Free Range on Food: Deborah Madison, Beer Madness, making sea salt and crackers and more

Apr 10, 2013

Cookbook author Deborah Madison joins us to talk about her new book, "Vegetable Literacy." And Tamar Haspel will share her experiences making sea salt. Plus, Greg Engert, beer director of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, can answer all your Beer Madness questions.
Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions.
Past Free Range on Food chats

Welcome to Free Range! And may I just say, right off the bat, how delighted we are to have you -- when you could be lounging alfresco in glorious weather without even glancing at your smartphone.  Vegetable royalty Deborah Madison is here today, as we reviewed/loved her newest cookbook, along with the sea-salty Tamar Haspel and possibly the ever-crisp Jane Touzalin; AND Beer Madness consultant Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, to fill you in on the competition thus far. Plus Tim and Becky. Editor Joe's away.


Two kind and perspicacious chatters will be rewarded with a cookbook at the end of the hour (we'll keep you in suspense till then about their titles).  Birds are singing, phlox is popping, floor's open. 

Thanks so much for giving us the recipes from Deborah Madison's new book! I looked at the one for rice, spinach & toasted pistachio nuts and am puzzled by one of the directions. The note says to save the spinach crowns for another use, but the actual directions only say to discard the larger stems. What is a spinach crown? the leaves? If so, should the recipe just be made with the more tender spinach stems? (I know this probably won't make a difference ultimately, but I was confused).

The spinach crowns (described in the book on page 218) are the root end plus just 2 or 3 inches of the stems. There's often a blush of pink and the stems are green—theyr'e very pretty and quite edible. (There's a recipe for Spinach Crowns with Sesame Miso Sauce included.) The rest of the stems up to where the leaves begin are what'a discarded.  If you're using a bunch of spinach, and not the so-called baby spinach from a a bag, the stems can be quite long and not so pleasant to eat. It's not as much about tenderness as it is their length. But if you like to eat them, do! As with beet stems, I find them sort of hard to swallow.

Intrigued by the article about making your own salt, I thought, but where would I get saltwater? And then I remembered this, that made the rounds of Passover and Jewish Humor sites this year: Certified Kosher-for-Passover Saltwater (a ceremonial food needed for the seder, but certainly can be made at home!) . It seems this actual product was not a joke, though!

That's got to be a joke.  I'm all but certain that all salt is kosher, but perhaps certification makes the bitter herbs taste that much better.  If you do the blind taste test, make sure to let me know!

Good afternoon everyone...Greg Engert here...hoping to chat up the 2013 Beer Madness (and really all things beer!)...what does everyone think about this year's bracket? We went all local for 2013...greater DC area is booming with craft beer!

I recently moved to the eastern shore of virginia and had the exact same light bulb go off in my head. I too thought i could just go to the beach and fill up my bucker with the water but got to thinking....wouldnt water captured from the shore contain a lot of sand? Ive been thinking that i would need to go out on a boat into deeper water?

One little coffee filter stands between you and sand-free water.  Just wade out as far as you can, and scoop.  

I love to cook and I am really good at it. A lot of my peeps like cheese, well not me I always want to please them so I make a dish with fresh Parm, Goat, Swis the whole nine yards. I would love to know how it is suppose to taste, but I do not beacuse I do not like all cheeses. What can I do to turn my taste buds around? Not to fast but around. If I smell a cheese and it smells to me then I do not eat it. Help. I will cook with it but I will not eat it. THXS

I hear ya. For many years, I was not a cheese person, unless it was melted on top of pizza. Now, well, it's practically its own food group in my diet. First of all, don't beat yourself up over it. It's okay to not like some things! Parmesan and goat cheese do have stronger flavors that I could see being off-putting to someone not accustomed to them. So maybe start milder. Mozzarella is about as mild as you can get. And burrata, holy moly. So mild and creamy. I just saw Cheesetique tweet about it the other day -- maybe a good time to try it! Jack cheese is another good starter option. I'm partial to the varieties with hot peppers.


I already mentioned Cheesetique. It's a fun place to go. You can sample some cheeses at the counter, or go with a couple of friends and order a cheese board and some wine and have a grand old time. Same with Righteous Cheese in Union Market. Let the experts there guide you!

Contrary to what I had learned years ago, Elizabeth Schneider says not to store radishes in water, but in an airtight box. I've been using a glass jar, but it seems to dry them out. How does Ms. Madison store radishes?

I keep my radishes in a plastic bag. I'm not found of plastic, but they seem to dry out in a mesh bag. Plus I like to use the greens and they really dry out quickly! Most importantly, I try not to keep them too long, but like others, radishes have a way of disappearing into the back of the fridge.

I had the chance to taste some pink sea salt. I just loved it. Someone at work made little meatballs and had sprinkled it on the top. Now can you tell me was that Hawwian sea salt. I also love gray salt I just cannot afford it. Where might I be able in the DC arear to get a little taste of these salts without killing my wallet?

I don't know about the DC area as I live in New Mexico, but here I often find sea salts in the bulk bin of my co-op or Whole Foods. Trader Joe's also sells inexpensive sea salt in cardboard tubles. World Market sometimes has interesting salts as well. 

Hawaiian sea salt is pink  but so is Himalayan sea salt, so I'm not sure what you had.  Good salt is expensive but if you use it as a finsihing salt, the way you had it, and not as your general cooking salt, a little goes far.

The Spice and Tea Exchange shops in Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria have a nice selection of sea salts, and  you can buy in amounts to fit your budget. 

Joe, the recipe for broccoli pesto sounds awfully bland! Does it taste good? I'm an omnivore but will gladly try vegan/veg options and want to give this a shot but am afraid it sounds dull. Anyone else on the staff taste it?! Love the food section!


Editor Joe's out of town, but I can say that he eschews all dull food and would not recommend the dish unless it was fab. 

I really enjoy doing beer pairings with my cooking, and I think I've gotten pretty good at complementary flavors - like stouts with chocolately desserts, or Brooklyn's Sorachi Ace goes really well with lemony desserts. (I bake a lot.) But some of the best professional pairings I've had have to do with more contrasting flavors, and I'm at a loss as to how to do that. Any advice?

Absolutely! Some of the finest contrast pairings play off against salt in you can take a Stout (or Porter, or any roasty dark ale really) with it's peppery note and contrast nicely...this is the basis of the classic Stout and oyster pairing.

Acid and salt mellow in each other's presence as tart brews, like Berliner Weisse, sour Saison, Gose, etc. can accentuate the sweetness of raw fish...and--given their citric notes--will liven up the seafood as a squeeze of lemon would..

Also: hop bitterness intensifies salt, which in turn mellows the bitterness. Check out a bold IPA and some bacon...unreal (and also why Imperial IPAs, like Dogfish Head 90 Minute, sings with bacon cheeseburgers!).


