Free Range on Food

Oct 12, 2011

Today's topics: Ferran Adria and his new cookbook, the renaissance among Maryland wineries, college cooking and more.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Good afternoon! College food, Ferran Adria, Maryland's wine renaissance, Thanksgiving jitters, perennial brunch issues....we're here to discuss whatever's on your plate today. In addition to Editor Joe, Tim Carman, Jim Shahin and that man-about-town, Jason Wilson, GU junior and human dynamo Bethany Imondi, subject of today's Washington Cooks, joins us (a few mins late; she has class!) to illuminate the college food scene and field tips on budget cookery.

The two chatters who offer the most impressive comments today will win either "I Love Meatballs!" (source of today's Dinner in Minutes recipe) or "Cooking for College Students: A Beginner's Guide," by enterprising collegian Patrick C Arenson. We'll announce winners at the end of the chat. Andiamo!

1) Would love a cranberry muffin recipe (fresh cranberries) please. 2) I have a recipe for blueberry quick bread to use in my bread machine, and I want to know how to substitute fresh cranberries since they are more tart than blueberries and not sweet. 3) What other uses are their for cranberries, other than sauce?

Do you have a favorite blueberry muffin recipe? Feel free to chop up fresh cranberries and make the fruit substitution. By chopping them coarsely, you avoid that bursting thing that hot cranberries do -- an endearing characteristic that makes them great for adding to the filling of an apple pie or rustic tarts. They won't be as sweet as the dried ones you might be used to, but you get tang and a fresh taste instead.

Other uses (chatters, pls chime in): add fresh cranberries wherever you like the brightness of citrus, as in a spicy stew; a melange of roasted fruits;  a fruit crumble or crispTiny Tim Cranberry Tarts (my go-to Thanksgiving dessert buffet item) embedded in a lamb/beef meatloaf; in sauteed Brussels sprouts; blended in a smoothie; lots of fresh relishes/salsas; homemade cranberry juice!

Plus, fresh cranberries freeze very well, so you can keep them around all year. Make a Note to Self this fall: Buy extra bags of fresh cranberries; deposit in the freezer.

How do you pronounce El Bulli? Have any of the Free Rangers eaten there?

Lucy Garcia, Adria's personal translator, pronounces it "El boo-yee" in her lilting South African accent.


Personally, I've never been and count it as a great loss to have missed a chance to eat at this pioneering restaurant.

I feel like every year I'm stumped on what to do with radishes I get from my CSA. I want to love them--and I do, to a certain extent--but I'm tired of just slicing them into a salad.

Radishes were one of the first vegetables I ever loved. My father used to grow them in his garden, and during the summers while he was away at work and I was out of school, I'd raid the radish patch and eat them raw. I was addicted to that peppery kick -- it was my first high, I'd guess.

But I understand that raw radishes are not for everyone -- or at least not for everyone all of the time. So try some of these recipes:

* Asian Pickled Carrots and Radishes (pictured above)

* Butter-Braised Radishes

* Or even as part of a simple roast vegetables side dish.

Would the recipe for grilled salmon meatballs work on a grill pan? Is that going to really take something away from the recipe?

We've gotten several q's about the very same thing this morning. What the grill does is deliver intense, brief heat, so the salmon meatballs tend to stay round. You can certainly do these in a grill pan on the stove top or in a nonstick saute pan....they might end up with more sides than curves but they'll taste just as good -- that little bit of browning on the outside is what you're after.

could you also do this with canned salmon? If so, which type would you recommend?

Fresh salmon's what you need here, to keep these meatballs from tasting like croquettes. The moistness of the raw fish blends with the mayo, mustard and panko; once cooked, the meatballs end up tasting a little rich, even. FYI, a word about the sodium, which is a little high in this recipe. We tested them with regular and low-fat mayonnaise and there was no real flavor difference. Reg mayo adds fat but low-fat mayo adds sodium. We went for the latter. Feel free to use either.

Thanks Bonnie for the article on students who like to cook during college. I was definitely one of those kids--in my freshmen year dorm, I a) made sure I was in the dorm with a kitchenette b) had my own mini fridge, toaster oven, microwave, and a few pots and pans. After the mandatory food plan for freshmen year, I cooked everything. I think it's important for students to realize that it doesn't take that much effort to eat well in college, just a little forethought and planning. My go-to meals would be soups and stir-fries for dinner, sandwiches or salads for lunch, and breakfast would be anything from oatmeal, fresh fruit and yogurt, or even pancakes.

Good things to keep in mind; thumb's up on the toaster oven especially. I think it must be tough to wean yourself off a meal plan, especially if you're car-less and far enough away from a grocery store. I remember, altho it's hazy, that we'd carpool to the store and have to do some sort of planning in order to make the budget and trip worth it. Some #Foodie 101 tweeters today have suggested using the salad bar to get those stir-fries going...while that might not be the most cost-effiicient way, it does save on time. Wouldn't it be great if more colleges had farmers markets like Georgetown's doing?

