always do.  

Now I'm verklempt!

Hi, my daughter is getting married this summer. The both hate cake...mostly the sickening sweet frosting, but the cake texture too. Have you any good alternatives to wedding cake? They are thinking wedding pie or Croquembouche (how hard is that to make at home); they are having a southern reception which is a lot of other desserts; like cookies and pies.

I love croquembouche, and have made it -- more than a little bit of a project. The cream-puff dough isn't difficult, and neither are good fillings (I made a variety -- lemon curd, almond pastry cream, something else I can't remember), but putting it all together is definitely a project. You can make all the stuff in advance, but you really need to fill the puffs as close to serving time as possible, which means it's best to wait until the last minute to put the tower together, a feat involving a cone mold, precise stacking skills, and lots of spun sugar. Can you hire it out?

Much easier would be individual tarts!



have a tried and true recipe? I admit i buy frozen ones but would like to try my hands at making them from scratch.

The frozen ones aren't bad, actually! I confess I use them myself in a pinch -- shhh! There are any number of variations on the dough recipe -- and of course, the filling depends on what you like! -- but here's a recent Food story on pierogi that offers a fairly standard recipe. My own favorite is actually a bit simpler: for the dough, just flour, water, egg and a pinch of salt. For the sauerkraut filling, sauerkraut, sauteed mushrooms and onion, a dollop of sour cream. If you'd like the specifics, and instructions for other fillings, I'd be happy to share. E-mail me at

So what are "free range" eggs? The farmer's market offers free range eggs that have thicker egg shells, much more vibrant yellow yolks that also stand up in the pan. This is in contrast to the other eggs purchased in grocery stores that feature "free range" eggs. Is this another example of vague and unenforceable USDA regulations?

Well, let's start with that shorthand modifier. Ideally the term means that they are allowed to roam, hunting and pecking seeds and worms and grass in a pasture. But it might just mean they have some outdoor access. (Vague = check; HSUS says there are no standards for free-range egg production.) As a result, free-range eggs may contain less cholesterol and sat fat, maybe more vitamins than the eggs produced by birds that are kept indoors and eat corn/grain mixtures. Free-range eggs often have deeply colored yolks -- don't know about the thicker shells. (The American Egg Board doesn't support findings like that, however, and cites research that cage-free/free-range eggs have lower levels of shell bacteria.)

Good afternoon! It's lucky for me that your chat is today as I have a question about a recipe I'm making tonight. I'm making a vegetable-barley soup and the recipe calls for 2 tbsp of dry sherry. I don't have any and would prefer not to buy a bottle if possible as I don't see myself using it much. Are there any appropriate substitutes? I have an ample supply of brandy (don't ask, long story!) if that is a possibility, and red/white wine. If it is best to go with the dry sherry itself, how long will it keep? And what is the difference from "cooking sherry?" This has always confused me. Thanks in advance!

I think it would be best to go with dry sherry -- I'm not sure the brandy will be a good sub. Stay away from "cooking sherry." It isn't real sherry at all, and in fact makes the people who make real sherry in Jerez, Spain crazy. A bottle of fino sherry at the liquor store is easy to find and will usually cost $12 or less. Once opened, it will keep a couple weeks in the fridge.

Loved today's articles on Polish cooking, I have several Polish convenience stores near me and never know what to try beyond bread and sauerkraut. Any suggestions?

So glad you liked the articles! And there are so many wonderful things you could try. Do the stores have a deli, with fresh kielbasa? Nothing beats it, especially the smoked variety. And kabanosy, a thinner, dry pork sausage that's a bit like pepperoni. Delicious! Paszteciki, little meat-filled dough rolls, are also yummy. Do they have pastries -- paczki, a jelly-filled donut, are wonderful (and a specialty for Fat Tuesday, right before Lent begins), as are any number of Polish babkas and strudel-type poppy-seed or prune- or apricot-filled cakes, and chrust or chrusciki, a powdered-sugar, bow-tied pasty. Pierogi, of course! My favorite are the sauerkraut and mushroom-filled, though most people seem to prefer the meat-filled or potato-and-cheese filled ones. I'd be curious to know what-all your stores carry; you're lucky to have them nearby.

