Free Range on Food: Vegan mac and cheese, hard root beer, bay scallops and more. Special guest Anna Thomas joins us.

Apr 20, 2016

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! I had a little technical difficulty, so my intro will be short and sweet!

PostPoints code: FR8634 . 

Giveaway books: A SIGNED copy of "Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore" by Anna Thomas and "Flavorwalla" by Floyd Cardoz.

Next up: Dorie Greenspan's chat, right at 1!

OK, let's go!

I'd love to see more recipes that satisfy both vegetarians and omnivores--my daughter has gone veggie, but my husband is a carnivore. I'd like to keep them both happy without becoming a short-order cook. I try to adapt recipes with the idea of keeping the meat separate or adding at the end (as I used to for the other "non-spicy" kid), but recipes made for that would be helpful. Btw, Joe, I've been making variations of your bibimbap and just love it! Thanks!

I know exactly what you are dealing with -- and wrote a book about it.  I've heard this question (or sometimes complaint!) from so many people, and I thought -- we really need to find a way to all eat together again.  Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore is the book that came from that, and it is all about recipes that can work a couple of different ways, or menus that are flexible -- that allow you to all eat the same meal, but in variations.  If you are still having cooler weather, you might try the Eight Vegetable Cobbler.  It's comfort food to the max!  (The biscuit topping is made with buttermilk, so this one a vegetarian dish, not vegan.)   I have often divided the vegetable filling and added some diced stewed or roasted chicken to half of it, then spooned the two mixtures into two deep dish pie pans and voila:  a vegetarian cobbler, and a chicken pot pie.  Another great idea is Black Bean Chili, which can so easily be made two ways by adding some sauteed chopped turkey to half of it.  It's a delicious dish either way, and you can drop crumbled cotija cheese on top, or leave that one batch vegan.  And here's one that all my friends love -- Easy Fish Soup!  It starts as a fabulous, hearty vegetable soup (yes, vegan), and you add the seafood 5 minutes before serving.  It's the easiest thing in the world to serve it two ways -- or even three ways, by dropping a toasted cheese crouton on the veggie soup for anyone who wants one.  I hope this helps!  

Q&A: The secret to serving vegans, vegetarians and omnivores

And ... so glad you like the bibimbap! (But, ahem, I don't see any rating or comment by you on the recipe online...)

RECIPE: Bibimbap With Kimchi and Smoked Tofu

Do you have any suggestions for vegan brunches in Arlington or DC? There are a few places that advertise as "vegan friendly". That usually means bagels, tea, and cut fruit. I'm trying to find a place for my husband that we can both enjoy. Thanks very much.

Todd Gray's Equinox downtown hosts a weekly vegan brunch on Sundays.

ARTICLE: Vegan brunch at Equinox satisfies an omnivore's appetite

Vegan fare can also be had at Sticky Fingers, whose owner, Doron Petersan, is getting close to opening her new vegan diner, Fare Well, on H Street NE.

I'm not vegan, but I'm a fan of the vegan tofu scrambles at Smoke and Barrel in Adams Morgan. Their brunch menu includes a chili cheese version (with Dayia cheese) served with Texas toast and home fries. The restaurant is really good about marking the vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, too - there's also a vegan French toast.

(Meanwhile, the non-vegan should get the pork huevos rancheros or the BBQ omelet with brisket.) 

The whole menu's here.

I'd like to make the Passover Fruit Crisp recipe I found on the WP website, but make it in one large dish instead of ramekins. Will it translate well to that and is 9x13 the correct dish size. Last year I made the Passover apple crisp to rave reviews, but want to use berries this year. Thanks!

Should be easy to make large; in a shallow 9-by-13 inch. I might have a generous hand with the topping ingredients because I love crisp-crunch. Also, it might be a good idea to spray your baking dish with cooking oil spray before the fruit goes in. Happy Pesach! 

Thanks for the roundup of Passover restaurant options. I just want to note that Fiola is going a step further than most by using kosher chicken and lamb in their five-course meal.

Hi there! I am having some of my gang over tonight to celebrate a big day and I was planning on making pork schnitzel and potato salad. It sounds like one of my friends is bringing somebody who doesn't eat pork, so now I am considering running to the market to get some veal. I hate to spend that much money when I already have the pork though! Do you think I can get away with just using chicken? Or maybe I could just make the pork and do chicken for the crafty guest? I am so confused I hate to ruin our big night. Thanks!

You could cook them in separate pans and label the schnitzels for  your guests. But in the Anna Thomas spirit, turkey or chicken would work for all, right? Unless you're going for the real deal

I actually made a pretty delicious celery root (celeriac) schnitzel a few months ago -- yes, it's vegan and it sounds a little odd at first blush, but it was a big hit with everyone at the table, vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore. The technique was fairly similar to making a traditional schnitzel, I just sliced the celery root and parboiled it briefly.

I'm heading to a wedding reception next month where they will provide sandwiches and guests can bring whatever else. The groom is vegan, so I plan to take 2 sides, one for him and one of something I want. Any ideas for outdoor picnic sides for vegans that don't force me to buy a ton of pantry items I'll never use again? Thanks!

Hi there -- and I guess the answer depends on what you keep in your pantry! (I always have farro in mine)  By next month we should be having summery weather, and for any kind of picnic I love to make one of the hearty grain-based salads in "Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore" like Summer Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Seared Onions, and Fennel.  It's a robust salad, full of flavor, and travels very well.  And add a tangy cheese or some diced grilled chicken to part of it for the non-vegans.  If you don't have farro on hand, you could try Summer Chop Salad with Corn and Pepper Salsa -- it's based on slivered, marinated Tuscan kale with a beautiful shower of bright tomatoes, peppers, and sweet corn tossed in.  The first corn of the season is so good!  And that one can easily be elaborated with other ingredients as well.  Have fun at the wedding.

