Free Range on Food: Seaweed, vegetables, barbecue and more

Barton Seaver's Moorish Stew.
Oct 28, 2015

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope you're enjoying digging into our coverage this week, including Tom's ode to LA in his best-food-cities project (which he talked about in his chat this morning); Tamar "Unearthed" Haspel's exploration of seaweed's pros and cons; my conversation with chef Michael Anthony about cooking vegetables; Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin's dive into Santa Maria barbecue; Carrie "Spirits" Allan's cautionary tale (with tips) about using dry ice to make spooky cocktails; and so much more.

We have Tamar and Jim joining us today to talk about anything related to their pieces (and expertise generally) -- and we have a very special guest in chef Michael, from Untitled and Gramercy Tavern in New York. He's a real vegetable whisperer, trust me, so throw any and all those questions his way. (And, really, anything cooking-related, because, duh.)

Sadly, Bonnie will NOT be joining us this week because she's tied up with a photo shoot! Exciting stuff in the works.

To entice the best out of you, we'll have a SIGNED copy of his big and beautiful book, "V is for Vegetables," to give away to one of our favorite chatters today. Our other giveaway book" "The New Cast Iron Cookbook," source of this week's DinMin recipe.

For you PostPoints members, this week's code is FR3089 .  Record and enter it into 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.

Also, if you have any baking questions you would like to send to the fabulous Dorie Greenspan, feel free to do that here, and we'll send them to her to answer later -- she's in Japan and not able to chat live, but wants to help in any way she can!

Now, enough windup: Let's get started!

he got addicted to putting seaweed flakes on popcorn. I think it tastes like low tide. Not my favorite. Not sure that making it an even stronger component would help. Does anything cut that taste? Like an acid, or something?

If the taste pops out at you, and the words 'low tide' spring to mind, I'm gonna say adding other flavors isn't going to help much.  But that doesn't mean you need to swear off seaweed for good and all.  There are a zillion kinds, and they all taste at least a little different.  The "seaweed snacks," which are dried and roasted, can be quite mild, and you might want to try a couple brands.  Find one you like, run it through the blender to turn it into flakes, and you and your brother just might be able to share the popcorn.  If you want to experiment with salads, though, an acid would be a good choice, as would something spicy, and a little bit of sweetness.

When I make spinach at home, it always comes out meh, whether I steam or saute or stir-fry. I had sauteed spinach with apples and pine nuts at Jaleo last night and it was delicious, so I know the fault lies not in the spinach but in my skills. Please help me! Is it possible to make a tasty dish using frozen spinach?

When I'm cooking, I always lean on fresh produce that's in season. You can find spinach at this time of year in your greenmarket. If you can't get your hands on any, then try making the smooth spinach and garlic puree from V is for Vegetables on page 282. The satiny smooth blended puree can help with just about any dish.

Hello Rangers! What can you tell me about induction ranges? Are they a decent compromise between electric and gas? I’m a diehard gas user, but the realities of condo shopping may be that gas is not an option for me, even though it’s on my list of must-haves. “Induction” has been uttered by a realtor or two. Are they just blowing smoke? If induction ranges have more control and responsiveness on the stove than the standard electric cooktop, maybe it's worth considering? Please let me know your experiences. I realize I may need to also invest in cookware that will provide the magnetic connection.

We seem to get this question fairly frequently! Here's what I said one of the last times I answered: 

I've had both (induction and gas), and have been using induction at home for the last year or so (and used it for most of the year I was in Maine). I'm a huge fan, because it's even more responsive than gas and it doesn't create any ambient heat, so it's better during the summer months. The only downside is that you need to use pots that have a high enough percentage of steel or iron so the magnetic field works properly, and I did have to get rid of some I had that didn't work. But my favorites -- Le Creuset enameled cast iron, plain old cast iron and a great little carbon steel pan -- work beautifully on induction. And it's always fun to have an excuse to buy new pots!

The easiest way to tell if a pan will work is to use a little magnet and see if it sticks strongly to the bottom of the pan. If it does, you're good to go.

Now, let me add this: Another benefit of induction is that it's incredibly environmentally efficient: More of the energy used to generate the heat goes right into the pan and food than by any other method. It helps with HVAC costs in restaurants, too.

Also, given the increasing popularity, more and more manufacturers are making sure that their cookware is induction-compatible.

One more thing: In designing the new test kitchen we'll have in our new building, we went with induction because we couldn't have gas, and we CERTAINLY didn't want electric. I'm excited about it! 

The only downside after using it for awhile is that if the pan is off the "burner" for more than a few seconds, it'll start beeping at you, and eventually it'll turn off. It needs that contact. But this has gotten much better than it used to be, and there's a much better grace period built in.

I decided I really need to eat more broccoli. I don't dislike it, it just seems like a lot of work to get it right (tender, not soggy, not gray). What method of preparation do you recommend? And what's your favorite recipe that includes broccoli?

The fastest and easiest way to cook broccoli is to cut it into bite sized pieces, drop it into salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. You can always take one piece out to see if it's reached the consistency you like. Try cooking it less than you have in the past if you don't like it when it gets too soft. By dropping it in ice water after cooking, it helps preserve the bright green color. I like to chop it up and mix it with parsley, garlic, capers and pepper flakes. Season with a splash of olive oil and put it on a piece of toast.

Can I add that broccoli is one of those vegetables that I also think takes particularly well to roasting. Break into florets, or cut into chunks. High heat (450-500), olive oil/salt pepper, on a large rimmed baking sheet with plenty of space between the florets, and roast until it's tinged with brown. 

