The Washington Post

Oct 13, 2010

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way.

Hi folks! It's a fine day to get your veggie issues on the table -- eggplant, chard, kale, squash or what have you.  Jane Black's chatting for the last time today as a staffer (sniff, dab), so you can ask about her future plans as well as her update on the Chefs Move to Schools program. We've got the Spirited Jason Wilson, the smoky Jim Shahin, caterer Vered Guttman and editor Joe, who's on his way back from an assignment and will be ready to dish on his singular stir-fry lessons from Grace Young.

Chat giveaways: "The Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Recipes" and "The Good Housekeeping Cookbook." We'll announce winners at the end of the session.

Lunch in hand? Let's do it....

I'm so excited to start making soup! I just got a new Le Crueset 5.5 q pot and I'm excited to break it in. I love soups that have squash in the fall - any good recipes that will really shine in my new fancy pot?

Try this butternut squash and coconut milk recipe:
In the fancy new pot sauté 2 lb. of butternut squash, 1 large, chopped onion, 1 copped carrot, 1 stalk celery ,  2 garlic cloves and tsp of cumin seeds for 15 minutes. Add 1 TBSP turmeric, 1 qrt. chicken broth and 2 cans of coconut milk. Bring to boil, lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes. Puree the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.

I love greens: spinach, kale, collards, chard. You name it. Usually, I boil, steam or saute. However, a friend of mine recently served baked kale "chips." Is this something I could try with other dark-leafed greens or is this best done with kale alone?

Sure. Coat sturdy greens lightly with olive oil, s&p. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven on a baking sheet, spread to allow plenty of drying room between them. Heck, you can even do it with eggplant.

I keep reading recipes that contain the following terminology that I can't find a base line definition for. Maybe you could explain? Hearty Rich Luxurious

Those are food writer words. And I don't think there's a baseline, per se. What's rich to you might be light to me. But they are meant to tantalize and evoke emotions, not to offer precise definitions. The same is true for anything, though, right. I mean can you define salty? Maybe slightly better. But, ultimately, it's a matter of taste.

To me, they add up to one word: fattening.

I've been making dietary changes slowly but surely (whole grains, more vegetables) and now I need to tackle eating more fish. I keep thinking I'll do it, but I don't. Are there some types of fish that don't lose much by being frozen? I think that might be a good starting place, so I can whip something up on a whim. Thanks!

Most fish that you buy at the market is pre-frozen, even the stuff in the case. It's dangerous to make generalizations but I will anyway: The stuff that comes from commercial fisheries is often frozen on the boat in a method called IQF (I forget what it stands for). So in short, it's fine to buy frozen fish b/c you probably are anyway. Shrimp works well as do thicker, fleshier fish: albacore tuna, haddock, halibut. Scallops I steer clear of because they tend to be watery and without the velvety texture that makes them so good in the first place.

Hi guys! My daughter is having her 4th birthday party this weekend. It's a "snacks only" party. I've got the sweet side of things covered but I'm looking for a good savory appetizer that can be made ahead of time and is SUPER easy. Any ideas?

Quesadillas go over well and you can make extras quickly. Think about fruit and cheese combos (provolone, cut seedless grapes) that are good on their own or can be supplemented with smoked turkey breast.  Also, this Manchurian Dip is awesome. I recommend it all the time. Has a ton of vegetables in it but you'd never know it.

Any chance you wonderful food gurus have put together a list of pick your own farms? I'm looking for one in Maryland where I can pick apples. We're ready to make our own applesauce and apple butter. Thanks in advance!

There are loads of places. Butler and Lewis Orchards. But for a complete list, check out

Greetings, flavor mavens! Looking for a tasty peanut/satay sauce to help me survive in a small town with no good Thai restaurants within 40 miles. Fat and calories are not issues -- flavor is. Can you help me?

How about this one from Bonnie? It's a homemade satay sauce using fermented black beans. (You may want to pick some up before you head off.)

I was thrilled to see you focus on these favorite foods in today's food section, but would have liked to see more recipes. For example, the article on eggplant mentioned Turkish cooks often add a little sugar to balance the bitterness, but there was no recipe showing how to do so. You piqued my interest....if you have such recipes, can you please share the link?

It's a simple addition of a teaspoon or so of sugar to eggplant that has been roasted/softened, before you head on to further parts of any recipe that calls for that kind of eggplant handling.

I tried a recipe for Banh Mi sandwhiches last night that my friend gave me and have to say, they were pretty darn yummy! I was a little surprised just because I've never been a big fan of Thai or Chinese food and avoid a lot of ingredients and foods they use - cabbage, soy sauce, and basically any meat and vegetables that taste sweet. Now I've got a couple of ingredients on hand - fish sauce, sriracha and Chinese five spice powder - that I've never used before and don't have any recipes that incorporate them. Obviously I can keep making the Banh Mi sandwiches to use them up, but are there other recipes out there that use them in subtle ways without the other ingredients I'm not a fan of? Thanks for any help and input!

These are all strong flavors. But there are certainly ways to use them up. Fish sauce, in particular, is a super ingredient to have on hand because, added judiciously, it just adds oomph and you can't even taste the fishiness. I've seen chefs add a dash to tomato sauces, for example. Here are two Asian dishes from our database that might inspire you but they're more traditional usages. The same is true for sriracha; it adds a warm sweet, spiciness to lots of things: mayonnaise, for example, on a turkey sandwich.