The idea of making good food for sick kids is lovely. It's also important to make sure that the food is safe for them-- since these kids are severely immune-compromised, certain high risk foods or high risk preparation should be avoided. Even "healthy" foods can be extremely risky from a bacterial standpoint... raw sprouts and E.coli, for example. (This holds no matter how local or fancy the grower-- sprouts carry bacteria in the seeds.) Raw (unpasteurized) milk, dangerous for anyone, anytime, is especially dangerous for sick kids. Undercooked meats... deli meat (even from the fancy butcher). Point is, safety and health go hand-in-hand. There are resources to help people who are feeding vulnerable consumers... be sure to be choosing nutritious AND safe options. - a food safety lawyer for a non-profit here in DC

Thank you for addressing this; both the Cooking for Cancer program and the cookbook address the issues of neutropenia closely and families are counseled on these immune-compromised issues. Safe, smart and healthy nutritional choices are all part of the program.

Thanks for the rundown of the year's favorites; I picked up a lot of good ideas. I'm intrigued by the spaghetti squash mac and cheese, but am concerned about the topping (homemade white bread crumbs w/butter). One of the appeals of this dish is that I can have old-timey comfort food without the white carbs I'm trying to do without (using whole grain pasta). Is it necessary? Can I substitute something else (whole wheat panko, perhaps?) I like the idea of a browned topping.

You mean butternut squash mac and cheese? You might try good ol' wheat germ as a topping instead. At least for me, panko takes a while to brown on top of a baked dish.

I use the little frozen phyllo cups to make fake bastilla and fake spanikopita.

Of course! That simplifies things a lot, doesn't it? Thanks much for the reminder.

Where can you buy store-bought venison, never have seen it in a store. The Hunter's Stew looks wonderful, but were do you buy venison?

A good butcher will have it. We found it at Wagshal's, which I believe sells venison fresh and frozen. 

I have a friend who's 2 year old was recently diagnosed with ALL and they're going to have to travel an hour each way for chemo. 2 years olds can be tricky with eating at the best of times (mine reject his favorite food last night and then when I started clearing the table ate the whole bowl), so I can only imagine how difficult it's going to be if she's going through chemo. Add to that a lot of traveling and I'm sure on the road food suggestions would be great.

Yes, there are several recipes for foods to have along for the endless waits between appointments and hospital commuting. Muffins, popovers, even the smoothies are conducive as "to go" foods. Chapter 2 is all about "Little People Bites," and addresses your question.

My cousin visited there and brought some back for us one time. I have tried the various kinds sold in the US, and unfortunately, none compare. The ones in the US tended to be much drier and did not have that incredibly moist and deep caramel flavor.

Ah, well, thanks for input. Perhaps this is a stronger argument for trying to make your own!

I emailed Ezme to ask for their recipe for Cerkez Tavugu, but got no response. All the recipes I find when I google don't quite seem the same as what they serve. Any ideas?

I'm of no help here. Maybe the chatters can assist?

Joe, Thanks for the knife safety article. Did your research find any truth to what my grandmother told me a half century ago, that more cuts occur from dull knives than sharp ones because you have to work too hard and are more likely to cause the knife to slip? (I'll admit I skimmed the article because I have an unfortunate, strong vasovagal reaction to (a) reading this kind of thing or (b) cutting myself. All but the most minor cuts require sitting on the floor (or burying my head on my husband's shoulder while he does the bandaging.) Oddly, other people's injuries and TV surgeries/wounds/etc. don't bother me in the least... and I'm quite good at gentle, effective first aid. Go figure.)

Glad you liked it -- indeed, as I wrote, a sharp knife is safer because of exactly what you (and your grandmother) said. And if you do cut yourself, wound from a sharp knife heals better than one from a dull one. Having said that, I found that many injuries seem to come from people using a NEW knife, which is sharp -- but also unfamiliar.

Loved this article! I grew up in an area of the country with a lot of people of Polish background, so I grew up eating the food and have always loved it (especially the paczki's on Fat Tuesday)! Glad to see this cuisine getting notice elsewhere.

