Free Range on Food: Analyzing the "ethnic" aisle, Brad Pitt on screen, the woman who brought us the kiwi, this week's recipes and more!

Oct 02, 2019

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

Good afternoon Rangers, 


We're running lean and mean today. Joe and Becky are busy with other projects/assignments, though they may pop in to answer a question here and there. Otherwise, we'll have the usual suspects -- Olga, Kari, myself -- plus a guest appearance from Tucker Shaw, the editor in chief of Cook's Country. 


There's much to discuss. We can talk about the tricks to making great guacamole, tips for a speedy French onion soup or just how to prepare a turkey kebab that's as tasty as the ground-lamb versions. We can even dig into the latest Michelin Guidehigh-tech vegan ice cream, the amazing Frieda Caplan (founder of Frieda's Specialty Produce, the company that's introduced countless fruits and vegetables to Americans) or the latest controversial opinion from chef David Chang: that "ethnic" food aisles in supermarkets are racist.


For one chatter, we have a "Downton Abbey" prize package (cocktail book, Annie Gray's cookbook, weekender bag, puzzles) to the person who asks the best question on Free Range today. (No, it doesn't have to pertain to food on "Downton Abbey.")


So let's get this thing started!


I put up pickle relish (the picalilly recipe from Joy of Cooking) I packed into cup and half cup jars instead of pints (I don’t think I can eat a pint of relish fast enough to use a pint of home canned comfortably). I followed the directions, packed the veggies - and had very little room to add the cooking liquid after. After processing in a hot water bath (+ the altitude adjustment, and using a pot with a gauge on the lid to adjust for altitude) none of them have the relish fully covered by the liquid. All but one of the jars sealed properly. They also still have bubbles in the food, which I am trying to shake to the top. So given that the food isn’t fully covered is this just a potential cosmetic issue, or do they need to go? I’m past the 24 hour window to reprocess, and I couldn’t possibly get it done today in any case.

Lucky you, Cathy is standing over my shoulder in the Food Lab! Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but they need to go. The air is where you can get botulism forming.

Hello, Rangers. We were away for s little over a week and our previously dud poblano plants came to life. Of course the biggest and most beautiful have turned red. Can I still use them? (I tend to use in soups and stews and anywhere green peppers (indigestion) are called for.)

I JUST experienced this --  mine turned red while I was away for a couple of weeks (all green peppers will eventually if they can ripen), and I took them to my friend Pati Jinich, who dubbed them rojo rajas after she charred, peeled and put the strips on sopes, which we devoured. They're like red bell peppers with personality -- a little heat, not as much as poblanos. Or to look from the other side, they're like sweet, mild poblanos! Try them out. Delicious.

I'm making cupcakes for my daughter to bring to school tonight, I'll also need another batch of cupcakes for her party on Sat. If I keep the unfrosted cupcakes in the fridge will they still be good for Sat or would it be better to make a fresh batch Sat morning? They're chocolate, using buttermilk no oil if that matters. Thanks!

I think you should be fine. Depending on the recipe you might have a bit of dehydration so I'd suggest storing them as airtight as possible. And never underestimate the power of a little extra frosting on a party cupcake. Makes things festive and covers up minor imperfections. 

I know she's not on the food chats anymore (sob) but please let her know that the lede on her Impeachment emoji article is *kisses fingers* masterful. Not surprised, since she's always great, but that was especially delightful for an early morning read (in the dead tree version).

Maura's out and about today, but she says thank you :)

Submitting early due to a meeting. I am a first-generation Asian American who has lived in the US since childhood. I certainly recall the feelings of being "different" and eating Indian food at home rather than what my American friends were eating. However, to take that and extend blame to the Asian food aisle seems forced and unnecessary. When my family first moved to the US (DC area), there were no Indian grocery stores and my mother would shop at Hispanic stores to get things like cilantro, and would also bring back different daals from trips back to India. We were thrilled when, many many years later, we would occasionally see Indian food items in mainstream US grocery stores. I have no problem with the Asian food aisle. Of course, things change over time, and it's quite possible that a generation from now, foods that are now labelled "ethnic" will be considered mainstream "American," just like pizza and lasagne!

I can understand David Chang's take, not that I think everyone should hold the same opinion.


But as the child of Korean immigrants, a child who was trying to fit into "mainstream" America, Chang viewed such an aisle as yet another sign of his outsider status.  And in his opinion, an unnecessary one. 


