Free Range on Food: On Paula Wolfert, cooking with Ottolenghi chefs, the Veg-O-Matic and more

Oct 30, 2013

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 Free Range! Hope you enjoyed this week's section, between Emily Thelin's powerful piece about Paula Wolfert, Bonnie's take on cooking with Ottolenghi/Samimi and David Hagedorn's hilarious experiments with Veg-O-Matic 2.0.

We've got all those authors in the house to help answer q's today, so take advantage and make your queries count! Our favorite will get a cookbook: a signed copy of "Ottolenghi: The Cookbook," of course.

Let's do this thing!


Is it dangerous to refreeze meat or fish after they have been thawed ? I am concerned about the health risks.

Yes, but only if you've thawed them in the refrigerator, as we explain in our freezer graphic. A little more from the USDA:

Once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.


If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly.

Submitting early in case my baby's naptime doesn't align with lunchtime! This is a two-parter: (1) What's up with the soy in EVERYTHING? I've had to remove it from my diet and find that it's nearly impossible to avoid in everything from commercial baked goods (bread, crackers, cake) to chocolate to granola bars. (2) Any ideas for a good replacement for my former go-to dinner of stir fry? I miss soy sauce!

Yes, there's soy in tons of processed foods, it's true. For chocolate, you can find ones without the dreaded soy lecithin; one brand I've heard good things about is Enjoy Life. For other substitutes (including some ideas about soy sauce), see this post from our friends over at The Kitchn.

My father in law is coming out for thanksgiving and has requested a cheesecake that has a chocolate oreo crust and is made with cherry/chocolate liquor and canned cherry topping. I've searched but can't seem to find anything. I've made rum chata cheesecake in the past and it's been great so my guess is something like this would be too.

Your FAL has made such a specific request that it seems like he might have seen or have a line on such a recipe, no? 

If no, then maybe you should just go your own way, and make something like this stunner from Jamie Oliver. Same flavors, more of it from scratch.

Or if you don't like the idea of doing it all from scratch, here's a recipe you can play around with: Just sub the Oreos for the chocolate wafers and cherry/chocolate liqueur for the plain old cherry liqueur, right?

NOTE: I haven't tested either of these...

not sure if this is your domain but I cannot get my drinking glasses clean. They are super cloudy every time I take them out of the dish washer. I use the jet dry stuff, but it doesn't help. I tried hand washing, but still can't get them clear. Is there a way to salvage my glasses and keep this from happening in the future? thanks

Assuming they are made of glass, cleaning them with white distilled vinegar should get rid of the cloudy stuff.  (My dear departed mother used vinegar for all kinds of things, including as a hair rinse for her squirmy 9-year-old daughter.)  I see on the Web that you can flll a plastic tub with hot water and add 2 cups of vinegar. Soak the glassware, then let them dry. And it looks like you can add the vinegar to the little rinse/stuff compartment in your dishwasher. 

I submitted the question last week about cooking the spinach and rice casserole in ramekins. Bonnie sort of blew me off, saying I could cook as directed and cut it up. That wasn't what I asked. If you weren't going to answer my question, why did you trouble to take it?

!!! No "blow you off" intended.  I simply misunderstood. I thought you wanted to know whether/how to freeze individual portions. Let's try again? I mean well. 

Your q was:  "This looks really good for pre-cooking and storing frozen. But I'm cooking solo, and would like to bake it in individual ramekins, turn it out and wrap it in foil, and freeze. Since the dish is oiled, this shouldn't be a problem for extraction, but I'm wondering how to adjust the baking time for smaller pans."

SO, my answer was meant to provide you an easier way than baking the casserole in ramekins (you didn't specify size). But if that's what you'd like to do, I'd say decrease the baking time by 10 minutes or so, or whenever you see the top get a little browned in spots. 

Happy Wednesday, Free Rangers! I've recently discovered the wonder that is spaghetti squash, and I have one question: Can I roast the seeds like I would pumpkin seeds?

Yes indeed. Enjoy!

Par tof the reason is that there are a variety of markets for the various components in soy. Soy oil is removed from the bean, leaving the proteins and other fractions. Some of those fractions work well as binders or emulsifiers. I see that it is a negative for people avoiding soy, but it is really about using all the components of an agricultural product.

