Free Range on Food: A week's worth of beans, box grater pastas, using up your herb stems, this week's recipes and more!

Apr 08, 2020

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

Like you, we are trying to reduce the number of trips to the grocery these day as we embrace social distancing. To that end, we’re making substitutions for certain ingredients where needed. Becky Krystal did a deep dive into this topic: How to make substitutions for spices, herbs, dairy and meat in your everyday cooking

Eggs, which play a big part in Easter and Passover celebrations, have been tougher to come by and more expensive in recent week, so we want to make the most of them when we have them. We recently examined a few ways to hard-cook them and decided steaming is our favorite. 

If you boil eggs to color them for Easter, what do you make with them after? We've shared two classically simple recipes for egg salad and deviled eggs, too.

Another cool thing to try: This ramen egg from Kari Sonde for a flavorful treat.

We’ve also made many of our regular features more pantry-friend as well, such as these simple black bean and corn taquitos Ann Maloney whipped up for Dinner in Minutes.

Joe Yonan made a Pistachio and Pecorino Pasta salad with a variety of suggested ingredients that make it as flexible as it is delicious and easy.

And, Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger suggests a grain bowl – with farro, barley, freekeh… -- that gets a bright blast of spring from your favorite vegetables and herbs.

And, we’re trying to make the most of fresh ingredients when we use them. Try this salad from Ali Slagle that includes both the herb leaves and the stems. 

It’s difficult to find a longer lasting pantry item than beans. Joe pulled together a primer for making a perfect pot of beans and then offers a handful of creative ways to turn that one pot into a week’s worth of flavorful dishes.

The versatile chick pea is another ingredient that can be turned into so many things from hummus to salads. Becky selected a batch of recipes to prove it.

If you’ve got a box grater that you use for cheese, food write Julia Clancy offers a fresh way to use it. Grate vegetables for quick-cooking, richer sauce for pasta dishes that require no knife skills at all.

Many of us cope with stress by indulging in things we love and that’s OK, but we also want to maintain a healthy balance, right?

Kari gathered some of our favorite recipes from our Nourish column. And, when we’ve even found some healthy snacks for when you crave a little something extra.

When chef Floyd Cardoz died from complications due to the cornavirus, Jim Webster, a cookbook author and members of the staff here at The Post, recalled his Vanilla Bean Kulfi With Citrus, noting that the exquisite dessert is a tangible legacy of the Cardoz’s contribution.

The dish is an example of how beautiful food memories are made.


No question, just a quick thank you to the entire food team for pivoting so quickly to give us information we can use in this trying time. From Joe asking us what we would like to see, to the article on substitutions, to the article on Ina Garten that made me laugh for the first time in weeks. I go to the grocery store once a week and buy what I can get. And substitute like crazy. Thanks for the laugh and the help.

Thanks, and, yes, Emily's Heil's piece on Ina Garten was a great way to wrap up my day. It helps to know you're not alone. If you missed it here it is: Ina Garten poured herself a giant Cosmo this morning, and we don’t blame her one bit

I can't figure out how to print recipes from Voraciously without the ever-present WP banner at the bottom of the screen [Offer for free newsletter on coronavirus] also printing and masking off a chunk of the instructions. The banner appears on the printed copy whether or not I use the "print and scale" link. 

Hi! Sorry you're having trouble... trying to figure out if you've tried this with our Recipe Finder? 

When you want to print, click on the recipe link within the story from this line: Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.
This should take you to the recipe from our Recipe Finder:

It should be a clean copy and you should be able to print with no banners or ads. Let us know if that works. You can send an email to, if you have any problems.

I have 2 overripe bananas (small ones). Most baking recipes seem to call for 3+ bananas. Last time I had overripe bananas, I made delicious banana bread but I'd like to mix it up and do something else this time. Any suggestions? I have most basic baking supplies on hand. I DON'T have yeast, sour cream, or cream cheese. As I'm working from home with 2 very small children, I'm also tight on time so I don't have the energy for a from scratch pie.

Just put it in a zip-top bag and freeze, and do the same the next couple times you have overripe bananas, and then you'll have plenty to make most banana breads, such as this one:

Naturally Sweet Banana Bread

Greetings all! Opened my pantry this morning to discover that an onion has some 4-inch-long green sprouts, which was a shock (but impressive). Can I just cut those off and still use it? Or should I toss? I didn’t think it had been in there *that* long!

Don't toss! It's totally fine to use: According to this piece we published by Rachael Jackson, it might taste a little more bitter and more fibrous if eaten raw, but cooked is fine.

Why doesn't the link on the front page of the website take us to your article?

I'm sorry, which article, please?

I obtained a starter from someone on my local Buy Nothing FB group and yesterday I baked my first two loaves of sourdough using the recipe you guys ran last month from Artisan Bread Camp piece. I've made bread before but nothing like this! It was gorgeous and amazing. My family ate it up happily but I do not feel I'm getting the proper acclaim so just braggin' on myself here! Also, a question - I'm working hard to reduce disposable plastic use at home. What did home bakers use to cover stuff before the plastic wrap era?

Well, we can only imagine how lovely and delicious it was ( We'd love to see a photo. If you took one, send it to us at

If anyone missed the sourdough story, here you go: Now is the ideal time to learn to make sourdough bread. Here’s how.

Congrats on your beautiful sourdough loaves! Is your question about plastic wrap alternatives in general, or about a sustainable swap for covering proving dough so it doesn't dry out or develop a skin? For the latter, a clean, damp, yet well-rung-out kitchen towel draped over the proving bowl or basket is a method that works well for me. For the former, I use a lot of Bees Wrap -- it gets more pliable the more you use it. 

