Free Range on Food: Cooking and eating in the age of COVID-19, this week's recipes, advice and more!

Mar 18, 2020

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

We must talk today about “social distancing,” right? Many of us are working at home and limiting our movements due to the coronavirus. Perhaps the only place we’re going is the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make comfort foods.

We can all live vicariously through Eliza McGraw’s pre-coronavirus trip to “bread camp.” She shared her experience there as well as a recipe for making your own sourdough bread at home. It’s time-consuming so if you have time on your hands right now, give it a try.

New to sourdough? Cathy Barrow has your back this week: She explains how to make your own sourdough starter and what to do with the cast-off. Her sourdough cast-off cracker recipe is easy and delicious.

Becky Krystal tested and tested until she perfected a delicious homemade English Muffin recipe. How good are they? Her colleagues grabbed bags and took batches home.

We’re all craving comfort foods, too. One of Ann Maloney’s favorite recipes is as simple as it is delicious: Trout Amandine.

Kari Sonde rounded up recipes that rely on frozen, canned and fresh artichokes, including the super-comforting cheesy, lemon artichoke dip.

This week, Joe Yonan, wrote: “Adaptability. That’s what the world is requiring of us right now, and that’s certainly what we need in our recipes.” To that end, he shared a Whole Wheat Pasta Salad With Crispy Broccoli and noted that we can sub in other vegetables that we might have on hand.

Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger made a nutritious, lovely emerald green spinach soup that eats like a hug.

It can be difficult to cook, if your kids are home from school or daycare. Becky can attest to that. Give her piece on cooking with kids a read: How to cook for and with your kids during the extended coronavirus school closures.

If a cocktail in the evening is part of your ritual, especially these days, M. Carrie Allan has suggestions for "6 cocktails should be considered modern classics," and how to make them.

And, thank you all for sharing your tips for dealing with us about how you’re shopping, cooking and eating at home. We appreciated the smart, thoughtful response.

Please also welcome Virginia Willis, cookbook author and teacher, who is here to help us answer your pantry-cooking related questions.

Let's talk about how we're cooking right now.



I loved Ellie’s spinach soup recipe in today’s section. Simple ingredients . But presenting readers with beautiful photos of dishes with many fresh ingredients can encourage them to leave their homes to pick up that fresh bunch of parsley. I would love to see you list what stores are doing home delivery of groceries. We need to see that consistent message from the media , to stay home to protect others.

Thanks for your thoughts. We're going to write more soon about grocery-shopping strategies, too, but Instacart offers home delivery of groceries from multiple stores in the DC area (if that's where you are). Going forward, we will definitely be simplifying our recipes and photography for many reasons, but keep in mind that there's also a school of thought that since many stores do still have fresh ingredients, we should be eating them (or preserving them) while we can. I know some stores are limiting the number of people who can come in, to keep people far from one another, etc., but delivery will also be key.

As a single lady, I am in the habit of "making" frozen pizza or hitting the drive through. Before converting to work from home, my cupboard had pancake mix (expired), dark chocolate vinegar (opened), Annie's mac & cheese and brownie mix. My housemate and I do not cook together, but independently decided the 3 most important items are: eggs, ketchup and cheddar cheese. When I did hit the market, the first thing I bought was unscented soap, and I got the last 2 bottles. The good news: cooking at home/no snacking means I've already lost a few pounds. Onward!

It's all about adapting. We're trying to share many pantry- and freezer-friendly recipes. We asked food experts, like Padma Laksmi for advice and recipes.
We also asked all of you for advice and you came through with great ideas. Read about them here: Readers share tips for pantry- and freezer-friendly home cooking

Hi Rangers! I'm happy to get to spend the hour with folks who take as much comfort in cooking as I do! I have a pack of puff pastry in the freezer that should get used, as well as some lovely pink lady apples. Can you recommend any recipes for apple danishes/tartlets/croissants that can be individually frozen and reheated? I live alone so I don't want to make one large pastry, and I'd like to be able to ration them out over the coming days, weeks,...! Thank you!

Both the mini galettes and the breakfast pastries (withoutthe pastry cream) will freeze beautifully.

On the topic of recipes we have tried recently, what else is there to do but cook and eat, here are some that we really liked. The pork chops with the creamy mustard sauce and cabbage was delicious. I think i could just eat a bowl of the cabbage wth the sauce. The tahini bacon dressing on the warm chicken potato salad was really good and easy. I can imagine that dressing on other salads. And we made the lentil lemon soup. It was very good, very filling and we have some left in the freezer. I am looking forward to making the english muffins, kerp the recipes coming!