I was at the 6th & I event and loved it. Question: What are some of your favorite variations on Shakshuka? {Personally, I sometimes add Indian spices, or go with Mediterranean flavors by adding feta and olives.}

Indian spices would be great. (For those of you unfamiliar, shakshuka's the tomato/pepper Mediterranean version of  eggs in hell.) I like to add saffron to the sauce, or maybe a little hard salty cheese.  How 'bout you chatters?

I've taken on a huge liking to soba noodles recently. With the cold weather approaching do you have any must try recipes? Cooking for me needs to be 30 min or less.

Hot-and-Sour Sesame Soba Noodles, one of Bonnie's Dinner in 30 Minutes dishes, sounds like the perfect dish for you.

Hot-and-Sour Sesame Soba Noodles

You also might try the recent recipe I tested from "Isa Does It": Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl.

I thought David Hagedorn's article about the updated (or maybe not really) Veg-O-Matic was quite funny. I checked out the Amazon reviews and commenters actually had nice things to say about the original. I've never tried one myself, but I agree a good knife sounds like it would work much better--which is why I suppose the accompanying soup recipe doesn't include instructions to use the Veg-O-Matic to dice the vegetables.

Exactly right about the recipes. Since the point of the Veg-O-Matic (which I fondly, and a tad ironically, refer to as the VOM) is to slice and dice, I just left it at that in the recipes. Also, because the machine mostly didn't work, I couldn't very well say, "Mangle the onions and carrots with a Veg-O-Matic. Then pick the pieces out of the machine and use a knife to repair them as best you can" even though I was tempted to.

I purchased my first acorn squash at the farmers market and would like to practice a dish before Tday. What can I do with it? Should I stuff it or slice it?

Two possibilities:

Sweet and Sour Glazed Squash from Jacques Pepin

Sweet and Sour Glazed Squash

Grilled Acorn Squash Wedges

Grilled Acorn Squash Wedges

You can also use acorn in that Chimichurri-Pumpkin Bowl recipe I linked to a bit ago, and you should stay tuned for another good use coming up in Weeknight Vegetarian next week: Roasted slices that you then stack and stuff, in this case with a quick pesto-farro salad.

I made butternut squash soup, which tasted great but the flavor was a bit intense and the texture thick, so only a small amount could be consumed in one sitting, and it needed a good amount of bread to make it less strong of flavor. I didn't want to add cream, but I would like to mellow out the flavor and make it smoother and silkier. It currently has the texture of jarred baby food.

Add vegetable broth! Make your own, or buy.

I like to use an acorn squash for desert. Roast them most of the way cut side down. then turn them over, add butter, brown sugar, spices (if desired) and finish roasting. Each person is then served the desert in their own squash bowl.


I really enjoyed Bonnie's article about chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. They sound like a fun pair and their recipes sound delicious and, importantly, accessible. I've read so many raves about the Jerusalem cookbook (I really should just get it), but Ottolenghi The Cookbook discussed in the article sounds interesting too. The idea of adding lemon zest to the tuna's pistachio coating is ingenious and the kind of thing I really like. Between the Jerusalem and Ottolenghi books, is there one you would recommend over the other?

Thanks! Kinda depends on how you like to cook. I found that Jerusalem recipes have more ingredients that you might have to specialty-shop for, but there's more historical background on dishes. Ottolenghi has more bright salads. 


I hope you try their fennel gratin. The chefs were lamenting how Americans underuse the vegetable, and this dish would be so nice on a holiday table. 

I make this probably once or twice a month because my SO and I both love it, and it's a breeze to throw together on a weeknight! I fill mine with lots of peppers (spicy and otherwise), tomato, tons of paprika and cumin, and have even done it with spinach added! Love love love this dish.

Two thumbs up on the spinach. 

I really enjoyed the article on craft and "crafty" brews in today's section. Quick question, are the specialty beers made by the bigger companies as widely distributed as their regular brands? I am particularly interested in trying one of the beers mentioned in the article made by Anheuser-Busch, the Batch 23185, and wondered if it will be more widely available or if I'll have to search for it.

Greg Kitsock says:

Regarding the big brewery brands: Blue Moon Belgian White and the Shock Top labels are very widely distributed. Some of the Blue Moon specialty and limited brands are harder to locate. For instance, I've seen the Blue Moon Vintage Ale beers at the Harris Teeter near where I live in Arlington, but not in Whole Foods or Giant.