I love the paczki, too! They're the best and always give me a bout of nostalgia. I agree that it's high time Polish food got its just due. It helps that it's finally getting its due in Poland itself, after all those years of communism, when you could hardly get a decent meal in a restaurant. But now, Polish chefs are flexing their muscles, and the results are fantastic! Try the recipes we've printed -- they're revelatory, I promise you.

The Canadian Potato Museum (fun place actually) on PEI has 2 potato candy recipes.

Cool! Prince Edward Island, and the museum, are on my travel wish list.

has venison a good deal of the time

As a long-time online reader, I disagree with a *lot* of the changes WaPo management has made over the past few years (miss you, Rob P.!) That said, I *kind* of understand their point about the blogs. I love a lot of WaPo columnists, but there was no way to stay current with all the blogs being written, and they never settled on an effective way of making them easily available. It pains me to know that some great entries were being written and not read. So, I take your point that you can turn this into a positive and focus your talents in a different direction. Thanks so much for your food section and chats!

Thank you for the smart note!

So sorry to see this blog go -- and sorry to see a number of the changes with the Post's online presence. I have been a reader for 50 years -- on paper for the first 20 or so, as often as I could get it for the next 15-20 and online as soon as that was possible. I appreciate the work each of you individually and all of you collectively put into quality content. And I appreciate the economic and demographic challenges that media outlets face. What I really don't appreciate is that someone at the Post (and you are not alone in this) insist on moving things constantly so that I have to dig for the link to Free Range, or a blog, or whatever I am accustomed to reading. Don't make it so stinking hard for me to follow you. Links are cheap... but if I have to haul all over town, so to speak, to find them, there's a good chance I'll just give up. Then again, I get fairly cranky when our local grocer or hardware store decides to move every &^%$ thing to a different (and utterly illogical) location than where I've gone for years. So, maybe I am slightly curmudgeonly on this point. But I do read a great deal, and I shop for quality (in reading or groceries or hardware stores). I note that the huge chains are the ones that do all these shenanigans, at least at the bricks-and-mortar level, not the locally-owned stores with connected, local management. End rant. Resume gratitude: thankful for what AWCE was, sorry to see it go, and grateful for Tim's statement that the FOOD section will remain a vibrant part of the Post's content. Happy, merry to all, and thanks.

Thanks for this. Rant appreciated! And gratitude, of course. 

The reasons are sound, but this is a very abrupt way to lose such a great resource. The Post did this when they ended live chats on other topics as well...just announced 'this is our last one'. It would go down easier with a little advance warning and a chance to savor the last few. Thanks for the work on the blog and I look forward to what is to come.

Yes, it was abrupt. But the blog and its content will continue to live on the Web site, so you can return to old content as often as you'd like.

I hope I can find someone to hire out, I think the Croquembouche would be a great alternative. Cupcakes are out too. They were looking at macaroons and whoopie pies (I know that is cake like -- its for the guest)...these can be made in advance and frozen. Thanks!

It's truly a showstopper, croquembouche. I'm not sure where you are located, but I talked to the folks at Praline in Bethesda, and they would be up for taking the job if you go that way. Their stuff is gorgeous, so you'd be in good hands.

We got married in November and faced the same dilemma as my now-husband does not like cake. He does, however, love doughnuts. We bought some from a popular local bakery and a friend stacked them in a tiered formation and decorated with extra greenery. It was a huge huge hit, gave us something to cut for the photos, and was delicious. I can send photos if you want. We then provided a dessert buffet- seasonal cobblers and ice cream.


Speaking of stock, can beef stock be made from leftover bones from roasted meats, akin to chicken bones? Every recipe I've come across starts with buying fresh bones and roasting them. So is it worthless to save up say, the bones from short ribs and beef shanks to make stock?

Absolutely. Just store them in the freezer until you have enough, and boil away.

I made salmon with "zesty mayonnaise" from a Pepin recipe that was good but left me with a lot of leftover zesty mayo (mayo mixed with salsa, sundried tomtoes, spices.). Sorry for yet another "can this be frozen" question but...can it? Thanks!