Thanks. We will. What else do y'all feel like eating these days? Seeking any comfort food recipes? Let us know. If any of you missed these recipes, here they are:
Greek Lentil and Spinach Soup With Lemon (This is the one a nurse has eaten just about every weekday for 17 years! Joe wrote about it.)

Pork Chops and Cabbage With Mustard Cream Sauce
Warm Chicken and Potato Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette

I am doing carryout because it gives me variety, stretches out my own food, and mostly because it helps out my local business.

Yes, I've been thinking about this a lot, too -- I've been cooking up a storm, planted a bunch of vegetables in my garden over the weekend, am all stocked up (with beans, naturally), but takeout/delivery will help some restaurants make it through, so I'm pursuing that tonight, too.

We’re replacing our ancient oven (it won’t turn off, which is obviously a bit of a problem). We’ll likely have to order one because of the Coronavirus — at the very least, I don’t feel comfortable going out to look at them because I’m immunocompromised. How will a salesperson really be able to help from six feet away, anyway? I have a fledgling specialty dog treat business, so I’m baking all the time. I also host events for an organization and do all of the cooking, so I need a good stovetop and warming drawer. Please, please give me recommendations on what keywords and features I should look for in a gas oven/range. We’re willing to buy something on the high end of the typical store brands if necessary (sadly, my partner quickly nixed the Viking). I’ve never bought an oven, and this is an extremely important decision for the future of my business (until I can afford to join a commercial kitchen). Thanks, and stay safe!

Good luck with this -- so sorry this is adding to your stress!

I highly suggest that you grab a membership to Consumer Reports, because their reviews/reports are really worth looking at before you buy a major appliance. I want to replace my stove at some point soon, too, and was looking up their top recommendations recently. So check it out! I believe you can get a monthly membership if you don't want it for long.

Since I'll be working from home for the foreseeable future, I've decided to work on improving my almost nonexistent bread making skills. It would be nice to be able to bake a loaf or two each week. Can you suggest some great whole grain or whole wheat sandwich bread recipes? And, is storing homemade bread different than commerical? I usually just leave our bag of store bought bread on the counter, and it gets used up in about a week, before it has a chance to go bad. Should I treat homemade the same?

Eliza McGraw wrote about her bread journey here. And I've written a primer on creating a sourdough starter here. There are hundreds of great bread recipes. Check out King Arthur flour's site for some terrific tutorials. I am deep down the sourdough rabbit hole now. One loaf will last about 5 days for us and I keep it on a wooden cutting board, cut side down. It stays fresh for a week. Other breads, if they have eggs or milk in them, will stale more quickly. There are other storage solutions: Slice and freeze the slices, then toast directly from the freezer. Or slice and keep the bread on the counter, tightly wrapped in a ziptop bag, plastic wrap, or (the greener option) beeswax wrapper.  Bread does not improve in the refrigerator. Here's a great first timer's bread - No Knead Whole Wheat. 

We're publishing a ton of bread content this week for our upcoming special issue devoted to the topic. As part of that, look for a recipe from Kristen Hartke for a great sandwich bread that she makes with white whole wheat flour.

I am about six seconds from caving and going out to get flour and butter so I can bake. But I have nobody to bake for and nobody who I can walk to in order to deliver - so any baking would defeat social distancing. What are other bakers doing to stave off the I can't bake now boredom???

Bake something that takes a long time and has several steps. Make croissants. That's a good 24 hour process. Or make and freeze little hand pies or galettes. Make, cut out, and decorate tiny cookies. Build a gingerbread house from scratch. 

I'm planning to make butternut squash chipotle chili. The recipe calls for 2 cans of black beans but I only have 1. Can i sub in 1 can of black eyed peas or great northern beans?

Don't see why not. The black-eyed peas might fall apart a bit more quickly. They do have a slightly earthier flavor, but why not. I bet it will be delicious.

Honestly it'll be tasty either way! I might go for black eyed peas myself.

YES! and look at you inventing a new recipe. As long as the beans are about the same size and tenderness you should be completely fine. Thanks and stay safe! 

Your suggestion last week for a gluten/dairy free birthday dessert of a pavlova topped with olive oil Meyer lemon curd, coconut whipped cream and berries was a big hit. ( I made it twice). And thanks to the other poster for next years dessert of GF olive oil cake.

A Pavolva is so easy to vary to suit your own taste. Becky put together Simple Customizable Pavlova recipe. So very pretty, too.