I know you guys don't necessarily write your own headlines for stories, but this one really confused me. How are vegetables not as accessible as bacon? I find bacon rather difficult to cook.Plus you basically never eat it on its own; you always have to eat it with other stuff which means that the other stuff and the bacon have to be ready at the same time which is difficult. And I don't really look at a pig and see bacon. I see an animal. When I see a vegetable I see food. It might or might not be a food that I like, but I see it as food, not Wilbur.

I'm sure Joe will chime in as well on his column, but I wanted to clear something up: I will eat bacon straight from the pan, as soon as it's drained and cool enough to touch. Sometimes, it's all I can do NOT to eat all the bacon that I'm frying for some other dish.

WEEKNIGHT VEGETARIAN: This chef wants to make vegetables as accessible as bacon

 

Will I live to see 9o given the recent WHO report that processed foods, such as bacon, can lead to cancer? Who knows? I mean, a year from now, we could learn that bacon extends your life by five years. In other words: Enjoy the food you choose to eat. Just don't eat too much of it.

I think the chef's point in saying that about vegetables vs. bacon was that he dreams of a time when EVERYBODY finds it as easy as you do to look at vegetables and see food.

I'm writing because I want to help, not just to be a cranky jerk,..... but what have they done with the Food Page?!!?!? Do you publish weekly recipes any more? (I can't find them) Does Plate Lab still exist? (I can't find it) Where is everything? It seems like there's a lot less info online and everything is a lot harder to find. If I didn't know certain things already existed, I'd never find them (because I have to do a specific Google-based search to locate them). Also, the search function is terrible. Slightly off topic, but it illustrates my point: A week or so ago I saw an article about toddlers shooting and killing people being a weekly occurrence in the US. A couple days later I tried to find the article again (it was no longer on the "front page") and I couldn't so I used the WaPo search function. It came up empty. I used the same terms in Google with the addition of the words "Washington Post" and it took me right there. The site seems to be getting less intuitive and less friendly. Thanks!

I won't disagree with you that the site's search function isn't nearly as good as it needs to be, but I have suggestions:

1. Learn the beauty of Google site search. You're halfway there with the Google strategy you mention, but this will take you the rest of the way. Google "site:washingtonpost.com joe yonan sweet potatoes," and Google will search ONLY washingtonpost.com. Nifty.

2. On your frustration with the Food landing page, there are some easy solutions:

a) See on the page how there is a link to the Recipe Finder on the right? Click on those words, or just navigate right to washingtonpost.com/recipes, and you come to our main Recipes page. Here's where you can search for specific recipes, yes -- and here is where every recipe that we publish every week goes, the day it gets published. They are all date-stamped, so you can see everything with a date between last Wednesday and this Wednesday, and that represents what we put in the print section this Wednesday.

b) But there's more: They're ALL labeled by column, so if you want to see, say, Plate Lab, you can either scroll down until you see the latest (you might have to choose "load more" if it's on the next page, depending on what day you search). Then, if you'd like, you can click on the little Plate Lab label, and you'll come to a list of all the recipes tagged that way. Works for Weeknight Veg, Nourish, etc.

c) If you haven't already signed up for our Recipes newsletter, you should see a box on the Food page in a couple of pages asking you to sign up, OR you could go to  this newsletters page, choose Lifestyle and look for Recipes, with that gorgeous photo of a fruit tart. You'll get this email newsletter every Friday with recipes from the preceding seven days.

Hope this helps!

Like all of Tamar Haspel's Unearthed stories, I enjoyed reading her latest on seaweed, an ingredient I see more and more on restaurant menus and have even included in my home cooking. I remember reading something that said that although seaweed is nutritious, many North Americans that aren't of Asian descent lack an essential enzyme for processing the nutrients in seaweed, and therefore for many people it's more like eating a low-value vegetable (like lettuce I guess). Did you come across that in your research?

I didn't come across it, but a quick Googling led me right to it!  Apparently, there are bacteria that produce an enzyme that breaks down cell walls in algae, and it's been found in the guts of some Japanese.  Fascinating!  The fine-tuning of some populations for the diet they evolved to eat is so interesting.  I don't think we know what this means for nutrition absorption in Asian vs. American guts (that would require some serious research), but I'd sure like to know. Thanks for the heads-up!

I can't wait to read Michael Anthony's book. My husband loves vegetables so I'm always looking for new recipes and ideas. Do you have bean recipes in your book? Do they count as a vegetable?

There are beans in the book and yes they count! There is an easy recipe for string beans with home made sesame sauce on page 33 of the book. I love the cranberry beans with smoky bacon and collards for rainy days like today. I even cook black beans with tomatoes and mussels to create a really flavorful dish.

Chef Michael Anthony, I think I understand your fascination with your wife originally not liking cauliflower. When I began dating a man from a small town in Chile, he had never seen or tasted broccoli, and he didn't much care for the look when I offered it to him the first time. Five years later, when he moved back to Chile, he wanted to introduce everyone in his family to broccoli, and worried that he didn't know where he'd be able to find it there.

Great job! Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm. My wife came around too. She now likes many of the cauliflower preparations I share with her.

Hi. I have a tall wooden pepper grinder like the ones waiters use to add some fresh-ground to salad and pasta. It's great except it only makes a fine grind and I prefer coarse-ground most of the time. Do you know if I can have it adjusted? Or is there a not-expensive adjustable grinder that's easy to use? I've been re-using those pre-loaded disposable grinders sold by Trader Joe's, which are easy to refill. But they're not that comfortable for a person with carpal tunnel and arthritis. And you can only re-use them a few times before the plastic gears and cogs stop working.

