Free Range on Food: Passover recipes, how to make kolaches, farm subsidies, the decline of German restaurants and more.

Mar 21, 2018

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

Greetings, and welcome to the chat! Hope you've been picking up what we've been throwing down: Maura's piece on how and why German restaurants are dying; Susan Barocas on the importance of eggs at Passover (with great recipes); Cathy Barrow's dive into the magic of kolaches; Dave McIntyre's look at the connections between wine and politics; Tamar Haspel on why taxpayers subsidize rich farmers; and, from Voraciously, Bonnie's take on an easy weeknight polenta, Becky's anytime/anywhere frittata, Maura's taste of spicy candy, and much more.

Cathy and Susan will join us today, and we have a rare appearance by Dave McIntyre, so all you wine lovers out there, ask away!

For you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR8050 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

We'll also have a giveaway cookbook, to remain anonymous until the end of the chat, for our favorite chatter today. So make your comments/q's good!

Let's do this.

 

I was so glad to see Becky's story today about prepping avocados where someone in a major food publication FINALLY had the sense to criticize the practice of using a knife stab to remove an avocado pit.

 

For years, it's boggled my mind why anyone would recommend stabbing the avocado with the blade. I agree it creates the prospect you could miss and hit yourself, as she mentioned. What I've experienced--that really scares me--is once you've completed the maneuver, you have a super-slick avocado pit stuck to a super-sharp object and you have to find a way to get it off without your fingers slipping into the blade. I'm cringing just thinking about it it. I would also think it's not great for your blade to do this.

 

My technique is very similar to Becky's, although rather than using a spoon to remove the pit, I will usually use a small paring knife to cut the avocado half in half again, using a similar cutting-around-the-axis move she described for cutting the avocado in half. The two pieces (each a fourth of the avocado) are easy to pull off from the pit with your fingers, and this generally results in not losing any of the avocado flesh.

ARTICLE: How to slice, pit and peel an avocado without ending up in the ER

So true. Getting the pit off the knife seems just as dicey as getting the pit out! Makes my skin crawl to contemplate it. And, yes, I describe cutting into fourths too, for easy pit removal. Injury-free avocado toast for everyone!

avocados

While I was cleaning my blender after making this recipe, I had a thought - why can't you just use a can of crushed tomatoes? Why whole tomatoes pureed? Seems like it would save some cleaning. 

You could use tomato PUREE instead of pureeing a can of whole tomatoes, sure! (For this sauce, I'd puree even a can of crushed tomatoes, which are still a little chunky.)

While we're at it, you know the shortcut to cleaning a blender, right? Just put in a little dish soap and fill about a third with water, and blend. Gets all those nooks and crannies -- and is usually all  you need to do (besides rinse, of course), as long as you do it right after use rather than waiting till things have started to dry/adhere. 

RECIPE: Chickpea Tikka Masala

The article about food at Passover includes a reference to "the Sephardic dish called huevos haminados: eggs cooked, uncovered, for long hours with onion skins, peppercorns, a pinch of salt and a layer of olive oil on top." This got me to wondering. Are there other dishes that use onion skins? They're the first thing I throw away when I start cooking (it seems like almost every savory recipe starts with, "peel and slice/dice an onion"). Should I be saving them?

I use the skins and that tougher out peel in my vegetable broth also. I throw them in the freezer with all the kale stems, unused leek, carrot and potato peels, etc. -- all washed before freezing. Then when I have enough veggie scraps and time, I put it all in a big pot with cold water, bay leaves and whole garlic, let it cook for at least an hour before draining and staining. Excellent for anything you need--soup, stews, rice or quinoa instead of water....

ARTICLE: Why we need eggs at Passover

Second Susan! I use my onion skins in Joe's recipe.

Scrappy Vegetable Broth

RECIPE: Scrappy Vegetable Broth

Hoping you can help. I have a Fagor Duo (stainless steel) pressure cooker, both the smaller and larger size (4Qt and 6Qt?). I love using the smaller pan, I use it all the time, whether as a pressure cooker or as a skillet. When I used the pressure cooker a few times ago, it burned on the bottom, even though I was cooking rice with the same amount of water I always use. Now, every time I use it, it seems to burn in that same area. I have scoured the bottom of my pan (inside and outside) but don't know why it's doing this. I'm thinking it's maybe the electric element on the stove (not a high quality electric stove, but can't change it). Is it possibly that? Or, has my pan been damaged to the extent it will do that each time? thanks for any insight!

I doubt that your pot was damaged (and I think we have those same models/sizes in the Food Lab). Do you always use the same burner? If so, maybe one of those diffusers would help?

Thank you for the amazingly simple and tasty polenta recipe last week. I added in a can of chickpeas to roast with the tomatoes in order to add some heft and protein, and it worked great. May I suggest that some improvements are needed on the print format for the new Voraciously recipes? That was a short and sweet one, and it came out to 3 pages when printed thanks to the big headline and notes. That's fine for online viewing, but can the print version be streamlined?

You are most welcome! I like the idea of adding chickpeas.

Re the printing issue: We are aware, and apologize. For now, perhaps the best thing for you would be to use the Recipe Finder link (all Voraciously recipes appear in our online database as well, like the one below.)

RECIPE Polenta With Basil and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 

CHICKPEAS ARE ALWAYS THE ANSWER.

My favorite candies in childhood were Red Hots and Atomic Fireballs which, as you say, "clobbered you over the head with the taste of cinnamon." What I don't get is how come cinnamon on French toast, applesauce or in cookies is more sweet-warm than spicy-hot?

Short answer: Different types of cinnamon! (Also, according to Mother Nature Network, the atomic fireballs contain cinnamaldehyde, some capsaicin bound with a protein called TRPV1 and "artificial flavor.")

I'm not sure I would want my French toast to be spicy-hot! 

ARTICLE: Spicy candy is going to be big this year. But why can’t you taste the heat?

To add to your Passover egg ideas, my mom always makes egg salad with onions fried in smaltz for an appetizer before the Seder. My grandfather used to make a dozen hard boiled eggs and store them in the fridge in a jar of salt water for the week.

