Free Range on Food: Cooking with fall ingredients, the Michelin guide in D.C. and more.

Oct 18, 2017

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

Good afternoon, Rangers! We're lean and mean today. Editor Joe and Editor Bonnie are unavailable. Which means you get the third-string quarterback at the helm. We have much to talk about, including




I was wondering, is it possible for ginger to go bad? I ask because I had tried it a while ago, in 2011, and found the flavor uncharacteristically unpleasant. Perhaps it was simply a bad batch?

Assuming you're talking about dried ginger? Dried spices, although they don't spoil in the same way other pantry items can (like oils going rancid, etc.), can definitely get really dusty. When you keep them around for a long time, they lose their flavor quite a bit. I would suggest buying dried ginger (or any dried spice) in as small as an amount as possible so you're more likely to use it before it goes bad. I love baking with dried ginger. Try some in your next banana bread.

Hi - I want to cook some fish but I've never done it before and I'm so nervous. Tell me the easiest way to do it! I don't even know how to ask the fish guy for fish.. do you just point to one? do you have to say the weight you want? Should I start with salmon? Help!

Good for you for giving it a go! I think the easiest way to cook fish is to go to a good fish store and ask them what's best and most fresh that day and tell them how many people you're cooking for. Hopefully whatever is best is also something you enjoy. If that's salmon, then salmon it is! Whatever. You will likely leave with about 1/2 pound per person which is more than enough. My favorite way to cook any type of fish is in the oven rather than a pan. Check out the recipe for roast flounder in my cookbook Small Victories— it's super easy and you basically roast a sheet pan of tomatoes and then put fish filets on top (could be any type) so then the tomatoes act as a bed and the fish doesn't stick and it cooks evenly and you get a nice tomato kinda sauce, too. Or try wrapping your fish in parchment paper or tin foil and cook it in the oven. Again, even cooking and no sticking and easy clean up. 

I have tried DGS and Wagshal's and wasn't impressed. Also tried most of the other delis in the DC area over the last 30 years. Also had friends bring back pastrami from Katz and the late Carnegie Deli. Also tried mail order from LA, NYC etc but never found a really good one especially at a reasonable price. Finally found it for $9.50 a lb. Wont give the name of the place you have to guess. Its just off a route that has the same number in Montgomery County and in PWC, FFX and Fauquier. Railroad tracks run through the town and a Civil War raids took place there in May 1862 and Aug 1863. Bring cash they dont take credit cards or debit cards. Their ground beef and stew meat also are above average. Only downside is they dont have dry aged prime beef.

Well, I wish I had time to figure out your Brainteaser for Brisket. But I don't.


Rangers, do you have any ideas on where this pastrami might be?

I want to make Beet, Ginger and Sour Cream Cake (Sweet, Page 130, Ottolenghi and Helen Goh). Recipe calls for 1 tbsp of grated orange zest of 1, the only ingredient I don’t have at home. I have a bottle of Pure Orange Extract. Could I use a teaspoon of extract instead or would I ruin the cake?

I'd go easy on the orange extract -- has potential to overpower! Maaaaybe use 1/8 teaspoon? Or just leave out the orange all together? (Or do you have any other citrus that you could zest?)

I'm sure the zest adds something to the cake, but I've overdone it with fruit extracts before, which is why I'm urging caution here. 

I'm just getting into making my own pie dough and have a pretty basic question. I've been rolling out the dough on a large, wooden cutting board which has been working out OK. But for some reason it just dawned on me that rolling it out directly on my granite counter tops might be the better option. Other than perhaps creating a bit more of a floury mess to clean up, is this a good idea?

Granite is great for rolling pie dough since (a) it's nice and cool (b) it won't move around like your board and (c) it's even. I also like rolling crust on a large piece of parchment so it's easy to move around and you can just invert it in your pie dish or whatever you're using (plus you can use less flour since it doesn't stick to the work surface).

I'm intrigued with the idea of keeping roasted garlic around, per Joe's suggestion this week. How long can you keep roasted garlic in the refrigerator?

According to Whole Foods, your roasted garlic will hold for a week in an airtight container, if the cloves are covered in olive oil.

WEEKNIGHT VEGETARIAN: Why you should roast a head of garlic virtually every time you turn on the oven

Monday was Bosses Day so I made the gingery carrot cake for work. It was a big success. One of my coworkers said, "This is the best carrot cake I've ever had in my life." On a side note: When I was in college my mother would bake a carrot cake, drive 15 miles to the Greyhound bus stop and put the cake on the bus. It was about a two hour drive from there to our college. My sister and I would walk to the station and they'd hand us our cake. Good times.