But as I reported in the story, supermarkets and even suppliers of international foods have their reasons for separating out those items.  So it's more complex than perhaps Chang understood.


ARTICLE: To David Chang, the 'ethnic' food aisle is racist. Others say it's convenient.

It's the writer that made the Biscotti and it had an unusual texture. I made it again and followed your tips. Last time I just threw it on the counter out of the mixer, formed loaves and went to the oven. This time I kneeded it for a bit. Also got an oven thermometer and my oven was off about 15 degrees. I am so thrilled with the baking newsletter. Right now I am in the middle of paint and new floors before Thanksgiving. As soon as this project is over I intend to make each recipe in order. As a self taught baker I'm kind of excited to see what I missed teaching myself, not that I'm bad. My friends want me to open a coffee shop and feature my baked goods as it is. This chat has helped encourage me to try new things.

Almond Biscotti (Cantucci di Prato)

RECIPE: Your cup of coffee and these simple almond biscotti make a perfect match

I take it the biscotti went well the second time, then? Thanks for sticking with it. Great to hear you're liking the newsletter, too! People are really responding to it.

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Big thanks to Marcy Goldman and Becky Krystal for passing on Marcy's tres leches recipe a few weeks ago! I made it for my anniversary party this past weekend, and it came out perfectly! I'm not great in the kitchen, so this was a pleasant surprise and taste of home for my husband and his Nicaraguan family. It really made my day/week/month to be able to do that. Thank you to the WaPo Food Team for these chats and for being so friendly, helpful, and accessible!

Wonderful, thanks for reporting back! Glad it boosted your kitchen confidence, too.

I bought a tub of pumpkin pie hummus at Costco. I don't care for it as a dip but I do enjoy just eating it with a spoon. It's like eating pumpkin pie filling. Can you guys offer up any other ideas for using it?

I've never heard of pumpkin pie hummus! Hm. If it's got a savory edge, maybe you use it to fill ravioli? Or use as filling for lasagna? Would be nice with sage and toasted pine nuts perhaps.

Is there anything non-dairy that I can use in place of the yogurt in this recipe?

You could just nix the yogurt and make the tahini sauce without it.

you could mix tahini with some lemon juice and water and use that as a drizzle or dip? that would work!

Although I'm a fan of Dan Souza's, as a lover of slow-rising yeast pizza dough I was appalled by a recent segment on "America's Test Kitchen" where he demonstrated making a "scratch" pizza in ONE hour using a large amount (IMO) of instant or rapid-rise yeast, plus mild lager and white vinegar to make the dough taste longer-risen (when it isn't). I'm skeptical of the quality of the finished product, to put it mildly. LINK:

I understand your skepticism! That recipe really went through the ringer here at ATK, so I can say that it's pretty darned good. It's a bit different from longer fermented doughs in flavor, but as a workaround for days when you've got a craving that you can't wait a day or so to sate it's pretty good. The vinegar especially surprised me, the end result doesn't taste of vinegar but it does add some of that je-ne-sais-quoi that you otherwise only get with time.  

Tucker- It's Fall and I don't like pumpkin- what other fall flavors should I be focusing on?


Agree -- I've got a superb maple cake coming out next week. Stay tuned!

Also, apple! We're pubbing 3 recipes featuring apple butter - this afternoon. Take a look!

I'm a sucker for roasted carrots in the fall.

I am always up for flavorful kebabs, but I'm not fond of ground turkey (if I'm going to have hearty fatty meat, I'll stick to lamb or pork). What adjustments would you make to the fat content or the spicing for ground lamb, which I always have plenty of in my freezer?

Hard to know exactly how much adjustment you'd need to make for fat. Depends so much on the cuts of meat that were ground in the first place. For spicing lamb, I'd consider to warmer Mediterranean flavors like cumin, coriander, maybe some quietly smoky ground pepper like Urfa. Just don't cover up all that beautiful lamb flavor though!

While in the Azores a few years ago, I had lunch at our hotel one day where they served unlimited soup and the freshest imaginable papo-secos (rolls). To my amazement, the rolls were green, perhaps made with a dough something like this recipe for Green Kale Bread -- and the crumb was delectably moist, more so than even fresh regular white-bread papo-secos. Have any of you (or the chatters) ever had green bread before, or made it? Any tips? I was surprise that this recipe calls for raw (rather than cooked) kale leaves, but wonder if that adds some of the extra moisture to the dough. Any advice? LINK:

This is a new one on me. Can you contact your hotel and see if they can provide some clues?

