Free Range on Food: Carla Hall's new cookbook, the barbecue scene in New Orleans, this week's recipes and more.

Oct 17, 2018

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

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat! 

We've had lots of good pieces this week -- on New Orleans barbecue, a new way of cooking for a wife with diabetes, a Q&A with "Season" author Nik Sharma, a review of Netflix's new "Salt Fat Acid Heat" and more, more, more.

But what I'm MOST excited about at the moment is the fact that I can welcome CARLA HALL to Free Range this week! Charlotte Druckman wrote a gorgeous piece about Carla's new cookbook, so read that for inspiration and then ask away! Obviously her new book is focused on soul food, but Carla can talk about cooking anything, of course. We've been big fans for many, many years, and are excited to have her with us.

For a special chatter this week, we'll give away a copy of "Carla Hall's Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration," so make your questions and comments good!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR5038 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's go.

I've tried a number of recipes of yours and have a really enjoyed them. I love okra but hate cooking it which has a tendency to be either too coarse or slimy depending upon the water content. Do you have a simple and delicious way to cook okra?

The funny thing is that I'm not a HUGE fan of okra, because of that very reason. BUT...I have at least 5 okra recipes in my new cookbook. The easiest recipe is to grill them whole. Slap those babies on a grill pan with a little oil and grill 'em, and then toss them in your favorite bbq seasoning or s&p.

Hi Rangers, I made a green Chile stew with chicken instead of pork (sacrilege, I know), tomatoes and onions. I guess the Chiles were hotter this time, and I’m having a difficult time getting through a bowl! I eat it with rice, and with each bowl I try different remedies...extra rice, a bit of milk, even vinegar (courtesy google) . The vinegar did seem to help but I don’t like the flavor change. Any other hints? Thanks in advance!

Honestly, the most foolproof way to tone down the spicy level in a dish is to increase the proportion of the non-spicy ingredients. If you like this stew otherwise, I'd say go back to the recipe and make it again, and leave out the chiles altogether, then mix it with this version. If that's too involved, you could shortcut it by just quickly adding more tomatoes and chicken. The idea is to basically thin out the quantity of chiles. Make sense?

I've been trying to incorporate fish and shellfish into my routine as they tend to be nutritious and quick dinners. But in my head fish and shellfish need to be used the day it's purchased, or the next day at the very latest. So I went on to Still Tasty and sure enough it confirmed that raw fish needs to be used within 1-2 days but then as a control I checked what it said for ground beef and it also said 1-2 days. I regularly buy ground beef on Sunday and prepare it on Wednesday without freezing. Is that gross? What do the rest of y'all do for weekday fish meals? Or am I overthinking this and fish/shellfish purchased on Sunday can last until Wednesday?

If the fish or shellfish you're buying is fresh/never been frozen, and you can keep it chilled on ice in the refrigerator, you might have up to 2 days' time before it needs to be cooked. Please check the fish counter signage for "previously frozen" info before you buy -- and ask to smell the fish before it's wrapped up. I would not recommend refrigerating any fish from Sunday to Wed, unless it was smoked! For weeknight meals with fish, i think frozen's the way to go (see link below).


Re ground beef: Not gross. For me, ground beef can be refrigerated longer than that, and most often will have a use by/sell by date on the label.


ARTICLE  Buying frozen fish isn't what it used to be. Here's what you need to know.

I have an entire unopened jar of creamy unsalted peanut butter about to expire in 5 days. What can I make that uses, like, a LOT of peanut butter?

If you're looking for savory ideas, here ya go:

Norwegian Salmon in Foil

ARTICLE: How to have peanut butter for dinner, in 6 simple recipes

(That photo is for Norwegian Salmon in Foil, which uses a little peanut butter and might sound strange until you try it and realize that it's not.)

Or if none of those strike you as interesting, loads more ideas here -- even one for verygooddogs, if you happen to have one and your peanut butter is the kind that's safe for doggos.)

Hi Carla! I'm from the South, and I've never been able to incorporate eggplant (which I grow) into anything except Italian. Any ideas (besides frying) to make it more Southern?

I absolutely love eggplant. I think that you can use it like okra in Stewed Okra and Tomatoes. I have a recipe for Brothy Tomatoes with Roasted Okra. You can sub in eggplant. Cut it into chunks and roast it in the oven. Drop the roasted pieces in the tomato broth. 

My husband and I just started watching Top Chef, starting with season 1, a few months ago. We just finished your season! It's probably old news by now for you, but I'm so sad you didn't win! I was so rooting for you! Even though the chefs laughed at your comment about sending the love out with your food, I totally understood and felt that on a cellular level! You just have to send positive vibes out and hope others will feel it as well, especially in our culture right now. Thanks for your love and light!

Thank you so much. I tell people all the time that if I had won, I probably wouldn't have the same career that I have now. It's all in Divine Order. My motto is Do what makes you happy. It makes a difference in everyone's lives around you. 

