Free Range on Food: Beer Madness, superfoods and more

Apr 02, 2014

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

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat! What's on your mind, in your pantry, on your back burner, in your shopping bag today?

Hopefully you were inspired by Tim's profile of Marjorie Meek-Bradley to get out and about, or to stay in to make one of her recipes: I've got my eye on that Ricotta With Pickled and Roasted Baby Carrots, personally.

We also had Bonnie's latest superfoods-challenge piece, this time spotlighting Airlie chefs' recipes that use tea and chocolate, including an amazing Tea-Infused Rice Noodle Soup. And Carrie Allan writes about the peach brandy coming out of Mount Vernon. (Did anyone make the trip to try to score a PRICEY bottle?)

We've got Carrie in the room today to take any cocktail/spirits questions, and Greg "Beer Madness" Kitsock, too -- he can talk about the latest round, which unveiled the Elite 8. Who's your favorite area brewer you want to take the whole thing?

In case you've got any grilling/BBQ questions on the brain now that it's FINALLY spring, Jim "Smoke Signals" Shahin will be with us, too!

We'll have a giveaway book for the source of our favorite post this week: It'll be a copy of David Joachim's "Cooking Light Global Kitchen," source of my Weeknight Veg recipe this week.

No more windup -- let's talk!

So sorry I couldn't respond to the reader asking for more details--I ran off to a meeting and didn't get back in time. Hopefully he/she is back (submitting super early so I don't forget on Wednesday!) This is the recipe that I used for the roasted chickpeas. I cannot emphasize enough getting them dry once they're drained and rinsed. If they're not dry enough, they'll be mushy in the middle. They'll still taste fantastic, though. I kept my leftovers in a glass Mason jar and they stayed crispy for the two days it took me to finish them off. Such a yummy snack!


Frying fan that I am, I've made these that way, which is of course fabulous, too. (Yes, messier than roasting.)

I cooked in the UK with real cinnamon, since the labeling laws required that it be real. Here, there is a difference--ever so slight--and I'm not good at identifying it. I've been away from baking in Britain for enough years that the smell is a memory. I bought Vietnamese cinnamon at MOMs--with choices for cinnamon and organic cinnamon. The aroma of the Vietnamese was sharper. I'd rather buy bulk spices at MOMs than spend extra for containers of less fresh herbs and spices elsewhere. (I had to throw out the prepacked herbs de Provance I bought elsewhere since the herbs had lost all aroma and my family said it was like straw in the dish). Did I get real cinnamon?

Your Vietnamese cinnamon is, likely, a variety of Cassia, which is often sold as true cinnamon. Cassia is bolder and more pungent than real cinnamon. Here's a handy guide on spotting the visual clues between the two.

I tried your on-line recipe for cauliflower-pasta gratin before the weather changed. Afraid I didn't like it that much (yes, I followed it pretty exactly). However, it lead to a different dillema. What was I to do with all the rest of the rosemary after I used one "sprig" for the recipe? Is there a way to substitute dried herbs instead so I don't have to throw the fresh ones away when they turn black? And I have to say that this looks wonderful, but I don't think I have ever seen sprigs of tarragon on sale. I don't even have dried tarragon in my kitchen. Can I get the dried and use some formula to substitute? It looks like you aren't supposed to eat the tarragon which you would do if it was in little flakes. Does that make a big difference?

The general rule is that you can substitute 1 tsp dried herbs for every 1 tbsp fresh.

I see where you're coming from, but I would advise you not to totally switch to dried. I used to think like that, but then I saw how much of a difference fresh sage made in this Pasta With Creamy Pumpkin Sauce. If you have a little window, balcony or patio space, I suggest you grow some herbs in pots. I vastly increased my potted herb collection last year, and it was easy, cheap and hassle-free. Then you just snip off what you want when you want it. As to that recipe you link to, I'm not sure you're going to get the same flavor from the dried tarragon. Seems like the fresh sprigs are in there to really infuse the sauce. I doubt dried will pack a similar punch. I've definitely seen fresh tarragon at various grocery stories in those little clamshell herb packages.

