Free Range on Food: Anthony Lombardo, winter salads, baking and more

Nov 12, 2014

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

Welcome to today's chat! We've got lots of help coming today -- including chef Anthony Lombardo from the Hamilton, subject of David Hagedorn's great profile; Emily Horton, author of the ode to winter salads; Carrie "Spirits" Allan, who's grating nutmegs on her cocktails these days; Lisa Yockelson, who is pureeing sweet potato into the most gloriously moist Bundt cake; as well as us regulars. 

What's on your mind as we start to near the most food-fantastic holiday of the year? Let us know!

For our favorite chatters, we'll have giveaway books today: The big one is Dorie Greenspan's "Baking Chez Moi," which Susan Chang raves about in a review. And we'll also have "Japanese Soul Cooking" by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, source of my Weeknight Veg recipe.

OK, enough windup: Let's chat!

Hi Joe, I made the Korean-Style Tofu, but it didn't turn out as flavorful as I thought it would be and am hoping you can help troubleshoot what went wrong. Could it be the sesame oil? It looked dark in the bottle but maybe it's supposed to be darker? I also couldn't find Chinese black vinegar at Whole Foods or Giant, but found how to make something close to it online (1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 part rice wine vinegar and 3 parts water). With making my own black vinegar I used 1TBSP each of balsamic and rice wine and 3 TBSP of water. I then just measured out 3 TBSP of this for the recipe, so perhaps it was more diluted? Should I have done the 1:1:3 three times even though it would have been 6 TBSP of liquid? I'm not sure if I'll be able to participate in the chat but I hope you can help b/c we liked the recipe. This may require me to make a trip to H mart to get actual black vinegar instead of making my own. Thanks for any help and insight you can provide.

Hi! Yep, it was that black vinegar sub, I'll bet. Keep in mind two things: One, if you're not worried about sodium, you can just use 3 more tablespoons of soy sauce. Two, you should definitely take this instruction to heart from the recipe: "Taste, and adjust the salt, pepper, sugar, soy sauce and/or vinegar as needed."

But yes, you should get some black vinegar!

Hi! I have a carnivore friend visiting from out of town tomorrow and have been thinking of a menu that wouldn't make him feel deprived in our vegetarian household. I have a butternut squash risotto recipe that calls for puree, and I was wondering if my leftover pumpkin puree could sub. Also I was thinking about adding a swirl of gorgonzola with the parmesan. (Green salad with brussels and cranberries; sautéed mushrooms & crusty bread on the side to round out my meal.) Thanks for all your inspiration!

Sounds like you don't need us! The pumpkin would work great -- you can fold it in near the end of cooking. A chestnut puree would be heaven, especially with your side of mushrooms. There's also a nice recipe in our database for Cider Risotto With Roast Sweet Potato and Fresh Sage -- the touch of sweetness and that particularly autumnal herb sound pretty terrific together, don't they?

Can't wait to make this! Two questions: if I use mashed sweet potato rather than the canned puree, would 2 scant cups be about right? (I.e., should II use 15 ounces by weight, or by volume?) Also, can you tell us how big the bundt pan should be by volume? Thanks!

RECIPE Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Cake

Regarding homemade sweet potato puree: It would be preferable to use 15 ounces by weight. A traditional 10-inch Bundt pan has a capacity of 14 to 15 cups.

Could you recommend grocery stores that sell Greek gigantes beans in Washington and maryland? Additionally can crispy quinoa cakes be frozen after being cooked?

In DC, get thee to Mediterranean Way on Connecticut Avenue just north of Dupont Circle. Not sure about in Maryland!

You must be making the Greek Giant Bean Stew! And, were you at either our Plate Lab Live Dinner Party, where we paired that stew with the quinoa cakes; or did I perhaps cook a Farmland Feast charity dinner for you a couple weeks ago? I served that combo then!

As for the Crispy Quinoa Cakes, I'll get Bonnie's take here, but it's best to freeze them before cooking, then defrost before frying.



RECIPE: Greek Giant Bean Stew With Honey-Lemon Sauce




RECIPE: Crispy Quinoa Cakes

Not sure when the traditional of serving food after a funeral began, but are there limits as to the types of food to serve/bring for the after-service grazing? Should the meal be a three-course meal or hors d'oeuvres?

Longheld tradition, particularly in old, established churches. Former Journal food editor Jane Mengenhauser almost did a piece for us a while back....the various egg salads, dips, etc., that are often part of the deal are sweetly referred to as "dead spreads" -- kinda love that (I was a "Six Feet Under" fan). Ladies of the church are tasked with putting such things together. I'd say hearty, protein-packed salads mixed with various finger foods and some sweets would be the ticket. Ro0m temperature type stuff. 

