Free Range on Food: Using salted butter in baked goods, learning to enjoy a drink that betrayed you, this week's recipes and more.

Apr 18, 2018

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

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat!

Hope you're enjoying what we've been throwing your way lately, including:

Charlotte Druckman's deep dive into salted butter (with four truly stellar recipes that use it); Carrie Allan's wise and very witty take on recovering your taste for an alcohol that once got the better of you (with a cocktail recipe that dials back the amaretto in a sour); Dave's tips on throwing a wine-tasting party; my ode to coconut bacon and a vegan caesar salad; and from Voraciously, Bonnie's luscious and easy Peruvian Chicken Soup; Becky's how-to pieces on working with herbs; peeling (or not!) vegetables; and cooking perfect pasta; and more, more, more.

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters today, so make your q's/comments good!

And, for you PostPoints members, here's today's code: FR8634 . Remember, you'll record and enter it at the PostPoints site under Claim My Points to earn points. The code expires at midnight, so be sure to enter the code by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to get credit for participating.

Let's do this!

I've always been a fan of unsalted butter ... until I read the ingredients list recently. Many types of supermarket unsalted butter are made of butter and "natural flavor." The salted butter contains butter and salt, no natural flavor. Any ideas on what the natural flavor is? I'm not a fan of mystery ingredients and have started using salted butter in my cooking, since the amount of salt is comparably low (1/4 tsp per stick I believe) and I can avoid the "natural flavor."

Just the kind of question that Cook's Illustrated answers so well. Here's the link; in sum, it's maybe not so evil. Diacetyl, which is "a natural byproduct derived from culturing skim milk with bacteria." The stuff also extends the shelf life of unsalted butter significantly. 

I got a dill plant and it just keeps growing! I've had dilled meatballs and dilled cucumbers. What else do you suggest? I don't like fish.

Dill tastes so good in chicken soup. And meatballs made with ground dark-meat chicken. And with any seafood, really -- add it to a shrimp salad. You could make a nice tzatziki or yogurt dip.

Dill is really nice in eggs, too: This Persian kuku is a favorite of mine.

Or . . . dill up some pickled green beans

Also, bread! This one uses two (!!) cups of fresh dill.

Dill Bread

RECIPE: Dill Bread

Cocktails that betrayed you: for me, that's tequila. I've avoided it for many years. But recently, on a whim I purchased a bottle of Limoncello. It is way too strong to sip it straight. I've been mixing it with sparkling water. What other cocktail mixers can you suggest?

I agree with you on limoncello -- strong AND super sweet. I like cutting it with gin, cutting it with more sour citrus juices and other juices too. If you like bittersweet, giving it a hit of a red bitter like Campari or Aperol along with club soda or tonic water will make a nice combination too. And I suspect some spicy ginger ales would be a good option as well!

I made a cioppino (chef jeff's from allrecipes.com) last night for dinner which turned out amazing. I substituted seafood stock for water, however I still have 2 cartons left of seafood stock. What do you suggest I cook next?

* Poach a mess o' cocktail shrimp in it, or individual portions of salmon.

* Paella! 

* Gumbo! 

* Risotto! 

Is there a trick for removing seeds from lemons or limes that fall through a strainer or juicer and into dishes where they shouldn't be? Not so much a problem if they fall on a leaf of lettuce or a bowl of hummus but when they drop into a liquid, it's like they're mini-creatures that know how to evade capture by a spoon, fork or eggshell. Related question, when they're extra-small, enough to fall through gauze, should I just accept them as too small to damage anyone's enjoyment or digestion?

I would just pour the liquid through a strainer or cheesecloth to remove that unwanted visitor! 

Thank you for the recipe. But I'd like to buy it first. Where is it sold in DC - and is it in the deli section or where? Thanks.

Oh, it's so good! So easy to make. But yes, you can buy it -- I've seen various brands at Whole Foods, Mom's and Trader Joe's. It's usually near the dried fruit, in packages.

Hi - my kindergartner is doing a play about the weather and I volunteered to bring a sweet treat for 25 kids, preferably with a rain or weather focus. Any ideas? Thanks!