The Washington Post Cookbook arrived at my house yesterday and it looks great. I see some of our old favorites made it in! My husband's coworker is coming over for dinner tomorrow to meet our 4 month old son. I'd like to make something I can prepare during his nap and be ready just before dinner. Something like a braise? Any recommendations from the new cookbook? Thank you!

Hooray! Getting really psyched for the cookbook launch here at TWP on April 29 (just sold out, btw).

It's a little warm for me to be recommending braises, but if shrimp is an okay ingredient for you to use,  I'd recommend the Ginger Shrimp With Carrot Couscous. Delicious and pretty. 


I always enjoy your chats even though I consider myself an average or possibly below-average cook. I recently purchased an ice cream maker and have a couple of questions. Will using skim or 1% milk instead of heavy cream change the texture of the ice cream? Will using splenda or another artifical sweetner vs sugar also change the final product? Do I need to adjust the amounts if substituting ingredients? I'm concerned the ice cream might turn out soupy if I try to reduce the fat and/or calories. I appreciate your taking the time to answer such novice questions.

In a word - yes.  It's so tempting to try and use lower-calorie or lower-fat substitutes and still envision that lovely texture and flavor in the final product, but it doesn't work. If you're new at this, rather than trying to substitute, I'd try and find recipes that use lower-fat dairy and/or artificial sweeteners.  My motto is always to learn from other people's mistakes!  And good luck.

Thanks for the recipes, and to Pat Elliott for sharing them! I happen to salivate over cheese straws and their cracker equivalent, and wonder if I could just drop some grated parm or cheddar or whatever into or on top of the basic Everona dough? I'll gladly use Everona cheese if you tell me where it's sold in DC.

Sure you could. The crackers would take kindly to cheese or herbs or spices. Everona Dairy is at the Dupont Circle market weekly and at a number of others -- you can check their Web site for more info.

I was using matzoh as crackers since I got a 5-box pack at the supermarket a few weeks before Passover. Now that I've used that up, I notice there's no recipe in the WaPo database for making my own matzoh. I'm thinking the dough could bake in the heat outdoors on a day like today. Any thoughts?

Well, maybe not in the Passover-approved 18 minutes or less. But what the heck.  I know it's hot for spring, but perhaps not hot enough to match a 475-degree oven. 2 cups flour, 1 cup water, see these directions.  And mazel tov for using up the whole megillah. 

I like cooking vegetables and making them the focus of the meal, but I find it harder to come up with a shopping strategy that makes efficient use - especially as I'm mostly cooking for one or two. What do you think is the best strategy for planning? Pick seasonal recipes and then go looking for the ingredients, or head to the farmers market and get what looks good, then organize around that? (For me, that usually means another shopping trip, though it goes better when I bring Veg Cooking for Everyone with me so I can get what else I need on the way home. Such a great go-to for anything I come across, love it!) Thanks!

Thank you!

I also cook for one or two, plus I don't live near a town so it's a challenge. But I'd always start with what looks good and go from there, whether you're at the farmers market, the best place to be, or not.  I'm not a very good planner, myself. I have enough condiments, seaonings, oils, etc. at home so that when I find that beautiful head of cauliflower, I'm not too worried about finding a way to cook it. I just get it and figure out the details later. Of course, that all falls apart if there's a particular recipe I have to test (often out of season!) - then I just do my best. Procuring good food does take some effort, I find.

Just wanted to say thanks for a great recipe. After you posted a link last week to the Toasted Israeli Couscous primavera (which just screamed spring), I made it this weekend. Added some grilled chicken and ate it for lunch all this week (warmed up leftovers over a bed of baby spinach). Delicious and perfect now that the spring weather has finally arrived!!

AND it's healthful. Another winner from Stephanie Witt Sedgwick. 

Are there any?

Potatoes, mushrooms, celery root, turnips -- that is if you're cooking them maybe longer than you should. Starchy vegetables like to abosorb not just water, but liquids, whch is why they're so good in gratins—they can just suck in the cream, broth or whatever delicious liquid surrounds them. Beets, however, seem to shed moisture. If you add a vinaigrette, it seems to just slide off a beet, but not so with a potato.

I made taco filling last night that consisted of beef, potatoes and diced tomatoes, among other ingredients. We're going to have the leftovers for dinner tonight but I was wondering if I wanted to freeze it, does that sound like something that would freeze well? I'm all about freezing sauces and soups but I haven't tried freezing meat dishes. Thanks!

Dishes where the meat is shredded or chopped fine, and incorporated into other ingredients generally freeze pretty well.  Large pieces of cooked meat are much less forgiving.  Taco filling should be just fine.

Hi Deborah, I have seen your book reviewed by many outlets (here, Serious Eats, other food blogs) and have read only fantastic things about it. I also just learned about some of your earlier cookbooks. I recently checked out Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone from my local library and was only disappointed that I had not discovered it sooner! My questions is about simple, versatile vegetable prep ideas that will work for a variety of vegetables. This fall/winter, I have been obsessed with roasting everything (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots...). With spring finally here, I think it might be time to move on. Is there any other preparation that is as versatile and as tasty that works for a variety of vegetables? Also, I would love to branch with my seasonings. I use salt/pepper/garlic/lemon juice with many things; red chili pepper with broccoli; cumin , coriander, or paprika (or sometimes curry) with cauliflower; but I'm in a rut! Would love some new ideas. Thank you!

What a challenging question!

Well, I think we all get into ruts and routines. Probably the season for roasting vegetables is coming to an end —you're not really going to want to heat your kitchen to roast vegetables as the temperature climbs,  would guess. Personally I love braising and sauteing vegetables, but as for a simple method, there's always steaming, which is quick and it makes sense as you dont have a lot of water filled with wasted vitamins and minerals. It needn't be boring. It's what you do with a vegetable after it's steamed. A good fat to toss with your vegetable, like a fine olive oil, butter, or ghee, is the first thing you need. Acid, as you suggested is good and it can be fresh lemon juice and zest or one of the many fine vinegars you can buy. Fresh herbs do wonders and can lead one vegetable in different directions. I am an absolute fan of herbs. Smoked paprika, smoked salts, fennel seed, anise,curry leaves, fenugreek — these are some of my current favorite seasonings at the moment. Check out a good spice company, like Penzey's, or just buy an herb or spice you havent' used much if you want to inspire yourself. Hope this helps!

There are lots of good beers. I would enjoy a cider madeness. I am not aware of many good and local ciders.

I too would love some Cider Madness (as would Bonnie Benwick!)...

And there are a slew of fantastic local artisanal cider makers! Diane Flynt makes outstanding stuff at Foggy Ridge...and check out Chuck Shelton's tantalizing ciders from Albemarle Ciderworks outside of Charlottesville...and the ciders of Castle Hill, crafted by Stuart Madany...