This recipe looks good. I have all the ingredients at home except za'atar. Can that be found in an ordinary grocery store (e.g. Giant)? Do I need to look in the (gasp!) International food aisle? Personally, I like knowing where to find salsa, fish sauce, etc.

Za'atar might be tricky to find at a Giant, but the other day I found a couple of different varieties at Whole Foods in the spice section. 

I never really deeply considered this, but the article is fascinating. In particular I found the point that these segregated sections are meant to appeal to white people looking to dabble to be on point. The nearest Asian market is not convenient to me, and I don't often cook my grandmother's recipes, but I have found myself deeply frustrated to be unable to find what I would consider a common sauce at my local grocery store in this aisle. Instead, it's full of multiple brands of the same American-derived and fetishized products (I'm looking at you, fortune cookies & Pocky). I think there's a place for these products both in culinary history and in my diet, but making a quarter of an aisle of stereotypical and inauthentic mixed-Asian products representative of an entire continent's breadth of cuisine is definitely giving me pause.

Yes, I agree with your take. It's also part of Chang's dislike of these aisles. The products tend to be prepackaged or ready-to-eat meals (sometimes by companies that have little to no connection to the culture in question) and generally do not represent the culinary regions well. 

I have had the same burr grinder for maybe 15 years of 3-4 times weekly use. There doesn't seem to be a way to sharpen the burrs. I'm seeing lots of irregularity in the size of coffee particles it produces. Is it time to buy a new one? How long should they last?

Might be time to start shopping around. Fifteen years is pretty good! And there have been some improvements in technology since then I think. Our equipment team recently did a pretty extensive testing of new models and their favorite is the Baratza Encore (model number 485) which performed well in a bunch of tests. It's about $140, which is about in the middle range of what's on the market. 

I have a Baratza Virtuoso at home. It's about two years old and requires regular cleaning to keep it functioning well.


I looked on the Baratza site, and it suggests that the lifespan of burr grinders is about five to seven years, depending on usage and type of grinder. 


I think it's time for you to upgrade!

I had my first child recently and our friends and family were very kind in blessing us with meals and gift certificates, plus I cooked in advance and froze a good variety of things. I've been out of the kitchen for the most part and am now starting to think about getting back to a new normal. Any thoughts, advice, or recipe ideas for a new mom? I have gone back to work and I'm a little overwhelmed but it's important to me to get back to cooking and food prepping.

I feel you! My son is 2, and this is still something I have to work on.

A few thoughts and recipe ideas.

- Make ahead. My husband and I do almost all our cooking on the weekend so we can just reheat during the week.

- Stock the freezer. Any time you can stash some ready-made meals or ingredients on ice is a huge help.

- Don't be too hard on yourself. Sometimes you will need to do takeout, and that's okay!

- Don't compare what you do now to what you did before the kid came along. You will have less time for complicated recipes. You're in it for survival, but pick your dishes smartly, and you'll still enjoy them.

We do a lot of curries that can hold up  over a few days. Ditto black bean burgers, burritos and pasta.

A few recs to consider:

Easy Chickpea Curry

RECIPE: Easy Chickpea Curry

No-Fry Eggplant Parmesan

RECIPE: No-Fry Eggplant Parmesan

Poblano, Sweet Potato and Mushroom Fajitas

RECIPE: Poblano, Sweet Potato and Mushroom Fajitas

I’m lazy, so I use a paper coffee filter instead of getting out the cheesecloth. Also, less expensive.

A solid move!

David Chang has a point, but I’m not bothered by the grouping of ethnic food in the grocery store. We even have British, German and Scandinavian sections. In conversation, I’ve become increasingly sensitive to the use of the word ethnic. The implication is ethnic means the other.

Yes, the term "ethnic" is terrible, which is why, I suspect, supermarkets have generally moved away from the word and instead use words like "international" or just label the aisle by the ethnicity of the products.


Historically, the term "ethnic" has been used to indicate any food, product, whatever that wasn't European. That, in itself, strikes me as questionable. If you study the history of immigration in this country, numerous groups have labeled as ethnic outsiders before they were welcomed into the mainstream, particularly the immigrants from southern Italy.