A bag of romaine hearts is still in my fridge because a. I already ate half of one b. it was really about bagged romaine 3. I can't seem to get past throwing out "perfectly" good food that cost me like $5. Give me the swift kick I know I need.

(((kicking)))

I tend to use unsalted butter for cooking, salted only for bread/butter or popcorn. Do you all have any favorite supermarket brands of salted butter?

When I have company for dinner and offer any kind of warm bread for the table, I stock up on a brand of French salted butter whose label is black and says it's made with salt from Brittany. Can't think of the name right now, but locally I get it at Rodman's. 

Hey Food Folks, Post Points says "Voucher FR8534 has expired or is invalid'

Thanks for the catch! I made a typo. It's FR8634 . Apologies!

As a Lifestyle Medicine physician who prescribes and utilizes a plant based diet to manage chronic medical illness I have been so patient courage’s to see how “main stream” it’s becoming especially with the opening of Fancy Radish here in DC. Curious if you feel it’s a passing trend or not?

Here to stay, of course.

I found a really delicious version of Chicken Biryani made by Saffron Road, in the frozen foods section, and find myself sort of obsessed. I would like to try making it from scratch. Can you point me toward a good recipe to start from?

A good chicken biryani recipe can be quite involved and require ingredients that you may not wish to buy or prepare, such as ghee or saffron threads. But should you like the challenge, you could try this Hyderabadi recipe, which looks terrific to me.

 

Or you could try something simpler first, like this version from Cooking Light, which may actually be closer to the one you found in the supermarket.

While I appreciate that you are trying to reach a wider audience by simplifying the articles and recipes, as a long time loyal reader, I feel both left out and less interested in your content. Voraciously connotes eating a lot quickly due to great hunger without appreciating the quality of the ingredients or skills that went into the preparation. I miss the more intellectual articles and sophisticated recipes that used to make me late for work on Wednesday mornings because I couldn't put the Food section down.

Thanks for the thoughts -- As a general-interest publication we are charged with appealing to as wide an audience as possible, and to do that, we do want to make sure that too much of our content doesn't talk over the heads of folks who might be less experienced in the kitchen. But we are also not dialing back on ambitious stories -- did you not find this week's salted butter dive intellectual? I haven't read such a good explanation of the phenomenon anywhere else, so it's the definition of such, IMHO. And last week's maple syrup scene feature, based in Vermont, qualifies for the same designation, to me. Both came with recipes that I'd say are plenty sophisticated -- including Frozen Maple Mousse and Maple-Chipotle Basting Sauce last week, and Salted Chocolate-Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread this week. 

Keep reading!

Also, voracious can just mean avid, yeah? We are avid cooks and eaters. And if you think we're trying to say that we don't appreciate the ingredients and skills that go into dishes, well, you should see how hard we work in and out of the Food Lab on these recipes.

Yes, of course I did not use a knife. I also did the 'log vs rolling pin. Same result. There has to a reason they are bready...

Could you send your recipe along? Maybe it's the recipe and not you.

Because of the sodium content, I stopped buying salted butter. Most processed food has TOO MUCH sodium so unsalted butter doesn't impact the flavor of toast, muffins, etc.

I must have some and the sooner the better! But my audience can’t abide hazelnuts. Your writeup implies that the chopped candy is optional — right? Or ... I was thinking Heath bars ... could I do that as a 1:1 swap? Maybe a little less because of the sweetness? O. M. G.

 

In this case, I think the creaminess of what's inside the candies really adds to the flavor and texture of these cookies, so I'd say that they are not optional, if you want the full-on Salted Chocolate-Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread effect. 

 

Crushed Heath bars would be cool, i'd say 4 ounces' worth would do -- try it and report back!

 

P.S. "can't abide hazelnuts" is the saddest thing I have read today. #hazelnutfan

Love the article, and indeed I, too, bake with salted butter and have always done so. You need to know your butter and adjust salt in recipes a bit - my preferred all-purpose butter brand is Trader Joe's Organic Salted. In fact, I use unsalted butter only in baking laminated pastry like croissants, which I fear could get too salty with all the layers, but I should try it with salted butter and see. Thanks!

