Free Range on Food: Mushroom confit, Peter Chang and more

Mushroom Confit from Cathy Barrow.
Mar 18, 2015

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

Hi, all, and welcome! Ask us about anything that's on your mind -- well, about food, that is. Try to stump us!

And PostPoints members, don't forget you can use this code to get extra points: FR8495. 

While I've got you, can I make a quick plug for Beer Madness? If you haven't checked out the Round of 16, or cast your own vote, please do! The first round was fascinating, so go there, see what the blind-tasting panel decided, and add your own take...

Now, let's chat. As always, we'll have a cookbook or two to give to our favorite chatters. So make those q's and comments good ones!

Why have you stopped providing nutritional information on so many recipes? It doesn't appear that the ingredients in those without data are that much more variable than those in other recipes with information. I always find the nutritional information of value, and sometimes it surprises me.

We haven't stopped! We're one of the few major newspapers to offer this service to our readers. This week's batch was an unusual one, in that we couldn't run nutritional info on so many of them. The reasons why include: hard-to-assess measurements of oil used (in frying and in the confit); and any marinated or brined foods.

I've been getting turnips through our CSA and am at a loss on what to do with them- I'm not the biggest fan, but suspect I may not be cooking them the right way. Any recipe suggestions (no meat please)?

I roast turnips (doused in olive oil, salt and pepper) within an inch of their lives, at 450°, until they are deeply bronzed and caramelized, then toss with a little honey and lemon juice. The honey can overcome the bitter funk of late winter turnips. 

Did you see the Prune and Turnip Tagine I wrote about a few weeks back? Also has honey, which as Cathy says helps cut any bitterness from the turnip. And the prunes get all soft and sweet, too. With the spices and herbs, this is a winner. And you don't have to cook it in a real tagine -- a Dutch oven works fine, too?

RECIPE: Prune and Turnip Tagine

Every time I find an enticing tossed salad recipe, the dressing calls for adding Dijon mustard, which then, turns me off, and I never try it. What is it about Dijon mustard that is so vital to so many dressing recipes? What does it bring to the taste? Obviously, I am not a Dijon mustard kind of girl. I don’t like the taste or smell. Am I totally short changing myself?

I bet it's used for its emulsion qualities (keeps the oil/vinegar from separating in a mixed dressing) as it is for the flavor. I love a good Dijon vinaigrette, but since you don't, you might use another emulsifying agent, such as honey or maple syrup or even mayonnaise or a nut butter.

 

Try the herbed vinaigrette in this Farmers Market Salad recipe. Bet you'll like it! 

I'm continuing my "new vegetable a month" kick, and this month I'm making collard greens. I kinda want to do it that classic southern way (though your collard greens stuffed with grits recipe looked good!). I see so many recipes that call for bacon or ham, or at least bacon grease, and I'm wondering what's a good vegetarian option for getting that same yummy flavor. Suggestions?

Well, nothing will truly replace the richness of smoked ham hocks or the fatty, smoky flavors of rendered bacon. But I would replace the bacon grease with butter or an oil (like grapeseed or even peanut oil, if you don't have allergies) for the sauteing step. I would also add smoked sea salt to the dish, to replace the smokiness that you forfeit when not using pig products. You can find smoked salts as a number of places, like Whole Foods or Balducci's.

Two words: smoked paprika. All the difference in the world.

Is it only me, or are twist-off and twist-open caps getting more difficult to twist off the first time? Is there some gadget that gets them open without effort? Especially vitamin water and carbonated drinks but also food in jars. Those press-and-turn child-proof pill bottles have nothing on the frustration and even pain of breaking apart the plastic "teeth" that bind the lid to the collar of my preferred sports drink in particular. It's gotten nearly as bad as trying to tear open the clamshell packaging around any small electronic device, except scissors aren't as helpful. I appreciate the tamper-proof sentiment, but if the consumer can’t access the product after purchase, what’s the point? Let's start a campaign or something. Or is it only me?

It's not just you. My pet peeve is the water bottle with the little plastic tab on the side, which you have to pull to open the lid. Half the time, the pull tab will break in half, denying you immediate access to the spring water inside. Out come the knives to begin the bottom-top surgery!

Consider it calorie-burning activity!

I like to cook the turnips with potatoes an make turnip tater mash. Add a garlic clove while cooking and mash it all up. Much lighter and more flavorful than just potato.