My favorite pepper grinder is the Magnum. Super easy to use and adjust. It's not exactly cheap -- I see it at $45 for the bigger one and $36 for the shorter one on Amazon, but not totally outrageous. Plus, I've had mine for years and years, so I do think it should be the last one you'll need. 

I'm going to paraphrase an Ismail Merchant recipe for spinach. You steam the spinach and puree with a spoon of butter, a tablespoon of mustard, and you can add scallion if you have it or play with spices, but just the butter and mustard work too. It's incredibly delicious. His cookbook, Passionate Meals, is highly recommended.

Thanks!

My favorite snack at home by myself as well as a popular appetizer I serve my guests is a little bit of rice rolled inside a seaweed, the kind that is sold in packages the size slightly larger than a small index card. All you need is a bit of leftover rice, moistened, not soaked through, with a little bit of your perfect homemade stock or clear soup or a tablespoon of white wine, a tiny bit of black sesame seeds, finely chopped cilantro if you like it. Mix rice, sesame seeds and cilantro together, (depending on your stock you may or may not need a few drops of rice vinegar) put about a tablespoon of this mixture onto the short side of a piece of seaweed, and roll like a short cigar. If you get the right kind of seaweed, there are tons of different varieties, they are addictive. This recipe comes from Rebekah Jewel whom I got to know through WaPo recipes. As always, THANK you. When I was buying a whole bunch of these seaweed packages at a Korean grocery store an old Korean woman started telling me something I could not understand. She summoned a bilingual teenager who explained that in Korea they make sure that mothers make young girls eat seaweed when they are menstruating, but, the woman said, seaweed should be eaten in moderation because if eaten in great quantities it will cause constipation.

That sounds like a great idea (not surprising, as WaPo led you to it ...).  It's almost like  a sushi roll, but with flavoring other than fish.  Thanks for contributing.

I had this in Iceland last week. They don't reconstitute it. Just eat it spread with butter. It was really very good (if you like fishy tastes and I do). Are there any good local sources? I brought home a package, but it is only 100 grams and once I open it up, it won't last that long. Do any of the Nordic embassies know where to get it?

European Foods in Clarendon said they have it. They specialize in Portuguese items, which is another cuisine in which dried cod -- also known as bacalao -- is commonly found.

ARTICLE: Required Taste: Bacalao’s salty backstory recalls the high seas

Isn't seaweed commonly eaten in poorer communities on the coasts of the British Isles? I was sure I had read about that. Does the enzyme only exist where populations have evolved to have it, or are the poor seacoasters of Cornwall and Wales just filling up on fiber?

I wish I had an answer for you, but not only do I not have it -- I'd be surprised if anyone does.  I think the research simply hasn't been done.  But if it has, and I'm wrong, I hope someone tells both of us!

Is there anything I can substitute for cauliflower in biryani? I have all the other ingredients and no time to shop if I want to finish the dish by supper time.

Is this a vegetable biryani or is the cauliflower part of, say, a chicken biryani or goat biryani? If the latter, you can just skip the vegetable. You won't miss it THAT much.

 

But if the cauliflower is the star, you'll need to find substitutes: like new potatoes, green beans, peas and/or carrots.

Today’s article “Seaweed can help feed the world…” paints an optimistic picture for the use of seaweed as a human food source. The potential danger of high iodine levels was mentioned, but another potential source of problems was not mentioned at all. Consumption of seaweed, or seaweed-derived products, is nothing new for Americans – generations of Americans have been (probably unwittingly) consuming the seaweed products known as carrageenans. And recent reports link carrageenan consumption to metabolic syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. What are the author’s thoughts on this?

Glad you brought that up, and I did consider addressing it in the piece.  One reason I decided not to is that a review of the peer-reviewed literature on carrageenan doesn't show much in the way of danger.  There are some studies linking it to inflammation, but from there to IBS is a very great distance (and if you search PubMed on carrageenan and IBS, you get nothing).  When there is more research, we'll have a clearer picture, but I don't see cause for a lot of concern, given what we know now.

Can I use delicata rather than butternut in the farinata? I've got one on my counter that should make two cups, and I don't want to go to the store on this icky day! (Apologies for the 101 question; I can never remember which squash can be swapped with which.)

Yes, absolutely, I can't imagine why that wouldn't be fine in this! And nope worries -- it can be hard to remember all those squashes, yes? For the most part, the winter squashes are pretty interchangeable, with some exceptions: Spaghetti squash is unique in texture (hence the name), and some varieties (kabocha) are drier than others, which wouldn't make much of a difference in a recipe like this one, in which the squash is cubed small and cooked before the farinata is made.

RECIPE: Butternut Squash Farinata 

I only use frozen spinach in baked dishes, such as quiche or spanakopita or spinach balls (appetizer). Every good spinach dish I've had that's quick-cooked has been made with fresh spinach. Sorry.

Fresh is definitely the way to go. But, some ingenious gardeners do a great job of capturing their harvest by quickly blanching their vegetables and freezing them so they can enjoy them throughout the year. I once had a vegetable soup prepared at a friends home for Thanksgiving that included his own hand grown garden fresh vegetables and despite the fact that some of them came from the freezer, it was a truly meaningful and memorable dish. If you have to cook with frozen, try using some vegetables that are in season with the frozen to create a fresher flavor.

Bad news: heater needs to be repaired, will likely be without heat for a day. Good news: we have a gas oven that throws off a lot of heat. Any recommendations for recipes that involve long oven times? I was originally thinking bread, but am worried that our place will be too cold for the dough to properly rise. Thanks!