Now that Anna mentioned farro, I must suggest this Apple, Fennel and Farro Salad. You could substitute barley, wheatberries, even brown rice if you'd like -- and if that helps with the pantry challenge!

RECIPE: Apple, Fennel and Farro Salad

Does anyone have a good recipe for a basic homemade cashew cheese?

It depends what you mean by "basic," but the cheddar-style cashew cheese that I made for this week's article about vegan mac n' cheese is actually quite simple to make, but does take some pre-planning. The whole process took about 5 days, most of which is just waiting for things to ferment. 

RECIPE: White Cheddar Cashew Cheese

ARTICLE: How to make vegan mac and cheese a comforting crowd-pleaser

Here is my solution to the problem of hard root beer: If you don't like it, don't drink it. Problem solved. I do find it strange that the author complains about the "weird" flavors in the root beer, and then serves a stout with chili peppers. What is not "weird" about a stout with hot chilies in it?

The flavors that we found "weird" during the tasting of hard root beers were notes of cough syrup, chemicals, cloying vanilla extract, fake chewing gum mint, etc. 

I can understand that some people might think Green Flash's Dia de los Serranos stout with serrano peppers sounds weird, but it's actually a really delicious, well-balanced beer: hot peppers go really well with coffee and chocolate flavors. 

Can I add: I reject your "solution" comment, I'm afraid, because the job of a critic is to, well, criticize things that are being offered for consumption. So that would be like saying to Tom Sietsema that if he doesn't like a particular restaurant, don't go -- problem solved. No, it's our job to tell people what we think about various products, and as the beer columnist, that's just what Fritz is doing.

COLUMN: Alcoholic root beer keeps taking off. I find that hard to swallow.

Anna Thomas, I love your approach to food. Your answers to Joe Yonan's questions, your recipe for Roasted Beet and Lentil Salad and Goran Kosanovic's beautiful photo of it have inspired me to tell you that my husband and I are also "mostly vegetarian." He recently made a stir-fry that included 1/4 cup dried red cherries. Since then I've been thinking of something that would include both beets and dried cherries because of their similar color. I'll be adding dried cherries to your recipe when I make it.

RECIPE: Roasted Beet and Lentil Salad

Great idea on the cherries!  I actually love adding dried cherries to savory foods, and often drop them into a robust salad where raisins might otherwise show up.  There's a salad I love to make in the fall, but if you are in cooler weather there's no reason not to have it now -- Kabocha Squash and Tuscan Kale Salad with Mixed Grains.  It's a center-of-the-plate salad, and would be delicious with some dried cherries tossed in.  And if someone at the table wants meat, pair this with a roasted chicken, or the easiest add:  a rotisserie chicken picked up on the way home!  Have fun, and stay relaxed -- "mostly vegetarian" is an excellent way to go!

I've made my own granola in the past, and am looking forward to trying yours, especially with the cocoa added. However, I found that when I added raisins, or dried apricots and cranberries, they became rock hard after a couple weeks, even in an airtight container. Is the oatmeal sucking the moisture out of them? How can I correct this? Thanks!

That sounds like a great question for Dorie Greenspan, the author of the granola article and recipe. She'll be chatting right after us -- here's a link to ask your question there.

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan’s Cocoa Crunch Fruit and Nut Granola

The Vegetarian Epicure I and II were some of the first cookbooks I ever purchased back in high school, along with Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian books. I am not a vegetarian, but they featured both good recipes and tips, and good writing. Your bread recipes have stayed with me all of these years. So glad you're still cooking and writing, and thanks for the inspiration.

Thanks so much!  I am always delighted when I hear from people who are not vegetarian but who used my books simply because they had good food.  That's my idea -- to share the food I love, which is delicious, and delicious for everyone!  I never want to cook something that feels like a substitute for something else.  I appreciate hearing from you!

I cook in quantities, and freeze in reusable containers (Joe - I opt for glass as often as possible), but I can't find a good way to label them so that the labels don't come off. How do restaurants handle this? Know of a special tape and marker?

How about blue painter's tape that you can write on with a marker? It's meant to peel off smoothly. Just fold one corner under itself so you have an extra-handy tab to grab when you're ready to remove it.

Hi there. Will be going to local wineries/vineyards this weekend and want to pack a picnic to enjoy with a glass somewhere along the way. Looking for unfussy but delicious ideas that are easy to transport and clean up; thinking sandwiches and maybe Mason jar salads but I'm drawing a blank on fillings/salad ingredients. Definitely making raspberry bars so have dessert figured out. Many thanks in advance.

You forgot to mention how omnivorous you are and whether you'll need to keep things at a cool temperature and whether carrying around your picnic's a factor, but no matter. We'll keep things light:


I like this Pressed Veggie Sandwich, which you could make a day in advance.

This Peanut Butter, Honey and Arugula Sandwich is a winner, too. No refrigeration needed.

Speaking of arugula, there's a Salami, Fennel and Arugula Panini you might like. 

You could bring any number of dips (hummus, walnut-red pepper) with crackers or a loaf of crusty bread and some charcuterie....that would be easy to do. And Zucchini Cheese Squares

I loved your story today on vegan mac & cheese. I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian, but we eat many mostly or wholly plant-based meals in our house, since it's the healthy thing to do. We also have a niece who lives nearby who is vegan, so these are great options to have on hand when she comes over for dinner. Among the various recipes shared today, which would be the most satisfying for a non-vegan mac & cheese lover?

Thank you! I would say that the Chili Mac recipe is a true crowd-pleaser for anyone -- the vegan "cheese" sauce is a little lemony and very gooey, and then you can add your own favorite chili recipe to it -- it doesn't even have to be a vegan chili necessarily, so you could have a couple of different options for guests to choose from. 

