Free Range on Food: Craft rum around the country, this week's recipes and more.

Oct 03, 2018

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

Welcome to today's chat! Hope you're eating up what we've been serving, including:

As always, we'll have a cookbook for our favorite chatter today. It'll be "The Washington Post Cookbook," of course! 

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR6178 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's go!

Not a question, but wanted to comment on two of the articles in today's food section. First, just a general appreciation for having great non-recipe articles in the food section, not just today but consistently, though today the non-recipes were handsdown my favorite parts and it's usually the other way around. 1. YES MIMI!! I agree completely with her about maple and have been a bit dismayed by it's creep into savory dishes & other non-pancake dishes. So happy to see I'm not alone. 2. Becky's cleaning article was really great- I have all of these in my house already but hadn't thought to use some of them in cleaning- especially the skewers & baster. Going to implement Asap!

I will respectfully disagree with you on maple syrup, but I have a notorious sweet tooth. :) But thanks for your kind words on my cleaning piece. Gotta hack where we can.

cleaning tools

ARTICLE: Six cheap tools to keep your kitchen sparkling clean

I was just diagnosed with Celiacs this week. I'm super bummed, but as someone who really likes challenging myself in the kitchen, I'm trying to use this as an opportunity to push myself into trying recipes that are naturally gluten free, as I have ZERO desire to try to make gluten free pastas, breads, or cauliflower crust pizzas. I'm thinking that this is the year I get super into Indian food and rice noodles, but I thought I'd throw it out to the experts (and Free Range friends) for any suggestions they may have.

There's so much good information out there about cooking good gluten-free food, but I'd start with my friend Shauna Ahern's book "Gluten-Free Girl Every Day," which is excellent. If you love, you can move onto her other books, of course. And there are lots of other great authors.

One thing I often do when cooking gluten-free for guests with celiac disease (no s, right?) is make a Mexican dinner, because corn tortillas (unless manufactured somewhere with cross-contamination) are naturally gluten-free, so so much of the cuisine is, too.

I'm sure chatters have other suggestions!

So I'm hosting around 10 people for a game night in a couple of weeks. Suggestions for a pretty easy vegetarian dish that also seems autumnal? I was thinking veg chili, but that's not super exciting. Maybe some kind of baked pasta with a salad and then dessert? Any tips on cheesecake for a crowd?

I love baked pasta this time of year. (OK, ANY TIME OF YEAR.) Here's one of my favorites: Super easy and satisfying, and the cauliflower and beans add nutrition. (Just double it!)

Baked Pasta With Roasted Cauliflower and White Beans

As for the cheesecake, I don't think you could do any better than this stunner from Dorie Greenspan:

Light and Creamy Cheesecake

I read once of a normal, everyday person taking a knife basics class to learn how to effectively and efficiently chop up veggies to cut down (no pun intended) on prep time for recipes. Do you know of any culinary schools in the area that would offer such a course?

I would get yourself to CulinAerie downtown to take one of founder Susan Holt's classes. Boy does she know her stuff, and I learn something every time I see her wield a knife. You're in luck because she actually has a class coming up on Sunday, as well as Nov. 24.

When I make saltimbocca, I usually have left-over sage leaves that I mean to use later, but they wind up turning moldy. Can I dry them and if so, what is the best way?

You sure can. Tie them by their stems with string and hang them until they're dry (maybe a few days or a week, depending on how humid your spot is). That's it!

Following up on Becky's comment last week that she wouldn't want to use cast iron only. All of my skillets are cast iron. what am I missing out on?

I don't know that you're missing out on anything or doing anything wrong. More of a personal preference, I think. I don't want to be constantly hauling around heavy skillets, for one. And maybe I'm just not a cast-iron expert, but I generally prefer skillets that don't get quite as hot, quite as fast for the stuff I like to cook (curries, eggs and such). And generally I want my nonstick coating for those things, anyway. Plus, there's the whole thing about not cooking very acidic foods in cast-iron. But if what you do works for you, you won't get any judging from me.

More for us. Chacun à son goût, eh.

Corn isn't always a celiac's best friend so you might want to ask before serving corn tortillas.

Oh, I'm curious to know more about this! What do you mean? There's no gluten in corn, but...?

Me too, although I don't actually hate it; I just don't care for more than the teeniest hint -- maple is an overpowering flavor. What I really hate is how many breakfast places insist on giving you breakfast meat with maple flavoring in it. At least offer us the choice of maple- or non-maple sausage!