I post my cooking adventures on my Instagram stories and I triggered a big debate! It’s all over handheld lemon squeezers. Which way do you put the lemons in? I took a poll and 70% said cut side down and 30% said cut side up. There are strong loyalists on both sides of the debate. I tried both ways and they seem to have advantages either way. Please help end Lemongate!

Let's open this question up to the group. I've always done it cut side down. Have I been doing this wrong all these years?

I usually do cut side down.

Hi Free Rangers - I’ve decided to keep a six month supply of food in my home going forward (my family is high risk in pandemics, and it just seems easier to stock up a few times a year the way we do with our cow/hog shares). Do you know where “normal” preppers shop? I’m not looking for MREs, more places to buy large quantities of flour, sugar, dry beans, etc, ideally in food grade plastic buckets. Costco is my backup, but I’d prefer somewhere that ships. Thanks for your guidance in these crazy times!!!

Maybe restaurant supply places? I don't know that anywhere sells in buckets, but it's easy enough to get those separately (at restaurant supply stores). Costco does ship a lot.

Gets a lot more of that juice out.

Definitely cut side down. It also helps to cut off a little of the peel on the uncut side to have a flat surface to press.

Which way is the proper way to put lemon halves into a lemon squeezer?

With the cut side down. Sometimes after I do the initial squeeze, I'll turn them over and do it again, just to get extra juice out, but the main squeeze (so to speak!) should happen with the cut size down, facing the holes.

You can freeze them and blend them with rum....just sayin'.

Not only that, but if you're feeling ambitious you can sauté them in butter and brown sugar and then infuse them into rum. Keep the whole mixture at room temp for a few hours, then fridge. Fats will solidify and you can then puncture it and pour the now-buttery and banana-y rum to save. I've got a bottle in my fridge and it makes KILLER Old Fashioneds.

You can cook them with a little butter and sugar and then serve them warm over vanilla ice cream. 

They're usually members only but have opened to the public as restaurants have limited their buying. That's your place for large quantities.

As the designated household cocktail maker, I agree with Joe. Both sides for maximal juice extraction!

I'm a novice with aquafaba, but have a can-ful sitting in the fridge right now. Inspired by some of the Passover recipes online, I'd like to make meringues or "forgotten cookies." Do you have any favorite recipes or tips? I don't have superfine sugar or potato starch which I've seen in some online recipes, but I do have some almonds. Thanks!

Here you go! Just swap in aquafaba for the egg whites -- 2 tablespoons per white.

RECIPE: Chocolate Meringue Cookies

Until now, I hadn't realized you could freeze eggs. Wanting to stock up enough that I wouldn't have to do any shopping for a few weeks, I googled it, and ended up freezing two dozen. I beat each one individually, and then poured it into a snack size ziplock bag, then put all of the bags in a plastic container with a lid. Less work than my friends who are suddenly raising chickens, although the chickens are cute.

Chickens are pretty, aren't they? Thanks for the tip.

If you do run out of eggs, Becky pulled together a great guide for substitutes: Egg substitutions for cooking and baking when the store shelves are empty

Lately, I've been able to buy chicken at the grocery store, and I always save the bones in the freezer to make stock. I put onions, garlic, celery, and carrots in the pot when I'm making stock, but I've never added the tough cauliflower and broccoli stems, I worry that they will give a bitter taste. What do you think?

Yeah, I tend to stay away from cruciferous veg in a general stock. Maybe if you were planning to make a cauliflower or broccoli soup. Otherwise, I think the flavor might be too strong.

Cauliflower and broccoli stems tend to give the stock an odd, cruciferous taste and smell. I love that you're saving the stems for later use. My favorite way to cook with cauliflower and broccoli stems is to roast them (leaves included). If necessary, use a peeler to take off any woody exterior on the stems. Slice the stems into 1-inch pieces and toss with equal parts olive oil, soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar. Roast at 400 degrees until just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Alternatively, you can thinly slice the stems to add a refreshing crunch to salads. Diced stems are a great addition to stir fries and fried rice. 

My sister lives in Williamsburg (VA) and says she can't find Danish Dessert mix anywhere. It's sold out online, is there some place locally I can pick some up for her?

Doesn't seem to be sold out online: I see it at Walmart,, even Ye Olde Amazon

Last year (April 17, 2019) I asked about a charoset recipe. Bonnie Benwick told me to e-mail her directly and she'd try to track it down for me. I did, but never heard back from her. I'm still looking. Text of the original question: In the late 1990's my sister gave me a [charoset] recipe. It was supposed to be a "Sephardic" recipe (we're Ashkenazic); it had dried apricots in it. The secret ingredient was Grand Marnier. Well, it -had- to be a secret, didn't it; when I realized Grand Marnier was not kosher for Passover, I threw the recipe away in disgust. So, 20+ years later, I've found kosher-for-passover triple sec and would like to try the recipe again, but my sister doesn't remember it even existed. Googling has uncovered myriad Sephardic charoset recipes, but none quite so heavy on the dried apricots and none with any type of orange liqueur. I thought you and the nutterati might be able to assist? Any help is greatly appreciated.

The recipe was a Washington Post one yes? Email me at, we'll see if we can track it down.

Maybe Kari can find something I can't but I just did a dig in our archives and did not find anything. And if Grand Marnier was not kosher for Passover, I suspect we might not have run a recipe with it?

These are the closest I could find, but none with the liqueur.

RECIPE: Halek (Persian Haroset)

RECIPE: Haroset With Cranberries (no apricots but it does have orange juice...)

Should vanilla and Worcestershire sauce be poured slowly or shaken before being pored...or does it matter?

Have to confess I haven't really thought about this. I always shake the Worcestershire Sauce before I pour it. It says to shake it on the label.