I had totally forgotten that my little Russian grandmother made her egg salad that way, Seder or not. Thanks for stirring that memory. I hadn't heard of the eggs stored in salt water, but I just might try it this year. 

Hi, I recently bought some 00 flour because I have seen it in recipes and had trouble finding it in the past. I have always used all purpose. So I went ahead and bought the 00 when I came across it. Can you tell me what kinds of things I would use it for and why it is better?

00 flour is finely milled. If you run it through your hands, you will notice its soft, silky texture. It's most commonly used in pasta and pizza, because (without as much water) you get soft, supple, easy to shape dough. Then when it bakes, things are crisp and snappy on the crust. Other than pizza and pasta, King Arthur Flour suggests using it in focaccia, crackers, flatbreads and gnocchi.

I'm looking for a retail source for freshly made corn tortillas in the Silver Spring/Wheaton area. We're hosting a dinner party and I think making them ourselves would be a little too much. Many thanks for all your help!

Moctec! They're over in Landover, but worth the trip, IMO. I'm not sure what the order minimum is (they supply mostly to restaurants), but call ahead and they'll be happy to help.

How can I make doro wat at home? The mere mention of it in the restaurant review made me salivate and there's no way I'm driving to Alexandria today.

Well, we have a recipe, but I'm guessing some of these are not ingredients you probably have on hand!

RECIPE: Doro Wat

You might be able to find some online hacks, but seems like they would require massive amounts of spices.

I just whack the seed with the edge of the blade, twist slightly, and it's out. No danger at all there.

Eh, this is what I was trying to avoid. Say you miss, or your knife slips on the pit? Why risk it? I think a spoon is safer, not to mention easier.

You don't have to whack the seed that hard. Just a bit of traction and there's no problem getting the seed off the knife.

Easier said than done. I'd rather not be messing around with a knife blade in this situation.

I have actually noticed that I may get headaches from California wines, but not European. Is this all in my head??

Not necessarily. Without trying to get all scientific about it, or knowing what types of wines you are talking about, I'd posit several possibilities. The CA wines might have more tannin or alcohol. They also may be made with more additives, though I won't give Europe a total pass on that, either. Additives may especially be a problem with cheaper wines. Do you have a better experience with white over red wines? I know some people who can no longer drink Italian reds of any quality level because they get headaches. I've no idea why that would be, when French reds are no problem.

Find wines that sit well with you and stick to them! 

Hi there! I have no question today but just want to say Thank You for the nice Passover story -- and especially for the vegetarian-friendly recipes. My husband and I are 90 percent vegetarian and I struggle to find new recipes during Pesach that are not just matzah brei or a tossed salad and grilled cheese on matzah (ha). The quajado sounds delicious and could be just the thing for Sunday brunch after Saturday night's second Seder. Chag Sameach to the Foodies who celebrate!

Thank you so much! As a long-time vegetarian/pescatarian, I really appreciate many of the Sephardic dishes that focus on the vegetables. Enjoy and chag sameach to you as well!

What is your best, go-to Passover dessert?

Tough question. Glad I only have one child so I don't have to make that choice! But since you asked...flourless chocolate torte is always a favorite, easy to make and can be made ahead and frozen. As I was testing them, I grew a bit addicted to the mocha chip macaroons in today's paper. But if I had to pick one favorite, it would be the sponge cake I made for my father and family for so many years. It's a light end to a big meal and goes well with fresh berries or other fruit.  

RECIPE: Poppi's Spongecake

Hi there, from Texas. I'm in Houston, and while kolaches are all the rage here; I prefer to get mine from small Czech towns closer to Dallas. Your recipes highlight the sweet kolaches, but for breakfast, savory is quite popular. They are usually filled with egg and some sort of breakfast meat. How would you adjust recipe to add egg and cheese?

Along the way to the recipe, I made a few savory versions, too. Adjust the recipe by removing the orange zest, and use only half the sugar. Most of the savory kolache I tried were more round, with the filling in the center, rather than disk-shaped with the filling on the top. To make a round shape, after the first rise, divide the dough into 12 pieces, cover and let rise for 15 minutes. Flatten each piece into a disk, add filling (2 tablespoons of cooked sausage meat or lightly scrambled eggs or a little of each, 1 tablespoon of grated cheese and a pickled jalapeno). Gather the edges and pinch together the seam (firmly.) Round out the shape and let the kolache rise 10 minutes, then bake as directed.

ARTICLE: All hail kolaches, the buns of Texas (and beyond). Here’s why you want to make them at home.

I wanted to give a public shout-out to chatter Emily, who graciously offered up her bread-baking expertise in a chat some weeks back - we had the lesson this past weekend and it was great! Emily taught us to make a basic French bread in a few different shapes, and she was so helpful in explaining each step in the process. The bread was delicious and I can't wait to make some in my own kitchen. Thanks, Emily, and thanks to Free Range for putting us in touch!

This warms my heart on this cold and snowy day! So happy to hear that. Definitely a kind soul and I hope to meet her soon, too. Happy bread baking!

I made polenta last night. The last steps were to remove from heat and stir in gorgonzola cheese, and the consistency at that point was thick and perfect. Recipe said to serve immediately, but it ended up sitting on the counter for about 10 minutes. When I went to serve it, it had turned thin and soupy. In my experience with polenta, it tends to thicken upon standing, but I don't typically add gorgonzola. What happened here, and is the only way to avoid it to serve immediately?

Interesting. I've done a little noodling around in other polenta-gorgonzola recs online and "runny" has come up a few times. Gorgonzola has a high moisture content; and when it melts, the fat tends to puddle more than cheddar, I've noticed. Chatters?

 

Still, I'm with you in the camp of once polenta has a chance to cool/set up, it typically does just that. What other liquid, if any, did you add besides water or broth?

Good morning! I am nursing my 11 week old who has reflux so I have to lay off dairy and soy. I found that margarine has soy, so I'm looking for a non-dairy or soy replacement for butter so I can bake. Would a non flavored oil work or even a nut butter? thanks!