I saw the recent FAQ regarding fried turkeys. Would you recommend brining a turkey that will be fried? If not, how would you recommend preparing prior to frying?

I would use a wet brine (or you could inject the moisture), but then be sure to dry out the bird overnight in the refrigerator, so the skin's conducive to being crisped. 

Check out THANKSGIVING CENTRAL on the Food homepage; we update it daily! And

THANKSGIVING FAQ: Should I brine the turkey?

My daughter has asked me to make a chocolate cream pie with a Heath Bar crust for Thanksgiving dessert. I can easily produce a chocolate cream filling, but am having trouble figuring out how to incorporate Heath Bars into the crust. Any help would be appreciated!

What type of crust are you using--graham cracker, shortcrust pastry dough--please clarify. Note that if you are prebaking a crust with toffee bits in it, there may some problem with sticking and the resulting pieces may not cut cleanly. My suggestion would be to leave the candy out of the crust and perhaps incorporate it in the dessert by sprinkling shards on top of each slice just before serving.

When is the issue coming out and do you have any surprises that you can share about what to expect?

                                ** Dec. 3 Dec. 3 Dec. 3 **

Savory cookies get their due this year! Friend 0' Food Tiffany MacIsaac's doing the special cookie project -- sure to delight! 

They're still stuck! I managed to insert a mini-screwdriver between the two and then get lots of water into the bottom bowl, but breaking the vacuum seal didn't do the trick. I"m thinking of dropping it off at your offices so you can experiment on it or give it as a "prize." (Filing early as again today, I will not be able to join the chat live.)

?!? Well, I want to get my hands on them, so go right ahead. 

I was reading an article recently about biscuits made with a "laminating" technique. What does that mean exactly? The visual in my head involves a lot of layers of butter (not a bad thing, for sure). But I'm wondering what it is, if it's a good idea and if you'd recommend it. Thanks.

Layerwise, you're onto something. The technique adds flakiness by adding fat -- let's just say it's butter -- and then folding the dough and giving it a quarter-turn; repeat, repeat, repeat. (The effect is like what  you see on those Pillsbury Grands commercials.) I think you can make fluffy biscuits without going to that trouble; Nathalie Dupree's Goat Butter Biscuits come to mind most immediately. Check out this tutorial at


RECIPE Goat Butter Biscuits


With cookie baking season fast approaching, any thoughts on where to find it? I've seen "natural processed" cocoa, but don't know if that is different from Dutch processed or not.

What brand are you referring to that uses the terminology "natural processed?" My container of Hershey's Cocoa has the phrase "natural unsweetened" on the label. Dutch-processed cocoa powder is cocoa treated with an alkali, and yes, it is different from natural cocoa powder. If the recipe is responsibly written, its author should define exactly which type of cocoa powder should be used.

Dear Food Gurus, I hope you can help with this non-recipe question. My husband and I cook a lot and eat (mostly) healthy, no red meat, and about 40 percent of the week we cook vegetarian. We're trying to keep in shape, maybe drop a couple pounds, but I think our portion sizes are too big. Recipes, even in your awesome section, sometimes call for a 6-ounce salmon fillet or chicken breast. Somewhere I read that an adult should be eating only 4 ounces of protein, and now I'm weighing stuff on my food scale before cooking. That seems so little, especially for my husband. What do you consider to be a good, healthy not-hungry-after-eating portion size for adults? Thanks for any guidance!

Couple of different thoughts on this. 4 ounces of protein would never fill me up, unless I was eating 10 ounces of veggies and starches. I would much rather fill up on proteins. I really don't think that 6 oz is to much protein by any means. We serve that much in the restaurant as the portion size for entrees because that's standard for entrees, guests would get upset otherwise.  

Found quince at Rodman's in Friendship Heights for $1.67 each for those looking for that farro dish.

Can you recommend any farmers markets, or other places that sell local, fresh produce, that continue to remain open during the winter? Preferably in northern Virginia, but DC would work, too. Many of the ones I have seen that are technically open during the winter are dependent on whether the vendors wish to set up in the cold, and most do not after this coming weekend.

Have a look at our farmers market map. Plenty of year-round markets out there.  In NoVa, the Courthouse, Columbia Pike, Falls Church, Westover, Del Ray and Old Town Alexandria markets go all year. Any of those work for you? We indicate on our map each market's season, so look at whatever ones are convenient to where you live.