As for the Batch 23185, the brewery reports that the Project 12 variety pack officially rolled out on Monday, Oct. 28, but it might take a little time for the package to get from the brewery to the distributor and from the distributor to the retailer. Anheuser-Busch is considered to have a first-class distribution network, and I would expect it to be readily available in this area.

Hi there! I am going to a wonderful Halloween party tomorrow night and I am just so excited. My partner/personal shopper found the most smashing natty shirt and matching ball mask so I am going to go as Joe! I feel honor bound to take a vegetarian treat (something sweet and fun). I will be stopping by the store on the way home today so if you have any recipe ideas I would be forever indebted! Ciao!

I'm sorry, am I reading this correctly? There's a first for everything, I suppose! Why don't you take my Cardamom-Brown Sugar Snickerdoodles?

I had a dishwasher repairman tell me to use less detergent. I use half the recommended amount and my dishes come out sparkling clean and no more cloudy glassware.


Re: cloudy drinking glasses. Most likely they have been permanently etched by the dishwasher detergent, and can't be made clear again.

I did forget to ask how old the glasses are. 

Thanks for the Chat Leftovers on ginger! Someone brought a bunch of vodka to my place for a party recently, so I'm going to pop a knob in one of the bottles to make an infusion. I also want to try the toothpick/water preservation method. When you say you need a "fairly big" piece of ginger, what are we talking about here? Three inches? Six inches?

Soon as Jane Touzalin, the Chat Leftover tsarina, is available I'll check with her. But it seems like you're in the ballpark (3 to 6). 

The Hot and Sticky stir-fry sauce is a favorite of mine, and soy free (at least as long as the chili sauces are).

You know that anytime a chatter gives us an answer out of our own database, s/he is in the running for the book prize, right? Thanks!

According to the list of authors, with whom general public will have an opportunity to meet at the upcoming Annual National Press Club Book Fair, both you Joe and you Bonnie will be there. My question is: will any contributors to the WaPo's delightful cook book be present too? I am dying to also meet David, Becky, Jane and JIM.

David, Becky, whaddayasay? Jim and Jane aren't in the room at the moment, but will ask. I doubt we'll get them all, but you never know!

Thanks for the piece today! I love love love those cookbooks and was lucky enough to eat at one of the restaurants in London last year. I loved the detail where they had to look into their own cookbook to remind themselves of the recipe--it was actually a nice companion to the piece about Wolfert--having all that research and recipes in the book provides a touchstone in different ways for them and for her. I really appreciated that, so thank you.

I learn so much from watching/cooking along with chefs and authors who visit The Post -- many things that just don't translate into recipe directions. 

I like to make the Kiss Cake receipe from the Charleston Receipts. I just used it to make Halloween ghosts this weekend. ThoughI'm curious about the addition of the corn starch to the recipe. You whip up 4 egg whites with 2 cups of sugar. Then you sprinkle in 1 TB of cornstarch, then 1 tsp of vanilla. What does the corn starch do?

This is for a meringue-type thing, right? My Internet sleuthing seems to indicate that people add cornstarch to meringues to prevent weeping and shrinking.

Hi Rangers! I have recently developed cookware envy and need some advice. I am looking to upgrade my current Farberware stainless large saucepan. Do you have any suggestions for what type/brand I should go for? I've been looking at the copper/stainless Mauviel pot, but am open to suggestions. As some background, I cook quite a bit, and my excuse is that I would like an oven-proof saucepan.

I somewhat recently splurged on two different sizes of All-Clad stainless steel saucepans and haven't looked back since. They're great. And oven-safe.

I will second the All-Clad.

Hi all! In my last couple CSA boxes, I've received some small (four-inch in diameter) squash that are flat-ish, resemble the gourds displayed around this time of year, and have green, white, and orange speckled patterns on them (but mostly white). I suppose I'm meant to eat these, but I've just been using them as decorations because I don't know what they are! Any guesses what they are and how I can cook them?

Cut off the tops, scoop/scrape out the seeds, stuff them with a soup or grain mixture or the like, and roast at 350 degrees until the filling is hot and the pumpkin flesh is tender.

LOVE LOVE LOVE, all three books! I have cooked more out of Jerusalem and Plenty, than any other books I own. I heard they are writing another Plenty but what is the second new book???