Here you go:

Extremely Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast

RECIPE: Extremely Slow-Roasted Turkey Breast (8-9 hours)

Overnight Potato Kugel

RECIPE: Overnight Potato Kugel

Stuffed Chicken With Rice (Tbiet)

RECIPE: Stuffed Chicken With Rice (Tbiet) (10-12 hours)

Twenty-Hour Apples

RECIPE: Twenty-Hour Apples (10 hours to cook, 10 hours to chill)

Maple Baked Beans

RECIPE: Maple Baked Beans (7-8 hours)

Good luck with the heater repair!

The whole time I was reading Smoke Signals today I couldn't get it i out of my head, and even more so with the corresponding recipe for Tri-Tip BBQ. What makes this so special? I've been doing something like this for years with strip steak on my trusty rusty BBQ. Rub: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Fuel: hickory + charcoal. Method: grill it for however long necessary. Was it something that you can only, truly really get in Santa Maria and where everywhere else it's called "grilled steak?"

    Ah, the eternal question: what is barbecue? In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, there is a legendary barbecue place named Dreamland. Its big, meaty ribs are grilled. Hot and fast. They take no more than an hour and a half. And yet...

     While low and slow is the generally accepted barbecue definition, there are exceptions. I've come to pretty much accept a person's self-definition. I should note that, as steak goes, 20-40 minutes is a pretty long time. The grilling is low (the fire is quite a ways from the meat) and, by the standard of steak-cooking, relatively slow. Still, I take your point. If Santa Maria wants to call its grilled tri-tip, or other cuts of beef, barbecue, well, I've been in way too many arguments about what is and isn't barbecue to argue with 'em. 

Hey, thanks for answering my tofu question in the chat leftovers! We ended up smoking it with the pork for about 2 hours (with apple wood, I think), then refrigerating while the pork spent the night in the oven. To serve it, I chopped it finely ("pulled tofu") and heated in barbecue sauce. She liked it and I did, too. That sauce is good enough to drink, by the way. Now on to the "traditional Thanksgiving tofu!"

     Who says the pork and tofu twain shall never meet? Saving Thanksgiving one barbecue solution at a time - your friend at Smoke Signals. 

I hated vegetables as a kid, because my mother overcooked everything to flavorless mush. In retrospect, it's a good thing she didn't teach me how to cook. As an adult, I love stir-fried vegetables, and a few years ago my grown son introduced me to roasted brussel sprouts and cauliflower. I am happy that cool weather is now here, so I can turn on the oven and start roasting!

Growing up, I was the pickiest eater in the world. Not to blame mom, but as an adult I started to travel and began appreciating discovering new flavors everywhere I go. As a chef, I look towards vegetables to tell stories about the dishes. Where I encountered them, who taught me how to season them, interesting new ways to cook them, it's a brand new world.

I really learned to enjoy nori when on retreat with the good Thich Nhat Hanh Buddhist sisters, who were Vietnamese. They took turns cooking and everyone enjoyed crumbling nori into most everything. It was delish and a mineral boon, especially for those of us who are vegetarian. A Vietnamese family who came to the saturday open day gave the monastery a box of persimmon. Oh the joy of those - what a boon, and particularly enjoyable in porridge.

I think nori is a great addition to to soups, stews, and other composed dishes.  It adds umami, that lovely savory mouthfeel.  Don't count on it for minerals, though.  You're eating very small amounts when you eat it that way -- just grams -- and you're unlikely to get any appreciable minerals.  But don't worry about that, and just enjoy it.

If your grinder is truly just like the kind servers use, the knob at the top should be adjustable. The looser the knob, the coarser the grind. The tighter the knob, the finer the grind.

Awhile back I asked how to create this canned-bean quality when cooking dried beans. I've since cooked black beans and black-eyed peas using your tip not to soak first and it worked like a charm. And it really didn't take that much longer to cook sans soaking. Thanks for the tip!

Thanks for the very helpful info, Joe (and for repeating yourself). Speaking of seaweed and Hawaii, I lived in Hawaii as a young child. When we moved here for second grade, I remember my mother packed me and my siblings rice balls wrapped in seaweed for lunch boxes. That officially marked us as weirdos among our peers, but I loved that snack!

My wife was making a pot roast in a cast iron dutch oven. The recipe she was following called for lots of acid to go in the braising liquid. She boiled it over. Apparently that acid had solubilized some of the iron from the cast iron dutch oven and then leached it into the pores of the flat cooktop. Any suggestions on how to get this iron out of the cooktop? The black cooktop has large streaks of silver when it got into the pores.

Oh, lord, I have no idea! This sounds like something only the manufacturer of the cooktop (and/or the Dutch oven) can help you with.

I'd like to second Joe's recommendation on the Magnum. I bought one when Bonnie (I think) talked about it several years ago. I love that peppermill! and when I saw there was a 6" one, I bought another.

The OXO pepper grinder is great - adjustable for course to fine and easy on the hands/wrists.

I think I will reserve that for the just graduated from college crowd. But I am inexperienced because I don't have all that broad a repertoire. But I would like to expand a bit, especially with non-starchy vegetables. At this point, I have two recipes for cauliflower, one for mushrooms and one or two for broccoli. Plus I can steam asparagus. Part of the problem is that so many cookbooks only show you what the food is supposed to look like when you are done. What about the intermediate steps? I think I know what it means to cook onions until they are translucent, but I'm not sure. They are never really see through, or are they? Any help on this?