I'm afraid mayo isn't a good candidate for freezing. It separates and doesn't easily re-emulsify. I'd be tempted instead to turn it into a salad dressing, thinning it out and drizzling on greens. Or give it away!

But you could use it as a basis for salmon/crab cakes, and you could freeze those....

Hey Food Folks- I have a leftovers problem. Cornbread. There are 2 of us, and we like cornbread. But all the recipes we have make a lot of cornbread, and we have not found a worthwhile use for leftover cornbread. The recipes are hard to alter down, as they all include one egg. Any advice or either small recipes or good uses for leftover cornbread? Thanks!

Sure thing. Think about freezing it in increments that make sense for your cooking; cornbread freezes well, so that means you'd always have it on hand for making stuffing and even a mixture to top a casserole/shepherd's pie. I think it'd be kind of neat to make a pudding; riff on your favorite bread pudding recipe. Mix the cornbread leftovers with cooked, crumbled chorizo and saute rounds to use as a base for eggs Benedict. Or work the cubed bits of cornbread into a breakfast hash. 

Thank you for the articles on Polish cooking. My brother gave me Anne Applebaum's cookbook for Christmas. I am looking forward to making my golabki with savoy cabbage. I make mine in a pressure cooker, which is so much faster than baking them and they stay very moist. Also, the pierogi dough recipe I favor calls for sour cream, which can cause controversy in some circles of my Polish aunts and other relatives.

I'm with your aunts! The best dough requires no sour cream. Well, *I* think, anyway. :-)

The golabki from the cookbook are very good, but I have to say that what really makes them is the mushroom sauce, which is a bit complicated to make, but SO worth it! It's truly delectable. So don't skip that part.

For what it is worth, the latest edition of Cook's Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen) has a 2-page spread on pressure cookers. If you don't subscribe, see if you can find it at your local library to peruse/photocopy, or mooch a copy from a friend.

Saw that, thanks. I'm a little skeptical about the electric version...any Free Rangers own one and willing to spill the beans about it?

We mainly use the pressure cooker for dried beans. My wife likes a mushy cooked cabbage, so we use it for that as well. It essentially speeds up the cooking time of anything you would cook in a water based liquid on the stove top.

Thanks -- I also use it for short-grain brown rice. Really good for those long-cooking grains.

Any suggestions for what to do with the (pretty, white) turnips I bought at the market on Saturday? I figured they'd go ok with the chicken I'm planning to roast tonight, I'm just a bit confused about how to make them.

You can certainly roast turnips alongside/under that chicken, or separately, or you can do what Ed Schneider did in his last Cooking off the Cuff post: roast the poutry and then use some of the sauce, a little butter, salt, and pepper to cook quartered turnips in a covered saucepan, glazing them.

Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I'm quite fond of pierogi. My husband has never had them, and I'd like to make them from scratch, rather than heating up some frozen ones. Do you have a favorite recipe?

Yes, we do! Here you go: Family-Style Pierogi.

How are you using the concept of digesibility. Scientifically, a easier to digest food is broken down and absorbed more than a hard to digest food. This makes most meats easier to digest than most plant proteins. It did not sound like this is how you were using the concept, could you please explain.

The body will break down and digest carbohydrates the fastest, fats will take longer and proteins take the longest to digest. When the digestive system is under such stress from the effects of chemo and radiation, returning to a "simpler" diet-- one that will allow our digestive enZymes to function as best they can under such circumstances-- can be beneficial. If a more carb-friendly diet (and by that I don't mean processed or refined foods, rather whole grain and whole foods) is better tolerated, consider that before trying a meat lasagna.

The takoma/silver spring co-op has (or had?) a lot of varieties of miso paste too. I think some comes in a little tub, some in a tube, and some in little foil packet thingies.

Yep, that's a good place to get it. As are big Asian supermarkets, like H Mart, natch.

Happy New Year WaPo. As always you are the experts I turn to, thank you for being here! I am having a small dinner party and plan on serving Rock Cornish Game hens. Should I figure one per person, or 1/2 per person and make an extra one, in case? the rest of the menu is start w/tomato soup with frico, and serve hens with roasted veg with flan or panna cotta for dessert.