Jason, I just picked up a bottle of reisetbauer eau de vie. How long does it keep once opened? Also, how is it best served? Thanks!

Wonderful! Which fruit eau de vie did you get? An eau de vie is likely to be pretty high proof, 70-80. At that proof, you'll be fine for years and years, as long as you close the top and keep it in a place that's not too hot.

Loved the article on eggplant. One dish I like making is an Indian cury Roast a couple of big eggplants. Prick them with a fork or you wind up with exploding eggplant surprise; I speak from experience. Let cool, scoop out the flesh, and mash it a bit. Fry up some sliced onions, garlic, and ginger along with chili peppers to taste. Add in spices (turmeric, garam masala, a bit of red chili powder). Dump in a can of coconut milk and the mashed eggplant. Finish with a bit of lime juice and garnish with cilantro. Yummy!

Exploding eggplant -- another issue! 

There's no text below the standard opening. Or is it a problem with my computer?

I'd like to blame technical difficulties, but it's just operator error. See the discussion now?

Help!! I'm hosting a party next week which is only appitizers. Actually it's a game night for a bunch of friends. What are the best appitizers you can think of for this? It's a bunch of late 20's and mid 30's people. So far I have a buffalo chicken dip, taco dip, veggie platter, mini hot dogs in bbq sauce and maybe sausage/cheese/crackers. I feel like I serve this EVERYTIME and would like something a little different. Suggestions?

Well, one thing you can do is build the food around whose playing. During rivalries and big games, such as the Super Bowl, we will have foods from the cities of the teams. For example, beef on weck and (of course) wings from Buffalo. Mini-cheesesteaks or Italian hoagies for the Philadelphia Eagles. Barbecue and chile con queso for the (okay, I'm going to say it) Dallas Cowboys. Half smokes and fried chicken with Mambo Sauce for the Redskins. That sort of thing. Many of these items can be made in advance (hoagies, chile con queso, bbq, fried chicken). Some take no more than a few minutes (cheesesteaks, half smokes). 

Anyway, that's one way to get you thinking of some different game foods. 

So, last week, we had a lovely tapas dish as Jaleo that included a cucumber boat that seemed to be pickled, with diced tomatoes, goat cheese and roasted walnuts. Trying to make it easier to serve, I was thinking of doing diced cucumber, tomato, and roasted walnuts (maybe honey roasted?) and making a simple vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and some fresh basil. Another other thoughts while I experiment?

That sounds lovely. I think you could add cheese (goat or feta) or even some grilled shrimp.  Make sure your vinaigrette has enough acidity to keep it bright.

I'm hoping Jason won't immediately dismiss this question, as he probably should as someone with good taste. I'm considering buying the limited edition Absolut Brooklyn done by Spike Lee, which the bottle describes as tasting like red apple and ginger. That sounds kind of good, I think. But I'm not sure what to mix it with. The problem is I'm not a huge fan of vodka, and like mixed drinks to taste on the sweet side. But the neon green appletinis are too much even for me. Can you think of something that would be palatable to do with this, or should I stick with Ketel One and maybe do something with ginger syrup and muddled apples? Thanks!

No dismissiveness here. I believe you should drink whatever you want to. I'm not a huge fan of flavored vodka, either, though for other reasons. But if you're not a fan of the stuff, then why force yourself to drink it? Anyway, I find the best way to try these flavored vodkas is to mix them with a little ginger beer.

Okay, I feel like the answer to this should be obvious but I thought I should doublecheck - I'm single and often make meals for multiple servings/days. If I cook chicken on it's sell-by date versus cooking it a week before it's sell by date hits, does that mean that the cooked chicken will be good for a shorter amount of time?? I imagine I'll still make the same amount of servings but I'd just like to get a little reassurance.

If you cook it by the sell-by date, it will be fine and last just as long. The main thing is to make sure it's fresh when you cook it. Sell by dates are a good guide. But your nose is a better one.

And by "last just as long," we mean that if you're going to refrigerate the leftovers, figure on 3 days. You've got longer if you freeze them.

I've got a couple of butternut squashes on hand and am looking for ideas. I've already made butternut squash soup (with coconut milk and curry, yum!), so am hoping for some other inspiration. Main dish, entree, or other -- bring 'em on!! Thanks.

A recipe I make regularly for my catering - butternut squash, quinoa and tomato powder salad.
Cut the squash to 1/2 inch cubes and roast in the oven at 400 F for about 15 minutes. Cook the quinoa as directed on the bag. Saute chopped green onions in olive oil with tsp of cumin seeds and add a TBSP of tomato powder. Gently mix the squash, quinoa and onion mixture. Add crumbled feta and serve at room temp.
I know it’s hard to find tomato powder - I think Bonnie wrote a few months ago about a store in Alexandria that sells it. You can try to substitute with sumac or a little paprika.

My friends and I are planning a dinner in celebration of our newlywed friends (who did not have the time or money for a honeymoon). We want to make a tropical drink/punch to start off the evening. Any suggestions?

Here are a couple of cachaca-based punches that will feel  nice and tropical for the "honeymoon." If you'd rather do rum, here's a honey spiced rum punch.