I never shake the vanilla. Now, I'm wondering if that's just because it is something I never saw my mother do?


I was hoping to spend some of my time at home making Becky's wonderful bagels. I just realized I don't have any barley malt syrup (and none of my Instacart stores seem to have it) and I don't have bread flour, just all purpose. Are there substitutions I can make (recognizing the bagels might not be quite as delicious as they are when I have all the right ingredients)?

Yeah, for some reason the  barley malt syrup has become harder to come by since that recipe published. Try honey or molasses instead. All-purpose flour might work, especially if you can beef it up with some vital wheat gluten. Texture might just not be quite as chewy.

For some reason lentils are one of the shortages in this pandemic. I found a bag of dried lentils in my pantry. I would like to cook them in my slow cooker before using in a recipe. How? ratio water/broth to lentils. How long to cook? Thanks

What color are these lentils? Brown/green/olive drab, I assume? You really don't need the slow cooker for lentils, because they cook so quickly on the stovetop! 2:1 ratio of water to lentils, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cook uncovered 20-30 minutes.

I want some potato salad but have to use what I have. I have a baking potato. I have onions but no celery. I do have celery seed and small plants in the garden that I could take a few leaves. I have mayo and mustard. Recipe please.

If you want to make a cold potato salad with a baking potato, the key would be to make your dressing and then very gently toss the large potato pieces with the dressing so they don't break up. Use your favorite vinaigrette recipe. Or, maybe try a variation on this vinaigrette in this recipe

How about making a warm potato salad, like this Hot Potato Salad.

One of the library books that is enjoying a long stay at my house during the pandemic quarantine is Vegan Eats World. Yesterday I mashed up two recipes (black bean soup and masala potatoes) to make a spicy black bean soup with lots of Indian spices, ginger, garlic, chilies, etc. Fun to have the time to experiment - a definite bright spot during this time. Oh, soup was delicious and I highly recommend the cookbook.

Thanks for sharing that experience and the recommendation.

That's one of the little pleasure of cooking. Once you get comfortable in the kitchen, recipes can become a jumping off point. You can do a mash-up as you did or substitute ingredients due to necessity or personal tastes. It's part of what makes cooking such a great creative outlet.

Becky Krystal wrote this: How to make substitutions for spices, herbs, dairy and meat in your everyday cooking to help people cope with the shortages during the pandemic, but it's a story I'm bookmarking for use any time. It offers practical advice, but also could spark a little creativity during less stressful times.

Stuck at home and I'm hoping to try to make spaetzle. I have a ricer and a box grater, but no special spaetzle tool. I've also researched the internet and have seen mixed results without the spaetzle tool. Do you have any recipes? Tips? Thanks!

The box grater might be a messy process, since the large holes are on a slight slant. A rice could become sticky. I would instead try pushing the dough through the holes of a slotted spoon or a colander with large holes. 

I grind my own wheat for bread making. I have hard winter wheat, soft wheat, and store bought AP flour. The English muffin recipe sounds like just the thing to try, but it calls for whole wheat and bread flour. I think I could use my hard wheat for the protein content and AP to lighten it, but what quantities of each? Excited to try something new!

Wow! Not sure I know enough to give you a complete answer here. I think the hard wheat would swap in for the whole-wheat flour one for one. As to the bread, if it helps, KAF's bread flour is hard red wheat. Does that help figure out what you need for that? I think AP flour mixed with something for more protein might be a good instinct. From what I've been told by other readers, this is a pretty forgiving recipe in terms of flour!

No-Knead English Muffins

RECIPE: No-Knead English Muffins

Here's what I have: A pork shoulder, apples, onions, and a whole head of green cabbage. A good collection of spices / staples (mustard, brown sugar, bay leaves, etc.). No cider or beer. Some suspicious beef broth. A dutch oven and a crockpot. Any advice on how to proceed? Cheers :)

Why not start with Ann's Pork and Cabbage with Mustard Cream Sauce and riff from there?

Are there any types of bread that should NOT be scored before baking? Most recipes say to do so, but for those that don't I'm never sure if that step was left out on purpose, or it just wasn't included but I should do so regardless.

I can't think of a recipe for bread that doesn't need scoring, because the steam has to escape somewhere. And yes, I'm excluding Irish soda bread from this.

We typically have a protein and a couple of vegetables for dinner. I occasionally want to try a veg-centric soup (celery, or broccoli, or cauliflower/carrot), but I'm unsure how to incorporate it into dinner. (We usually are not soup-and-sandwich-for-dinner types.) Serve before? Serve as a side as though it were a salad course?

I'm just as guilty of this, but try not to overthink it. :) Before or with works well, just depends on what else you're eating and the soup. I tend to eat everything at once to simplify things. Often the soup is in fact the main course, which I serve with bread or more veg.

A neighbor gifted us with Florida oranges, which I juiced (wow!), but I now have this lovely pulp left behind. Surely there is something I can do with it, but what? Can I incorporate it into jams? Baking? Something else?

Sure, I think you're on the right track with jams or baking, as you might, say, carrots in a quick bread or muffin. Really simple would be to just use it in a smoothie.

I've still found flour totally unavailable at any of my local grocery stores (at least via Instacart), on Amazon, or even on sites like King Arthur Flour. Bisquick is also out, but, I found a bag of biscuit mix on Amazon, from a flour mill in VA. That got me to thinking that going directly to flour mills might be still be a source. Sure enough, I looked up the website of the biscuit mix mill, in Elliston, VA, and they have flour and cornmeal. Some googling showed that there are other mills around the country still shipping smaller orders of flour and grains to individual consumers, not just retail. I bought 17 lbs of flour (15 all purpose, 2 bbq seasoned), and 2 lbs of cornmeal for $33, including shipping. Just wanted to share this, in case others are looking for flour for their baking projects.