Oh, and Becky has a lovely Strawberry and Pistachio Olive Oil Cake you can try as well. It is gluten-free and is made in just one bowl.

Made the Pork Chops and Cabbage With Mustard Cream Sauce Saturday night and it was a big hit. Very tasty. One tip for thinner pork chops is to cut through the fat that surrounds the chop with kitchen shears ½ to ¾ inch deep three or four times and that will keep the chop from curling. Monday I made Rancho Gordo Cassoulet beans with Ham Hock and Onion. They are good but not $8 a pound good. Frankly spending that kind of money on dried beans seems a little arrogant to me. Hey, I tried them but they’re beans, just dried beans. On the other hand I made Corn Bread from the recipe on Albers Yellow Cornmeal. Fantastic! I have always used Jiffy Mix previously and this stuff is so much better. It was worth the expensive beans just to discover this recipe.

So glad you enjoyed the pork and cabbage recipe. I've been hearing lots of positive response from other who made it. One person asked me about dairy substitutes. I recommended almond and milk and cashew cream. Anyone have other thoughts?

I've been using a 7 minute boiled icing rather than buttercream to reduce fat and sugar. The problem I'm having is that it "sugars" after a day or so. I'm following the recipe (from a very old Joy of Cooking) to the letter, but still it sugars. Any advice?? Thanks

Good for you! I think that has to do with the humidity and perhaps not quite hitting the temps. Are you using a candy thermometer? We know we can't help the humidity. One thought is to also use superfine sugar that will dissolve more easily. 

I have done an inventory of my pantry. I have come across a few things past see by dates. Eat or toss. Pudding mix no date Bran Muffin mix 06 09 16 Boxed chicken broth 23apr16 Simmer sauce 19mar15

An inventory is THE WAY TO GO. There's an expression, "when in doubt, throw it out." Having said that, many foods can be eaten past expiration date. The muffins might not taste great, but unlikely anything will hurt you. The chicken stock at 4 years seems a bit better to go down the drain. Not sure what simmer sauce is... and I'd say at 5 years to lose that, too. 

Last Saturday, the grocery store's meat shelves were nearly empty (along with toilet paper and bread), but there were still plenty of vegetables and fruits. I roasted cabbage and potatoes that evening. The next day I stir-fried mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, and frozen corn with teriyaki sauce, with quinoa on the side. Embrace the veggies!

You bet. So smart. Good call on the cabbage. Lasts a while and very versatile.

This reminded me of a delicious recipe that one of my colleagues said she made last night: Roasted Vegetable Trio. Could vary with other trios as well. Could be a side or a main. 

Every year after making corned beef and cabbage, I wonder if the cooking liquid would be good in something else. Soup maybe? What would I add to make it an interesting soup? Or is it too salty? Thanks!

Taste it! Sounds like a great idea. Seems like it would make a great base for potato soup. 

The brown rice syrup I've been storing (and apparently ignoring) in a dark room-temp pantry has a use-by date of 2018. Online sources say to use within a few months, but the syrup looks and tastes fine -- no mold or weird stuff. Do I use it anyway, or toss? It's for a granola bar recipe that will be baked.

Out of date seems to be a theme -- lots of inventory-ing going on. When in doubt, throw it out. Instead of brown rice syrup maybe give honey, maple syrup, or molasses a try? 

I have about a third of a head of green cabbage left over from St. Patrick's Day. It sounds like it's not a lot, but it turns into a huge pile when you slice it up, and there's only one of me. That's a LOT of cole slaw. And I also just ate a bunch boiled with corned beef, so plain ol' sauteed or steamed isn't going to do it for me. Interesting ideas? I'm stuck at home (like everyone), so I don't mind fiddly recipes.

Boy oh boy do I have the recipe roundup for you: 

Glam up a head of cabbage with 11 recipes that showcase its versatility

Cabbage is the best for having around! I toss a bit of cabbage into salads. You can also make larb from ground chicken or turkey and use the leaves as a wrap. Add a tad to stir fries with other vegetables. It will also last a while in the fridge. 

One of my favorite ways to cook cabbage is to grill it -- but you can also do this under the broiler or in a 500-degree oven. Just cut it into big planks, leaving the core attached if possible, drizzle/rub with olive oil, s&p and grill, broil or bake until lightly charred in places. It brings out the nuttiness so beautifully, and then you can chop it up and eat it as is as a side dish, or turn it into "slaw."