Recipe: Vegan Chili Mac

What are your favorite Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore restaurants in the DC area? Are there any that provide an epic experience?

Wow -- I wish I knew the answer to that!  I live in California and just visit in DC once in a while.  But I'm hoping to come do a book event in the area, so maybe Joe can come up with the right answer to that question and I'll go for that epic experience!

My most "epic" VVO-type experience was at Kapnos, where I took two vegan friends who were visiting. We didn't have a meat-eater at the table, but I think it fits the bill because we walked right past those animals roasting on a spit (I told my friends to avert their eyes), the manager asked if we wanted to do a vegan tasting of dishes, and I said yes -- as long as they made sure to go ahead and serve me a little bit of that great Greek feta and yogurt in a few places. The food was fantastic.

I love Ambar on Capitol Hill -- the Balkan food is really interesting and there is something for everyone on the menu, plus I love the wine selection. And Equinox is pretty great, because they have both a plant-based and meat-focused menu, so it's nice when you are going out for a special evening.

Thanks for the asparagus-ricotta-lemon pizza recipe, looks delicious. I'll try it out! Pizza question for Ellie Krieger and others: Can you give me advice about using multiple toppings on a pizza, and whether they can be stacked? I assume the tomato sauce and cheese always go on the bottom -- yes? -- but if it’s okay to stack or overlap toppings, in what order should these go on: onion, mushroom, pineapple and ham or rotisserie chicken? Would it be better to add them at different times? I've been experimenting with adding toppings to store-bought cheese pizzas so the crust (thin) and sauce (tomato) and a basic cheesiness are already taken care of, but I'll try the pre-made dough you recommend. So far, I’m following package instructions for cooking plus extra time if needed to get the middle melted. Is there a better way to time it than by sight? Thanks for answering even some of these questions!

I make a whole lot of pizza and I'm of the mind that there would be no more than three toppings on any pizza, and even then I usually limit myself to two. I also like to think of the cheese as an actual topping -- it should be good cheese and it's really fun to mix and match the cheese to get layers of flavor -- like a beautiful oniony Gloucester cheese, Gruyere, or white cheddar in addition to a more traditional mozzarella. I don't like to add fresh tomatoes to a pizza myself, as I think they are too wet, and you are right that you want to be careful about how you layer them, because you can end up with a soppy mess! It's okay if they overlap slightly, but it usually makes sense to put meat at the bottom (some pizza recipes recommend actually putting the meat under the cheese so it doesn't dry out) and then adding peppers, mushrooms, and onions on top. I like to caramelize the onions first for extra flavor!

I was planning to write in today to ask for the recipe for the incredible charred leek salad from DBGB and was pleasantly surprised to see that you managed to read my mind. Thanks!!! One big thing missing -- the two times I've ordered it, the leeks were topped with a panko crusted soft boiled egg (imagine a scotch egg without the sausage) which was both wonderful and mystifying. Even my uncle who is a chef/culinary instructor was curious about how they kept the yolk so soft while getting a perfect deep fry. Any chance you can spill the beans?

Funny you should mention! Chef Ed Scarpone told me he often uses his mother, who's a seasoned cook, as a measure of how difficult or doable his food might be -- and she/he nixed the Scotch egg technique when we were considering how to #PlateLab his recipe. (It involves first making a 63-degree egg.) But I'm sure if you reach out to him at DBGBdc, he'd be happy to go over it with you. In fact, I bet he'd love that.




I just want to test my understanding of how to read recipe amounts: "One pound chard, stems removed" means that the chard should weigh a pound BEFORE the stems are removed, right? And "300 grams chopped rhubarb" means that it should weigh 300 grams AFTER chopping, yes? Similarly, for canning "6 pounds peaches, skinned and pitted" means I should START WITH 6 pounds of unprocessed peaches? And for chicken, "1/2 pound chicken thighs, bones and skins removed" will yield noticeably less meat than "1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs"? Not that I worry about these things, you understand ... Thanks!

Hahahahaha!  No, I can see you don't worry about it at all!  But you're right, there is a lot of variation in the way recipes are written.  And I think your interpretation is spot on.  It's common sense, really.  But you know -- not everyone is as careful as you are, including many people who write recipes.  So don't be afraid to eyeball your amounts and use your good judgment.  You sound like a good cook.

Oh how I love granola! I have a recipe where I added in cinnamon, ground cardamom, pecans, shredded coconut, ground flax seeds (because flax needs to be ground to do any good), sesame seeds, crystallized ginger bits and hemp seeds. I see where you said if I want to make your granola bites I would use rice syrup. Is it necessary to use brown rice syrup or can I just use the recipe I have (from Bal Anderson) pressed into muffin tin?

Your recipe sounds great! I'm suggesting you, too, head over to Dorie Greenspan's chat -- she starts at 1 p.m., right after the Free Range -- and you can ask your question now.

I literally just googled last week "what to serve a vegetarian and non vegetarian at a dinner party" to help plan a meal for 2 friends I will be entertaining, both who are not adventurous eaters, and you can only make so many cheesy pasta dishes before it gets predictable and boring. Thanks for the introduction to this great book and including Ann in the discussion today!

Thanks for the kind words, and I couldn't agree more about the predictable cheesy pasta.  But here's one to try when the weather warms up and you want a different kind of pasta dish:  Warm Noodle Salad with Ginger-Sesame Sauce.  It's best with soba noodles, can be eaten hot, warm, or cool, and is bright with ginger and slivers of fresh vegetables -- but you can toss in shreds of pork or crabmeat or whatever you like for your omnivores.  And of course, there are a hundred other ideas for completely adaptable, flexible dishes.  Right now, in springtime, I love to make a Lemon Risotto with Sauteed Fresh Fava Beans.  It's a beautiful dish (and delish), and you can add a few garlic prawns on top for those who want them -- they pair up perfectly.  