Now you're talkin.

Thanks for the explanation! I guess I was thrown off by the word "crown" which I associated with the top of the plant (like broccoli crowns) not the root ;-)

Do you have suggestions for celery? I was thinking about raw salads, but do you also have ideas for something cooked? Thanks very much.

My husband is forever asking me exactly the same question! Consider gently braising a celery heart until it's tender—very lightly salted water or stock are fine. Save the leaves and chop them finely with some parsley, lovage if you have it, or another herb. Dress with butter and serve warm, or with a shallot vinaigrette filled with those herbs. That's an idea that you can play with.

Baying Hound Aleworks seemed to be the first local brewery a few years ago. Now, after the "beer boom" in DC, no one's heard a peep from them, not even making the 64 beers in the bracket. What's the deal with them? What is your opinion on their beers?

Actually...Baying Hound DID make the bracket...and got to the Elite 8 with their Long Snout Stout (which narrowly lost just this week to Dominion Oak Barrel Stout).

Baying Hound is going strong...but are decidedly a Nanobrewery...even more miniscule than a smaller craft brewery. They make very small batches of beer, and have a modest distribution footprint...which seems all by design. In fact, any new brewers are content with small batches, and seem to have little interest in larger expansion...

Any upsets or selections that took you by surprise? Any beers we should really give another try? Not that I don't want to try all of them. But, um. That's a lot.

One of the best things about Beer Madness every year is how it turns public perception on its head. Blind tasting truly tells a different story, and often leads to some surprising our blind panelists with what the online voters say, and you will see the divide. Subjectivity is truly king when it comes to what we think is best...

Looking at the final four, I am impressed with Legend Pilsner...I have long appreciated this beer, and this brewery, but on the surface it is not a sexy beer, nor style. When tasted blind, the snappy bitterness and crisp effervescence speak loud and clear...

I trust Joe's palate, too, but for the person who worried it would be too bland, try using half broccoli rabe and half broccoli. Domenica Marchetti has a recipe in her Glorious Pasta cookbook for a pesto containing both and it's terrific. It got me started on the mix of the two in other dishes. It's also a great way to get bring people over, slowly, to the more bitter side of greens.

I have found many ways to replace dairy products in regular recipes, but pudding still eludes me. Will almond milk work with a pudding mix? If not, what would? Soy milk and some others do not allow the pudding to thicken. Also, can almond milk be freely substituted for milk in everything? Or are there exceptions? Your answers may be helpful to many people who are considering going vegan. Many thanks!

I've never used a pudding mix, but I've used almond milk in lots of dishes and I don't see why it wouldn't work. I didn't know, though, that soy milk doesn't allow a pudding mix to thicken, so perhaps there's something I don't know! However, pudding mixes aside, I have found plant milks (soy, almond, coconut, etc.) to be fine substitutes for animal dairy. I use them in baking, in French toast and many places with good effect.

Can you suggest a few (3-5) different seasonable baked goods? Anything that can be portioned out for a small crowd (probably 40-60) of all ages. Preferably some things nice for kids, some nicer for adults, and all fun to make for the baker in question!

My nephew, who lives in Charleston, gave me some low-country herb seasoning and a jar of sweet potato butter. I'm a pretty good cook, but know nothing about low-country cooking and really have no idea what to do with either of these, except perhaps use the seasoning as a roast chicken rub. What are the basic principles of this cooking style?

Maybe the lowcountry seasoning is for rice, as in rice pilau? Pilafs are big down there. I think Tim Carman's "beyond true grits" profile of John Martin Taylor got at the principles you're after: Creole, more heavily influenced by Africans than is the cuisine of Louisiana. It's local seafood and produce treated simply, heavy emphasis on rice. Tim, want to add a thought or two?

Is it just an herb seasoning? Or does it have more pungent aromatic ingredients? I'm wondering if this is not a mixture for a low country boil, which is essentially just a seafood boil. Take a look at the seasonings for this recipe and see if there are any similarities with those in your package.

Hi there, One of my favorite dishes to prepare is puerco pibil (also called cochinita pibil). I moved here from the South, where cheapo Latino supermercados provided a great way to stock up on vital ingredients such as tomatillos, annato seed and banana leaves. Can you point me toward a great market in DC or Arlington where I could get these items at decent quality and price? I'm still new to the area and perpetually on the hunt for so-called best-kept secrets.

In our area, some of the best stores for Hispanic groceries are -- Asian! The local H Mart, Super H Mart and Great Wall all stock plenty of the ingredients you're looking for. There are many Latin markets, too. You should have no problem finding what you want. My favorite hole-in-the-wall place is La Union, off Lee Highway in North Arlington, though I'm not sure I've seen banana leaves there. 

I tried making black bean burgers with (rinsed) canned beans a while back, and they didn't hold together well. What's the best way to dry the canned beans? (I'm not keen on cooking dried beans on the stove, FWIW.) I enjoy the chats, and especially like all of the recipes you link to during them.

I'm not familiar with drying canned beans, but I do know that the liquid, that everyone says to discard, can be rather viscous and thick and it might help the beans hold together when you puree them. Taste it first to make sure you like it.I fnd that with organic canned beans that liquid is a better tasting.

I have put your delicious recipe for Rustic Lentil Soup into my rotation.


Two Questions: 1. What can you tell me about the wax on the rutabagas? 2. Thanks for giving the weight and cup amount for medium chopped onions. What are they for small and for large onions? Thanks

Well, thanks to Deborah Madison's new book, I can tell you that they are waxed to help preserve their moisture; you'll want to "peel them thickly," she writes. As for our onion yields, we usually go by a scant 3/4 cup for small, and 1 1/2 cups for large. 

1. When I buy a bunch of green onions (a k a scallions) at the store, they are skinny little things, maybe half the circumference of my little finger. It would take several bunches to yield more than one or two tablespoons, so when a recipe calls for green onions ("light green and white parts only"), I ignore the prescribed amount and just use whatever I think seems right. Spring onions, on the other hand, have that big bulb at the bottom. Should I be using those instead? What's up with green onions/scallions/spring onions???

2. Canned tomatoes: You can get crushed or diced, among other varieties. Seems like they should be interchangeable, right? They're just mushed up tomatoes! Yet recipes specifically cite one or the other. What's up with that?

Fortunately the vegetables of the world are not perfectly uniform! If you have skinny little scallions, using what you think is the right amount is just what you should do! (We all should, for that matter.) If I pluck a walking onion from the garden to use instead of scallion, it's going to be (generally) pretty plump and short, the greens rattier than the scallions in the market, so I just go with what I have. It's also stronger so I might pull back a bit on the amount. The peril in writing cookbooks is that you're trying to have one size fit all basically, and it's really not that way, as  you have shown.