Hey Jim, With the coming of Halloween, is it possible to grill pumpkins? Also, if it is possible, would the pumpkin have to be whole or could it have been carved into a jack o' lantern and then grilled?

     Yep, you can grill pumpkins. In fact, my column later this month is on that very topic. Make sure you check out the Oct. 26 issue for how to do it and recipes. 

     In the meantime, here is a sampler: Slice the pumpkin in half, remove its seeds and fibers, and put the halves or - better yet, slice again so that you have quarters - and smoke for about an hour to an hour and a half, until a fork pierces easily. Then use the cooked pumpkin for all sorts of recipes. 

     You can also just grill slices of pumpkin. Again, cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and fibers, then cut into  1/4"-1/2" slices and put directly over the fire for a couple of minutes. With a little salt, they make great snacks or appetizers. 

      Hope you check in for more particulars when the story comes out. 

In praise of Drewno's Asian Roast Pork Bought a pork shoulder at Costco (two in a bag) the day after you printed the recipe. Friday morning one went to freezer, washed the other one, dried it real well with paper towels, rubbed as directed with salt/sugar/thai pepper ground together in an ex-coffee grinder, refrigerated on a deep plate covered with up-side bowl, (did not have plastic bag that was large enough, was glad I used that plate because lots of liquid came out), around midnight stuck pork in the oven at 220 and went to sleep. (Did not have large enough carrots, used a rack). Woke up to a heavenly smelling house and the juiciest pork roast I've ever made. Did not shred it, I sliced the meat. Only a very small chunk went to the freezer. Over the weekend we had it for lunch with veggies, dinner with potatoes, and of course Drewno's Dan Dan noodles on Sunday which is another story. Monday a few slices went to work in sandwiches. A neighbor who can't cook stopped by for coffee, tasted the pork and: Her in-laws were coming from out of town the following weekend. She roasted Drewno's pork at night and served it for lunch with peeled and sliced microwave-cooked sweet potatoes doused with bourbon, green beans and tomato salad. Her hard to please mother-in-law asked for the recipe! I have been playing with the "cooking pork all night technique," used different rub (paprika, cayenne, black pepper and dry mustard in addition to salt and turbinado sugar), and it was quite good.

This is what this chat's all about -- thanks for sharing the juicy details. I can attest to the aroma, the potential for many uses and the requests for the recipe!

Sorry I missed last week. This is for the chatter looking to make her own frozen pizzas. I like to par-bake pizza crusts until lightly colored, then cool completely and wrap. I store them in the freezer in a plastic container to prevent crushing. Then when I'm ready for pizza I just pull one out, top it and bake as usual. I found that when I froze a crust with topping, the crust became soggy.

Thanks for sending this along.

On the Food page, the photo of Coffee-spiked Banana Bread leads to a recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

Talk about mixed messages. It's fixed now. That crazy-good banana bread was featured in last week's Family Dish, btw.  The Baked Macaroni and Cheese  is from Bethany, our collegiate Washington Cook this week.

Trying again with the hopes that Joe is back this week! First, Joe, I LOVED your spicy hummus recipe from Serve Yourself. I've always found hummus rather blah, but the spiciness actually made it interesting. I took it to a party and everyone loved it, even a 3-year-old girl who couldn't stop gobbling it up! Now I'm obsessed with finding ways to use it. Sure, I can use it as a dip for veggies and chips or as a spread on bread, but that seems so limited. I'm trying to come up with a wide variety of uses - so far I've found a recipe turning it into pasta sauce (kind of like your suggestion in turning it into salad dressing) and I've tossed it with roasted cauliflower and broccoli, which was actually pretty yummy. Any other inventive ways to use the hummus? Wait - would it be absolutely crazy to use it instead of an egg for frying batters? As in coat the meat/veggie/whatever in hummus and then flour rather than egg and then flour? Trying to think outside the box here.

Hey -- Thanks so much -- so glad you like it! As I wrote in the book, I was inspired by a delectable version of the same I had at Sahadis market in Brooklyn. That batter idea is definitely out of the box -- I suspect that it might not work out all that well, and the flour would immediately get absorbed into the hummus and you'd have a gummy mess, but guess what -- only one way to find out! Give it a shot and report back.

My other favorite thing to do with it is to use it as the base sauce on a pizza or flatbread. I have a recipe in the book that does that and then tops with roasted eggplant slices and fried chickpeas, which has been a huge hit every time I've served it. (Sometimes I do serve more than myself, you know.)