Earth Balance, maker of vegan "butter," has a soy-free version available in spread and stick form. For baking, I'd go that route as the easiest, most all-purpose sub.

Can this recipe be made dairy-free? What would you substitute the yogurt with?

If you can handle soy, try a plain, dairy-free yogurt such as  So Delicious or Silk brand. Also, I'm thinking silken tofu could work well here. I will try to retest with it by end of the week and will report back when I do!

 

RECIPE Middle Eastern Saucy Chicken

I am having an Easter lunch for family and friends and wanted to serve a ham. my husband hates mustard, which rules out my personal favorite glaze of brown sugar and mustard. any other options you might recommend?

My dad adored hard candy and especially atomic fireballs. He would keep one between his cheek and gum all the time until he got a sore in his mouth. He was sure he had mouth cancer so he went to the dentist. Nope, it was the candy eating a hole in his cheek. I think the dentist talked about that for years. I also think my dad put the dentist's kids through college. ha.

Ha, that's amazing! Your dad sounds tough. Glad he's ok. 

Becky I had to giggle over the Fireball cake using instant pudding mix. I have an old retro recipe for Rum Pound Cake that uses a yellow cake mix and instant french vanilla pudding. Every time I make it I think I should find a from scratch version. But honestly my family loves it as is. And sometimes it's just nice to throw together such an easy cake.

Fireball Cake

ARTICLE: You don’t have to be a bro to love Fireball Whisky cake

Exactly! A few commenters got a little judgmental about the pudding mix. I mean, I don't cook with it ALL the time, and the cake doesn't taste artificial or whatever. I just thought it was a fun/funny retro thing to share.

The article on German restaurants caught my eye, since I happened to spend last week with the family (during spring break) near the German part of the Lone Star state (Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, etc). I'm not going to lie, the idea of eating German food for lunch or dinner didn't appeal to me and we opted for a place that wasn't German. On the other hand, we ate at German bakeries every morning because who doesn't love fresh baked hearty bread and strudel?

Love strudel! But yeah, you're not alone -- it's hard to get people interested in hearty German dishes when so much of the messaging from food media is about eating light and seasonally and veggie-forward and avoiding starches and carbs. Especially in the summer! But during weather like this, a huge plate of sauerbraten sounds great, right? 

And this sounds superficial, but it does matter in today's media landscape: It's hard for an amateur to take nice-looking photos of German food. A lot of the foods that photograph well have color. German is beige on beige. So it doesn't benefit from the viral marketing of being featured on food porn Instagram accounts, for example. 

This brings back memories of my aunt taking me to my first "real" restaurant, which was German, and eating wiener schnitzel and sauerbraten and sweet-and-sour cabbage and some wonderful breads. This was followed by a trip to the Bavarian restaurants in Frankenmuth, Michigan, which are chiefly known for their fried chicken platters and tourist buses, but still had a lot of good food. There used to be more ethnic European restaurants because recent immigrants would start them, but growing up in the Midwest I had a front-row seat as these immigrants' children moved out to the suburbs, sent their kids to college, and moved away from restaurant work. There were also ethnic European neighborhoods all over Chicago, and now the ethnic neighborhoods are Mexican, Asian, middle Eastern. I wonder if the Latin restaurants will also disappear a generation or two hence as people's educational attainments and career choices evolve.

You've definitely hit on an aspect of the story that I didn't really have the space to get into: The fact that some of these restaurants are closing because first- or second-generation children didn't want to go into the family business. And when Mom and Dad are ready to retire, maybe the restaurant isn't in good shape, or they aren't able to sell it. Some of the restaurant owners I talked to had bought their restaurants from elderly owners who weren't able to pass the business along to their children. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of the many Central American, Middle Eastern and Asian restaurants over the next 50 years, to see which ones will become institutions.

More than a decade ago, I wrote a story about how second generation Vietnamese children didn't want to work in the restaurant business, even though their parents had prospered in it. They had other dreams to chase. 

I got a bunch of collards in my hungry harvest box and am not sure what to do with them. I am a huge fan of swiss chard & spinach, hate kale, and have only had collards as a side at bbq restaurants once or twice (it was... okay). Can I treat it like chard and quick saute it with garlic and oil? Or does it need the cook-the-hell-outta-it treatment of kale?

If you can hang on to them for a few more days, we'll have just the sort of recipe you're looking for online, on Monday! 

But if not, try these:

Speedy Collard Ribbons With Pickled Peppers

RECIPE: Speedy Collard Ribbons With Pickled Peppers

Stir-Fried Spiced Collards and Chickpeas

RECIPE: Stir-Fried Spiced Collards and Chickpeas

Old Europe was the first restaurant I ate at in DC, back in the '70s when I visited a friend whose divorced father lived at Watson Place and took us to eat there. It may have been the only restaurant in the area besides the Westchester dining room, where we also ate. Now, more than 40 years later, I live in the area and when my friend comes from Ohio to visit me, we have a nostalgic meal at the Old Europe.

So glad you have fond memories of Old Europe! The restaurant is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. There are many German restaurants that don't make it that long, as discussed in the story. 

ARTICLE: ‘Grandma’s food’: How changing tastes are killing German restaurants

The article on different kinds of flour was very useful, but what about 00 and semolina flours? I’ve used both for pizza. I know semolina is used for pasta, but what about other uses for 00 flour? (And what does 00 mean, anyway??)

ARTICLE: How to choose the right flour for the right baking recipe

See my answer above on 00 flour.

Semolina is a course-ground of durum wheat. Its texture is a bit like cornmeal. Expect a nutty, sweet flavor and yellow color in what you put it in. It, too, is used in pizza and pasta. It's nice to use under pizza dough instead of cornmeal.

My favorite use is in pizza dough, specifically this one from Joe.