Well that looks magical, and will be on my to-make list ASAP. Are there any bacon-substitute uses you would *not* suggest it for? (ie. can it go into soups/baked dishes or does it need to stay 'dry'?)

Hmm. You know, I've been so enamored of the crunch that I haven't put it in soups, batters or other liquids. But it's worth a try -- please report back!

The e. Coli romaine was bagged CHOPPED romaine. So the chatter shouldn't be at added risk.

I've been tasked with bringing in dessert (something chocolate-y) for our admin professional day lunch next Wednesday. Would love any suggestions of something that isn't going to take a TON of time the night before (although happy to do some sort of cake) and that will hold up ok outside of the fridge for the morning. Many thanks!

This Chocolate Almond Tweed Torte is gluten-free and quite easy to put together.

Speaking of salty things, this Nutella-filled cookie is pretty wonderful -- a keeper from a holiday assortment several years ago.

But I have to say, Lisa Yockelson's Coca-Cola Cake is hands-down the most popular dessert I ever bring to occasions such as yours....it has a light choc flavor. The icing goes on while the cake is warm so it all stays moist and terrific. People will ask you for this recipe!

While we're on the question of salted/unsalted butter in recipes, I'm wondering about the trend toward kosher salt (fine or otherwise) in recipes rather than plain old table salt. Rarely does the particular form of salt make a difference in that any salt quickly goes into solution in the dish. The problem is that there is more sodium chloride in a teaspoon of table salt than in a teaspoon of coarse kosher salt. Keep it simple, I say, and stick with table salt unless you are looking to have the salt stick to a piece of meat.

We here at WaPoFood tend to call for kosher salt because it makes for a friendlier nutritional analysis. Also, table salt often contains iodine, which we get from other daily food sources. And, we like the coarse texture -- if you only want 1 salt to buy, it can be used as a finishing salt as well.

For the record:

1 teaspoon of table salt has 2354 milligrams of sodium

1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt = 1120 mg

The phrase “al dente” appeared in today’s Voraciously column and was defined as meaning that cooked pasta should have a slightly firm bite. Food writers in general seem to use the term as if it referred to a specific degree of doneness: as in today’ s article “cooked until it’s al dente”. The phrase is Italian and means “to the tooth”. It’s a straightforward response to the question “how do I know when the pasta is done?” One picks out a piece and bites it. If you like your pasta soft and it’s still firm in the center, cook it longer. The notion that “al dente” refers to a specific degree of doneness seems to imply that all or most Italians prefer their pasta cooked to the same exact degree of doneness. If you like your pasta mushy, then “al dente” for you is mushy.

ARTICLE: 4 tips that guarantee a better plate of pasta every time

Appreciate what you're saying, but I think it's not just food writers. These days I think for many people the term "al dente" has evolved to mean a bit firm. But, yes, of course people should also feel free to cook the pasta to how it feels to their tooth.

A recent rerun of "Jacques Pépin: Heart & Soul" included a segment with him and granddaughter Shorey making butter from heavy cream -- she shaking some cream in a jar, Jacques making butter in the food processor -- and raving about the finished product. Is it really that much better than supermarket butter (salted or otherwise)? My late mother used to reminisce about being willing to churn butter as a child, in return for getting to drink the buttermilk (she said the cultured stuff in the supermarket didn't come close). Your thoughts?

The big difference is how fresh it tastes, because ... it's fresh!

The boyfriend and I are not early risers. We never make it out to weekend brunch. We recently went on vacation and had pancakes that were divine. Now we want to make them at home. Any suggestions? Boyfriend wants to use Bisquick, but those always come out too heavy. If I whipped the whites, would that help?

Try these! 

Scratch Pancakes

RECIPE: Scratch Pancakes

Or if you want something a little different, go for these:

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

RECIPE: Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Considering that Thomas Jefferson advocated a plant-based diet employing meat only as a seasoning, I'd say it's nothing new.

Why not make up some of the mustard dill sauce used on gravlax. You don't have to use it on fish - it would go well with many other things.