Hi! I want to make coq au vin, but my friend is allergic to red wine. What would you suggest as a white wine substitute? Thanks!

Use a heavy body white but it wont be the same. Coq au vin is a traditional dish that should taste like red wine when its ready. Its the tannins that make it delicious. Unfortunately its also the tannins that your friend is allergic too. If you must make it with a white.....use a chardonnay with a lot of oak.  

We've been tasked with making three loaves of bread for Thanksgiving - one whole wheat, and two of our choosing. We're a little overwhelmed with all of the possibilities for those two loaves. What types (other than cornbread, please!) would you choose?

How about a big pan of interconnected potato rolls or a loaf of potato bread, and following in the interconnected theme, a pan of yeast- or baking powder-raised biscuits? I'm a big fan of a quick bread dough cut and baked so that the pieces merge--very pretty on the platter, with nice moist edges and crusty tops.

What is the best recipe for make-ahead turkey gravy? I've never been good making them, so last year not only did I try to make one in advance so i wouldn't be stressed the day of, but also I bought an extra from Whole Foods. Mine was too oily and the one from Whole Foods was tasteless. I ended up mixing them together with some success, but I know it could have tasted better. Please help!

I've tested several ways, all worked well. It depends on when you're getting your bird, of course, but even if you won't have it yet, I'd say get some turkey wings and maybe a turkey neck and giblets if you can. Chop them up, season them and saute them in butter/oil till nicely browned. Add some broth (or a combo of broth and wine or Madeira), maybe fresh herbs or other aromatics. Cook till you can taste the liquid's flavorful; strain and discard the solids. Use a little of it to make a smooth slurry with Wondra flour or your thickener of choice; stir it in over medium heat until a thickened gravy forms. Taste and season. Pretty easy, really. (When reheating it, I'd maybe stir in some drippings from  your just-roasted bird, or at least whisk in a butter.) And here's the official White House recipe we ran last year i 2012. 

RECIPE White House Turkey Gravy


Joe, the recipe for marinated eggplant with oregano that I thought you would like can be found in the Washington Post Food section, October 13, 2010.

Of course! Ottolenghi recipe.

RECIPE: Marinated Eggplant With Oregano

Hoping to see something beyond taralli and cookies with pepper slipped in.

You will not be disappointed.

I've got a hunk of gorgonzola left over from a party and I can't figure out what to do with it. I'm single, so the only thing I can think of is having it with some bread and honey for dinner for the next few nights. That's not terrible, sure, but not exactly healthy or well-rounded. Do you have any other ideas?

Taking an out of town friend to lunch. She is staying at the jefferson Hotel at 1200 16h Street. Any reasonably priced suggestions. We love all types of food.

You have all kinds of great options, both high-end and low.

On the high end, try BLT Steak on I Street NW, the New American Equinox on Connecticut Avenue NW, modern Southern Vidalia on M Street NW or the modern Indian Bombay Club just across the street from Equinox.

On the more casual side, you could try the modern DGS Delicatessen on Connecticut Ave., Mari Vanna (a Russian eatery) or Soi 38 (a modern Thai street-food restaurant).

On the super-casual end, there's one of my favorites, the sandwich shop, Bob & Pop's.

So I just came back from Istanbul and bought good quality za'atar, sumac & garam masala...looking for great recipes to use them, suggestions are welcome!

Lots of options for you in our Recipe Finder. I love all these (and many other blends), so keep an eye out for my Weeknight Veg recipes. More specifically:


RECIPE: Eggplant Cheesecake



RECIPE: Peppers Stuffed With Tomatoes and Brussels Sprouts


RECIPE: Paneer and Pea Curry With Sweet Potato Hash

Hey guys, I recently read that you shouldn't use an enamled Dutch oven to fry. Is that true? Because I did that a lot in my el-cheapo one, and now I'm starting to wonder if that's why the enamel chipped (I thought it was just because it was cheap). Anyway, are there other things you shouldn't do in an enameled Dutch oven? I thought one of the reasons they are so awesome is because they're so versatile.

Well, you should certainly be able to deep-fry in an enameled Dutch oven. Maybe yours got chipped another way? You should not use it to dry-cook. You want the surface to be covered in liquid or fat. Also it's best to avoid using high heat unless you're boiling or simmering something. And be careful with or avoid entirely metal utensils! More tips here from Le Creuset.

I have fried in my Le Creuset Dutch oven for many, many years.

In fact, here's my latest Food Hacks video showing some frying secrets:

POSTTV VIDEO: How to make frying easy

I discovered that any pumpkin bread recipe can be made healthier with a 2/3 whole wheat flour substitute and the addition of yogurt for added moisture. Kids couldn't tell the difference.