Sicilian Slab

RECIPE: Sicilian Slab

I'm not sure if this has been mentioned in this chat before or not, but the first U.S. edition of Ottolenghi and Goh's Sweet contained multiple errors. The publisher not only provided corrections on their website but offered new copies to anyone who bought the books with errors. My brother and his girlfriend gave me a copy of the book for Christmas. I submitted my information for a new book a few weeks ago. The new book, along with a signed bookplate and Staub wooden spoon, arrived today. They went above and beyond my expectations. It was such a stark contrast from the way Cuisinart handled their blade recall last year. I can't wait to make something else from the book.

I didnt know about the extra door prizes! Nice gesture. But I did know about the errors, having baked sev things from that book.

I have a huge bottle of apple cider that I’m not interested in drinking. What are some recipes that will help me go through it? Savory or sweet? Maybe a braise?

On a day like today, I'd make this:

Hard Cider Rarebit

RECIPE: Hard Cider Rarebit

Or: 

Cider-Braised Rutabagas and Leeks

RECIPE: Cider-Braised Rutabagas and Leeks

Cider-Braised Cabbage With Apples and Pecans

RECIPE: Cider-Braised Cabbage With Apples and Pecans

I also tend to use any wine/cider/vermouth I can't finish in time as a deglazing liquid when cooking meat or vegetables. Or add it to risotto. Or polenta. Or soup.

Are you referring to nonalcoholic cider? If you are at home today, just pour it all into a heavy pot and cook it down into this terrific syrup, which can be used to make candy and used wherever you'd use maple syrup, incl these baked beans

I assumed hard cider because of your use of the word "bottle" (rather than jug), so please do help us settle this bet!

Everything I've read online tells me the color of the egg yolk doesn't influence its flavor. But I can tell the difference - I occasionally end up frying eggs from different cartons together, and the bright orange yolks definitely have more flavor than the pale yellow yolks. Is there any way to determine the yolk color before I buy eggs? I'm guessing probably not, but it's so annoying to break open eggs from a new carton for breakfast and discover they have the flavorless pale yolks.

My egg-raising friends tell me that, in addition to how the hens eat, the fresher the yolk, the more brightly orange it is.  So, it seems buying from farmers/farmers markets will get you the best eggs. If that's not possible, look for the most distant expiration date for organic eggs. Check out Becky's terrific egg story from a few days ago. 

My understanding is that the yolk color is solely about the hens' diet. And I'm (respectfully) a little skeptical about your thoughts on the flavor difference -- have you tasted them blind? Our visual perception REALLY influences our perception of flavor! Tamar proved this a few years back, and it's been shown with other foods many times.

I'm starting to explore going vegan (-ish) after a slide into vegetarianism, and have a question about milks. There are so many options now, and they all seem to be sold in half-gallon containers, which is quite a commitment if you're not sure which/what to buy. The main uses I have, apart from occasional baking needs, is breakfast- I am a cereal+milk gal and also put a splash in my coffee. I purchased some unsweetened cashew milk to try first (it was on sale), and it works just fine for the cereal (granola, muelsi, & oatmeal all passed the test- it doesn't add the same flavor but does the trick) but in coffee it's a huge fail... first it bubbles which is super disconcerting and then disappears, returning the cup to both the taste and appearance of black coffee. I guess my (long) question is two-fold: a) do you have a recommendation for a type to try that approximates milk in coffee (no allergies so soy/etc is on the table, but I'd prefer it to be unflavored), and b) are there ways/places to buy smaller quantities of soy &/or nut milks to try them myself without having to buy a half-gal? Anyone want to do an article on it and invite me to the tasting? ;)

Just checked in with my crew of vedge and vegan chums and got strong recommendations for CoffeeMate's Natural Bliss Vanilla Almond Milk Creamer, and also for the creamer products from Califia Farms, Wildwood and Silk. I would stipulate you'll definitely want the creamer from Silk -- when I've tried their straight soy milk in coffee I didn't get good results.

I'll cast a vote for Elmhurst's new products: "milked" cashews, walnuts, almonds.

I'm hosting a dinner the last Friday of Passover for both Jewish and non-Jewish friends and wanted to do a side-by-side of dishes that are chametz-free and chametz-full (aka lasagna made regular and one made with matzo or squash, mac and cheese and spaghetti squash and cheese). Any ideas of what I can add to the menu? I thought it'd be fun to compare dishes and really see if Passover is as painful as us Jews make it out to be!

Well, as someone who adores Passover and finds no pain in it (other than the cleaning), I might not be the best person to answer you. It seems you already have some ideas with lasagna vs a mina, the Sephardic matzo pie, etc. However, for me, Passover isn't about what we are missing or re-creating what we can't have as much as the beauty and satisfaction of eating with purpose, mindfulness and intention for the 8 days.  

I didn't take Carrie up on her suggestion last week that I step up to Red Breast from Jameson/Bushmills. $62 is just too rich for my blood. But I did shell out a bit extra for Jameson Black Barrel. And ... I don't think I care much for it! I haven't had enough Jameson to really nail down the difference between it and the Black Barrel iteration, but the BB just seems less distinctive. I suppose the charred notes that appeal to people just aren't to my liking, but even those don't really stand out to me. OK, it's back to Paddy for me.

Interesting! I'm not sure I've tried that one yet. I did hold a whiskey tasting with some friends and got to try a Bushmill's 12 that was really lovely, and one of the friends also brought the Tullamore Phoenix, which was great. If you're in a good bar, get them to pour you some Redbreast 12 if they've got it -- I totally understand the hesitance to commit to a pricier bottle.

Irish whiskey was once on the verge of collapse. Now, it’s booming.

I made this last night and here's a tip: If you're using a stick blender in the can of tomatoes, first put the can in the sink. Clumsy people like me can make a mess. just saying.

I love that Susan Barocas's dishes are not matzoh based and that she says that though we must taste matzoh, we don't have to eat it all the time. That's been my family's approach in recent past - just skip it. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa (for those who eat it), roasted vegetables, etc. And, thank you Susan, for a recipe using the extra egg yolks!

You warm my cold, snowy day!  Thank you. Have a deliciously wonderful (and healthy) Passover!