I wanted to share a really small-world story with you. I read last week's transcript and saw that someone had adapted the coffee cake recipe from Chef Alex Levin to make an apple cake. Well, my family has a couple of pear trees in the yard and so i have been coming up with every kind of pear dish. I found Alex's contact information on instagram and asked him for a few ideas for the hundreds of pears we get other than giving them to friends. He was driving and pulled over for a few minutes to suggest the coffee cake but with pears that were poached in a bit of caramel sauce and a bit of red wine to soften the fruit. Wow. That cake is incredible with the flavor of pears. They just melt right into the cake. We also talked about making pear butter like apple butter and also he told me to read the article about how to use pear's in dishes that the post wrote about recently. We still have too many pears, but now i have a pastry chef to consult with for how to make them into something fun. That cake recipe, though, is just fabulous. Kudos for posting the chat on the website so that a new reader like me could read it and muster up the courage to reach out to Alex.

Wow! Isn't Alex the best? He is so generous with his time and expertise with us, but also readers and diners. Plus, he's an amazing pastry chef. That cake sounds amazing, too.

Simple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

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

I love you WaPo food section, but the recipe presentation in Voraciously I think needs help. Pretty please give us an easy option to print/save the recipe. I don't want all the pictures and step by step in the pdf I'm saving for my files (the spicy tahini pea and carrot pasta - I know it's different in the recipe finder version, but it can be a bit of a hunt to find that version sometimes) and I really at least want something I can click to save (lacking with the egg muffins). Maybe I'm the only one and just need to open Voraciously stories after more coffee...

We love you too. In every Voraciously post that has a recipe, including Dinner in Minutes, it's a mere one click away to get to the Recipe Finder/printable/scalable version of that recipe. Promise! 

RECIPE Spicy Tahini Pasta


What to do with extra creme fraiche? I bought it specifically for a recipe and still have 2/3 of an 8 oz. Container left. My mind is drawing a blank for what to use it on.

A few thoughts: A simple dessert parfait with fresh raspberries would be nice. Or whisk the creme fraiche into beaten eggs and make a light omelet or frittata.  Or use it to replace the mayo in a chicken salad or egg salad. Or stir into a simple risotto (off the heat or on v low heat) for extra creaminess.

I made pizza last night, and, once again, I made a complete mess transferring the formed pizza to the hot pizza stone. I don't use a peel because I have such a small apartment kitchen and storage is an issue, and because I make pizza so seldom, but instead I use a rimless cookie sheet, which seems to me would serve the same purpose, where I could, theoretically, slide the pizza straight onto the stone with a few jerks. But it NEVER works! I've tried forming the pizza on parchment paper first, I've tried forming it straight onto the cookie sheet, I've tried oiling the dough, oiling the cookie sheet, using a rolling pin to form the dough, NOT using a rolling pin...last night I used copious amounts of cornmeal on the cookie sheet, rolled out the dough, strewed (if that's the word) cornmeal on the stone as I pulled it out of the oven, and still wound up with, basically, a lump of dough, sauce, cheese, and mushrooms on the stone that I then spread out as best I could. This time, it not only was a mess, but tasted awful. So what do I do? I really don't see how a peel would improve things, but maybe I'm wrong. And while I'm at to you get baked-on crust and cheese and tomato sauce off a baking stone?

You know, everything you are doing sounds totally reasonable. When I did my pizza recipe for Voraciously, I dusted a rimless cookie sheet with semolina/cornmeal and slid it in that way. I am not sure if this is what you're doing, but I would form the dough on a floured counter first. Then move it to the sheet. That way you're not pressing the dough into the cornmeal and it's on there as little time as possible. That will keep the cornmeal dry so the grains act as tiny rollers, helping you slide it off.

Also, the whole motion does take practice. Watch some videos keep trying. You can watch the video in my blog... but know that even while we were filming it, I screwed one up and we ended up with a floppy, messy calzone-type thing instead. :-D


ARTICLE: Yes, you can make great pizza at home without any special equipment

Here's a cleaning primer from the Kitchn. Just don't use soap!

Aaaaaand, now I want pizza.

One thing I'll add: When you've got the dough on the sheet, make sure to test to see how much it's sliding, before you go for the oven. Just gently move the sheet back and forth, and you should be able to tell if and where the dough is sticking. Lift it up and slide more cornmeal onto that part.

Also: Make sure the cornmeal is nice and coarse. Also try coarse semolina!

Is that true for the "food hacks" like egg muffin recipe? I couldn't find a written recipe without going through the video and taking a screen shot, and it doesn't seem to be on the recipe finder.

Most of the "Food Hacks" are intended to be so easy you don't need a written recipe, but in some cases Mary Beth is adding a recipe card to the end.

Outside of increasing proportions - do you like sour cream? I find that sops up the heat quite nicely and adds a creamy texture. Works better than milk

To be fair - it's really, really easy to moss. The layout could be better - perhaps have that sentence larger. It's so easy to overlook. I know it's there and I still have to hunt for it.

We'll try to not moss it up!

I have a slow cooker I use frequently. I have little storage room, and am thinking about getting a multi use Instant Pot, one that also has a slow cooker function. Are you familiar with them and does the slow cooker function work well?