I don't agree with her and honestly, I'm glad I don't have to cook for her. She seems kind of picky.

I'm excited to make these! I wondered if you had a DC rec for the glycerin and the edible marker. Thank you.

I would try checking with Beryl's in Springfield, Little Bits in Wheaton/Bladensburg, or Fran's Cake and Candy in Fairfax.

Edible Letters

RECIPE: Edible Letters

I've been inspired by David Leobovitz's white chocolate ice cream to experiment with carmelized white chocolate. (One word: YUM.) However, the brands he recommends are awfully expensive, even for a tried-and-true recipe, let alone for experimenting. Do any of you have any favorite brands that are a little less expensive?

America's Test Kitchen's favorite is Guittard Choc-Au-Lait White Chips, which are $3.29 for a 12-ounce bag.

I am trying to make cookies for a family gathering where we have several competing allergies. I think I can make cookies everyone can eat if I make Martha Stewart's gluten free oatmeal cookies if I use canola oil instead of butter. Do you think that would work? Do you have a different suggestion? All butter/shortening/margarine/nut butters are off limits.

No, I don't think you could use oil instead of butter there, sorry. You'd end up with a batter that probably flattens out instead. Is coconut butter something that you could use? That would probably be a safer swap, but subbing a solid fat for a liquid one is a no-go in cookies.

I don't know what all the allergies you're working with are, but maybe these gluten-free brownies would work?

Fudgy Flourless Brownies

ARTICLE: These fudgy, flourless brownies are a chocolate lover’s dream

If you bake, check the baking powder. Also check chocolate chips. There are lots of mixes--Betty Crocker, King Arthur, Bob's Red Mill, and Wegmans. Take yourself to a gluten free section of a good grocery store (David's in Maryland, Wegmans, sometimes Whole Foods) Read every label and familiarize yourself with all the variable names for gluten. The best ones state they are made in a GF facility to avoid cross contamination. Also look at candy bars and granola bars. Some, like certain Kind bars are GF. Sometimes there is stuff in the regular aisles (Rice and Corn Chex vs Wheat chex).

Thank you!

Sur La Table offers "Knife Skills 101" classes.

Yes, most cooking schools do. Just suggested CulinAerie since I've seen Susan at work!

She dislikes one food/flavor and you think she's picky? I'm glad you don't have to cook for me.

I'm no doctor but I think sometimes diverticulitis goes along with the celiac so corn can be problematic.

Always good to talk to the person with celiac to see what they think, of course. I don't think the OP has diverticulitis, though -- and you don't want to jump ahead and eliminate more than you need to, right?

My condolences to those who hate maple syrup. My new favorite junk food, the tubs of maple syrup cotton candy at Whole Foods!

The only time I've ever hated maple was when our TV remote stopped working. I couldn't figure out why I was also smelling a faint sweet, maple-ish odor. Yup, my mother had tipped her plate of pancakes, and didn't notice that maple syrup had poured into the remote, where it kind of crystalized.

Love this.

Bags of grated cheese tend to say "use within 5 days of opening". Is this necessary? Aren't they good for longer ? I've taken to keeping grated parmesan in the freezer. Any thoughts?

Grated cheese is definitely one of those things I'm fine with keeping around longer so long as it doesn't get moldy/smelly/dried out. Although I much prefer grating my own, as a well-wrapped block of cheese can last a while, too.

Love the scent and flavor of lemongrass but I'm not sure how best to use them. any advice and suggestions for using them in recipes? thanks

You can put pieces in a pot of rice, beans and a soup where that flavor would work. I've tried using it to infuse vodka (with a little fresh ginger and dried limes) and it was okay -- more experimenting necessary there. You could add it to simple syrup. (Check out Becky's how-to on infusing, here, for some guidelines.) And you can make tea! Other ideas, chatters?

For specific recipes, try:

Coconut Milk Soup With Lobster

RECIPE: Coconut Milk Soup With Lobster

Chickpeas With Pumpkin, Lemon Grass and Cilantro

RECIPE: Chickpeas With Pumpkin, Lemon Grass and Cilantro

Sweet Potatoes With Chicken and Lemon Grass

RECIPE: Sweet Potatoes With Chicken and Lemon Grass

And several other ideas in our Recipe Finder.