Is there something wrong with the first sentence of this recipe? Should it have read "more capable hands" or "less saccharine" ? I can't figure out what it's supposed to mean. And using jam to curtail sweetness makes no sense: jam and sugar contain about the same amounts of sugar. And using honey (pure sugars) and peanut butter (the ones most of us use contain added sugar) in the Crispy rice treats might make them delicious, but no one gets a halo for avoiding sugars with that one.

It's a complex sentence -- for that reader who complained that things weren't sophisticated/intellectual enough! -- but it's correct. It means that there's a risk that it will be too sweet (saccharine), but it's not because it's paired with something tart. 

I'm afraid you're just not right about the jam/sugar comparison -- of course jam has less sugar than ... sugar, because it has other ingredients. But we're talking about taste, anyhow, and the idea is that there is a little tartness from the raspberries in play, too.

plant based diets have been shown over and over and over again to prevent and even cure chronic disease, obesity, and diabetes. not to mention plant based diets are the most ecologically responsible choice out there. Not only are they here to stay, they *SHOULD* be here to stay! //rant over :)

Nothing wrong with one or two articles aimed at inexperienced cooks - which we all were at some point - but this week it seemed like the balance was overwhelmingly directed in that direction, with only the "salted butter" article and the coconut bacon recipes for those of us who know which end of a knife to hold. Do we really need both "how to cook pasta" and "how to use herbs" articles in the same week? Using recipes that require swapping out a key ingredient because it's not in the official Voraciously-approved list isn't doing anyone any favors, either (I'm talking about the Peruvian chicken soup with its lack of cilantro, here); if you're going to be working to a restricted list like that, which is an interesting idea, then have the honesty to work to that list, rather than forcing something onto it by making major substitutions.

I bought some pea shoots for the first time for a recipe this week, and I love them--sort of a more substantial, tastier alfalfa sprout that doesn't feel so much like a hairball when you eat it. But they can fit an awful lot of them in a container! I have a ton left. What else can I do with them before they go bad? I'm cooking for one, no food restrictions.

You can toss a bunch into your favorite stir-fry or risotto just before it comes off the heat; use them as the greens on a sandwich or burger or in a grain bowl. Love them in this farro side dish that's just right for spring.

I love love love all varieties of squash, and this is one of my favorite squash dishes of all time. The photo isn't the most appetizing (sorry WaPo), but you will not be disappointed!

I once had lunch at a Oaxacan restaurant that placed a basket of tortillas and a bowl of chopped habanero peppers on the table the way other restaurants place crudites and dip, or rolls and butter. Reapers may be 65 times hotter (!?!?) but habanero peppers are so hot, they're sold individually, in sealed plastic bags so no-one accidentally has the skin on their hands come in contact with them. I ate a forkful of them, thinking the bowl held something to munch on while we waited. O.M. G.! -- meaning, Oh, My Gastriointestinal Tract! My tongue! I don't recall having an asthma attack like the British dietitian you quote cautions could happen to reaper-eaters, but I do wish there had been a warning sign, the food equivalent of "Danger - vicious dog!"

That's the thing about Carolina Reapers and similar peppers: They're so insanely hot that they make us forget how spicy common peppers are, like habaneros. 

 

A habanero is not messing around. The heat of a pepper can vary widely from plant to plant, but generally speaking, habaneros are 70 hotter than jalapenos. When handling them, you should wear kitchen gloves.

 

ARTICLE: Can a chile pepper really cause an 'incapacitating' headache?

Please explain the difference that makes Danish and some other butters taste so different (to me, much more delicious) than "regular" butter. Is it the cows? The feed? The way the cream is churned?

Guessing it's the some combination of all of the above, plus the fat content is usually higher, and more fat = more flavor.

As an ABC (American-born Chinese), I didn't begin my journey to "perfect" Western-style dishes until adulthood. I've gotten great at pasta bakes and various casseroles but I really want to learn how to make meatloaf. There are so many variations out there in Google-land... Any tried and true recipes that you can suggest? Also, I have several bags of frozen okra and my kids are getting tired of gumbo. Any suggestions? THANKS!!!

These Meatloaf Muffins are kid-friendly, for sure! And please try these quince-glazed ones, which are also individually portioned.