Long time reader, first time submitter. Can you all recommend a cookware set for under $300? I am a young professional who likes to cook at home and it is finally time for a new set of non-stick pots and pans. I am a little overwhelmed by all of the options and reviews online. My current set is a really old hand-me-down and I need something new and reliable. I already have a cast-iron skillet, a grill pan and utensils, so just in search of the basic pots and pans. Thanks!

I am not a huge fan of preassembled sets, which often include stuff you don't want. I'd say you should go ahead and pick out a 12-inch nonstick skillet (I really like my Calphalon -- also has a lid, which is great) and maybe a 10-inch one. Then a couple of saucepans, perhaps a small and medium. I saved up and then splurged for a 2- and 4-quart All-Clad. A large enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is also very useful. Le Creuset is the standard, but there are plenty of other less-expensive ones that are just fine.

Many thanks for the popcorn ball story. Perfect snow day activity on the 5th! Also appreciated the homemade mozzarella piece in the last month or so. I was unsure about some of the instructions, so my son and I are going to take a mozzarella-making class this Saturday. Can't wait!! On to my question - any advice/classes/great resources for homemade sausage? My husband has a grinder and casings, but even the pork-based sausage seems a bit dry. He includes the fat, but maybe a good cookbook or something? Thanks!

I have a DIY piece coming up about sausages, but in the meantime, these are my two favorite resources.

The two most accessible cookbooks are Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie and Ratio.

Online, Punk Domestics has links to a world of DIY recipes.

 

I need to be on a lower carb "diet" so to speak. I am ok when it comes to meals (meat and veggies) but when it comes to snacks I have a hard time. My problem is I'm a sugar/salty a-holic. Literally hook an IV up to me and pump in gummy bears, or potato chips etc. I'm trying so hard to curb this but I'm struggling. Part of the problem is I have a desk job and find that I mindlessly snack thoughout the day. If I don't bring a snack I think about going to get one. What are some good snacks I can take during the day (I don't like nuts).

Oh, damn. I was reading your question thinking, "Nuts, nuts, nuts!" and then got to your last word. Sigh.

OK, how about fruit? Raw carrots and hummus?

I have a tube of crescent rolls leftover from the holidays that will soon expire. These are not something I would normally eat, but I was thinking I could use them for an afternoon tea I am planning. Do you have any suggestions on what to fill them with? I would prefer vegetarian options. Pesto is all that comes to mind so far.

How about a sun-dried tomato filling? You could riff on the one below by leaving out the pepperoni. Maybe up the tomatoes a bit.

RECIPE: Sun-Dried Tomato and Pepperoni Rugelach

Other options include spinach and cheese or something with caramelized onions. Or maybe some cooked, seasoned and finely chopped mushrooms?

I saw this trick on The Chew. Use a can opener! It looked like it worked perfectly, and it even went around the circular edges.

Hi, I made a chicken dish in my slow cooker recently but it came out very bland. It had among the ingredients chicken stock, artichoke hearts, onion, and of course chicken breast. However, when it was done it tasted very bland and uninspired. I was wondering if there is anything I can do with it now to spice it up and make it better, or should I just chalk this up to a poor recipe and try a different on next time.

Can this dish be saved? I say yes!

A few thoughts. Can you kind of chop some of the stuff up and turn it into a kind of chicken salad? Maybe add some mayo, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs (oregano or basil?). A slice of melted cheese could help too. Could work on panini. Sounds vaguely Italian so perhaps work in some marinara or other tomato-y condiment. Or place on top of some greens and add a zesty vinaigrette.

Last week someone asked for a good substitute for chicken stock to serve vegetarians. I read the chat too late to contribute, but I wanted to suggest today using Osem's Chicken Style Consomme. It's a powder used by folks who keep kosher. They use it to make soup that they can serve with dairy foods. Find it in the kosher section of a grocery store in yellow and red packaging. It's a lifesaver for our vegetarian family. I love making soup, and I find vegetable broths not as tasty. Comparing it head to head to real chicken broth, it would not pass as real. But used as a base for soups and stews, it really does the trick.

Thanks! I think I'll stick with my homemade vegetable broth, but good to know.

Can an uncooked, corned beef brisket be frozen (in its sealed packaging, or otherwise)?