I loved the article on kolaches. As a displaced Texan, I have fond memories of the TX version of the pastry (you are right, they are different depending on where you are from). We had a favorite place that was in Columbus, TX , where we always stopped on trips between Austin and Houston. It was a tiny place set back behind a gas station. We even once drove the hour and half, both ways, just to get a bagful when we had no other reason to take the trip. Besides the fruit filled ones, they made sausage ones that were just killer.

 

I am seriously contemplating a kolache road trip. And I think it needs to coincide with the Kolache Festivals in several Texas towns. See my answer above regarding the sausage ones, a scrumptious savory treat.

I've been tasked with making a vegetable side dish for Easter dinner. Definitely need something that can be served at hot or at room temp, prepared in advance, can stand up to a short car trip, no potatoes (mashed are on the menu), plus gluten free and no nuts for the allergic family members. Any ideas?

Asparagus With  Crystallized Ginger Vinaigrette -- I think this is a practically perfect recipe (meets your requirements) -- and that's not something  I say all that often. I'm thinking you will find many other uses for that dressing, too. 

Also this could work for you: Farro With Pea Shoots and Spring Onions... add the dressing after you arrive.

 

I find the biggest difference is so many of the CA wines I'm drinking have a bit more alcohol than the EU wines I'm drinking. Varies of course depending what wines one prefers from where, but that's a reason to get more of a headache besides additives.

You can actually consume considerably more alcohol drinking a few glasses of 15% wine compared to one that's 12% ... 

Unless there is a reason why I need to have two clean avocado halves or long slices, I usually will cut it around the middle, rather than length-wise. This feels safer, and, if I only need half, it leaves less exposed flesh to turn brown.

Hey, if it works for you, go for it.

Recipe called for whisking the corn meal into water (can't remember the proportions now), and then to gradually add about one cup of milk as it cooked. It was perfect ladling consistency when I removed it from the heat and right after the cheese was in. One of my saddest cooking failures--it was a perfect chilly evening for polenta, too!

:(

What are your favorite recipes for rice that might entice a kid to eat? In fact, what are anyone's favorite recipes for anything that will win over a two year old? Or, at least give me some solace when I eat all the food so it doesn't go to waste. Hopefully something simple since I also have a 5 month old ;)

How 'bout:

Dorie Greenspan's Cheesy Rice With Asparagus? (yeah, you could serve the asparagus separately)

Scarlett's Chicken and Rice (really creamy smooth and mild)

Tomato and Rice Soup

and of course a nice simple rice pudding.

Hi, OP from last week re: soggy bottom pizza. Thank you all for the suggestions! We're happy to report that by combining thicker dough on the bottom with brief pre-baking, and low-moisture mozzarella, we had a very tasty, perfectly cooked pizza crust - top and bottom. Even our picky eater enjoyed it! Again, many thanks. :)

So glad to hear it! Hooray!

I've been taken off wheat and corn for a month and am experimenting with unusual grains and legumes, especially Indian ones (the variety is amazing). But I can only seem to find pearl millet flour, not the grain itself. Even my favorite Ganesh Bros., which carries horse gram! failed me. Bob's Red Mill only sells the flour. Any mail-order or other sources?

Hmm. There are so many millet varieties -- I had no idea! I'm not sure how pearl millet differs from the hulled millet sold by Bob's and others. But you should give that a try -- it cooks so quickly!

In a couple of months, the month of Ramadan starts and we eat a lot of chickpeas for breaking our fast. When I make my chickpea dish, I use a trick my sister-in-law taught me. I usually use one can of drained chickpeas and put in one can undrained. The undrained can adds a nice thick consistency to the final dish. I recently discovered that people actually use the liquid as an egg substitute in vegan reciepes, so I guess she was onto something. THe rest of the recipe, I initially, saute onion and two chopped roma tomatoes together in oil until the onions soften. Then, I add cumin, garlic and ginger paste, salt, paprika and tumeric. Next, add the chickpeas. Once it's cooked through, I add garam masala. Once I take it off heat, I like to add some chopped corriander leaves, small chopped chili peppers and squeeze in some lime.

Sounds good! Yes, I've taken to not always draining/rinsing the beans, as long as the can is BPA-free and there's no salt added. I make tacos with red kidney beans and poblanos, and for that I drain but don't rinse the beans, cause I like that little bit of liquid left on them. I've also been playing around with a cornbread recipe that also uses red kidney beans, and for that I whip up the drained liquid (the aquafaba of which you speak) to replace the eggs in the original recipe. Fun!

I really want to try these during Pesach, but we've started packing for our impending move and my blender and food processor are already packed! Anything else I can use to pulse the cocoa and espresso powders? Could I just whisk them, or do I need to do more to really break down the espresso powder?

 

RECIPE Mocha Chip Meringues

Oy! Moving AND Passover at the same time. Good luck! And yes, you can kind of mash and stir with a fork to break down the coffee a bit and make sure it's well blended with the cocoa. Beating the mixture into the eggs should do the rest of the work ok. Hope you enjoy your holiday!

I'll be doing a couple of Passover dinners, rather than full seders. I'm interested in Passover recipes that would work for two consecutive nights of dinners for different parties. Any ideas for things I could make that can be served twice (or make two times)?

Easy to double the quajado recipe in today's paper so you have two.  I am also making the Turkish green beans which only get better over time. 

If you're meat eaters, brisket holds up well. In fact it's best to cook ahead anyway and reheat in the gravy. Another excellent choice is any of the many stewed chicken dishes you can research with the Post Recipe Finder. I am partial to this one. Have a very happy and delicious Passover! 

I made the Congolais cookies from your recipe finder and although they were tasty, I think there was a problem with the texture of the coconut. I used the same brand mentioned in the recipe notes. Should it have been processed or something to make it more fine? It seemed too chunky.

Hmm. . . mot sure I have ever seen unsweetened dessicated coconut that looked chunky. 