We've got a lovely pumpkin bread made with whole-wheat flour and olive oil, coming from Ellie Krieger next issue. Look for it! 

I have just discovered the awesomeness that is polenta. Last night I did a stovetop polenta with parmesan--do any of you have a favorite falltime polenta recipe that you'd care to share?

I'm a big fan of this one, which falls into the breakfast-for-dinner category:

RECIPE Polenta With Poached Egg and Radicchio

And this one's certainly different and fit for a holiday table:

RECIPE Savoyard Polenta Pilaf

Another holiday-worthy one, this from Editor Joe:

RECIPE Polenta Stuffed With Squash and Mushrooms

These look delicious!

I have learned how to make quinoa, now please teach me how to make it tasty.

much like rice.....Quinoa is going to take on the flavor of the liquid that you cook it in. So if you're just cooking it in salted water, its not gonna taste like much. Try using a flavorful broth then adding nice pureed canned tomatoes to the broth, then cook the quinoa in that. Tomatoes will add some acidity that the earthy quinoa needs.

Here's some more on quinoa:

ARTICLE: My quibbles with quinoa

Do you watch the Food Network and/or Cooking Channel? Which chefs/cooks do you think are the best ones to watch (besides Ina Garten, of course)? I think The Pioneer Woman uses too much butter, cream, whole milk, and makes food that can only be eaten by working cowboys because it's so fattening.

You know, I really enjoy watching Bobby Flay. He's got great presence, and his recipes are accessible. I was really bummed the other day when my TV cut out in the middle of "Brunch at Bobby's" after the cable company unexpectedly showed up and started digging up our line.

I'm seriously considering this method this year. Only one thing is holding me back - there would be such an outcry if there was no in the bird stuffing. If I put aluminum foil on the rack, placed stuffing on top of that, then put the bird on top of the stuffing, would that work? And would I still have drippings for gravy? In past years, I used the "soak cheesecloth in butter and put over the top of the turkey" method to help keep the breast from overcooking, and have had good results.

That works perfectly well, the stuffing under the butterflied bird. Have tested it that way. Go forth! 

ARTICLE: A turkey that really comes together

RECIPE Herb-Crusted Roast (Butterflied) Turkey



They can also be found at Aphrodite market in Bailey's Crossroads and Yekta Market in Rockville.

Thanks! I just called Yekta before answering, and they said they didn't have them, but there may have been a misunderstanding!

I had a bumper crop this year. I have a bunch drying, what should I do with the rest?


I love Thai chilis for stir-fries. I would use them in something like this recipe, Pork With Chili, Thai Sweet Basil and Toasted Coconut.


Then I would freeze the rest. You already have them drying, which is great. It keeps moisture out. Now keep the stems on and bag those chilis for the freezer.

It's also super-easy to make a vinegar sauce with them. Just slit them in several places and stuff as many as will fit into a bottle. Bring white vinegar to a boil and pour it over them, to fill the bottle. Cap and let sit for at least a couple of weeks before using -- and then slosh wherever you want a little extra kick. 

Another idea: You can slice up a bunch of them and put them in a jar and then pour in fish sauce to cover. This is the classic nom pla prik. Spoon it onto fried rice, other dishes. You can just add more chilies when those run low, or more fish sauce when that runs low. Each mellows the other, somewhat.

I occasionally sauté cabbage, onion and apple as a side. Stumbled across an old article on gratins which made me wonder if this could possibly work as a gratin? Would an apple provide enough starch? What cheese? Or do I stick with the tried and true?

Why not give it a shot? I might use both grated Parmesan and gruyere cheeses, the latter to a nice note of nuttiness.

Just to add a couple of cents... I'm of the school that nearly anything can be turned into a gratin. I'd just make sure the cabbage mixture is sufficiently saucy that it doesn't dry out while it's in the oven. Since it's already cooked, you shouldn't need to have it in the oven any longer than it takes to warm it through and brown whatever's on top (probably about 20 minutes). I also think raclette would be nice, which melts really well, or you could mix cheese through the center and use toasted breadcrumbs on top.

ARTICLE: Gratins bring warmth to the winter table

How long does this last? I have some that's ever so old....

Indefinitely, I'd say. Smell, and if it smells good, you're good.

Hello! I have a tailgate challenge for you. I need to make something that will travel well (four hours) to a tailgate late Saturday afternoon, and I have to make it Friday. All of the usual suspects are covered already--meat, mac and cheese, etc. I need a vegetarian main that can be heated on grill and/or yummy vegetarian side dish(es). Oh, and some dessert! Love you guys. :)

Dessert: A container of bar cookies (brownies or blondies)--easy and a good traveler.