Joe, loved your article on Anna Thomas! Does anyone know any uses for fresh lemon balm other than tea, or how to dry it and turn it into tea? I would also love some different uses for fresh oregano, aside from the obvious Italian tomato sauces. Vegetarian only please.

I love lemon balm (and lemon verbena!). I like to add fresh lemon balm to pesto or muddle it in cocktails. Or infuse simple syrup with the herb to then use in cocktails or add to sparkling water -- oh, or lemonade! I've also added it to tabbouleh. Really, you can use it anywhere you'd like the flavor of lemon. (And here are a few more uses from our Recipe Finder for you.)

To dry fresh lemon balm, gather several whole stems and tie them together at the bottom, then hang the bunch upside down until it's dry (a few days, depending on the humidity/air flow). I typically hang up a piece of kitchen string between two nails and dangle bundles of herbs from it until they're dry (I use bent paper clips or clothespins to attach the bundles to the string).

Store the dried lemon balm in airtight glass containers (old canning jars work well!) for six months or so (it won't go "bad," but flavor may start to diminish). Do make sure it's completely dry before storing, or it may mold.

I defer to other rangers on oregano uses -- but do know that you can dry it using the same hanging technique.

Oregano is fantastic in bean dishes, so think about that. Also, I make a walnut oregano vinaigrette (recipe in "Eat Your Vegetables") that's pretty killer. You can also add it to pestos, and much more.

also work for low carb/gluten free/regular eaters? Can you suggest some ways to implement it? So far the only thing I have come up with is a very thick, vegetable dense meat sauce which can be served as is or over roasted zucchini for low carb, over gluten free pasta for gluten free eaters or over regular pasta for regular eaters. But I'm not having much luck coming up with other possibilities. Are there some general principles of the technique that would be useful for other vectors of restriction than vegan/vegetarian/omnivore?

A very interesting question -- and I have to say at the outset that I do not really deal with food allergies or with dietary restrictions intended specifically for weight loss.  I was thinking about the very broad idea of meat-based eating and plant-based eating, and the range in between, when I wrote Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore.  But I do think you could find ways to create meals that would address some of the restrictions you name.  One example that comes to mind is a meal centered on my Red Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Pilaf, with an array of seasonal roasted vegetables, and a simple meat component for the dedicated carnivores, such as a pan-seared pork loin, sliced and passed separately.  I love pilaf based meals for that very flexibility, and quinoa is a friend to the gluten-intolerant -- right?  Hope that helps.  The idea is that we can all eat the same meal, but in variations, and that makes a happy, social table!

I'd like to try this recipe, but a bit nervous. Doesn't look like you tested it - just wondering.

This recipe was absolutely tested and it is delicious! It sounds a little daunting, I know, because it does really take about 5 days to make, but most of that time is pretty hands-off, it's just letting the starter ferment and then allowing the cheese to cure to the sharpness that you prefer. Give it a try! 


RECIPE: Vegan White Cheddar Cashew Cheese 

We have both dairy and nut allergies in our house. Can you recommend a good nut-free vegan mac-n-cheese? Can something be substituted for the cashew cheese in the Flying Pig Labs recipe?

So, you can definitely make Chloe's Vegan Sweet Potato Mac 'n' Cheese recipe -- the recipe simply calls for some kind of plant-based milk, so it doesn't have to be a nut-based milk. The result is really delicious. As for the cashew cheese in the Flying Pig Labs recipe, you might try substituting silken tofu instead -- I haven't tried the recipe that way, but it could be a viable alternative. 

RECIPE: Chloe's Vegan Sweet Potato Mac 'n' Cheese


I really wanted to try this recipe until I saw the instruction to add 1/4 cup of oil before cooking the eggs. Do I really need to use that much? And do I drain off the fat from the cooked lamb before adding it back to the pan? Sounds like the dish would be greasy otherwise. Thanks.

Sure, you could use less oil. In testing, the lamb I used didn't yield that much rendered fat, so I didn't drain it. But you could do so, certainly. I liked the textural results of the original recipe. Then again, the portions are generous -- this could stretch to 6 servings, easily.


RECIPE Stir-Fried Ground Lamb and Eggs

I was so excited when I saw hard root beer in the stores. It reminded me of a boss I had about 30 years ago who would brew his own rootbeer; it was barely sweet, lightly carbonated due to fermentation, with a very low alcohol content (less than 1% I would guess). I was so disappointed when I tasted the three bottles I had purchased; each was worse than the last. If you added rootbeer to beer, shandy style, I think that would have tasted better (but still pretty nasty). So, I'm not looking for HARD rootbeer; I'm looking for REAL brewed, fermented rootbeer, NOT rootbeer-flavored syrup plus carbonated water, which is how even the "artisanal" brands are made. Do you or the chatters know of ANYwhere I can get that, without brewing it myself at home? My lack of time, plus boss's stories of bottles exploding in the basement, make me reluctant to pick up a new hobby. I (and my neighbor with the sassafras tree) thank you in advance.

For real, non-hard root beer, I really enjoy Thunder Beast, which is made in D.C. at Union Kitchen and sold at stores and bars in the area. It's got a really nice maple sweetness.

One of the things that disappointed me about our Hard Root Beer tasting is that I'd had and enjoyed the Abita craft (non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated) root beer in the past. Has that really nice taste you get from cane sugar. I had hoped the Bayou Bootlegger might be an adult version of this, but alas...

I made sloppy joes with ground turkey; the recipe I followed had a lot of sugar and ketchup. As a result, I have very sweet sloppy joes that I do not know how to fix. I thought of adding more ground turkey, but I don't want to end up with more of something I still cannot fix. I would appreciate any suggestions.

Maybe bring some heat to the party, via Sriracha or your fave hot sauce or even a tomato salsa. You could add some veg to the sloppy Joe mixture, too. 