Glad to see you do an article on Swiss Chard! I actually have in my lunch today a Potato and Swiss Chard hash of sorts, based on a recipe from Deborah Madison (Vegetarian Cooking for everyone). It's pretty good. As you said in the paper, it's good with beans too, and sometimes I substitute them for Escarole in an Italian bean recipe (Escarole, white beans, garlic, crushed red pepper). My favorite ways to enjoy chard though, is probably in the traditional northern Italian Easter pie. This is a savory pie that includes ricotta, swiss chard, eggs (whole - indentations are made in the ricotta and the raw egg is placed in the indentation before the top crust is added), and a few other varying ingredients.

That Easter pie sounds terrific. I've eaten it but not made it. Share the recipe?

Hearty: substantial; abundant; nourishing. That's why they're descriptive rather than quantitative.


Savory appetizers for a 4-year-old, lol.

Hello, for the first time I had a kale salad with a garlicky dressing. I will never eat just plain salad lettuce again. Just plan kale or kale mixed with a little romaine - best and healthiest salad I have ever had.

A few weeks ago after a visit to my garden. I saute some leeks, garlic and the stems of the chard.(all from my garden) I added it to a broth with garden carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. I added lima beans (alas mine did not fare well so I used ones from the farmer's market) After that had cooked for a while I rolled up the swill chard and cut in strips to add to the soup. The chard really made the soup. Some basil and thyme from the garden and it was done. A little Parmesan when serving and I was in heaven for a week. I forgot every sunburn mosquito bite and sore mussels and truly enjoyed the fruits of my summer's labor.

Sounds delicious! You can try it again in the spring, when fresh fava is available and use it instead of the lima beans, together with the Swiss chard. It would prebably be nice as well.

I LOVE eggplant. But I can't figure out how to make my favorite dish, which is eggplant in garlic sauce -- The version they have at City Lights of China is my favorite. Please help! Thanks!

Check back next week. We'll see whether we can track that down for you.

Since your chat falls right during lunch I have to ask: Whats on your lunch and dinner menu for today? It could be takeout, leftovers, specifics etc.

Me, I'm cleaning out the fridge, so it's a complete mishmash. I have some shrimp I need to use, so I am making shrimp fra diavolo. I also have some lettuces turning brown, so I'll make a salad to go with it, but with an apple cider vinaigrette (yep, cider is getting old). And I'll probably do something with that aging acorn squash on the counter. 

We've got Korean takeout coming in for a possible Good to Go feature. And there are some cookies to shoot in the studio today. Yesss! Work  on the annual Cookie Issue is underway.

Well, I usually try to eat BEFORE chatting, cause otherwise I get very hangry, and that's never good when dealing with the public, dontcha know, but today I just ran in from an interview and am muching on some pumpkin seeds to tide me over. I'm chatting from home, so think I'll quickly pan-fry a piece of cod I defrosted overnight and eat it over warm spinach greens tossed with walnut oil and a fruit vingar. Simple. For dinner? Good question! I need to make a plan!

Just back from France where I discovered Mirabelle liquer. It is made from the Mirabelle plum. It was served as an apertif or digetif and was sometimes mixed with a sweet white wine. Any place I may be able to find this liquer in the D.C. metro area?

Mirabelle is very lovely, but I think you may be hard pressed to find it locally. That said, there are other plum liqueurs and eau de vie that may be easier to find. Clear Creek distillery in Oregon, for instance, makes slivovitz -- an eastern European style plum brandy -- from blue Oregon plums. It is delicious, and you may have better luck finding that. I know Ace Beverage carries some of the Clear Creek products.

I made a great one last week with Carnival Squash. I boiled chunks of squash in chicken broth until they were very soft and mashed it (or you could use a blender). Then I used the thick base for a chicken tortilla soup with beans, corn, tomatoes and pulled chicken. It was amazing. You could use the squash base to make any number of soups though. Cosi used to have an amazing Butternut Squash Lobster Bisque. Yum!

Ok, I can cook it regular southern style. But any ideas for something different? By the way this variety of kale is more closer to collard greens texture than the curly leaf kale variety. I plan on digging up an old Portuguese Potato and Kale Soup receipe.

My friend Erin, who used to work on these chats at the Post, made an amazing kale dish for a dinner party recently. It will make even people who hate kale, love kale. The kale is "raw," cooked in Bragg's Amino Acid, something you can buy at the health food store. It makes a delicious, almost meaty salad that's great as a side dish with fish or meat or on it's own.

Buy one large bunch of kale. De-stem the leaves and tear them into large pieces. In food processor, blend 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 6 to 8 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of canola oil, 1 cup of olive oil, a scant 1/2 cup of amino acid, two to three tablespoons of tahini and 1 tsp of grated ginger.

Pour the dressing onto the kale and let sit for about one hour. The amino acids will "cook" the kale. Top with toasted pine nuts and, if you like, sliced red onion. The kale can sit for up to three hours before serving.

Note: This recipe makes a lot of the dressing and you will only use about half of it. Erin uses the rest for salad dressing.


So sorry to see Jane go--I've enjoyed your contributions to the food section and these chats!!! When I saw the title listing eggplant issues, I thought it was addressed to me since I'm allergic to eggplant (weird, I know). For many of the recipes, would zucchini be an acceptable substitute, or is it too watery or less sturdy?

Thank YOU. I'm sad too. It's been amazing to work here. And I still hope to contribute to the section in future. So don't forget me! (I will leave the eggplant qs to the experts.)

I think it would depend on the recipe.  Got one in mind?

Thanks, Bonnie! I'll absolutely check back next week.

