The Washington Post

Free Range on Food: Pizza with Ruth Gresser, yogurt and more

Cheryl Sternman Rule joins us to talk about yogurt.
Apr 29, 2015

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! Hope you're planning to get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather (if you're in DC, which has gorgeous weather today!), but that you'll stick with US for your all-important Free Range chat!

We have two special guests helping us today: Ruth Gresser, founder of Pizzeria Paradiso and the upcoming Veloce (and subject of Becky's great piece in today's section); and Cheryl Sternman Rule, author of the upcoming "Yogurt Culture" (and this week's piece about savory treatments for yogurt).

So any questions on those two topics will be EXPERTLY handled today. But you know us -- we'll at least attempt to handle just about anything food-related you toss our way, so don't by shy.

To tempt you, we'll have two SIGNED giveaway books today: Cheryl's "Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World's Creamiest, Healthiest Food," and Ruth's "Kitchen Workshop: Pizza." So make your questions GOOD.

OK, let's get to it.

Oh, how could I forget? PostPoints members, here's the code that you can enter under Claim My Points on the PP site : FR4421 (Remember, it expires at midnight tonight!)

 

I love yogurt! We always keep plain yogurt in the fridge and use it as a sub for multiple things and for more savory options. I've never made yogurt but I I have yet to come across goat's milk yogurt anywhere and the stuff at the suprmarket doesn't quite taste the way it did on a recent trip to Israel. Would you recommend a recipe for making goat's milk yogurt or a local purveyor? Or potentially a better cow's milk yogurt Labneh recipe?

Since goat milk yogurt tends to be thinner and runnier than cow milk yogurt, I'm not sure you'd get the consistency you'd be after if you strained it into labneh. You could try, certainly. (I do have a recipe for homemade goat milk yogurt in my cookbook, Yogurt Culture, but I haven't tried straining it into labneh.) There are a few commercial goat yogurt brands, so I encourage you to try several to see if there's one you like. Redwood Hill Farm, Coach Farm, and Capretta are three different brands. (I'm not sure whether they're local to you, however.) You can also check with any goat cheese vendors at your farmers market, as they might also sell goat yogurt. I personally make labneh from cow yogurt. I've strained both commercial organic cow yogurt and homemade cow yogurt (again, recipe in Yogurt Culture) with great success. I've got some great ways to use labneh up on the Team Yogurt website now, too, including this labneh with strawberries and pomegranate molasses, Naz Deravian's Quince and Labneh Pie, and Maureen Abood's Cucumber Bites with Olives and Labneh.

I've never owned a blender that I liked, and I've owned a half-dozen or so, all from reputable makers. Too often, the blades only pull in part of the contents; or key ingredients get isolated bloew the blades; or despite numerous power settings, mixtures never actually puree. Every last one has been a pain to clean. My most recent fail was trying to make a salad dressing last night, when the seal gave way and it leaked vinegar all over the counter. It. Is. TRASH. So: 1) are blenders even worth it? (I have a stick blender and it's good as a standalone but not a good 100% replacement, since the blades are held a good 12" above the bottom of any container.) 2) if so, how do I find one that reliably combines all ingredients, produces a consistent substance, and is easy to maintain? Augh.

Many Parts! Here goes:

 

I have a pretty old Waring blender; wouldn't trade it for the world. It's not a pain to clean, and it doesn't leak. (Re the leak: Check the gasket/seal on yours, and make sure it's seated in place well.)

 

So maybe cruise eBay or at your local thrift shop -- you want several speeds, you want to be able to plug it in before  you buy. It needs to pass the sniff test -- after it's been running for 30 seconds or so, you do not want to smell a burning motor. You want a model that has a glass, not plastic, jar, and a lid that has a removable center knob.

One word, albeit a pricey one: Vitamix. Check out our Tool Test.

 

An immersion blender isn't going to do as good a job of blending ice into milkshakes and smoothies. (Put that ice in last, as the Blender Girl taught us; download what's in this link!) A mini food processor or jar with a tight-fitting lid might really be all you need to emulsify vinaigrettes. 

 

Re the cleaning: Hot soapy water and high speed will take care of just about any blender cleaning job you've got. Let the machine do the work for you! 

* This has NOT been a message brought to you by the Blender Council of America :)

 

I would also add that I thought my stick blender was as good as a standalone, until I got a standalone. Now I use them for different things. (As Bonnie mentioned, being able to crush ice effectively is crucial... as least for me for things like smoothies and lassis.)

My standard was an old Waring blender too, but I recently upgraded to a Vita-Mix - it puts the blender to shame.

A tip on leaking is never put the gaskets in the dishwasher.

How does the Mediterranean Way made in Greece yogurt compare to one commonly found in groceries here such as Chobani, Fage? Is there much difference?

The biggest difference is that the yogurt currently sold at The Mediterranean Way is made from a mixture of cow, sheep, and goat milk. The vast majority of yogurt sold here in the United States is made from cow milk. Some companies do sell sheep milk yogurt, and some sell goat milk yogurt. But it's unusual to find a yogurt in the United States made from all three milks combined.