Is your slow cooker a new/remote controllable model or any older one? An Instant Pot has push button features and searing capabilities, so I guess it depends on how  you use the cooker you have now. And if you were able to donate or give your slow cooker to somebody who needs it, why not upgrade? Pressure cooking seems to be the thing that people appreciate most about IPs, from what I can tell. I've tested maybe 3 slow-cooker type recipes in that appliance without a hitch. You may wish to also inquire on a very busy all the time Instant Pot group on Facebook. 

I'll say this -- for personal and work purposes (I just bought an Instant Pot for my house), I have been doing a lot of research on multicookers. Count the folks at Serious Eats and America's Test Kitchen among the people who are more skeptical about their slow-cooking function. Their shape and construction mean they don't cook exactly the same way as a traditional slow cooker. (In fact, there are some recipes in ATK's new multicooker book where they outright say not to use an Instant Pot on slow cook.) That being said, there are plenty of people like Bonnie who do it without a hitch, but that also may vary depending on the recipe. Just something to think about.

I've been wanted to make the slivovitz recipe to share with my family for the holidays. Unfortunately time got away from me and looking at the recipe I do not have the 90 days left to store in a cold dark place. Would the slivovitz still be ok with only about 2 months stored?

This is one rare instance where I do not recommend deviating from the recipe, especially with the 90 days steeping time. It really needs the full amount, and possibly even longer, depending on how you like the taste. (If you were to taste it after two months, you'd see why! It'd be harsh and unpleasant and sad.) But the good news is, you can start it now and have it for next year. The first time I made it, I hoarded a small jar for a few years and it was still excellent when we finally drank it all. And now we're making five times the recipe because why be sad when you run out of slivovitz when you can STOCKPILE ALL THE SLIVOVITZ.)

Oh Oh I know this - WaPo's African Peanut Stew. It's so good. I think I'll make it for dinner tonight. I'm veg, so mine will sub tempeh for chicken or maybe just some chickpeas ... . 

Actually, I've done a veg version of this! From the Moosewood folks. (Although I never object to the idea of adding chickpeas"!)

RECIPE: West African Peanut Stew

Hello from Silver Spring. I am going to make the Spicy Rec Pepper and Chickpea Soup and want to know what I can use instead of miso. Thanks

May I ask why? Will help me know what you're going for or avoiding.

Maybe it would be easier to find if your turned your screen so it faced north? :)

Okra, like many vegetables, is fantastic when oven roasted with just oil, salt and pepper. Eggplant is too.

If there was one ingredient you could choose to always have on hand, what would it be? Or top three?

Salt, fat (olive, I guess, though I'm not picky) and acid (in fresh lemon form).


(Netflix’s new ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’ is unlike any other food show on TV)

For me it would be LEMONS, PICKLES (any kind) and CANNED TOMATOES. 

I can't limit myself to three. Garlic, olive oil, onions, lemons, limes, salt, smoked paprika, BEANS.

good olive oil

good bread

good cheese

Flour, butter, sugar. LOL, or maybe that's my pound cake testing talking.

How do you see yourself in the great continuum whose font is Dame Edna Lewis? What is it about Southern cooking and how it serves as a portal into that culture, especially its African-American wellspring?

WOW! It's hard for me to see myself any where near the continuum of Dame Edna Lewis. However, based on all of the cookbooks and work of culinary historians who have focused on the food of Black people/African Americans in this country, it's long over due to see our food as a cuisine that has influenced American food and not limited to the celebration foods that most view it as. This limitation is also in the AA community. If that's what you mean about the continuum of Edna Lewis, then I'm happy to jump on that bandwagon. I'm not the only one who's tried to tell this story though. 

I think that it's hard to separate culture from the food itself, because one informs the other. The great thing about what's happening in food today is that we're starting to see more dishes from other cultures. The problem is that the connection sometimes gets lost. 

We have a silicone-covered spatter screen. It is round and relatively thin, so it works well as a makeshift peel. I shape the pizza dough on parchment then use the spatter screen as a peel to slide the dough and parchment onto our hot hot hot baking stone. Also, I parbake the dough on the parchment. By then, the parchment is starting to get a little brown, so I pull it all out, toss the parchment, then apply sauce and toppings to the dough and guide it back in using the spatter screen.

Hi! I am watching Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix and want to find some Red Cow Parmesan in the DC area. Do you know anyone who sells it retail?

Cornucopia in Bethesda used to carry it (301-652-1625). They can special-order "a big chunk" of it for you -- be prepared to pay about $32 per lb.

What are the best lentils to use in a cold lentil salad that will hold up for a week of lunches? Green? Black? Other? I'm guessing NOT red, judging from the mashed potato-like mess I'm currently eating. (Delish, but a bit more paste-like than I'd prefer!)

Yep -- green, black or brown are the ones you want, since they'll hold their shape.