Yes. Freeze uncooked corned beef in the packet for up to six months. Defrost and cook as usual.

I can't be the only salad lover who is sick of sweet dressings. The honey mustard thing was replaced by balsamic, and I'm wondering when that's going to disappear. One reason I eat at French restaurants is that it's one of the few places where I can count on an unsweetened vinaigrette. Just sayin.

A garlic or onion puree can do the trick, too. 

Know how I like them best? Raw! Either sliced thin into salads, or just peeled and eaten like an apple. Raw, they taste a bit like a cross between radishes and cauliflower. Very fresh, and slightly spicy.

I got a full set of stainless steel Cuisinart cookware for $100 or less on one of the deal websites. That might give you the functionality of a full set, with some room in your budget to get one or two really nice pans.

I agree with Becky, that it's better to buy individual pieces. It's really not more expensive, since you are paying for things you'll use vs. a set where you will use some things and not others. Sets also tend to be made of a single material--like all stainless or all nonstick anodized aluminum--whereas it's advantageous to have a mix of such things. I'd suggest thinking about the volume of food you cook. Becky said she prefers a 12-inch skillet, maybe a 10-inch. For me, I use a 10-inch more, but I generally only cook for 2 people.

Well-said, thanks.

I don't eat eggs, at least in their overt form, but use them in baking and such. This weekend at the farmers market, my usual chicken egg vendor was away, and another had duck eggs. He assured me that I could use them in cooking/baking in the same ways/measures as chicken eggs, but that the flavor would be richer. I've never used duck eggs, but will give them a try. Anything to look out for here? I've been craving chocolate pudding, for example, and some rich ice cream.

You can use them instead of chicken eggs, yes -- but I'd say they're equal to an extra-large rather than a large chicken egg, so you should take that into account. Indeed, they're richer. I just finished writing a Plate Lab recipe that calls for them -- look out for these oeufs in a few weeks!

I know this is probably heresy, but I grew up in the south and in my house we peeled cold turnips and ate them raw, sprinkled with a little salt. I still love them this way. We also cooked them along with their green when available.

Could you add a little salt to it, or is it already salted enough? I notice that my food seems flat and bland if I've undersalted. Otherwise, add some garlic, capers, and/or a sharp cheese and see if that helps!

Absolutely, salt is key.

For the poster who is taking a class on making mozzarella : can you provide info about the class? I have been wanting to take a cheese making class but couldn't find one.

Chatter?

I would like to make country-fried steak and gravy for my father's freezer. I would put the gravy in a separate container, but is there a way for the steak to stay crispy?

Not after freezing, no. You could try to recrisp it in a low oven, or quickly pan-fry it again, but it'll never be as crisp as it was right after you fried it the first time.

A vendor at our local farmer's market carries baby turnips that are marvelous sliced into salads. they're about the size of radishes. Love them!

I was typing my question and it vanished before I completed it. Forgive me if this is a duplicate. I cook and very often submit questions. I am grateful that they are mostly answered. Why do I need post points? Where can I find information about them?

Post Points is our reader reward program. Find out more at postpoints.washingtonpost.com.

I entered today's Free Range on Food code and received (doubled) points. Then I entered today's Online Parenting code. I got a message saying that I received points for it, but I did NOT get any points for it. This is the second time this has happened. There appears to be a bug in your Post Points software that allows only one of these special point codes to be recorded each day. Very annoying. Post Points is too much trouble to use.

Sorry for the trouble! Did you see the following on the FAQ page?

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Tomato chutney and cheddar. Someone suggested it in one of your chats this past year and I am now a TRUE BELIEVER.

Ooh, yes. Actually sounds like a sandwich I had as part of an afternoon tea in England!

In my college cooking days, I filled them with spinach, onions and feta for pseudo-spanakopita. A friend's family uses them with cream cheese and sausage on top for a sausage bread to go with their chili. Or wrap it around brie. And, of course, Pinterest has literally hundreds of ideas for dressing up crescent rolls.

I dug the overwintered parsnips after the ground thawed with this recent warm weather. I roasted some and they carmalized well. I also grated some, stewed the gratings in milk and that turned out well, sort of like a sweet rice pudding. I have a few left in the fridge. Any other suggestions for very sweet parsnips?

Slice the parsnips thin with a mandoline, spray with oil, then bake into crisps (300°, turning once). Sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Or make parsnip cake!