The latest Real Simple has great recipes for cranberries, one is for a cranberry hazelnut bread which I can't wait to make even though I am not a baker. They also have a fig/cranberry chutney. My favorie is to make chutneys and sauces with cranberries. Mix with apple or oranges, or plums, or peaches, pretty much anything really and some sugar or honey, add spices to your taste (cinnamon, anise, fennel, cloves, cardamom) and cook down for a bit. Makes a great sandwich spread or sauce over meats and vegetables, or mix with rice and chicken.

I know the poster wanted muffins, but there are some terrific cran recipes in the latest Vegetarian Times (the cranberry bars that use condensed milk are out of this world).

I have some plums that have seen better days. Anything reasonably healthy I can make with them (not using meat)? thanks for any ideas!

I was in your shoes the other day -- needed to do somethign quick with em before going away for several days -- so I roasted em, pit and all. Low-ish oven (300) until they got soft. Then was easy to slip out the pits. They were great mashed and eaten with yogurt and honey.

Wow! The idea of making salmon meatballs with Green Goddess dressing (love the depth anchovies give sauces) is surprising and enticing! What do you think of using corn meal instead of panko? Too overpowering? Not enough moisture? This has got me so inspired to think of similar fish balls I can make!

I think the panko keeps the mixture light and would be a better binder than cornmeal for these salmon guys. But hey, you're in charge of your mixing bowl. Report back!

BTW, whiz-bang Food/Travel aide Becky Krystal has posted on AWCE a related list of our favorite meatball recipes from our online database....check it out.

What are your favorite ingredients/ingredients you always have on hand? I'm always looking for easy/cheap ways to spice things up when I'm out of time or ideas...

I always have to have pasta and canned tomatoes in my pantry. With these items I know I can always make a quick tomato sauce to go with my pasta. Also, I like to stock up on frozen vegetables and use those to make stir-frys.

I make a very nice pork tenderloin dish with sweet potatoes, apples and either fresh or dried cranberries. The fresh cranberries add a lovely pop of flavor. I also made brisket once with fresh cranberries and pearl onions.

I'm hosting a wine and cheese party tonight that's a benefit for my local Children's Hospital. Cabot Cheese got wind of the big associated benefit and donated cheese to the big benefit. We took some of that cheese and are now hosting this smaller benefit. Thanks Cabot! Anyway, the cheese is basically those refrigerated blocks you can buy of cheddar and a couple of other flavors. I was thinking of cutting them up into blocks. How early can I do this? and How do I keep the cheese from turning hard or dry before I serve it tonight? I"m also thinking of slicing some of it and slicing some apples as well and serving some of the cheese that way. Everything else is ready to go but I don't want to be chopping cheese at the last minute and the whole blocks are not very attractive.

Those big blocks of cheese, in my experience, are practically indestructible. I think you can drop them from a high-rise and they'd still be good enough to serve. There's a reason you see them at cocktail buffets from coast to coast.


I think you can cut the blocks at least an hour in advance and not worry about drying them out. Maybe my fellow Rangers have other opinions on this matter?

I can't WAIT to make those crab & corn fritters from last week's post. My only concern is the fresh corn. If I can't find any, what is comparable to maintain what seems like a delicious fritter?

I think you could manage just fine with defrosted corn kernels, tossed into a hot cast-iron skillet. Getting a little bit of caramelization on the corn really boosts the flavor here. BTW, the photo was taken at the WCR event where these fritters went like hotcakes, but they made them small to accommodate the crowds. YOUR fritters will be bigger -- say 3 inches wide -- and delightfully lumpy with crab and corn. My colleague Jane Touzalin, who does the great Chat Leftovers every week on AWCE, is obsessed with fritters and declared these a hit.

I have the recipe for the White House Mess navy bean soup. It calls for ham stock (or vegetable stock, but I don't think the version we had was vegetable). This soup was delicious and I'd like to try, but I have never made stock of any kind. There is no ham stock in the stores in cans (as called for in the recipe) or boxes that I can find. Can I make this? I need the equivalent of 6, 14 oz cans. Alternative is Penzeys ham soup base.

It's funny but Serious Eats, one of my favorite food blogs, had a good discussion about the lack of pork stock in stores. The theory is that the stock is more assertive and not appropriate for many recipes, which may require a more subtle flavor.

Anyway, like most stocks, pork stock is not hard to make. Here's a rather fussy recipe from Serious Eats on how to make pork stock, but if that's too daunting, try this one, which is much easier. I think you'll find the process very rewarding in the end. Your soup will taste so much better.

It's pretty good warm. Sometimes I make oven-baked sweet potato chips, and dip the in hummus. It's healthy can re-heat the chips in the microwave. Or use it on a hot bakes potato, sweet or white. It's also great as a sandwich spread, especially with vegetarian sandwiches. And Rachel Ray has a pasta sauce recipe that combines hummus with baba ganouj.