To the poster wondering where to buy it, I have found Droste's at some Whole Foods Markets.

I can't help myself from ordering the Double Dutch Dark Cocoa from King Arthur. It makes a killer brownie.

Excuse me if you've already answered this question. I"m scheduling a cookie exchange for December. When will you be publishing your annual cookie extravaganza? I always like to try new things.

Like Bonnie said, Dec. 3! Buy a copy for you and your friends!

My whole family is salivating over the croquets recipe. Can we use those egg whites that come in a carton for these, or do we need to use regular egg whites?

The testers and I think that because you only have to make a sticky meringue for these, the carton egg whites (pure) ought to work. (But I'd have some whole eggs on standby, just in case.)

RECIPE Croquets

Hi there. I have a set of knives that I got straight out of college (15 years ago). This year I'm hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and think it's a good excuse to get a knife that will cut it. Any suggestions on what type of knife I'm looking for? Any particular brand? Thanks!

I use a slicing knife with a Granton edge. This one is made by Victorinox, but other brands are available.

Nothing serrated, nothing you need to plug in!

There is a nice pumpkin challah recipe that you could make as rolls. Around lots of places on the Internet. Nice color, not too rich, doesn't taste a lot of pumpkin.

Or our fab Sweet Potato Rolls.

sweet potato rolls

I made fried rosemary, polenta recently and included corn meal from multi colored indian corn. Everything worked really well except it was rather greasy. I used about a quarter inch of butter and olive oil to fry the cold, set polenta. Any changes I should make so that it comes out less greasy?

I'd think a very thin film of oil in a nonstick skillet would do the trick --- give you that crisped surface without allowing the polenta to soak up any extra, ya know? Or at least make sure the butter/oil was very hot before introducing the cold polenta.

I have a small pumpkin from my garden that I want to cook for Thanksgiving. I want to make a savory dish, not a pumpkin pie. Suggestions? Can I substitute the pumpkin for other winter squash in recipes?

Maybe you could riff on Lisa King's Stuffing Pumpkins?

Lisa King's Stuffing Pumpkins

Sure, I think you'd be fine to sub for winter squash.

How about Pilgrim Bread ( I doubt that it's authentic, but it's good!

That suggestion makes me think of another bread: Anadama Bread.

A friend gave me a 2 2/12 pound bag of Starbucks beans as a present. I live alone and the bag says to use the contents within a week of opening! I know that refrigerating or freezing beans is frowned on but given the alternative -- I'm not going to toss them in the garbage because they're a week old (or because they're Starbucks) -- where's the best place to keep them?

I'd say keeping them in an airtight container at room temp is your best bet. They will lose aroma and flavor over time, but it's not like you can't brew it after a few weeks. Maybe just don't serve to company. ;)

If Carrie is around today, I was wondering what her thoughts are about Fernet-Branca. Admittedly, I've not had it, but I am curious about it. It seems to elicit strong emotions. I was reading a new cocktail book that said it's considered a bartenders' "handshake," but I've also heard, from knowledgeable friends, that it's nasty. Is this something that's really worthwhile and potentially interesting in cocktails, or is it a case of The Emperor's New Clothes?

As a chef I must say ....I LOVE AMARO!!! You should definitely have a bottle in your home bar.  Fernet is an amaro that holds it own, but it's not my favorite amaro. It's the restaurant business "industry shot' as well. Which means that we take shots of it to salute each other. The Passenger actually has it on tap.

My favorite amaro is Cynar and I like to sip it with a little tonic after dinner.

Its a distinct flavor for sure but its definitely not NASTY at all.

hope this helps

Carrie is likely sitting in some tedious meeting, dreaming of amari right now. She wrote a terrific story on amari/amaro last fall, even providing a recipe to make your own.


That may be a bitter bridge too far for many of you. I've enjoyed many different amari over the years. (It's good to have a spouse who writes a cocktail column.) I love many of them, Fernet-Branca included. They provide amazing aromatics and a touch of bitterness to cocktails. There really is nothing like them. I would experiment with Fernet-Branca and then experiment some more.

I have 8" and 12" "green" Cuisinart nonstick skillets that have lost their nonstick. I get confused by the terms frying pan, skillet, and omelet pan, and it seems you can spend a range of money on these things. Do you have any recommendations? I need nonstick pants for making eggs, though I use them for sauteeing because I have limited storage space so can't have a lot of special purpose tools. (I do have Lodge cast iron skillets, though I've not managed to make them very nonstick yet despite their being preseaoned.) Thanks!

first things first....These Teflon or "green" skillets should never be put in the dishwasher or scrubbed too hard with a pad. Even if they say dishwasher safe.