As for tomatoes, crushed canned tomatoes are smaller bits while diced tomatoes are in fact, larger pieces, so they're not always interchangeable, but sometimes they are. I wouldn't not make something because I had one kind but not the other. It might come out differently, but it might be really good, too.

My 13 year old daughter has to prepare a dish for a potluck this weekend. The dish needs to represent another region of the country. She considers making a box of Kraft Mac and cheese cooking, so whatever it is needs to be easy. I suggested jambalaya and hoppin John, but she shot me down. What would you suggest?

Just what a 13-year-old daughter's supposed to do. What about a chili-mac (CinCin Ohio) or deep-dish pizza a la Chicago? 

Medium grain rice is easy to find in the Oriental food section. Calrose (I have no stock in the company!) is grown in, yup, California and as a medium grain, makes great rice pudding, sushi and risotto.

You are correct. Thanks for coming back with this (a thread from last week's chat). 

I'm glad to hear that. I think medium-grain rice is so good, but you do have to find it in an Asian market or food section.Thanks!

I thought salt with added iodine was not kosher, but otherwise I think you're right and that "kosher salt" is technically "koshering salt" even though no one calls it that.

It's something I ought to know, but I don't think iodine renders salt unkosher.  But you're certainly right that kosher salt is koshering salt.  Large crystals soak up blood without melting.  (Sounds delicious, eh?)

It can also be kosher because it's been produced under rabbinic supervision, no?

Is the supermercado that I have frequented.

I also like Panam in the District, which the lovely and talented FOF Pati Jinich turned me onto. 

I am looking forward to trying the carrot cake recipe in today's paper. Can I use almond meal (which is what I can usually find in the store) for the flour and is the difference just how finely the almonds are ground? Why do recipes call for almonds to be blanched before they are ground into meal/flour? If it's just the color - I would rather use unblanched almonds, much cheaper and less time. Thanks!

As far as I can tell people call for blanched almonds because they come out lighter rather than being flecked with the brown skin. Personally, I leave the skins on, too, usually. This particular cake starts out a little dry so I wanted the almonds to be as light (in texture, not color) as possible, but it's a toss-up. Yes, you can use almond meal —I think. I always just grind my own in a Zyliss cheese grinder and it seems to work fine and go quickly! Give it a try is my advice.


The pasta attachment for my KitchenAid works beautifully for homemade crackers, as does a bread machine to initially make it. Any bread dough (rye, whole wheat, plain white and or low fat) recipe works fine after the rise put through the pasta machine to the thinnest setting. The development of the gluten allows the dough to be stretched paper thin. Then, as Ms. Touzalin wrote, I bake them off in long 4 inch strips on parchment paper in just a few minutes. Break them apart into random shards after cooling. My guests have enjoyed the crackers fanned out of a bowl. You can glue coarse salt, cracked grains or seeds onto the dough ribbons before baking with a spray or gentle pat of water. You can, of course, cut the raw strips into rectangles if you want order. I like using a curly ravioli cutter for more fun.

Nice idea to use the bread machine for the initial steps. As I said in the story, I was avoiding yeast, as a time-saver, but it does make great crackers. And paper-thin is what you want. I think guests always appreciate it (and sometimes are amazed!) when they find out those great crackers on the plate came from your oven.

Where do I find the recipe for rice and spinach? (And please, what does OP stand for?)

Here's the link to the recipe. OP is online speak for original poster.

When you lose the fat, you lose the texture and mouthfeel. Some recipes for icecream will use lower fat ingredients but then add gelatin or alcohol to try to recreate the mouthfeel of a high fat ice cream (notice how cream is the name of the food).

Wisely put. Frozen yogurt is another option. This recipe from David Lebovitz, which a chatter once recommended here, calls for whole milk yogurt, but it's still less fattening than cream.

More and more I find myself making only very simple recipes (in terms of prep, not ingredients, necessarily). If I make something that takes a lot of time to prepare, I usually end up deciding that it wasn't worth the effort, or that the tomatoes didn't really need to cook for 20 minutes, e.g. What can I do to get back on track?

I think we all end up, now and then, in a kind of cooking rut.  One of the things that happens to me is that I look for a new recipe, but end up gravitating toward the same style of food I always make.  Perhaps you're doing something along the same lines.  To break out, I ask my husband to pick a recipe he wants me to make -- and it's almost always something different from what I would have chosen.  It makes me go in an entirely different direction, and try something fresh.  Perhaps something along those lines would help you get back on the horse.

Words cannot describe how excited I am about this endeavor. You guys look like you're being really ambitious and I can't wait to see (taste) what comes out of the fermenters. I just wanted to ask if you what the latest estimates are for the opening. A trip to Nationals Park is already my favorite outing in DC, and it's only going to get better when the new place is open. Any thoughts on selling beers in the park? Kudos on the brewery, and thanks for investing in the Navy Yard area. I hope that it can one day be a destination area for the city in it's own right.

We are extremely excited as well! It looks like we are still on schedule for an early summer opening for Bluejacket...hopefully early June!

Cannot wait to join the neighborhood, and it would seem a perfect fit to get some delicious Bluejacket into the stadium as well, no? We will see what we can do...

What is the Unidentified Photographic Object near the top of this chat? It appears to be a yellow (lemon) single-layer cake with cream on top. Is there a link to its recipe, as well?

Why, it's the Carrot Almond Cake With Ricotta Cream from Deborah Madison's new book! We'd offer you a taste but the ones we tested are g-o-n-e. So good. 


What, exactly, is the difference between gumbo and etouffe? I've had both, loved both, but I'm not really sure I could actually tell you what the true difference is, other than that the etouffee I've had seemed to be more of a sauce for rice, like a ragu, whereas gumbo is a soup. Is that all it is, or is there more to it? Different seasonings? Less meat in etouffee (actually, the one i love is vegetarian, with spinach and mushrooms)? I've googled this, but there seem to be a lot of vague answers out there, so I thought I would come to the experts. Also, if any of you guys have a really good etouffee recipe for me, I'd love to try my hand at it!

Well, for starters, gumbo is much less likely to clog your arteries!  Etouffee generally has quite a bit of butter, in the roux that thickens it.  

Gumbo gets its thickening from okra, so it has a different texture.  It's usually more like a soup, while etouffee is more like a stew.  But they often have a lot of the same ingredients -- and they're both quite delicious.  

Thanks for taking my question. I've been roasting almonds for a snack. I toss a pound of almonds with 3 T minced fresh rosemary, 1 1/2 t each salt, chili powder, and olive oil, then roast at 350 for 20-30 minutes. They taste amazing right out of the oven, but after a bit the seasoning doesn't stick to the nuts...the salt and rosemary all rub off and fall to the bottom of the container. Any suggestions for getting the seasonings to stick? Thank you.