Thanks so much for reporting back! Glad to hear it was a hit.

And love the cake-by-bus story. :)

Gingery Pistachio Carrot Sheet Cake

RECIPE: Gingery Pistachio Carrot Sheet Cake

I had to pick all my vegetables last weekend because the weather folks were threatening frost. I am loaded with Pasilla Bajio Peppers and Anaheims. Any suggestions for bulk use?

Salsa! Or roast them, peel + seed them and freeze them and save for salsas, soups, taco fillings....

I have a whole large white pumpkin. I've love to hear any good recipes you know. Also, can I freeze parts of the pumpkin? (I've heard puree and freeze, but my blender is quite small and freezing whole pieces would be much, much easier).

You could use it as a substitution for the butternut squash in any of the recipes in my piece this week (so fritters, soup, or mash). If don't want to puree the pumpkin before freezing, I would recommend cutting it into bite-sized pieces and blanching them first before freezing. The texture when you defrost will be a lot easier to work with. 

I have 4 pears that need to be used today. This nice cool weather makes me think about muffins and quick breads but I've never made any with pears. Could you suggest any recipes that would work for these pears? Thanks so much!

Try my gingery roasted pears! They're so good and easy and very versatile.

Roasted Gingery Pears

We signed up for the fall session of our regular summer CSA, and I'm already overwhelmed two weeks in! I still have bok choy and radishes from last week and we are getting more today... Any general suggestions for how to keep up? In summer, we get a lot of tomatoes and eggplant, which are easy.

In general when I'm overwhelmed with produce I chop everything up and stir-fry it (in the summer), turn it into sauce (whatever the season), or cut everything up and roast (in the winter). Seasoned generally (salt + pepper) or specifically (chili powder + cumin + coriander, for example), those cooked ingredients are then used in tacos, rice bowls, pasta, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, soups, etc. throughout the week. 

(For example: This week I had a GIANT head of cauliflower. 1/3 was seasoned with turmeric and nutritional yeast, 1/3 was seasoned to mimic ground beef in tacos, 1/3 got some advieh. The "taco" flavored stuff went with rice and salsa and lentils to make a burrito-ish bowl.)

For those radishes, I'd roast 'em:

Roasted Radishes With Herbs

RECIPE: Roasted Radishes With Herbs

And maybe use that bok choy in a stir fry


Rolling pie dough right on the parchment! What an idea! Give myself a face palm for not thinking of it. How many times have I torn my crust moving it to the tin!


I like to make cakes, but find that skewering them to test for doneness sometimes marks their tops if I leave them un-frosted or un-decorated. Is there any other way to test a cake?

I use this itty bitty cake tester, and the mark it leaves is less noticeable than a skewer/tooth pick. (It's barely noticeable, really.) 

I notice that the brown butter sage apples calls for unsalted butter and then you salt the apples. Question: does the unsalted butter brown better? I have had some butter brown right away and some that just clarifies and never browns.

Great question. I use unsalted butter in all of my recipes because that means, quite simply, that you're totally in control of how much salt you're adding to whatever you're cooking. Also because I have found the amount of salt in salted butter to be inconsistent. Therefore I actually haven't tried browning salted butter because I don't ever use it! 

My husband loves making beef jerkey but what is the best meat to use for this? Normally we go to costco and get top round. We do have a meat slicers so we can get even thin slices and have a dehydrater but is there a better meat choice than top round?

A few years back, I did a story on Vietnamese-style jerky. I made a couple of versions at home, using cuts such as top round and flank steak. It gives you some chew, an important part of the jerky experience, in my opinion.


ARTICLE: Chew on this, jerky fans.

My mom passed away a couple of years ago. She used to make Chicken Washington; her recipe was from a compilation cookbook and isn't very clear. You saute mushrooms in butter, add flour to make a roux, then add cream and thicken, and, off heat, add shredded cheese. That's the filling; you put it in the fridge to chill. Then you cut chicken breasts in half and pound them thin. You form part of the cold cheese mixture into a log and roll the chicken around it, securing it with toothpicks. You then use flour, egg, and breadcrumbs to bread the chicken, and then bake. It's a real pain, but my Dad would really love for me to figure it out; he got so excited when I mentioned that I was trying to figure it out. I have two questions: First, how long do I need to bake the chicken to get it done but not overdone? I tried 45 minutes at 350, but that was too long. Second, any suggestions on how to prevent the cheese from melting out? Maybe freeze it first, or would that prevent the chicken from cooking safely?