Wow. You are really resourceful. That's a great tip during this time when flour shortages have been such an issue.

We've directed a couple of readers to cauliflower crust in recent weeks. Won't work for baking, of course, but it does work for pizzas, quiches and so forth.

my local farms (I'm in Howard County MD) are plentifully supplied with eggs.

Many people are going directly to the farms. Emily Heil wrote about this recently: Facing devastating losses, small farmers pivot to sell directly to consumers

Eggs straight from the fridge, or at room temp?? Does size matter? Get your mind out of the gutter - - I mean egg size! Do small eggs and extra large both get "exactly" 13 minutes? Thanks

When I experimented with this, I used eggs straight from the refrigerator. I did not warm them up at all.

I used large eggs for this. I should have specified that. A medium egg would likely be fine, but I can't say whether extra large would need another minute. I haven't tried it. I will do so when I get my hands on some.


Stove-top steaming is hands down our favorite way to hard-cook eggs


So, my daughter, now 14, created a signature entree salad around age 8. It’s poached chicken, apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, and celery tossed in a creamy poppyseed dressing, served over mixed greens, with slices of cucumber placed around it like flower petals. But!! Now she’s allergic to apples and pears! Any suggestions for what to sub in for the apples? Thanks so much!

This sounds like a great take on Waldorf salad! It would be great as-is, without any apples added. Or try swapping in sliced red grapes: a different texture but a similar, tart-sweet pop of flavor. 

I made the White Wheat Sandwich Bread last week, but I think I did the flattening and shaping step wrong. I flattened the dough down to a rectangle that was about twice the size of the loaf pan. Then, to get it to fit in the pan I sort of squashed it back together from opposite ends of the rectangle. The loaf never rose above the pan during the rest period and didn't have many air pockets after baking. I know that squashing technique was wrong, but I'm not sure the right way to do it. Please help!

Maybe you did take it a little too far. You should punch it down and then flatten it, but you don't need to spread it out quite so far. You'll want to be able to just tuck the edges under to get it in shape to go into the loaf pan, not have to squash it too much. Hope you'll try it again. I've made it three times and it came out just great. (If you don't flatten it enough, the worse that will happen is that you'll get holes in the loaf.)


would you make a sort of pesto out of it to freeze? Gremolata? Persillade?

All of the above! I save the stems in a bag in the freezer, as well: stuff them into roasting chicken or whole-roasted fish; layer them under baking fish fillets; whirl into an Italian-style salsa verde...

Once you hit "Print," does a box appear offering you a choice between Print and Open In Preview? The latter can help you cut down on the amount you print.

On most (if not all?) printer dialog boxes, you have the option to save as a PDF rather than print.

I too have an onion (peruvian sweet?) which has sprouted. I've been just letting it go on because it looks pretty. Could I take it outside and plant it? Would it continue to make onions?

Yes you can! I haven't done this -- and fellow gardeners with more experience with this, please weigh in -- but my understanding is that the best way is to break the bulb carefully into the individual small onions that are each attached to a single sprout, leaving the root end attached to each piece. You can try to root them in water before planting, or plant them in wet soil and keep the moist to root.

This was a helpful article. I have a question about substituting dried herbs for fresh. I can't grow fresh (don't have a sunny enough window,) and am used to using a lot of fresh cilantro and mint in cooking. I often use dried thyme, rosemary, etc, but am used to fresh mint and cilantro. Can I replace them with dried mint and / or cilantro? What proportions? Thanks for answering - and many thanks for all that the Food team is doing to provide support in the COVID era.

To be honest, I haven't worked much with dried cilantro or mint. Dried mint in particular is very strong, so I'd say start small with that, like 1/4 of the original amount and work your way up. Here's a more specific piece I had on dried herbs.

ARTICLE: Dry herbs get a bad rap, but they can be flavor powerhouses. Here’s how to use them.

Hello, and thanks for all you're doing to help us!! I ave a question about your Mocha Scone recipe - I so want to make it, but as so many of the ingredients I do not normally stock, I was wondering if I could make a few subs? Specifically, would it work to sub equal parts veggie oil for coconut oil, and sugar for agave? And do you think the buckwheat flour is necessary, or would it be possible to omit? If you think any of these subs would ruin the integrity of the taste, please let me know!

I would not sub veggie oil for the coconut oil. The recipe calls for solidified coconut oil, so liquid vegetable oil will not give the scones the height and structure they need. They'll be flat or even melt. Do you have butter or margarine? Those would be a better replacement. I think you could easily leave out the buckwheat and probably use whatever other flour you want.

It would be really great to have an article listing places from which we can order groceries for delivery, since it is impossible to get deliveries from Whole Foods -- both local and mail order, and also including farmers markets (since I imagine it is safer to buy food outside than in a closed grocery store). Saveur had a great article on mail order sources. I'd love to locate some local butchers from whom I could buy direct (I'm thinking about lamb for Easter), or even drive out to pick up the order.

You might check out this Find a Farmer map that Emily wrote about in a recent story.

There's also this Google doc -- the "Ship Anywhere" Good Food list.

And we recently had this piece about restaurants that are offering grocery provisions.

In terms of grocery delivery locally, there is Instacart, Prime Now (which does deliver from Whole Foods), Fresh Direct. Any others chatters want to recommend?

Thanks for the tip for the grapes! Great idea. Also, Katie says she was no older than 6 when she invented it LOL

What is the best way to make pulled chicken? I'd like to make a bunch of it and freeze it in portions to add to salads for lunch. I have a grill, and a crock pot; I'm not even sure of the best direction to go in.