The olive oil often serves as a good adhesive for the aromatics, so I'm not sure exactly why yours isn't working. Others have used other ingredients as adhesives, like egg whites or honey, which would change the flavor of your almonds. But it might be worth experimenting with.

This seems like such a basic skill that I am sort of embarrassed that I have issues with it, but here is goes: is there a solid, consistent way to roast broccoli and cauliflower? I've tried a variety of methods (heating up the sheet pan first and adding the veg, roasting low and slow, roasting quickly, a little olive oil, a lot of olive oil, etc.) and nothing seems to get that crispy outside and tender inside I am looking for. It is a cold and windy Chicago day and I'd love to make this well for the last time before it gets too hot to crank up the oven. And suggestions?

Maybe it's your goal that's the problem here! It's not going to get crispy because there's a lot of moisture in both of these vegetables, but cauliflower will get clearly browned in palces (easier to see because of the color) and delicious. You can cut it into slabs or florets - it doesn't matter, toss with a modest amount of oil - it doesn't need a whole lot, lay it on a sheet pan and roast in a preheated oven at about 400 degrees more or less. The same with broccoli. They may not be crisp but they should be delicious!

First, I've been reading your book and love it! Now, my question, since I wouldn't be able to find a good tomato now, but have tons of kale available, would a good quality fire-roasted canned tomato work? Seeded and drained? Thanks!

Thank you!

Why not give it a try? I would think a good canned tomato would be a better choice in any case, than an out of sesaon fresh one. You could also make kale and potato mash without any tomatoes and I think it would still be good. The tomatoes provide a bit of acid as well as color, but they don't absolutely have to be there. The smoked paprika would be good, though.

Ms. Madison, why can't I ruin your Extravagant Almond Cake from your Savory Way cookbook? I have substituted plain yogurt for the sour cream, baked it as cup cakes, loaf cakes (as strawberry shortcake substrate), in the recommended Bundt pan, frozen it, thawed it, packed it, wrapped it, made it with the Joy of Cooking's almond paste, and yet it is always GREAT! Today's almond cake sounds like a wonderful version I am eager to taste. Thank you!

Music to my ears! Well, with amond paste I think it's hard to ruin anything. I adore that cake and I'm so glad it's worked for you as well.  Thank you!

What perfect timing! I made pasta last night and have some leftover dough. The dough is rather eggy. Would that make a difference in the oven temperature to use? Also, when it was time to buy a new instant read thermometer, I discovered that surface scanners are now reasonably priced. I bought one that has both a scanner and a probe. Now I can tell how hot a pan is, but I don't necessarily know how hot it should be for various tasks. Do you know of any chart for this?

I haven't tried to turn eggy pasta dough into crackers, but my inclination is always to experiment my way to an answer. Roll out one cracker and bake it at the recommended temp and see how it works, then adjust time and/or temperature as needed based on what happens. Can't help you with the chart question -- maybe someone else can pitch in here.

Seems like these contests and "best of" series, are more about web clips and comments than actually informing the public. Couldn't there be just a single article for each highlighting some of the best examples. With beer especially, it seems like comparing apples to oranges and why having a bracketed contest including different wines varietals would be as ridiculous as it sounds.

That is something that bothers me as well...however, the opening rounds of Beer Madness address this valid point.

The four brackets of 8 are grouped by flavor profile...and each matchup within is based on style. So, the first 3 rounds which result in our current Final Four actually pit very like brews against one another. I like to think of the Final Four as being the real champs, because they have each bested brews of similar character.

After that, we will see some apples and oranges as a Pilsner faces off against a Saison laden with sage, while a Stout aged on vanilla beans and oak chips meets a bold Imperial IPA...

I get mine at World Market - they sell them in a few difference sizes that way I can get just the right amount for whatever dish(es) I'm dreaming of.

That's a good tip -- thanks!  

Hi there, Made a potato chickpea slow cooker stew, cooked in coconut milk with turmeric and chile to season. It turned out pretty bland. What can I do to add flavor at this point? Thanks!

It was bland? I'd up the spices next time, and if there werent' so few, I'd suggest that you make sure they're relatively fresh. But once a dish like this is done, I'd suggest a little salt, freshly lime juice, and lots of fresh cilantro might do the job of perking it up a bit. Lime often works where there's turmeric and cilantro is always a plus—that is, if you're one who likes it! (I hope you are.)

Love that another vegetable centric cookbook is on the market - especially one by the author whose cookbook got me started on the vegetarian path. Now a good decade plus down the veggie road and I still can't find any love for beets. Any tips? Tricks? I finally conquered Brussel Sprouts but beets are still proving to be an issue. Thanks!

You might never love beets, and that would be okay, wouldn't it? I think so. But what I've found with beets is that they're always better when there's a bit of acid with them—citrus jucies or good vinegars. The acid seems to unite the sweet and earthy nature of these vegetables and generally people seem to like them better. But I'm willing to admit there are some vegetables some people just aren't going to like not matter what. Though sour cream might help.

Try the beet salad recipe from chef Sean Sullivan in next week's Food section.  Might be a game changer for you. 

We are trying to cut out processed food and have been eating lots of veggie-heavy main dishes (cauliflower pizza, eggplant lasagna, sweet potato chili cheese fries) and are searching for new and exciting recommendations to increase our variety. Do you have any suggestions?

Well, Deborah's recipes from today are a fantastic start. And Joe has his new Weeknight Vegetarian column you should be reading every week. Here are a few more meatless mains from our vegetarian issue last month.

That's just a start. We have so many you can search for in our database (check the meatless box under "Features" and select "Main Course" in the Course drop-down menu).

Do you need sea water to make sea salt? Could I just add table salt to water and boil the water until I get the salt back? If the trace amounts of other minerals is small, maybe the tap water has enough minerals to make up the difference.

I can't imagine that it would be worth the exercise.  There may be some minerals in some tap water, but the time and the effort and the energy and the uncertain results just won't make it worth it.  Just use the salt as is.  But you get extra credit for imagination!

I normally drain and rinse my beans and then stick them in the microwave for a minute and drain again. You can also dry them out and make them into a sludge/refried bean mixture by adding a little water and simmering on the stove. Stir every 2-3 minutes and add water until they are sludgy. It normally takes less than 10 minutes.

I use za'atar all the time. Toss some asparagus and fresh green beans (or whatever what is at the market right now) with olive oil and za'taar and roast at 425 until crispy. You will swoon.

And when you don't know what else to do with za'atar, try Joe's Roasted Vegetable and Farro Salad.