If I run out of eggs, as seems likely, what happens if I just skip the eggs called for in bread and related recipes, either from scratch or with boxed mixes -- for pancakes? Brownies? Quick breads? Or what can be used instead of eggs, that doesn't require a trip to the grocery store -- meaning not bananas (unless frozen are okay) -- and possibly not milk, depending if I can learn to drink black coffee and eat dry cereal? I have a supply of cooking oil I'm glad to use, and some light mayonnaise that is a bit past its expiration date. And one jar of applesauce because it's something I eat, but I guess I can give it up to make a whole tray of muffins or something. I also have a packet of yeast and small boxes of baking powder and baking soda. There is so much contradictory info online, I need your wisdom! Thank you from a self-isolating senior citizen!

You are thinking smart! One egg = 1/4 cup applesauce 

you can also try to use 1/4 cup yogurt, buttermilk, or silken tofu if you have that on hand.... 

And don't forget about aquafaba -- “aqua” for water and “faba” for beans -- for baking as well. It's a great substitute for eggs in some cases. Check out Joe's Chocolate, Red Bean and Rose Brownies.

Adding a note for aquafaba: as per Joe's book, 2 tablespoons = 1 egg white, 3 tablespoons = 1 whole egg.

I'm one person, and will not eat the same thing every day unless I have no choice. How long will this last in the refrigerator? Does it freeze well (I'm thinking of the texture of the potatoes and squash)? Thanks.

Reid Branson, the Seattle nurse who has been eating this every workday for 17 years, refrigerates it for 2 weeks. I haven't tried freezing, but it will be fine in the freezer for up to 3 months. Root vegetables in liquid like that might get a little soft, but it's soup, so really not an issue!

But keep in mind that you can also scale the recipe in half if you'd like! Or, refrigerate half and freeze half, and see what you think!

ARTICLE: This Greek lentil soup is so good one nurse has eaten it every weekday for 17 years

Some recipes call for a tablespoon or two of heavy cream, which I normally never use for anything else. Is there a good substitute if its only purpose seems to be to add a little richness to the consistency?

Maybe some thinned sour cream or yogurt? Full-fat, preferably.

You can lighten things up and leave that out -- and you are exactly right -- it's just to smooth things out. If you wanted to smooth without cream, you can add butter or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, the latter having great health benefits. 

What would you make with just a 1/4 cup of buttermilk, left over after making Ina Garten's delicious Irish soda bread? Usually I leave it in the fridge 'til it goes bad & I throw it out. (PS - I mistakenly submitted this in advance to Tom's dining chat!)

Yes, he mentioned that! Could possibly make your own ranch. Or maybe an itty bitty batch of pancakes? :)

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

RECIPE: Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

Adding the 1/4 cup of buttermilk to 3/4 cup whole milk will activate some of the cultures and make a great substitute for buttermilk in pancakes, cornbread, or even biscuits. It's like souring milk with vinegar.

Buttermilk is a miracle. I keep it because I make a lot of biscuits forever. As long as it will pour I will keep it, date be damned. Granted, 1/4 cup isn't much -- so you could use it in pancakes, biscuits, muffins, or even in a mashed potatoes or a cream soup. (be careful on the latter b/c if it is low fat it can curdle in the heat.) 

If the chatter who needs a new stove is in DC, Maryland, or Northern Virginia, please call your nearest Bray & Scarff store. They sell nothing BUT appliances, and their salespeople are really, really knowlegeable. I've purchased a stove, dishwasher, washer & dryer from them. They will match prices from other stores (Home Depot, Lowe's), and they offer delivery and installation. I don't work for them, I just highly recommend them.

Thank you!

You're the answer to a prayer. I canNOT bring myself to throw out 3/4 of my rye starter every day and they've been languishing in the freezer.

It's terrible to throw it away! I've been making English muffins and crackers. I made a focaccia this other day that was pretty darn good. Some people fry it like Native American fry bread. #savethestarter

Sooo, ground beef seems to be hoarding item number 2 on the list. I have no problem in grinding my own meat but I don't have a meat grinder. Is there a way to do in it a food processor? I mean there has to be. Any tips?

Cut the meat into 1 1/2 inch cubes, or a reasonable facsimile. Freeze the cubes on a sheet pan, separated, for about 20 minutes, until the feel cold and firm, but not like ice cubes. Use the food processor, small quantities of chilled meat, and the pulse function to "grind" the meat into smaller pieces. Scrape it out of the processor bowl after each grinding, the add another batch of chilled meat and repeat. It's not perfect but it works. Beef, lamb and pork work pretty well, but chicken, duck and turkey are trickier and only a couple of very quick pulses are needed.