Oops...I did mean to add after the vinaigrette, I was going to crumble goat cheese on top. Thanks for the caution about the vinaigrette and acidity.

Sure thing. They pickled cucumber boat provides that acidity so if you want to mimic, I just wanted to make sure you got a similar result. Sounds fabulous. Enjoy.

I enjoyed today's article on wok cooking -- and would love more info on buying and seasoning a good wok. I was also struck by the use of dark rum instead of rice wine as a way of adapting to local flavors. I don't often have dark rum around -- can I adapt right back? I do tend to have light rum or white wine around. Could I use other spirits instead of the dark rum or is it worth it in this recipe to buy a small bottle?

You really need to get Grace Young's book "The Breath of a Wok," or her new one, "Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge." Both give great advice about woks. Basically, you want a 14-inch carbon-steel one, NOT a nonstick one, and you want one with wooden handles so that you can grab it even if the metal is smoking hot. You want a flat-bottomed one to accommodate normal household ranges -- unless you're lucky enough, of course, to have a range that's made for a wok. To season it, check out this primer Grace did for

As for your other question, I love the balance of flavors in this recipe with the dark rum, but by all means, try it with light rum and see what you think. I think it would still be good, but white wine I think would require some other futzing to get the flavors right.

I am eager to try the Calvados sidecar recipe in today's paper. I had read so many praises of Calvados and bought a bottle of Boulard. I then discovered I didn't care for the tase! I have used a bit of it in cooking, but the recipe with the addition of cointreau might just be the trick to mellow out what I feel is a harshness. And now my question - which duty free (or not) liquors should one look for in Bavaria or Austria?

Calvados is one of my absolute favorites, but it's definitely a strong brandy. A lot of people mistakenly think that it's going to be all fruity and apple-y, and are surprised. But you're right, today's recipe may be a chance to taste it in a more mellow way. As for Austria, look for fruit brandies (or eau de vie). The earlier reader mentioned Hans Reisetbauer's eau de vie, and if you can find those in your travels, they're something very special. Hans makes the usual pear, plum, and apple, but he also has some very interesting/strange flavors like carrot, quince, and wild raspberry that's picked from this one special area in Serbia. Anyway, Austria in general is a land of amazing fruit brandies.

A tea-loving friend is coming to visit and I'd love to take her to a wonderful tea place, if you can suggest some. I remember reading a few years back that a local hotel offers rare teas (possibly costing more than printer ink) and some less extravagant ones, but I can't recall what hotel. Of course, there's Teaism, but she's been there. Thanks.

It's the Park Hyatt on 23rd and M.  Yes, pricey. But quite a lovely experience and the room is gorgeous.

I think you're looking for a formal afternoon tea, rather than a high tea, right? The latter can have some fairly substantial sandwiches, etc., with an emphasis on the savory.

Thanks for the article on eggplants. I just bought some at the farmer's market this past weekend for the first time and was trying to decide what to do with them. I decided to put some in a Filipino sour soup (uses tamarind) called sinigang, which is a great meal when you need to eat down the crisper. But I'll use today's recipes for the rest!

Care to share that recipe? I like eggplant -- in soup.

"only in DC! Savory appetizers for a 4-year-old, lol." Seriously? Savory appetizers=snacks. Not sure how that's weird at all.

A family favorite of ours, Israeli in origin: grill or bake whole, large eggplants. (Fork pierce to avoid explosions!) If you have to bake, you can char the skin a little over a gas stovetop burner first for flavor. Bake 350-400 until soft & squishy. Let cool, scoop out the insides & chop. Add finely chopped onions, parsley, garlic powder & lemon juice to taste. Serve cold or room temp.

I made blueberry sauce kind of a while ago ... probably in late August ... then had to be out of town unexpectedly for a month and forgot about the sauce. Found it near the back of the fridge the other day, in a plastic tupperware. Any chance it's still good to eat? (Good in this case meaning either tasty and/or not rotten.)

Did it have a lot of sugar in it? Sugar is a good preserver. Again, we can't tell you if it's fine. The super safe thing to do is to throw it out. But if it smells fine and there's no mold, you are probably fine.

Hi -- we just got a slow cooker. What should we do with it? In particular, how can we please a picky 4 year-old with it? Thanks!

Not sure what your kiddo likes - or, maybe more to the point, dislikes. A good website with lots of family-pleasing slow cooker recipes is Disney Family. The slow cooker part of its food section is:

You'll likely find something there that'll work. 


For a game night I'd think you want things that people can munch on while playing (did I read it correctly that this questioner is talking about a game night, not a watch-the-game night?) - I'd think pigs-in-a-blanket and perhaps some savory pinwheels, which would be a filling like parsley, bacon, and cheese rolled into crescent roll dough. Crab dip is always a hit at appetizer parties I'm at, as are baked bries.

Hi all. Yesterday I took the plunge and boiled down a batch of tomatoes for sauce with touches of olive oil, salt, sugar and two splashes of lime juice. So sweet. I let it cool in the pot (a T-fal) then placed the whole thing in the fridge overnite. I have my pint jars ready but I read you can't preserve tomatoes without an acid additive like lemon juice which changes the flavor. I'm sooo confused about this, should I just freeze the sauce, use it ASAP or can I preserve it? I have a second batch to finish too.