Best way for you to tell is to buy a container and try it. We here on the Food team had to "test" it quite a bit -- the imported Med Way yogurt is thick, tangy, delicious. Not like anything I've bought in a store or farmers market. 

And it's got a little touch of funkiness to it, too -- Honestly, I think it's amazing. Best yogurt I've had since, well, I went to Greece.

Here's how to find The Mediterranean Way for those who don't know it.

What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about turning a passion for pizza into a way of life (ie opening a restaurant)?

Having a passion for pizza is a great reason to make it your life's work - and I say that as I am in it up to my elbows today! The advice I'd give though is make sure you have other things besides passion - like experience, stamina, and capital. Having help with the rest of your life when your restaurant is taking 20 hours a day is also beneficial.

I generally tell people not to think about opening any restaurant until you have 5 years working in other people's restaurants.

The yogurt/poppy seed flatbread sounds great, except my family won't eat raisins. Can we just leave them out or is there something tolerable like dried apricots to sub?

Raisin-Poppy Seed Flatbreads With Cardamom-Honey Butter

RECIPE: Raisin-Poppy Seed Flatbreads With Cardamom-Honey Butter

You can absolutely sub in another dried fruit of your choice, or leave the fruit out. I love the little burst of sweetness and texture you get from the fruit, so I encourage you to try it with minced dried apricots or even dried figs, which would be nice. Remember to soak the dried fruit briefly in hot water, as this keeps it a little moister once you griddle the flatbreads.

I don't eat raisins, but I really liked these flatbreads. The golden raisins are soaked and chopped; your family might not even figure out what fruit is in there. 

Hi, I have at times made my own yogurt, but now that I generally eat Greek yogurt, I find home-made yogurt to be very expensive if you want to drain it so it is thicker. Is there any technique that would result in thicker homemade (but still low-fat) yogurt, or should I just stick to buying the 2-lb tubs of Greek yogurt from Trader Joe's?

I encourage you to try again and to capture the whey and keep it in a jar in the fridge. You can actually use just the whey in place of yogurt in things like pancakes and waffles, and some companies (Atlanta Fresh is one) are currently turning their whey into lemonade, so you can try that, too. This gives you more bang for your buck -- you get to eat your Greek yogurt AND you get to use the whey. It ends up being more (rather than less) cost effective that way. Wine-win! Find more tips on using whey from Alana Chernila on Team Yogurt and in my new cookbook Yogurt Culture.

Is a candy thermometer any different than a "normal" food thermometer? I have a digital thermometer I think is meant to be used for meat, but is there any reason (other than a risk of bacterial contamination, I guess) that it can't be used for other things (milk, candy, whatever) that need to be heated to a specific temperature?

A candy thermometer often has a clip on its side so you can keep it in the pot to measure the different stages of sugar during the candying process. But you can absolutely use a "normal" thermometer in things like yogurt-making. Just don't keep it in the pot. (Stick it in the milk to get your read, then pull it out, in other words.)

The other day I made a recipe from a 1979 cookbook for frosted pumpkin bars. The baked batter, which tested as done, was very moist - too moist to be cut into bars and frosted. The next day it was practically a pudding cake, but it is delicious so I froze the remainder to keep it from dissolving. My question: Has canned pumpkin (I used Libby's) become more wet since 1979? I am not sure if the recipe was bad or the canned pumpkin consistency has changed.

I haven't noticed such a change, but maybe chatters have? The thing is, have you made this recipe before? If this is the first time, then it's hard to know if it EVER worked, isn't it? 

In the meantime, maybe you should just make OUR pumpkin bar recipe -- this one with hazelnuts!

RECIPE: Pumpkin Hazelnut Bars

I made some waffles last weekend. After the first two stuck to the iron a bit, I realized that I had forgotten the oil. Other than sticking a bit, not so they wouldn't come off the iron, I could not taste any difference. I'm not adverse to eating fat; I do put butter on my waffles. Does the fat serve some bakery chemistry need that my waffles defied? P.S. I used goat yogurt instead of milk and whipped the egg whites and folded in.

I love that you used goat yogurt in your waffles! I'm guessing that if you did a true side-by-side comparison of your waffles with oil and the ones you made without oil, you'd find a discernible textural difference in the exterior. Fat does help foods crisp up a bit and brown on the edges, which I personally find key in a good waffle. I think that's why even when I make waffles with oil in the batter, I tend to brush the waffle iron pretty liberally with melted butter. I love those crispy edges. 

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your pizza. And the beers that you have chosen in your restaurant. Will you be featuring any of the beers in your new place, Veloce?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Veloce is opening with non-alcoholic beverage options only at least to start (Puck's fountain sodas, Capital Kombucha and Running Byrd Iced Teas for example). Since we're at 19th and L St NW, servicing mostly the working lunch crowd we thought the beer interest wouldn't be there. If our customers tell us otherwise, we will definitely add a selection of Paradiso quality beers. Come let us know what you think.