You mean just plain? In that case, I'd probably just poach in a pot on the stovetop and shred it.

Is it advisable to eat a butternut squash that's been stored on the fruit basket for about 3 months? Are there any indicators that one shouldn't eat it? It doesn't have any soft spots or holes.

Ideal storage conditions are cool and dark, but if it doesn't look rotten, cut into and see. If it seems fine, I say go for it.

How do I get seasonings to stick to the sides as well as the top/bottom of fish or meat? When I flip to cook it, most of it falls off.

Maybe a coating of something suitable to the recipe? Olive oil, mustard or mayo?

Yes, we are all doing it now. But I went in search of something in particular and found some really old salad dressing. Really, really old. One is a Caesar Vinaigrette with Parmesan dressing and marinade. One is an Italian Parmesan and Herb Dressing. Both are in plastic bottles, entirely sealed, and slightly more concave than expected. Does that mean that some water has managed to evaporate through the plastic? They both LOOK fine. Neither has a use by date. One has a best by date in 2008 and the other has a best before date in 2010. Seems like the marinade in particular might work for that purpose since the packaging refers to an inner quality seal so other than having had more time to absorb [whatever] from the little bit of air that was sealed with it from the beginning, nothing has really happened to it. Not sure if the other one has a seal over the mouth of the bottle. Any suggestions?

I'm willing to play it a bit fast and loose with dates, but 10+ years seems like a long time. Definitely not worth the risk, especially if the bottles are looking weird. Toss and be safe!

Please don't use those. 

I recently heard that soaking beans for a day and a half makes them more creamy. Is this true? Also, should beans be salted after they are cooked? Is there a dutch oven that makes the beans taste better than other dutch ovens? Finally, can you recommend some good websites to purchase beans?

You don't need to soak beans nearly that long -- or at all, really! -- but overnight (4-12 hours) is plenty long enough. Beans are more flavorful when you don't soak them, but there are reasons you might want to: If they're particularly old, or you don't know the age; to shave off a little cooking time (especially if you have hard water and/or they're old); and to make them cook up a little more evenly/creamier. When I do soak, I like to do it in a salt brine -- 1 tablespoon kosher salt per pound of beans, and cover with water by 2 inches, and drain before cooking. Either way, I salt at the beginning; I know people have long said that's a no-no, but it really doesn't delay the cooking much, unless, again, you've got really old beans, hard water or both. Salting from the beginning results in the most wonderfully seasoned beans, IMO. If I didn't soak in the brine, I use 1 tablespoon salt in the cooking water; if I did use the brine soak, I reduce the salt in the cooking water to 1 teaspoon.

Either way, I always add a strip of kombu (dried seaweed) to beans because it has been found to help soften their skins and promote even cooking just as much as soaking does. And it helps reduce flatulence. I also add a few garlic cloves, a half (or whole) onion, a couple bay leaves.

I don't think the type/brand of Dutch oven affects the flavor/cooking. But a clay pot will help them cook more quickly because it reduces the acidity of the environment, and the liquid is particularly rich because the pot is taller and narrower, so you use less water to cover the beans by a couple of inches. It also keeps the heat nice and gentle.

There are lots of great sources for beans, but of course the cream of the crop is Rancho Gordo in Napa, Calif. Other good ones include Masienda, Camellia, Baer's Best, Bob's Red Mill, Gustiamo, Kalustyan's, La Tienda, Native Seeds, Patel Brothers, Timeless Natural Food and Zursun Idaho Heirloom Beans. Look for local beans at your farmers market, and don't forget Goya in the supermarket!

How to cook a simple, flavorful pot of beans and use it throughout the week

What ideas do you have to creatively use frozen vegetables? Here's what I have: Okra, spinach, corn, peas, green beans, limas, mixed veg. I typically use them for (e.g.) pot pie, or mix corn and limas for succotash. Sunday I invented a (good!) green bean casserole with frozen green beans, without cream of whatever soup. Just looking for something more than steamed-with-butter-and-herbs.

All of these can be great in stir-frys or stews... I think you can make creamed spinach using frozen spinach... I add frozen peas to my risotto. Our very own Becky Krystal did an excellent piece last year on what to do with frozen vegetables.

In PreMarch life, I happily enjoyed making most of my meals from scratch- stovetop oatmeal or muesli for breakfast, sandwich or leftovers for lunch, fully cooked meal for dinner, etc. Now my larder is more stocked than usual despite only grocery shopping once every two weeks, I've theoretically got a lot more time on my hands, and I can't bring myself to give a fig about what I'm eating- had a handful (literally) of dry cereal this morning and PB on crackers for dinner last night. Haven't even found the giveadamn to make a pot of beans, which is usually a constant in the fridge. Any suggestions on "can cook but have lost the will" meals?

Truth be told, I have very much been in a "plain noodles with butter" mood today. So long as you're eating something it really doesn't matter the effort you put into it. 

I find that canned tuna and salmon can come to the rescue. You can dress them up with fresh cracked pepper, olives, capers, feta and onion. You can eat the resulting salad hot or cold, on lettuce or on a sandwich. 

On Sunday, I was making a large batch of meatloaf (4 loaves) when I realized I had very little bread crumbs. But I did have some cooked buckwheat from the previous night. I added a cup of buckwheat to the mixture, and the meatloaves came out fine, no weird taste.

So smart!

Hello. For some reason I seem to be able to get more frozen seafood and fish when I'm shopping. I have enough of the ingredients to make your Lemony Shrimp With White Beans and Couscous. I do not have couscous. I have quinoa and arborio rice. I do not have enough chicken broth to make the arborio rice but could do a 50 broth - 50 water. Would you substitute with the quinoa or the rice? I'm pretty good at following a recipe but terrible at substitutions! I don't think I have enough of a sense of combining flavors. Also, just FYI I've been using the chickpea "water" as an egg substitute and it works great for the muffins I make for my kids. Thank you!