Hi! Posting early b/c I can't always be here live. Are there any recipes involving cooked crab leg meat (e.g. King Crab or Baridi)? Every time I do a search I get lots and lots and lots of tips on how to steam, or eat, crab legs, but nothing involving using the finished product for something else. Or should I resign myself to using them to replace blue crab meat in a recipe designed for that? Thanks in advance!

Here's a few that use lump crab meat: 

Fire-Roasted Crab Cocktail

RECIPE: Fire-Roasted Crab Cocktail

Thai Crab and Cucumber on Toast

RECIPE: Thai Crab and Cucumber on Toast

Wedge Salad With Deviled Egg Dressing and Crab

RECIPE: Wedge Salad With Deviled Egg Dressing and Crab

Hi Rangers, I'm in the market for a new (and possibly upgraded) rice cooker. Is there one that you would recommend as your go-to? Thanks!

I love my rice cooker so much and it's really basic, because, honestly, rice cookers don't need to be that fancy. Mine is a Black & Decker Rice Cooker Plus, I think it might have cost all of $20. Has a steamer basket, which comes in handy, and is just a great little workhorse in my kitchen on an almost daily basis.

I've read that spices lose potency quickly. I often buy one to try a recipe, then it sits in my pantry. How do you handle this? Any recommendations on where to buy the freshest spices in smaller quantities and how to best store them? Also, are there any spices that you recommend must be tossed after a year? How do you handle spices?

I hear ya. I probably don't handle it pretty well, haha, as I don't turn things over as often as you're supposed to -- every six months. I don't think it affects my food too much, although, who knows, maybe I don't know what I'm missing with my older spices.

Anyway, you can buy spices by weight at places such as Pansaari downtown and the Spice & Tea Exchange, which sells by the ounce. Makes it easier to get closer to just what you'll use.

Store spices in a cool, dark place.

Also, try when possible to buy them whole and grind them right before using. That extends spices' life considerably.

I have made this black bean and corn salad for years and it is always a hit. I add some sliced, fresh jalapenos and use red onion instead of spring onions. 

Where have you been all my life? Do you have any favorite recipes that use fresh or dried thyme? Thanks!

My favorite thing to do with thyme is pair it with roasted or sauteed mushrooms. The marriage is magical! It also pairs beautifully with lemon, and goes well in sweet applications. Some ideas:

RECIPE: Lemon Thyme Spice Cake

RECIPE: Ice Cream With Honey and Thyme

RECIPE: Savory Pecan, Parmesan and Thyme Shortbread

Tabbouleh also fits the bill. My family likes this recipe (and we use quinoa since I have celiac).

First comment. When I say I am vegetarian, probably 99% of responses include phrases such as "I don't each much meat anymore", or "I've lost my taste for meat", or some combination of those. I wonder why people feel they have to tell me how they don't eat meat either, then I watch them devour their burgers... Mostly I manage to nod and say 'that's nice'... Second comment. For the person wondering how to figure out two pounds of something chopped etc. I was taught to go in word order. If the recipe says "two teaspoons of chopped parsley", it means after chopping, you need two teaspoons of parsley. If the recipe says "two pound of chicken, chopped", you want to chop up two pounds of chicken...

How old is your daughter - seems to me if she's old enough to be a vegetarian she's old enough to help out. Mostly vegetarians are interested in food sources - can she help with shopping and could easily develop and interest in cooking. I face a similar thing - I'm veg and my husband is a picky carnivore who will not eat most veg and will not have a veg meal. I agree with looking for recipes that can be made with an easy protein sub.

We use Scotch Magic Tape. Easy to write on and easy to remove. We've never had the tape fall off in the freezer.

Cool, thanks.

My girlfriend and I are both trying to increase the amount of vegetarian meals we consume per week, but each of our dietary restrictions are severely limiting our ability to have a varied diet. Shes allergic to nuts, and I can't eat beans. We LOVE your tofu chorizo recipe and was wondering if you had any other suggestions for meals?

So sorry to hear about the nuts and beans -- two of my favorites!  But there are many wonderful foods in the world.  I would start by thinking about the really tasty and nutritious grains that are available -- I love red quinoa, whole grain bulgur, farro, black rice... and perhaps make a meal based on a robust, satisfying pilaf with an assortment of roasted or braised vegetables.  A Farro and Black Rice Pilaf in the center of the plate, with roasted fennel, young carrots, cauliflower, and red onion wedges -- that's a feast.  Quinoa is also a great idea to amp up the protein content in a pilaf.  I don't know where you stand with seeds, but red quinoa and pumpkin seeds is a favorite combination of mine.  I would also suggest that you can add both nuts and beans to a menu in a way that allows each of you to enjoy the one that you can eat.  Make a pesto with nuts for the nut-eater, and a super simple Cannellini and Roasted Garlic Spread for the bean-eater, put them both out in their separate bowls with a basket of crostini, and have a cocktail party!

Also, can your girlfriend eat seeds? Like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds? I'm a huge fan of both, but particularly pumpkin seeds (pepitas), because they're such a wonderful element of Mexican cooking -- but play so well in almost any place that a true nut would play.

I was introduced to the original Vegetarian Epicure by my religion professor's wife during my freshman year of college ('72-'73.) She served the herb (dill) and onion bread from the original Vegetarian Epicure to a group of us students. It was so delicious and a revelation to those of us used to eating Wonder Bread. We clamored for the recipe and she Xeroxed copies for us. I made that bread for literally DECADES. And I rushed out to buy my own copy of the book (and later the sequels.) I forgot why I ever stopped making that bread. Seeing the article today with Anna Thomas's name left me wanting to bake it again soon.

OMG -- now I want to bake it, too!  So great to hear from you.  I hope you like the new book, I feel like we are old pals.

What is the best way to prevent cucumbers that aren't wax-coated from getting slimy? I like to buy packs of mini-cucumbers by they don't always last until I use them all up.