In case you need a few starter recipes:

Lentil Salad With Roasted Potato Wedges

RECIPE: Lentil Salad With Roasted Potato Wedges

Roasted Beet and Lentil Salad

RECIPE: Roasted Beet and Lentil Salad

Emmer, Lentil and Celery Salad With Lemon-Cumin Dressing

RECIPE: Emmer, Lentil and Celery Salad With Lemon-Cumin Dressing

Black Lentil Salad With Tzatziki, Avocado and Pea Shoots
(For more on lentils, see Joe's article from a few years back: Lentils, beyond soups and stews: Have you ever had them like this?)

As I read the last paragraph of Julia Turshen's piece on the page E 1 of today's Food section, I was able to complete the sentence and guess the diagnosis before turning the page. I was diagnosed with diabetes 2 back in early July, and the symptoms listed are commonly experienced ones. I was able to get my blood sugar levels down to the near normal level within the first week, and they have remained there or in the pre-diabetes range since then. My doctor put me on two drugs in July: Metformin and insulin. As long as I was taking Metformin, food tasted off: nothing was delicious, nothing was luscious: for a foodie like myself, it was awful. My counts look great now, and the doctor took me off Metformin and increased my insulin dosage a bit. My appetite returned, food tastes great. I'm eating more, my strength is improving and the fatigue is not chronic. Breakfast this morning was a home made beef pot pie in a skillet (this was before I read today's paper and saw Ellie's skillet): left over pot roast with a mushroom bechamel , the crust baked before adding the filling. I'm so happy to be back among the living, eating and energetic!

So good to hear!

I bought a bag of pita chips that are too hard, too thick, and too salty! How can I salvage this situation?!

Couple things come to mind: Crush in a zip-top bag; use as a casserole/crumb topping or combine them with less-salty pita chip crumbs and use as a crumb coating for chicken breasts. Or just sprinkle them over good vanilla ice cream.

Joe if I chose to prepare this soup ahead of time, how long will it keep?

I'd say you're good for a week for the main soup. Just hold the roasted chickpeas out and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Hi gang! 10 days ago I bought a half-dozen mostly green bananas, expecting they would continue to ripen as usual (I hang them on a banana hook on my kitchen counter and eat them daily during the week). Well, they’re still green and hard as a rock, and I can’t figure out why. I’m totally flummoxed; this has never happened to me in all the decades I’ve been buying bananas. They’re organic Chiquitas. Any ideas? Should I just toss them and chalk it up to aberration?

Were they organic? Here's one possible explanation, via Robert Schueller of Melissa's Produce:

From planting through harvest through shipping through sale, organic bananas are treated differently from conventional bananas and won’t end up with the same picture-perfect hue. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ripen; they just won’t be the color we’re used to. So buy them, put them on the counter, give them a gentle squeeze now and then to check their progress and don’t wait for the sunny yellow color that will never come.

Bananas, like other fruits, produce ethylene gas, which is needed to ripen them. Turn to Google, and you’ll find countless claims that all you need to do is put your organic bananas in a bag with some other ethylene-producing fruit, usually an apple, and they will turn bright yellow. Not true.


“Putting more ethylene [with the banana] isn’t going to make it turn yellow, but it will speed up the ripening process.” 

I was at the Smithsonian Nick Sharma talk last week (hi Joe!) and my copy of Season is already full of "make this" tabs I started with the Spicy Hazelnut Chocolate Cookies, and while they turned out very tasty (but so large I think I'd make 24 out of the batch instead of 12 next time), I have a question about the jaggery. I'd never used it before and bought a "chunk" rather than the powder. It was hard to get consistenly fine even banging it with a mallet per his instructions. Then it promptly clumped up fairly badly when mixed with the other dry ingredients. I broke up the clumps best I could with my hands before adding the wet ingredients, and did not notice a problem with the finished cookies but was wondering if the clumping is normal? (Side note: the cardamom iced coffee is also excellent- cardamom has made it into my coffee &/or oats almost every day this week)

Nik says:

Was it damp? It’s hygroscopic and if not stored airtight will get hard. This is because it’s not refined. Also, you can shave it off with a knife gently. If it clumps after breaking out it in a zip top bag and roll a rolling pin over. You can also keep it In a jar of rice to help dry it out. A good powerful blender helps break smaller bits too. I use the Vitamix like in the tamarind loaf. Hope this helps

Hi Carla, congrats on your new book. I enjoy your recipes because of your fairly simple, experimental style that honors different food traditions without becoming overly-invested in authenticity. And lots of spice/flavor. That is how I tend to cook. I especially loved Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World. Also, I feel the need to defend the humble okra. I didn't grow up with this vegetable but now LOVE it. Google recipes for kurkuri bhindi (crispy and spiced) or this from a now-defunct DC food blog.

Thank you so much. Admittedly, I am not a fan of okra, so I have to work really hard at making it delicious for my palate. Whenever I don't like something, I force myself to cook it. Sometimes it's a texture thing that I have to overcome, and sometimes it's the flavor which means that I have to balance the ingredient with other things. 