Simply wipe out with a little anti bacterial soap and a wet cloth. Then scrub any grease stains on the bottom and sides with a scrub pad.

as for your lodge......barely any water or soap. Maintenance is the key to longevity with these things.

Did you see the Serious Eats myth-busting piece about cast iron? Those of us who get them plenty wet were happy to read it. Their upshot: The soap/water doesn't really matter if the skillet is seasoned right. Now, I tend to just use a brush and/or my hands and water, and all is fine...

I'm planning to make a turkey for the first time this Thanksgiving. I've been given advice to use a roasting bag. But I'm using a recipe that has a glaze on it (with figs). Possible? Advisable?

A roasting bag can help keep the bird moist. Guess it depends on when your recipe calls for the glazing. If it's in the last 30 - 45 mins of roasting, say, you'd probably want to tear open that bag  anyway, so the bird can brown nicely. (It does brown through the bag somewhat, but you'd want that skin to get crisped.) If  you are glazing gradually throughout the cooking, skip the bag -- and maybe just put 1 cup of water or broth in the bottom of the roasting pan (so the bird doesn't sit in it, tho). 

OK, good to hear I can fry! However, I also used it to make Lahey's no-knead bread. Could that have been part of the problem, as you say I shouldn't dry cook in it? Guess I'll need to get yet another dish to make that recipe. Shoot.

Ah, sorry for the confusion. I mean dry cooking on the stove-top. Bake that bread! I do the same in mine.

I'd like to host a vegetarian cooking party for 12-16 guests. We are all experienced cooks, so would like to actually learn something new -- maybe an international twist or an advanced technique. Do you know of any chefs who would be willing to work with us?

Well, Indian comes to mind, doesn't it? You could see if Vikram Sunderam at Rasika would be willing to work with you. You might also check out Mimi Clark, who teaches vegan cooking classes.

To make or to buy puff pastry? I'm a pretty decent baker but have never, never, ever gotten puff pastry right. Is it worth working on or (like my making peace with store-bought phyllo), do I need to just let it go and get the stuff in the freezer section of my grocery store? Many thanks, your work is inspirational!

If anybody can talk you through it, Dorie Greenspan can. Give it a try! Whatever you end up with, it'll be edible. 

BOOK REPORT 'Baking Chez Moi,' no mere puff project

Any recommendations for good savory squash recipes? I really enjoyed the "stuffed" squash rings mentioned a few weeks ago. After getting a ton of winter squash in this year's CSA, I have learned I am not a big fan of sweet and savory squash (e.g. brown sugar, sage, butter, salt and pepper on acorn squash that my husband loves so much, or coconut curry squash soup, or the sweet and sour squash mentioned here a few weeks ago). I know they go well together, but something about it doesn't work for me. Turns out I do love all the varieties of squash, as long as I don't have a sweet element. Any recipe suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Can I make a pumpkin pie in advance of Thanksgiving-and if yes,how many days? I was thinking of using a gingersnap crust. Thanks so much!

My personal bias about pies--especially custard-style (and yes, pumpkin is a custardy-type pie), is to baked the pie on the morning of, but, failing that, prepare the cookie crust ahead, then assemble and bake 6 to 8 hours ahead. A custard-based filling would possibly weep-out the cookie crust, even if it is prebaked. A pastry dough-bottom actually works the best, if made a day in advance. But, sigh, freshly baked is the ideal.

I will respectfully disagree with Lisa! For planning/time management purposes, I strongly suggest baking your pies the day before! 

Read a Tribune syndicated article this morning on how you don't really need to soak beans before cooking them, just cook them longer -- but the author says, "I do this with chick-peas, which are not beans but legumes" -- OK, I thought beans were legumes.

Legume is the larger botanical category for beans, peas, lentils, etc. So, all legumes are beans but not all beans are legumes. Make sense?

BTW, I find that soaking improves the texture of beans. Not needed with lentils, but I like it with others.

I love baking, but we're always guests and the hosts buy pies and cheesecake. Can you suggest a small dessert that would be tempting despite all the store-bought goodies?

It sounds as if a bar cookie may be the best sweet suited to this gathering, already cake and pie-heavy. Too bad, as this week's TREATS features a lovely cake--Brown sugar-Sweet potato Cake.