Which on-air cook on "Cook’s Country" breaks up in laughter the most while filming? Who makes the others laugh the most?

Bridget should have a stand-up comedy act. She is hilarious. Also, Bryan Roof. He is the king of one liners.

For the French Onion Soup- do you use a mandolin for it, or will that leave the onions too thin to give the soup body?

I *think* they might end up on the thin side. With very thin slices, I'd be worried about them burning, too.

Lets get it out there- what are your thoughts on his comments?

What are YOUR thoughts?

Following on previous question about peppers going from green to red. Someone told me or I read somewhere that green peppers, if left on vine long enough do turn red. Is that what Joe meant? Or did Pati J discover that they were not a green variety, but a red variety. Does that apply to larger peppers? Do they ever turn yellow? Again, is that another variety. Same with zucc/yellow squash - green will turn yellow or the reverse. Yes, I ponder these things. Regardless, if from my garden, eat them, but would like to pass the knowledge along.

They're green poblanos, and they like green bell peppers turn red if left on the vine long enough. This is why I don't like green bell peppers: They're not ripe! They're not ready for me! It applies to all peppers -- although yes, there are some peppers that are yellow when ripe so that's what color the green ones turn. 

Hello. Do you have a favorite cake or cookie or other sweet that makes an easy dessert and a small portion. I really love a sweet on the weekend but 3 dozen cookies is just too many and making it myself is half the fun.

Depending on the recipe, there's no need to bake the whole batch at once! Some cookie doughs actually improve after a day or two; resting helps the flour hydrate and improves the texture. I have a coworker here who makes a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, portions it into balls, and then freezes those. Then, she bakes just enough cookies as she wants that evening, straight from frozen. Takes a minute or two longer in the oven. (Or toaster oven for super small batches.)

I have to imagine the labeling there will change over time, too -- my supermarket has an aisle with all the spaghetti sauce right next to all the pastas, but it's not labeled "international," you know?

Yes. Italian food has generally been absorbed into the large supermarket ecosystem!

Surely I'm not the only one who can't help but associate porcini mushrooms with the Seinfeld "soup nazi" episode, wherein Elaine -- having been banned from his store -- gets hold of his recipes ...

I grew up foraging and eating porcini, so for me it's not an automatic association, however, I remember the episode well and it's genius!

For most of my childhood we had Jewish neighbors across the street. We would exchange cultures, they asked if their daughter could come over to experience decorating a Christmas, we would go over to their house to learn about food cooked for different Jewish holidays, etc. Looking at your biscotti recipe made me remember her teaching me to bake mandelbrot, decades ago. I no longer have her recipe, but, if I'm remembering it correctly, they seem pretty much the same. Is there any difference between the two?

I find them to be pretty interchangeable in my experience. The biscotti I've made are nearly identical to the mandelbrot  my grandmother would make when I was little. Both get baked twice and both are great for long voyages (I've sent care packages with them because they keep so well).

I usually get wild caught shrimp, which only come with the shell on at the seafood counter that I trust. (Farm raised are available peeled and de-veined.) The other night, as I was peeling and de-veining them, I wondered if the wild are that much tastier, that it is worth the time and effort. I usually marinated in lemon juice and zest, garlic, olive oil and a generous dollop of aji amarillo paste and grill them, if it matters.

That sounds delicious. I don't know that there is a huge flavor difference between wild and farmed shrimp. (There probably is some.) I think there can be a pretty big flavor and texture difference if shrimp are peeled too soon. If you're buying pre-peeled shrimp, there's no telling exactly how long they've been exposed to the elements, so to speak. I'd probably stick with the shell-on shrimp since you know they're great. A bit more work but, insurance. As to deveining, don't tell anyone but I never really do that. Unless it's, like, really apparent and gross. 

I'm on the side of the convenience. If the aisles are labeled "international," which is what I've always seen (I've never seen one labeled "ethnic," which I grant you is problematic), I know to go there for the soy sauce I prefer, the grape leaves I prefer, the canned legumes I prefer, etc. Just my $0.02.

I keep my "regular" molasses and my blackstrap in the cupboard along with honey. Is this OK for pomegranate molasses as well?


I'm such a fan of your food stylist Lisa Cherkasky. Whenever a photo catches my eye and I check the credits, it seems to be one of hers. So many people photograph food these days -- Instagram, etc. -- but her work stands out. Have you ever thought of asking her to share her tips w/readers?