Roasted Vegetable and Farro Salad

I am salivating over the heavenly-sounding and -looking carrot almond cake. One question, in case it isn't all consumed in one sitting (As if!) -- When you write that "The cake tends to gain moisture as it sits, well wrapped, at room temperature" -- Do you mean wrapped in Saran wrap? Or what? Thanks!


"Scant 2 cups grated carrots" -- That means I don't press down on the carrot as it lies in the cup, right? Or does it mean I can press down but shouldn't have carrot come up to the rim? Or maybe both of those ...? Also, sorry to have to ask, but which size holes on the box grater should I use?

Yep, it's just below the level measure of each cup. But don't stress over it. Even if you use a bit of extra carrot the cake won't be ruined -- you might just have to bake it longer. You can use the large holes of the box grater, or you can grate the carrots in the food processor. 

Both Whole Foods and Safeway carry big and small bags of it. WF has brown and white medium grain. I saw Calrose at Safeway in a 20 lb bag yesterday.


A grocery store that has several outposts in the area has Manchego on sale this week. Any ideas fotr the best use of this cheese? Is it similar to something I am more likely to have had before?

Manchego is a wonderful hard cheese, made from sheep's milk, that is an integral part of Spanish cuisine. You can learn all about it here.

I consider myself a better than average home cook, I have a decent rep. of go-to dishes and I like to try new ones out as well but I have hardest time with veggies. I am always at a loss when it comes to side dishes. There are only two of us and he will not eat cooked carrots, while I do not eat green peppers (and other colors sparingly). We do not belong to a CSA, but do occasionally hit the farmers markets (in NoVa), most of the veggie shopping is done at grocery stores. Can you point me in the right direction?

I hope I can! If cooked carrots and peppers are you're challenging vegetables, you're left with just a few hundred more to try. Or maybe less, depending on your sources.


What vegetables do you like? What kinds of dishes do you like? Gratins? Stir-fries? Soups? Braises? Salads? I think that if you can answer these questions, you might be able to sketch out some menu ideas for yourself. My husband doesn't like soups, for example, unless theyr'e really substantial, so right away that elminates a certain kind of soup I'll make. (No light, liquidy soups!) But he loves salads and gratins, so that opens up some new doors.


This sounds pretty simple, but sometimes it is as simple as asking yourself what you enjoy eating and in what form. Then you can persue recipes that answer to that. The advantage of belonging to a CSA, which you don't, I realize, is that you have to cook what you get. But maybe you'll have to cook what you like. Just make sure that your oils and butters and herbs and seaosnings are as fresh and good as possible, as well as the vegetables, and that might go a ways towards making them more acceptable. Even carrots. But no promises!

I love vegetables but last night in our Whole Foods cooking class we had jicama in a salad and since it was cut in big chunks what struck me is that it had no taste at all. Since this was a class eschewing fats all that dressed the salad that also contained watermelon and tomatoes was lime juice. What else can you do with jicama to make it tasty.

Deborah, no doubt, will weigh in here and tell you seventeen ways to make jicama delicious, but I have to butt in and say that jicama is not delicious.  It tastes like styrofoam. Get a different vegetable.

My favorite way with beets is to roast them, peel while as warm as you can stand, sprinkle with a little raspberry vinegar and eat. Given that, I'm a firm believer in not eating anything I don't really like. Unfortunately, I like almost everything and it shows in my clothing size!

Hi all, just wanted to provide a good resource for cheese that is vegetarian (does not contain rennet). It is a handy resource

Sugar snap peas should be ready in my garden in a few weeks. I usually eat them raw, saute them or add them to a stirfry. Am I missing some other methods of preparation that sugar snap peas can be used?

How about this amazing salad from Bon Appetit? It includes peas, sugar snap peas, radishes and goat cheese.

I ran across the term lamb belly for the first time a few weeks ago. Apparently it is a newer cut of lamb that is being marketed. What is a good preparation for a lamb belly?

It's great for roulade-type preparation. Stuff and roll, tie and roast.  Most recently I made this Crispy Stuffed Lamb Belly With Blood Orange Sauce from -- using lamb belly from Border Springs, of course! 

Why do recipes tell you to blanch greens (kale, chard, etc) before sauteing them or combining them into dishes? I did it only once and was saddened to see all that green water, which tells me I lost some (all?) the nutrition in those greens. As I learned from my Sicilian grandmother, I've always sauteed in olive oil until tender. Thanks

I think sauteing in olive oil from the start is a very good way to go. Blanching is sometimes suggested to temper bitterness, or to soften a tough green before finishing it.Sometimes it might be just to reduce the volume of leaves, like chard, so that they'll fit into a pot or pan.

If done at all, and it isn't always necessary in my view, I think it should be a very quick dip in boilng water so that you don't lose the nutritional goodness.

When I make meat sauce for spaghetti, I typically add about 3/4 to 1 cup of red wine while I'm simmer the ground meat, onion, garlic, tomato and spice mixture. I'm going to make this for kids soon and assume that the parents probably wouldn't want me to make it with wine (since alcohol does not actually entirely cook out of foods). Any suggestions for substitutes other than only using water? I was thinking maybe some red wine vinegar and a little sugar.

The amount of alcohol that's left when you simmer a cup of red wine is very small.  Divide it among the people eating the sauce, and it's negligable.  I give kids sauce with wine all the time, and I've never detected any signs of inebriation.  Just don't tell anyone -- it'll be our little secret.

I made a chocolate pudding pie with chocolate Silk soymilk one time. It was pretty good. Different, but good. I think the recipe was on the carton and the thickener was corn starch.

Corn starch is a thickener in a number of pudding recipes. My guess is the difference would be more in the richness of the pudding, given traditional ones typically call for whole milk.

One trick I use is the salad bar at Whole Foods. If you need a half cup of celery or one carrot, it is far cheaper and less wasteful to pick up what you need from the salad bar (also-- if you ask WF will give you half an onion or half a squash or whatever. They use the remaining parts for their prepared foods counter).

I've used So Delicious Coconut Milk (plain non-reduced fat version) in a variety of pudding and while they take longer to set they do set. Have also tried almond milk and while it works better than soy milk it never fully sets and stays at a yogurt like consistency.

I've been talking with some friends about doing a dinner where we all prepare something with beer as an ingredient. I was thinking about doing a french onion soup with stout and irish cheddar, but I think the weather is killing that idea. Likewise stews. Any suggestions? Cake and bread are already taken. I could do a salad dressing, but I always get stuck with salad. Thx!

To be perfectly honest...and this may come off as anathema...I do not really like cooking with beer...