America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated are really great for how-to and step-by-step photos. If you have $25, you might want to invest in their "Cooking School Cookbook," which I just paged through at my desk.

As for the onions, no, they're not going to be totally see-through, like a window. But the pieces should go from opaque to somewhat transparent. Kinda clear but still a bit cloudy. Does that help?

What, no Momofuku CCDC recipes?

It's a little hard when Chef David Chang had not settled on final recipes until the day of opening.

For background:

ARTICLE: After weeks of debating a menu, David Chang launches a new concept, Momofuku CCDC

God bless Michael Anthony, but spinach puree is for decorating the plate. Fresh baby spinach in the saute pan following olive oil and garlic just melts in your mouth. It's like buttah!

Love that too! Thanks for the support.

That cauliflower recipe looks good but I'm wondering if it might not be a little dry?

Wonder no more. Not only MIGHT it not be dry, it's DEFINITELY not dry!

RECIPE: Caramelized Cauliflower With Peppers and Onions

Jim, you didn't do the beans justice in your piece on Santa Maria BBQ. You should have included a recipe for the beans instead of the salsa. Those little, "squarish," red beans are so good, we regularly take the 2-1/2 hour trip to a Central Coast supermarket for a few pounds of beans. I guess we could order them online, but it's more fun our way.

      I agree, those beans are absolutely delicious. I am a big fan of pinto beans, slow cooked and soupy, and standard at traditional Texas barbecues. And these little guys are similar in creamy texture and deep flavor. The story did have a mention of an online business that sells them, and the bags include a recipe, I'm pretty sure. True, not as much fun as driving to the central coast of California. Maybe you can lean a surfboard against your back patio and pretend.

Broccoli has a real affinity for anchovies: steam the broccoli briefly, then add it to a pan of hot olive oil and garlic and cook for a few minutes longer. Even my otherwise strictly carnivorous dog eats this broccoli.

You rock! What a great classic combination. Tomatoes, olives, fennel, all fit into that story really well.

I often bring raw florets to work for lunch. Easy and good, along with some protein like a hard-boiled egg. (OK, so my lunches are not exciting. But they work.) Also, broccoli, like brussels sprouts, takes well to mustard. Prepared mustard thinned with lemon juice makes a good quick sauce for both. (A little goes a long way here.) Or try sauteeing it in olive oil with one or more of its relatives, like cauliflower or brussels sprouts, and garlic.

I'm with you on the relatives, what a family reunion. If you like the practicality of eating raw vegetables, think about making a few sauces or dips to keep it exciting. How about a chickpea puree? Easy to make in advance, healthy, delicious and goes a long way. Or cucumber yogurt sauce? No heat required, a little ginger or fresh herbs like dill can make that same old broccoli seem fresh and new.

I am obsessed with cooking, but I spend too much time on weeknights in the kitchen and want to manage my time better. One idea I have is to cook one pot of grains and one pot of beans on Sundays. I can also roast vegetables and wash greens. Any other ideas to maximize my time and still put together creative meals?

Yes! Good job. Preparation is the name of the game. At the very least, trim roots, peel off extraneous ends, any unusable parts of the plant so you can organize your refrigerator better and speed up the process when you are cooking a meal. Every time I step in the kitchen at home, I'm thinking about cooking the meal at hand and also two or three meals to come. Sometimes that's in the form of leftovers that get re purposed and I love your plan for cooking grains and beans in advance. Once you have those basics, you can peel, slice and cut fresh vegetables and cook them quickly to create fast meals.

I have to heartily second Joe's recommendation for roasted broccoli. I was a broccoli hater my whole life until my friend Bruce served it roasted and slightly charred. He thought it was a disaster but for me it was a revelation. I have lived in many parts of the world and have served this to friends from many cultures - Turkish, Pakistani, Belgian, French, German, Japanese, etc. It has received universal rave reviews, and I affectionately call it "Bruce's burned broccoli heard 'round the world." It's also amazingly versatile - toss on some parmesan, curry powder, rosemary oil, furikake, ras-el-hanout, pine nuts or marconas, lemon juce, etc. etc. etc!

Oh man, I was traumatized by seaweed as a kid. My aunt and uncle were hosting a Japanese exchange teacher, who would snack on sandwiches made of dried seaweed sheets between two pieces of white bread. (Keep in mind this was in a small town in the late 80s) He gave me a piece to try and not only didn't I like it, I couldn't get the taste off my tongue. I've had some as an adult and didn't have as violent a dislike, but it's still not my thing.

Sorry to hear that! My first rule of eating is to never eat anything you don't like -- so, if I were you, I'd just count myself among the ranks of the non-seaweed eaters and stick to the PB&J.

Can you help identify the seaweed in the seaweed salad that Japanese restaurants often serve? I love it (and my toddler does too!). I'd love to make it at home sometime.

The bright-green succulent stuff? That's wakame. You can buy it dried, but it comes in different versions, so buy carefully.

I enjoyed Tamar Haspel's article on seaweed. I've heard about it from a cooking show or two and read about it in the Pacific Northwest. Good to hear that it is getting farmed in the Atlantic, too. (Of course, it's used in a New England clam bake.) Are there places around here to get edible versions? It sounds quite intriguing to cook with and eat.

Most natural foods stores and more and more supermarkets (Whole Foods, and others) have a pretty wide selection of dried varieties, as do Asian markets, of course. I've also appreciated the seaweed I've ordered from this source in Maine.

My grandmother taught me to smell the onions and when they lose the "bite" and are translucent, they're ready to add the other ingredients.