That's so nice! I'm in the lab with Lisa right now and she's flattered.

Lisa actually did write a bunch for us waaaay back when, but maybe we can dig those up and entice her to do more. She did do a cookie decorating piece for us last year!


ARTICLE: Decorate holiday cookies like a pro, no matter your skill set

Why oh why oh why do people put tomatoes in guacamole?!? Especially in restaurants. Does it "stretch" the servings a bit to save money? Because, really, it doesn't belong and doesn't add any flavor from what I can tell. (I've always felt this way, but now that nightshades have become a serious food allergy my opinion is even stronger.)

Some do, some don't! I think it's something people are used to and I can see where the acidity of the tomatoes can complement the richness of the avocado. Sorry you have an allergy, which is obviously a problem in your case. But I also do think there's a tendency for folks to expend too much energy on getting worked up about what other people like or eat.


ARTICLE: How to make a better bowl of guacamole

It's produced in the spring when the sap runs!

Fantastic question.

Shoppers off Rockville Pike has it, but if you're there you're pretty close to Yekta Market or Kosher Mart - both of which have a variety of za'atar versions. Penzeys, which is otherwise excellent, does not do well with za'atar.

Recently made a maple sugar pie (, and it turned out great! The crust was perfect, the filling was a nice texture and not too sweet. But here's a weird mystery. Upon chilling and then cutting apart the next day, there are a couple of weird air pockets near the corner of the crust. What's going on? Sneaky egg white expansion?

Sounds delicious. I've never tried this recipe but I have noticed bubbles in custards tend to happen more often when the custards are cooked at higher temperatures. I wonder if you brought the custard up to temp a bit more slowly whether your bubbles would be less noticeable. Just a guess. In any case, there's no pie imperfection that can't be minimized by dimming the lights and pouring another round of wine. 

The late Food Star grocery here in Arlington catered mostly to a Hispanic clientele, and I was fascinated by their different aisles: Argentine food, Central American, Mexican, etc. Definitely eye-opening when in big chains you see just "Hispanic," which are mostly tacos, salsa and Goya products. I never thought of it as racist, but certainly limited in their presentation of the variety of cuisines out there.

I love them, because I have more chance of running across something interesting to try. When things are more scattered throughout the store, there's less chance of randomly coming across it. That said, my earliest impressions of international aisles was that they were where you found the exotic British stuff, like lemon curd and mush peas. People's ideas of what's exotic change. I've noticed there's kind of an inverse version in local Latin and Asian stores, where there's an aisle of what you'd think of as stereotypical "American" foods, i.e., Kraft mac & cheese, Oreos, Heinz catsup, etc. I've always thought a great way to learn about a different culture is through their grocery stores, and when I travel to other countries, I try to make at least one visit to a local store. I still remember, the first time I visited London, Fortnum & Mason's had a separate US section, with boxes of Aunt Jemima's pancake mix taking pride of place on a draped pedestal. But, all that said, I'm not a first or second generation newcomer, or minority, so it's not my place to judge how they feel about it.

I do love grocery shopping in other countries, it's cool to see what's important and not important to another culture's cuisine. You won't find cumin in Czech grocery stores because it's not something they use (though you will see kmin and buy it thinking it's cumin when it's actually caraway), but you will find like a hundred forms of cabbage. It is also interesting what, to THEM, is international. 

I seem to be the only person in the U.S. who never owned a 9"x13" pan. Luckily I found a Hefty disposable one in the pantry and it worked, although buttering the crinkles was no fun. Am saving your article.

Maybe it's my own unique background (born to immigrant parents in a different country before moving to the United States), but I don't care much about the ethnic food aisle. Much like the ethnic hair care aisle, it's a bad description, not a bad place. I prefer international food or am open to other ideas. It's mostly inauthentic at my local Giant, I'm buying Indian Curry in a jar! My own country of origin food is not represented, so maybe I'd feel differently if it was. Eastern European Jewish food is also separated at out. At my grocery store the Ethnic food aisle also has British food. Which is odd because Patak's is in the regular grocery aisle in London grocery stores. Trader Joe's has all of their food mixed in and it's my primary store, so that's a good example of people finding what they need no matter where it's placed.