In my experience, duck eggs have a much larger yolk and smaller white than chicken eggs do. Surely that would affect baking?

Yes, and I think the total amount of liquid is more akin to an extra-large egg. The larger yolk is what makes it richer, and that would affect baking -- mostly in a positive way, I'd think, but there could also be an effect on the leavening.

Maybe too pedestrian for foodies, but I've been tossing them into James Beard's pot au feu (also rutabagas), which flavors both ways. They come out tender and tasty!

will you get a perfect flavor profile or will it just taste weird?

It would be great -- roasted root vegetables all taste great together.

To the person wanting to do something with turnips. We had a wonderful salad with turnips at the Botanic Gardens cooking demo with the Cook Sisters and I made the salad last night with raw turnips and it was delicious. . . and here it is on Food52. . . . .Springtime Turnip Carrot Slaw . . . .http://food52.com/recipes/17652-turnip-carrot-slaw

I keep a small Swiss Army knife handly. Just run the blade around the perforation, which weakens it (or cuts it, if you are strong, which I am not).

Do you have some suggestions for healthy, packable lunch ideas for very picky kids? Particularly when it comes to incorporating vegetables. One of them has a wierd thing about wanting everything "seperate" which makes it difficult to sneak things in.

We had a really nice graphic some years ago that might help. Have a look. (Be sure to click through the numbers.)

GRAPHIC: A New Lunch Bunch

Thank you for providing a Post Points code. It's actually a TRIPLE bonus this month. We get to participate in this chat (which I would do even without points), we get points for doing it, and our points get doubled automatically this month! That leads into my question. I'm a subscriber. On the front page of my hardcopy newspaper in the bottom right corner, there appears a different Post Points code every day. What is it for? I tried entering it in Post Points and always get an error message that it's invalid or expired. Thank you!

My understanding is that the code is for silver members (readers, not subscribers) but it will soon work for folks like you. You can get more info by e-mailing PostPoints@washpost.com.

Greetings, Rangers, Does it matter if I store pantry items in stackable plastic containers instead of in glass jars? Mine wasn't a Tupperware family so I grew up believing nuts, dried pasta, lentils, flour, sugar, beans, rice, raisins and other stuff should be kept in closed glass jars once the original packaging (if any) was opened. This is fine except that I can't stack glass and of course it's apt to break if it falls. Please mention if it's okay to re-use plastic take-out containers for olives and soups as well as using Ziploc and the like. Thanks so very much!

Sure it is, but who says you can't stack glass? I just recently organized a section of my pantry that contains dried fruit, nuts and dried beans, and transfer all of those ziplog bags and resealable store packages and the like into glass Mason jars of various sizes. They're made to stack!

I have already reached out to Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, and Balducci's...... so far drawing blanks... any definitive stores that carry this french brand of butter? thanks.

I called a few gourmet grocery stores and struck out at all of them. Which means you'll have to turn to online sources, such as iGourmet (doesn't that name sound so 1998?) or Amazon.

I've had this problem a lot lately with Diet 7-Up 20-oz bottles. I now keep a pair of small plyers in the kitchen-problem solved!

When pan-cooking Italian sausage, I can never seem to get the center cooked before the outside is either burned or very tough. I've tried cooking at various heats for various times, or putting a lid over the pan (in effect steaming the thing), but I always wind up having to slice the sausage lengthwise and cook the middle that way, or slice it crossways into disks, in effect making a pasta / sausage / sauce dinner into a dinner with pasta / sausage sauce. You wouldn't think this would be so hard! Help?

You're referring to fresh sausages, right? Pan-poaching's the way to go. When you were steaming them, did you add water? If not, put a little water or hard cider or beer (certainly not enough to even come halfway up the sides of the sausages), cover and cook over medium heat until the water's mostly gone, which should take about 10 minutes. Then you can brown them in the same pan. Some folks get them browned first and then add a little water and cover, to finish cooking them. Some folks use a fork to prick the sausages first. Either way, the poaching method seems to take care of any doneness issues. The best way to tell whether they're done, of course, is to check with a thermometer. You're looking for an internal temp of 160 degrees. 