My aunt makes the most amazing many-layered mocha torte on the planet. It's an all-day event. Baking the sponge, making the frosting, grinding the hazelnuts, sometimes even making the jam. Relatives are honored to receive one, and her sons' girlfriends-eventually-wives have done the "baking a torte with the mother" day as a way of being accepted into the family. And yet, one of her OTHER favorite things to bake is a pistachio pudding/yellow cake mix bundt cake made from a 70s recipe that was on the pudding box. There's a time for everything!

The secret to the Pillsbury Bake off Runner Up Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake (whew, that's a long recipe name) was a double chocolate frosting mix! And my favorite brownie recipe came from the back of a Baker's Unsweetened chocolate box (in 1972.)

My mom used to make that pistachio cake from the pudding box! With a chocolate swirl, in a Bundt pan. *Sigh*.

Can you explain the difference between Voraciously and the rest of the online food section? What goes on the front of the Recipe Finder page vs. the Voraciously Recipes page? Thanks.

All our content goes to washingtonpost.com/food, but we created Voraciously to be a destination for a style of recipes/photography that we're hoping is appealing to less-experienced, intimidated cooks. So you'll get everything at washingtonpost.com/food, including Voraciously, but at Voraciously.com you'll only get that content! Make sense?

I'm looking for a dessert that I can make ahead to bring to a passover. It will have to go through some travel too. (No nuts!) Also, anytime I make a chocolate Passover cake, it tastes like a chocolate Passover cake. What is it that gives it that distinct passover-y taste? the lack of flour? the chocolate and sugar combo without any gluten?

Definitely know the taste of which you speak, but it usually has to do with a boxed Passover mix. Sometimes it's the kosher for Passover extracts used.

 

This Tweed Torte from Alice Medrich does not suffer from that issue, however.

For the great education in addition to the great recipes. Iranian dishes and information about Nowruz, and eggs at Passover -- I treasure you guys.

For her James Beard nomination in the humor category for the article “Pumpkin Spice Life.” So how would a lady celebrate this momentous occasion? ;-)

Thank you! And congrats to my colleagues Tom, Tim and Fritz, who all earned nominations as well. 

This Lady looks forward to wearing her finest petticoat for the awards ceremony dinner, where she will push food around her plate in a ladylike and judgmental fashion, but secretly sip whiskey from a flask in her purse. Shhh, hope the men don't notice! 

I have been using a "hard red winter wheat" that is grow and processed near where I live. Can you explain the difference between summer and winter, soft and hard wheat? And when I would not want to use my local source?

From the Washington State Crop Improvement Association, which includes links to some varieties of soft and hard wheat:

Winter wheat is a type of cereal that is planted from September to December in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter wheat sprouts before freezing occurs, then becomes dormant until the soil warms in the spring. Winter wheat needs a few weeks of cold before being able to flower, however persistent snow cover might be disadvantageous. It is ready to be harvested by early July.

And from iGrow, a website from South Dakota State University:

With adequate cold acclimation, winter wheat can withstand freezing temperatures for extended periods of time at the seedling phase. Winter wheat also requires a period of exposure to cool temperatures to trigger its reproductive development. This process is called vernalization.

Spring wheat doesn't require time in a cool temperature to flower, so it's planted in the spring.

Soft wheat is lower in protein, hard wheat is higher. And as Becky explained, that protein content matters!

(Also read a little more from the Washington State Crop Improvement Association, which includes links to some varieties of soft and hard wheat.)

I think you're fine to use the local source for most situations, provided they have the right flour for the right job. And your baked goods will taste way better with freshly milled stuff, anyway.

I tried to replicate a restaurant dish which features crispy cubes of tofu. I bought firm tofu, pressed, cut, marinated, dried, and dredged in cornstarch before frying in my wok. The edge had a skin, but didn’t keep the crunch, and the inside was really creamy, no resistance at all. It was tasty, but it seemed like an awful lot of work for no crisp or bite. Suggestions?

Cornstarch helps here, but I'm wondering: Did you make sure to drain the tofu on a cooling rack so the excess oil could drip off? That also helps -- but in my experience the tofu doesn't always stay super crispy for long. Try a little rice flour next time -- that might do it. Chatters, any other ideas?

I'm looking for more complex carbs, though. The pearl millet is larger, greener, and more irregularly shaped than "regular" millet -- it's about the size of hulled barley or slightly larger.

Got it, but hulled millet is certified as a whole grain, so ...

My mother grew up during the Great Depression, and polenta, then called corn meal mush, was on their table frequently. After chilling, it was sliced and griddled and served with maple syrup for breakfast. She then made it for us children as a relief from boxed cereals. It's nice to see that it lives on, under a prettier name. I've made something like your sauce from cherry tomatoes, but with a hefty addition of sauted mushrooms. Great vegetarian dish!

I'd like to make a coffee cake or something similar, but I don't have sour cream. And, I don't want to run out in this weather. I do have milk though. Any recipes that could fit the bill?

You could make your own but it will take a while. Do you have plain yogurt? Making buttermilk would be quick/easy to do, and then you could make this very good cake.

Or this Blueberry Yogurt Coffee Cake

 

They have a LOT more alcohol. I've complained about this for several years (we spend up to a month in Sonoma County every year). The vintners protest that they aren't doing it to hype up the flavor easily, but nobody's fooled.

There are a lot of reasons, actually. I once asked a group of Dry Creek Valley winemakers why they were making higher alcohol wines, and Dave Raffanelli answered, "Because we can."

First, warmer climate means riper grapes with higher sugar level, thus higher potential alcohol.

Viticulture techniques have improved, and vintners can get their grapes riper, more consistently.

Style preferences: Americans like big and sweet as a rule. Alcohol adds heft and body to a wine.

Definition of "ripe" changed -- vintners began looking for "phenolic ripeness," meaning riper flavors in the skins and browner colors in the seeds and stems to avoid "green" flavors. This meant leaving the grapes on the vine for longer "hang time," resulting in raisined grapes, with higher sugar levels and sugar-to-juice ratio.