I know flour girl can't be replaced, but will you get a new person in to answer our season/holiday baking questions?

During high baking season last year we had a bank of experts at our disposal -- Dorie Greenspan, Alice Medrich, Peter Reinhart, David Lebovitz to name a few -- and we hope to do that again.  They answered questions readers sent in and we posted the information on AWCE, listed in categories like Bread, Equipment, Substitutions etc. This link will take you there.

I loved the article about cooking in college. I just got back from a trip to the west coast to visit my daughter, a collede sophomore. She and her three roommates are all cooking in this year and it was great to see how healthy they are eating! Better yet, my formerly picky daughter is willing to sample new foods that her roommates put on the table which she would never had touched at home (tofu anyone?). As a note, one appliance they decided was worth squeezing into their miniscule kitchen was a rice cooker. They use it several times a week -- a lot more than their toaster oven.

I actually don't have a rice cooker, but I would be interested in experimenting with one. Another appliance that is actually quite useful for college students is a Foreman Grill; you can use them to make panini and quesadillas, as well as to cook various proteins. Plus, they are really easy to clean.

Just curious if you are all as addicted to this show as I am. I love learning about new ingredients that I've never heard of or seen used. I find it a great education about creative cooking.

I loved Chopped! Watching shows like this is always a great way to get inspiration in the kitchen. Though they often use ingredients that go beyond college students' budgets, i still love watching to see the different ways they can be used.

The farmer's market had what were labeled as Jonagold apples last weekend and I bought several pounds of them, as they're my favorite for snacking. But they turned out to be so bitter (or ultra-"tart"), I can't eat them. This has never-ever before happened to me with apples of any sort, including Granny Smiths. Other than making some calorie-laden apple pie, what can I do with them? I don't like sweetened applesauce and just stewing them probably won't counter their acidity enough. Also curious, would your guess be that they were mislabeled as Jonagolds, or picked too soon, or both? Some are mutant-huge, unlike any Jonagolds I've seen before. All have mostly red skin with a little yellow/green and they're rounder than I think of Jonagolds being. Thanks much for your help!

Not sure what they might have been, if they were, in fact, Jonagold imposters. But no matter: Make this roasted apple-pear sauce. At this time of  year I think I mention it as often as we used to talk up Mahogany Short Ribs. Combining your tarty fruit with pears, a little butter, salt and sugar and a good 400-degree oven session will yield applesauce that will be mellow, caramelized (there I go, using that word again) and just on the edge of sweet. 

What's the best way to share kitchen equipment, ingredients, and clean-up with roommates?

Good luck with that -- you'll have to live with some very organized people who follow rules. Also,  My own recollection of long-ago college cooking was more of a free-for-all, with roommates "sharing" by helping themselves to each others' food. Those of us that knew how and liked to cook inevitably had to put up with the layabouts who just mooched. We had a vegan roommate who understandably freaked out every time someone cooked meat or fish with his pans. I think someone finally snapped and tried to draw up some kind of chart with who was supposed to cook, do dishes, etc. on specific nights. I don't believe it was ever followed.

Sharing appliances is a tricky issue. I recently bought the microwave for my apartment, and I told my roommates that it wasn't necessary for them to pay me for it. The challenge is that if you try to split the costs of appliances then you have to worry about how to "split" the appliance at the end of the year. My suggestion would be for everyone in the apartment to try to  supply something for the kitchen. Maybe one person buys the pots and pans and another buys some tableware. It might not be always be equal, but it keeps you from having disputes about what belongs to who at the end of the year.

Accidentally left on the counter overnight for 12 hours: a pan of cooked rice, boiled only in water (no oil, broth,etc.). Still safely edible?

Sad as it would make me, I'd probably toss it. I got a little freaked out when researching a piece on using up leftover rice a couple years back, and added this tip box.

I must be one of the few people who saw the documentary about El Bulli that recently played at West End Cinema. It was very interesting - only if you are a foodie though. It talked about the process they went through to come up with new dishes, and the first day of the season when they launched them. I am not sure if it exists in DVD, but for most of us it is as close to Ferran as we will ever get!

You're talking about the doc, "El Bulli: Cooking in Progress," which the NY Times called a "slog" for non-foodies.  You can decide for yourself: The film has its own Web site, complete with clips.

Try grating radishes -- preferably in food processor, to reduce the risk of bloodshed (i.e., your own!) -- then mound on top of leaf lettuce, and top with a creamy Bleu cheese, Roquefort of Gorgonzola salad dressing and a little fresh-cracked black pepper!

Good afternoon all, just a comment. I have just discovered wheat berries and am loving them. Today for lunch wheat berry and black bean chili - just perfect for a chilly, rainy day and inexpensive to boot.