Wow sounds like such a decadent and fun recipe, and what a beautiful homage to your mother.  The baking time will definitely depend on how thick your chicken is. If 45 minutes at 350 was too long, start checking it sooner...I would give them at least 25 minutes. To check, the chicken should be golden brown and firm to the touch and you can use a digital thermometor too...chicken should be 165F (I usually let it go up to 175 since my wife likes everything well done!). Be sure to test the chicken at its thickest point. For the cheese not to melt out, I would consider making the cheese sauce a bit use a little but more flour and a bit less cream.

I've fallen in love with my Insta Pot. I'd love to freeze bite-size cubes of chicken, to toss into various recipes. Last night's attempt was a failure, though -- I cubed the chicken, put it on the styrofoam tray it came on, put the cubes in the freezer and ended up with a lump of chicken frozen to the tray, which defeated my attempt to put "cubes" into a Ziploc bag. I suspect I could put individual cubes separated by 1/8 inch on a greased metal tray, but that'll take forever. Is there a better way?

Maybe freeze them on a plastic- or wax paper-lined baking sheet? You do need to separate them though (by 1/8 inch should do it), or you'll just get a big block of frozen chicken again.

Just a quick note to say that after reading about it in WaPo Food, I checked out Bravetart from my local library. After baking several recipes with excellent results, my BF gifted me the cookbook for my birthday. Though tedious, the recipes are well worth the effort. Every recipe tested has resulted in exclamations of "these are better than the original!" from my family. Also, your bagel recipe rocks. Thanks, WaPo Food, for making my weekends delicious!

We like to specialize in news you can use. 

And yes, those bagels to rock. Thanks for the kind words. :)

Best-of Bagels

RECIPE: Best-of Bagels

I love sweet potatoes. I usually do hash with sausage and onions or mashed. My mashed sweets tend to be a little on the bland side. I'm not a super spicy person and prefer to take my sweets more to the savory side. Any suggestions on how to liven them up without adding hot sauce (or the equivalent. The Sriracha Train passes my station.)

I love them too! I would suggest roasting them before mashing instead of boiling or steaming so they'll have a more concentrated flavor to begin with. You can try other strong, savory flavors that aren't spicy...for example, try some pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika).

Hello, I am taking my girlfriend to Sushi Taro for her birthday next month. We could not get the Omakas Counter as I had hoped. Would you recommend the Taro's Sushi Kaiskeki tasting menu instead or is there something else on the menu you would suggest. Thank You.

I highly recommend the sushi kaiseki. Even at $140 per person (which includes wine pairings!), I think it's the best deal among the city's tasting menus.

I'm making some cookies that need to be dipped in chocolate. And I'm feeling lazy, so looking for a shortcut around all the fuss with getting the right temperatures for tempering. Do the Wilton Melts really work? Just nuke and dip and it will set up right? And do they taste OK, or are they dreadful? Any other easy method you'd recommend?

What about adding some chopped chocolate to your cookie dough and skip the dip?!

I'm thinking about gluten-free pumpkin pie crusts for Thanksgiving and have had my eye on this one. First, do you think the flavor would work? Second, how well does the crust actually come together and function? The comments on the recipe are a little mixed to say the least on the crust. Any other suggestions would be wonderful.

I haven't tried this particular crust recipe so can't vouch for the outcome, but in terms of flavor I highly support the combination of an almond crust with a pumpkin filling— sounds great! Perhaps add a bit of spice to the crust, whatever you would use in your filling.... You could also get gluten-free graham crackers and do a good old graham cracker crust.

I was at the beautiful SHED in Healdsburger, CA last month and bought smoked onion powder. Now I have no idea how to best use it. Any ideas?

Use it in a dry rub on any type-of meat or use in your next batch of chili (I bet the smokiness will be great). Or add to onion soup or onion dip!

You could also add the powder to burgers cooked in a pan, to give the patties the flavor of an outdoor grill.

The sweet potato and pork stir fry looks great, and has my family's favorite flavor profile, but we don't do pork. Would this work with ground turkey? Would we just up the seasonings to combat the blandness of the ground turkey?

Yep, you could use turkey, says Bonnie. 

And sure, bump up those seasonings if you find it bland! (An extra spoonful of oil might help too.)