You certainly need acidity in order to can tomatoes. And two splashes of lime juice probably won't do the job from the sounds of it. Also, when you can, you have to put the mixture into hot jars, while it's hot. I'd just eat  some now and freeze the rest. If you decide you want to can, especially tomatoes, it's worth it to do a little research first. You can check out my recent article on canning and the Ball Preserving site.

So after dithering about it for a year, I FINALLY accomplished my goal of making homemade bread from scratch. Being too scared/lazy to try to knead bread, I opted to go with Jim Lahey's No-Knead bread - holy cow! It was sooo easy and definitely yummy. The only thing that concerned me was that my dough was extremely sticking, so trying to form it into a ball was basically impossible. Luckily for me it just kind of took that shape, so it ended up not being a big problem. I know I've read that he says you can use different flours, but what about adding other ingredients? I'm a big fan of rosemary and olive oil breads. Could I add those to this recipe? If so, how would I do that? Thanks!

I still have never used his recipe. But really, I plan to. Still, you certainly can add rosemary. Just chop some up very finely and add to the dough while it is mixing. As for olive oil, I'm not sure how that would affect the recipe. It would certainly change it by adding more fat. Any home bakers our there want to advise?

So, do you Food and Drink gurus have any ideas for Halloween parties? I'd like to get feedback from both Jason and the foodies. I typically make a giant punchbowl, themed to a party, but am at a loss for Halloween, even though it's the most excellent holiday of the year. :) Also curious about appetizers that don't involve me crafting things to look and feel like worms & other scary things . . . thank you!

I agree that Halloween is one of the most excellent holidays of the year. However, I don't know of any orange-and-black cocktails (at least none I would drink!). But let's think autumn. Since fruit brandies seem to be the theme of today, why not try this punch that uses pear eau de vie, created by Adam Bernbach of Proof -- it's called the Hans Punch Up. I've made it a number of times, for very different groups, and it's always been a hit.

Hi team, I am a volunteer chef for our synagogue catering group..,all our profits feed into the snagogue. We are doing a party in January and the client would like to serve a soup course. Can you point me to soups that are (1) fairly easy to prepare and (2) use easily available ingredients for the month of January? It should be a meatless soup. Thanks.

Two of our soups come to mind: Black Bean Soup With Avocado Salsa, and Chunky Balila With Citrus Explosion, a Lebanese chickpea soup. Both are fast, meatless and would be seasonal in January.

For the person looking for butternut squash recipes, try this one from vegetarian times. Butternut Squash Enchiladas Vegetarian Times Issue: March 1, 2009 p.14 Ingredient List Serves 8 * 1 Tbs. olive oil * 1 butternut squash (11/2 lb.), halved and seeded * 1 medium onion, diced (1 cup) * 1–2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, drained and diced, plus 1 Tbs. sauce * 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp. ) * 3 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese * 1 tsp. ground cumin * 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg * 3 green onions, chopped (1/3 cup) * 1 16-oz. can enchilada sauce * 8 whole-wheat or corn tortillas * 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese Directions 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place squash cut-side down on baking sheet. Roast 45 minutes, or until soft. Cool until easy to handle. Scoop squash into bowl, and mash. 2. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add chipotle, adobo sauce, and garlic. Cook 1 minute, stirring often. 3. Stir in mashed squash, cream cheese, cumin, and nutmeg. Cook 3 minutes more, or until heated through. Remove from heat, and fold in green onions. 4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread 1 cup enchilada sauce over bottom of 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Lay tortillas on baking sheet, and warm 3 minutes in oven to soften. Divide filling among tortillas, and roll loosely. Place filled, rolled tortillas in baking dish. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and Cheddar cheese. Bake 30 minutes, or until top begins to brown and sauce is bubbly. Nutritional Information Per enchilada: Calories: 206, Protein: 9g, Total fat: 9g, Saturated fat: 4g, Carbs: 31g, Cholesterol: 18mg, Sodium: 718mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 3g

Thanks for the dip recommendation (Manchurian Dip). Can I leave the green chile pepper out w/o hurting the recipe? Plus, 10 cloves of garlic? Wow, guess I'll sit some mints out next to that dip. Thanks alot!

Honestly, it's not so garlicky.  You dont really taste any single vegetable  and there's no deep heat or spice. It's just delish.  You must trust The Force, Luke.

Roast the butternut squash, some ginger and garlic. Put in a blender with a dash of curry (optional and to taste). Put in a dish with a spool and serve with some toasted baguette rounds. Makes a nice appetizer.

I like the sound of th at.

Can you make a recommendation -- or point us to a credible site -- on storage for winter squash, potatoes, onions, apples etc. All of there are abundant and lovely at our farmers' markets here (Midwest) now, but those markets will close within the month. We'd like to know if we can store these over time to enjoy through all or part of the winter. Our unheated, cinderblock basement is usually around 40 degrees during the coldest parts of the winter. I've heard various things about not storing onions and potatoes together, wrapping sweet potatoes in paper, burying stuff in sand, etc. What we'd like to know is what is practical and reasonable to expect in terms of storage. Thanks (and apologies if this week's Food section addresses this issue -- I am posting early so I don't forget to ask, as I'll be away during the chat itself).

Your basement sounds like a fine place for storing the squash, onions and apples (altho onions would not appreciate any substantial humidity). For the potatoes, I'd think 40 degrees would affect the starch in them, so I'd stash them in some sort of insulation. Newspaper wrap (say...I know where you could get some) is amazingly effective for cold/hot insulation. Be sure to keep onions and the spuds away from each other, due to gases that interact and expedite rotting.