If butter is a problem, can you try ghee? I've read that the lactose-intolerant can tolerate ghee because the milk solids are the allergen and they are removed.

Confession time: I've never liked pie. I don't like the crust. It has occurred to me that maybe (sorry mom) I haven't actually had a good pie crust. GBBO is making me wonder if I'm missing out on something. So-- is there somewhere in NW DC or Montgomery county that has pies where you feel like, "yes, they really understand pie crust"? Thanks!

Two of my favorite pie ladies in town are Jenna Huntsberger from Whisked! and Tiffany MacIsaac of Buttercream. Good stuff.

Lots of grilled chicken breast meat. A medium-sized Italian eggplant. A cup of cooked field peas. Several small potatoes. A head of cauliflower. Any ideas for any combination of these? Feel free to leave out any of the vegetables. Or just a sauce to reheat them all in?

Could you riff on this cauliflower risotto type thing? Calls for peas, too. And the warmed grilled chicken breast would be nice added to it, too.

Creamy Parmesan Spring Vegetable Skillet

RECIPE: Creamy Parmesan Spring Vegetable Skillet

I also feel like a nice vinaigrette would go well with roasting some or all of the veggies and be a good dipping sauce for the chicken, too.

I have neither a sweet tooth nor a fondness for maple syrup, but… Wow! Sounds like a bitter person I’d really not like to be around. Not to leave us with just her judginess on maple syrup, she disparages bagels ... and poutine, and smoked meat... just wow.

I wasn't brought up on US food - and American food is so so sweet. I think Americans are trained to expect their food to be sweet - even the savory dishes, which often have a sweetener. And nuts - why do they *always* have to be candied? I long for some spicy roasted nuts or even just plain dry roasted on a menu. But I have never seen that. Any time there's nuts in a salad it's always candied. This seems to epitomize the situation.

Poutine makes me gag. I love smoked meat. I can do without maple. I like real bagels, not the soft bread with fruit and stuff in it that calls itself bagels now. And I've followed Mimi's food writings for literally decades. If there's one thing she's not, it's a bitter unhappy person.

Newly back to work with two little kids and seriously struggling to get food on the table each night. I have about 45 minutes between getting home and us needing to eat - and maybe 5 minutes that I can do active prep work at some point in the window. Dinner prep can happen after bedtime the night before - but lots of dinners don't work that way. Before we discovered a pretty significant dairy sensitivity in our baby, we were doing ok with stuff like lasagna, quiche, and the occasional quesadilla night, but I am STUCK for good options right now. We have a pot roast in the crock pot for dinner tonight (and tomorrow), but I need help!

As a mom of a toddler with a former dairy allergy, I feel you! Hang in there.

Frankly, with the very short window between when we get home and need to get the kid to bed, I don't do much of any cooking on weeknights, unless it's very, very simple. For example, last night we had a pesto we made over the weekend. All we had to do was boil the pasta and add chopped tomatoes and some green beans I had roasted the night before (naturally my son picked out the veggies, sigh). But even that was a bit of a stretch!

So, yeah, I mostly eat foods that make good leftovers. Did you see my recipe that went up today on Voraciously? It makes stellar leftovers.

Easy Chickpea Curry

ARTICLE: Anyone can make Indian food at home, and this chickpea curry is how to start

Stir-fries are also good things to make ahead and reheat. Ditto fajita fillings. Frankly, so is that pasta with pesto. And soup, of course! This minestrone is a favorite of mine, and I am hoping we can coax my little guy into eating it.

Family Favorite Minestrone

RECIPE: Family Favorite Minestrone

Anything that can go in a microwave is good in my book! You just have to pick the dishes that you can do the most advance, and easiest, work on.

Hi, Free Rangers! I have some vanilla from the Dominican Republic that is thick--syrup-like, rather than a liquid. It's very strongly flavored and changes the color of any mixture to which it is added. I have two bottles of the stuff and would hate to throw them both out. Is there any way I could thin them out? Thank you!

I've read reports that say people usually use about half of the Dominican vanilla because of its extra strength. I don't think you need to think it out. I also asked colleague Emily Codik, who was raised in the DR and whose parents live there, and she said:

"I've never seen that before! Actually, in the last few years it's been so hard to find good vanilla in grocery stores there that my mom started making her own. Most of it is that artificial stuff."