 

Re okra: This Tomato Gravy With Okra's really nice. And this recipe for Indian-Spiced Okra might give you ideas....take an okra-search spin through our Recipe Finder for more! 

Make any one of a number of cucumber/yogurt/dill/vinegar/garlic soups.

It's easier to stick to when I choose the fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, etc., that I like best. No need for martyrdom ;-)

Dill is the only herb that tastes the same to me fresh or dried. It also is the easiest herb to dry. So I'd suggest the poster with the dill plant dry some of those fronds for later use. Coincidentally, I just ran out ... ;)

'And using jam to curtail sweetness makes no sense: jam and sugar contain about the same amounts of sugar.' 'But we're talking about taste, anyhow, and the idea is that there is a little tartness from the raspberries in play, too.' Coming for Europe, Americans love their sweets sugary. It always amazes me that they consider something like raspberries tart - to me, they're very sweet - just not sugary.

I said they bring "a little tartness." It's not just a perception; it's a fact! Raspberries are sweet and sour, whether you're in America or Europe.

Based on six months' living in Denmark, it's better-fed cows and higher fat content. Those Danes know how to eat.

Special meal made for me at Bistro Poplar (which isn't very veg friendly): lentils with pea shoots and artichokes.

That sounds great! Can you describe it more for me? Was it salad-y, or more stewy?

Agave instead of the honey? Something else?

Sure, agave or maple should work. Try it and let us know!

According to several wikipedia entries, a tablespoon of sugar is 12 grams of sugar. The sugar content of jams varies from 10 to (form marmalade) 12 grams of sugar per tablespoon. So while one is correct in saying that most jams have a lower sugar content than sugar itself, isn't the real issue this: is the difference significant?

The original recipe merely said that the raspberry jam would help bring some tartness. We were not talking about actual sugar content, by grams; we were talking about flavor.

Sorry about the outdated comedy reference. anyway, you can buy heath bar bits in a bag, just like chocolate and other chips. I've seen them only at the Gourmet Giant up Rockville Pike at Montrose Crossing.

Right you are. But you don't need a bag's worth for this recipe. 

Interesting article on salted butter. My household buys both: unsalted butter for cooking and baking, and salted butter for “eating”. By “eating”, I mean as a spread. Unsalted butter just tastes wrong to me when spread on toast for example. (However, neither kind of butter by itself has tasted right to me since I started using coconut oil and ghee in cooking. Not sure why this is, since I buy organic butter. Although I still love a biscuit with butter and honey.) I don’t omit the salt from baked goods when using unsalted butter because I always think of a line from a story by Sylvia Townsend Warner: “the pinch of salt that seizes the flavour of a chocolate icing” and so consider the salt necessary for enhancing the taste.

It was a hot dish but more salady in texture - the puy lentils kept their shape and there wasn't any broth in the finished dish. I suspect the lentils were cooked first and the artichoke and pea shoots added towards the end. The lentils were beautifully seasoned.

Nice! It was artichoke hearts, or whole baby artichokes?

Seems someone wants your job, Joe! Please keep doing what you are doing! There's something for everyone in the WAPO food section.

I'm a decent home cook and I really like Voraciously. Judging by the cookbooks I get for gift-giving occasions, there are many other sources of complicated recipes and not that many sources of accessible and professionally tested and tasted recipes. Random things on the internet are not my friends.

About the Peruvian soup recipe, a few questions. Where it says “tenderloins, detached” do you still use them in the recipe? If not any reason not to use them in another recipe? Also, glad you had parsley listed 1st, showing the cilantro as optional. I’m one of the fairly large percent of the population to whom cilantro tastes awful. And lastly, the ‘dried quinoa’, I assume that is the same I buy in a bag in the store & add water to cook?

RECIPE Peruvian Chicken Soup

Some chicken breast halves are even thicker (and therefore slower to cook through) because they have a tenderloin attached, so in this recipe we're asking you to detach it or make sure it's not there, right from the start. Sure, you can add it if you want the soup to be even more chicken-riffic, but it will cook quicker than the breast half itself so remember to pull it out much sooner. Or yep, you can reserve for another recipe, like this one.