Believe it or not, the approach called for by experts seems to be at room temp, away from "ethelyne gas producers" such as bananas, tomatoes and melons. Cucumbers get especially unhappy in storage that's 50 degrees and below. In other words, for long-term storage, don't refrigerate! 

I'm addressing this question to Joe, because he's my fellow Texan vegetarian who doesn't particularly like Daiya. Joe - have you tried this recipe?  If so, did you like it? Second question - the recipe also calls for making your own white cheddar. Since I don't want to go to this trouble, is there a brand you would recommend as a substitute? I like Kite Hill but have never cooked with it.

Okay, so I'm not Joe, but I'll jump in anyway. I have nothing against Daiya, as some people love it, but I don't generally cook with it myself. The white cheddar cashew cheese was a bit of a revelation to me and, although it takes some pre-planning, was actually easy to make. I used it to make a vegan version of a classic cheese béchamel and it was scrumptious -- perfect for macaroni and cheese. I would think that Kite Hill would be a viable alternative, you should definitely give it a try!

Yes, I thought that mac/cheese tasted great! I agree you could try Kite Hill (maybe the soft original), or the Miyoko's Creamery brand if you can find it -- maybe one of the "farmhouse" varieties, which are most cheddar-like?

Hi food geniuses, thanks for taking my question. I am hosting a brunch this weekend and need to make food that is kosher for Passover. I am currently thinking of a big baked egg dish, a fresh fruit salad, and spicy baked bacon (yes, I see the irony). Any other suggestions? Additionally, I am hoping to make a punch or cocktail, but can only use kosher for Passover wine (white or red) and no other liquor. Any ideas?

Hi there -- I'm not 100% briefed on the kosher rules, but pretty sure that a vegan vegetable dish would fly, right?  Why not add some lovely roasted spring carrots, with a big bowl of Carrot Top Pesto?  That's a delicious pesto that uses those fresh, bushy greens that we hate to throw away.  Or if you are not getting the best looking greens, amaze your guests and -- food genius idea!  Right here! -- make Mojo Verde With Mint (p.60, Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore) and add matzah instead of the baguette slices.  It would work perfectly.  And once your friends try that spicy Mojo with those sweet carrots, they will be your willing slaves.  Not sure I can help you on the punch front.... unless there is a kosher sparkling wine, similar to Prosecco.  If so, I'd make tangerine mimosas with that.  Have fun!

Seems like matzoh or matzoh meal ought to figure in the mix. These Puffed Matzoh Meal Pancakes are a revelation. 

Don't forget latkes -- sweet potato/scallion ones would re-crisp in a warm oven.  Gotta make these Passover Popover "Rolls" -- they are terrific. Becky Krystal's a whiz at making them and brings them to my Seder just about every year! 

Finally, a little cake's good with fruit. This one's a citrusy sponge from maven Susan Barocas, a family recipe, made with matzoh cake meal. 


As for the punch or cocktail, I bow to M. Carrie Allan

Well, I found a couple punches that sound pretty good to me, but if you can only use wine, I'd probably lean toward something in the sangria category. If you can't bump it up with brandy, then you'll want a lot of good citrus to lift it up. Another possibility: I think there's at least one sweet vermouth (Kedem) that's kosher. I have not tried it, so I can't vouch for whether it's any good, but if you combine it with a kosher sherry and add some orange bitters, you'll get an Adonis. With quality wines, it's an absolutely fabulous cocktail (I drink them regularly) and perfect for this time of year.

Is there any advantage to leaving hard-cooked eggs in their shell while waiting to use them? Does the shell extend their shelf life a bit? Thanks!

In the shell or peeled, hard-cooked eggs will last about a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They might be slightly more susceptible to off-odors if peeled.

Why should I use spring or filter water and not tap water?

The reason for using spring or filtered water is to reduce the risk of adding potentially harmful bacteria to the starter or cheese.

We like aged provolone on our pizza.

I want her granola recipe! It sounds awesome!

Me too!  Let's get it.  Granola smackdown coming up!

I bought freezer tape off Amazon and use a sharpie. Sticks to my plastic containers (use over and over and over) as well as the occasional ziploc bag. But I like the idea of folding over one end to make easier to remove later!

There's a brand of spices called Spicely (I've seen then at WF's) that are sold in little boxes containing about 1.5 TBS of spices. Probably not the most economical way to do it, but at least you're not buying a ton when you need a pinch.


If the OP lives in the DC area, go to H Mart and check out their selections. Make sure there are markings/water lines on the inside of the bowl. Zojirushi is a popular brand. My aunt's rice cooker has it own "ring tone" to alert you when the rice is done cooking.

My granola-making friend says she always adds any dried fruit right before eating, because, she says, "The dried fruit tends to add moisture to the granola and it’s not as crunchy."

Yep, that's classic advice! Depending on how big a batch you've made and how long you're keeping it, especially.

She cannot have sesame seeds (farewell tahini :( ), but pumpkin seeds are a go!

Great!! Make sure to toast those puppies (I like to do it on the stovetop so I can see them jump!), and throw them on anything and everything.

Any crockpot recipes that range between 1-2 hours cook time? I work full-time and sometimes don't get home until around 6:30/7! I need quick meals and as of right now, my oven is being replaced so I wanted to try the crockpot that is sitting in my cabinet.

Sounds like seafood would be good for you. These Slow-Cooker Garlicky Shrimp take 50 minutes, and they show up fairly often on our Top Recipes This Week lists.

You'd have a main and side in this Slow-Cooker Salmon With Shallot and Green Beans, which stays quite moist.

I make chicken breast schnitzel all the time - using this recipe which is great. Good luck and may your oil be hot enough when you start!

What helpful and generous chatters we have! 