Lemony Shrimp With White Beans and Couscous

Honestly, I think either of those would work! I feel you, as a rule follower who believes in sticking to a recipe. But keep in mind that grains are definitely one of the easiest swaps to make. Just cook whatever you use according to the package instructions. And sure, use whatever liquid or combo you like.

You can build your confidence in flavors, by, well, experimenting -- and not being too hard on yourself. Also try reading something like "Salt Fat Acid Heat," "The Flavor Bible" and "Appetite" (by Nigel Slater).

ARTICLE: How to make substitutions for spices, herbs, dairy and meat in your everyday cooking

And way to go on the aquafaba. Definitely a good move in something like muffins.

ARTICLE: Egg substitutions for cooking and baking when the store shelves are empty

Joe- I was lucky enough to get in an early order to Rancho Gordo in early March. I think you have a recipe for Texas Red Beans but I couldn't find it in the recipe finder. Maybe I dreamed it? Haven't been able to purchase Cool Beans yet but its on the list for Cookbooks I want to get.

That one is in Cool Beans, not in our Recipe Finder. (I had to stop somewhere -- I think we've got 10 recipes from the book in our Recipe Finder at this point, which is A LOT.)

should be fine. Didn't people used to store such veggies in their root cellar throughout the winter?

I'm not a big fan of seaweed flavor, but I'd love to try the kombu in my legumes if it's undetectable.

I don't find it detectable, no.

Wow, stock really fluctuates day-to-day these days! Walmart is indeed sold out still. (If you try to place an order, it tells you it's out of stock). Now to see if she's willing to pay the mark-up--250%! Ouch!

That's some markup, indeed!

if it's hot, covered with bacon and in a baking dish, how is it a "salad"? That said, I"m printing the recipe because I am a sucker for bacon & potatoes baked together.

It just looked soooo good, but you're right ;-)

I had to google this to see why a shortage mattered, and then I saw that it is Junket! What a throwback to my childhood; hadn't thought of it in decades & wouldn't have been able to tell you what it was.

I had never heard of this!

I bought a giant "London Broil" on sale, but now that I have it home it seems too thick for most typical recipes. What best to do with it? I'm stumped on what method of cooking it's suited for--low heat roasting/slow-cooking/fast sear etc. Any great ideas for this big hunk of meat?

London broil, because it's so lean, does well with a long marinade (12 to 24 hours) and a slow cooking method. It would be great in a beef stew (cut into 1-inch cubes), or cut into large pieces and braised in a slow cooker until tender (serve over buttered rice or add to tacos). 

I have been freezing fruit during the pandemic. Any ideas how to use besides smoothies? I love the WAPO Food Section xoxo

Crumbles, crisps, refrigerator jams, the world of sweet fruit things is your oyster! Here is a list of options to start with.

Hi! I've been making this recipe of no-knead bread during our lockdown, but it has started to stick to the parchment paper as it bakes. It didn't do this when I first started making it and I haven't changed the recipe at all. I have been sprinkling flour over the paper before laying the dough, but that hasn't helped. Any thoughts? Thank you!!

I ran a version of that recipe from Jim Lahey, too. I know some folks call for parchment but the one I ran (and I think this one from the Times) doesn't. I never found problems with the bread sticking to the bare Dutch oven, or the towel where it rises. That being said, if you prefer the paper, try something coarser like cornmeal or wheat bran, which is what the recipe I shared called for.

No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

RECIPE: No-Knead Whole-Wheat Bread

I've been nursing along my all-rye sourdough starter, and found a recipe on line for flaky sourdough biscuits, but my rye starter is dense and heavy compared to bubbly liquidy wheat sourdough. I've had an exhausting upper-body workout from "cutting in" the starter after cutting the butter and dry ingredients together. The biscuits are absolutely delicious, but would the dough lose its bits-of-butter flakiness if I used my KitchenAid stand mixer? And, dough hook or regular mixing blade?

I've used a paddle attachment to "cut" butter into dough, as with these British Scones. Pulsing in the food processor would be another very good option. That's what a lot of pie dough recipes call for.

If you have ricotta, banana and ricotta pancakes are utterly amazing. You could probably sub something for the ricotta. They're dead easy to make. 

Thanks! Indeed, you could probably use cottage cheese, or perhaps mascarpone or Greek yogurt, for the ricotta, right?

Huge fan of that treat also! Hoping to make some this week!! :)

Thanks for the link, but I don't have chocolate chips! I do have unsweetened cocoa, but seems that I would need to adjust the sugar.

Hm. The cocoa might also throw off the texture since it's starchy, too. I'm not sure that will work. Not sure what to tell you!

Hello cooking gurus. About 4 years ago, Dorie Greenspan published a recipe for these amazing no-bake chocolate treats made with chocolate, cookie butter and crunchies, and a cookie-crumb base (her friends called them “crack cubes” because they were addictively delicious). I know Dorie no longer writes for the Post, but hoping one of you can help me. When I make this dessert, the cookie-crumb crust never sticks properly to the chocolate mix. I’m thinking about first pouring the chocolate mix into a baking pan, then spreading the cookie-crumb crust on top of that. Basically making the dessert upside down. What do you think? Thanks!

I love this recipe, too. I wonder if the cookie crumb crust doesn't stick to the chocolate mix because it's sticking to the pan instead, making it difficult to turn out after it's stint in the freezer. Try lining the bottom of the 8 X 8 baking dish with a lightly oiled layer of parchment paper for easier turnout. 