Two snaps up on the menu. You know your guests' appetites and you'll lock eyes on the size of the birds, so you, in fact, are the best person to judge! How do you plan to fix them? Coming from the Make Lots of Food School, I'd plan on one per person for sure. 

My husband has been diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and has been asked to lose 50 lbs in weight. I cook lentils, fresh salad and grilled chicken breasts but the food has become boring and I am looking for interesting meals that are low in fat and sodium He does not like fish.

Soups and stir-fries offer lots of options and ways to cook with less fat and sodium.  Go for vegetables and herbs an spices with lots of flavor, and he won't miss the salt as much. 

I made it for the Redskins game. It was fabulous! Thanks very much.

We appreciate that, on behalf of recipe author Stephanie Sedgwick. You probably ate healthier than most other Skins fans. (Salted with tiny tears?)

I love the idea of brunch but I never know what ot make. Other than a french toast casserole what are other good options? And with egg casserole dishes, how do I know how many eggs to include? do I mix in milk? help!!!

A savory strata is a good option. I like scones too. Depending on people's appetities, figure on 2-3 eggs per person. Start with one of our frittata recipes.

The best way to eat them is put one on top of your coffee or teacup to soften the filling. That would help with the dryness. And it's delicious.

Thanks for the tip.

So sad to hear this news. I am a big fan of the blog, as I was of Kim O'Donnell's mighty appetite blog that was also cut. I hope this is not a trend of a downsizing of the food section---if I could chose days to order the paper, I'd definitely chose Wednesday because of the food section articles and recipes. Keep doing what you do!

Thanks. I wish there had been more of you! Don't worry, the Food section isn't being downsized. If you ever need a reminder of the importance of it, financially, to the Post, just look at the scads of grocery store inserts -- all those accounts say they wouldn't advertise if there weren't a Wednesday Food section. So we'll keep on keeping on!

For the poster with the comatose starter, my house is chilly too and I've had success putting the starter on top of a heating pad set to low for a few days to get things bubbling.

Give that Free Range fan a contract (pitchers and catchers report Feb. 12).

Started to go down hill when Tim Carman starting writing for it. Shortly after that it veered far left and I stopped reading it. I used to read it everyday.

Thanks for weighing in, but under Tim the traffic went up significantly, so I'm confident many others would not agree with you. 

In wok cooking they say dry sherry or rice wine...if the question submitter happens to have rice wine perhaps that would work?

Yep, or sake. Thanks.

Hi guys, I had the most delicious pickles at Family Meal (Voltaggio endeavor) in Frederick. They were bright and crisp with none of that "pickle-y" taste that usually comes from ones floating in green juice. I emailed them on the off chance they would share the recipe, but I'm not optimistic. Do you have any ideas for re-creating a similar pickle at home? Thanks!

We'll look into it! Email us at 

I just had this problem with oven door glass breaking. A LOT of searching online led me to the correct part number for my GE oven, and I bought it from Sears online, and in fact managed to install it myself. It was NOT easy! The glass itself was around $100 plus shipping. It took me the better part of 3 hours to take the oven door apart and put it back together. Taking it apart was the easy part. IF you are mechanically inclined, you CAN do this yourself. The glass does not come with instructions, but there are You-Tube videos. I imagine a real repair person would do it for another $100 and much faster. I was afraid it would totally shatter but did use it for a couple of weeks while I waited for the part to come, and the weekend to install. I spent an hour trying to complete the final assembly and figuring out how the last 2 parts fit in. Good luck.

Thanks so much for weighing in! Very helpful.

Which reminds see-through toaster's on back order till Jan. 22. :( #glassconnection

For the person who was unable to find it at Whole Foods, check the refridgerated case stocked with tofu, tempeh and other meatless products. That's where I usually find the miso!

I recall butcher's cuts of meats being meat the consumers did not want but that butchers knew were good values, such as the tail of a rib eye steak or the hanging tender (diaphram muscle). This article was closer to the elevation of "peasant" eating to fine dining. My dad grew up eating all parts of the pig, including blood sausage so that nothing went to waste. He prided himself on being able to afford to feed his family items other than that. My question is do you foresee this type of fine dining to last or is it a short term trend?