I have a slightly different approach to this. Rather than put the aluminum foil on the rack and then the stuffing and then the bird, I put cheesecloth on the rack, stuffing on the cheesecloth, then the bird. I have tried it the foil way, and the result was an extremely oily and sodden stuffing. Let the drippings drip down through the stuffing and end up in the pan. That way, you don't have soupy stuffing, and you have a few drippings left over for gravy.

Thanks for sharing!

Everytime I buy a bunch I only used a small amount and need to find some good ideas on what to do with the rest of the bunch.

First off, you can find some ideas here, where I covered just that dilemma.

But my favorite thing to do with too much parsley, by far, is making salsa verde. Chop up a bunch of parsley, pound in a mortar and pestle (or just chop it really, really fine), add in a garlic clove, pounded or chopped to a paste, some lemon zest and chopped capers, and enough good olive oil to make a loose sauce, plus salt and pepper. It adds such a punch of flavor to anything you use it in. Drizzle it over a grain bowl, use it to dress roasted vegetables (or leftover roasted vegetables), stir it into a bean soup. And it keeps in the fridge 2-3 days. 

I also just like to throw the leaves, whole, into salads, or chop up a bunch and add them to pasta or soups or stews just before serving. Hard to overdo it.

Alton Brown claims that an electric knife is best for carving a turkey.

So he does, and it's serrated, too. But it's not your average electric knife that spends the rest of the year lurking in a box under the sink. It looks high-powered and pretty scary; why introduce danger? And it also looks like it kinda shreds the surface of the meat. 

I had some swiss chard that was part of a mesclun mix that I left to grow by accident really. Now I have some rather beautiful red and green chard that is about 2 feet tall. Is it too tough now? If not, what is the best way of fixing it and eating it for someone who is not a fan of bitter flavors? I also have some parsnips that are awaiting the first deep freeze, which is likely to come this weekend. Any good recipe suggestions for parsnips?

I love Parsnips. You could make a clam chowder with parsnips or even a tasty oyster stew. Get some shucked oysters in their liquor from the wharf, then cook down some chopped onions, parsnips and bacon. Add the oyster liquor, then some milk, a couple of bay leaves, and right before it comes to a boil, add the oysters.don't worry its supposed to be broken

On the chard, it should be good -- taste it if you want and see if you like it, but I'd cook it up. Chard is pretty mild tasting, generally.

I use a farm-to-market co-op grocery delivery service and order online. I've seen cauliflower rice among the pre-packaged convenience offerings and have been interested in trying it but have no idea how to cook it. Cooking tips and recipe ideas (I'm vegetarian, btw) would be most appreciated. Thanks, and I love this weekly chat!

I bought some wonderful flavored salts at a market in France a few weeks ago. They still taste great, but have formed some large clumps which makes it had to sprinkle them and disperse evenly. Any advice?

Suggestion: Place the clumps in a small plastic bag and crush lightly with the flat side of a meat pounder.

James Beard had a recipe for Coq au Riesling over noodles that I used to make a lot. In fact, I should make it again soon! I believe it's in Beard on Pasta but you can find it online.

Intriguing question. My knee-jerk reaction was to recoil at the thought, since part of what I love about coq au vin is its deep, ruby-red intensity, and how the red wine allows the savory flavors to shine through.


So to check against my bias, I contacted Robert Wiedmaier, chef and owner of Marcel's, forever one of D.C.'s leading French restaurants. Here's his first thought:


"You can do it with a white wine. It's just going to have a different flavor component, and it's going to have a different color."


He said to avoid sweet white wines, in favor of drier varietals. He and his sommelier suggest a white Rhone, such as a Condrieu, which is based on the Viognier grape.


He also suggests not spending a lot of money on the bottle. It will, after all, be cooked into the dish, not enjoyed on its own.

Um, no, actually, if "legume is the larger botanical category for beans, peas, lentils, etc." then shouldn't it be the other way around, that all beans are legumes but not all legumes are beans?

Um, yes, of course!! Sorry, typing too fast!

Does anyone have a favorite creamy veggie pot pie recipe that they could share?

If you wait until next Wednesday, I'll have a lovely recipe for mushroom/stout pot pies with sweet potato crust for you!

My daughter has to take a main dish from Mali to school for an international dinner. I've found several recipes, but very few of them are easy or they have ingredients that I don't have or can't get, such as groundnut oil or baobab leaves. I've found one meat dish that I might try, but was wondering if you have any ideas.