Thanks for the okra link. I'll check it out. 

thanks so much for the recipe for the sesame candy last week-i've made it twice so far (once doing half black sesame and half white sesame for a zebra look- and just bought more sesames for two additional batches this weekend. a few questions--would it be possible to substitute the sugar for honey-so 1/2 cup of honey-or is the sugar necessary? could i replace the sugar with brown sugar? also, could i mix some other seeds in here-pumpkin maybe- or even some nuts? or would that throw off the integrity of the recipe. Having fun playing with this childhood favorite!

So glad you liked them! I sent a note to Michael Solomonov's folks, but not sure we will hear back in time. My thought is that if you do all honey, the mixture might get to dark or even burn. It can't take the heat as well as sugar. I could see brown sugar maybe being all right.

I wouldn't worry too much about the integrity of the recipe if you wanted to try something else. That being said, I love the texture of the candies as they are with tiny seeds. I worry big seeds would kinda just be hard and get in the way. Ditto nuts. But if you're game, see what you think.

Sesame Candies

ARTICLE: These honey sesame candies are a chewy, nutty, 30-minute snack

As the owner of both a pressure cooker and a slow cooker, I've been waivering as to whether or not I can replace both with an IP. Someone on a food board pointed out that IPs (in slow mode) only heat from the bottom whereas slow cookers heat from all sides. This can result in overcooked bottoms and not cooked enough tops dishes that aren't particularly soupy or saucy. That convinced me to hold on to the slow cooker for now.

Lots of slow cookers are bottom-heated only, fyi.

I use a wooden peel, but used to have the same problem sliding the pizza from the peel into the oven on a baking stone. What I found worked for me is similar to what Joe and Bonnie both mentioned--combination of flour and cornmeal on the peel and testing to see how well it slides--but, I also started using a spatula during the transfer process and that's really helped. I make sure the edge of the dough is hanging a smidge off the peel so it catches the stone, and then use the thinnest spatula I have to edge it off and it's worked well many times. I like broccoli on my homemade pizza, so it's usually too heavy to transfer with a wrist flick anyway!

You can make any of the many many dan dan noodle recipes, or sub it for tahini in various tahini-based noodle recipes. Or make up lots of peanut butter cookies but freeze most of the dough for individual baking later.

I've not tried this because I have a pizza peel but I think the person would have good results if s/he formed the pizza on parchment and put the whole thing on the stone. I think parchment can handle around 500 degrees. I also expect that once the crust firmed up, the person could slide the paper off of the crust.

I've always shied away from buying fresh fish if I'm not sure I'll use it that day, but I've started occasionally buying the vacuum-sealed fish in the standalone cold case at Whole Foods. The packaging allows you to keep it longer. I don't find that it's the very, very best quality, but it's fine for getting some extra fish into the diet. I usually do this with salmon. Because I feel like I don't have to use it absolutely immediately, it's less pressure, but I still use it before the date on the package, or I freeze it.

What you are buying is frozen, right? In indiv sealed packets?

Is there anything we can do to tame hot peppers? Our CSA has been giving us hot peppers every week for weeks now, and we finally chopped them all up and put them in the freezer. However, the ones that we had sauteed and put in the freezer before are EXTREMELY hot, and I say this as someone who likes a lot of heat. My husband and I are the only ones who will eat the hot peppers (our kids won't come near them) and the ones I cut up are all mixed together. What, if anything, can we do to tame them a bit? Otherwise, we will probably throw the whole thing out. Also, a note to CSAs: even people who like hot peppers do not need to receive 1-2 bunches of them every week for 2 months. That's one of the reasons we won't be renewing with this CSA next year.

When I had an overabundance of hot peppers, I made a SLEW of pepper sauces. Couldn't be easier, really: Just got a bunch of little bottles (so I could give them as gifts), and slashed each pepper a couple times, stuffed them into the bottles and covered with vinegar. The vinegar mellows the peppers a bit, and of course, you don't need to use much. And you can make them your new dinner-party host gift!

You inspired my daughter to cook (she has a vegetable and lobster roll stand for charity every week during the Summer). What advice would you give yourself at 12 years old?

I didn't cook at such a young age, so kudos to your daughter. I love that she's not only created what sounds like a great business, but she's doing it for charity. 

I would tell my 12 yr old self to not be so hard on just take a step (in any direction), even when I was painfully shy or scared to do so. When I did that, the pay-off was great. 

So I made the eggplant w/chipotle black bean sauce last week. It makes 2c of salsa negra but I only used about 1 cup. We didn't like the eggplant in it and the sauce was too spicy for all of us but especially the kids. What else can I do with that remaining cup of salsa negra and how can I tame the spiciness to manageable levels?

What about stirring some of it into a big bean stew? I think that'd be delicious.

call for fattoush

Julia Turshen's recipe for confetti meatloaf looks so good! But I realized when reading the ingredients that it has a lot of the same flavors as sausage and peppers, my husband's favorite dish. Do you think subbing hot Italian turkey sausage for the ground turkey would work? I think it would be neat to have a sausage and pepper loaf!

I don't see why not!