 

Parsley = check. 

 

The dried quinoa is the kind you can buy in a bag or box or bulk bin -- just 1/4 cup's all you need here. 

I love mamtaskitchen.com for pretty straightforward home-style Indian that is still very tasty. I've make her chicken biryani and it was very good. I've going to be a faff whatever way you chop it up but hers wasn't outrageously labor intensive and delish.

Thanks for the suggestion.

 

This looks to be the recipe.

Okra/okro originated in West Africa so there are innumerable recipes out there (albeit mostly stews...) that use okra. My favorite is a West African peanut stew https://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Classic-West-African-Peanut-Stew I sub extra firm baked tofu for the chicken and it turns out great!

I don't think it's a fact - my experience is that Europeans in general see raspberries as sweet.

I don't disagree that they "see" them this way! I'm  not talking about perception, th ough.

I would use finely-chopped crystallized ginger in lieu of the chocolate chips/

Please don't be so literal, OP. al dente for pasta means it should be firm to the tooth, not mushy. If you like your pasta cooked to mushy, go for it, but don't call it al dente. You can't translate some words (in any language) to English literally.

Aw, stop being such crabpots! In the first case, "voraciously" can and does mean with great enjoyment and enthusiasm. And to the "ooh, this is too simple for me" - we could all learn something new, and nobody knows everything. In my case, I can follow recipes wonderfully, but just don't have the talent to freestyle. I can bake difficult tortes, but looking at a refrigerator of ingredients makes my mind go blank. Cutting things down to basics is helping me think about why things are in recipes as opposed to just following the directions. I love the section, and thank you for it.

Okay - I am going against the majority here but I really enjoy this feature. I am an experienced cook (and not too bad if I do say so myself!) but I love reading the recipes. An "easy" recipe that is different from my usual rotation is always appreciated. As long as it tastes good! By the way, I always use salted butter in baking. I think it has to do with what was available when I was younger. Although unsalted is more widely available now I find I really don't care for the flavour.

I believe you are the majority, at least on the chat today! Thanks!

I'm not sure if the article regarding calorie counts at restaurants was something the Food section ran, but I have to admit I'm surprised that a news organization would advocate giving the public less access to information rather than more.

It was one perspective by one writer, citing studies that showed some of the effects. Was not the editorial board, or anything!

Will calorie counts on menus do more harm than good?

artichoke hearts. This was about four years ago and I still remember it.

THAT's a sign of a good dish, eh? Thanks for mentioning it!

Does kosher salt have less sodium than table salt by weight? Since the flakes are larger, you can't fit as much kosher into a teaspoon as you can table salt. I thought that was why recipes specify--because 1 tsp table is a LOT more salt than 1 tsp kosher.

Yeah, exactly. When you compare the same weight, they have about the same sodium levels. (5 grams Diamond Crystal kosher = 2000 mg; 5 grams table = 1938 mg.)

Are they destined to become artifacts of a bygone era? We buy a case of tuna every so often. The last time the cans had pull tabs on them. I joked can openers will be irrelevant once Campbell's starts using them. I noticed the latest Campbell's cans do have pull tabs. Farewell can openers!

I’m not exactly an “inexperienced cook” but I only cook for my [senior] self. I keep a minimum of spices, etc. on hand because It can be years before I use each again. I love to eat/cook good food and I think Voraciously has been a great addition to the Food section.

Someone gave me this recipe: equal parts Limoncello, Peach Schnapps, Vodka. Shake together with ice in a cocktail shaker. Cool and refreshing on a hot evening!

Recipe looks great! I assume from the photo that coconut flakes are wider then shredded, Would shredded work? What about the fresh young white coconut I have in the freezer? What is baby gem lettuce? Never heard of it or seen it as far as I know. I see I can just substitute romaine hearts, but curious.

I made it with large, unsweetened flakes. I don't think shredded would be a good idea, but you could try it with the fresh coconut! Please let us know. Depending on the thickness of the shavings (is it shaved?), the timing will probably be different.

Little gem is a great variety of lettuce -- it's like baby romaine. I see it in farmers markets and sometimes at stores.