Yotam Ottolenghi's doing the next 2 books. The other one will be "vegetable-focused," a popular new term of art. 

I snagged a gorgeous 8 pound boneless pork loin roast at Costco, with a big price reduction, thinking I could use it over the holidays. The price was good, but I have no experience with this cut of meat! Any suggestions on how to glam it up for company? Thanks!

I always think stuffed pork loins make for a fun cooking experience and for a cool presentation at the table. Here are a few recipes, the first two from our database.

And of course this amazing recipe of David Hagedorn's for Roast Pork Loin with Apples, Potatoes, Onions and Apple Thyme Jus  in today's paper.


Be mindful that you're dealing with a pork loin roast, which is a larger cut than a straight pork tenderloin. You may need longer cook times.

* Pork Loin Stuffed With Baby Kale and Sausage


* Stuffed Pork Loin Chops With Spinach and Ricotta Cheese


* Lemon and Prosciutto Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

My workplace is having a "harvest potluck". This means something I can bring on a bus and preferably served room temperature.(There is a fridge to store anything). I have lots of butternut squash. Any suggestions? Muffins seem boring. I am considering turnovers or some kind of pasta salad.

You could use butternut squash in my recent Farfalle With Squash and Red Peppers recipe, and serve it at room temp, absolutely.

Usually when I get squash (butternut, acorn, delicata, etc.) I pop it in the oven and roast it. It's just so good. But last night I tried doing something different, which was to barely cook (30-second steam) very thin strips of delicata squash to serve in a salad. It was really good too. Instead of the roasty-sweet flavor, it was more of a delicate vegetal squash flavor. The short steam came about because I tried it raw and, although edible, it was too tough. Do you have other recipes for squash that are raw or barely cooked as opposed to roasted? I'm intrigued to try other things.

There are lots of ways to cook squash other than roasting! I haven't eaten it raw, either, but makes sense that barely steamed would work when the slices are so thin. Here's a recipe for Squash and Apple Puree that steams chunks of the squash. It isn't quite what you asked for, but it would give you another option... You can certainly saute cubes of squash until barely tender, of course!

Do you all know of anywhere (in the District or MD, preferably) to get responsibly sourced head-on shrimp? I know HMart has them, but I assume they are of the imported, farmed variety. There's a great recipe in the Slanted Door cookbook, and I'd like to feel better about the shrimp I'm putting in it.

Yes, call Wagshal's Market on Massachusetts Avenue tomorrow (202-363-0777) and ask for Pam, the butcher there, and she can order some head-on shrimp that will be ready by Saturday. Soon enough? They couldn't quote me a price.


You could also try BlackSalt market (202-342-9101), which sells head-on Madagascar prawns (they're about equal to large or jumbo shrimp, about 16-20 count, when you take off the heads). You can also call Steve the fishmonger at BlackSalt about 24 to 48 hours in advance and he'll order head-on Gulf shrimp. It'll be market price, which has been high recently, from $18.99 to $24.99 a pound.

I loved Bonnie's piece on the chefs. "No foams. No drops of flavors. No swipes on the plate!" Exactly my sort of food and evocative of the time I spent in Jerusalem. I've cooked many of the recipes from the 3 books and find them easy for weeknights and family friendly. Their hummus is my go-to now. Anyway, my question is, what do they see as the food trends in Israel today? And future book plans? Thanks!

Sami hasn't been to Israel in quite a while, actually. He's planning to go in the next few months, I think. Neither chef spends a lot of time there...Friend of Food Vered Guttman's sister, who lives in Tel Aviv, mentioned that she wasn't familiar with their work!  As for book plans, Ottolenghi's next 2 (solo) are due in 2014. 

What is the difference between tonno, albacore, and chunk? Does brand make a difference? What should I look for to buy high quality, tasty tuna?

Tonno means tuna in Italian. As far as I know it's not an actual designation as much as it is a marketing ploy. so it comes packed in olive oil, like Italian tuna does. Albacore comes from albacore tuna and usually comes in a nice, solid, meaty piece. It's almost white in color. Chunk light is what I call blech. it comes from various kinds of tuna (skipjack, yellowfin) and to me looks shredded and is a dark pink color. These are the differences as far as I know. 

While I'd love to be able to afford All-Clad, my favorite saucepan is a no-brand stainless one I got from a restaurant supply store. It's a dream to cook with and easy to clean.