I make eggs a lot. Almost daily. I just do a scramble with some veggies, whatever is in the fridge. I have been told by many people to put in milk to make the eggs fluffier. I do that with coconut milk (dairy free)...but when I do that the eggs seem to stick to the pan more. If I forget to add it, no problems. Any suggestions?

Stop doing it, of course! Seriously, you don't need milk to make good scrambled eggs. Just whisk the eggs with a little salt, oil the pan, and cook. I like to do them fairly -- or really slow -- but you don't have to. Just watch them like a hawk and take them off before they're QUITE done.

Thank you! I was brought up on U.S. food and I'm shocked at how much sweetening is in everything now. No wonder we all have diabetes.

COMPLETELY disagree. We love maple syrup. And there is no comparison to stuff like log cabin. My kids put it on a lot of things (we do not use cane sugar for various reasons). I use it in cooking all the time. AND we found the maple butter recently at Costco and my family can not get enough of it. It is absurdly amazing.

Talk about flavor creep -- I saw and tasted pumpkin spice tortilla chips. Bet you CAN eat just one!

I like maple syrup in its place (on pancakes and waffles), just not on savory foods. Then again, I prefer caramel without sea salt, and chocolate without bacon, so I guess I'm tragically unhip when it comes to trendy foods.

Where is a good place to purchase calamari and Spanish Bomba Rice to be used in a paella recipe. I was exceedingly happy to learn that the Association of Food Journalism agrees with me that The Post's Food Section staff is the crème de la crème in journalism. You all are always very accommodating every Wednesday and you should know that you are appreciated. CONGRATULATIONS!

I'm a fan of Pescadeli in Bethesda. It's a small, extremely friendly seafood shop,  I purchased a whole frozen octopus from them once for a New Year's Eve dinner. (That ingredient is a conversation piece all by itself.)

 

Anyway, to answer your questions: Pescadeli has both calamari ($9.95 per pound for a wild product from waters near Boston) and bomba rice ($11.95 for a 2.2-pound bag.) 

Pescadeli is located at 4960 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda. 301-841-8151.

 

And thank you for the kind words! We do have a rockin' good staff!

As for the bomba rice, I like to order it (or Calasparra) from La Tienda.

Please keep us posted! Sounds good.

Will do! Last time I did it, I sweetened it just a shade (like a teaspoon) with .... MAPLE SYRUP. (A touch of sweetness goes a long way in home-infused vodkas; it's a trick I picked up from the Kachka cookbook, which usually calls for sugar or maybe honey, but I have a few maple syrup connections -- aka grand parents-in-law from Vermont -- and have literal gallons to go through, so that's what I use.)

How's that for tying it all together? 

I splurged, out of curiosity, on a jar of Rao's marinara sauce to see if it's really so much better than other prepared options. But I only cook for my husband and myself, so I only used a small portion of the jar for dinner last night and I don't see us having other marinara-intensive meals often enough to use up the jar before it will go bad. Since that stuff is insanely expensive (in relative terms), I don't want it to go to waste. Can I just freeze the remainder of the jar after it's been sitting in my fridge over night? Or will that ruin it?

You can, and you should!

Aside from the cost, I really dislike the taste of the stuff they put in it to stop it all sticking together. My take is that it's well worth the bit of bother to grate fresh.

Yeah, that's why I generally stay away from it to. It can also keep the cheese from melting or affect the texture in certain uses. But I know people buy it!

Recently the Post published a recipe for Endlessly Adaptable Galette Dough. Is there a reason traditional pie dough won't work for a galette? My pie dough recipe is also 'endlessly adaptable' - what is the key difference in pasty for a galette vs. a pie? Thanks for helping me understand.

A pie dough can work for a galette, but that kind of dough is often too tender to hold much of a freeform shape -- that's why you need to keep it as cold as possible right up until the time you bake. 

 

The galette dough shared by baker Polina Chesnakova has a little cornmeal for structure and the ratio of fat to flour is such that it does hold its shape nicely. It can be rolled thin and hold up against a moist filling. Plus, it tastes good! 

I think we can all find a handful of foods that don't float our respective boats. Seeing as flavor aversions are probably inborn, what sense does it make to criticize someone for them? It sounds picky to label someone "picky." Who cares?

We regularly have bacon, eggs and a roasted veggie like Brussels sprouts for dinner. I bake my bacon so OP could do that they night before. Then we roast the veggies. When they're almost done, we add in the roughly chopped bacon and make wells for the eggs which will bake in just a few minutes. This cooks in probably 25 min.