I personally think it's here to stay. The economics of fine-dining will continue to demand it.

I've tried making tofu and peanut sauce a few times now, and I've got the tofu cooking down ok, but haven't liked the peanut sauce recipes I've used. The last one had over 10 ingredients (including fresh ginger, sesame oil, garlic, sriracha, etc.), but just tasted like peanut butter with some coconut milk. Any suggested recipes? And I'm sad about the end of the blog. I blame it on the website redesign. Before that, there was a pulldown menu for blogs, and you could see the blog name and the title of the post, so it was easy to check for new entries in any number of blogs. Since the redesign, I read very little on the WP website, and I've become more and more disappointed in the print version as well. Too bad, I love newspapers, and the WP is still one of the better ones around, but its a pale shadow of its former self.

Have a look at our recipe for Chicken Sate With Peanut Sauce. The intro says its "quite possibly the best we've ever tasted."

The label claim "Free Range" requires that the chickens have access to the outdoors. They may or may not utilize the outdoors. Standing up in the pain. This is just the sign of freshness of eggs. As the eggs age, proteins break down. This is part of the reason people are advised to use older eggs for hard boiled eggs. Color of the yolk: The yolk contains any fat soluble pigment the chicken ate. I have seen yolks of a variety of colors when the professor fed different chickens various fat soluble pigments. Corn contains fat soluble vit A forms that are yellow in color. A chicken fed with more wheat, barley, or other grain may have a pale yellow yolk.

I am in the market for a pressure cooker. I want a range top (I have gas) and not terribly expensive (less than $200 if possible). I have gone online to check reviews but can't get consensus and am not sure of the validity of the "reviewers." Could you please list your top three. I'll gladly check them out but would like to know where to start. Thank you!

I can recommend the Fagor I have; got it for less than a Benjamin. 

I just read that your office is limiting its cafeteria service. Curious how the Food staff views the proposed change.

Personally, I love that all Post employees will now have access to freshly prepared foods, not just those who work the traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours. The new company will offer a "market-style" service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. My only question is how fresh the food will be and how many made-to-order dishes will be available. Among the offerings are "higher-end vending options," which sounds dubious to me. We'll see.

Personally, I've always said that if I find myself in the Post cafeteria, it means something has gone very, very wrong. I don't anticipate that feeling changing.

I recently moved to England, and one of the (many) differences here seems to be smaller ovens. The oven in our rental house is brand new, so it's not just a factor of it being old and outdated, the Brits just don't seem to prioritize oven space. It's a good few inches smaller both in width and depth than any oven I had in the US. This hasn't really been a problem, we even managed to cook a goose for Christmas (okay, we did have to stuff him in diagonally). But we brought over our pizza stone and it really fills up the oven entirely with absolutely no space to the sides or front/back. My concern is that it's a gas oven (also new to me) and the flame is at the lower rear. Normally, I put my pizza stone on the lowest shelf, but in this oven, that would mean that the flame was nearly touching the stone. I could move the stone nearer the top of the oven, but then would it get hot enough? Or is it dangerous no matter what to have the stone overhanging the gas flame? I'd rather not buy a new smaller pizza stone, because as soon as we buy our own place, I am putting in a bigger oven for sure. Do you have any advice? I've got dough in the fridge right now, so pizza is happening tonight one way or the other. Thanks!

I think you're right to be worried about stone being so close to the flame -- I know some people have reported their stones cracking from being close to the broiler, which is my favorite way to make pizza. Maybe you should try a preheated, overturned cast-iron skillet. That's what I do!

My in-laws have Viking and paid a good amount for it 3 years ago. Thus far the stove has been fixed 3 times, the refrigerator twice, and the microwave 3 times. This is that I know of. They do not cook much, either, so it is not above normal wear and tear. They have said numerous times they would never buy another Viking product. Just an anecdote, but thought I would share.