I haven't read the article yet, but I think it's more a matter of convenience. 1. My favorite products are easier to find than when scattered across the entire market; and 2. they will often have products that wouldn't be sold at all if not for the special section. Specifically, some of my former markets even had U.K. aisles; markets are unlikely to have salad cream, HP sauce, Penguins, Heinz beans, or jammie dodgers if there's no such aisle.

I've also seen the rolls in a couple of bakery windows in the Azores, so suspect that the hotel doesn't bake its own, but instead contracts out for their breads.

I am wondering why every recipe for french onion soup is so large? Why does one need to slice 5 lbs of onions to have some decent soup. Oh, I am able to make fo soup for 3 or 4 with one large sweet onion. I do sprinkle on a bit of sugar to speed up the browning. But I wonder why all the recipes are for such volume? Do people really make french onion soup for 8 and never for 2?

I am sure Becky will jump in with her two cents, but in my experience, it's because 1) the onions reduce A LOT and you need them for the flavor and 2) if you're going to spend time making something that takes awhile, why not make a batch that allows you to freeze the rest and have more soup at the ready? Last night I made some soup for a weeknight dinner, and on purpose made 2x, so that I could freeze the rest - and then my future self would thank my present self :)

The onions do, yes, cook down a lot. And by cooking them down so much and concentrating the flavors, the end result is really robust. Halve the recipe, if you feel so compelled, you might just have to tweak cook times.

Cleaning is key. We had one break after less than a year (Barratza Encore an d it was our fault. Now have a Virtuoso and it is ok after a year with cleanings, so fingers crossed. More importantly, how can that person only have coffee 3-4 days a week????

Haha, yes, how can be that be? I have three to four coffees a day!

Is so much better without him. He is a sanctimonious prig who insulted my profession, which includes a lot of volunteer work. Good riddance, and congrats on an increasingly good job.

Thank you for watching the show! All of the hosts and cooks work super hard and it's great to hear that you're enjoying it. Ultimately, it's all about the cooking. 

I learned from one or more cooking shows on TV -- perhaps ATK or CC? -- to slice the onions vertically, because they're more likely to disintegrate if cut horizontally. And I don't make the slices too thin, either (which has the added benefit of saving time!).

The direction you slice does have an impact. If you slice crosswise, you are slicing through the fibers, so you weaken the structure more and they tend to lose their shape and go mushy more often. If you slice vertically (pole to pole), you leave more of the fiber structure in tact, so they should hold their shape as they caramelize.

Agree, vertical is the way to go. I also find it easier to do that way.

Love Becky's comments. I figure protein + veggie (or fruit) = dinner. My kids happily eat steamed veggies (like the freezer to microwave kind!) and are totally happy with stuff like poached chicken (which I cook in batches) and brown rice (ditto) to go with it. My kids pitch a fit about casseroles or anything with sauce, so I gave up on that stuff. Some day we'll get to more flavor on weeknights. I also have quiche "kits" in the freezer (precooked bacon, chopped; some veggies, and parbaked pie crusts). And scrambled eggs/breakfast burritos, or pancakes = an all time hands down dinner favorite.


Because they want to use up spring's harvest during fall and winter in time to clear the shelves for next spring's harvest?

I've always made the connection with New England-fall foliage-crisp autumn days. :)

AND why do they put hot peppers in it?! Guac is the raita of Mexican food -- it's supposed to cool the fires, not add to it!

I think it's supposed to be however you want it to be. :) I like it with a little kick.

I might be getting this in too late, but do you have a great chocolate mousse recipe? My husband had one at the French Embassy that was unlike any other one that he had (it was super rich, he said). I'd like to make him one for our upcoming anniversary.

How about this almost-mousse? So good and make-ahead friendly.

Chocolate Almost-Mousse

RECIPE: Chocolate Almost-Mousse

Any chatters familiar with it? Can you share recipes or tips? Been trying to recreate one made at a Hanover, PA, bakery and not coming close.

We have a few recipes in our database! 

I caramelize my onions the old-fashioned slow way for French Onion Soup, and believe me, 5 pounds cooks down to a depressingly small amount. The finished soup serves only 4-6 as a main course.

Yup! It's onion soup, after all.

Uh, depends on where you come from? Baja California guacamole in the 1950s: avocado, tomatoes, onions, lemon or lime.

Whatever! Makes! You! Happy!

Tucker, who laughs hardest at her humor?

Me, but I'm not on camera (trust me it's better that way).