My husband and I were worried about the pandemic back in January and stocked up early. Now we're in quarantine (he has diabetes and lung issues) and we're not even getting grocery delivery for the time being. I am being creative with my cooking. I have no eggs or milk, but some flour and yeast, some fresh/frozen, and lots of canned. We have plenty to get us through a month or two, but every time I look at our pantry I panic. I worry that by the time we need to shop again, the food supply will have dried up and shortages will be worse. I think about how much the world is changing and how many people don't have what we have and I feel awful. I try to support local businesses with gift cards and donations, but it doesn't seem like I'm doing much. Cooking is a way to take care of us and be creative, but it also stirs up my anxieties. I hope everyone is keeping safe & healthy. These chats help me feel connected to the bigger world.

And thank you for joining us. Take care of yourself. We're all in this together.

Search for Cambodian banana desserts. Years ago someone arranged a Cambodian pot luck. She handed out recipes for each of us to make. I did bananas sautéed with coconut and other stuff I can't remember.

Sounds good!

I used to own an old house which came with a can commercially labeled "egg preservative". I have no idea what it was.

Me either. Anyone?

I'm pretty proud of myself although it wasn't that ingenious of a replacement. Yesterday was National Coffee Cake Day, and I had no sour cream or yogurt. No problem, I'm sure there's a great recipe that has neither. And there was- your Simple Cinnamon Coffee Cake. Yay! But....I had no milk either thanks to thirsty children. Okay, so what do I replace the milk with? Since I'm not as organized as all you lovely people who freeze buttermilk, I have buttermilk powder. So I threw that into the mix, used water as the liquid and yum! I baked it in a bundt pan and it is delicious and the piece I had for breakfast this morning was still tender.

So great!

To the poster who wrote: "I'd love to locate some local butchers from whom I could buy direct (I'm thinking about lamb for Easter), or even drive out to pick up the order." Check out the Halal market (Lebanese Butcher) in Falls Church. They have lovely lamb, and other things. I also recall reading some time ago about a source in Alexandria.

Local Freshfarm farmers' markets have compiled a list of alternative shopping methods. Some of these vendors ship. The Arlington market process was okay--we pre-ordered and prepaid for most things, we had to stand in line to enter the market and entrance and exit are policed by staff/volunteers (good customer base all stood six feet apart and the line was marked with painters tape to help). Aside from one annoying person smoking next to the line, we felt this was safer than our infrequent grocery trips. We'll be wearing a mask this week, as I suspect most will. Vendors can accept payment without ever touching your card. Produce is still fairly slim at this time of year, but you can get eggs, dairy, bread, mushrooms and some produce. I recommend this route for those who are able!

Thank you!

I really don’t care for chick peas (but I love hummus, go figure). Generally speaking, are white beans (Great Northern) a reasonable substitute in recipes? Is there anything in particular they would not work in? I use canned and always have several in my cabinet.

Yep, that's reasonable: Chickpeas are a little starchier/firmer, but nothing is going to taste bad with Great Northerns.

I have a bag of these in my freezer but can't remember why. What would you do with them?

Cook them in a pan with just enough water to cover until they're tender, about 30 minutes. (Since they were fresh when they were frozen, they cook a lot more quickly than dried limas or other beans.) Then drain any extra liquid, and add a couple knobs of butter, salt and a squeeze of lemon. If you are feeling fancy (and flush with herbs), a generous sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley is nice. I also have been known to chop up preserved lemon, which goes really nicely with these.

One of my freezer archeology finds is a hunk of beef labeled "London broil top round." It's not the flat 2-inch-thick steak I'm used to seeing as a London broil, that can be marinated and thrown on the grill. This is more the shape of a roast, a loaf of rye bread, or a head of cauliflower, and 2-3 pounds. How to cook it? I'm thinking it's too lean for a slow cooker and too thick for the grill. I don't have an InstantPot.

I think that if you cook it low and slow in some braising liquid in the slow cooker, it'll be delicious. I've never done it, but I find that slow cooker can do lovely things to big hunks of meat and also tenderize tougher cuts. Give it a go!

First of all, I think I want to try absolutely everything in today's food section -- thanks. Now, asking advice: I have a bumper crop of cilantro growing (from last fall's little plants working on going to seed . . .) and dill coming up. What are anyone's favorite uses for lots and lots of cilantro and dill?

As I have done from time to time, I did an inventory of the freezer and pantry last week. Before, it was to "eat down the house," but now it's more of a necessity. We have enough meat/poultry/seafood for at least three weeks. We also have an assortment of rices, frozen vegetables, some fresh produce that gets renewed periodically, a few potatoes and onions, canned beans and tomatoes, stocks, etc. We are both good cooks, and pretty inventive, but I get tired of thinking it up every darn day! I'd like to come up with a way to create menus from the ingredients on hand in a global way, that maximizes the stuff I have without having to shop again. (I'm familiar with websites that have you enter a half dozen ingredients and generate *a* meal plan. I want to enter everything at once and generate several meal plans.) Any resources?

I find that my spice pantry is the best resource for maximizing my ingredients on hand in a global way. With a variety of spices to play with, even potatoes can be reinvented each evening. I get inspiration from books such as The Spice Companion by Lior Lev Sercarz or Season by Nik Sharma. 

Just wanted to say thank you for your suggestion last week to adapt the citrus honey sauce for my duck legs. I made it the other night and it was perfect! Left out the onion as I didn’t have red ones and did not want to use what I did have, too strong. Delicious!

So glad it worked out. I love to hear how folks use substitutions and make recipes their own. That's what it is all about.