Wow. This is a great answer to this question. I am going to try this myself.

I've discovered a wonderful "sustainable seafood" cookbook with recipes for lesser-known fish, but it's specific to New England (issued by U of Rhode Island and Johnson & Wales Culinary College). Is there any such source for the Mid-Atlantic/Chesapeake Bay area?

YAY! A sustainable seafood question. The premier source for answers about sustainable seafood is Seafood Watch (I'm on the advisory board) by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can download and app and it will tell you which fish is sustainable. (Sadly the cookbook may already be out of date.) That way, you can use those recipes with fish you can find in your area.

I get free-range eggs, meat, dairy, and produce from small local farmers and their stores. They're particularly hard hit now that farmer's markets are closed.

And, in Atlanta the farmers are being hit b/c the restaurants are closing. Check their facebook pages and websites -- some around here have discontinued sign up fee for CSA and you can pick up at a designated location. 

Make pierogies

I highly endorse this suggestion.

Getting into baking bread and my dutch oven (7 qt, 11-1/2 inch diameter) is producing flatter loaves than I'd like due to the size. Thinking of buying this one (3 qt, 10-1/4 inch diameter) but would love to hear any suggestions people have. Thanks!

I just bought that exact pan -- the Lodge Combo oven. The breadstagram community is gaga over this pan. I've been baking my breads freeform on a baking stone, and they, too, were sort of flat, so I have high hopes for this new piece of equipment. 

Dear Prudence at Slate once used the phrase "aspirational vegetables" for the veggies that languish in the crisper in spite of lofty plans to cook and eat them. I have a head of aspirational cabbage purchased last weekend for its storage qualities. Thanks to the poster apparently in a similar situation and to you for the ideas on what to do with it.

Need more recipes using cabbage? Go to our Recipe Finder and search with "cabbage." You'll find dozens and dozens.

Perfect timing on the cabbage recipes & tips! My local Safeway had a bunch left in the produce section & a head is sitting in my crisper right now.

Without the need to commute on metro, I've been cooking lunch or dinner before my work start time of 8AM. This morning I grabbed the dead tree Post from the front stoop and almost immediately decided to make the carrot soup. I deviated from scrip based on what's on hand: Parsnips, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash remnants in addition to carrots, water instead of veggie stock, significantly increased spices overall, toasted some cumin seeds with the cashews, and doctored up with hot curry powder and amchur at the end. Fantastic. Thanks for keeping us fed deliciously in these crazy times.

You're so welcome! I love that you took that recipe and knew how to adapt it to what works for you and what you have. Sometimes all you need is an idea, right? 

RECIPE: Roasted Carrot and Cashew Soup

I would suggest the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes book. You make the dough, keep it in the fridge, then form and bake the loaves when you want to eat them. That way you don't have to worry about storing already baked loaves.

Yup! Big fan of theirs, too. We have run a few of their recipes, including this focaccia.

Fast Focaccia

RECIPE: Fast Focaccia

Spicy Peanut Chicken Stir-Fry is in regular rotation. We had it the other day - when I found out I didn't have quite enough peanut butter. I did have tahini to top up! It was sublime. It's an great recipe and the extra note and flavor of tahini was lovely. 

Oh, thanks! That was one of my first Voraciously recipes! GREAT idea with the tahini.

Spicy Peanut Chicken Stir-Fry

RECIPE: Spicy Peanut Chicken Stir-Fry

This sounds like the perfect way to start a baking binge as long as I have enough flour. By Sunday morning, our store's shelves were stripped bare. Even the self-rising flour which hadn't been moving was gone. Do the muffins have to be cooked on cast iron? I could do more at once on my electric griddle.

Nope, if you have an electric griddle, lucky you! I think I put that in the recipe -- set it to 325 degrees.

Definitely a good recipe for now, I agree.

No to candy thermometer. It's not 'that' kind of icing. May be the sugar - I'll run it through a food processor next time to 'fine it up' a bit. Thanks for the suggestion.

Good deal grinding your sugar more. I took a look at that recipe again. The main thing is so make sure there is no grains of sugar at all that you can feel in the stiff peaks. yum. I now want CAKE. 

As a thank you gift for taking care of his cats while he was away in Tahiti, a neighbor brought us a vacuum-sealed pack of three huge, gorgeous vanilla beans. What recipes would you use to really highlight these treasures? Bonus points for something that can be shared with the neighbor.