Hi Joe, I made your chickpea pumpkin stew the other night. I was in a hurry so I didn't follow the directions carefully as far as timing of adding the ingredients. I did cook the onions for five minutes but after that I just threw in the remaining items (except the coconut and cilantro). Here's my question: Does it make a huge difference in the flavor to follow this recipe as written? I'm wondering if I cheated myself somehow.

Here's my question back to you: Did you like the result? If so, then you have your answer! Seriously, timing matters more with some things than others, but good, instinctive cooks can often look at a recipe for the ingredients and a rough idea of the amounts and timing and wing it successfully. Depends on how skilled you are, how good you are at rolling with the cooking as it goes, adjusting as need be, how much you taste your food as you go, again adjusting if need be -- and how flexible the recipe might be. Some highly technical things require more attention, but a stew like this isn't one of them.

You may not like nuts now, but you will probably develop a taste for them if you really stick with the low carb diet. It was the one thing I never believed until I tried it, but my sweet tooth vastly moderated a few weeks in. I haven't had a diet root beer in months. It tastes like syrup. I have to add water to anything else to cut the sweetness. And I firmly declared that I wasn't really into almonds, but I really like them now. So just be patient with yourself. (Oh, by the way, down 33 pounds and not hungry, so there are other changes coming too.)

Hazelnut spread, seal them, bake them and sprinkle with hazelnuts, powdered or course sugar.

I have the same craving and am tired of nuts! So my go-to snack lately has been roasted chickpeas (with olive oil and salt.) They are filling, easy to snack on, and as salty as you want.

Oh, yeah. These are great. If you like them roasted, you'd LOVE them fried. Just sayin'.

My husband had gum surgery today, so he--and by extension me--will be on a soft foods diet for awhile. Any suggestions of good things to make? I'm planning to make pureed corn soup and applesauce, but would love other ideas. Thanks.

Ouch! Other possibilities: Risotto, mac and cheese, polenta, oatmeal, pudding.

Also: mashed potatoes (you can really play around with the variations, whether sweet or savory), scrambled eggs or even crab cakes.

Can we have a gripe session about lids? They can be SO frustrating sometimes! My favorite (e.g. least favorite) are the ones with an inner safety seal that has a little plastic flap that says "pull up." Pulling up on this flap generally results in pulling off the flap while the safety seal remains firmly, infuriatingly, in place. Arg!

I hear that. My husband broke off the metal pull tab on a can of beans. Boy did we struggle to get it open without slicing ourselves after that. Would have much preferred a plain ol' can we could open with a can-opener.

Are some mushrooms more nutritious than others, which ones? Do they require special attention?

My acupuncturist would say yes, but I can only address culinary uses!

I'm with the OP on not being a Dijon (or really any kind of mustard) gal. I didn't mind small amounts in a sauce where it stayed in the background, but I didn't want to really taste the mustard. At least, until my husband introduced me to Stadium Mustard, which is made and primarily sold in Cleveland. I promise I'm not being paid by them or have any financial interest in their product, but it is actually relatively really good. I don't actually mind tasting the mustard when it's mixed into a sauce or using it mixed with ketchup or mayo! Now, I wouldn't go so far to say that I enjoy the mustard on its own, but for a mustard, it's actually pretty good. You can order it online, so maybe give it a try?

We'll pass that along, thanks! 

Add them to mashed potatoes. They give a nice change.

not really, anyway. Try celery with cream cheese. Salmon cream cheese is very nice.

Well, wasn't sure how low carb the OP was trying to go, but, yes, fruit particularly is high, and starchy veggies like carrots, too. And beans have carbs. But in terms of things that will be better than candy and chips, yes!

Im a recently diagnosed diabetic so I started doing my own snacks about a year ago, I’ve used many sites but the recipes from the blog All I Dream About is Food had helped me enormously. On Sundays I do my own low carb snacks like granola, cheesecakes, savory muffins, sugar free highly chocolaty bonbons etc. and take them with me for work.

Both of my parents have arthritis and hard-to-open packaging is a major obstacle for them. They have resorted to asking the manager at their store for assistance when they buy items that they know they won't be able to open at home. The alternative is not buying the item at all. (I can't fly down to Florida to open things for them, at least not until I can retire.)

How is smoked salt made, can it be healthy?

I have smoked salt at home but putting a plate of salt in the smoker while it cooled down (after smoking a brisket or turkey or whatever.) The salt takes on the smoky flavor in about 30 minutes. 