This may be more a nutrition question than a food question. My husband & I grew up having a glass of orange juice every morning. We still drink juice every morning, but I drink low sodium V-8 and he drinks a light orange juice. Our daughter and her husband do not drink juice and they do not give it to their 3 year old daughter because they say the sugar is bad for them, for their teeth as well as for their weight/future diabetes/etc. Are they right or wrong? I was taught that breakfast without orange juice was like a day without sunshine. Don't kids need it?

The case against fruit juice is that it has too many calories without the fiber of whole fruit.

Here's a piece that explains more.

Any suggestions for a substitute for barley in the peas and lettuce recipe? Could one use any grain, really? Quinoa? Anything else?

 

RECIPE Braised Peas and Lettuce With Barley

 

Yep, any grain that you like. I'm not a fan of quinoa for something like this, cause I really like how hearty the barley is in it, but if you love quinoa, go for it. Very easy swaps would be farro, brown rice, wheatberries, even Israeli couscous.

So pleased at Tamar's award. And thank you SO MUCH for the yogurt article. I never ever got the fruit-in-yogurt or yogurt-substitute-for-ice-cream thing. To me it's always been a savory food/ingredient. I've been draining it to make raita & tzatziki for nearly 40 years, so the availability of that thick Greek yogurt is such a boon. Along with Cheryl's cookbook, I'd recommend any of Madhur Jaffrey's vegetarian cookbooks for savory yogurt ideas.

Thanks for the shout-out to Tamar Haspel! In case others didn't hear, our talented contributor won the prestigious James Beard Award for her monthly Unearthed column! We were so thrilled that all the hard work that she puts into it has been recognized. Take that, David Chang!

I'm so pleased you like the yogurt article. Thank you for the kind feedback. I loved the chance to expose people to how different cultures use this one single ingredient in so many unusual ways.

I tried to make 100% whole wheat pancakes with blueberries over the weekend, but the blueberries turned things into a hot mess, and the dough was pretty heavy with the whole wheat flour that it never rose. Do you have a foolproof recipe I could try?

I think these are terrific, and easy to make/make ahead.

 

And these guys rose to impressive heights -- perhaps because the recipe calls for whole-wheat pastry flour (lighter).

 

Will you be having daily specials in Veloce?

We are featuring a monthly pizza and salad special. May starts with a pizza of asparagus with lemon and tarragon and a farro and roasted asparagus salad.

I was just about to search for where Mediterranean Way is located-great job on the link! Also want to add that I was told that the yogurt at the Greek Deli is imported from Greece. (by Kosta, himself) That stuff is awesome, but I had to stop getting it since there is no low fat version, lol.

Maybe just eat it in a really tiny cup?

I took the plunge and bought several bunches last week. I pickle the "bulbs", which make great a great Gibson. My question is about the greens. I made a cup or so of ramp pesto from the greens, but wonder what else one might do with the greens.

In honor of Ruth, how about tossing those greens on a pizza, say, with goat cheese, roasted garlic and shredded roast pork? Or blanch them for 20 seconds in boiling water, then stir into kimchi? They are traditionally delicious in scrambled eggs. 

They're fantastic on a frittata! Try this one:

RECIPE: Ricotta Frittata With Spring Vegetables

4 of us are brunching on Saturday either at Acre 121 or the Heights. We will have a 9 month old baby with us (and everyone but me with the baby will be drinking!). Which do you recommend? We are leaning the Heights. I know this is a Tom question, but his chat is canceled and I figured you guys love good food, so you might be able to answer!

If I were honest, I'd say neither place. I think there are more interesting options in Columbia Heights than either of those places. I'd go to Room 11 or Red Rocks pizzeria,  both of which offer brunch.

 

But perhaps you are dealing with a group that doesn't want either Room 11 or pizza. I haven't tried the brunch at either Heights or Acre 121, so I'm only basing this opinion on meals that I've had at these restaurants long ago. But if I had to choose between the two, I guess I'd go with Acre 121.

Melted butterscotch chips, chow mein noodles, salted roasted peanuts: mix, drop into bite-sized snacks, refrigerate till set. I brought them to an office party, where lots of people had never heard of haystacks. How do I find out its history/regional boundaries, etc.? FWIW, I'm from Indiana.

I grew up in Fla and made/ate those too! I don't think we called them haystacks, though. Am checking with local cookie expert Nancy Baggett; in the meantime, I'm betting it was a recipe printed on a package....chatters?

RECIPE Spicy Peanut and Toasted Coconut No-Bakes

Could I use chopped dates instead of the raisins in the flatbread? Of course if Bonnie, my Model in All Things, tolerates golden raisins maybe I can get the family to deal with them.

Yes, you certainly can use chopped dates. Absolutely. Just chop them very fine (a good mince).

The dickens you say. 

I have a Waring Pro bar Blender 2 speeds and pulse/pause. Metal container and glass. Metal container makes great milkshakes and drinks. it will crush ice and mix small batches of mortar. Out performs my bros top of line Vitamix in a milkshake and frozen margarita challenge. Nothing beats a metal container for drinks and shakes. I ahve ahd the blender for over 10 years. My bro is on his third Vitamix and that one is dying too.