Popular at my house in the winter: saute sliced sausage (spicy chicken is good) until brown, remove from pan and saute potatoes until crispy, add onion, add back the sausage, add ribbons of chard on top, maybe a splash of water or wine, cover and cook just until chard wilted. Serve with sriracha. If you're feeling really crazy, top with a runny egg, too.

I derive the recipe from two different sources, but don't recall it off-hand. If you want the recipe I can probably submit it next week.

No worries. Just curious. It just sounds so good. Makes me yearn for spring.

Here’s my version for the Swiss chard easter pie -
Make your regular quiche dough, pre-bake it for 20 minutes in 350F.
Blanch the Swiss chard leaves (whole leaves). Mix 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 lb. ricotta and 3 eggs, salt and pepper.
On the baked quiche dough arrange layers of the chard, heavy cream and a couple of TBSP parmesan on each layer. End with the cream and parmesan. Bake for another 25 minutes, or until almost set and golden on top.

Do you or any of the Rangers have reviews to offer of enameled cast iron that is NOT Le Crueset? Saw a Bobby Flay line at huge discount at Kohl's the other day. Don't know that LC will ever be in our price range, but I'd seriously think about an "off" brand if I had some feedback that they are durable. Related note, if I had an enameled cast iron pot, would there be any reason other than sentiment to keep the 6-quart heavy aluminum pot that's been around our family for 60 years or so? It sort of works as a dutch oven, but of course the aluminum is limiting. Thanks!

I tested a few non-LC brands several years ago, including Lodge, Mario Batali, and a discount brand whose name I'm not remembering. I didn't find much difference in actual performance, although some had handles that I preferred over others. I've been awfully tempted to buy some of that Mario stuff, but frankly I have enough LC to last a lifetime. But I like the look of Mario's. Here's the test, I'd say: Do any of them match LC's lifetime guarantee? I know some Wolfgang Puck enameled cast iron has a 10-year guarantee, not lifetime.

Taste test premium vodkas potatoe vs grains. I beleive it sin't Vodka unless its made from potatoes and comes from Poland, Ukraine or Russia. Prefer Polish vodkas but that is my bias. A sheepherder I met when I visited Poland send me Vodka and Oi send him fine untaxed Va corn liquor made by friends in Bath County, VA. ANother auggestion for a taste test corn liquor untaxed from VA, WVA, TN and KY. All untaxed of course. Throw in NC too.

I also prefer potato vodkas over grain, as well. And the only "flavored" vodka I really enjoy is Zubrowka, from Poland, which is flavored with a tincture of buffalo grass. If I drink vodka, I usually enjoy it chilled and straight, maybe with a little cracked pepper on top.

A nice thing to do with leftover baked or boiled Butternut squash is to cube it and include it in a vegetarian stew served over couscous. This is a favorite dish at our local Lebanese restaurant. (For omnivores, they add stewed lamb cubes)

I heart the taste of b'nut squash, or sweet potatoes, with lamb. And chard! There's a good stew in that answer.

What is chicken florentine soup? I had a surprisingly delicious soup at my office cafeteria which was labeled as such. It had chicken, a green that I'm assuming was spinach, chick peas, and what appeared to be lentils. I did not look or taste especially creamy but it did have a haze to it-- the broth was not totally clear. I've been looking online for recipes and can't seem to find anything that approximates this dish. Looking for something light sans cream. Thanks!

Anything "florentine" is with spinach. (Eggs florentine, for example.)  So it's really just chicken soup with spinach thrown in. I'd use any recipe that looks good to you. You could add chick peas or orzo. Anything goes.

Seems like the CF recipes on the ol' Interweb call for some sort of veloute (cream) sauce to be added.  But there's no reason why you'd have to do that.

Using some recepies given to me, the coffee flavour is always lost in the end, no matter how strong I brew the coffee (I am in Seattle and use fresh French Press method). Any suggestions? Also, I have been given a ton of Starbuck's new instant coffee product. Is that suitable for cooking?

What are you cooking? That could make a difference. David Hagedorn recently suggested to a chatter instant espresso powder, and I concur with that: It makes a great addition to baked goods, pastry creams, custards, etc. The flavor is way too concentrated to even drink, which means that it carries through to the end just beautifully. But depending on what you're doing, some recipes call for ground coffee, which you steep in liquid, such as these Coffee and Chicory Pralines from David Guas or this Coffee Panna Cotta from Rose Levy Beranbaum.

As for the Starbucks instant stuff, you could try it, but the flavor might not be strong enough...

First, Absolut may have some recipes online, so check there or google it to see if anyone else has used it in a mixed drink. Second, flavored vodkas can also be good mixed simply with a bit of club soda, to dilute the flavor a bit and make it more palatable. This worked well with a bottle of overly sweet vanilla vodka that I inherited after a party (not my preferred type of drink, but it could have been worse).

Yeah, club soda works fine, too. Just don't use tonic. I never get the vodka-tonic thing. Tonic works fine with gin, but not with vodka.

Make ravioli with it! one of my favorite things to make this time of year is a butternut squash ravioli (you can use wonton wrappers if you don’t want to make your own pasta), served with nice veggies, and a sage cream sauce. Soo good, and surprisingly easy to make!!

Yep. Thanks!