 If anyone else wants the recipes, here it is: It’s hard to improve on a one-pan chicken thigh dinner, but honey and citrus do the trick

I had a bag of shrimp and some peas in the freezer, arborio rice and canned mushrooms in the cupboard, and some chicken Better Than Bullion so I made a dish that hinted at paella.


You also can try, either as the site or as the browser extension. It gives you a print-ready view of most web pages (some don't work, most do). You can delete what you don't want to print (e.g., photos, ads, links to other stories). Spend a few minutes getting used to it and you probably will find that you like it.

Great tip, thank you!

I have both "regular" and "French" sorrel that overwintered and are growing like crazy, but the recipes I find call for things like a whole pound of sorrel, and I don't have nearly that much. Those leaves don't weigh very much. Any suggestions before they bolt? Also, should I harvest leaves for cooking from the center of the plant or around the edges?

You could make a nice sauce with them, as in this recipe. Or throw them into a green gazpacho (or a green smoothie!) such as this one. Each calls for 1/4 cup.

If you have enough for 2 packed cups, here's a nice soup.

Generally, I'd say you want to harvest the outer, larger leaves of the plant, leaving the smaller inner leaves to grow. But if it's growing like crazy and you want to cut it all back, that's fine too.


That broccoli and gorgonzola quiche with the puff pastry crust was fantastic! Even good cold the next day. I wasn't sure how all those bold flavors would work together, but they did. The house smelled fantastic, too. I used a 9" square pan because the Trader Joe's puff pastry is 10x12. It still came out great.

So glad to hear that. And, it is just so darn pretty isn't it? 
Here's the recipe, if anyone else wants to try it.

I seem to remember reading about "shell eggs" being preserved in some chemical compound called "water glass" in the UK during WWII. It was a jelly-like substance that sealed in the air, but was caustic once it was liquid.

My mother makes an apricot-based (Sephardic) charoset which she learned from her step mother's mother. I assume if you substitute triple-sec for the grape juice, you'd get something very similar to what you're thinking of. She doesn't measure, nor do I think that measurements are necessary, but try this: Add about a cup and a half each dried apricots, dried dates, and whatever other dried fruit you have hanging around to a food processor. Pulse it all together. Add about a cup of chopped almonds or walnuts and a tablespoon or two each of honey and triple sec and a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon and allspice and mix it all together.

Are the people working at low wages and risking their lives in grocery stores so we can eat.

So last Easter, we bought a half ham, fully cooked & spiral cut, because we a quarter had was not available. So we cut it two, wrapped the leftover in plastic, foil, put it in ziploc bag, and stuck it in the freezer. It’s been frozen solid ever since. This year, we plan to take it out and make it for Easter. It weighs just under 3 pounds. How long will it need to thaw in the refrigerator?

To be safe, I'd thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, but it would likely be thawed in about six or seven hours.

I have a few bags of flour that are about three years old. They're unopened and have been stored in my dark utility room. Is this flour still viable? How would bread and other baked goods fare having been made with this flour?

Open it up! All purpose flour (which is what I assume you have) has a best-by shelf life of one year unless it's frozen or refrigerated, in which case it's 2 years, but that's about optimal quality, not safety. But it can go rancid -- so open it up and take a sniff. If it doesn't smell musty, sour or stale, it should be fine, although you'll also want to make sure there are no flour weevils in it. Here's more to read on this.

My son went through a prepper phase 4 years ago. Yes to rice, oatmeal, lentils, black beans, olive oil, sunflower oil, soy milk. No to canned corn or pickled beets (which are so far out of date that we are pitching them). Can't figure out the proteins--no to Spam, fish allergies mean no tuna or salmon (or Worcesteshire sauce). Wish we had rice flour.

They are green lentils. I like cooking things in the slow cooker because I am a lazy cook

Not French green (Le Puy), I assume? I understand laziness, but they'll just take a lot longer than they need in the slow cooker. Give it a try with 2:1 ratio, on as high a temperature as possible, and check in a couple of hours.

... I am lookign forward to a lunch of mustard greens and white beans (canned, alas), sauteed with onion. I might add a little garlic when I warm it. Or parm, if we still have some.


I got a spaetzle maker for nokedli (Hungarian equivalent) and it works a treat. I second the colander. That's what I used before I got the spaetzle maker. You have to do it over the boiling water so a box grater is not the best tool. My Hungarian grandmother used to make porkolt and nokedli all the time - ahh memories.

Thank you for keeping something "normal" by being here. Our Wednesday lunch date!

We enjoy it, too. It's a ritual we look forward to each week.

Recently one of you said you kept buttermilk until it was too thick to pour. Does it keep longer because of all the salt in it? I made yogurt on Sunday and I was wondering how long I should expect it to keep. Do the cultures give it some kind of longer life or not?

Buttermilk keeps longer because it is fermented -- the amount of beneficial bacteria in cultured dairy products like yogurt and buttermilk make them more likely to last without spoiling. If there is a noticeable change in color or smell, or signs of mold growing on the surface, that's my test of when to toss a dairy product like yogurt or buttermilk (moreso than a sell-by date). In general, these workhorses keep for a while. If you sense your yogurt or buttermilk turning soon, they are great for baking -- try a French yogurt cake or buttermilk pound cake. 

Thank you for joining us today for our weekly chat. We enjoyed spending time talking with you about cooking, especially during these trying times.

We'll be here all week with fresh recipes, tips and ideas. We always want to hear your ideas and suggestions, so leave us comments and send us emails at

Until next Wednesday.


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.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Julia Clancy
Julia is a writer, professional cook and recipe developer whose recent work has appeared in EatingWell, Boston Magazine and Modern Farmer. She recently wrote about box grater pasta dishes for The Washington Post.
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.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
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