What is your brother doing to that Vitamix? I know people who have had them for 25 years! I'm going on year 8 with mine, I believe.

You were taught that by the advertising industry, though, not by your parents. Marketing has much more to do with what people think they need than any scientifically established RDA.

Word.

What yogurt culture would recommend for home made yogurt.

The easiest way to start making homemade yogurt is to use your favorite store-bought yogurt as the "starter culture" -- so long as it's plain and has the words "live and active cultures" on the label, the brand doesn't really matter. You want it to be fresh (newly opened) and to follow specific time and temperature protocols. It really is a very easy process. I've got a foolproof method in Yogurt Culture

...tomatoes, that is. I've been thinking of planting a veggie garden - tomatoes, cukes, zucchini - for the hell of it because I think it's fun (altogether now: "DORK!") and you get stuff out of it. Like maybe three tomatoes and a few each of the others after a ton of work. With all the tomatoes and cukes and zukes that will be coming my way at the local markets (I'm fortunate to have easy access to a few), they tend to be higher quality than anything I could ever make and more plentiful. Thus, should I waste my time? And to the real question, "Do I do the economy and environment better buy buying what's produced locally, which always appears to be a surplus, than producing my own?"

If you want to grow your own, grow your own! I get a lot of satisfaction out of vegetable gardening, and I'm not alone. (DORKS!) I think you'd be surprised by how great your vegetables can be -- especially if you choose wisely and do a little reading on how best to plant, tend and harvest. I'm not sure if you're in this area, but if you are, I can't think of a better book to inspire you than Ira Wallace's "Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast." She's from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and EXCELLENT source of seeds, and the book has wonderful, practical, reasonable advice and such a warm, engaging tone.

Your "real question" is an interesting one! And complicated. The environmental piece alone would be pretty complex to parse; the factors would include water use and any amendments to the soil, on the part of you and the farmers you're buying from. I'd say, for instance, that growing your own vegetables with conservative water use and no pesticides, adding fertilizer in the form of compost you made yourself, is better for the environment than buying from a farmer who doesn't do those things. But the farmers at local farmers markets certainly would be on the more environmentally responsible side, wouldn't they? As for the economy, hmm. Financially supporting local small farmers versus financially supporting local small garden stores? Don't forget -- you can also buy seedlings from farmers! Maybe that's the best of both worlds.

I can tell you that when I talk to farmers about my gardening, nobody has EVER expressed the thought that by doing so, I'm not supporting them enough. I buy plenty at the market even with a very vigorous urban, front-yard garden -- certainly less of particular things when I'm harvesting them, but plenty of others.

Finally, if you want some ideas on how to get going, check out some of the front-yard gardening pieces I wrote last year for Local Living, starting with this one about the startup process.

I agree that orange juice is mostly empty calories (except for the vitamin C), but I found that after a lifetime of drinking orange juice for breakfast, I cannot give it up entirely. My compromise was to limit myself to 2 ounces of light OJ and to introduce myself to other fruit juices, such as pom juice.

There are certainly nutrients in all fruit juices, but the fact that the whole fruit is nutritionally better than the juice applies no matter what fruit.

 

I used to purchase a drink that was made with added probiotics, but am not able to find it anymore. While I eat yogurt daily, I'd like to know if there is a best source of the most probiotics. Are there more or different ones in yogurt that I make myself? I prefer to have a lower fat version of whatever yogurt I am eating. Plus I am not a big "make at home" type person, so if there is a type that is best to purchase with the most probiotics I'd love to have your input. Thanks!

Probiotics is a tricky subject. The research is ongoing and extremely exciting, with more and more studies coming out about their beneficial impact on health in different realms. That said, some scientists I've spoken with point out that "more" probiotics isn't necessarily "better." So I would figure out what it is you really want the probiotics to help you with and then make sure there has been research done that will support those benefits. (Then look for products that contain them.) As a general health-promoting strategy, many yogurts do contain useful probiotics so that's a really easy way to start. Just beware of claims that sound too good to be true. 

I'm intrigued by the recipe and can't wait to try it! Is there a way for me to get the carbohydrate content per serving, without the berries included?

 

RECIPE Whole-Grain Buckwheat Waffles

Doesn't make too much of a difference -- with the berries, it's 49 g of carbs per serving. Without, 46 g.

You can buy goat milk yogurt at MOM's in Mosaic. You can also buy goat milk there. I've made yogurt with it twice, but mixed it with cow's milk both times. On the runny side, but delightfully tangy. The "gamey" flavor in the milk gets much milder after culturing. I used low-fat milk, and should I do it again, I will buy the full-fat milk.

Anybody seen this wonderful stuff around here? I eat lots of it every time I'm home in Oakland....

Looks like it's a local concern in that area, and uses Bay area dairy products.

So did my husband, and I didn't. He loves OJ, but I find it way too sharp for a first-thing-in-the-morning drink. The U.S. is almost alone in the world in the tradition of OJ for breakfast, and it's because we have an orange-growing industry with huge advertising budgets. British children grow up with Ribena, a blackcurrant-based juice that has even more vitamin C than oranges.