Hi Rangers, This probably would have been a question for last week, but I didn't think of it until over the weekend when I decided to make the famous non-knead bread from another publication. Anyhow, I followed the directions, and the dough was WAY too thin- not kneadable at all. I have also run into this issue when making croissants- I end up adding about 50% more flour than called for, just to get a workable texture. Could it be the flour? I've been using White Lily AP. Should I switch it up?

Hi, sorry about the bread fail. Don't let it deter you! I have a few thoughts. 

Usually no-knead bread is more hydrated, a.k.a. wetter, because, well, you're not kneading! I've worked with some very wet ones (such as Joe's Siclian Slab pizza) that you just kind of pour and bake. With Jim Lahey's recipe, there should be enough structure for you to form it into a ball.

Also, White Lily is definitely not the flour you want to be using for bread. It's low protein, meaning it's not going to form gluten as well as regular all purpose. (Low-protein flours are better for biscuits, cakes and some quick breads where you want a delicate texture and finer crumb.) So that definitely could have let to your runny dough.

Also, no cheating on the rise time! Make sure you let the dough proof long enough to expand and start forming that gluten network.

Croissants are a totally different animal, with the laminated dough being made by folding and rolling in butter to create all those layers. I probably wouldn't use White Lily there either.

Bread will rise nicely in a cold room if the container in which the dough is resting is placed over the pilot light of the gas stove. Move it around now and then so it does not develop hot spots. Long live gas: in over fifty years in this house, I've never known the gas to go off.

Years ago when we lived in Central Asia, we ate quite a bit of canned seaweed which I loved, but which I haven't found outside of random Russian shops since. We've also lived in Korea and love dried seaweed and am happy that it is now fairly mainstream, although we definitely prefer the ones we buy at Asian shops, not to mention the fact that it is cheaper there. But do you have any ideas about finding the canned version? Or what it would be called in America so I can maybe find it better via Google?

I've only tried dried and fresh, so I can't help much here. But I'd begin with Google, too!

Then there's the classic stilton and brocolli soup.

When my husband and I were first dating he used to say my favorite vegetable was a tater tot. Even though I still love potatoes (real ones, not tots) he brought me over from the dark side and now I'm a big cauliflower fan. I just never knew how good it could be. I'd like to be an evangelist for vegetables but here in bbq land nobody wants to listen. Sigh.

My garden produced way too many butternut squash this year. I cut them all in half and roasted them until soft. On Sunday I made this pie, which is basically a pumpkin pie recipe. It was easy and delicious! The filling was very watery, but it firmed up nicely.

Is coming!!! Any thoughts on what's "hot" this year in Thanksgiving recipe trends? I have to say, I'm still all for the wet brine (flavored with herbs and spices), no matter what those "dry briners" claim.

I believe we're veering back into simplicity -- but I will say I know that Bonnie has a nifty new idea up her sleeve for you that will be revealed in mid-November!

I'm interested in taking a coffee class. I'm not a heavy coffee drinker but I'm truly interested in learning brewing basics. I grew up in a coffee plantation and I'm familiarized with coffee harvesting and other process but brewing...I'm at lost! I'm in the DC area and saw some classes in the sweet science coffee site. Would you recommend a class?

I haven't taken any classes from Sweet Science Coffee, so I can't speak to the quality of them. But the person who runs it is a SCAE certified barista; the class would seem worth your time and money.

 

With that said, the science of brewing is somewhat different from the technical fundamentals of brewing. I know quite a bit about coffee home brewing (and my knowledge grows daily), but I do not own a pricey refractometer to measure the total dissolved solids in brewed coffee (and even if I did, it might not be an accurate gauge).

 

ARTICLE: Coffee at home

 

Also, coffee is an agricultural product. It degrades over time, just like lettuces, fruits and vegetables. The coffee you make one day will taste different than the one you make the next. A good barista will explain how to maintain consistency over the course of your bag of fresh coffee.

 

Good luck!

I find that I rarely can count on the times shown in cookbooks. I know (or can guess)n why. I don't have any problem eating the same thing over and over in the same week, so I tend to double recipes. Is there anyway to know when this is a really bad idea? Like when you are talking about browning the cauliflower, is there a cauliflower to pan ratio that has to be maintained so that they will actually brown vs. the pieces basically steaming each other and not getting browned at all? Thanks.

It takes experience, but generally, anytime you're trying to brown something, you need to avoid overcrowding a pan. That's why I always tell people to make sure when they're roasting vegetables to use a really big rimmed baking sheet and to make sure there's room for air circulation all around. And when browning something like cauliflower in a pan -- yes, it'll go faster and better if the cauliflower is basically in one layer.

If your oven is on anyway, just put it as close to the warm part of the oven as possible (or whereever the warmth comes from) and I'm sure you'll get it raised. I grew up in Minnesota and our house was NEVER warmer than the mid-60s in the winter. My mom had most of the dough rising on the top of the stove (usually with the bowl of dough on a cookie sheet) with the vent light on and the heat from the oven. Worked just fine.

I bought some Portugese kale at the farmer's market. I had never tried it before but couldn't resist those big leafy fans! I found a million recipes for caldo verde on the internet, and I'm planning on trying the great one I found on the WaPo site. However, I couldn't find a single other recipe and refuse to accept this as a one-trick pony. Any other suggestions for this intriguing kale?

You can use it in any recipe that calls for kale -- or even collard greens, I'd say. It's considered a little sweeter than some other varieties, and is marketed to gardeners as a heat-tolerant kale (which would make it good for growing around here, wouldn't it?), but I don't think you need to look for recipes that particularly specify it, especially since there are so many varieties out there! Looks to me to be pretty close to white Russian, btw.