I was disappointed about how simple the meat additions are to these recipes. You have taken a huge world of meat based recipes and extremely limited it to quickly cooked items thrown on or in at the last minute. Seems reminiscent of restaurants offering vegetarian plates by using some of all the vegetable sides.

The simplicity of the meat and seafood entries in this book is deliberate, and I talk about it in the introduction to that chapter.   Let me explain my approach.  The idea in this book was to show how to make a dish or a meal flexible for everyone by starting with the food everyone eats -- the plant-based food -- and then building outward from there, taking on cheese, seafood, poultry and meat, in simple versions that could be added as an elaboration of a dish, not the central idea of it.  I encourage readers and cooks who are familiar with omnivore cooking to dive into their own favorites -- my suggestions are just that, suggestions to show how it can work.  And I also take into account the fact that the literature on cooking with poultry, meat, and seafood is VAST.  The availability of terrific vegan and vegetarian recipes is still quite scant by comparison.  So that is why the book is tilted this way.  I hope you do some spectacular pairings of your own, and share them with me.  I love to hear what other cooks are doing!  

I forgot to add that you want to remove it while still cold and do not soak/wash the container before you remove the tape. Some day, my husband will remember that ;-)

We are in a rut. Part of the issue is seasonal transition. I want to move from the heavier winter foods and prep into lighter spring/summer ones, but my farm stands/markets aren't up yet, and I realize I really rely on them for inspiration! Part of the issue is that I'm trying to take lunches from home, so we're stretching dinner leftovers and I'm eating the same thing multiple times. Maybe it's time for a cooking class again -- just to get some fresh ideas? Make my husband do the cooking? Renovate the kitchen to get out of it for a couple of months?

The farm markets in my neighborhood are just starting to get up and running again and, while the pickings can be slim, there are still some fun things just starting to appear, like green garlic, ramps, and morels. I also love spring kale and just made a big batch of kale pesto the other day, which I mixed with pasta and topped with fried lemons, and it's great dolloped on fish and chicken as well. Oh, and I cannot say enough about asparagus pizza -- one of my favorite springtime dishes! 


RECIPE: Asparagus and Ricotta Pizza


I have a two-cup teapot I use several times a week. When finished, I rinse the pot, turn it upside down in my dish drainer and let it dry before placing it back on the shelf. Yet the next time I use it, which could be the next day but sometimes isn't for several days, there's some residual water in the bottom of the pot. I shake the pot over the sink to get the old water out, and push any worries about nasty, germy water to the back of my mind by telling myself that I'm going to use boiling water for my next pot of tea, thereby killing any lingering germs. But this is just wishful thinking, isn't it - especially if I'm having green tea, which requires very hot but maybe not boiling water? I'm thinking this problem might not be too uncommon among tea drinkers, so any advice on how to prevent this problem, or on why I may hopefully be overreacting to the residual water, would be much appreciated.

I think as long as you were rinsing it thoroughly with just-boiled water and popping it in the dishwasher for a proper cleaning once a week or so, germs would not be a problem.

Lentils are a great addition to sloppy Joes -- stretches them so that the sweetness factor should not be as pronounced, without the added cost of more meat. I have converted our standard recipe to half lentil, half meat for health reasons and it always seems to go over just fine.

Anything else I can do with tequila and Cointreau that isn't a margarita?

You mean with both of them together? Heck yes, all sorts of things. If it's good tequila, it probably holds up on its own. If it's a nice reposado or anejo, you could try it Old Fashioned style, using the Cointreau as a sweetener, which I think would be even better if you tried it in a variation of Death & Co's Oaxaca Old Fashioned. I also really like using agave spirits in Negroni-style concoctions, and would think a standard 3-way Negroni split (tequila in for gin/Campari/sweet vermouth) would be great with a dash of Cointreau, though you might want to dial back the Campari just a nudge to make sure it doesn't end up too sweet. 

A friend is giving birth today (yay!) I want to bring her later in the week some food for her and her husband. Both are carnivores and and Im not. They do eat pretty healthy and don’t consume cheese. She said she wants chocolate cookies but I do want to bring her also a savory dish. What can I bring them that travels well? (Im using the metro!).

This question brings back to me the moment when I had my first son -- and a dear friend came over a day after I was home from the hospital, with a great big pot of minestrone soup.  I almost wept with joy.  (maybe I did -- can't remember)  That would be my suggestion for you -- make a big pot of a hearty soup, the kind that can be a meal with a chunk of great bread.  And make it a soup that can be easily adapted for a carnivore appetite, so everyone will be happy.  Old Fashioned Winter Minestrone is so good, and they can drop in some sauteed Italian sausage -- to taste.  And my Easy Fish Soup, which is not fish soup until a few minutes before serving, is another great choice.  It starts as a robust vegetable soup, delicious on its own, and delicious with added seafood if that's the mood of the moment.  I think your friend will appreciate the ease and flexibility of something like this.  A pot of soup in the fridge -- is money in the bank!  Tell her congratulations from me!

Sorry, but either choose veganism or don't, but don't concoct something fake out of a non dairy product, mix it with pumpkin and pasta, and call macaroni and cheese. It's not.

Oh, stop. Be more magnanimous, worry about your own eating and let people eat what they want and enjoy it when they do. 

I am thinking about making pizzas to serve a volunteer event. I'd need to transport them about 20 minutes, and people will be in and out to eat on their own schedules while they work. I am wondering whether this is a bad idea (I don't mind cold or lukewarm pizza, but is it a big thing for people). I would probably do one with red sauce and one with white sauce, maybe with arugula and mushrooms on the white and the-player-to-be-named-later on the red (vegetarian).

If I was going to do this, I'd probably do white pizza, which is less saucy and wet, so I think it would hold up better for transporting and then sitting around. I'd also think about the crust -- you want something that is pretty sturdy. My suggestion would be to use the crust from the Quad Cities-Style Pizza, which is both flavorful and sturdy, and then top it with pesto and cheese. 