We were told that, too, and it always worked. Then suddenly we had really cloudy glasses and dishes that weren't getting completely clean. No idea why. We tried vinegar rinses, baking soda and borax added to the detergent, everything. Each method would slightly improve things for a week and then it was back to not working. One day my husband accidentally filled both the detergent containers (Pre-Wash and Wash) to the brim, shrugged and turned the dishwasher on, and everything came out spotless. So that's what we do now. I have no idea why, but you might want to try it.

For Emily Thelin: Emily I love the line, "Keep in mind this is for a warrior, not for a gourmet," but I'm a little surprised as well. Can't the ingredients you describe going into her smoothie, seasonal greens, coconut oil, turmeric and black pepper, be just as potent going into a gourmet dish as they are ground up in a smoothie? I'm wondering if you can recommend any recipes--from Paula or anyone else that feature these ingredients in medicinal but also *delicious* concentrations. Thanks!

Great question. Her smoothie has other less appetizing ingredients I didn't list, like raw protein powder and spirulina. But she says it varies day to day, depending on the mix of foods she throws into the blender, whether she likes the taste or not. The day I visited her, she gave me a sample that tasted like chalk! But a few days later she swore she'd made a fantastic one with roasted beets. Here are a few kid-tested options that sound delicious for any age!

One of my favorite dishes at Roots is their Three Lentil Chili. I no longer live close to Roots and miss the chili. Do you have a recipe?

I called the Clarksville store, and the prepared foods mgr. tells me they sell Hale & Hearty brand Three Lentil Chili, but don't make such a soup at the store. Neither does Great Sage, next door.  So, on the Web, this nutritional info for the soup lists the ingredients.  Looks like at some point, an H&H chef shared the recipe. Perhaps  you can get it by contacting the company: 212-255-2400. Or maybe some enterprising Free Ranger has a bead on it already?

When I peel ginger root, I store it in the refrigerator in a jar of sherry. I use the root and some of the sherry in my stir fry. I have done this for over 20 years, and I don't remember where I got the idea. My concern is that I never see this method recommended by experts. Is there something inherently unsafe in my habit?

Your method conforms to the pre-industrial one for preserving peeled ginger. If you read this piece (and its comments, including one from cookbook author Grace Young), you'll see that experienced cooks don't recommend the sherry-soaked ginger for stir-fries. It's too wet and splatters!

And roast the seeds with a little paprika/chipote/cayenne. They're my fav roasted seed.

South River Miso ( No connection) makes a 'soy sauce' out of chickpeas. This does not have quite the same umami as real soy from what I recall of its taste, but it is a very good substitute. They also make 2 chickpea misos which are quite good. On a different topic, the article on Paula Wolfert was just beautiful - food, life, love, relationships and growing old, captured in a wonderful piece. I've always loved her books and recipes, and now, with this example of her grace in adversity will think of her as I cook from them.

So interesting! I LOVE South River's Miso, but didn't know about the sauce. Just looked, and it's tamari, which is similar to soy sauce and is traditionally made from the liquid that collects during the making of miso. And indeed, since South River makes misos from things other than soy, the company makes these tamaris that don't include soy produce. Good to know! Also looks like several of the varieties are out of stock, but you can ask to be notified when they're back. I'm getting some! Thanks much. And yes, Emily's piece on Paula was lovely, wasn't it?

which of course I cannot think of (or say out loud) without thinking about Dan Akryod (bass-o-matic anyone?) looking forward to reading the article now!

When you finish it, maybe I can interest you in a "scramble the egg in its shell" device!

Can you replace it with fish sauce - I'm a vegetarian and do it the other way round. Would that work?

We took home some of Mom's sweet potatoes baked with raisins, pecans, and a drizzle of maple syrup after last Thanksgiving. It made a wonderful stuffing for a pork roast. Truly out of this world.

I recently successfully baked baby back ribs in the oven at 325 degrees for 2.5 hours. I started them bone side up with BBQ sauce, and basted about 40 mins with more sauce. I flipped them over (meat side up) at 1:15 hours and applied sauce, then applied sauce again about half way through (35 - 40 mins). At the end of 2.5 hours, the ribs were juicy and pleasantly firm (but not too firm) - delicious. You could probably cook another 30 minutes with good results, just be sure the sauce doesn't burn. The BBQ sauce I used was Cattlemens with dijon and Frank's Red Hot mixed in - but use what YOU like.