I still had a bunch of basil in my garden so I made Joe's tomato basil "pasta" with pinenut sauce yesterday, except I substituted spaghetti squash for pasta. So fresh and flavorful.

Glad you liked it!

The "Are 'ethic' food aisles racist?" title gave me pause. First - "Oh no, another example of how I'm not sensitive to "those not like me?" Sorry, I find it truly convenient if I'm doing a quick run through of standard grocery store and need an "ethic" ingredient. Never dawned on me that some people would find it offensive. I go to all types of speciality stores - Korean, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Indian, Pakistani, Halal butchers, you-name-it-not-Safeway-Giant-Harris Teeter-type stores to look, learn, and research ingredients and items. Try to find small places, not the "ethic" chains. In the DMV we have many, grateful for that. But often, I do not feel welcome. Sometimes shoppers will answer questions, but the proprietors should recognize that being welcoming to all will make loyal, repeat customers.. I don't care about language, religion, clothing, I'm interested in the food and their knowledge of it. Lived in Japan and my language skills were abysmal, and I was obviously not Japanese, but they always made me feel welcome and we'd figure out something. Not meant as a ramp, I want small, "ethnic" places to prosper and would welcome more.

Perhaps the cooking world already knows this and I’m just a slow learner, but last night, getting ready for the hot toddy I’ve been needing while suffering a virus, I discovered that my last organic lemon had rotted over night. In desperation, I took a bag of rock hard limes from the fridge that I’ve been meaning to throw out, carefully poked one with a sharp knife tip and nuked it for thirty seconds. It sliced open beautifully, and when reamed, produced an abundance of juice. Yea toddy!

I'm intrigued! I'm going to try this. 

I'd like to suggest a new weekly chat feature, Stupid Kitchen Fails, and I'll kick things off with my most recent one: I decided to make corn bread muffins for breakfast. Already had all the ingredients. Set the oven temperature. Measured out the yellow corn meal and the AP flour from their canisters. For the other dry ingredients, I opted for regular Morton's salt in the round blue cardboard carton and baking powder I'd bought in a plastic tub so it wouldn't suffer from temperature fluctuations or possible pests. Eggs, milk, oil -- all the ingredients prepared per the package recipe, then spooned into cupcake liners and set in the oven to bake. When the toothpick came out clean, I set them on a rack to cool a little, then bit in. Ugh! Just. no. good. As in, no-one would eat them unless maybe they were crumbled into a soup. Turned out I'd also bought corn starch in a plastic container but had forgotten about it. So when I saw a plastic container of a certain size on the shelf, I completely and foolishly assumed it contained the much-needed leavening ingredient, baking powder. I guess at least it wasn't laundry detergent ...

Haha, thanks for sharing!

I have a jar of McCormick-brand za’atar that I bought at my local Giant (not a Super Giant.) Not sure if they still carry it, because they seem to have been on a mission this past year to discontinue slow-moving products on the 75%-off clearance rack.

I have no problem with “ethnic” aisles, especially in smaller grocery stores, as I save time, energy and frustration in locating things which to me are simply normal, but which others consider odd or exotic or *whatever*. I so well recall, only thirty or so years ago, trying to find even something as simple as curry powder. I am now lucky enough to shop at a grocery store which has the capacity for double-placement; e.g., I can find Basmati shelved with the Indian specialties, but also in the rice aisle. Now will someone explain why I can only find tahini next to the Shabbat candles in the Jewish section? How is tahini “ethnic” anymore?

After the ethnic aisle article, is it exploding? Just curious.

Not as much as you might expect. But I certainly have heard from people on, ahem, both sides of the aisle.

David Chang's comments really gave me some food for thought (if you pardon the pun). I frequently buy so-called ethnic foods, particularly Asian ones and am continually frustrated as to why I can't find soy sauce and fish sauce with, say, ketchup and BBQ sauce, which is where it belongs imo. But I'm also coming from a place of privilege and haven't thought about it as "belonging."

My problem with the "ethnic food" food aisle is having favorite items not where they belong. I found Mayorga coffee beans in the hispanic section by chance, when they should be in the coffee bean section of the store. I want all the black beans, pinto beans, and garbanzo beans together, whether they are Goya, Iberia, or Bush brand. Same with seasonings, spices, and everthing else. I sometimes have to double back in the grocery store because not all rice is in one place. Stupid!

My problem with Cook's Country: If they make something that looks good, I have to write everything down pretty fast because if I go to the internet, I have to pay for the recipe. Sort of frustrating.