Growing up, turnips were the cure for chest colds in my house, as my mother (and many Persian ladies) believed they have medicinal qualities similar to penecillin. At the slightest sign of a cough or a cold, my mother would throw the turnips into the pressure cooker and serve them to us with nothing more than salt and pepper. They are also great diced or grated in soup (how my mom disguised them from my sister who was not a fan) Don't know if there is any truth to the medicinal qualities, but still to this day, if I feel a cold coming on, I fire up the turnips. Just watch the water level-burned turnips are awful!

Tonight is pirgoi night at Domku (Petworth). Once a month in the winter, they make lots of different kinds of pirogi. Today's section has only made me hungrier for dinner tonight.

May I suggest that the grandparents of the little boy with leukemia reach out to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ( for nutritional information for their grandchild. I'm sure that relatives of other children undergoing treatment would be a great resource for them.

Not sure which I find more disturbing to consider: that there are several people out there who would trouble themselves to make such a snarky, unkind, unnecessary (and untrue) comment, or that there is one (oh, say.... um... Clifton of The Sheep?) who is so consistent in his/her bizarre behavior and need for attention.

I am afraid to comment.

Thank you guys for featuring what I think of as a "taste of home"! I rarely cook it for myself (since it is very heavy and often time-consuming) and I miss it here in DC. Someone please open a Polish restaurant-- I will be your best customer!

Opening a Polish restaurant has been my dream! Well, pipe dream, really, as I say in my story. Have you tried Domku Bar and Cafe in Petworth? Lovely, but still a little casual. I'd love a really full-fledged, fine dining, white table-cloth Polish restaurant myself.

Help, I was going to make the rhubarb applesauce slow cooker recipe but cannot seem to find rhubarb anywhere! Is it seasonal and I am out of luck? Or can someone tell me where to get some?

Seasonal. Spring, alas. (See earlier baseball reference.) Maybe cranberries or persimmon might sub in for the tartness? 

I hope it's OK to ask a question about healthy kids, ie. not with cancer. My kids have the flu and they're not eating, mainly because they are congested and their taste and smell is gone. I was hoping Maggie might have a few suggestions for foods that are easy on the stomach but have good flavor to entice kids to eat a bit. Thanks.

Start with a chicken! I'm sure your doctor's office has said lots of fluids will help, so get out a pot and put a whole chicken in there, cover it generously with water, add 2 carrots, 2 celery ribs, 1 onion cut in half skin on, some Italian seasoning or herbes de Provence and let that pot simmer for several hours. They can sip the broth as is, you can add some fresh lemon juice and soy or tamari sauce. There is nothing more comforting than homemade chicken broth-- it's a great place to start with so many illnesses. The poached chicken left from the simmering can also help bring on an appetite, especially the breast meat with a little sea salt sprinkled on top. Try to make some homemade smoothies with powerhouse juices like pomegranate or acai, bananas, a splash of soy or regular milk, honey and a couple of ice cubes. The Cranberry Sipper recipe would be ideal as well, hot or cold-- if you can't find fresh cranberries, get frozen.

Thanks for the article on Polish food. I immigrated here as a child. My parents were (are) professional/upper class, but the food is the same. My Polish grandmother was a food historian (and amazing cook). Unfortunately, we did not see her much after we moved. Cultural food is funny. Your recipe is so odd to me (prunes? no caraway seeds?). Also, I use a half a bottle of wine, not a half cup! Maybe I'll make kotlety this weekend (fried!) and some miseria.

Prosimy! So glad you liked the article. I agree that cultural food is funny. As the authors of the cookbook say, there are as many recipes for bigos as there are cooks. My own recipe includes neither caraway seeds *nor* prunes. But I loved the taste of the bigos from this recipe -- as did my husband and son, who scarfed it up in no time. Try it, and smacznego! P.S. I love mizeria.

I agree that the leftward turn of the blog was offputting. However, given the demographics of the area, i can see how that would increase traffic. It is just a shame that politics had to intrude on something that otherwise should help to bring people together.

?? Are you eating crabapples today?

I keep meaning to ask this and always forgot (so thanks miso questioner #1) - i have a tub of miso in my fridge, that i bought for a recipe and have never used again. I check it occassionally and it seems fine. How else can I use this stuff? I mean mostly as a substitute, say for salt or something? I'd ask for recipes but anything that contains actual miso as an ingredient will not be consumed by my family (big sigh here) - but if I could use it to subsitute in various cooking that might be a good way to use it up...