The entire Dorie Greenspan article made this 9 month pregnant lady's mouth water! I had a couple questions about the bubble eclairs recipe. 1. The recipe says to mix in the pot and a crust will form on the bottom... is it possible to explain this a little further? Do you keep mixing it up and incorporating it back into the dough? 2. When you add the eggs in your stand mixer... do you use a wisk or paddle attachment? Thank you!!!!

RECIPE Bubble Eclairs


The photo ran in print much larger than life size; these are adorable little things you can scarf down in two bites. (Jane Touzalin did a nice job for the camera, didn't she?) You beat the eggs in with a wooden spoon -- vigorous work, she reports. 

Is someone taking baked beans? That would be a good side. For a cold dish, something like a chickpea salad with red peppers and tomatoes and scallions in a dressing - you can make ahead and it will hold up to the dressing.

I have a fresh whole duck and have never cooked one before. What method do you recommend? Steam, roast, poach? Whole, in parts? Help!!

Different cooking methods for different parts. Break it down raw. Confit the legs, roast the breasts, make a broth from the bones. Don't just roast a whole duck and eat it like a turkey. Ducks are much more versatile, you can get 3 separate, completely different meals from one duck.

Already planning ahead for my annual holiday cookie party, was thinking of putting a big pot of hot chocolate on the stove and offering booze for make-your-own cocktails. What are 2-3 libations that would make sense but also be usable afterward? For example, I see Grand Marnier in a lot of recipes for desserts with chocolate and/or fruit, so that probably wouldn't go to waste. I generally don't like sweet alcohol for drinking. Thanks for any ideas. (PS: Also thinking of serving whiskey and rum with mulled cider)

Here's a little chat leftover that addresses this nicely! I would definitely go for bourbon and rum, and then of course you can always use vodka later on, too. You might also include a few little touches for topping -- fresh nutmeg would be good here, and if you aren't worried about things getting too crazy, look up Whipahol. I will vouch for the fun factor, if not necessarily the flavor.

When I was single, I would throw the extra blue/brie/goat in the freezer in a bag. Then I would use it to make (decadent) mac & cheese starting with a basic roux on a night I was lacking other dinner inspiration.

At my grandfather's funeral (at a midwestern church), we had a post-service meal in the fellowship hall prepared by the ladies of the church. My mom's friend pointed out a dish to me that she knew as "funeral potatoes" -- they were even titled that way in the church cookbook she received as a wedding shower present. They were shredded potatoes, some type of cream-of-condensed soup, onions, sour cream, and cheddar cheese baked into a casserole - very comforting!

Funeral potatoes are apparently a Mormon tradition.

I love roasted squash with some creole seasoning and smoked paprika - not a hint of sweetness in it.

Could this recipe be reduced to fit in a half-sized tube pan?

What is the size of your "half-size" tube pan (diameter and capacity)?

I'm thinking ahead to our Thanksgiving buffet for about 25 people. I have finally figured out quantities and recipes. But I still haven't figured out how to keep everything warm; I have one regular oven and a small countertop one but too many items to keep everything hot right up until serving time. Do you recommend warming trays or do you have some other tips? Thanks.

Funny you should ask. I'm tackling this very subject in one of our Thanksgiving issues. The solution is very basic and keeps the food hovering just above the top end of the food danger zone (as defined by the USDA) for a good three-plus hours. Can you wait for the story?

I was surprised to read comment from the chatter who brought spices back from Istanbul. When my nephew flew back from Africa, the security people at Dulles Airport confiscated his bags of spices.

Wonder why that would be. There are certain plant and animal products not allowable, but spices seem like they'd be OK. Guidance here and here.

Fernet is definitely worth exploring, as are many of the other amari. They're complex and interesting and challenging. The first shot will be a shock, most likely, but if you like bittersweet things, you may come around on it. And even if you don't come around on Fernet Branca, there are other fernet-style amari, not to mention other gentler amari, that are delicious and more subtle. You can work your way to big mean Fernet if you're interested! Ask at a good bar for a shot and see what other amari they have.

Well, you've dusted our tops with a little confectioners' sugar, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Anthony, Lisa, Emily, and Carrie for helping with the a's!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about puff pastry will get "Baking Chez Moi." The chatter who asked about getting flavor into the Korean stir-fry dish will get "Japanese Soul Cooking." Send your mailing info to, and he'll get you the books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Food and Travel's editorial aide.
Lisa Yockelson
Lisa Yockelson is the author of "Baking Style" and several other cookbooks. Her Treats column is an occasional feature in the Food section.
Anthony Lombardo
Anthony Lombardo is chef at the Hamilton in downtown Washington.
Emily Horton
Emily Horton wrote this week's feature on winter salads.
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