You folks are my food gurus, and you give me such great ideas every week, so I had to share a success: I'm unemployed, broke, and depressed. I love to cook, but all of the ideas that have inspired me would have required the purchase of expensive ingredients, which leaves me feeling even more bummed. But I resolved to cook today, so I stood in front of the open fridge until I had a spark: Toasted some walnuts and chunked and parboiled a couple of broccoli stumps. Threw that in the food processor with a clove of garlic, a handful of parm, a squeeze of lemon, and a bunch of oregano and wee bit of parsley from my plants on the deck. Whizzed it all up with some water from the boiled broccoli and olive oil, and--holy moly! It was delicious! I had also found a sandwich roll, so I served the non-pesto up on crostini rather than pasta--I'll do that later this week to mix it up. Served some cucumbers and green beans tossed with a simple vinaigrette on the side. Success! Incidentally, I think what sparked this idea in the first place was your mention last week of oregano and broccoli working well together. So thank you!

Great to hear this! Thanks for sharing.

I adore eggplant, but despair of every being able to cook it properly myself. Do you have any tricks for de-seeding eggplants? I either end up with a ton of unpleasant seeds in my recipes, or I have to cut so much out that there's just the thinnest ring of flesh left right next to the skin. I get delicious eggplant all the time when I eat out, so there must be a trick to this that I haven't found!

I love eggplant, and I never de-seed it. Old eggplants are bitter eggplants -- look for ones that are smooth and heavy. Fresh, younger ones, such as those at your local farmers market, are best.

Hopefully you will be answer a problem I recently had with Navy Beans. Per the recipe, I soaked the beans >4hrs. I then added them to the soup liquid and cooked for a couple of hours to allow for final liquid absorption. End result was that the beans are still a bit "hard" and even after a few days of sitting, the beans have not softened. Is this an indication of old beans or a problem in preparation? THanks.

That reminds me of a story. For me, it was pinto beans. I do believe I ended up cooking them for most of an entire day, and they were still chalky in the center.  Take it from me: not your fault!  If beans don't cook after two hours, they're old.  That said, sitting won't help -- only longer cooking will. 

I got a box of fancy salts as a wedding present, and one of them is a seaweed seasoning blend. I put it on mashed avocado on toast, awesome stuff!

Well, that wins the prize for most unusual take on avocado toast! Thanks for the idea ...

We do eat vegetables at every dinner but it seems to be the same rotation: broccoli, peas, green beans, carrots. What would be some good fall vegetables to add to our dinners that are quick and easy to prepare. Neither of us has ever met a vegetable we don't like...

Here's a list of fall vegetables to give a try: butternut squash, parsnips, jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, salsify, rutabaga, leeks, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and don't forget potatoes, the most versatile plant around.

Your question is why I wrote the book V is for Vegetables. This book is packed with new discoveries and helpful hints to help you feel encouraged and empowered to find inspiration in these veggies.

I'm having a dinner party this weekend, and I want it to be on a Halloween theme (orange/green/black, spooky, Halloween animals, pumpkins, etc). The only restrictions are no red meat, and nothing that'll take a whole day to make. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks! (love your chat - I learn so much!!)

It's so hard, I think, to do a Halloween party without the food and drink lapsing into kitsch. But here's one recipe that I think would be perfect for you: a pepita rice pudding.

My grandparents came from the Azores, and one of the things I've seen done there is that the leaves are stacked up (not sure how many), rolled up jelly-roll style and tied with string, cooked until done in the beef broth that is Sopas, then sliced into 1/2" rolls that are arrayed on a huge serving platter along with bowls of Sopas, alcatra, etc.

I can't not buy fresh cranberries every year even though I'm the only one who likes the cranberry sauce. I even buy a second bag for the freezer.... I can't help myself. I noticed that you have several cranberry/apple crisp type desserts, but they all call for dried cranberries. Do you have dessert recipes that call for fresh to entice my family? Thanks!

Wait, Chang really didn't have the menu set until opening day? I thought I misread that. How did he stock the kitchen or have his kitchen staff practice the recipes? Or prep the wait staff?

They were working on numerous dishes over the course of several weeks, both in a rental kitchen and in the new CityCenterDC space. Chang was making tweaks to them daily, perhaps hourly, to get them where he wanted them. The ingredients were on hand, of course. He told me that he was debating between 16 and 30 dishes. His opening day menu pretty much split the difference.

I only eat certain vegetables when they are in season and available from local growers (tomatoes, green beans, watermelon) but other vegetables I eat year round or purchase frozen (cauliflower, broccoli, frozen greens, onions, potatoes). Michael Anthony, you say you stick to in season vegetables only. What about everyone else? Only in season or do you make exceptions?

I love breaking rules, but the important thing is that you're actually cooking your meals. It probably doesn't come as a surprise that as of this year, statistics show that Americans eat more meals outside the house than they do at home. In the fall and winter, don't be shy of turnips, cabbage, kale, potatoes, squash, still tons and tons of things that are grown fresh and easily stored to build exciting seasonal dishes.

Thanks for the story today: for years I've been wondering why this happens to me all the time. But one thing I've noted: it's more prevalent when I do a full butter crust than when I use shortening or shortening+butter. Any thoughts on that or have my experiences with the latter been dumb luck?

I'm guessing you're referring to the excerpts from Dorie Greenspan's chat that ran in print.

This is an interesting question. It may very well be dumb luck. Although it could have something to do with the different moisture and fat content of butter versus shortening -- shortening melts at a higher temp, so maybe it's holding up a bit longer before shrinking back? But that is my very unscientific guess. Wish we had our pastry chef friend Alex Levin in the house to answer better!