When I look at a recipe that calls for coconut milk, unless stated otherwise, should I use the canned coconut milk? With coconut milk showing up in the grocery store next to dairy and soy milk, I'm not sure which one a recipe is referring to nowadays.

Use the canned -- and go for the low-fat version unless the recipe specifically recommends otherwise. 


Speaking of recipes that call for the stuff, have you tried Hot Duck and Coconut Noodles?

A friend and I are taking a Sunday afternoon Thai cooking class with a restaurant chef. It's BYOW and we have no idea what the specific menu will be. Any general suggestions what might be good with 'typical" Thai flavors, if there is such a thing? Or is this a case where we just bring what we simply like?

Dave McIntyre says:

I suggest fruity wines rather than something heavy and oaky. A touch of sweetness can also help with spicy hot foods. So Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and other aromatic whites (a dry muscat from Spain or even a Moscato) come to mind. For reds, look for fruity with good palate-cleansing acidity, such as Beaujolais, Barbera, or a Bonarda from Argentina. 


You might win the award for inspired choices if you bring a sparkling craft cider from Foggy Ridge in VA or Great Shoals in MD.

Joe's recipe, I think. So, question to Joe. I now have a new chicken wing recipe (Monica Bhide's site) that I really want to try. Intend to sub yogurt for the cream in the marinade but would like to have them roasted in the oven on wire rack but wonder if it is possible to have them turn out as crispy as yours. Maybe wipe off most of the marinade?

If I were you, I'd try Monica's recipe as written first and see what you think before making adjustments in the goal of getting them crispy. Yes, you could wip off most of the marinade, but that's where so much of the flavor is, right? The Hands-Down Best Chicken Wings recipe you're referring to in our DB uses just hot sauce, which is packed with flavor but there's not much of it, which is partly what allows these to be crispy, in addition to the air circulation provided by the wire rack.

Greetings. Any thoughts on where to find a good selection of Kosher wines in NOVA. Last year's search at Wegmans was fruitless (pardon the pun). And while we're at it, any suggestions for a dry white Kosher for Passover wine? Thank you!

Dave McIntyre's column on this very topic will be posted online in a few days.

A preview you'll appreciate: Joseph Mellot La Graveliere 2012 / $34 / "An excellent sauvignon blanc, crisp with a hint of grassiness and minerality." /  Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits; MacArthur Beverages; Potomac Wine & Spirits. In MD: in Gaithersburg; Old Farm Liquors in Frederick; Wine Harvest in Potomac. Hag sameach! 

Does pasta continue to cook much if taken off of the heat, but left in the water?


How would it compare to apple brandy which I am familiar with. Are there any recipes that would peach brandy like apple brandy? The good apply brandy tends to complement items like apple pie or tarts.

So I would say it depends on whether you're talking specifically about the Mount Vernon version of the brandy, or peach brandy in general. Some of the peach brandies I've tried have been iffy -- too sweet, etc. Others have barely any sweetness at all. Catoctin Creek makes a nice one that's substantially less pricey than what was just released by Mount Vernon, and it's similar to good apple brandy in that it has some barrel but a good note of the fruit. I haven't messed around with it much with recipes yet, but it's a lovely after-dinner sip.

I was shocked to read on a healthy-living site that orange rind supposedly has toxic qualities that make it unsafe or at least unwise for consumption. I've been eating it for years in various Chinese restaurant dishes and I grew up on Constant Comment tea. A quick 'Net search turns up more articles touting the benefits of orange peel or rind than warnings, but I'd like your input: If it's organic, is orange peel (rind) something best eaten rarely or not at all? You'll be deciding the fate of a bottle full of dried orange peel that I bought at a health-food store. BTW, sorry I can't figure out in my browser history which was the site where I read the danger claim.

In a perfect world, where orange trees are grown only in rich organic soil and cultivated with a loving hand, the peel would be perfectly safe to eat. It can even help with digestion since it's full of fiber.


But the world is full of chemicals and insects. Chemicals and insect eggs can both settle into the rind. People claim that cleaning the oranges well will solve the problem. But I prefer another method to guarantee safe orange peel eating: Buy organic.