Sure, there are some tried and true recipes (Beer & Cheddar Soup as you mention...and quite a few from Belgian cuisine...Mussels in Witbier...Braised Rabbit with Flemish Red Ale...Carbonnade Flamande), but if you notice, the best cooking is done with either flavorless macrolagers which give a hint of grain, sweet beers or sour beers. These flavors work with cooking, and remind one of how wine, be it dry or sweet, works with cooking (and I much prefer my food cooked with does Birch & Barley Exec Chef Kyle Bailey...). Also, most beer has at least a modicum of bitterness, which will be intensified through cooking, overwhelming other flavors in the dish...

I say let us rather PAIR with beer. Seems that for so long beer arrived at the table only drowning the food, while wine was presented independently for matching. Well with beer in its renaissance, and with so many wonderfully complex beery flavors abounding, let's respect the beer as finished once brewed, and drink it beside the dish, rather than within.


Stop the presses!

Thrilled that you're featuring Deborah Madison today. We refer to "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" as the Bible in my household... and we're not vegetarians. I have yet to make anything from that book that's not delicious, and can't wait to check out the new one. Thanks!

There's also a store in Annapolis that's mainly a spice store, but sells salts as well. I got a great olive salt there! And, TJ's sells Pink Himalayan salt for a great price.

Jason, I have a wedding and a college graduation to pick some bubbly for and I need your help! For both occasions, I hope to stay under twenty dollars per bottle, does such thing even exists?

Jason's not with us today, but our wine guru Dave McIntyre has written about sparkling wines. Here's a column on the subject from the other year, along with the accompanying recommendations. And here's a more recent list of sparkling recommendations.

Now that's it summer...grill! Everything is better with grill marks!

Such as asparagus.

Blistered Asparagus

Paleo diet seems similar to the Atkins low carb diet. Are eggs included in the Paleo diet? Thanks, Joe

Egg whites, at least, seem to be a mainstay.  NOTE: We've gone outside our Free Range comfort zone addressing a question with the term "diet" used. 

Since I use a picture of a finished recipe to see how it is supposed to look, it always annoys me when "food stylists" decide to change something to make a prettier picture. Joe's recipe today clearly says to chop the florets, and just as clearly the photo shows sliced. I guess it doesn't matter in this case, but I just wanted to vent. To me it's like a book cover designed by someone who hasn't read the book. Not helpful.

We hear you. This was a rare instance in which a tight schedule precluded us shooting the dish ourselves, which is what we try to do as much as possible.  Still, a photo helps attract people to the recipe more than not having one, right? 

I was lucky enough to be cooking in Florence, Italy, a couple of weeks ago and found some really beautiful young artichokes - sort of green and purple. They were bigger than the packaged ones I see here as "baby" but smaller than the regular ones. With my rudimentary Italian, I thought the vendor was telling me we could even eat them raw or "crude". However, when I tried cooking them lightly, they were still rather hard. These did not have the sharp pointy tips and I did peel off what I thought was enough of the outer layers. Any tips on what I did wrong? I ended up cooking them longer and they lost their color.

You were lucky!Yes, you can eat aritchokes raw, and I've often had them that way in Florence. It's an interesting way to go, but cooking artichokes is fine too. You didn't do anything wrong. Purple pigments almost always turn green with cooking—it's just what happens.

These probably weren't "babies", which are really just artichokes that grow at the base of the stem away from the sun so that they don't mature and develop a choke. They were probably mature, but of course, a very different variety than what we find here, so they may have needed a little more time to cook than what you're used to. I hope they were good!

I love Deborah Madison's approach - she seems so encouraging and flexible, the kind of cook I would want to be!

Just past the DC line in Takoma Park. I know they have leaves in the frozen section, not sure if they are bananas. Great Latinoamericano produce too and super inexpensive meats (we're talking $1.99/lb for BSCB).

Tamar: ...but I have to butt in and say that jicama is not delicious. It tastes like styrofoam. Get a different vegetable. Agreed!

Deborah can make it taste good, I have no doubt. I'm just here for comic relief.

And an adjustment in seasoning. 

Thanks to the poster about the radishes, I just remember I have some in the back of my fridge too!

Honestly, I had to look that one up! Anyways, since it is SNOWING again (here) and we are forecast up to 14 more inches of the white stuff, which I would be glad to share (LOL). What veggies can you spruce up, if fresh, local isn't readily available yet? I have on hand asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and some sort of mixed, 7 essential, shredded, greens in a bag of fun (kale, cabbage, something red, Brussels sprouts, etc)? Thanks...tired of the WINTER!

It's snowing here, too, and I know just how you feel! I don't know where you are that you have both snow and asparagus, but asparagus is in my book, the ultimate spring vegetable. Those bagged greens are so good sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes, then given a shot of lemon at the end. Not quite spring, but the lemon helps make everything more spring-like. One way to get something wintery that looks like spring is to julienne broccol stems, rutabagas, turnips, and carrots, the blanch them. The colors are magical - just so pretty. Add a bit of parsley, some lemon zest, good olive oil, a bit of shallot or green onion, and you wil feel happier. Pickled red onions contribute great color to a dish as do hard-cooked farm eggs - try both with the asparagus in a salad. And you're welcome to send your snow my way!

my CSA box delivered a big bunch of red chard, and a beautiful bunch of purple kale. aside from making kale chips (tired of those) and just sauteeing with garlic and hot pepper flakes, what can i do with these lovely greens? to add complexity to the issue.....i am currently on a almost vegan, preferably raw, alkaline detox eating plan, so am trying to keep things gluten-free and properly combined (i.e. making the foods i eat as alkaline as possible). are you up to the challenge??? :) (ps...the "almost vegan" part means i will eat goat cheese and pastured eggs!)

Braised the chard (or kale) with cumin, cilantro, coriander, diced onion until it's really wilted and soft. You can also include a few tablespoons of rice with the leaves and only 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. (This is in Veg. Cooking for Everyone.)  Kale salads are very good and they don't have to be made with Tuscan kale.  Make a good garlicky dressing and use some goat Gouda, since you apparently eat goat cheese. Or (this is in Veg. Literacy) make a salad with a sesame dressing and comibne it with buckwheat noodles, or not. Soups are always a great way to treat greens and they're dishes in which gluten can easily be avoided. A chard frittata with basil and slowly cooked red onions is delicious, and you could probably use kale instead. More?

they tasted great, but I did have to do some last minute pulling of outer leaves off while they were hot! Thanks for your response!

My husband and I homebrew, using kits from the Midwest Brewing Supplies store, and we love it. Any other place though we can go for kits, or any suggestions for expanding out of pre-made kits and doing it on our own?

Believe it or not, I am not much of a homebrewer...this often surprises people, since once upon a time, the only people who seemed to get beer were those making it themselves (and back then, that was the only way to drink good beer for most!).

I am more like the sommelier set...tasting over crafting (though Megan Parisi, Bluejacket Brewmaster, is getting me in shape to do some brewing...).