Thanks for the followup!

We switched to Finish Powerball in the dishwasher and have no more cloudy glasses.

Definitely cast iron - they take some time to mellow but are fantastic.

I second the problem. My SO is allergic to soy and it is in everything. I wonder what outcry there would be of peanuts were in everything.

Not a fan of either, but out of the blue decided to give them a try using 30-Minute Red Lentil soup recipe from Bonnie's book. Let me tell you! It is not a soup. It is a dream! You are right ! it tastes quite amazing the next day. I got myself a small bowl of soup and forgot to turn off the stove. It was on very low. When I came back about 10? minutes later the lentils were almost totally melted. The soup was as creamy as if it had heavy cream added to it. We had just a tiny bit left for the next day, (I was not sure if it can be frozen, can it?) so I heated it up some more to get thicker consistency the next day, and served it as a starch with chicken breasts and salad. It was quite good. Now, of course, I want to know WHY I have deprived myself of garam masala all my life...

Give that fan a contract. So nice of you to mention! Here's the recipe, which is also in our Recipe Finder database.

Beautiful article on Paula Wolfert. I've seen the pain that goes through a person's mind when they experience dementia and it is heartbreaking. I am glad she is working through it with something she loves. This week my office received a dragonfruit in our fruit delivery (yes, we are spoiled). While it looks pretty, it just doesn't taste like anything. I can't even imagine doing something with it to make it taste better. There's about half of one left. Anything good I can do with it?

This recipe from Food Network (not tested by us) looks intriguing: scallops with dragon fruit salsa.

I don't have a cast iron pan (no room in my tiny condo), but I do have non-stick and glass bakeware. Of those two, which is the best alternative to cast iron in baking recipes, e.g. corn bread?

Neither one is optimal, but if it were down to one or the other, I'd go with the non-stick. Does the pan have a heavy-duty bottom layer, by chance? You want a pan that can take the heat of an oven and distribute that heat evenly.

We were having problems with cloudy glasses and bowls, presumably from hard water. We switched to cascade actionpacks, the ones that say on the back of the box that they are designed for hard water. It's solved the problem.

corn starch makes a gel like many other starches (tappica, potato starch) that is formed through heating. The gel absorbs water and provides a level of plasticity and mouth feel to the cooked product.

A more scientific explanation, thanks.

Just received an email from a store advertising caramelized, roasted figs. They sound delicious. Do you know of a good recipe I could use to make these? They are quite expensive. Must I use a certain type of fig (I have never cooked figs)?

You could use any variety of figs, but you want fresh figs for this -- and I certainly haven't seen any around here lately. Anyway, we have a recipe for Mackerel Carpaccio With Caramelized Figs in which the figs are run under the broiler. Check it out.

What seasonal side would you serve for a butternut squash risotto? It's such a warm, creamy dish that a salad seems underwhelming in comparison.

Seems like a salad of peppery greens or bold flavors would be just the right counterpart, tho. Maybe one of these, from Tony Rosenfeld?

Shaved Fennel, Pear and Tarragon Salad

Endive and Mache Salad With Apple Vinaigrette

Escarole and Celery Hearts Wtih Warm Rosemary Dressing

My husband LOVES acorn squash. He's taken to cutting them in half, removing the strings and seeds (I roast the seeds for myself, as I don't like squash), and oiling/roasting. While the squash roasts, he makes a stuffing of some kind of grain (whatever we have on hand), bacon or sausage, apple, spices, maple syrup, and whatever else looks good.

Thanks for sharing the fennel gratin recipe! I liked reading about that in the article, but I didn't know you had the recipe, since it's not the one in the print edition. I'm a big fan of fennel and serving this for Thanksgiving is a great idea. Fennel is also good in stuffing, by the way.

What's the difference? I've noticed a lot more places lately specifying "French Feta" instead of just feta.

French feta is typically milder and creamier than the Greek kind, which is tangy and salty. Greek feta can also have two types of milk (sheep and goat) vs. the French version,  which usually just sheep's milk.

uncooked turmeric? Yuck. And presumably the ingredients are less concentrated in a gourmet dish, especially a cooked one, than in a smoothie.