I admit it. I think every baked bean I've ever had has come from a can. Even my mom's special recipe starts with Ranch Style beans. I'd like to make homemade beans. Using dried beans, do I cook the beans to get them soft and then add flavorings and seasonings to get them to that baked bean taste and texture? Any suggestions or recipes? Note: I have no crockpot so no crock pot beans.

You'll want to cook the  beans first, then add the flavorings, etc. Here's one way maple-y to go.


And another, that calls for a long-boiled reduction of cider (worth the effort, as we like to say).

P.S. This recipe starts with canned beans, but the dish is fantastic. All baked in the oven. 

To the poster who asked about how to use extra rosemary: There was a recipe in the WP in 2009 for Rosemary Orange Shortbread Cookies. They are wonderful!

Rosemary-Orange Shortbread Cookies

Thanks for the endorsement.

If you're a baker, try the Tuscan Rosemary and Pine Nut Bars the Post published a few years ago. Shortbread with a big kick. You can even leave out the pine nuts.

Tuscan Rosemary and Pine Nut Bars

They like us! They really like us!

you know when you open a tub of sour cream or of cream cheese, and there is that plastic layer under the lid? Does that just come off completely the first time you open the tub, or am I supposed to try to keep it on until it starts driving me crazy? Thanks!

I rip the whole thing off, but maybe the idea is supposed to be that you press it down into the cream after opening to protect against air. Hmm...

I was reading about highball drinks. With spring coming and warmer weather (hopefully) on the way, I thought they could be good to make soon. A lot of them call for pouring soda or tonic and top but don't say anything about stirring. Shouldn't they be stirred? Or are they not supposed to be? Seems like if you don't stir then your first couple sips are just soda water and by the time you're done the drink isn't fizzy.

When I make a G & T -- especially if using a tonic syrup, when stirring really isn't optional -- I stir it very gently and very briefly -- as in, long spoon, one soft turn around the glass. Doesn't ruin the fizz too much.

A question for Carrie. I bought pear brandy up in Maine a few years ago and loved it, but when I go to the ABC stores, there's nothing but that cloying peach brandy you referred to in today's article. I'm interested in any fruit brandy that isn't sickeningly sweet. Do you have recommendations beyond the Mt. Vernon brandy mentioned today? I know it wasn't necessarily recommended, but it sounded good! I just wish the price were lower. Something along the lines of $30 for a bottle, maybe $40. Is that too little to offer when expecting a good bottle of fruit brandy?

Catoctin's peach brandy is nice and sells around $40, I believe. I haven't tried the one from Huber's Starlight Distillery, and of course there's the issue with access in both VA and MoCo liquor offerings. That said, Clear Creek makes a really nice apple brandy that you can get at for $28 right now; there's a pricier version I haven't tried. But any time you're on the road near a good local distillery, go check it out -- several of the distillers who were involved in the Mount Vernon project make excellent fruit brandies of their own.

Went to Taste of the Nation on Monday and one of the restaurants served up a tasty ramp soup, which got me excited that their season was near. When can we expect them to make an appearance at the farmers markets (particularly interested in Dupont)? Fingers crossed you say this weekend! And to offer up a recipe, I highly recommend this ramp risotto from Serious Eats.

I'll respond with Ricotta Frittata!

Our FreshFarm spies say it's looking like 4/13 -- hopefully, not definitely -- at Dupont for ramps.

I've had a number of tasty, healthy meals at restaurants that have featured wheatberries. Finding them was easy, but knowing how to treat them - not so much. I'd really appreciate helpful hints and a recipe or two. (p.s. I'm a little concerned because I was notorious for not being able to make good rice, until I found the technique in which you simmer it in a LOT of water, then drain and steam for a bit. I'm afraid this bad rice aura might extend to wheatberries...)

Like many legumes, wheat berries benefit from an overnight soak before you cook them. Here's a little primer on wheat berries and how to cook them.


As for recipes, we have a number of them for you:

Add-In Wheat Berry Salad


Wheat Berry Salad With Oranges, Cherries and Pecans


Wheat Berry and Chickpea Salad With Olives and Feta Cheese


Other recipes can be found here.

It seemed like all the recipes I was interested in this week contained almonds in one form or another - I don't care for their taste and my boyfriend is mildly allergic, so that was a bummer. The dark chocolate mousse looked great however. Can I sub in normal milk? is the almond milk what makes it more healthful?