That said...the following website is invaluable and cherished in the industry for these kinds of questions:


I'm trying really hard to increase my vegetable intake (it's going well and I've lost ten pounds, thankyouverymuch). I was really into roasting during the winter; what's a good method of cooking for spring/summer?

Let's take it outside!  Break out the grill, and use it much the same way you use the oven.  Big vegetables (thick slices are good) are just fine on the grate, and smaller stuff can go in a basket, made for the purpose.  Once you do it a few times, you'll get the hang of times and temperatures.  And congratulations on those ten pounds!

I spent 5 days in the hospital with a nasty infection (now cleared). I'm tired (so-o-o much blood work!!). What foods do I ask for to help me recover? no red meat, no fish,. no dairy. which makes it all the more difficult.

Make sure you consult with your doctors for advice, but I'm going to sound very cliche and say nothing makes me feel better than a big bowl of chicken noodle -- or matzoh ball -- soup.

Aromatic Chicken Noodle Soup

Aromatic Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken 'Bot' Pie

Chicken 'Bot' Pie

Chicken Veloute With Matzoh Quenelles

Chicken Veloute With Matzoh Quenelles

Classic Matzoh Balls

Classic Matzoh Balls

What if you made rosemary-infused olive oil? Still put some dried on there for good measure but then the flavor would already be on the oil.

The poster's chickpea/potato/coconut milk/turmeric dish sounds AMAZING to this card-carrying carnivore. I'd love to have that recipe!

Chatter? If not this week, maybe next week?

Jicama is too delicious! It's sweet and crunchy. If yours is tasteless, or starchy, you just don't have good jicama. Maybe it's one of those things that shouldn't be shipped all over?

Would frozen peas work in this recipe? I know that's not ideal, but it'd certainly make the recipe accessible.

Deborah says yes. Go for it!

My wife and I recently ate at an Ethiopian restaurant for the first time and are interested in trying to re-create a meal like that at home. Do you have any tips for making the teff based bread that will be strong enough to hold up for dipping and serving the food?

You're looking to make injera, which is a fermented batter that's cooked on a griddle, like a pancake. Injera is easy to make; you can buy the grains at an Ethiopian grocery (or even buy the flatbread itself). Here's a straight-forward recipe from Food & Wine.

Some out there are still not convinced about craft beer, and tend to stick with the big box brands and flavors. My dear Mother, for example, is so hesitant about trying these "weird" beers of mine (her favorite is Bud Light Lime, as it's "so refreshing"). Can you give some advice to a few intro beers to ease her into the process and convince her that craft beer is great?


For these types of drinkers, I always like to proffer sweeter, lighter Belgian styles...Witbier always kills it here (Allagash White, Port City Optimal Wit)...and is much, much preferred over that Lime brew...

Also...try a crisp, refreshing ale or lager that once again is not too bitter: Schlafly Kolsch & Devils Backbone Vienna Lager come to mind here...

Really? I grew up eating jicama as a snack and always liked it. Tasted sweet, like apples.

I love vegetables and cooking them in as many new ways as possible, and I'm also responsible for the cooking in a household containing two ardent vegetable-hating adults. I've had some success introducing things to them and whittling away bit by bit at their veggie-hate, but this is a slow process and I don't really enjoy cooking separate meals or "doctoring" mine after cooking to add the vegetables I so desire. What are a few recipes you rely on to sway the opinion of those who grimace at their greens and snub my vegetable offerings?

Now, that's a challenge! I'm not sure I know many out and out vegetable haters so I may not be able to answer this. I'm not sure that you need to do so much, and cooking separate meals or doctoring yours doesn't make sense. What I rely on is not so much a recipe, but just making sure I'm using the freshest vegetables I can, cooking them simply and finsihing them with good olive oil, butter or whatever fat —and acid—is appropriate. Keeping it simple. A roasted sweet potato with a dollop of good butter and fresly ground pepper is usually likely to find takers. Simple. Soups are a great way to incorporeate a lot of vegetables. Vegetable frittatas are another way.  Do they like salads? Can you include vegetbles in salads for your vegetable haters? Is there something they actually like that you can repeat, then extrapolate from? If they love carrots, they probably also like winter squash and sweet potatoes. I think you're going to have to become a sleuth here!

I would guess that vegetable haters are leery of too much complication, sort of the way kids are.

A friend of mine came back from Hawaii and brought me some chocolate covered pineapple.. the pineapple was dried and it was super sweet and sort of chewy. I have a dehydrater but when I tried to "dry" the pineapple it got very brittle and hard. Suggestions on how I can make this?

No guarantees, but my guess is that you could make it as if you were making candied peel -- cut your pieces, boil them in a simple syrup and then bake in the oven. Find a recipe for candied citrus peel online and follow that. Your pineapple should stay a little chewy and won't be completely dessicated.

I suspect that in the DC area we don't get the freshest and sweetest jicama. Maybe at the Hispanic markets that have been mentioned?

Really appreciate the suggestions in answer to my question. Will try all suggestions!!

Pour a can of beer into Corn-Potato chowder while it cooks. Then add grated cheddar before serving, just long enough to melt -- yummm!

Of course there's a range to this answer, and things can taste good raw and crisp-tender and cooked for ever and ever (looking at you, broccoli). What happens to the nutrients at the different cooking stages?

Cook them as long as you like, but try to use as little moisture as possible so that the nutrients stay with the vegetables. It's the method as much as the stages of cooking that affect nutrients. You don't want to throw them out in a big pot of water. If you steam or braise, you can use that liquid.

I'll miss the chat today, but need some ideas for an appetizer to bring to a potluck supper. The main course is Cioppino. I've thought of mini empanadas or piroshki, but neither seems right to complement all that seafood.

I'd favor something Italian to better pair with the flavors of the fish stew. Maybe like tomat0-basil arancini?

What do I do with them? Do you have a tutorial for how to go from prickly vegetable beast which has only brought my heartache to the delicious vegetable I have relied on others for?

Now you know how lucky you've been!

I do cover these in Veg. Literacy - but now time is up!


Whew that flew by -- thanks to the expert testimonies of Deborah, Tamar and Greg -- and to your ever-eager questions, dear chatters. 


Cookbook winners: The Pasta Maker for Crackers chatter wins a copy of Jennifer Perillo's "Homemade With Love" (source of today's Dinner in Minutes recipe) and the NEED DEBORAH'S HELP! chatter wins "Meatless" from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. Send your mailing info to and she'll get those right out to you. Till next week, happy cooking and eating! 

In This Chat
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie Benwick is deputy editor of the Food section; joining us today are staff writer Tim Carman, editorial aide Becky Krystal, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin and Spirits columnist Jason Wilson. Guests: cookbook author Deborah Madison; DIY salt advocate Tamar Haspel; Greg Engert, beer director for Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
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