The greens and coconut oil, absolutely; for the turmeric and black pepper, my understanding is that she's taking more powerful extracts that are equivalent to inedible quantities of the spices. I think Wolfert's feeling is, she's trying to cover all her bases. She has nourishing foods in her meals, and whizzed up in a blender.

Going out to eat - no matter what kind of restaurant or how upscale may also be an issue. Most use soy oil, or flavor things you wouldn't think of with soy sauce. I've been told not to dip into the "olive oil" served with bread because it isn't. On othe other hand, it has made me a better cook, since I essentially make everything from scratch :-)

what do you think of these? not like all-juice-all-the-time but the ones that are "whole/real foods" and take away all dairy, meat, gluten, etc. for a few weeks to jump-start the body, good health, eternal happiness, etc. I know they must vary greatly so maybe it's hard to make a blanket statement, but I'm thinking of doing one, just curious if you think this is bunk or a good idea every once in awhile (like once a year) or...just "it depends" etc. Any thoughts?

Personally, as I get older, I'm fascinated to see how my body reacts to different foods, if not diets. Your body is your own petri dish. You can experiment and see how you feel, how your brain functions and your energy is with different foods. It's a cliche, but we're all individual. We're the ones who have to figure out what our body craves, not some diet guru with a book to sell.

I'm going to have a really unpleasant doctor's appointment late this afternoon. Not sure what to make (probably on the light side) for dinner. I don't have any meat that isn't frozen solid at home. I do have canned beans (black, kidney, garbanzo) , lots of onions, and mushrooms that were already sauteed with balsamic. And I found pomegranate molasses when I was cleaning out the cupboard during the shutdown. It looks unopened. Plus other pantry staples. Any ideas? Thank you so much.

Hmm. Maybe warm up the onions/mushrooms, toss them into brown rice for a pilaf? Stir in just toasted nuts and drizzle with the pom molasses. Rinse and drain the garbanzos; heat with herbs (fresh or dried), lemon juice and olive oil. Mash them as  a comforting side dish. 

Please bear in mind that hard water v soft water, and variances in water temperature will change your results. Since the OP didn't specify water hardness or temp, some of the otherwise-helpful, well-intended suggestions may not apply. Might be time to resort to desparate measures -- pull out the dishwasher manual and read it.

My diabetic husband insists that the bbq'd wings, ribs, etc. he loves to go out for are low-carb, and when I point out how much sugar is in most bbq sauces, he protests that he can't taste it so that can't be true (even though I also point out that it's hidden by the hot pepper and vinegar). I'd like to make our own sauce using agave nectar because it has such a low glycemic index. What's your experience of cooking with agave nectar?

I'd say go for it. Experiment and see how it tastes to you and your husband. Given that his palate seems to skip right over the sweet ingredients, he might not notice the change.

Any recommendations on a fish spatula for nonstick pans? I tend to cook our fish and eggs (separately!) in nonstick... so that it doesn't stick. But I need to replace our "pancake turner" and am wondering if there is a good turner that you or the Rangers recommend. I think a fish spatula would do better than the wider turner I have now. Thanks.

Look for one with this design in the spatula part. Slotted, thin, flexible. They are not cheap, but they are invaluable. I use it all the time. Think I got one on Alton Brown's recommendation long ago....

I have a few favorite types of pre-made frozen macaroni and cheese, but I think I could make my own for less money and freeze them as single servings that would keep for a while. However, I worry about mushy pasta and freezer burn. Are there any tips for cooking and packaging a serving of homemade mac and cheese that will freeze well AND warm up easily in the microwave?

We will pass this along to mac-n-cheese master Jane Touzalin, so look for it in next week's Chat Leftovers!

What can I make with Tipo 00 flour? Anything beyond pizza dough?

Well, this seems obvious, but you can make bread.

Well, you've covered us with a crumpled piece of parchment paper and the pot lid and cooked us over low heat for 45 minutes, shaking us from time to time so we cook evenly, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks, all, for the great q's today, and thanks to Emily and David for helping us answer them.

Now for our giveaway prize: The chatter who recommended the hot and sticky stir-fry sauce will get a signed copy of "Ottolenghi: The Cookbook." Send your mailing information to Becky at, and she'll get it to you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading...


In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and editorial aide Becky Krystal. Guests: Emily Kaiser Thelin, author of this week's Paula Wolfert profile; Food section contributor David Hagedorn, who tested the new Veg-O-Matic for this week's section.
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