Is it just almonds that he's allergic to? Other nuts OK? I'll let Bonnie verify the mousse idea, but I'd think that, yes, regular milk would be fine here; it's the chocolate and egg whites that set up the mousse, not the almond milk so much. And since you're not using heavy cream, I think using regular milk would put you in the same ballpark calorie/fat-wise as the almond milk. (Another idea: coconut milk.)

For my red whole-wheat penne recipe, you could certainly use a different nut in that sauce: cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts would all work, I'd think.

Editor Joe's right. You could use regular milk in the mousse. Almond milk has no saturated fat or cholesterol and obviously it's lactose-free. You don't taste the almond milk in this recipe, fyi. 


No almonds in these terrific Vindaloo-Marinated Pork Skewers from chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley! Or her Roasted Cauliflower or ricotta carrot dishes! Or in Stephanie Sedgwick's healthful cod with grilled relish

Where can I find watercress seeds? I checked Home Depot already. No luck.

You can definitely buy online, through a site such as Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Going to try roasting some chickpeas tonight for an office party tomorrow. Any advice?

Look at the top of the chat for a recipe!

That recipe is even better if you ditch the orange flavored items and sub in chopped candied ginger. Rosemary Ginger shortbread!

You've made it both ways?

Thank you soooo much for contacting Pati Jinich with my question about how to use fresh epazote! And for passing along not only her answer and recipe links but also info on where to buy dried epazote online (for those times I can't get to Mt. Pleasant/Col. Heights). You guys are like an interactive culinary encyclopedia plus help-line -- Lucky us! Thanks again.

Jane Touzalin does a great job with those Chat Leftovers, doesn't she?

Pasta with potatoes recipe -- yum. But will it and pasta recipes in general work if I use a non-wheat pasta? I'd much appreciate suggestions for which non-wheat pastas are easiest to substitute without recipe adjustments -- either by brand or in terms of rice vs brown rice vs corn or whatever else pasta is made from, besides wheat. Thanks so much!

Most pasta recipe we run instruct you to cook the pasta according to the package directions -- and, indeed, for most purposes I think you could sub in non-wheat pastas wherever you'd like. In this recipe, a brown-rice pasta would work nicely, I'd think. I haven't tried many of the others, I'm afraid. Chatters, anyone with more experience than I in gluten-free pasta?

Not quite a food question, but without an oven the food doesn't get cooked! The computerized buttons for my oven have quit working (the stovetop, controlled by basic knobs, works fine), and it may not be worth it to repair. So I was considering and induction stove, which I've heard cooks like gas. I know no one who has one and have seen reviews online that vary from one extreme to another, with everything in between. Have you--the experts!--used one? Can you recommend or dissuade? What should I be wary of? Thanks so much! LOVE the chats!

I recently switched to induction because I bought a house with no gas coming in, and I'm loving it. I had gotten used to it during my year in Maine, so I was ahead of the game, I suppose. It's more responsive than gas, and very environmentally friendly. No extra, ambient heat created, so good for hot summers. The downside is that you can't use just ANY cookware on it -- has to have a high enough percentage of magnetic metal. Cast iron and most (but not all) stainless steel works, but aluminum and copper don't unless they have a magnetic layer on the bottom. Most manufacturers are labeling, but the easiest way to test is to take a fridge magnet to the store and see if it sticks to the bottom.

Joe, can you suggest the best alternative vegetarian recipe that incorporates the flavor without any meat?

The flavor of chicken wings? I tend to make things that showcase the flavor of the vegetables these days, but I suppose you could do this treatment with firm tofu or with tempeh, and you'd get all that hot-sauce flavor.

One of my favorite pasta sauces to eat at a restaurant or even from a grocery store isle is vodka sauce. But I have never made it. I know the alcohol extracts flavor from the tomatoes. Do you know of a good recipe for making this? Are there any challenges?

Vodka sauce is a fascinating subject on its own, as  J. Kenji Lopez-Alt proves in his Food Lab experiments over at Serious Eats. The key, he learns, is to keep the alcohol percentage low, otherwise the alcohol will bind up other chemical compounds and minimize the flavor.