We whose ancestors came from Portugal's Azores Islands also use kale with Holy Ghost Soup ("sopas"), made in huge vats for "festas," where it's served over stale bread chunks and with chopped kale or sliced kale rolled-ups on the side. For a home-size batch, you can try this recipe (sorry it's not from the Post): (I like it with potatoes, too, although not all islands do it that way)

We whose ancestors came from Portugal's Azores Islands also use kale with Holy Ghost Soup ("sopas"), made in huge vats for "festas," where it's served over stale bread chunks and with chopped kale or sliced kale rolled-ups on the side. For a home-size batch, you can try this recipe (sorry it's not from the Post): (I like it with potatoes, too, although not all islands do it that way)

No apology necessary. A good soup recipe's worth sharing.

Joe, Do you ever buy the pre-chopped or pre-shredded veggies and maybe meat, so you don't have to do all that prep work before cooking in the wok? Any suggestions which ones are okay to buy already-prepped? Or is the answer "none?"

I don't, really, because it's usually pretty expensive, and, particularly with veggies they don't last nearly as long once cut as they do when whole. I never think it saves that much time, anyway, and I don't like all that packaging. The one exception: I do sometimes buy pre-chopped celery at the Whole Foods, not because I don't want to chop it but because as a single cook it's next to impossible to buy only enough celery for a single-serving recipe (or even one that serves four, frankly), because you so often have to buy a whole bunch or package. Give me just one stalk, please! Anyway, at WF on P Street, they have a little three-part bin in the produce section where you can buy pre-chopped carrots, celery and onion. I just do the celery.

Hi--I'm invited to a dinner party that will feature Indian food. Last time I had dinner w/ these folks I made the Gin(ger) Rickey from the wapo website. Major Hit! Now the expectations are high & I don't want to let anyone down. Can you help me with a recipe? Thanks so much.

Hmm...How to top your last hit? If you're still feeling ginger, you could try the Ginger Peach Julep, for which you'd use bourbon. The Calvados sidecar from today may actually work, too. Cocktails, of course, are always a hit or miss pairing.

Better still, you could always bring a bottle of Chilean Carmenere, which is surprisingly good pairing with Indian food.

Thanks, Jane. Bonnie, I'm not sure if it's called "afternoon tea" or "high tea" or if it has a name. But I do think we'll want to munch on something while sipping our cuppas. I lso don't know what time we ought to go, assuming that makes a difference. Thanks again.

In the 3-4 p.m. range, I'd think.

Made this the other day and it was really easy. Take some chorizo (you can do sweet or spicy), cut out of the skins and brown, making sure to chop it up into small pieces. Finely chopped onions are optional. Store in the fridge. On the day of the event, take Scoop type corn chips, put a teaspon of chorizo in each chip, put some shredded cheese (I used the Mexican mix) and then bake until the meat is warmed and the cheese is melted. They were very popular. I also made a slightly more work intensive one. I cooked shrimp in a court bouillon with lemons, parsley, basil, and peppercorns (using the ATK recipe for their shrimp salad). Then I chopped the shrimp into fine dice and used them like the chorizo above (insert into scoops, sprinkle cheese, melt). They were really well received.


I have the raspberry. Thanks for the advice. As for how it is served, is it at room temp, chilled?

Oh, the raspberry. Excellent. That's actually very rare. You should always serve eau de vie at room temperature. The flavors are too subtle for chilling, and you'll lose a lot of the flavor and aromatics.

Because kids do not know the phrase "savory appitizer."

I'm just back from a few days staying with a mom of four who cooks all the family meals, and cooked all the meals for about 15 of us over the holiday weekend. We were talking about cooking and agreed that clean-up is the hard part, so we both -- and I live alone -- opt to put pasta sauce directly on the pasta without heating it in a separate pan and adding the pasta to the second pan, since that would mean one more pan to wash. As she said, the pasta should heat the sauce. The question is, besides "are you horrified?", are we missing a lot of flavor?

I'm not horrified. Ice cold from the fridge might be a problem because you don't want the pasta to be cold when you serve it. But if it's room temperature and you heat it with the pasta, I don't think the food police are going to be knocking at your door.

Here is somewhat of a base recipe for sinigang and basically instead of bok choy, beans, and broccoli, you can sub any veg you want. In this case I will use eggplant, which my mother does, instead of broccoli. I think bok choy is a must though. Traditionally, you can also sub the beef for pork or unshelled shrimp with heads. Ingredients: 2 tablespoons canola oil 1 large onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes 1 quart water 2 large tomatoes, diced 1/2 pound fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed 1/2 medium head bok choy, cut into 1 1/2 inch strips 1 head fresh broccoli, cut into bite size pieces 1 (1.41 ounce) package tamarind soup base 1. Heat oil in medium stock pot. Saute onion and garlic until tender. Add beef to pot, and saute until browned. Pour in water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. 2. Place tomatoes and green beans in pot, and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in bok choy, broccoli and tamarind soup mix. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Best served with excessive amounts of rice!


Joe!!! Please give details on the cod. What do you fry it in? Is it sauteed or or breaded and actually fried? I'm looking for a new way to cook my cod since it always turns out so bland :)

I have no idea, cause I haven't done it yet! I'll probably just season it heavily, quickly dredge in flour and pan-fry it in a quarter-inch or so of oil. The blandness isn't a big deal to me because I have so many condiments in my fridge there are plenty of things to spike it with afterward.