Stir-Fried Sweet Potato and Pork

RECIPE: Stir-Fried Sweet Potato and Pork

I waited forever for Argyle sparkling wine to be available here, and now it is - but I have repeatedly had trouble with the cork. As in, will not budge. I had to spend 15 minutes pushing pushing pushing the cork up so that it would finally release. I emailed the winery about it but got no response. I love the wine, but I'm hesitant to buy any more bottles if this is going to be a chronic problem. Any thoughts?

Dave McIntyre responds:


A super tight cork on a bottle of sparkling wine can be almost as scary as one that pops off too easily! Don’t hurt your thumbs by pushing up on the cork. Place a dish towel over the cork (to prevent missiles) and then grasp the cork with one hand and the bottom of the bottle with the other. Twist the bottle, giving it a sideways motion against the cork rather than pushing up. Once the cork budges, wiggle it back and forth while continuing to turn the bottle until the cork comes out, preferably with a whoosh, not a pop.

If that doesn’t work, saber the sucker.

Saw that recipe, going to try it this weekend. mmmm I'm going to put them on buns with some sort of dressing. I'm disappointed its not vegan or even vegetarian tho. Do you think ground flax and almond milk would work instead of egg and milk?

hey there! I think using them on a sandwich sounds great. They are vegetarian, but for a vegan alternative, I bet your suggestion would work no problem. And just skip the Parmesan (you could add some nutritional yeast for a similar flavor).

Is there any way to keep a raw, cut sweet potato for one day? We get massive sweet potatoes (the orange ones) in our CSA box. By massive, I mean big enough for 4-5 servings. While I know how to keep and use cooked leftovers, sometimes I'd like to be able to keep raw halves. Thx

I bet that's totally fine. I would wrap it in a damp paper towel or kitchen towel and store in a plastic bag or container in the fridge so that the sweet potato flesh doesn't try out before you cook it.

I got a bag of fresh shisito peppers in my CSA box over the summer. I was getting ready to go out of town so froze them on a cookie tray then tossed them in a bag. What should I do with them now? I've only cooked with them a couple of times so roasted them in a hot pan. I don't think defrosted peppers would roast as well. Is there some other way to use them?

Yeah I bet they wouldn't have the same exact texture once defrosted. I would take advantage of their flavor, though, and use them in a salsa verde. Broil them with some roughly chopped tomatillos until they're totally softened and charred in spots and then run it all through a food mill to get rid of their skins/seeds and then blend with some fresh cilantro and lime juice. And salt!

Just be -sure you're not above the dishwasher when it's running. (Don't ask who was stupid to not think about that)

excellent point!!

My 11 year old son wants some more cooking independence at home. He has down some basics--a nice soft scrambled egg, waffles (from a mix, but he brought them to us without either one of us having gotten out of bed during the entire process) and whipped cream. He wants to get beyond hot dogs and mac & cheese or ramen noodles but needs a capable guide that isn't mom or dad. Any recommendations?

Good for him! This piece I did last winter might be a fun place to start.

Kara, you stumped me with that one, so I just googled it and now I'm very intrigued. How would you say it compares to ras el hanout in terms of flavor?

It's sweeter! It's heavier on the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and has a slight floral note from rose petals. (It could also be used in sweet recipes -- sugar cookies? snickerdoodles? pie? -- but I like it a lot on cauliflower and squash and beans and rice and lamb, and so on.)

I got mine from Bazaar Spices, but I bet Yekta in Rockville would have it.

I can promise that Amy's Easy Apple cake works extremely well with pears!

Making me hungry.

Amy's Easy Apple Cake

RECIPE: Amy's Easy Apple Cake

Pears also work in this gem:

Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan's Custardy Apple Squares

Do you know when the Washington Post first started regularly publishing recipes? I am working on a cooking history project and started wondering about this....

I don't have the answer for you now, but email us at! 

Editor Bonnie says the recipe database stretches back as far as 1987. But don't look for every recipe we published from that year. It's been a piecemeal process of entering the old recipes into the database.

I broke my cookie scoop this weekend trying to scoop chilled cookie dough... that was chilled only because the recipe called for it. Am I missing a step with chilling dough? Should I let it come back to room temp before trying to scoop it or am I supposed to scoop it and chill on the cookie sheet before baking? Help!

Sorry about your scoop. When I chill dough, I like to scoop before chilling so it's much easier to scoop. 

I need to make these as a Diwali party contribution for kids and not sure how to go about it. I always make my channa from dry, soaking overnight and then cooking in pressure cooker. Where do I go from there?

Something like this, perhaps? (But using your home-cooked chickpeas.) 

Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

RECIPE: Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

Julia! Just bought your cookbook Small Victories and LOVE it! I have already made the maple and soy salmon, the raspberry buns, roasted scallion dip, and the red lentil coconut curry. All sooo good. So, what should I make next? :) P.S. didn't know you were a contributor for WP until seeing this chat, so cool! Looking forward to more delicious recipes from you...

Oh hooray!! Thanks so much. You have made some of my favorites. I would try the Turkey Ricotta Meatballs next and/or Dad's Chicken and Leeks. Two of my personal favorites that I make all of the time. Thanks for your kind words!

Carrie, if you're here this week, wanted to ask for recommendations for cocktails that use rose water. I bought some last week (Lebanese market) and am dying to try it in a few drinks. Thanks!

Hey there! My main rec would be to use that stuff delicately -- much like orange flower water and vanilla, it packs a massive punch. I'd start by checking out some of these. And off the top of my head, I'd think -- pomegranate juice, gin, mint, lemon? And I could imagine a pretty beautiful martini coming out of a 2/.5./.5 split of dry gin/dry vermouth/blanc vermouth with a drop or two of the rosewater. Let me know how things go! :)

I've switched to sweet potato pie for the last few years for Thanksgiving and wanted to try out some other squash this year! I love roasting them (they get such a great flavor) and using that as my base. What other squash would have a nice flavor (I find pumpkin very bland)? Or a combination perhaps? I also use cardamom - it's my secret ingredient!

Yum yum yum. I would suggest Kabocha squash since the flesh is so dense and flavorful.

I know this is sacrilege, but this is easy and delicious.

David Tanis is a master at that.

I've tried this before but the paper slides all over making it impossible to roll the dough out to any sort of thinness. Do you tape the parchment down or is there just something lacking in my technique?

Hmm, I haven't had that problem personally but definitely could imagine that happening. I wonder if it depends a bit on the texture of the if it's quite dry it might require more effort/movement....anyway, I think using some masking tape to secure it to the counter is a wonderful idea. 

I have a spiralizer and was wondering if sweet potatoes would make good noodles? If so, what kind of sauce would work well with them?

Yes I've seen them used that way! I would eat them with tomato sauce and a salty cheese like Pecorino...or you could top with salsa verde and crumble cotija...

I tried the dish towel! I even tried rubber gloves, and that didn't work! I didn't have a saber on me but if I had, I'd have been tempted..... Is it as unusual as I think it is to have multiple bottles of the same wine with such a challenging cork?

To the saber point, I have seen that done with a chef's knife. In case you get desperate.

1. I made membrillo, but as the puréed quince and sugar mixture was cooking down, it seemed too sweet so I cooked more quince and blended it in. I started out with equal amounts of raw quince chunks and sugar (by weight). With the extra quince it’s about 3:2 fruit to sugar. I like it but I have a lot of membrillo now. Will it freeze well? What’s the best way to package it? 2. I couldn’t bear to throw away the beautifully colored quince-flavored water I cooked the fruit in, so I saved it and I was thinking a simple syrup with it. But then what? Cocktail suggestions welcome! Thanks!

Here's a possible starting point for the cocktails! 

Do you have a favorite salad bar, e.g., sweetgreen, little beet, etc.?

I don't live near any of these so my favorite is my refrigerator where I pull out leftovers, put them on greens, and douse everything in olive oil and vinegar (or lemon)...

I hate to sound like a homer, but I'm a fan of Sweetgreen. Their seasonal salads are often terrific.

I love fin fish, but my husband doesn't. However, he's agreed to try it again, if we stick to mild fish (tilapia, for instance) and the "fish stink" is contained. Stronger tasting fish like char (my favorite!) is right out. He said he liked fish sticks as a kid, so I made those (buying better cod versions, but still a package from the freezer section). He liked them. Got any ideas of what to try next? The article on breading protein makes me think that's the next direction I should go, but the only fish recipe in there was for salmon. My usual way of cooking fish is simply to put it in a foil packet with various sauces, marinades, seasonings, etc and throw it on the grill. Perfect for 1, and it can be cooked with whatever he's grilling for himself. But I think we need some baby steps before we get there. Any ideas? He's normally a fairly adventurous eater but this seems to be a sticking point.

I love a simple fish stew with a garlicky tomato base that you poach mild fish in...easy to cook, great to eat!...serve with garlic bread...kind-of like this cioppino.

A health article I saw this week said to avoid margarine because it has lots of unhealthy processed ingredients and choose butter instead. Now I'm confused whether I should continue eating products like Smart Balance and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and others that don't say they're margarine and are supposed to be healthier than butter because they have less saturated fat and calories. Are they margarine? Are they unhealthier than butter?