Here's more on smoked salt from Jim Shahin, who can't join us today after all.

I want to do traditional sangria with red wine, orange liquor and citrics. Which wine (s) should I use?

A Spanish rioja would be perfect!

Your collard greens stuffed with grits recipe looks great, I had an idea to add a shrimp or andouille on top of the grits when rolling to make southern "sushi" for a party. Do you think it can be served room temp or will the grits firm up too much.

That's a fun idea! The grits firm up some, but I don't think they'd do so enough to make them unpleasant. Give it a try!

Wouldn't recommend roasted chickpeas as a low carb snack (though I love them, especially with falafel seasoning!).

Last week Joe suggested Lodge steel frying pans as a lighter weight substitute for Le Cruset pans. I found some in a home store and bought a 12" frying pan. I weighed my Le Cruset 12" and the steel. Le Cruset = 6 lbs. 4 oz. Lodge steel = 4 lbs. So far, I like it. I'm making hash browns in it right now. Thanks, Joe.

Great to hear! Watch those hash browns, now -- you don't want them to turn into hash BLACKS!

This satisfies my salt craving for a snack and has no carbs unless sugar or honey is added to the marinade.

I love Vietnamese jerky, although it probably doesn't make the no-carb cut.

Hi Rangers! My husband and I are taking a brief vacation to Florida to visit family and friends and catch some spring training baseball! We've noticed in the past that more than a couple of days of vacation food leaves us feeling off-peak. What are some things we can cook ahead of time and travel with, things we can cook in a hotel room, and other ways to prepare? Bonus question: I bought husband an immersion sous vide for Christmas last year, and we've thought about bringing that and a big pot with us, if we can come up with a few meals we can make in it. What do you think?

Jealous.

I think soups are the way to go. You can make good veg ones (pureed or Ellie Krieger's very good, healthful minestrone) and freeze them flat in zip-top bags. 

I could see bringing a slow cooker rather than sous vide on vacation....maybe that's just me. If you want to try a salmon dish or mess around with perfectly poached eggs with crab, give those links a look! ' 

At the end of this month I will start a new epoch for me. I will be closer to 80 than 60. To celebrate, I am gifting my self with joy and pleasure that real cooking offers. Last year over 40 of my friends surprised me with a dinner in a private room in an exclusive restaurant. To reciprocate, I am going to cook up a storm. Because we live in a 2 bedroom condo, about 60 of them will come in shifts: brunch at 11, lunch around , drinks and appetizers starting at 3 and dinner at 6. To celebrate 60s there will be NO paper plates, no plastic glasses or silverware, no potato chips and no cheese platters.

 

Appetizers will come mostly from Bonnie's cookbook, lots of vegetables from Joe. Since this is not a sitdown affair, it has to be fork food. Most of the food has to be the kind that has to be prepared in advance so it can improve with aging a couple of days in the fridge, like pates, or can be prepped earlier and quickly cooked in the last minute without any fuss, like roasted salmon.

 

Besides salmon there will be a a paella, and giant meatloaf, either Ruhlman's or David Tannis's. Still working on the menu. To make things easier for me and because of the lack of space in the kitchen, with the exception of roasted dishes, most food will be served in the dishes it was cooked in. Any comments? Ideas?

 

Questions: Joe, I am serving your Brussels Sprouts. Some of my friends will love your version with the Tamari Sauce and Sesame oil, some will refuse to even taste it. You have a knack of transforming plain simple dishes into unforgettable. What can I add to roasted Brussells Sprouts to make them as special as yours in Tamari Sauce? How much in advance can I make your almond pie crust? 3-4 days? Since you lived with chickens for a year, do you have a reliable recipe for crustless quiche type terrine?

 

Bonnie, how long in advance can I make your roasted apple and pear sauce? It will be perfect with loaf, I would love to make it as early as possible. What is the earliest time I can make Guacomole for stuffing it in hard boiled eggs? I am making chickpea/avocado salad from the book, do you have another salad up your sleeve that will not wilt waiting several hours in the fridge before it is served?

 

All: What can I make for dessert? I don't want cake, cookies or cupcakes. Most people in my age bracket are not into fats, gluten and dairy. Fruit salad is too time consuming considering the number of people, besides it should be made in the last minute. Watermelon is out of season!