Do you have a tip for adding yogurt into quick breads to make them lighter, moist, and healthier? Is there a ratio to flour?

I don't have an exact ratio, but since yogurt is acidic it will work well wherever a recipe calls for another acidic ingredient like buttermilk, sour cream, or creme fraiche. You can generally substitute yogurt in those cases. Here's a lovely orange olive oil cake from Marisa McClellan. (It's not a quick bread, alas, but it is very, very good.)

Trader Joe's carries it, though I couldn't say how it compares to what one might find in the Mediterranean .

When I make homemade pizza crust, my recipe consists of part white flour, part wheat flour, yeast, olive oil, salt, water... and I think that's it. Sometimes, I might put a bit of honey in. It comes out tasty, but I'm wondering what I'm missing to make it flaky. Once I bought some raw dough from a local pizza place (whose crust is flaky) and cooked it at home, and it came out flaky, so I think the issue is a missing ingredient or two.

Here are some general thoughts. There are three areas to focus on as you try to discover what change you need to make in your dough - moisture content which impacts its elasticity, not overworking the dough as you are shaping the pizza, and the oven temperature.

Since the dough from your local pizzeria cooked well, I'd focus on the first two. You may need to make your dough a little more moist and you may need to be careful about how much you work it.

If you're interested in much more detailed instructions on pizza making, check out my book "Kitchen Workshop- Pizza".

I made the Asian Noodle Bowl from last week's column and substituted almonds for the peanuts and it was so amazing. I doubled the sauce so I had plenty. Shared it with a co-worker who wanted to lick the bowl it was so good. Beautiful, tasty and healthy, what a combination.

It was colorful and crunchy, wasn't it? We'll let @Ellie_Krieger know! 

RECIPE Asian Noodle Bowl With Peanut Dressing

Won't anyone think of the children?

At least for now - but we're a few short blocks from Paradiso, where the beer flows abundantly.

All I can say is that the local deer really appreciated my attempts at growing my own vegetables. Signed, Went Back to Buying My Own

There are advantages to urban gardening over suburban (or rural), aren't there? I shouldn't tempt fate, though.

I bought a bunch of cilantro for stir-fry, but there was SO MUCH. I'm not feeling the love for making pesto out of it, so what else could I consider? (BTW: I absolutely love Pizzaria Paradiso !!!)

Make Salsa Verde! Double this batch if needed -- you'll go through it in no time.

I read in the WaPost's article this morning that Veloce will be serving breakfast pizzas. Can you give some examples, please?

The Pig - scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, roasted mushrooms, red onions, Italian cheeses

The Garden - scrambled eggs, cheddar, sweet red peppers, spinach, red onion

The Flag - scrambled eggs, mozzarella, basil, Italian cheeses,  roasted cherry tomatoes.

Plus we'll have two calzones and a smoked salmon pocket.

I've been lactose intolerant since my early 30s and use lactose-enzyme pills when consuming dairy products, including yogurt. Recently, a co-worker told me that I didn't need to take a pill before eating yogurt because the bacteria that turns milk into yogurt consumes the lactose in the milk. Could you please let me know if you agree with that? Thanks.

First of all, I am not a doctor or a health-care provider, so that's an important caveat. But many people with lactose intolerance *do* find they can tolerate yogurt even if they can't tolerate milk, largely for the reason your co-worker stated. (The yogurting process doesn't completely eliminate lactose, however.) Greek yogurt in particular has even less lactose than regular (unstrained) yogurt as the majority of the lactose ends up in the whey, which strains away. I say check with your doctor and if you get the all-clear, give yogurt a try. Here's more info from NIH

I don't like to cook, so recipes need to be fairly simple for me to bother. I love Indian food, and would like to try to make Chicken Saag or Chicken Tikka Masala, or a simplified version of either. Can you guys help me?

When I started eating it in California. They had maybe one variety of plain. When I moved to Delaware in 1970 there simply wasn't any plain yogurt. Now for a question: can I just add yogurt instead of milk to my bread recipes? I'm experienced enough to adjust for the difference in liquidity...

Yogurt is acidic, so you may have to experiment, but that's the fun of cooking, isn't it? Glad you're a plain yogurt fan. We have this in common!

I live in northwest DC! The deer here are EVERYWHERE!!

Come to Northeast! Deer-free, as far as I can tell!

IMO, juice is not THAT bad in moderation. I try to eat whole fruit, but still like OJ for the "easy" factor. Like if I'm coming how from work hungry and need a bit of energy to tide me over while I make dinner, a small glass of orange juice is quicker and easier than peeling and eating an orange (which I may not have on hand anyway) and somewhat healthier than something like soda. And I don't get "light" OJ at all- its essentially watered down juice with an artificial sweetener added. Yuck! Why not just water it down yourself- I like mine mixed with seltzer.

Of course -- nobody's saying it's poison! Lightening it with seltzer is a time-honored tradition, too...

I've noticed some vendors selling ears of Silver Queen corn at markets this week, which seems a little early to me. (It also costs $1 per ear.) It seems too early for Eastern Shore corn - any idea where this might be coming from?