I don't think I've ever seen a purple sweet potato but I came across a Food & Wine recipe for a pie made with Stokes Purple or Ube potatoes. Has anyone seen these in the DC area (preferably near NW but I'll travel)? The recipe also calls for Ube flavoring from McCormick, which I can find online but I don't want to order it unless I know I can find the purple potatoes. Thanks in advance!

I believe I've seen them at Mom's on New York Ave. NE.

The chickpeas not the soup eh! I know, I know.

Yep, the chickpeas. The soup for a week in the fridge. Or frozen for 6 months.

What do you suggest to lessen, er, digestive issues? Gas-X and Beano aren't doing the trick, and I really want to keep eating them because they're tasty and entirely guilt-free. I think soaking is recommended for other beans, but wouldn't delicate little lentils just fall apart? Does putting [the herb that starts with an a that I don't know how to spell] in the cooking water REALLY help, or is that just something people do because their grandma told them to?

You should try soaking them for just a couple hours and draining -- that can help, and they'll survive. Or cook with a little kombu (dried seaweed). Indian cooks, indeed, swear by asafoetida (sometimes labeled "hing" in stores). Mexican cooks swear by epazote.

I SWEAR I COULD'VE WRITTEN THIS MYSELF OMG. I second the parchment paper suggestion (transitioning the dough on PP from a rimless baking sheet directly to the stone). No, it doesn't make the crust AS crispy as it would be directly on the stone. but the marginal difference in crust crispiness is completely worth it to avoid a mass of dough and sauce hanging off the side of your pizza stone dripping sauce on the bottom of your oven with cornmeal decorating your entire kitchen like confetti.... not that I would know....

Ha! The parchment onto the stone is the strategy I use for my homemade bagels Definitely works.

This. Just leave the pizza on the parchment; it eases transfer, and keeps the stone clean. The paper does scorch quite a bit, but hasn't gone up in flames (yet!).

We need to buy a dutch oven. We will only be making dairy/vegan food in it (a lot of burritos with beans, lentil recipes, etc.). What dutch ovens do you recommend? We are hoping to not spend too much money, but more importantly, we want something that lasts a long time. Thanks!

I swear by my Le Creuset and know it will last a lifetime, but it is for sure an investment. (I got mine discounted since it was a floor model at Sur La Table.) That being said, Cook's Illustrated deemed this $80 Cuisinart a Best Buy and also approved of this Lodge model.

I just attended a presentation on this method of eating at the gym at work. Reminded me that Joe tested this out when you did the 4 different diets comparison. Any updates? Anyone still practicing this method of compressing eating hours?

I'm not following it strictly anymore, but it does work. Can take some getting used to w/the timing, though. Ellie Krieger has a piece in WaPo coming out soon on the trouble w/fasting and breakfast.

An "unopened" jar of peanut butter due to expire in 5 days - I don't think I'd worry about using it up or throwing it out, particularly since it's unopened. I myself have half of a large jar of peanut butter to use up. I'm Googling recipes for peanut butter pie.

Congratulations on your new cookbook. Are you thinking of writing more cookbooks in the future?

I would love to. I was thinking that my next book would take me out West, since this one focused on my Southern roots. I would love to jump in a van or RV and look for those stories. 

Hey - i've got five ripe bananas i need to use today because we're going out of town tomorrow. what can i make that will freeze well?

Just toss them in a zip-top bag in the freezer (peeled). 

I'm having a cake decorating party for my daughter. I want to bake a dense type sheet cake, not fluffy, so that I can cut out circles and stack them into mini layer cakes that the girls will decorate. What type of recipe could I use? Pound cake? I'm ok with a box mix but those seem to be very fluffy. Thank you!

That sounds so much fun, and I'm going to file that away for when my son is old enough!

I think you're on the right track with pound cake. When is the party? I've got a really good recipe coming out next week, but if it's sooner, email me and I can give you a sneak peek.

I take it you've already thought about cupcakes? Because that would definitely be easy in terms of decorating and baking. But I love your ambition of the mini layer cakes, too. 

Carla! I love you! I also read your recent feature(s) in Garden and Gun! I'm from the South and love your mission of finding the many roots of "soul food". My question is kind of uncomfortable...I love what people like you and Sean Brock are doing to "elevate" the Southern culinary experience and shine light on simple, locally grown food... but there still seems to be the pervasive black/white divide in Southern/Soul Food. How can we honor the traditions of both at the same time? love, a very basic white girl

Thank you for asking your question. I really appreciate it. It's a hard question, because of the history of slavery in this country, which was a black and white issue. There...I said it. If we can all admit that slaves contributed to the food in the South and therefore American food as it traveled North and West, just like Italians and the Irish and other cultures contributed to food in the North, etc, etc, we can own our parts and eventually come together.

I don't want to just "elevate" our food, I want to show that it's not all fatty and unhealthy, but simple and full of grains, vegetables etc...the way that it historically had been. 

I recently defrosted a box of trader joe's puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator, not realizing that there were two sheets in the box (I only needed one). The box says not to freeze once thawed, but I really hate throwing out the unused sheet. Have you ever tried to use a thawed refrozen sheet of puff pastry?