Yep, I'm with you! Love em. Also love farro, barley -- anything kind of toothsome with whole-grain goodness.

At least it's a small financial loss, not like leaving a roast out.


What is the kitchen appliance you absolutely could not live without? toaster oven? kitchen aid? ice cream maker?

Having lived without a microwave this past summer, I realized how valuable it is in the kitchen. Things like instant oatmeal and popcorn are made for the microwave, as are all those steamer bags of frozen vegetables and melting sticks of butter. While I don't actually cook meals in the appliance, it does go a long way in helping me prepare meals.

I'm writing about my microwave love next week -- Besides rewarming/melting/etc., I find it invaluable in getting a head start on things. That is, I use it to steam vegetables that I then put under the broiler, or I nuke a sweet potato or butternut squash for a couple of minutes to take a full 20 minutes or so off the roasting time.

Make apple butter in the slow cooker: they slowly carmalize and sweeten.

Need some advice about a gift for my instructor. We finally made it to the top level and I need to thank him. we have done single malt scotch and local Sperryville Bourbon so I am looking for ideas that can be purchased at the ABC store. Cost around $100

With a quick perusal through the VA ABC price list, I might suggest the Highland Park 18-yr old single malt scotch ($104) or one of The Balvenie 17 yr old with special Madeira or port wood finishes ($129) or if he likes big, peaty scotch, the Laphroaig 18 yr old ($99). For bourbon, you don't need to spend $100: the Elijah Craig 18 yr old ($40) or Blanton's Single Barrel ($51) would be nice.

Thanks for the article on college cooking! As a recent college grad and current graduate student, I know well the pressures of making fast, healthy, inexpensive meals that also tasted good (and work for the solo cook without providing mountains of leftovers). I have to say, though, roasting and baking often aren't options for students in dorm kitchens outfitted only with two burners and a microwave. My roommate and I got pretty creative with primaveras and stir-fries, and my crockpot (a small one) saw quite a bit of use.

Crockpots are perfect, especially this time a year. I love them because it is so easy to mix up a chili or warm stew in the morning and leave it on all day so that I have dinner waiting for me when I am done with class. Not having a stove should never be an excuse not to experiment and try things. While I was living down here this summer, I rarely turned on the oven because of the heat, so I experimented a lot with fresh salads and pasta dishes.

Would it be so wrong of me to divorce my husband for insisting on running all of my nice carving knives through the dishwasher? Just asking.

The first time, yes. The 100th time, perhaps not.

Hi. I am crazy about eggplant and always thrilled to see a new recipe. Plus, the idea that I could cook a dish invented by Ferran Adria -- Wow. Still, I have 3 questions about this recipe: -- Don't you need to prick the eggplant before putting it in the oven, so it doesn't burst? (Or maybe I've been doing that unnecessarily for years); -- Can something be used instead of the miso paste? (It's so high in sodium content that I try to avoid it, plus I've only seen it for sale in fairly large jars); -- This may be quibbling, but if it takes 45 minutes to cook, plus peeling and slicing time, how does it qualify as "fast"?

Adria's book has plenty of accessible recipes; did you check out our review today? For his Roasted Eggplant With Miso Dressing, I think he calls for the red miso paste because it delivers a lot of umami in a relatively small amount. I think most of the sodium's coming from the dashi powder (and the regular soy sauce) used here. Analytically, it looks almost like pure salt! You could use low-so soy sauce and try cutting back on the amount of dashi powder. 

Re poking holes in the eggplant: No need here. I've not had a bursting problem, have you, chatters? But feel free to do your own thing.

"fast":  Dishes that take less than 1 hour are considered so in our playbook.

We read with interest your review today of the rose from Maryland and that prompted this: why do you think people stop drinking rose (a la wearing white) after Labor Day? We drink it all year, in fact just enjoyed Santa Digna Saturday with 4-hour leg of lamb and white beans. Delicious, yet it becomes harder to find in stores in winter. If people drink cold white wine all year, why not rose?

Dave says: 

I think it's mostly because rose is a quintessential hot-weather wine, due to its light weight and high refreshment quality. I know several people who enjoy it year-round, and I certainly have enjoyed a few bottles of it since Labor Day -- perhaps in a vain denial that our warm weather season has actually ended. My advice for year-round rose fiends is to stock up during the summer when the selection is plentiful. Now might be a good time to find some on discount. Use the market to your advantage!

I use it for pretty much everything you use mayo for. It is great in deviled eggs

Heck, yeah.

Thank you for the recipe. The store didn't have short beef ribs so I used baby backs. The ribs came out incredible. They tasted good, had a beautiful color , and the sauce was perfect over tagliatelle.


Bonnie, in your review, you mentioned that not all of the recipes have the home cook in mind. Does this mean a lot of the recipes are overly complicated or just that maybe its not suited for the beginner cook? I'm looking to get a little more adventurous in the kitchen and was thinking about picking this up, but I don't want to be overwhelmed. Other than "second stock" what other recipes did you particularly like?