Um, yeah. I'd be suspicious of those, especially with the cold spring we've had. I only JUST saw corn at Whole Foods, and that's from far away, no doubt. Probably from Mexico is my guess.

Flaky is for pie crust, not pizza crust. Pizza crust should be chewy.

I was thinking the same thing, but didn't say it! I'll let Ruth add her thoughts, of course.

I was interpreting flaky as airy, with a open crumb. If the writer meant flaky like pie crust, then the whole recipe needs to change. But I agree, I like a chewy, bready pizza crust and save delicate flaky crusts for other things.

I'll throw one exception out there -- Chicago deep-dish. I've been making a killer version from America's Test Kitchen for years now, and it is flaky in all the right ways and places. (Ruth has a deep-dish recipe in her book, too.)

I don't like turning on the oven in the summer months when it is hot. I don't know how much heat it contributes to the house, but don't really need to tax the AC any more than necessary. But, that means changing the meals served in the colder months and summer months. At the start of a new season, it seems to be a welcomed change, but after several months, it begins to feel like eating the same foods over and over again. I am not a big fan of the microwave for anything other than warming side dishes. Is there another way to serve baked dishes like lasagna or pizza without feeling like I am heating the whole house (or at least kitchen) at the same time?

1. Got a toaster oven? It won't heat up the whole house. Lots of summertime things you can make in a slow-cooker and rice cooker as well. 

2. Learn to cook low and slow, overnight. This is a pretty great and foolproof way to roast a hunk o' beef.

3. Got an outdoor grill? The heat stays out there...you can cook in stainless-steel pots on it.

4. We publish an issue full of no-cook recipes in the summer. Here's a link to recipes in our database that won't heat up anything.

Cows in Berkrley? MOOOOO! (from an old radio spot for Berkeley Dairy products)

We do apparently have happy cows here in California.

I also grew up LOVING orange juice at breakfast. Now I just dilute it with champagne or vodka and I feel much better about drinking it.

Hahaha. That's one solution!

Thanks for the answer! I'll go with the brown rice first, since I generally have some around.

It's a good one!

...is homemade black raspberry frozen yogurt (using juice from the berries in our garden) on top of a bowl of tree-ripened white peaches from the farmers' market. The amazing part is that it disproves the cliché that anything that tastes good couldn't possibly be good for us!

That sounds absolutely delicious. Now I want some.

I now drink low sodium V-8, which is about half the calories. Isn't that better? It seems to be a good way to get vegetables. But there was a nice feeling to drinking orange juice because it was delicious and was thought to be good for you. It always made me feel good.

Sure, it's better, but do I have to repeat this? NOTHING IS BETTER THAN EATING THE WHOLE FRUIT -- OR VEGETABLE! 

Hi! I hit the jackpot by getting to take home about a gallon of leftover homemade salsa from an early Cinco de Mayo party. I've used it straight, in burritos, and in a pasta salad. Any other ideas? I was thinking about maybe a Mexican-y lasagna-type thing with corn tortillas?

Did somebody say ... Chilaquiles?

oops-I did mean waffles, not pancakes! Thanks for the info though. And while it may not matter much for the general public, it does matter when using a formula to calculate insulin dosage. (And it's really hard to get my head around how many berries would contain only 3 grams of carbs as most) If I'm doing this right, a serving would have a 1/4 cup of berries? Do you have a method for calculating the carbs that you could share to help me out? Grazie.

We don't have a method so much as a program, called Nutribase. It helps us calculate all our nutritional analyses based on information on ingredients from the USDA and manufacturers. I think there are sites out there that allow you to do this, too, but you can always play around with the USDA's National Nutrient Database for some back-of-the-envelope math.

I just wanted to pass this along... I ate at PP for the first time last month, and, as a vegan, you have some of the worst vegan cheese I've had on any pizza anywhere! I just wanted to let you know.... my friend I was with said maybe you didn't care about catering to vegans since you are so popular without that market, and maybe you don't, but just in case you don't know that many other local pizza places have better vegan cheese, I thought I'd pass this along.

So sorry to hear you weren't happy with your pizza. We use Follow Your Heart vegan cheese. We have actually tasted several different cheeses over the years and understand that just  like most everything, each cheese has it's following. Each time we change cheeses we believe we are making an improvement. I'm sorry you don't agree with our most recent choice. Contrary to your conclusion, at Pizzeria Paradiso it is our goal to satisfy every customer who enters the restaurants. Again I'm sorry that we didn't succeed for you. Please feel free to contact me at info@eatyourpizza.com if you'd like to continue this conversation.

Even before I became a vegetarian, I preferred pizza to hamburgers, and I'm not even Italian-American! Naturally, this recent article warmed my heart.

Article: McDonald’s told Italians that burgers beat pizza. That didn’t go over so well.

I'm not sure I consider the regular McDonald's hamburger even a burger. I mean that. All you taste are the sweet bun, the sour pickles, the diced onions and the condiments. It's practically vegetarian.

Wasn't that a fun piece? Not a smart way for McDonald's, whose global profits are sinking, to turn things around, eh? 