Luckily, style preferences seem to be changing, and more vintners are picking earlier and going for a more moderate alcohol level. This is by no means uniform, and "moderate" will mean one thing in California (say, 13.5-14.5%) and another in Europe (12-14%).

I don't know how Germans in the U.S. manage to survive without the incredible array of great complex whole-grain breads that they have in Germany. Even artisanal bakeries here don't measure up; you need a German recipe and the right ingredients. I hope German bakeries never go the way of German restaurants!

Credentials: I lived in Germany for five years and totally understand how much better their bakeries are. 

But.

Have you been to Seylou in Shaw?

Because they're A++++++.

Seylou bread

ARTICLE: This new bakery is taking local grains to another level — and the results should have you standing in line

I love German food and would frequent restaurants again as I did as a carnivore if there were more vegetarian options. Field Roast makes great veggie sausages they could offer as a sub for meat. I hope some restaurateurs are reading this.

One of my favorite dishes I tried at Metzger was a whole roasted maitake mushroom with sherry cream and potato rosti. They have really thought about their vegetarian guests there -- if you get the chance to go to Richmond, check it out!  But you're right, it can be tough to be a vegetarian at many of the old-school places.

A bunch of friends and I used to have a contest of how long you could hold one in your mouth without taking it out, chewing it to pieces and swallowing, etc. Person who could take the pain the longest, won. We were adults. On a commuter train, killing time during the 2 hour commute.

Hi Joe- Was good to meet you Monday at the America's Cookbook event, I'm the gal who talked about how your articles about the Buddha diet back in Jan 2017 inspired me. Just wanted to say thanks again- I was pretty nervous and in retrospect think I said "yeah" way too much instead of being more conversational about what I kept/changed and other lifestyle changes that followed from that first step that I never would've taken if they'd been prescribed by some plan rather than natural evolutions over time (like going from meat+pasta+wine-daily to vegetarian-edging-vegan & infrequent drinker, and going from not exercising ever to joining a competitive sport). It's expanded my cooking range too, in a great way- I made a mushroom-heavy version of Three Sisters Stew last night that tasted like it had delicious meat gravy but was vegan. And sorry for interrupting you mid-cupcake to talk diets lol!

Great to meet you, too! I'm so excited that what I wrote inspired you to lose weight -- 100 pounds! Incredible. Thanks so much for saying hi -- and congratulations on the amazing work.

 

Most Asian markets offer fried tofu. According to my Japanese friend the fried tofu should be soaked in clean water, then dice up to your preferred size and then fry at home. This should result in more like what you get in a restaurant.

rest them 15 minutes, and not one minute more... How in the heck do you fill all of them in such a short length of time? Pressures on I guess?

You can do it. (Start the clock after the last kolache is filled)

Yes! Dust the slices with flour and fry it in bacon fat. Then pour syrup or honey over it. Best breakfast ever. And yes, I did laugh when the polenta craze first arose -- "that's our fried cornmeal mush!"

We love polenta and have been lately making it in the Instant Pot. But whenever I try to fry leftover and sliced polenta, it ALWAYS sticks. No matter how much oil I use... is there a trick to this?

pat it dry/let it sit on paper towels, then brush it with oil and use oil in a nonstick pan/grill pan. 

If you straddle your thumb and index finger across the BACK of the blade, push on the side of the pit facing you, and hold it over the trash can, you can pop the seed off quickly with little danger. Respect the danger, but don't be afraid (just like swimming or driving a car).

I think I'm visualizing what you're saying, but I'm sticking to the spoon!

I've got a fresh pineapple waiting to be eaten. I usually use it in smoothies, but I'm looking for something more creative to do with it, preferable a dessert that can be shared.

I love to grill or roast pineapple because that high heat caramelizes the natural  sugars. Cut the pineapple in wedges or rings, grill until it's warm and a tiny bit charred and serve with a bit of yogurt or (ginger!) ice cream.

This whole marinated/grilled pineapple from -- wow! -- 11 years ago is the stuff dreams are made of. Incredible.

RECIPE: Grilled Pineapple Roast

Throw a few yellow or red skins in with the water for hardboiled eggs. No confusion about which eggs are HB and which are not (its happened at my house).

Sigh. Yes. My preference is for big and dry. Which the French, Spanish, and Italians still know how to do, thank goodness.

Vive les differences! :-) 

Is there another?

Well, there's also Old Europe, which was featured in the story, and Cafe Mozart downtown (and which has a small German market full of sweets that all of us at the Post love, but especially me, because I'm addicted to Haribo). Also Schmankerl Stube in Hagerstown, and the Old Stein Inn in Edgewater, Md. I'm sure I'm missing some others. We wanted the story to have more of a national focus, so we couldn't include all of the local places, unfortunately.

I'm an experienced cook, but it still confuses me about at what temp to remove a roast from the oven, and how to deal with "carryover" (or as we call it in our house, "kareoke") cooking. Remove from oven when temp is reached, or a bit before assuming it will rise while sitting? Example, beef rib roast, remove @ 120-125 for medium rare, or earlier? Rule applies to other types of roasts, Turkey, etc.? Thank you

I think many of us have some vague ideas about carryover temperatures and when to pull meat from the oven. I spoke with Nathan Anda, the butcher and chef behind the Partisan and Red Apron. He said carryover temperatures are all dependent on oven temperature, which makes sense.

 

So if you're cooking a roast at 300 degree Fahrenheit, he suggests you pull it at 125 degrees and let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes, which should put you in the 135 degree range, which is considered medium rare.

 

If you're cooking the same roast at 250 degrees, you'll still pull it at 125 degrees, but let it rest for about 20 to 25 minutes until it reaches 135 degrees. Make sense?

 

"That's the hardest part," Anda says. "The resting, because you're just staring at it and smelling it." 

Thanks for taking my question- the chickpea & collards recipe looks perfect and added bonus I have all the ingredients already so I can make it tonight without having to do a snow-day grocery run!

Wow, I've had better German food in Fredericksburg than I have in DC. Tastier and more delicate.