You realize that this is a business, yes? One that needs to make money? 

Back in the 1950s, some housewives used dried laundry starch. My uncle's wife apparently kept it near the cornstarch, and one time accidentally confused the two. She was normally a superb cook, but that lemon meringue pie was inedible.

Because that's when the buying tourists show up to leaf-peep?

I don't. The other 4-3 days I get it at work where I have a nice filter cone and someone else supplies the coffee.

I moderate a Facebook group of American expats living in the UK. One of our favorite pastimes is comparing notes and photos of items stocked in the "American" aisles of UK grocery stores. The fun comes in when they try to interpret what they see as American food. Then you end up with things like "Authentic Cajun Fajita Mix"!

Supermarkets also do not stick to one aisle for other "non-international" foods -- you'll find canned tomatoes both in the canned vegetable aisle and in the pasta aisle, the assumption being that if you need pasta, you'll need red-sauce ingredients. And canned legumes appear in several different aisles.

I lived in Denmark for most of a year. Many things were decipherable but cleaning products were not. Can't tell from the packaging, can't tell from the name. I had to find an English-speaking customer who, once she stopped laughing, helped me out. Also, all the meat that did not specify what animal it came from was pork.

That's funny. I find my favorite tahini with the pickles and olives, probably because it's a Greek brand.

I like to shop at an Asian grocery which has an "ethnic" aisle of Goya products, salsas, etc.

In response to a poster earlier this chat, I ate Pocky in Japan as a child. I could not find it anywhere in CA at home, and I had relatives running a Japanese mom and pop market.

The first time I was visiting family in Sweden, we all went grocery shopping together. As a special treat for us American cousins, they went to the ethnic/specialty aisle and bought...avocados. Um, we live in California. So avocados were their *ethnic*.

Apples (including fresh cider from the farmers' market). Pears. Sweet potatoes. Later this fall, early citrus.

If you're baking tonight and need to hold some for Saturday, I suggest freezing the cupcakes for Saturday. You can mix up the icing Friday night or Saturday morning, frost the frozen cupcakes Saturday morning straight from the freezer, and they will taste fresh baked. If you refrigerate instead of freeze them they will be slightly stale.

An ex-pat friend in France begs visitors from the US to bring maple syrup (or maple sugar for making it), because it's generally unavailable there, and her family loves it on their pancakes.

When we lived in the UK, we finally discovered our taco seasoning. Labeled "Old El Paso Melange Assaisonnee Pour Farcie a Taco."

Hi folks! This is Bonnie B. In the recipe: "2 teaspoons za'atar (Middle Eastern spice blend; may substitute equal parts chopped fresh thyme, toasted sesame seeds, ground sumac and salt)".... for a yogurt substitute, I'd go with a nondairy yogurt (to help preserve the tang and dilute the tahini), and for ground lamb spicing, i'd keep it about the same.

That's a wrap, folks. Thank you for another engaging hour of food conversation, recipe exchanges and general commentary. 


The winner of the "Downton Abbey" prize package is the person who mentioned that the first international food aisles contained "the exotic British stuff." Well done! Please contact Kari Sonde at to claim the package.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables," "Serve Yourself" and the upcoming "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Maura Judkis
Maura is a staff food writer at The Post.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow is the author of "Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet and Savory Slab Pies" (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018).
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, a freelance writer based in Cape Cod, writes The Post's Unearthed column. She's the author of four books, including Dreaded Broccoli (Scribner, 1999), and writes about harvesting food first-hand at
Tucker Shaw
Tucker Shaw is the editor-in-chief of Cook’s Country, shaping content for Cook’s Country magazine, website, social media, books, and more. He joined America’s Test Kitchen in 2014 after nearly a decade as Dining Critic and Food Editor at the Denver Post. The author of several books of memoir and fiction, including “Everything I Ate” and “Flavor of the Week,” he’s also written about food and books for New York Magazine, Gourmet, Esquire, and others, and is a regular contributor to the public radio program The Splendid Table.
Kristen Hartke
Kristen Hartke is a Washington-based food writer and editor.
Emily Heil
Emily is a staff food writer at The Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Tim Carman
Tim is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining for Weekend.
Olga Massov
Olga is a food editor at The Post.
Carrie Allan
Carrie is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Kari Sonde
Kari is the food editorial aide.
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