Some pantry foods I have show expired dates. This includes assorted canned soups and bottled sauces for preparing Indian food. Is there a rule of thumb for how far past "best by" dates foods become unsafe to eat?

Not really, because their contents vary so much. You can check the USDA site for general info. I have found that 'Best by' takes best quality into account, whereas 'Use by' seems more serious. Or I could just be interpreting that.

 

Other signs to watch for: Is the top of the can bulging? Have the contents of a glass jar discolored/separated/show signs of moldy growth? Then pitch. Also, you can typically find a consumer help # or company/packer/distributor and track down info that way.

Can you recommend a reliable recipe for an oven-baked or at least oven-finished Spanish tortilla. I have sprained my wrist and can’t flip it to cook the second side. Many thanks.

OH MY GOODNESS, CAN WE? 

Try this one from Bonnie's dinner in minutes column. I don't want to talk it up too much, but I made it three times in one week. (Also best wishes for that wrist.)

Spanish Eggs and Potatoes

RECIPE: Spanish Eggs and Potatoes

Those brownies look delicious! But they contain butter. I need something that is dairy, soy, palm oil, nut, peanut, and gluten free. I can work around the gluten, but the fat is giving me trouble. I can use coconut oil or canola oil. Any idea of a cookie that would work with those restrictions?

Of course, whoops! Working too fast. I actually think coconut oil would be fine in those brownies!

You could also try this cake but leave off the nuts and use a gluten-free flour blend instead.

Coconut Turmeric Sweet Bread

ARTICLE: Coconut turmeric cake looks like a sunset and tastes like tropical paradise

Other options -- and sorry if I am working too fast and miss an allergen in one of these!

Poppy Seed Cookies

RECIPE: Poppy Seed Cookies

Sweet Tahinis

RECIPE: Sweet Tahinis

I use water instead of milk or cream. It's my experience that water lightens the eggs more, and you can scramble them more quickly over higher heat, whereas adding milk requires you to cook them more gently over lower heat (the gourmet/gourmand Nero Wolfe decreed forty minutes to be the bare minimum time needed to scramble milk-added eggs properly but I don't go that far!).

I have a set of cast iron pans, and I also have an old Circulon non-stick pan. About once a week I am cooking a pound of hamburger, ground pork, or ground turkey for a skillet dinner, and I have to lift the skillet with one hand, hold a lid in the other hand, and drain the fat. I can't lift the large cast iron skillet with one hand and hold it in the air for very long.

They are heavy! In general, I don't find my cast-iron as ergonomic as the handles on my other skillets, too.

I've found that bags of grated cheese often -do- get moldy within five days of opening (some don't even wait to be opened) so five days is probably a good rule-of-thumb.

I think the bags just suck in and trap moisture, hence the mold.

As we hopefully move into cooler weather soon, do you have any fresh ideas for soups?

Please remind me how to turn regular, whole milk (or almond milk) into buttermilk. My local supermarket does not sell buttermilk at all. The store that I know does carry it in NW DC only sells it by the pint and I need at most a half-cup. Any idea why it's not sold in smaller containers, like cream, and more widely?

I might go with a plain yogurt substitute instead, since you need so little. Thin it with water if moisture is needed. Get your store manager to stock the real thing! All you usually have to do is ask.

I love Joe's idea of roasting a lot of veggies / chicken / tofu etc and they can be bowls one night, Mexican another, on pasta, stuffed in jacket potato, etc.. You can have it as a fallback really. You can also prep a lot veggies the night before and they won't be too affected by being cut up sitting in the fridge in bowls.

Oh wow, thanks, OP and WP! I pulled a five-pound bag of Yukon potatoes out of the pantry this morning, thinking "I better start using these up." Now I know how.

The Simple Cinnamon Coffee Cake has become a must-bake every time my family comes to visit. I'm thinking now that it's fall, it would be the perfect time to turn it into an Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake, but I haven't baked experimentally enough to know how much the apple would affect the moisture content to then make other adjustments to the the rest of the ingredients (or how much apple should feasibly go in there). Any suggestions?

What a great idea, and it gets the seal of approval from recipe source Alex Levin. He suggests adding 1 1/2 cups of chopped, peeled and cored apple to the batter once it's been mixed.