WOW -- that's a lovely gift. What about old school Creme Anglaise where the vanilla can really shine. And, if you wanted to go full on French (ooh la la) make Ouefs a la Neige or meringues in cream anglaise. I am certain your neighbor would love the sweet treat. 

I'm prepping some kale I got during my last shopping trip for who know how long. I am having trouble facing throwing any food away so I'm wondering if there is a way to use the ribs. They don't seem much worse than broccoli stems, although much smaller. Shall I chop them up and saute them? Any experience or suggestions?

You can absolutely use the ribs. Just thinly slice them and saute them with the garlic/onion/etc. to get them tender before you add the leaves!

You can quick pickle those ribs!

Loved seeing the shoutout to the cornbread recipe on the Albers cornmeal box. I grew up making that recipe, and can do it in my sleep, it's comfort food. That, and C&H sugar are the brands I miss as a West Coast girl long ago transplanted to the East Coast.

Becky did a story last Thanksgiving about back-of-the-package recipes. She dressed up a Jiffy cornbread recipe: So many of them are so good. I'll have to try this one.


If you have bread that is hard but not moldy (duh!), wrap it in a wet napkin or towel -- cloth or paper -- and zap it in the microwave. I do level one (lowest heat) for 20 seconds at a time and then poke the bread through the napkin to see if it's soft yet. If you overdo the heating, you can make the bread too hard for anything but breadcrumbs -- or to put in soup bowls, where the hot broth will soften it. Yum! This works for rolls, bagels, and loaves, meaning, breads with a firm crust. It is not meant for pre-sliced slices of sandwich bread, although with some adaptation, it might work for them, too.

Thank you! I just turned a third of a loaf of gorgeous Bread Furst pain au levain into beautiful breadcrumbs for a pasta dish we had for dinner last night. Sawed through it to get pieces, then blitzed them in the food processor, then toasted with olive oil, and stirred in lemon zest when they were done. Was nice! 

Wish I could do a drive by pick up of some of that stuff. I want to bake now and not wait for starter to develop naturally. When I used to make kombucha regularly, the burden of giving away the extra scobys really weighed on me. There are only so many friends, relatives, and random strangers who want 'em.

I always just composted my scobys when I made kombucha, but there are some great ideas for more here.

Take John Lee Hooker's advise to make it through this crisis. Source the borubon and beer locally and use your favorite Highland single malt. I am substituting fine untaxed VA corn liquor for the bourbon. Also helps deal with thefact my DOD network for telecommuting is a disaster.Yeah come give a fitness for duty test.


JLH needed to add some rye whiskey to that song. 

Is that the liquid from all kinds of beans or only certain ones? (And isn't that also an actress's name?)

I am certain Joe knows more about this, but I did recently read an article by ATK and lots of bean liquids will work, but garbanzo beans worked best. 

Yep, other beans work, but chickpeas are indeed best because that liquid is the mildest tasting so it's the most versatile. Even I don't want a pavlova that tastes like beans! (I think, anyway -- maybe I do!)

When I was rummaging through our chest freezer, I noticed we have a lot of local blueberries we froze last summer. I want to make a pie. Should I thaw them first?

No! It's much easier to make a pie with frozen berries. Mix the berries with your thickener, sweetener, and some lemon juice, then bake it just as you would if the fruit were not frozen. Here's a great option from Dorie Greenspan.

Just ... no ... . Why oh why do people put baked goods in the microwave. They come out hot and spongy and within seconds they're hard. I'll get off my soapbox now.

It actually can work to revive them, though -- especially if you're going to toast afterward. (Also, please, can I ask that people not be too judgmental right now?)

Needing some good Jewish comfort food, I made a big batch of cabbage and noodles the other night. Yum! Although my house smelled like a tenement on the lower east side...

I bet it smelled just great. Need a Cabbage and Noodles recipe? Here's one.You can skip the bacon, if you like :-)

I've been making a cabbage slaw since the early 80's that my mom probably clipped from the LA Times or Sunset magazine. I make it at least once a month, on average. It has evolved, of course, but I still reference the ragged photocopied recipe to get the dressing proportions right. Wondering what recipe you've been making the longest/most frequently?

If we're including family recipes, roti. 