I don't think the recipes are difficult to do, but a fair amount of them involve the making of some tasty sofrito or base sauce or stock, such as his Beans With Clams -- which was delicious and worth the effort.  I was impressed with the white-chocolate/yogurt sauce with mango -- such a simple dessert where the sweetness of that chocolate gets nicely subdued/enhanced by the tang of the dairy. If you're in the mood for adventure, you'd like "Family Meal."  What it will challenge is your aesthetic for flavor combinations, particularly if you re-create Adria's 3-course menus.

I understand that frozen food may lose some flavor or taste a bit "off" if kept longer than recommended. But I'd like to know if it's safe to eat. Specifically, I have two stacks of year-old frozen Boca burgers and other vegetarian "meats" (chicken "cutlets," "fish sticks") that I bought lots of because they were steeply discounted. Also some undated frozen salmon burgers from Trader Joes, and a few frozen single-serve pizzas and "prepared meals" from Swanson, both with and without meat. Thanks.

You're Boca burgers should be fine. I mean, how much taste/flavor are you really going to lose from a processed food product anyway?


If you have any worries about frozen foods, including their safety, check out the USDA's very handy resource page. It explains everything in very clear and unbureaucratic language.

I recently discovered this recipe and am in love (had two for breakfast this morning!)

I have a very different take on a Pumpkin or Squash soup than the one in today's leftovers. Mine is a Curried Squash soup that is simple and delicious. I never measure, but basically you saute an onion until clear and then add garlic and a bunch of curry powder (and possibly cayenne if you like spice). Add chopped up pumpkin or butternut squash and cover with low sodium broth. Boil until the squash is soft and then blend.

I have a fear of dough. There, I've said it. That being said, I love apple pie, but can't stand the stuff I always buy at the store. Help me please. What are the tricks to cooperative dough? It never wants to roll out for me.

Here is a really easy apple pie recipe from Big Girls Small Kitchen:

It uses a tart dough, so there is only one crust to the pie, but nevertheless, it is delicious.

We'll have a pie tart tutorial from Tiffany MacIsaac in the section this holiday season -- watch for it!

What is Wondra flour used for? Are there many applications for its use? Hate to buy something for one use and then have to freeze it for the next 3 years.

As David Hagedorn recently mentioned in the headnote for his Veal Piccata, chefs love using Wondra for dusting fish and meats because it promotes even browning and prevents foods from sticking to the pan as they saute. I keep it on hand for making sauces/gravies. Thankfully it comes in something more compact than a 5-lb bag.

I was interested to read that Bethany lives in an apartment on campus -- is that the same as a dorm? If not, what's the difference? Apartments have kitchens, dorms do not?

The difference between apartments and dorms on campus is that apartments include a small living area and a kitchen in addition to the bedrooms. In my particular apartment, there are two bedrooms shared between four girls. In dormitories, students' access to kitchens is limited to the one common room kitchen located on each floor of the building, which means there is only one kitchen for students on a floor to share.

Are microwaves cheating? I always vaguely feel like the food won't taste as good if I make it in the microwave instead of the oven. Am I totally off-base?

In a word: Yes. (To the second question, not the first.)

Slice it now - to store until the party and make sure it doesnt dry out, use those big tupperware pieces or tins that are sitting in the back of your cabinet, waiting for the "high baking season" (love it!) to start

Does the poster who suggested this have a recommended recipe? Or do you? Thanks!

Hi there, following up on a question from last week, how can you tell if whole wheat flour (which hasn't been stored in the fridge) is bad? About how long can it last, if not stored in fridge? Thanks!

I think smell would be your first and most obvious clue: Whole wheat flour, particularly if it's not stored correctly, will start to smell pungent, most likely from the wheat germ oil going rancid. Give it a whiff. If it smells off, toss that sucker.

Gurus, please help! I'm stuck in a squash rut - I've roasted, curried, made soup out of, and topped with pesto, squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti) so far this fall, and would love to try something new. Any suggestions? thanks!

I've got a pasta w/miso squash recipe coming next week that you might look for. The miso adds a little hit of umami to the whole endeavor, and I garnish with pumpkin seeds.

And here are a bunch of recipes for butternut squash that should shake up your routine.

My favorite non-traditional hummus use has been with left overs from the Paprika Chicken recipe ( Finely chop the left over chicken and mix with hummus for one of the best chicken salad sandwiches ever.


Check out this oatmeal cookie recipe from BGSK--it uses cranberries instead of raisins which gives it a really nice twist I think.