Yep, and it doesn't puff up as well.  Cheese straws would be easy to do...

When your book comes out next week, will you be doing any local siginings?

I have a signing at NMAAHC on Dec 2nd. 

Hi all, I wanted to share a quick recipe for using leftover rice to make a hearty vegetarian meal. We normally use basmati for most dishes as it's so versatile, but I think any type will work. Take 1 can of corn, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can black beans, all drained, with just a little bit of liquid reserved. I usually cook the corn on high heat in a skillet with 1T oil for a few minutes to get a little bit of char, then turn down to medium and add the tomatoes and black bean and the remaining liquid, along with some generous shakes of Mexican seasoning, black pepper and some red pepper flakes (to your spiciness taste). Once heated through, I add the leftover rice, mix together, cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. It's very tasty, filling, and if you add some shredded cheese and sliced avocado, makes a great veg taco filling as well! We do this every two weeks or so, as we always make a bit too much rice. Very easy to reheat at work as well!

Thrifty and delicious, love it. Sounds a bit like the fried rice, strategy -- which by the way I am working on tackling for Voraciously. Stay tuned.

No question, just want to thank Julia Turshen for her article about cooking for someone with diabetes. I love a food challenge, but it can be tough sometimes trying to make food that is interesting, delicious and healthy for a diabetic who also has several food allergies! Oh, and did I mention we keep kosher? Her loving approach to their story was just the pep talk I needed.

Nice! Will pass along to Julia!

I'd like to try my hand at making a seafood paella for a dinner party next week, but my research has left me a bit more confused than how started. I have the basics, the pan, rice, oil, pimienton, etc. is there a recipe you would recommend?

I would recommend that you look up recipes by Penelope Casas. She has a book "Paella!" that taught me everything I needed to know.

I've seen purple sweet potato at the International Asian Markets in Springfield, VA and the Vietnam Market in Falls Church, VA

I’ve been diagnosed with severe gluten intolerance. I’m excited to be working toward good health again, but also aware that this dietary change will alter my life in a significant ways. I have so many questions, and I’m not sure where to start. How about - can you recommend a good gluten free cookbook?

Here's a handy top 10 list, from  New York magazine. 

This was a fairly early title in the genre, but I think it holds up: The Wheat-Free Cook by Jacqueline Mallorca.

Carla, It is always great to see you judging on the show. You really try to provide positive feedback to the contestants which I think is appreciated. Is it as crazy as it looks on the show?

I love doing that show SO much, mainly because I like dressing up and being different characters. It's hard eating all of that sugar though. LOL

Because I have been a competitor, I really look to give feedback that the contestant can take and use in their professional life. When I was competing, I always looked to be mentored by the judges, since I may never see them again. I took what they said and applied it to the next challenge whether I was still in the competition or not. 

I asked this -exact- question last year (and, I now note, won the cookbook for it, which I never collected. Wah!). I ended up just using it for enchiladas and topping for potatoes. 

Also remember canned pumpkin is great fix for your canine companion when he or she has intestinal distress. Also has an advantage that it also makes it easier to see the out put from your canine.


Oh wow, thanks for passing my question along & to Nik for taking the time to answer! It was from an unopened container I'd purchased that day (Lotte had an overwhelming number of options!). I shaved off slices with a knife till I had the right amount by weight, then put it all in a bag and smashed it with a rolling pin till it seemed fairly uniform. Maybe I didn't smash enough, will try that this coming weekend with the date & tamarind loaf. :)

Hi Carla!!!I looooooooove soul food, but it's not always healthy. Do you have any lighter soul food recipes or easy ways to lighten things up?

That's the point of this broaden people's knowledge of what Soul Food it. I think that most think of it as heavy, because those are the "celebration" dishes. There are plenty of light dishes that came out of this cuisine...grains such as sorghum, millet, fonio...plenty of beans and nuts...lots of vegetables, because people had gardens. At least 50% of the recipes are vegetable base. 

Heartily recommend roasting eggplant and other veg for ratatouille. I never had a taste for ratatouille until I roasted the veg-- then I was over the moon. Then I pureed some of the leftovers into a rough baba ghanoush. Heaven, too. The Other East Coast Paper with a Great Food Section has a guide to roasting ratatouille, but you probably can wing it if you are a seasoned cook.

waiting for a red line train. I presumed that you were coming back from New York, so I didn't bother you. That was bound to be a tiring trip and I think it was pretty late. Should I say, "Hi," if it happens again?

You should ABSOLUTELY say hello the next time!! I'm never too busy to say hello. 

This is weird. I recently got an air frier and have been experimenting. I chopped up the okra crosswise, tossed it in cornstarch and nutritional yeast (I'm a vegetarian) before cooking it in the air frier. It came out great. The texture was more dried than fried and it was delicious. I'd actually made it to put on top of a spaghetti carbonara and it replaced the bacon beautifully.

I purchased the Lodge Dutch Oven to replace my old Le Crueset and its as good or better at a fifth the price. Spent the money saved on All Clad.