As for recipes, try this one from Food & Wine, which keeps the vodka levels low.

Maybe too late for a good discussion on the chat, but what do people bring with them on planes to eat? For example, I'd much rather bring fresh veggies, an orange, prosciutto, little cheeses, a roll and of course some chocolate instead of getting the airline meal. (This is of course if I have time to prepare in advance.)

I bring several pieces of fruit (and a wad of paper towels to eat them with!), nuts, granola bars and maybe some dried fruit and my own scones or mandelbread.

I'm never organized enough to do this! (Plus, I always cut it VERY close getting to the airport.)

I confess, one of my "slacker meals" is canned tuna with canned artichoke hearts. Rough chop, bit of mayo, salt/pepper, maybe a shot of lemon juice. What spice would you add to such a mix to make it a bit more interesting?

This is going to shock regular readers, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest: smoked paprika!

Yup, I've tried both to use up extra rosemary. My family likes ginger better. More sparky. The orange was ...ok. The ginger was teee-riffic. YMMV.

Glad to hear it! Just wanted to make sure, cause sometimes people suggest changes in recipes without actually trying them! Thanks.

Hi Carrie, you made me want to drink a peach brandy with your story (and this is coming from someone who is not a huge brandy fan from the few times I've tried it). I'm still having trouble accessing the old chat where you answered my questions, so 'll ask you again, maybe phrasing it in a new way - what are your most used utensils and spirits when you're making your own cocktails at home?

Here's her answer to your original question:

Sounds to me like you've got a great start, and glad you've got the ice front covered! I'm sure there's lots of thinking on this, but our home bar (which, to be more factual, is better described as "our monstrously spreading collection of alcohol that will one day become so large we'll have to live in a tent in the backyard") includes several versions of all the base spirits. I would add some classics like green chartreuse, Benedictine, creme de violette, and maraschino. One thing I didn't see in your list was bitters, which I think are key to keep around -- start with the classics, Peychaud's, Angosture, orange, then branch out. A few of the bitters lines make packages of "travel" sizes, so you can play around with the minis before committing to a full $16 bottle -- check Salt & Sundry at Union Market for some good products, and Ace Beverage always has a good supply as well. Beyond that, I guess I would want to know about your focus: is your goal to please the scores of guests you regularly have over for cocktails, or more to please yourself? Garnishes are always good to have, but some (maybe most) of them you need to buy fresh for visitors. But if you're mostly investigating for your own pleasure, since you say you're a Negroni fan, you might start investigating beyond Campari? Aperol, Capelletti, Gran Classico … maybe get into some of the gentian liqueurs like Suze and Salers?




Also -- how could I forget -- vermouth! Buy in small bottles whenever possible because the stuff does go bad, and keep opened bottles in the fridge. 

Hi all! I recently made the roasted turnips with mushrooms and wine recipe from the Post, and it turned out mostly well. However, the sauce had a problem that I have encountered many times when making a red wine-based sauce. I can't seem to get the sauce to thicken; even when I reduce it according to the instructions, it generally has nearly the taste and consistency that it would have if I poured wine over the dish. Am I just not patient enough? It wasn't as big a deal for this dish, because it didn't require a sauce to be terribly thick, but wine reductions in general seem to flummox me. Which is a shame, because I love them. What might I be doing wrong?

The easiest way to make sure any liquid, including wine, reduces more quickly is to do it in a wide, shallow pan so there's more surface area to evaporate.

For this recipe, you're right, it gets reduced just by 1/4 to 1/2, and can stay pretty thin, but if you want it down more, I'd use an oven-safe dish (like enamel-coated cast iron) and transfer it to the stovetop. You could take the vegetables out and keep cooking down the sauce and then recombine.

I read on a cooking blog (can't remember the name to save my life...) that low-fat coconut milk is just watered down regular coconut milk. It suggested that if you want to make your own low-fat version, just get the regular kind and use a 1:1 ratio with water. True story or internet misinformation?

When I open a can of low-fat coconut milk vs. a can of regular, I can spy with my little eye that there's less fat at the top, and less listed in the nutritional information. 

While I'd stick to to the advice of organic only, I have always lived with an orange tree or two in my yard so I've been eating orange rinds (and pith) since I've had teeth and I'm a very healthy 73-year-old.