 

...then don't read it? I don't understand why so many chatters are upset by the fact WaPo Food is seeking to add more home cooks to our little community! The world loves complaining that millennials don't cook, are lazy and get take-out, etc. but the second a publication tries to reach said "lazy" kids, people freak out. Sheesh! Let's all play nice and support those new to the kitchen.

Well said.

This was my father - he would look at what was in the fridge and then make a fab off the cuff meal. I learned a lot from him about how flavors and textures go together. You're right - there's not a lot out there to teach us this.

Truly, it reminds me of KidsPost and would work well there.

Americans see raspberries as sweet, too! But they have other aspects to their flavor that give that sweetness more complexity than the sweetness of sugar. One of those aspects is tartness. A bit of tartness doesn't make them any less sweet in my opinion, and that may be where all this confusion is coming in, if there are some readers who think "tart" automatically means "not sweet".

Yes. This is not a zero-sum game!

I like the content in Voraciously, I just wish the recipes were printer friendly.

We've started putting in a link at the bottom of each recipe taking you to the Recipe Finder version, which is printer-friendlier.

I was *just* thinking about writing to the chat regarding salt in dessert recipes, and then Voraciously offers an article on salted butter. My original comment was in response to the Nigella Lawson blondie recipe. I made it, and was underwhelmed. I think it lacked salt. I have made other recipes of hers, and I have found the salt level to be off. I originally wanted to attribute the issue to her, but perhaps it is more prevalent among recipe writers?

 

I also recently made a batch of babka from the Breaking Breads cookbook that underwhelmed me, partly because of a lack of salt. Regardless, I have started using the salted cultured butter found at Trader Joe's in some of my savory cooking, and it really makes a difference. To me. I know that it is much easier to control salt in a baking recipe by using unsalted butter and adding salt to taste, but baking recipes are so precise I fear tinkering. Thanks for letting me ponder.

(Aside: your veggie ramen recipe is fabulous, Joe.)

Ponder away! Sorry you weren't totally sold on the pudding cake. We all looooved it here, but I bet it would be equally lovely with some nice sea salt sprinkled on before baking, if that's your jam. A commenter also wasn't crazy about the ginger and proposed using vanilla instead. I think this recipe is pretty adaptable to your preferred flavors.

Interesting you tend to find things undersalted. I often find recipes from cookbooks or definitely chefs tend to have more salt than I might want. I bet it also is a matter of taste and sensitivity, kind of like sweetness. What's salty to me might not be to you, etc.

Thanks for the TJ's butter tip. I think other people have recommended that one too. Will have to check it out.

My toddler loves dill pickled green beans. Do you have any recipes for refrigerator-style pickles I could make with green beans and other vegetables for him? Thanks!

You can do these! The recipe calls for full canning, but it also notes that you can skip that and just refrigerate them -- just eat them within a week. And if you don't think your toddler would like the Indian spices, you can just leave 'em out.

RECIPE: Curry Spiced Pickled Green Beans

DIdn't notice it mentioned but my go-to fromthe grocery store, or in bulk from Costco, is Kerrygold.

Since I'm not that much of an experimental cook, I'm not sure I could notice the difference. I mean, I'm fine at cooking, that's not the issue. When my father had a heart attack in the late 70's, we kind of gave up salt at home. I use it when I need it in recipes. I've never missed it and don't think I've ever bought salted butter, unless it was by accident.

Fresh cream straight from the cow and unpasteurized is best. Now you have to know your source and I do since its the rancher next door. Ice cream made with unpasteurized cream and milk can't be beat.

Last week I made the pasta and lentils. My husband was very skeptical and he didn't think the picture looked good either. I forged ahead and once again, it was a winner. We eat a lot of lentils but somehow the idea of pasta and lentils together didn't sound good to him. Thank you guys for helping me put good meals on the table. This recipe is going into permanent rotation.

I feel like I've had my head burried in the sand approach and now I'm paying the price. I had a dr appt and have high blood pressure and high cholesterol so obviously it's time to change my meals, eat healthy and do something about it. That being said I need help with foods. I tend to prefer chicken but what are some good options that are healthy and as important taste great? Obviously the sauced foods that taste so good are out.