 

Thanks in advance. PS: for some reason I am unable to read the first line I typed. Sorry if there are any typos there,

We applaud your efforts! Really, an inspiration. Re the Roasted  Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce (a big favorite o' mine), you could make it 5 days in advance; just make sure it's kept refrigerated in an airtight container. I'd reheat it in a low-temp oven until warmed through. Feel free to add a light hand of fresh thyme or rosemary, or fresh minced ginger and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It takes on flavors very well.

 

You can make the guac filling 2 or 3 days ahead; I'd keep it in a zip-top bag and press out as much air as possible. Then just snip off a bottom corner and you can use it to fill the eggs.  The Chickpea, Cucumber, Avocado and Tomato Salad (another good choice!) should only be made up to 8 hours ahead.

For dessert,  a warm cobbler or crisp would be nice. Those types of recipes are good for feeding the masses. You could bake it a few days ahead and reheat the same way as the apple-pear sauce. Check out some of our Recipe Finder options via this link; if  you see milk added, you can mostly likely swap in fruit juice instead.

So many questions!

I don't quite understand your Brussels sprouts question -- people will refuse to taste it why? Feel free to not say the words "tamari" or "sesame," just tell them they're great Brussels sprouts!

On the Caramelized Garlic and Butternut Squash Tart, I didn't test this, but seems like you could make the "dough" for the crust a few days in advance, and you could blind bake it a day or two before baking the full tart.

I've never made a crustless quiche, but there's always frittata! How bout Ricotta Frittata, which is also fun to say?

We rarely drink wine and don't know much about wine. I have hesitated to try recipes requiring wine because I don't know what to buy and want to know if wine comes in smaller sizes than the large bottles I see. Please give some guidance. Thanks.

You don't need high-quality wines for cooking. A good, budget-minded white or red should suffice, depending on the recipe. Plus, you can even buy half bottles of wine, though those tend to be finer bottles because many folks don't want to pay the inflated prices for really good vintages.

Magic Vegan Bacon Grease (which I believe I learned about on this chat)!

Target has square, flat top, glass storage jars. They stack just fine.

It is nice to have the illusion of texture-- crustless quiche or oven baked frittata with very soft vegetables or cheese.

Enjoy the chats! Am looking for something new to do with broccoli. I just bought a lemon olive oil that I think would go great with this vegetable. I usually cook it roasted in the oven or sauteed. Any (vegetarian) ideas? Thanks!

It's not only you, but my impression is that the BPA scare is causing manufacturers to cut down on its use, and since its purpose is to soften plastic, well, there you are.

You may have that backward. According to WebMD, BPA is used to harden plastics, not soften them. But I'm no expert, so I'll wait for the true experts to respond in. . . 3. . .2 . ..1.

I heartily second Bonnie's answer-I lean toward pricking sausage once or twice max, browning then liquid-works like a charm.

Kale chips! You can make them as salty/ spicy as you want. Also good are high heat roasted, relive oil doused artichoke hearts sprinkled with dried mint and lemon. Frozen ones work fine.

You can even make your own amazing kale chips at home.

I meant to post that I'm not the poster with arthritis in her hands, so I don't know if the 2 lbs. difference would help her.

Bonnie, your recommendation of par boiling the sausage before pan frying them is how my father used to cook them. How ironic to read that cooking method on what should be my father's 86th birthday. I think I will be making sausages for dinner tonight.

Funny how life hands you dinner sometimes. That's the kind of validation I like to hear. :)

Great reporting on Peter Chang.

One instruction referred me to a place called points pending, but didn't link to it and I can't find it anywhere. And why would it take a day for the points to be uploaded anyway? The first code I put in for the day was entered (and doubled) by the time the screen refreshed.

Yeah, this is above our pay grade. You need to contact Post Points. Try that e-mail address I gave earlier: postpoints@washpost.com.

I have had some duck confit, covered with duck fat, in my chest freezer for slightly more than a year. do you think it is still safe to eat, or should I pitch it?

The confit will be fine as long as it's been frozen the entire time. But heavens! It's time to make that cassoulet before the cold weather is gone. (Friday would be perfect. It's supposed to snow.)

Legumes are complex carbs, which take much longer to break down, so they are recommended for low-carb diets. All carbs are not created equal.