Do what I did - get your husband his own set of knives that will survive the dishwasher. Don't let him touch your knives ever again. It saved my marriage and my knives.

i have a jar of chick pea miso sitting in my fridge (impulse buy at the health food store). would it work in today's eggplant recipe? has anyone ever tried it? i haven't opened the jar yet and am wondering if it has that same "umami" quality as regular miso.

I haven't, but there is exactly one way to know for sure: Open it up and taste it!

OMG, it's amazing I'm alive...

LOL. I could say that about a lot of things, too. ;-)

I had that pie crust issue too. David Hagedorn and Rose Levey Beranbaum cured me.

Whenever I'm getting into a rut, I go sweet... pies, muffins, quick breads. Mmm.

I'm fond of miso dressing for salads. Take rice wine vinegar, neutral oil (I used canola), a dash of soy, a chunk of miso paste and mix thoroughly. One gets a flavorful dressing and the miso really keeps the emulsion together. Lovely on fresh greens.

You and me both. I'm a miso freak. I do this all the time, too.

I gently mix the easiest dough recipe I could find -- just flour, salt, shortening, ice water -- then mush it into a ball, place it in a plastic bag and squeeze out the air (then zip or twist-tie the bag shut) and refrigerate it for several hours (or up to a couple of days). I roll out one crust's worth at a time on a floured 14" rimmed pizza pan, which aids in creating a fairly circular piece of dough as well as containing (most of!) the flying flour. To transfer crust into pie pan, I fold it over in half, then lift carefully and lay on one side of the pie pan, and unfold.

My mother-in-law's pie crust rarely fails me as long as I mix it by hand (trying to do it in the food processor or stand mixer for some reason always turns out too watery). Mix 3 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1 tsp. salt. Add 1 cup shortening and mix until it looks like sandy crumbles. Cut in 1/4 cup semi-soft butter (I usually just pull the butter out right before mixing everything else). Finally using minimal handling mix in 1/2 cup cold (cold cold) water. Divide into 3 balls for 3 9" pastry crusts or 2 balls if doing 10". If not using immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 days. To roll, generously flour a piece of wax paper big enough to hold your rolled crust. Press another piece down on top to pick up the flour. Place a dough ball between and roll out to size. If it looks like your dough may want to stick, lift it up and put more flour underneath or on top. Peel off the top layer, drape over your rolling pin or lightly flour and fold, then place in pie plate. It's daunting, I know, but it really can work!

I have a spaghetti squash, stuff for a basic salad and am not opposed to stopping at the store for ingredients...GO!

Here's an easy spaghetti squash recipe if you have these items on hand:

I recently broke my wrist and am discovering the challenges of fixing a meal. I know some f the chatters have "been there-done that"and perhaps they could share some menue ideas. Salad bar veggies have been one option.

Chatters? Any suggestions for this one-armed home cook?

Stir frys might be an easy option; just put some oil in a pan and saute  your favorite ingredients. You can also make quesadillas and panini in a pan, but must be confident in flipping them one-handed.

I have been using WaPo recipes because they always work for me, especially Bonnie-tested ones. I've come to the point when I just print the recipe and head to the kitchen, follow directions exactly - the first time around - and don't stress out about anything because I know it will come out. Not with the Chili Dan Dan Noodles. I was so excited when I saw the recipe. I cook every day heathy, not very involved meals, but every once in a while I like to cook something special. So Drewno;s recipe seemed to be it! After success with the Asian pork I had friends to stop by for an early Sunday dinner. The problems started with the instructions: 1. I Tablespoon Szechuan-flavored salt (roasted Szrchuan pepercorns, ground with kosher slat) no proportions, no directions how to roast peppercorns. Very un-Bonnie. ( I remembered years ago you had Szechuann peppercorn powder recipe by Rebekah Jewell that I was addicted to for a long time, so I searched WaPo archives and after a very looooooong search found instructions in her Cucumber Salad recipe. I used her technique and made my Szechuan peper salt using equal amounts of each.) 2. 6 oz for pork belly - instructions for pork belly stop with "Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl to cool." There is no mention of them anywhere else. I did not have ground pork belly. So I chopped very fine 6 oz of pork belly and cooked them following the instructions. They were really good. I added them to the dan dan sauce in the last ten minutes of cooking and they actually made the dish special. 3. Chinese stock is prepared very differently from the stock we use in regular cooking, and I was annoyed at the lack of directions or explanation why we were directed to make a "double chicken" stock without explanation of how to start making it. In the end the Dan Dan sauce came out heavenly, but it was way too salty, so, thank God we tasted and by consensus used literally two teaspoons per serving. The peanut sauce is another story. There was a lot of it, and it was quite good. Grand Mart (2 for $1) and Trader Joe's ($1.99 a package) now carry shredded vegetables called "Broccoli slaw" - Drewno's Peanut Sauce is perfect for this salad.