I use it in unusual places: risotto sometimes if I'm cooking vegan, in a sauce with squash and pasta; in a mushroom omelette that gets chopped up on a kale salad. You can't really pick up that it's miso in any of those, it just gives you a nice backdrop of umami. It's also great as the base for a salad dressing: just whisk with vinegar, oil, a little honey, maybe some sesame seeds, and you're done.

I don't mind the frozen pierogies either, but I never know how to make it a full meal. Do I had a sauce or just put a vegetable on the side?

They're pretty filling!  Sauteed cabbage often is served on the side; depends on what the filling is. Maybe a cucumber-and-sour cream salad?

Any chance you have a mushroom soup recipe? My husband's family is Slovak and had a mushroom soup recipe he loved but that has been lost to the ages...I was hoping you might help, because (At the risk of inciting an international incident here and further imperiling our beloved Food Section Online Content... ) we have found that several Slovak recipes look a lot like Czech recipes that look a lot like Hungarian recipes that look a lot like Polish recipes...

I'll check my favorite cookbook -- there's bound to be a mushroom soup recipe. Polish, not Czech or Slovak or Hungarian, but as you so rightly note, the differences can be, um, minimal. . . E-mail me at, so I can send you anything I find.

As food writers, what is your reaction to the changes to the Post cafeteria that were recently announced?

As a food writer, I ought not to frequent the cafeteria. At all. As a person who consistently misses the hours for food trucks downtown and sits at her desk for too long, I guess I'm glad that longer hours are back in play. 

Thanks, but that looks nothing like what they make at Ezme. May have to take some home and dissect it, the next time I'm in town.

A friend had traditional fruit pies at his wedding--apple, cherry, etc. Very fun.

The Happily Hungry recipe book has a number of recipes that sweeten with agave nectar or honey rather than sugar, eg the recipe for chocolate chip cookies.. Would you comment on this.

We are trying to get away from refined sugar and flours and have devised recipes with natural sweeteners such as agave and honey. Healthwise, these are better choices.

Sad! Will the archives be searchable online (please)?

That's what we've been told. 

I just got done with treatment for breast cancer (yay!). When I was going through chemo, it was important to keep protein levels up because those can tend to drop. Broth was good (not too hot because of mouth sores) because it was easy to get down. Mashed yams are also recommended to keep hemoglobin levels up. I also found popsicles were great for my sore mouth (my three-year old son said I could have all his popsicles). Oatmeal was also good and easy to eat. Scrambled eggs. Just a couple of suggestions.

I have one, and it's very easy and much safer! It can also be used as a slow cooker which I appreciate.

Any ideas of how to either make or buy a good Zurek base? I have gone up to Rockville to get it a couple of times, but that is really far. Any suggestions in DC proper?

Alas, there's no place in DC proper that I know of. Here's a quick recipe: Boil half a quart of water, let it cool for a couple of minutes, and mix in 1 cup of rye or wheat flour. Pour into a glass jar, cover with a cloth or paper towel, and leave in a warm place for 3-5 days. This from a recent book, Authentic Polish Cooking by Marianna Dworak.

Was that a joke? "when Tim Carman starting writing for it. (...) it veered far left.

Wow, we've been pulled in more directions than taffy this afternoon. Thanks for all the compelling questions and comments.


The cookbook winners are the chatter who asked about the "take along" recipes for children with cancer and the chatter who asked about the Polish convenience stores. The former gets a copy of "Happily Hungry," and the latter a copy of "From a Polish Country House Kitchen." Please send your contact information to Becky Krystal at


Have a great week and keep on cookin'!

In This Chat
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is the Food section staff writer; joining us today are editor Joe Yonan, deputy editor Bonnie S. Benwick, editorial aide Becky Krystal and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guests: Danielle Cook Navidi, holistic nutritionist, cooking instructor and author of "Happily Hungry: Smart Recipes for Kids With Cancer"; Zofia Smardz, Washington Post deputy Travel editor and Polish food enthusiast.
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