Simple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

RECIPE: This classic coffee cake is what good mornings are made of

Just typed in lentils yesterday looking for dinner ideas -- up came the sweet potato dal...well, I only had white potatoes so that is what I made. I added extra spinach -- and it was a full meal (I would have served rice but my son wanted gnocchi -- so that is what I also served. Fusion). Thanks for that awesome tool.

Hmm, we're drawing a blank on this one. Can you link?

Consider it your arm and wrist exercise - work up from smaller to larger. I actually like that my cast iron pans are heavy - I almost exclusively cook in them.

Hello! Full sports are in full swing, which means I'm spending the dinner hours driving kiddos to and from practices. I don't have much time to prepare meals, nor are any of us eating at the same time most nights. Can you recommend some recipes that are relatively simple and can be made ahead and then eaten by different family members at different times in the evening? I'd also be up for meals that can be frozen individually and quickly thawed/reheated. Oh, and they need to be fairly kid-friendly, too, please. Thank you!

I think some of the recipes in this roundup could work.

family style dishes

ARTICLE: This weekend, slow down and savor a family-style dish prepared by you

Stuff like mac and cheese and stews are also ideal for freezing and reheating. 

You guys have posted some really great recipes in this chat! I feel ready to bust out of my recent dinner slump!

Nice!

Doing meal prep after the kids go to bed -- it is SO difficult, but it is also so helpful. Chopping the veggies, and getting out spices, put everything on the counter that isn't in the fridge, have a place for fridge type things. Have it all ready to go. I roast veggies in the oven -- all of them, basically. Spray a glass pan, throw in the veggies, bake at 400 usually. Then no tending or anything. If you cut up carrot sticks -- kiddie can have a snack while you are preparing (or if old enough, can help you). Cut up whatever needs cutting, and what not. On the weekends -- pick out some recipes to do -- don't sit around on a week night wondering what is for dinner the next day. If you have several good go to recipes -- (like the one I love for coconut lentil curry on Washington post -- it is so good and so easy, add some rice...). Oh, and for the rice, a rice cooker. That can be prepped a night before too. And no biggie if it sits around, also. I lived with someone who was Indian and he would leave the rice out on the counter. We lived in NC.

I think I'm going to make this tonight but my husband is funny about asparagus. Think I could substitute green beans? They're green. lol.

Sure, I think that's pretty flexible.

We now have a teenage boy in our house (a.k.a. a bottomless pit). He loves burgers but often asks for one on the spur of the moment. I bought some packaged ones that are not great, but their saving grace is that they are supposed to be cooked from frozen. I'd like to make a bunch myself and keep them in the freezer for when the craving hits. Any thoughts on whether I (really he) could cook homemade ones from frozen?

Why not, as long as the patties aren't so thick that they would not be cooked through, yet look as though they are done on the outside. Freeze them between layers of wax paper, then wrap or bag in plastic wrap or heavy-duty zip-top bags. Label and Date, as we like to see in the WaPo Food Lab!

I find King Arthur buttermilk powder works just fine.

Good for you; not so happy with powders' performance/flavor for me.

I also have a toddler and short timeframe from arriving home to dinner to bed. We have embraced the frozen vegetable and already prepped other items.

Can anyone give me a recipe for ginger-infused vodka? I have some fresh ginger languishing in the fridge that I was wondering what to do with. Do I add sugar, or just ginger and vodka?

Hey there! It really depends on what kind of flavor profile you want. If you want something closer to a liqueur, or with a note of sweetness, I would consider adding some simple syrup after you do an initial infusion -- which I would do by mincing your ginger (you should wash it, but probably don't need to worry about peeling if you chop it up well), and then leaving it in a bottle of vodka to steep. Keep in mind that the higher the proof of the booze, the quicker it will pull out the flavors in your botanical. So once you add the ginger (perhaps a TB or two), I'd plan to taste it pretty regularly after about 12 hours to make sure you're getting what you want. Then you can decide whether you want to sweeten it!

I don't know where you shop, but the supermarkets around here laugh at such requests. "We can't do that; all stocking decisions are made at corporate headquarters." I've been tempted to ask what their "managers" actually manage.

I shop around! But then again, I live in a major metropolitan area. I have even found buttermilk at convenience stores, on occasion. No dairies or farms anywhere close to you, either?

I'd like to see more recipes with celery root, parsnips, etc. Sweet potatoes are beginning to cloy -- they seem to be in everything recently.

Glad you like it!