I've always loved the tart stuff. When I went to London I was exposed to a real Lassi- plain and tart. All I find in the US are sweetened Mango versions, so buying plain Kefir is better, and I'm sure must have less sodium. I would be interested to know how to make it at home. (I use greek yogurt all the time in cooking instead of sour cream-except for Latkes-with that I am a purist.)

There are more and more kefirs on the market now, which is a good thing, of course. To make kefir at home, you may enjoy Emma Christensen's book True Brews

Totally in your camp. I've also discovered the whole world of potential crock pot meals... including lasagna! Definitely google around and you can keep A/C costs down.

Import a mountain lion or two. This will manage the deer population, the unruly teenage population, and keep husbands and young children close to home. You veggie gardens will now prosper. I nice Marema will keep you safe will working in your garden.

Well, there ARE some really fierce domestic cats in my hood; think they would do the trick? ;-)

My question was also about how do you cook pancakes with blueberries in them? I usually add the batter to the pan, then sprinkle on the blueberries. Of course when I turn it over, it's a mess. But if I add the blueberries to the batter, then everything turns purple. I just love blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, but until I can make them prettily, my guys won't touch them.

I think you need to stir them, gently, into the batter; they shouldn't break up and turn the batter purple. If they're on top and taking the direct heat of the waffle iron no wonder they're a hot mess. You could go with dried blueberries instead....

P.S. I need to have a talk with your guys, re "pretty."

You can also try those tiny frozen blueberries. Add them into the batter right before cooking (don't defrost). Because they're so small, they tend to cause less streaking and make less mess during cooking. Just my $.02.

That's what I've always done with blueberry pancakes -- plop them on the batter in the pan. Haven't had a mess! (I do this with bananas and walnuts, too.) I suppose you could pour a little batter in the pan, plop some on, and pour a little more batter on top!

I just find recipes that call for buttermilk or sour cream and substitute yogurt (occasionally have to add a bit of milk to the buttermilk recipes to get the right consistency). But at least that way the leavening ingredients are right.

Yes, exactly.

If you have to have orange juice then mix it with champagne for breakfast :-) But seriously, I mix 1/4 OJ with 3/4 seltzer so I get the taste with less calories.

I went to GW many years ago and my boyfriend, and now husband, used to go to Pizzeria Paradiso often when he'd come to visit. I remember it as one of the first places in the US where I could get a large selection of craft beers. And, we've never never found a quatro frommagio pizza that compares to yours. So, no question, but I just wanted to tell you how much we loved your restaurant. We'll be in the area late next month, so we'll have to stop in.

So nice to hear. Having been around for over 20 years, we have many long time customers whose lives change and so we see much less often. Hope you do have a chance to come back in to enjoy a Quattro Formaggi.

For when you're not in D.C., there's a recipe in Ruth's cookbook! Good stuff in there.

I just polished off my leftovers from dinner last night. I started with the recipe by the sinfullyspicy blog as a starting point, but kicked up the garlic and ginger and cut down on the peppercorns a bit.

You mean this one?

No because they are just scooby snacks for working herding dogs.

I do not believe I have seen working herding dogs in Northeast, so I think they're safe. But thanks for weighing in, sheepherder!

Sheesh people lighten up. A glass of juice a day* is not bad, nor does it make you a tool of the agri-industrial complex. I like a decent sized glass of OJ with breakfast - it's cool sweet tanginess is the perfect thing to liven up my otherwise extremely bland bowl of Cheerios and skim milk. *as part of a balanced diet of course

Hey, they asked -- but right, as I said, it's not poison. 

My MIL got a 10 gallon bucket of maple sap. She boiled the sap down for two or three days until it got to a syrup consistency. Is this the proper way to make maple syrup? Is it safe to eat (considering she put the syrup in a cleaned out mayo jar and didn't process it). Could botulism be an issue?

That's pretty much it. Most maple producers will filter the syrup once it's boiled down to the consistency they desire. Here's the process.

is water plus sugar (similar to soda) plus a vitamin C pill. Your granddaughter will be fine without it. Commercial apple juice is worse. Please, please, please don't undermine the parents on this one.

At 20 hours a week 7 days a week I wouldn't think you would have a "rest of your life" to need help with. I know I had a job that required 80 hours a week and after I could not go on. Your stamina must be extraordinary. When I went to Pizzeria Paradiso I had the bottarga pizza and when it came I was underwhelmed. I didn't want to say anything because I did not really know what to expect. Can you describe how this pizza should have looked and tasted?

Fortunately the 20 hours a day doesn't last forever, but while it does, it's nice to have help.

Consider always talking to your server when you have any dissatisfaction with a meal in any restaurant you frequent. Restaurants aren't perfect and it's hard to correct a mistake or analyze underwhelm online. Hope you'll give us another chance.

I use cilantro stems to make gai yang on the stove top grill all year round. 

Those old Berkeley Farms commercials said "FARMS in Berkeley??? Moo-oo-oo!).

Nobody said it was bad. We were objecting to the insistence that it is NECESSARY, which it isn't. Drink it if you like, but it's not the Elixir of Life.