Hello from Chicago, Rangers! We've been home for about a week now, working our way through the pantry and fridge, and I unearthed a bag of vital wheat gluten... so in honor of our at-home St. Paddy's Day, I made seitan with corned-beef seasonings. I've been meaning to try it for a long time, since it's practically impossible to find vegan corned beef in grocery stores, but the recipe calls for 4 hours of slow-cooker simmering, followed by nearly 2 hours in a 275-degree oven. Well, I had six hours to spare on Monday, and it turned out perfectly! Woo hoo! (Next up, using some of my Rancho Gordo stash...)

NICE! Can you share that recipe, please?

Have you been able to compile a list of farms in the DMV that are selling directly to consumers? With farmers markets assuredly to be on hiatus because of Covid-19, I would like to find some way of supporting local farmers (and get fresh fruits and vegetables) while maintaining social distance.

Many local farmers are offering at farm pickup, or preordering for pick up at the markets (many remain open). Check their websites.

I am moving and inheriting a bar cart (which is coming empty unfortunately) if I have all the booze - what should I have on hand for cocktails that will last a while in terms of bitters shrubs etc.? I drink more gin than anything else so I do have tonic & lime covered

Hey there! Good time to be stocking a bar at home. Hope these two stories will help! One covers home bar stocking generally, the other is about bitters specifically. Of course, a lot will depend on your personal taste -- I've got a collection of Italian bitter liqueurs that probably marks me as a sociopath. On the shrubs, you can also make some good ones with jams and any canned fruit you may have in the pantry -- a good option what with us being homebound right now.

Can you swap almond flour for regular flour cup for cup? Thanks!

Alas, no. Almonds are gluten-free, so replacing regular gluten-forming flour with a nut meal will kind of be a disaster. There won't be structure to hold the baked good together. You might be able to get away with a small amount of swap, especially in something like cookies or muffins, where a more tender result is not going to be catastrophic. But breads and cakes -- much trickier.

Here's a post in case you need gluten-free alternatives.

gluten-free flour

ARTICLE: How to use gluten-free flour blends in your everyday baking

I made this for PI day - for a bunch of scientists. It was a great hit. The grocery store was nearly out of lemons on Friday so I think everyone was making this pie.

We loved this pie in our Food Lab when we made it -- it was absolutely delicious and definitely something I'll be making hopefully soon again! 

I have the bones from a prime rib roast about to go into a hot oven in a cast-iron pan -- how long do I leave them there?

Roast those bones until they are nice and brown. The darker the bones, the darker the resulting stock. I would also suggest roasting the mirepoix of vegetables along with -- onions, carrots, and celery, too. 

Because I'm disabled I use grocery delivery from my local supermarket but for the past 3 weeks, the lead time for delivery is 8 days, with no guarantee they won't cancel the order because of shortages. Same with Costco, which I depend on for paper products, OTC medicines, etc. Instacart has "no delivery windows available. I have used several restaurant delivery services to support the neighborhood independent restaurants, but that's double the cost plus tips (and I refuse to be a miser on tips).

Bless you -- I wrote on Twitter this morning that I sure hope folks can order only what they need instead of what they want. Just because I am out of something I normally have, doesn't mean I need it. I feel like people need to think about those making the deliveries, too. We need to #helpthehelpers

Are you able to post on social media for assistance? I've seen a lot of able-bodied folks offering assistance to people who can't get groceries, etc. Some friends of mine are doing this at the moment. 

We're in a rural setting, so I was able to dump the greasy water away from our house. But what's the responsible way of dumping it? I didn't want to pour all that grease down our old house's pipes.

I am not sure what's EPA-friendly, but I doubt cooking liquid is all that toxic. My grandmother lived in the country and had a hidden spot in the yard where she poured our things like that and anything that happened to spoil then rinsed it with a hose. 

I happen to have an unopened quart of buttermilk (hopefully still good) and would love to know when I can use it instead of milk, besides in bread and cake-making? Thank you so much.

Keep the buttermilk. There's a rule in my house that as long as it will pour, it's usable. 

Buttermilk is great in a variety of uses. Make salad or slaw dressing, add it to dips or creamy sauces, put it in a smoothie, in mashed potatoes or mac and cheese. Think of anything that would benefit from that slightly nutty taste.

... and no idea when I bought either of the two unopened packages. If it's gone bad, will it smell funky or have some visual indicator of spoilage? I'm feeling a bit Old Mrs Hubbard here, so prefer not to throw anything away unless it's really necessary.

Dried rice noodles should be fine. They may taste a bit stale, but that's what sriracha is for. ;)

OMG, thank you, Joe. In a million years of self-isolation I'd never have thought of making jerky or sushi out of them.