I'm starting to plan a redesign of my kitchen in preparation for a major renovation project that will get underway this summer. We're going to double our cabinet and counter top space, so there will be a lot of room to play with. At the same time, this is actually a relatively pretty cheap renovation (we're building the cabinets ourselves, sticking with a linoleum counter top, only new appliance is a dishwasher, etc.), so I'm looking for suggestions of handy things to look at or include that won't cost an arm or a leg. Would I love a second oven? Of course! Do soft-close hinges sound awesome? Yep! But they're not in the budget. So, what are some awesome parts of your kitchen design that you just love, whether because it puts two things near each other, it's a great organizer, etc?

My one thing would be to have a spice rack or shelf at eye level. I claimed a whole shelf for spices in my assembly-required supplemental pantry. Arranged them alphabetically and also put masking tape labels on the lids. Makes stuff so much easier to find than when they were tossed willy-nilly on a shelf where I had to use a step-stool to see them all.

After I bought a townhouse that had recently been renovated, kitchen included, first thing I did was have Shelf Genie come and install those shelf drawer things. You can also get DIY versions of this at Container Store, among other places. Basically, it makes those shelves much more usable/accessible. 

Cathy B. and I were just having this conversation the other day, about kitchen features. Think about replacing some of those countertop surfaces with a section of what makes sense, in terms of your cooking. A swath of stainless steel or cutting board, maybe? 

 

For one kitchen I redid, I cut an 8-inch hole in the work surface so I could shove compost/trash through as I worked. That was a tremendous time-saver, and kept things neat. Also, maybe think about some shelves instead of all closed cabinets -- again, depending on usage. It's good to have things within easy reach. Remember to keep oil/spice storage AWAY from a heat source. 

All of this talk re Italian sausages reminds me of a one-pot favorite from my childhood: 2 large Italian sausage links in a pan with quartered or otherwise cut up potatoes (similarly sized pieces) and green beans (if not a foodie, canned works great for a quick cook). The sausage flavors both potatoes and beans.

Guys, we wimped out and put the mustard seed Gouda on hamburgers. But it was really good!

That'll work. 

My office is holding a potluck on Friday, and I enthusiastically signed up to bring an entree without considering the fact that I'd be limited to a dish that ideally does not need re-heating/tastes good cold. I'm known around the office as someone who loves to cook and as this is my chance to prove it, I'd love to bring a 'wow' dish. Any recommendations for what to make in this situation? Others are already bring meatballs, hearty salads, and a stew.

You just can't go wrong with a basket of biscuits and some fillings like country ham, pimento cheese and pepper jelly, and don't forget the butter and sweet jams.

but could someone let some technical person know that the chat transcript from "on Parenting" is missing after Ms. Joyce's intro? I'm using Internet Explorer, no clue what version..... thanks!

For now, try using another browser. We'll see who we can rustle up.

I have three strategies for opening jars. 1 - I ask my son to open it. 2 - I use a piece of a bicycle inner tube as a grip. 3 - if it's a wide but relatively flat jar lid (like salsa jars) I can break the vaccuum seal by prying up on it with a beer bottle opener, then it comes off easily.

Try salting and peppering the chicken breast an hour ahead (or even overnight). Getting some flavor into the meat ahead of time should help.

Several members of my immediate and extended family have found the Oxo jar opener (http://www.oxo.com/p-408-jar-opener-with-base-pad.aspx) to be a life saver (well, at least a hand saver), especially because it can be used on anything from wide-mouthed jars to water bottles. It has a permanent spot in our kitchen.

A technique that works well for me is to, rather than use your thumb and index finger wrapped around the top, grab it with your whole hand - with the top nestled in your palm (and your other hand around the bottle itself) and twist. Usually works pretty well for me. (Also works on the increasing number of screw off wine bottles that can also be hard to open.)

I had some pickled turnips the other day and they were very good. Never thought of it before but I will adding them to my pickling list.

Well, our ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Cathy for the help answering them!

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who FIRST asked about ideas for cooking turnips will get "Clean Slate" from the editors of Martha Stewart Living. And the one who asked about low-carb snacks will get "Low Carb Revolution" by Annie Bell. Send your mailing info to kara.elder@washpost.com, and she'll get them to you.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food 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.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow's first cookbook is "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (W.W. Norton). She blogs at www.mrswheelbarrow.com.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff writer and former Food section editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
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