Exactly. It's funny how these comments come around, isn't it?

I was wondering if Dave might have any suggestions for a good, reasonably priced white wine to serve at a wedding. We tried the ones suggested by our vendor, but weren't happy with them (partly because we're planning to take any leftovers home for us!). We're hoping for something in the $10-15 range. We were looking at Pino Grigio primarily, as being generally liked, but would take any suggestions. Thanks!

In case we don't hear back from Dave in time, I can tell you that he recently recommended Lindemann's chardonnay (Australian) for a party I had. It was good, and inexpensive (1.5 liters, $10-$12)

But there's no salsa in the recipe? Do you mean just to serve it with salsa? Or maybe I missed something.

So sorry! The first set of instructions is basically to make a salsa verde (in the blender), so instead of doing that, use yours!

I seem to have an issue with getting my pizza to cook evenly in the oven. If I put the whole thing in the oven, the bottom is very dark before the cheese melts. But if I wait to put the toppings on until the crust is baked a little bit, the sauce just kind of sits on top. I've cooked pizza anywhere from 375 to 500 degrees, on a preheated pizza stone and off. Any suggestions? Maybe it's just my oven? As an aside, if you haven't grilled pizza before, DO IT NOW. It's phenomenal. (And I don't get the uneven cooking issue, because I throw the dough on the grill, flip it, then top it and close the lid. Yum.)

The key to getting good pizza from your home oven is cooking it quickly as hot as possible. In developing the recipes for my book "Kitchen Workshop-Pizza", I came up with a method by which I have you preheat a pizza stone under the broiler element and cook the pizza under the broiler initially. Check it out - it really works.

Grilling pizza is a great solution for summer pizza making so you can avoid adding heat when it's hot out.

I started cutting my orange juice with water, half and half. Can't tell the difference. I've been making my own yogurt for about two years; check the Special Carbohydrate Diet about lactose intolerance and yogurt. Just FYI.

I'll look it up. Thanks for the suggestion.

I stick them in the freezer for a for a bit (or keep them frozen) before adding to pancake batter. Then it doesn't turn purple.

Good tip.

Who knew this many people were cutting their OJ?

My husband has been cutting his OJ with water since we met in college (a long time ago!). I used to think he was nuts, but now I do the same thing. I can't drink it straight up anymore.

Definitely grow your own! The taste is even better than the farmers market since many of them pick them at "pink" at don't let them ripen all the way on the vine as you would. Deer are not my problem - squirrels and chipmunks are. After several years of experimenting, I have found that the only way to defeat them is to put bird netting all around the plants and pin it down tight to the soil with no gaps. I once watched a chipmunk run all around my netting trying to head butt his way in.

I like it when the grandparents give treats to my daughters. That reinforces the special nature and rare occurrence of the treat. Seems like grandparents serving 1 glass of orange juice would be a pretty healthy treat, not an undermining.

In summer we'd just have our dog sleep outdoors. He was on a very long chain, so had considerable mobility -- and he'd bark any time a deer came near our salad patch. Dog lived to a great old age, and we miss him. Nowadays, our salad garden has to be enclosed in a fence (although that doesn't keep the rabbits from breaching it, although they can't eat as much as deer do).

Are you going through a vendor or are you doing it yourself? If you are going solo, I'd recommend a visit to your local Costco (in VA or DC, not MD) to try a few bottles and then load up on whatever you like.

Good thought. But act fast if you find something you like -- things tend to cycle in and out of Costco quickly sometimes.

Thanks, Joe. It is red salsa, but that should be good, too, right?

Absolutely.

To make frozen yogurt, is it as simple as processing yogurt in an ice cream maker or are the proportion changes in the ingredients?

It's a little trickier than that but you can certainly start that way. First of all, for the best texture you really should be using yogurt with some fat. (In my opinion, full fat is definitely best.) Second, strain away some more of the whey before churning, if you have time. Lastly, if there are fruit purees, you want to try to minimize ice crystals, which will make the texture icy. There are different ways to do this...

Hi! Re: vitamix, I have a friend who has found them multiple times at estate sales still in the box, barely used, for around $25, so if the chatter has time, that might be a route. Re: haystacks, Richmond, Virginia friends made them but not called haystacks. Is it a Southern thing? choco chips, butterscotch chips and chow mein noodles!

Well, you've used the peel and tongs to remove us from the oven, then sprinkled us with Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of oil, so you know what that means -- we're done! 

Thanks for all the great q's today, and thanks to Ruth and Cheryl for their great help answering.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who JUST asked about how to avoid uneven cooking of pizza will get Ruth's book, "Kitchen Workshop: Pizza." The asker of the VERY first question, headlined "labneh!" will get Cheryl's book, "Yogurt Culture." Send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost.com, and she'll get you your books!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff writer and former Food section editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Cheryl Sternman Rule
Cheryl Sternman Rule is the author of "Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World’s Creamiest Healthiest Food."
Ruth Gresser
Ruth Gresser is the owner of Pizzeria Paradiso and the forthcoming Veloce.
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