Me, neither! That Cultures for Health website, btw, is full of great info -- and products! I'm getting back into kombucha-making soon cause, well, why not, and am trying their dehydrated scoby (along with yogurt starter).

The English muffin recipe posted yesterday (?) looks great, but why is it SO high in calories? For comparison, a regular Thomas's EM is 130, and a light one is 100.

Because it's that much better! Really a different universe.

Can't even put them in the same category. Becky's were so good, I think I ate 4 in one sitting. At once. And yes, I wore stretchy pants that day.

same ballpark though

Tee-hee, yes.

Freeze that leftover buttermilk by pouring it into a ziplock bag. It freezes great. Then next time making pancakes, crepes, chocolate cake, scones...defrost it and use. Liquid gold. Don’t waste.

Great idea to freeze! 

I've had great luck swapping about a quarter of regular flour for almond in things like pancakes and muffins.

Yup, sounds reasonable!

I tried that a few years ago for a few different soups- provides great flavor, but it makes it kinda salty (even w/o adding any salt as the particular soup recipe would provide for). Haven't been able to figure out another use, though I'd like to!

What about for cooking beans? That might be good. It does seem destined for soup or as a cooking liquid. Maybe try in place of stock for rice, etc? Might want to water down to decrease the salinity. 

While that does look good, it is completely different than mine. In yours the cabbage cooks less than 10 minutes. In mine, the thinly sliced/shredded cabbage cooks 45 minutes on low heat in a covered pan until it's completely wilted and browned. Hence the smell.

Could you share a recipe? We'd love to see it.

I had a brief chat at a farmers' market with a woman who was buying corn flour 'cause she's allergic to wheat. She made cornbread as if it were a soufflé.

that's old school! In the South that is called Spoonbread and yes, it poofs up just like a souffle. 

Mmmm. Now, I want spoonbread. Here's a snazzed up version: Corn Spoonbread With Goat Cheese and Chives

A kitchen midden!

I LOVE that. 

And one day the archaeologists will be studying it. :)

Joe, here's the recipe. I tweaked the spices a bit, and added pickle juice to the simmering brine instead of the water, but it turned out so, so delicious. About a pound of "roast" when complete. Enjoy!

Thank you!

Lets remember the latest stat put out by Mr Bezos. 67.3% of all readers and subscribers to the WP live out side the beltway and 41.6% live otuside the betlway in NOVA. I am not driving into DC for take out from Fairfax Station

Of course you're not!


I've been asking chefs and restaurateurs on social media who will be open for delivery, takeout and curbside pickup. The list is growing by the hour. You can see the Twitter thread here.


A few of the NoVa restaurants that are open and offering takeout and delivery:


Texas Jack's

District Taco

Taco Bamba


Arepa Zone's kitchen in Fairfax

Lost Dog

Smoking Kow BBQ

You also can do this in the oven if you don't have a microwave or don't like them. Wet the bread with water and stick it in a warm or low oven. You could also put a tray of water on a lower shelf. The idea is to give the bread a steam bath that remoistens it. I first read about this in a pioneer cookbook reproduction and then adapted it to the microwave through trial and error. Sorry I don't have the citation for the oven but it's surely online somewhere.

I wrote in earlier about roasting cabbage. This is how I do it: slice thinly, spread out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Sometimes I sprinkle garlic power, cumin, or Old Bay as well. Roast for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, tossing it every ten minutes, until it start to char. Delicious! It shrinks a lot, too. Two of us can eat a whole (small to medium) head of cabbage cooked this way. I prefer Savoy cabbage.

That does sound good. Thanks.

I put it in a paper bag then spray the bag with water and warm it in the oven.

Since childhood it was and still is peanut butter cookies.

Thanks for the lively chat today. It's clear that we're all home and cooking. If you have specific questions or suggestions, remember you can send us an email at

Stay tuned as we continue to provide pantry- and freezer-friendly options at this time.

Take care.


In This Chat
Ann Maloney
Ann Maloney is the Food team recipes editor.
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and author of "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Virginia Willis
James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author Chef Virginia Willis is a respected voice on Southern food and culture. She is the author of Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South. She is a featured culinary instructor on Food Network Kitchen and has been featured in People Magazine and the Washington Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow is the author of multiple cookbooks, including "When Pies Fly." She writes The Post's Bring It column.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a staff reporter for Food and writes a weekly column on casual dining.
Kari Sonde
Kari Sonde is the food editorial aide.
Emily Heil
Emily Heil is a staff food writer at The Post.
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