I have suffered as you are suffering now. My best solution was the parchment paper move. The whole thing onto the hot stone, bang into the oven, and then right off the stone onto a cutting board at the end (no overbaked crust!). Best with 4 hands to do the transfer, but it's a winner! Practice, and good luck!

I just saw the pepper sauce note - are there other unique holidays gifts those of us who plan ahead could start on? I love the idea of sauces or rub blends or something unique!

Take a look at this edible gift roundup that Kara did last year.

food gifts

ARTICLE: Skip the madness of holiday shopping and make your own edible gifts instead

There's also the booze route (more along those lines in this post), so you can look at our recipes for Slivovitz and limoncello, among others. 

Or come up with your own unique infusion!


ARTICLE: Add flavor and save money by infusing your own vinegar, booze and more

A relative suggested getting me an air fryer as a gift. Since I've never used one, I don't know whether it's one of those things that I'll never use because it's too much of a pain to store/use/clean for what I get out of it, or if it'll be fantastic. I don't eat meat/fish, if that matters. What do you it only good for making french fries, or would I get some use out of it?

What else do you like to fry?

Now would be an excellent time for you all to give out some facts about "expiration" dates, "sell by" dates and "best by" dates. Food waste is a BIG DEAL. Why in the world would we worry about "expiring" peanut butter?

Here's a good primer.

I went slightly insane and purchased 60 lbs of apples at the farmers market this weekend (Jonathans, Jonagolds and Golden Delicious). And then our basement flooded and I haven't gotten to ANY of them. Besides, the obvious (applesauce, applebutter, and pie), any recommendations for what to do with them all ASAP (especially after we caught the toddler sampling several - one bite each)?

In addition to your obvious ideas, I know it might sound like a little much, but one of my all-time favorite snacks is dried apples. Buy a dehydrator and get to drying! (Or look up how to do them in a very low oven...)

I lost mine in a cleanout. Is there a new version or is it the same as the original. I never went to Moosewood 'cause whenever we were in Ithaca, a small Chinese restaurant with Grandma running the front of the house always called. It was the first place I encountered bock choi which Grandma insisted we finish because it was so expensive then.

There's lots of Moosewood cookbooks, but in 2014 they did a 40th-anniversary edition of the original classic by Mollie Katzen.

I've been making eggs in ramekins for several weeks now, spurred by Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything," and I can't get enough of them. Sure, I have to preheat the over to 375 and then wait 15 minutes for the eggs to cook, but they're worth the wait! I usually add cream to the eggs, sometimes (too much) olive oil, along with tomatoes and even peppers in season. What else is a good addition to shirred eggs?


When I smoke meat I always put a big slab of fish on as well. Any ideas for what to do with the leftovers?

Smoked fish that is simply flaked can be a knockout addition to a wild rice/pecan salad.

I'm the okra maker. It makes good fries. So far I've used it for pakora - quite good, fritters - very good. Next up some more breaded veg. That's the reason I bought it. I love those sort of things that you'd have to fry. It's working out well.

I love this comment and I love Carla. I also sadly agree that Southern cuisine is hampered by an association with the region's uncomfortable social history. I'd like to see people start to give the South similar treatment as has been done with countries like Italy, Mexico, France, et al, in a regional sense. Virginia does fine hams, the Carolinas do pork and so on. And I love what Carla, Ms. Howard in NC and other chefs are doing now, taking traditional ingredients and applying new techniques of preparation. It's something I experiment with myself (some ideas are better than others of course.) Keep doing what you're doing, Carla, I'm always gonna be a fan.

The vacuum-sealed packages I'm talking about are refrigerated, not frozen. I don't have any on hand to see if it's labelled as previously frozen or not, but the package gives a date to use or freeze by. I suppose there is some degradation in quality by refreezing previously frozen fish, but the vac-sealing should protect against that, so long as it remains in that package under refrigeration.

Huh! I've never seen vacuum-sealed fish that isn't frozen...there can be an issue with an anaerobic environment. Fish prev frozen should not be thawed in that packaging....

Hi, Carla. Shortly after your TC season aired, I spotted you walking down the sidewalk on our street in Chevy Chase, Md, dressed in your catering clothes. I ran out the door to say hello to you, and you were very kind and didn't complain about being ambushed like that. We had been rooting for you during the season, so it was very nice to have it confirmed that you're a lovely person!

Maybe I'm just old school, but while I've noticed the videos and wanted to have the tips and recipes, I never have time to watch them - I'd like to be able to print out a recipe or instructions. It's not easy to watch a video when sitting at your desk at work in an "open office" :(

I'm a fan of the coddled egg too. Why did we stop making them?

Well, you've cooked us until we bubbled around the edges, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and many thanks to Carla for helping with the a's!

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who asked about the black/white divide in southern/soul food will get a copy of Carla's new book! Send your mailing info to, and she'll get it to you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is the lead writer for Voraciously.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Carla Hall
Carla Hall is a chef, television personality and cookbook author. Her latest book is “Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration.”
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