OP here: My Portuguese grandparents must be spinning in their graves over my error (admittedly made in haste).

Hang in there. Get "Root to Stalk Cooking" out of the library, and put your scraps to work! may you be back in the swing of things soon.

Hi Joe, I was a bit confused about how to do the sweet potato cakes in advance. The recipe makes it seem like they should be frozen after the nut mix is on, but I think in the chat you said to freeze it before that? Can you straighten me out, please????

Good eye! Indeed, I contradicted myself, didn't I? In fact, I do think it'd be better to wait to coat them right before frying. Will adjust the instrux in the recipe!

RECIPE: Sweet Potato and Pistachio Cakes

The Nessie soup ladles are in their way. Now I'm looking for a soup mix to package with the ladles for office gifts. Several times I've given my favorite, a calico bean soup with a tomato base, spiced with Mexican flavors (hot and mild options); . I do intend to try the mulligatawny soup from the Recipe Finder, though I'm afraid the curry might be too "exotic" for some people (and where do I find dried apples?). I didn't see any others in the database, but the Finder didn't distinguish mixes, so I stopped selecting "load more." I've scanned other websites (many I'm not sure I'd trust), but a lot of recipes look downright awful, and others require meat, which I prefer to avoid. Any suggestions? Barley? Lentils? Pasta?

We had a minestrone soup mix too!

Minestrone Soup Mix

RECIPE: Minestrone Soup Mix

My mom used to make lots of stuffed vegetables, including stuffed whole cabbage or pumpkin size squash, stuffed leeks or grape leaves. My favorite used to be stuffed Zucchini, usually the larger ones were hollowed and stuffed with meat of some sort, the tine ones were sliced horizontally and stuffed with herbs and nuts ala Julia Child. I have been successful with stuffed cabbage, squash, peppers, etc, but not the larger zucchini. No matter how much attention I pay, they turn watery, and unlike my other stuffed treats I make they cannot be reheated. They turn into water. What am I doing wrong? Thanks for your help.

All of these dishes sound really delicious. You're lucky to have grown up eating such exciting food. As for the large zucchini, try removing the seeds with a spoon and pre-roasting it to condense the flavor and dry up some of the excess water. Then stuff them and cook them for a shorter time with the filling. Here's another idea: cut the zucchini in larger chunks and saute or roast it and toss it with the same ingredients you planned to stuff it with. It will taste just as good, just in a different form.

Is it possible to make a delicious pasta sauce from canned pumpkin?

Yes. This is one of my favorite recipes in our database.

Pasta With Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

RECIPE: Pasta With Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

A quick glance through several cooking mags at the checkout suggested that butternut squash is in everything this year from stuffing to pie. bns is the new sweet potato. Think orange bread.

Last week's discussion on farmer's markets hit a nerve with me. From your professional view, where do the vendor's at farmer's market source their produce? I'll narrow this down to the DC markets and keep it to produce. I am not the WaPo garden expert (I do like Adrian though), but I just know that the extent of produce I'm seeing in farmer's markets were likely not grown locally. Its apple season, so I believe the apples I see. But I can't see one farmer producing as much on his own farm as I see at a single stall. I assume he/she buys produce from distributors, the same a grocery stores do. So why am I paying farmer's market prices, when there is no evidence its produced by a local farm?

I suppose some could be coming from wholesalers at some markets. This is why I gravitate to producer-only markets, where the vendors are vetted to ensure they are making/growing whatever they sell. When in doubt, ask questions of the managers or vendors themselves! Folks selling their own produce will be happy to talk to you about their growing practices.

Whew! Thought my addled brain had done it... ;-) But I was thinking a fresh nut crust would be better than a frozen one... much obliged!

I read the bbq article and kept hoping there would be some mention of the pinquito beans but nothing. They are my current obsession and I'd love some new recipe for them.

    You freaked me out. I thought maybe something happened, so I just re-read my article, both online and in print. In my reading, pinquito beans are in the piece. Invisible ink? Give it another shot. I hope a mention of the beans shows up this time. There is also a mention in the story of a Santa Maria online business that sells pinquito beans, which, I believe, includes a recipe. You mentioned you'd like a new recipe. I don't know what you are doing now, but add a little spice - some ancho pepper perhaps to whatever else you are putting in. 

I used to rely on bags of frozen veggies for meals when I didn't feel like cooking a side, but I never enjoyed it. I did it because it was good for me! Now I've got a few bags left in the freezer that I don't want to toss but can't bring myself to eat. Is there ANYTHING that can be done to jazz up these veggie mixes to give them a little more flavor (texture would be a bonus)? I'm thinking maybe throw 'em in a saute pan and add soy sauce or something...

Pasta is always an option. Try cooking them with a little garlic and olive oil, the combination of flavors is usually delicious. Or try a stir fry with a few fresh vegetables. Pat the frozen vegetables dry and add them at the end. Thai Sriracha, Korean Gochujang, or Indian Garam Masala are all exotic seasonings to most of us that are delicious. Why not make a delicious chicken soup and fold in the vegetables?

Well, you've divided us among warm, shallow bowls, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks to Jim, Tamar and chef Michael Anthony for helping us answer them!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about induction cooking will get "The New Cast Iron Cookbook." And the one who first asked chef Mike about broccoli will get a SIGNED copy of his "V is for Vegetables." Send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and we'll get you your books!

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.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Michael Anthony
Chef Michael Anthony is the author of "V is for Vegetables."
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