Celery Root Apple Slaw

RECIPE: Celery Root Apple Slaw

I don't have a rum question for Carrie but wanted her to know that I took her up on her recommendation to buy some Red Breast before throwing in the towel on Irish Whiskey, which was starting to get old. I love it, of course. But now I'm thinking I have to spend $65 a bottle on Irish Whiskey, which is way beyond my budget! I guess I can always resort to Paddy's in a pinch.

That bottle is definitely tasty and definitely pricey. What about dabbling in Bushmills 12 if your wallet needs a break? Cheaper, lighter, but very nice.

First off, ask the store your frequent to carry buttermilk. It can't hurt to ask. Secondly, you can purchase a can of dry buttermilk and then your problem is solved, but you don't have fresh only reconstituted powdered. Third, you live in NW, so do you frequent the Dupont Farmers Market? They should sell buttermilk there with all the other dairy farmers hawking their product. IF not ask them to bring some for you next market day.

We have a bunch of celiac family members. I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis. When cooking for family, we've done a lot of meat + delicious veggies and sides. It's easier for us to just keep the whole meal gluten-free to avoid accidental gluten-ing of anyone (especially the little kids). And of course, anything that gets served with rice (stir fry with gf tamari, curries etc). I also LOVE bbq beef or pork (watch "smoke flavoring" because that has hidden gluten sometimes!) on rice or sweet potatoes.

Progressive Lentil Soup. I add fresh baby special spinach to it. Freshly ground pepper. Could get fancy by adding ground coriander and cumin—and then serve over brown rice. Alternatively, take the lentil soup, simmer with cherry/grape tomatoes (throw it in whole, just takes more time to simmer)), carrots (use pre-grated or quickly cut up baby carrots), fresh parsley and freshly ground pepper at the end (if you have it). Serve with crusty bread if you wish.

Put 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup, then fill to the 1 cup mark with milk. Stir and let sit for a few minutes, then use where buttermilk is called for.

I know this is conventional wisdom, but I find this never gets me to the same consistency or flavor as real buttermilk. Thinned yogurt, as Bonnie suggested, is a better approximation. Take a look at this post from Stella Parks at Serious Eats, which graded the various substitutes. Lemon juice and milk got an F-minus, lol.

I bought an 8 oz container of Mascarpone cheese for a recipe for which I needed 1 T. Could I have substituted anything else for the Mascarpone, and can you suggest uses for the remaining 7 ounces?

You could've substituted cream cheese. For the remaining 7 ounces, make 7/8ths of this recipe and have a party.

Mascarpone Apricots

I've never bought shallots. I just always use regular onions and call it good. Am I missing something? How much difference is there between shallots and onions?

V quickly: Shallots offer more assertive flavor. They dont mellow when cooked as much as some onions. Use them where small concentrations matter, like vinaigrettes and mignonette (the oyster stuff) and in risottos.

Been hearing a lot about how pistachio trees are being affected by disease that is ultimately killing the trees, (and unfortunately, their delicious nuts). Knowing this -- and wanting to support producers in their fight against blight -- should I be looking to purchase pistachios from specific regions or producers to help? I also noticed that some pistachios are not as meaty or delicious as they used to be. Which I am hoping is not because of the diseases afflicting them.

It looks like pistachio trees in Sicily as well as those in California have been taking it on the chin from disease, according to news reports. It's been a deepening problem for years.  

 

After some cursory reading on the subject, it seems as if the bacteria disease (at least in California) affects the trees and their ability to produce nuts, which is a real problem for farmers because it apparently takes seven years for a single tree to product pistachios.

 

That said, the disease is not affecting all plants on pistachio farms, and growers from the affected areas are still selling nuts on the U.S. and overseas markets.

It appears that the problem is not that you can't FIND buttermilk, but that you can only find quarts? Buy a quart. Freeze what remains in an ice cube tray. Thaw when you need more. Or, find other recipes to use it in!

I made this blueberry galette  with this pastry when my cousin was coming for dinner. There's a huge backstory about how she's always late for everything and even though I allowed for it, the galette sat on the count all ready to pop into the oven for nearly an hour. It was still great - the bottom wasn't a crisp as usual, but it held up beautifully even though it had sat filled for so long. Incidentally it's not very sugary-sweet.

Well, you've transferred us back to the platter, browned sides up, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Carrie for helping with the a's.

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about recipes for "Dinner in (yesterday's) minutes" will get "The Washington Post Cookbook." Send your info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get it your way.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
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