Oh dear. I'll start from the bottom and work my way back up. I appreciate the feedback, really. There were notes about how to make the stock, at the end of the recipe.  I thought the call for "richly flavored" stock in the ingredient list might alert readers to the need for an intensity of flavor here, but I will add some explanation to the recipe headnotes online, so thanks for pointing that out; I'll add a note about having peanut sauce left over, as well. As for the tablespoon of peppercorn salt, it was left vague to suit individual tastes (those things are  HOT) but I can amend that as well. Not sure why the directions for pork belly were stays in the pan  as you build the dan dan sauce, and that sauce is spooned over the noodles at the end.

So awhile back you guys were WONDERFUL at helping me convert these delicious vanilla cupcakes into delicious lemon cupcakes. This time, I'd like to make these into a cake. There should be no issues making this into a 2-layer cake right? Second thought, lemon curd filling or triple berry curd for 2 of the four mini layers? Thanks! :)

Went to an expert, baker Nancy Baggett:  It's probably okay, but with baking strange things can always happen. (Sigh!)  It's going to work better if the batter is on the thicker side, as cupcakes are given more structure by the close-in pan sides. Cake batters just have to rise up on their own.

Re the filling:  Why not both/alternate?

Tonight is going to be roasted squash with chipotle chili powder in tacos with black beans and red cabbage slaw. Yay fall!

Now that link is going to baked mac + cheese! You really want us to make that, huh? :) Can we get the link to the crab and corn fritters? Thank you!

In the Wednesday 9/17/1997 food section of the Washington Post (yes, I still have the yellowed copy) is a delicious, fool-proof food processor recipe for Flaky Pie Pastry that has not failed me yet. Cold, hot, wet or dry weather, it has always turned out. The recipe isn't online but maybe the food crew could get it for you. Worst case, pie dough doesn't cost much - just go for it.

(Single mom, had no choice.) Made lots of stews, big batches of spaghetti sauce, chili, Moroccan chicken (to serve w/ couscous) I froze them so weeknight meals were done, if a little repetitious. Once in a while we'd just get a pizza.

it tastes essentially the same as soy ( regular0 miso - I assume that the poster has it from Red River, which I think is the only company that makes it. In my experience, the major difference is that is has chunks of chickpea - sort of like chunky peanut butter, so if you are after smooth, put in in the processor first. Good for soy allergics

Help me, Joe! I have no problem making yummy hummus, but my many attempts at baba ganouj have failed. Don't they have the exact same ingredients, except for the main ones of chickpeas vs eggplants?

What recipe are you working with? And in what way(s) hae you deemed the result a failure? That will help us diagnose. Indeed, ingredients except for that main one, are similar. Are you roasting the eggplant first, I hope? Should roast it until it completely collapses...

That recipe in the beginning of the chat looks wonderful, but the sodium is 2400 per serving - is that really right? I feed a 1 year old so that would be 2+ days worth of sodium for him.

Here's where our limitations of analysis show through. The information is based on the fact that every shred of the outer, crusty skin of that Asian Roast Pork and its resulting renderered, salty-sweet fat would be consumed. I doubt the sodium content's really that high, but that's what it was, using our Nutri-Base program.

Bringing together a couple of threads from here, would that miso dressing need refrigeration if we keep it for a little while? We don't for our standard balsamic, but none of those ingredients are refrigerated separately, whereas miso is.

Yep, refrigerate it.

You can find the pork bullion cubes in any store that has a seperate Hispanic session (along with LOTS of other interesting bullions like red pepper, mushroom, etc.)

Yes, I've bought them at A&H Gourmet Seafood Market in Bethesda. Quite porky!

How long will they stay fresh in a bowl in the fridge? Separated for a recipe, in a tightly sealed container, but forgot about for a couple of days. I want to do a pavlova, but I have a gas stove.

According to, you should still be safe. You can store them in the fridge for about four days, tops.

My daughter makes No-Knead Bread in her dorm room, then bakes it in the hall oven!

Is there another tool to replace a $30 ricer that I would only use once a year? Seems to heavy in weight and price to justify.

I do love a good ricer. I use it to make perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes. But you're right, a potato ricer is not as versatile as a food mill, which you might want to investigate.

Cut recipes in half!

Too funny!

Well, you've scattered buttered bread crumbs evenly over us, baked us for about 20 minutes until we are fairly firm and lightly browned, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's today, and thanks to Bethany, Jason and Jim for helping us answer them.

Now, for the prizes... (Drumroll, please.)

The chatter who asked for cranberry recipes and then set off an avalanche of ideas will get "I Love Meatballs!" The one who asked Bethany about tips for sharing stuff in a college kitchen will get "Cooking for College Students: A Beginner's Guide." Send your mailing addresses to Becky at, and we'll get you your books.

Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading!

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