Much better than you think. Try it.

I'm sorry. But no. Really. Why do that to a perfectly good squash?

Inspired by your recent article, we're trying the potato-in-sand storage method. However, we soon found out how impractical this can be - a small bag of sand weighs 60 pounds! Anyway, we have about 25-30 pounds of potatoes layered in sand in a plastic bin on our sun porch. Even though the bin has wheels, it's not going anywhere. Will let you know how this works...

Please do.

I have a question you probably haven't heard in a while. I am a senior in college, I live in an apartment, and it's my first semester off the meal plan. I just learned I have absolutely no clue how to cook. Or how to shop, but I figure if I get the first one down, the second will follow. My dad doesn't cook, my mom was a "cereal for breakfast" type of person so I just didn't grow up around cooking, but it's something I would like to learn how to do. Do you have any advice or book recommendations for a complete, and I mean complete, newbie? I have done Google searches and looked at cooking books at Borders, but it's all so intimidating and I don't know where to start. I'm a vegetarian, if that makes a difference, and would prefer to start with simple foods (the stuff they have in most vegetarian cookbooks seems way too gourmet and complicated for me).

Good for you for trying. I'd say Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian book would be right for you. It's a good resource and plenty of the recipes are super easy; some come from his Minimalist column in the Times, I believe, which specializes in easy meals. Good luck.

I have a son in the same boat. Well, a similar boat. He just moved into his own digs off-campus. He has cooked a little around our house, though, so he has a little head start. Still, I'd get calls from him all the time about how to shop and what to have in his pantry. 

Buy some cheap, easy-to-cook, easy-to-experiment-with non-perishables, such as rice, dried beans (black beans, pintos, whatever you like), some cans of chickpeas (yes, you can buy them dried, too, but for some reason, they're just easier canned - you can add them to a a salad at a moment's notice, for example), pastas, canned tomatoes, honey, sugar, spices that you like. Oh, and eggs. You can do a zillion things with eggs - fry 'em, scramble 'em, make omelettes. Buy some tortillas and you can make all sorts of tacos - egg and grated cheese for breakfast, black bean with tomato, lettuce and salsa for dinner. 

Those are some basics for your pantry. After that, just start playing around. 

I've been trying savoury sauces, like Coffee and Adobo BBQ sauce. I'm thinking of how to make a coffee and curry seasoning for pork chops. That's where the coffee isn't coming through but if instant expresso is strong, as I said, I'm in Seattle, where that's a feture, not a flaw.

Well, it could also be that you're pairing coffee with some really strong other flavors, so the bar is that much higher. You might try Jim Shahin's Coffee-Smoky Chile BBQ Sauce; testers loved it. It uses strong coffee, not instant espresso, but he got the balance right. But I do suggest that you play around with the instant espresso anyway.

Really? Aren't tomatoes already sufficiently acidic to be canned safely in jars processed in a hot-water bath?

Not anymore they're not. They're on the edge. They used to be more acidic. With tomatoes alone, experts now recommend that you pressure can.

I was recently introduced to Whipped Cream flavored vodka. The only mixer handy was fruit punch soda. It may not have been classy, but it sure was tasty!

Oddly enough, some friends gave me a bottle of whipped cream vodka this weekend! For me, it was just awful -- it just tasted like artificial sugar syrup. But of course that's just one man's opinion. I can't remember the brand, but it came in a blue plastic jug. On the front it said it was product of France, but on the back it said it was produced and bottle in Maine.


I have started Meatless Mondays at home and have tried new recipies as well as old standbys but now I want to go even more adventurous and try something with a vegetable I have never used before. I was thinking of trying leeks but have no idea what to do with them. What exactly are they and what is a good relatively simple recipie to try them out? Any other vegetables that I may have missed while shopping that are worth trying?

Try sauteing the white parts of the leek and a couple of garlic cloves in olive oil, add pre-soaked dry porcini mushrooms, salt and pepper. Serve it over pasta.
Or cook the white parts in water until soft, mix with your favorite vinaigrette and serve on top of your favorite sprouts for a nice salad.

Straight and a little pepper too. Hate flavored vodkas. And never understood ordering bottled service and then mixing a premium vodka, rum, gin, bourbon etc with Red Bull, OJ or coke. You can't taste the difference once you mix. its would be like making a Rob Roy with JW Blue.

I never understood bottle service, period. Hey, let's pay $400 for a $30 bottle of booze! A Rob Roy with JW Blue would be pretty darn tasty, though.

Hello. I enjoy a nice roasted chicken on weekends to make the place smell great as I slow roast in the oven and I've tried any number of ways but the breast meat never seems to take more than a superficial amount of flavour, be it spice-rub under the skin or marinade all night. Anything I'm missing or is chicken breast pretty much gonna stay "tastes like chicken"?

Brine, baby, brine.

I avoid all the canned soup recipes and use it to simmer spaghetti sauce all day, make apple butter, make chicken soup, make lentil stew, make yogurt.

Hoo-boy, that was quick. I've got just enough time to award our chat winners today: The chatter who came back at us with the Portuguese kale soup recipe ("Farmer's Alamanc"), and the newbie who wants to get things right ("Good Housekeeping").

Send your mailing info to and we'll get those cookbooks out to you. Thanks to Jason, Jim and Vered, and to you, dear readers, for stopping by. See you next week -- with an offer that will warm the hearts of  home bakers!

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