It would seem that daily fruit consumption does lead to a long and healthy life. Thanks for chiming in!

Cassia is not only not true cinnamon, but it is has more Coumarin, which is not good for our livers. Ceylon is healthier, lighter in color.

That's what some experts say, yes. Though I think alcohol consumption is probably worse, at least in significant doses.

In the granola recipe today with chocolate and plums you are adding flax seeds. Flax seeds do nothing nutritionally unless they are ground - will go right through you if left whole.

I think the chefs included them for added texture, not for their nutritional benefit in this recipe -- there's just 1 tablespoon for 4 servings. But to make the most of EVERY bite of this, sure, grind or roast them first. A helpful nit to pick. 

Many thanks for sharing! Can't wait to give these a try.

I think it is to show the contents hasn't been tampered with. Once you open it you can discard the film, but if you open a new container and the film is not in place I would return the product.

I like to bring home made beef jerky or if that is not available, bought beef jerky. It is filling, tasty, not messy as some fruit can be, has little odor to bother other passengers and is not likely to cause a problem for people with allergies.

I go to Penzey's for cinnamon and all other spices and herbs. You can smell all of the herbs in store. They also have 4 types of cinnamon and are very clear if it is real or cassia.

Here's a tip: The cinnamon (soft sticks and ground) sold at Latino grocery stores has good flavor (not the "red hots" intensity, not cassia) and is almost always less expensive. I've seen it sold on the intl aisle at Giant and on Amazon too -- Badia brand.

Anyone know how to pronounce this? I want to say "EEN-hera" but I think that's putting a Spanish spin on it.

Yes, it is. Pronounce it "in-JER-ah."

I have an induction hot plate. It came with a metal disk with a handle that you can place on the induction unit in order to use non-magnetic cookware. However, that does defeat the purpose of having a 'burner' that doesn't heat up.

Interesting, but yes -- defeats that one purpose. Plus, I can't imagine it's as efficient/responsive. Have you tried it alongside induction-friendly cookware to compare?

Among the new batch of seasonal beers in the stores (and what with the prospect of actual spring!), does Greg have any recommendations on new sips to try? Thanks as aways for the chat!

I'm seeing a lot of saisons popping up. Recently, I enjoyed the new Allagash Saison from Allagash Brewing in Portland, Me. A lot of nice spicy and fruity flavors, all (as far as I know) from the yeast. I also liked Anchor Saison and Victory's Swing Session Saison, both of which contain spices. 

I thought wheatberries were just a form of wheat, which is the seed of a cool season grass. Or are they from a different plant which is a legume?

No, you're right. The wheat berries are the entire wheat kernel (minus the hull). But these berries tend to be treated like legumes when cooked. Apologies for the confusion.

My kid doesn't like lasagne or other ricotta-stuffed pastas. These are my husband's favorite foods. Any ideas for alternatives that would make them both happy?

They look awesome, except for the fact that I despise anise and coconut flakes (the milk is fine) any substitutions, or should I just omit them?

The recipe's a guideline for you. Change to suit your taste! Without star anise you'll lose some depth/complexity, though. Is there another whole spice you could sub -- allspice maybe?  Maybe use something else crunchy on top -- those crunchy fried Asian shallots?

I use to be of the mentality that if I can't nuke it I won't eat it. But due to some food restrictions and monetary restrictions, I am now getting into cooking, specifically, rice pudding, quinoa and -- wait for it -- yogurt (using non-diary products). I am looking for a cooker that does all three, and a no-brainer to use. Any suggestions. (PS: you can dry rosemary on the dashboard of your car, and your car will smell nicely. You can also add other herbs and peels, but that's another forum!) Thanks.

I know a cooker that can handle all three: Your oven! Do you have one?

If they're sitting next to me, then what people usually eat is a big greasy bag of something that stinks up the whole plane.

I was waiting for this perspective to arrive!

Now that spring is arriving, I'm really in the mood for spring produce. Besides asparagus, what should I be on the lookout for in early spring?

Radishes, ramps, baby lettuces and other baby greens. A little later, peas, fava beans, green garlic. Rhubarb, of course. Even later into spring, strawberries.