You should follow our great healthy-recipe columnist, Ellie Krieger. Every week her Nourish recipe strikes a great balance.

Hi. I'm a single person who used to love to cook. When my kids and their spouses and kids are home, I'm in kitchen heaven. But other than those times, I resort to Lean Cuisine and take-out. I read your columns and can practically taste some of the recipes but....back to the frozen stuff. How can I re-ignite my former cooking passion? Every week "I'm gonna do it" but.....I never quite get there. Suggestions?

Maybe set a modest goal? A new recipe per week? Pick in advance, buy the ingredients, pour yourself a glass of wine and have at it.

Or perhaps buy a cookbook that really sings to you and work your way through that.

A motivator might be to get together with other people. Find other folks like you? A cookbook club is another fun way to do this. If you really need that push, knowing you have to make something to feed other folks (like with your family) might just help.

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's not worth the health risks, ever. There's good reason that Pasteurization is considered major progress, and that Pasteur is regarded as a pioneer and hero.

Ugh... We get it. Some people of it: some people hate it. Can we go back to the food talk. That’s much more pleasant.

How does one butter have more fat than another? Unless it's purposely "reduced fat." Apologies if this is too basic a question.

Not too basic! Actually I can't find a concise answer so I'm going to be lame and point you to this Wikipedia article about butter (check the production section). Someone please chime in if they can provide an explanation. 

Also, this reminds me of an article from last year that you might be interested in: 
Our messed-up relationship with food has a long history. It started with butter.

One thing I have difficulty with is how much dry pasta to measure/weigh out per person? While dry a handful doesn't look like a lot when cooked up it's a huge plate full.

Our rule of thumb for nutritional analysis is 2 ounces per person, but that might be a little slight for some appetites. I usually do more like 3 or 4, and then hope for leftovers!

I have noticed that most recipes for roasting chicken ask for chicken that weigh 3-3.5 lb. In the grocery store however I can find only chicken that weigh 5-6.5 lb or more. How does the size of chicken affect cooking time and temperature?

Yes, I was running into this when I published my roast chicken recipe. I would leave the temperature the same but increase the time. I can't say for sure what that is, because it does depend on what temp you're cooking at, the actual size, the recipe, etc.

ARTICLE: Roasting a chicken is as easy as putting a baking sheet in the oven

As a fellow single person who loves to cook but has trouble bothering for 'just me', I've found that picking a day to cook a batch of (xyz) for the week (assuming you're good with multi days of leftovers, which I am) and making fairly regular trips to the farmers market are key. Seeing the fresh ingredients inspires and tempts me to pick things that I then need to use or lose, and having fresh-made leftovers already in the fridge makes it much less tempting to go for the freezer or delivery.

Some grape tomatoes shriveled up on the kitchen counter until now they look like sun-dried tomatoes, except there was no sun involved. Should they be okay to eat?

Ehhhhh, you say "dried," I think "kinda rotten." I'd pass.

My late father kept his under control by squeezing fresh lemon juice (in place of butter) on veggies and white meat/fish/seafood, and used herbs and spices in lieu of most salt for seasoning. He also cut way back on the size of his meat/fish servings (e.g., 1/4 of a chicken breast, instead of 1/2), while increasing the quantities of fruits and vegetables in his diet.

Perhaps now would be a great time to let readers know that Morton's Kosher Salt is TWICE as salty by volume as Diamond Crystal.

Interesting -- I'm seeing 280 for Diamond Crystal vs. 480 for Morton's, per 1/4 teaspoon. Not quite twice, but yeah.

Seen on a t-shirt at a concert in farm country.

Well, you've dislodged us while still warm, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the q's! 

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who helped me try to explain the sweet/tart balance of raspberries will get "How to Taste" by Becky Selengut. The one who asked if plant-based eating was a passing fancy will get "Vegan 100" by Gaz Oakley. Send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your book.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick is Deputy Food Editor and recipe editor at The Post. Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is The Post's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman is a food staff writer at The Post. He writes the weekly $20 Diner column.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
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