I guess it depends on what your definition of 'healthy' is. For me it means eating food that's as unprocessed as possible and that I enjoy because satisfaction is part of being healthy, in my opinion. So for me that means BUTTER! but if doesn't for you that's cool.

I just made a batch of Chex Mix for a party. I've got lots of leftover cereal and no place to store it except for my basement freezer. I'll have a number of parties around the holidays to which I can bring Chex Mix. Can I freeze the plain cereal and thaw it to make more Chex Mix when I need it? Or can I make the Chex Mix and freeze that? The obvious answer, I know, is to eat the cereal and then buy more when I need it, but I don't have any Chex eaters in my house. By the way, I made homemade Chex Mix on a whim a few years ago for our annual holiday party and people were really excited to have it! Surprised me!

I'm not so sure about freezing cereal/Chex Mix...can't hurt to try. But my solution would be to make extra Chex Mix and bring it to your local first responders or public librarians and thank them for their service and then make a new batch for your holiday parties. 

Both Montgomery County and Fairfax, Fauquier, and Prince William County in VA have a Rt 28 running through it. Many towns in Northern VA had raids by Confederate troops but only one town on Rt 28 had two. I believe the OP is talking about Wilson Farm Meats in Catlett. I haven't tried the pastrami but they are my main source for pork, poultry, and beef and make the drive from G'town regularly. Chairman of the History Department Georgetown University

Could this be a winner?

I love greek meatballs but would love to try it with turkey. Got a recipe?

Maybe use the flavors of Greek meatballs but in a recipe meant for turkey

I found two turkey breast "tenderloins." So, chunk of turkey breast (not chopped, molded, formed) entirely without, fat, skin or anything else. Any idea how to cook them? They would have to be dry if just roasted, right? Brine? Marinate? At least sear the outside to build up some flavor? Or maybe just thaw and cut into strips for a stir fry? I have some broccoli that needs attending to. And the farmer's market will soon be selling cauliflower the size of your head if previous years are anything to go by.

I would cut into bite-sized pieces and then coat the turkey pieces and the broccoli and/or cauliflower with plain yogurt that you've stirred some curry powder, ground turmeric, minced fresh garlic and minced fresh ginger into (figure for every cup of yogurt, about 1 tablespoon of each of those things). And season with salt! Put all of that on a sheet pan and broil for tandoori-style turkey + vegetables. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over, chopped cilantro, and maybe some buttered basmati rice.

We did it once with a cleaver and ruined the cleaver (made a dent/twist in the edge that had to be professionally redone).


Our local farmer's market has several varieties but I can't figure out when they're supposed to be ripe/edible. I bought a bunch of Anjous last week and they're still hard! They also have seckel and Bartlett. Help!

Running outta time BUT let them sit at room temp to ripen. They should have a little give to them when you press on them, but not feel mushy. (This is true for all the pear varieties you mentioned -- but if you get a variety of Asian pear, those are supposed to be a little on the harder side.)

My husband has a dish he makes with browned butter. He was using unsalted butter, but when he switched to salted it browned more like how his mom makes the dish, so we've been using salted butter ever since. So, yes, it browns differently.

great to know!


Maybe not the safest thing, but I have this triangular metal thing for opening jars, and I use that on stubborn corks.

They're not healthier than butter, because they contain transfats which are much worse for you than saturated fat. If you're lactose-intolerant, use vegan margarine, which usually uses healthier fats like flax.

Better make sure its a real cork before using the a saber. Just hold the cork with a towel and twist the bottle gently. Works every time. Never twist the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne! Even if its real cork.

We picked up a champagne-cork plier (pliers?) at Domaine Carneros when we were last there. Great mechanical advantage. Also, hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle as you open it to minimize overflowing.

I've done it - you use the back end of the knife not the blade.

Well, you've rolled us out on a hot counter, over a working dishwasher no less. What does that mean? We're stretched beyond our limits for this week. Thanks for all the great questions, and special thanks to Julia for her amazing answers. 


This week's cookbook winners: The chatter who broke her cookie scoop, we have, well, not a replacement, but a copy of "Kitchen Smarts." And for the chatter who asked about the sweet potato recipe with no pork, we have a copy of "Sweet Potatoes." Of course.


To get your books, email Kara Elder at and provide all the pertinent information.

In This Chat
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Julia Turshen
Julia Turshen is the author of "Small Victories," (Chronicle Books, 2016).
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