Would you (dare) take kimchi to eat on an airplane trip? I've gotten complaints about the smell in a big office...

I would -- well, if I were organized enough, as I said earlier -- but then again, I'm a kimchi obsessive and think everybody needs to learn to not just live with the smell, but to love it -- and love eating it.

I don't know, that sounds pretty good to me! Maybe some kind of crunch from another veggie, or tarragon?

I have a bit of an unusual question I could use advice on. In the last couple of years I've gotten into cooking but I have a very limited number of spices I like using. I don't like oregano, saffron, etc. etc. and I need some new ones to cook with! Any ideas for good ways to sample what I like without having to buy them all?

Maybe try going to a place such as the Spice & Tea Exchange (locations in Alexandria and Georgetown), where you can choose what you want in the amounts you want.

Sad story about ongoing staff upheaval. Would you till go there to eat?

If you haven't read about it, the Tabard Inn lost is veteran chef last week. There will obviously be a transition in the kitchen for a while.


I'm loathe to say whether or not you should eat there without tasting the food that the current kitchen produces.

I'd like to give it a try. I'm never overwhelmed with jarred/tube versions. Any particular recipe you think is THE one?

Try this one -- with the imprimatur of Joan Nathan, no less!  I think Pereg Gourmet harissa is quite good. 


To the OP who wondered about buying 7 sprigs of tarragon (and yes, that recipe is delicious!), some stores sell small quantities of pre-packaged herbs, and that is what I did for this recipe. There is still some left over however, and I am looking for suggestions for using them up.

Tarragon recipes this way!

I would get herbs from the farmer and well, use some and then toss them. just google it - it's easy. But basically to dry most herbs, you hang them upside down, put them in a paper bag, punch a few holes in the bag, and then hang it for a month or two or longer. it's really easy. now I have too many dried herbs, but at least I won't be throwing them away! and it's awesome that my basil does NOT get thrown away anymore.

Good advice. Wish I'd thought ahead more and done that to some of my beauties before the cold set in.

Also Blue Bee Cider in Richmond, Virginia.

I'd like to see more sparkling ciders. It's my understanding though that if the carbonation is above a certain level, ciders (the hard ones anyway) get hit with an exorbitant champagne tax. Obviously, this isn't true for beer taxation.

I always tell my spouse that superfoods fight crime in the evenings.

Been married long? :)

What is the difference between the canned coconut milk and the stuff in the carton? I'm just getting into cooking Thai food, and I tried the refrigerated kind in a chicken curry -- seemed fine to me, but I don't know what it was supposed to taste like! Thanks.

The stuff in the carton can be flavored (vanilla). And it can contain additives you don't need.  If you can find the canned brands that are BPA-free, seems like that's a long-shelf-life way to roll. 

I didn't even know you were supposed to soak them and I never have. They turn out well all the time. I love them and I make a zesty chili with them, yum!

Some don't soak their beans, either, and they produce tasty dishes from the legumes. I don't think these are hard and fast rules.

No, Joe, I haven't compared the two, but I will and let you know.


I'd ditch the mayo and use olive oil and either lemon juice or red wine vinegar.

So if I read you correctly, Tim, if I consume After Shock and Goldschlager I should be just fine? Ha

Not exactly what I was saying, but you could give it a try and report back, yes? :)

Are you saying the Badia brand is real cinnamon?

Seems like it to me. I 'll call the company; since we're running outta time today, check back next week?

you can eat it without the smell bothering your neighbors. Do it the Korean way and put it in your kim-bab (Korean sushi-like rolls). My mom used to pack these for my lunches growing up and no one was offended, and you know how honest kids are.

Well, you've garnished each of us with berries, lavender and a chiffonade of mint, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and thanks to Carrie and Greg for helping with the a's.

Now for the giveaway book: The chatter who first set off this discussion of cinnamon will get "Cooking Light Global Kitchen." Send your mailing info to and she'll get it to you.

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is editor of the Food section; joining us today are deputy editor Bonnie Benwick, staff writer Tim Carman, Spirits columnist Carrie Allan, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin, Beer columnist Greg Kitsock and editorial aide Becky Krystal.
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