I can attest to that. I was just dining at a terrific German restaurant in Frederickburg, Va. More on that later.

Thinking ahead a tiny bit, could you publish some natural egg dyeing tips for Easter Eggs? I am thinking onion skins, beets, tumeric, that sort of thing. I know they won't have the pop of the synthetic dyes, but that works for me. Thanks.

Here's an oldie-but-goodie from our archives:

ARTICLE: Easter Naturally

They're just for color, right? Or if they have a taste, can you describe it?

They color the hard-cooked eggs and can add a little golden glow to the soup if you use enough, which I like because it reminds people who care for meat of chicken soup. The outer layers of the onions do add flavor when added to the stock.

What are your top three uses for tofu? Many years ago, I tried cooking with tofu and it just... didn't work for me. Other than using it (successfully! tasty!) in hot and sour soup, I have left it be. The other day, I picked up a pack of extra firm tofu on a whim. I'd like to give it another go, especially as I am reducing the meat in my diet. So... convince me. Meals for one or meals where I can use tofu in my portion and meat in others' portions, please. Also, no nuts. Otherwise, free range... Ha! Thank you.

Try this one! Fantastic. So good the other people will want it too.

RECIPE: Black Pepper Tofu Pot

What happens if you microwave a bag wrong side up? Popcorn, frozen veggies, or something else. Cabin fever is making me really curious to experiment but it seems like a possibly dangerous idea so I'm hoping one of you can tell me.

Only one way to find out. ;-)

I've learned that the hard way. Take it out of the oven 15 or 20 degrees lower than the recommended temp, and wait 15 minutes.

I like to toss smallish tofu chunks in both cornflour and nutritional yeast. I roast with no oil straight on my cast iron pan (can use baking tray) at 425 for 15-20 minutes. It is magnificent!! I do a lot at once and add it to things - my husband and I just had lemon chicken (him) / tofu (me) with some of those few day old tofu beauties. I added steamed carrots and the tofu in an oily hot wok before adding the lemon sauce and veg Uncle Bob was most definitely my friend!

I have to wonder, is the problem actually German food? Like is it really all beige and heavy? Or is it more the average American's ideas/perceptions of what "German food" is that suffer these problems? I've only been to Germany once, briefly, so I can't speak to it intelligently. I wonder if it just needs to go hyper-local. No one wants German food but perhaps they do want Bavarian artisan wurst paired with seasonal greens and mircobrews?

This is another thing I wish I had more space to get into in the story! It's not that all German food is heavy, it's just that the German food in America -- and thus Americans' perception of German food -- is heavy. The German food that is served here tends to be country-style southern German food, and it's also kind of frozen in time. It's traditional German food, but if you go to Germany now, there's a greater diversity of dishes, and the food in the north is lighter. Germany's immigrant culture has also brought a lot of influence and fusion -- doner, for example -- that hasn't really made its way to many of the German restaurants here, because they were founded in the early 1900s and are still serving many of the same dishes (or they've updated their menu with modern American, not modern German dishes). So yes, it's *American* German food that is struggling, not German food overall. 

Love me a good choucroute. And sauerkraut is making comeback as we're getting on the fermented bandwagon.

I had a great Choucroute at Cure in Pittsburgh! It's definitely crossing over onto American menus. 

Here in the US, german food generally means southern German food - schnitzel, dumplings, etc. My father's roots were in northern Germany and we ate quite a bit of seafood growing. Not sure pickled herring would be for everyone, however (I love it).

I've started a sort of tradition where I cook sauerbraten and spaetzle for us for Christmas Eve dinner. The first year I did it, my husband told me he wasn't even listening to any of the conversation among our guests because he was in a total bliss state. I was kind of proud of myself. Yay me!

For anyone heading to Naples, FL, there is an excellent German deli (Peppers deli) that serves hot German food during lunch hours. Their specials change daily but they always have bratwurst and sauerkraut, pork schnitzel, red cabbage, and house cured meats. Their breads and pastries are authentic, also.

in the early 70"s, I lived in Glover Park, just off Wisconsin Ave. One Friday, my boyfriend and I were supposed to drive to Upstate NY to go skiing, meeting my roommates who were already on their way. However, there was a storm even heavier than today, and the snow was piling up fast. We decided to forgo the trip and trek over to Old Europe, meeting a friend who was also stranded in DC. We had a great meal, just right for a snowstorm- I wish I lived closer now, so that I could recreate it.

My husband's absolute favorite german restaurant is Schmidt's in Columbus, OH. As far as I can tell, they're doing ok. Re Grandma's cooking: It bothers me that somehow our grandmothers have become irrelevant and just a punchline. I loved and respected my grandmother. When I was in my hip and happening twenties I wanted to hang out with her. She made homemade noodles that were sublime. Avocado toast is all fine and good but it can't compete with her cooking.

My father lived in Germany (then West Germany) in the 70s. He said once he got back to the U.S. he searched high and low for the perfect German bread but he could never find it. He took us once to a German bakery in Helen, Ga. and he said their rye was the closest he found to the bread he liked in Germany.

Maybe it would help if they didn't decorate with German steins and escutcheons or wear that "traditional" garb that makes some of us think of WWII or movies about WWII Germans ... or even WWI Germans ...

I didn't include this in the story, but some German restaurants have had Nazi-related scandals

Well, you've garnished us with roasted asparagus, scallions and dill, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's, and thanks to Susan, Cathy, Carrie and Dave for help with the a's.

Now for the giveaway book: In honor of Passover, it's Alon Shaya's "Shaya"! And it goes to ... the chatter who first asked about the use of onion skins. Send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your book!

Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post'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 cathybarrow.com.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Dave McIntyre
Dave McIntyre writes the Post's weekly wine column and blogs about wine at dmwineline.com.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, who farms oysters on Cape Cod and writes about food and science, is author of the monthly Unearthed column, winner of a James Beard Award.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Maura Judkis
Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.
Susan Barocas
Susan Barocas, cofounder of the Jewish Food Experience, is a filmmaker, writer and cooking teacher.
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