RECIPE: Quad Cities-Style Pizza


Going to a party where we can bring snacks but not necessarily dinner food, but to heck with that, we want to bring frozen meatballs in cream sauce. So forgive me for raising the specter of packaged food in your chat, but: Do you think a packaged cream sauce will survive 4-6 hours in a slow cooker? Also, I've seen recipes saying you can throw some lingonberry jam into the sauce. Great idea? I'm wary. I don't want to scare or kill any of the guests, as we're new to this social group.

Conservatively and without knowing what's in the sauce, I'd slow-cook the frozen ones with jam  or a little broth for most of  the time, then add the not-so-chilled cream sauce in the last 30 to 40 minutes or so. 

I'm the veg with the carnivore husband. Perhaps think of it this way - you have different pasta sauces that go with different things, it's about thinking through what pasta sauces out there work with which proteins / veg, not about thinking 'we'll just throw in a bit of chicken breast for those annoying meat eaters'. A lot of thought goes into which 'simple' dishes will work for both veg and omnivores. I do this a lot for my own meals.

I use glass containers with plastic locking lids. I just write on the lids with a Sharpie. The writing usually comes off during dishwashing (in the dishwasher) but if it doesn't, regular rubbing alcohol will remove the Sharpie writing.

I'm fortunate to live near the Penzey's in Falls Church. The store sells herbs and spices in everything from little 1/4-cup jars to 1-cup packages. The catalog recommends buying 1-2 years' worth at a time, and says that herbs are often harvested only once a year, so it makes no sense to toss them after 6 months. I infer that you'd be replacing them with the same age of seasoning that you'd tossed.

Okay - This may be a weird suggestion, but how about adding some marmite or vegemite (if you have them) or if you're not worried about meat - maybe some beef bullion. It will up the salt quotient, which you'll have to taste for, but also would add some savoriness to the dish. Worchestershire (mangled that) would also help.

"The reason for using spring or filtered water is to reduce the risk of adding potentially harmful bacteria to the starter or cheese." Huh, tap water is regulated drinking water. There should be any harmful bacteria of in the tap. OTOH, spring water comes from underground water (springs) and is not filtered, therefore may contain bacteria. The only difference is tap water contains chlorine. Would this be an inhibitor?

The short answer is, not sure. Chlorine can do funny things, so when I'm testing recipes, it usually makes sense to err on the side of caution -- and whatever might cause the least disruption to the finished product, particularly when it is something that has to ferment to develop flavor. 

for those sloppy joes - beer could also help.

Cheers to whomever wrote this awesome sub-headline. I intend to steal it to describe as many bad foods as possible. Too bad it did not make the web version. And agreed, root beer - regular or alcoholic--is gross. Except as a root beer float. Maybe that would help -- add vanilla ice cream.

What is it with all the "natural flavors" on ingredient lists these days? Fritz Hahn mentioned them in his trashing of alcoholic root beer in today's section. Were they always there but under another name? What are they? Or don't I want to know? Richard Kerr Bethesda

Purely speaking for beer (and assorted other beverages), I believe it's because they're trying to gain the trust of the public. According to the TTB, the only ingredients that a beer has to list on the label are sulfites, saccharine, aspartame or Yellow #5, and those are just for warnings. The new Flying Dog Mint Julep Ale has a statement on the bottle declaring that it's "brewed with mint leaves, honeysuckle and bourbon natural flavors," so that you don't think they're just tossing flavored syrups into the mix. 

Got a recipe for this years ago from Anna Thomas' website, and we now make it weekly and share it with vegetarian friends. The original says it comes from Debra Madison, but wherever it came from, THANKS.

You're welcome!  Idea from Deborah, adapted by me, and now by you.  Perfect.

Find a china marker (the kind you have to peel) at an art store. Done and doner.

The question about the weight of peeled, chopped, etc. ingredients remind me of a pet peeve: the time estimates for recipes involving a lot of chopping. A recipe will say it takes 20 minutes to make, say, but the ingredient list calls for "1 cup chopped onions," "1/2 cup minced celery," and so on. Hello! That’s 20 minutes of peeling and chopping right there! I guess because the ingredient is "chopped onions," the recipe writer feels entitled to disregard the chopping time. But since most of don’t have our own sous-chefs, that’s real time we’ll really have to spend. Bleah.

The only way to ensure "harmful" bacteria are not in the water is to either buy sterile water or boil it yourself. One could argue that "spring" water has a higher microbial load than tap, actually, since spring water is minimally processed.

That could be true -- the original recipe called for spring or filtered water, so we stuck with that!

No matter how much I clean my teapot, it's going to wind up stained, because it's tea, after all. So about once a week I just fill it with clear water and add a splash of bleach, then let it sit for awhile. If that's not de-germifying my teapot, I don't know what is. I also do this every now and again with the mugs I drink from.

It is sweet. Salty too, but has sugar in it.

Well, you've cooked us until we've thickened up nicely, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for all the great q's, and many thanks to Anna and Kristen and Carrie for help with the a's.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked our VERY first question, wanting to not become a "short order cook" because of dietary divergences in her family, will get a SIGNED copy of Anna's "Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore." And the one who asked about the best way to use spices will get Floyd Cardoz's "Flavorwalla." Send your mailing info to, and she'll get you your books!

Don't forget to head right on over to Dorie Greenspan's chat, starting now!

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.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Kara Elder
Kara Elder is the Food section editorial aide.
Kristen Hartke
Kristen Hartke is a Washington-based food writer and editor. She wrote this week's story about vegan mac and cheese.
Fritz Hahn
Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003.
Anna Thomas
Anna Thomas is the author of "Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore: Dinner for Everyone at the Table," (W.W. Norton & Co., 2016).
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